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Quarantine Diaries: DJs & Producers

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In 2016, I vividly remember googling “places to hear music in Baltimore” and learning of a space called The Crown. I had just moved to Baltimore to attend law school, I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t feel comfortable socially with the people I went to school with. I knew that I liked this city, but I didn’t feel at home until I discovered venues where DJs played music. It was in these spaces, and at these shows and parties, that I was able to begin to build friendships and professional relationships. For anyone who has never considered the art of the DJ, you need to realize: DJs are the party at every party. They are everything. 

I went to The Crown the first time on a Friday night. I can’t remember who was playing (probably Mr.14th or DJ Mills), but I immediately knew it was where I was supposed to be. This first experience turned into me going every Friday and Saturday night for a few months and, at one point a friend told me jokingly that I “lived at The Crown.” I especially loved Qué Pequeño’s 808s and Sadbois series, the Baltimore underground collective and showcase that happens on the first Friday of every month. 

As a Baltimore transplant, I am eternally grateful for the connections I’ve made with so many incredibly talented artists. The DJs, performers, producers, musicians, and artists who make up the underground scene in Baltimore are the backbone of this city. Baltimore is an incredible and dynamic place, and in my opinion the entire realm of the underground music scene is supported by the labor, passion, and talent of its DJs. 

My heart aches over losing my ritual, but also for my friends and colleagues whose entire livelihood is DJing. I know that they miss being able to play, not just for financial reasons, but because music is inherently a part of them—it is their ritual as well.

This edition of Quarantine Diaries focuses on five Baltimore-area DJs and producers and their strategies for surviving quarantine. We can support them by streaming their Spotify and Soundcloud pages. When we are able to go out again, we can all go see them at The Crown. You will probably see me there. 

You can also donate to The Crown here; all money goes towards supporting their staff.

 

Jay Swann, DJ/Producer
IG: @JaySwann_ 
Website: skinnoirrecs.com
Bandcamp: jayswann.bandcamp.com

Where do you live? Who are you quarantining with? 

I currently live in Baltimore. The neighborhood is called New Northwood, although I never hear it referred to as that. I moved here from Charles Village about a year ago. It’s pretty quiet compared where I was living, especially considering my old apartment was right across from Union Memorial Hospital so you’d hear ambulances coming and going at all hours of the day. But it became background noise after a while. Anyway, this neighborhood is nice. The only downside is there’s not as many places to get food in walking distance. Also, when I was living in Charles Village I would walk to 7-Eleven often to clear my mind. The closest 7-Eleven is very suspect so I can’t walk over there whenever I please. But my neighbors are decent. They actually greet me when they see me unlike my old ones. 

What are the three emojis you are using most right now?

I’m typing this on my laptop so you’ll have to bear with me. I use the dancing man emoji frequently. It’s one of my favorite emojis and I never see too many people use it. 

The cringe face emoji is second. I kinda make that face often in real life and I found it’s applicable in a lot of conversations and interactions I have on social media. I feel like it represents me.

Lately I’ve been using the exclamation point emoji a lot. I don’t convey a lot of emotion through text and I have a dry sense of humor so sometimes the exclamation exaggerates what I am saying. It also helps get my sarcasm across sometimes. I go back and forth between the single and the double.

What object, things, or process have you fallen in love with at home during quarantine? How is this impacting your mood and productivity?

I’ll have to say I’ve fallen in love with my new OP-1 synthesizer. I got it with my stimmy money. I’ve also just fallen in love with my house. It’s very cozy. 

I’ve actually been loving quarantine. Before quarantine, I ran myself into the ground with going to shows, socializing, and just overall staying busy. As a result I was tired fairly often and didn’t make a lot of time for myself. With quarantine, I’ve been super relaxed and still very productive. It’s been doing wonders for my FOMO too. I do miss going to shows though :(.

The fact that I haven’t been able to get my hair cut is driving me up a wall. I know places are opening up though. I’m still wary to go out just because the government is opening businesses, but I need to do something because this ain’t it. Wearing the masks also gets a little annoying after a while. They start to hurt my ears after like an hour. Although I will say, I’m glad that we got on that wave and I personally think that we should’ve been wearing masks due to illnesses long before there was a pandemic.

Where are you getting the most satisfying news, information, or entertainment? How would you define news that is satisfying?

The news is extremely sad all the time, so I don’t like to watch it. Sometimes it’s better to not know. I cringe as I type this, but I get most of my news from Twitter (enter cringe face emoji) and on occasion my mother who kind of just knows everything about anything. I wouldn’t necessarily call Twitter news satisfying, but it is entertaining. I would define satisfying news as news that is important but also beneficial to you. It’s news that is actually useful to you. Twitter rarely has either, but it has funny memes so it’s cool I guess.

Have you taken up any new hobbies? What are you making?

I’ve been working on a new project that I started maybe right before quarantine happened. It’s called Houseplants. It’s a six-song house EP produced, mixed, and mastered by me. It was released on May 28th. If you’re reading this you should absolutely check it out. If you like house music, or music that just sounds different than what you’re accustomed to, it’s pretty good in my opinion. It’s on Apple Music, Spotify, Soundcloud, and wherever else you listen to music. 

What kind of support do you/your business need? How can people support what you do?

If you’re interested in what I’m doing and want to support, you can buy or stream my music, share it online or with your friends, follow me on Twitter or on Instagram, or come out to any shows I’m at once the outside officially opens. 

 

Kotic Couture, DJ/Rapper/MC
IG: @KoticCouture
Web: koticcouture.com
Bandcamp:
koticcouture.bandcamp.com

Where do you live? Who are you quarantining with? 

I live in the Station North area of Baltimore City. I’m actually breaking all laws and code *shrugs*. I’ve been back and forth between Baltimore and the Eastern Shore staying with my roommates at my apartment also with family, my brother and sister-in-law, and my nieces who are two and three years old.

What are the three emojis you are using most right now?

Purple heart emoji, praying hands emoji, smiley face with hearts emoji

What object, things, or process have you fallen in love with at home during quarantine? How is this impacting your mood and productivity?

I’ve been cooking and making coffee a lot more, which seems simple but it helps me feel a sense of normalcy and they both require me to put my phone down and step away from social media.

What do you look forward to most every day under quarantine?

New ways of entertaining myself, whether it be teaching myself a new skill or picking up a new book or podcast. It’s given me time to really slow down a bit and enjoy things that I typically would barrel through. I feel like I get more time during interactions with family members now which is more enjoyable.

What has been most difficult for you to adjust to?

Staying still for me is hard. I’m used to running around so much, doing multiple gigs in a day sometimes to now, just kind of being still. That’s been a huge adjustment but it’s also taught me how to be more centered and kind to myself. 

What do you look forward to most after quarantine is over?

I can’t wait to really embrace the ones I love, I miss the parties and seeing my friends regularly. I think I took that for granted. I love creating, but seeing people’s response to the art you create is a lot different than making it and releasing it and not being able to see the world’s reaction.

Have you taken up any new hobbies? What are you making?

I’ve been cooking a lot at home but the thing I’m most proud of is stepping more into production, finally learning Ableton and working towards creating a sound when it comes to production. It’s helping me be a better writer also. 

 

DJ Diaspora (Vanessa Beck), DJ/Community Organizer
IG: @DJ Diaspora
Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/dia-spora
Facebook: facebook.com/Dj.diaspora

Where do you live? Who are you quarantining with? 

Currently quarantining downtown with my mom, 73, and my cat, 17. My mom moved from Chicago to Baltimore in September. I was going through a breakup. Rather than look for a new place ASAP, I moved in with my mom, figuring I could help her get adjusted after living in Chicago her whole life, and receive the kind of comfort only moms can give (if you’re lucky enough to have that kind of mom). Downtown has its charms and is perfect for my mom, but I miss my old neighborhood (Midtown) a lot, and had just begun looking at apartments a week or so before the shutdown. 

What are the three emojis you are using most right now?

Crying emoji, cat with heart eyes emoji, shrug emoji—I often use the shrug to signify trying to let go and shake something off.

What object, things, or process have you fallen in love with at home during quarantine? How is this impacting your mood and productivity?

Nothing new! Except I guess you could say I’m enamored by hope for when quarantine ends. It’s a fantasy that will come true, something to look forward to, and there’s some pleasure in that.

What do you look forward to most every day under quarantine? 

Leaving quarantine by going outside! I’ve been dealing with chronic illnesses since I was 4 years old. Sooner or later, particularly with illnesses that are not easily managed, it’s likely you have learned that just because your doctor tells you a treatment will work and is safe, doesn’t mean it’s true. You learn to do your own research. I have read studies on common medications we are told “work” that show zero effectiveness above placebo, plus side effects including suicide. One medication that I took for Crohn’s disease in 2008 caused me to develop lupus. I knew this was the cause, since I discovered it was already documented that a similar drug could do so. My doctors didn’t believe me. Finally a year later, it was even stated in the commercial for this drug (that is still on the market) that it indeed causes lupus in some patients.  

The U.S. is one of only two countries that allows pharmaceutical companies to advertise directly to “consumers” via TV, online, billboards. “Ask your doctor about…” There is a profit motive and conflict of interest in the agencies that have been named to protect our health. Because of my attention to these things, of the practice of science under capitalism, I’ve looked well beyond the mainstream media to make as much sense as I can of what is going on with the virus and how to keep myself and my mom as healthy as possible.

As a result, we go outside on walks without masks. Being downtown, we most often walk along the harbor. We’ve been feeding the ducks, and smaller birds, and the seagulls and pigeons (though my mom doesn’t like these last two). A few days ago we saw two geese families with fuzzy little goslings! I started feeling a pang of guilt about feeding them refined carbs. So we did a little research and have been experimenting feeding them healthier food that they supposedly also find tasty. So far we learned that about 1/4 will eat rice cake, and zero will eat strawberries.

What has been most difficult for you to adjust to?

Lack of consistent contact with strangers (and I am an introvert! INFP!), seeing humans’ greatly increased fear of other humans is disheartening and disturbing, and loss of the vague structure (and money!) that my DJ gigs and other work and outside activities provided.

What do you look forward to most after quarantine is over? What will you do, with great joy, when you are allowed to?

Communing with friends, strangers, and future friends! I can’t wait to do DJ gigs the way they’re meant to be—in person, where if you are lucky, you help create feedback loops of connection between yourself and the people in the room. And I can’t wait to support and enjoy other folk’s gigs and shows!

Have you taken up any new hobbies? What are you making?

It has been extremely difficult to keep up the level of productivity I had pre-shutdown/lockdown. I’ve been more depressed, and less productive. I’ve prepped for and done a few livestream sets because I was asked to, was paid for them, grateful to have them, and wanted to deliver, but only in the last few weeks have I had the energy and motivation to do much beyond this. 

With DJing, I have noticed myself listening to and seeking out the kind of music I don’t get to play out as much because some folks don’t consider it “danceable,” and that’s been stimulating for me and reminds me why I started DJing in the first place—because of my love for music and arranging it into something that is moving to me in some way, usually to a period of catharsis each set. The music and feelings leading the way, what other people think of it second. That is how my best sets happen. Trying to please everyone makes for an incoherent, mess of a set that pleases no one for more than 4 minutes. I’m not loving live streaming because, despite playing for myself first, I still want and do best when I have that connection with others. Screens just don’t cut it in that respect.

I’ve been reminded that DJing has never been enough of an outlet for me by itself, though at this point it’s surpassed drawing as the medium I have used most consistently (22 years). So I pulled out a bunch of my jewelry projects that I haven’t touched in a couple years, and that has felt good. Maybe I will get my Etsy page going again. Also in my container with beads and tools I found fabric from years ago I planned to make into dresses for myself. I’m not the best seamstress, but this fabric needs to be on my body so I will work it out even if I have to use safety pins and duct tape, lol.

Logicoma (Brennan Diggs), DJ/Music Producer
IG: @logicoma.mov
Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/logicoma
YouTube: youtube.com/channel/UCIpbh-lfckxzYCGQ5QI5yHA
Bandcamp: logicoma.bandcamp.com

Where do you live? Who are you quarantining with? 

I live in the Barclay/Charles Village area. Tons of cats running around. I live with three people, one of which is my talented artist girlfriend Lindsey, she’s 24.

What are the three emojis you are using most right now?

I really only like the “hmm” emoji or the monkeys (sorry, I’m writing this on my computer). 

What object, things, or process have you fallen in love with at home during quarantine? How is this impacting your mood and productivity?

I probably fell in love with cooking a lot more. Pre-quarantine, it was my day job but I didn’t really care for it. But lately I’ve noticed there is a rewarding feeling of preparing and eating your own meals. Thinking about my time usage the last few months, I feel surprisingly accomplished. I’ve released about 20 songs and beats, shot two music videos, worked with a multitude of musicians, made my dog an Instagram which blew up, and wrote a well-received story on Reddit.

What has been most difficult for you to adjust to?

I honestly don’t miss much about the outside world. I still see my friends every now and then and I like being home. I feel very focused lately and would like to keep this momentum post-quarantine. The weirdest thing to adjust to is probably everyone being home all at once for hours. We’ve been doing things we normally wouldn’t do such as play board games, cook meals together, and talk. 

What do you look forward to most after quarantine is over? What will you do, with great joy, when you are allowed to?

I look forward to being able to travel again. I previously planned on travelling to the west coast to do some shows but that will have to be postponed. I’ve been working more on beats and soundscapes to build up a catalog for whatever happens in the future.

What’s your favorite meal or food you’ve been cooking at home? 

I’ve been cooking a plethora of meals I found online. I’ve really been trying to hone my skills of making Asian cuisine.

Have you taken up any new hobbies? What are you making?

My girlfriend had a nice camera lying around which got me thinking of shooting videos to go along with the music I was releasing. I asked Mo AKA Stoop Baby Mo if he’d be interested in writing some bars for one of my beats and wanted to be in front of the camera and the rest is history. Musically, I’ve tried to take the time to analyze myself. I wanted to change styles from the ethereal hip-hop stuff I was making to something a bit rowdier, something that can get a crowd moving, I suppose.

 

Mighty Mark (Marquis Gasque), DJ/Producer
IG: @iammightymark
Web: mightymarkadventures.com

Where do you live? Who are you quarantining with? 

I live in Glen Burnie, MD. It’s pretty quiet in my neighborhood. I am quarantining with my wife and two daughters, age 11 and 1.

What are the three emojis you are using most right now?

The three emojis that I have been using the most are the “100,” “flame emoji,” and “smiley face.” The same ones I’ve been using before quarantine. 

What object, things, or process have you fallen in love with at home during quarantine? How is this impacting your mood and productivity?

During this quarantine I have fallen in love with my AirPods Pro. They are perfect for conference calls and virtual meetings. Also my Launchpad Pro MK3 that works with Ableton (my production software of choice). The launchpad pro is a great device for inputting midi data and doing drums in Ableton. Also my Apogee One which is great for recording vocals on the go. I’ve been able to mess with a bunch of my at-home gadgets that I normally don’t use while working at my regular studio.

What has been most difficult for you to adjust to?       

Being in the house and working from home has been very difficult to adjust to because most of my work is collaborative. Having to email versions back and forth instead of just being in the studio with an artist sometimes makes it harder for a song to get completed or to get the best product. On the flip side I have been super productive on solo work. Finishing up a lot of club tracks that I can start and finish on my own.

Where are you getting the most satisfying news, information, or entertainment? How would you define news that is satisfying?

In terms of entertainment I have been able to watch a lot of stuff that I normally don’t have time to watch because I’m in the house. I have been really enjoying ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary. Seeing Jordan in his prime and his competitive nature was very inspiring. Also watching HBO’s Insecure is always good for a great laugh.

Have you taken up any new hobbies? What are you making?

Lately I have been watching YouTube videos on sneaker restoration and have restored a pair of Jordans that I have. I have been getting into sneaker cleaning in general since I consider myself somewhat of a sneakerhead. Might as well clean some of my sneaker collection while I’m not wearing them out anywhere. I’ve also been spending more time on learning more about mixing and mastering music vs. just producing and video editing (at least enough for a simple IG clip).

What kind of support do you/your business need? How can people support what you do?

As of right now, in terms of support I just need people to continue sharing my music and streaming it on your platform of choice. Cop some merch from my website. I had a few shows lined up that have been canceled, but we going to rock it out.

 

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