INSPIRATION // Producers Persevering Through the Pandemic
As the days get gloomy and the nights draw in, the sense that the year is coming to an end is in the air. It’s always a good time to look back on the summer days and reflect on what you have achieved for yourself and others as well as looking forward to what's to come over the final few months. Well, maybe that isn't the case this year. Especially as a creative, the events of 2020 have been among the most trying times in modern history. Many peoples lives have changed, possibly forever, and the way we go about our daily routines has had a knock-on effect on our creative juices.
This hasn't been the case right across the board though, there are those still out there making moves and honing their craft in one form or another. So we asked a handful of producers what they have been up to since March and asked to focus on; their career outlook, leveraging the situation and motivation, both as an artist and personally. We wanted to show that it is possible to continue the pursuit of an artist career without the elements we can no longer access such as gigs and physically networking. We aim to inspire you and hope you find to show that there's always another way to move forward.
KUSP started life as a random studio session between two best friends rediscovering their love for electronic music. Fast forward 2 years and their music can be heard at the biggest shows around the globe, supported by the biggest names the industry has to offer.
The duo’s hard-hitting techno productions, pioneered by the likes of Alan Fitzpatrick, Charlotte De Witte and Adam Beyer, gained them BBC Radio 1 support early on, amassing stellar releases on staple record labels such as Suara, R&S Records, We Are The Brave, Odd Recordings, Octopus and Kneaded Pains.
Their live performances have seen them rise to support names that include Amelie Lens, Jeff Mills, Alan Fitzpatrick, Sam Paganini, Dense & Pika, Dave Clarke, Sama’, Rudosa and many more, taking their careers far beyond their native Liverpool to packed out shows around the world.
"It's a really weird feeling, to be honest, nobody really knows how long this is going to last for, it could be months or even years. Doesn't help at the moment with the government's stance on the music industry as a whole, so it's a testing time for everyone involved. But throughout all of the hardship, we always thought of this as an opportunity to level up and come out of the other side in a much stronger position. Despite losing our fair share of gigs and being on the brink of breaking onto the international stage, we can still keep on writing music and establishing ourselves on the labels we could have only dreamed of being a part since we were kids. Jack has also taken up a role as a music production and DJ tutor at Rudosa's "Make Me A DJ" school in Manchester, so even though the clubs are shut it's still nice to be immersed within the industry in some capacity.
When DJing, we always have a tendency to go back in time rather than play an entire set of what's landed in our promo inbox that week. Good music is timeless. So during Lockdown, we've treated it in the same fashion really, exploring different genres, digging through records and old DJ sets to keep that spark of inspiration ignited. During all of this, our minds have constantly switched through a wealth of different thoughts, feelings and emotions. I think it's quite telling in our music of late, even though hard-hitting techno might be our bread and butter, we've delved into many other genres including breaks, electro, melodic, hypnotic and deeper styles.
For us, the versatility is what helps keep things fresh.
I think given the circumstances, covid has managed to have a negative effect on us in one way or another. If we can create something new that resonates with people and helps them escape their problems for a short while then it's mission accomplished for us. Despite having worries over money, jobs and redundancies etc... Having that passion project on the side you can pour your heart and soul into almost acts as a form of therapy throughout this pandemic, it’s a welcomed distraction. Although we want to make a full-time career out of it, we never got into music for financial reasons, so no matter how long it takes for it all to finally come back around again we'll still be here doing what we love regardless.
When you have more time to work on music than usual, you're generally gonna end up making more music! We're also quite lucky, ever since our release on R&S Records at the beginning of lockdown we've had label owners like Coyu and Radio Slave reach out and ask us for music. We’re just two normal lads from Merseyside and having people we've looked up to for years ask us to be involved with them and their labels are probably one of the best compliments you can get as DJ's / producers. Along with support from the likes of Adam Beyer, Amelie Lens, Charlotte De Witte, Josh Wink, Alan Fitzpatrick, Pan-Pot and many more. We've just been trying to capitalise on the opportunities that come our way, at a time where some of the bigger names probably aren’t releasing as often.
The music industry has had many major setbacks down the years, but it always found a way to evolve and come back even stronger. One day all of this is eventually going to end and when it does, everything we've managed to achieve during this pandemic won't just be instantly forgotten. Before the pandemic we’d managed to build up some momentum to further our careers, we’re just hungry to keep that going and not let it completely go to waste. We want to continue to become core artists on the labels we’ve released on and use this time wisely to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be in the future."
A testament to her passion, ambition, dedication and hard graft, Jess Bays shows no sign of slowing down and House heads around the world are taking notice. This instinctive and exciting DJ has captured the attention of ravers, peers and tastemakers alike with a monthly residency at London’s XOYO, sets at Studio 338, Village Underground, Ministry Of Sound, Leeds Festival, Sundown, We Are FSTVL and Manchester’s legendary Warehouse Project.
Tipped by DJ Mag as ‘One to watch’ Jess regularly performs with the likes of Annie Mac, Hannah Wants, MK, Derrick Carter and most notably Sam Divine, whose label DVINE Sounds has become a key part of her career ascent. Having had a hand in their A&R to becoming Digital Manager and one of their go-to DJs Jess has consistently built solid foundations within the music industry from the inside out.
As a producer Jess has already clocked up releases with Armada, Stress, Simma Black, Glasgow Underground, Stashed and Circa Trax proving there’s no stopping this powerhouse – a true artist in the making who’s always evolving, learning, crafting and creating.
"It's a very uncertain time for everyone in the events/arts industry with no real knowledge of what the long term effects are going to be. Really trying to focus on my production & getting that to where it needs to be, it also keeps my head feeling happier being creative still even from home!
I've really found a passion in production now I've had the time to really throw myself in at the deep end. I've been working with some of the most amazing vocalists too.
If it wasn't for lockdown I would never have known how to hit the pause button & take a break!
My friends & family, also my pure passion & love for house music are whats keeping me motivated. We WILL get back to normal one day. That exact thought is what keeps me driven through these times. Plus, I believe that epic music is always written when there is an element of pain in someone’s life. Right now we as producers are pouring our hearts out onto Ableton or Logic & it's really showing in the level of new music that artists have had the time to really push themselves.
I've also taken advantage of the breathing space. It's been so good to just be able to spend time with my loved ones. And not miss any big life events, even if they were attended via zoom! Haha. I've also loved having time to study production more & really start to nail what the Jess Bays sound sounds like.
Throughout this, my manager has really helped me push on. He's such a little ray of sunlight & there’s never a bad day working with him. It keeps me going because I always want to make him proud!
So, STAY POSITIVE & KEEP TALKING!
Don't bottle anything up. Ask for help if you need it, no matter what it is. Always keep smiling, it'll make your day a lot more happier!"
James Burton's career booted off in style with his debut release ‘That Sounds Sick!’ on Darius Syrossian's Do Not Sleep 'Ibiza Sampler' in 2017. Since then, Burton has offered up visionary takes on house and techno through respected imprints Four Thirty Two, Kaluki Musik, New Violence Recordings, Shanghaied, in addition to becoming a member of the Skream family with regular releases on his 'Of Unsound Mind' imprint.
‘On Yer Own’ in particular receiving praise with a world premiere from Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1 and reaching the top of the Beatport chart. Burton has received support from Annie Mac, Elliot Adamson, Richy Ahmed, Max Chapman, Jamie Roy, Skream, Solardo, wAFF and Waifs & Strays.
Not only a talented producer, his versatile genre-spanning DJ sets have seen him invited to grace the decks at some of the UK and Europe's finest dance music institutions: Eden, Sankeys, Ibiza Rocks, DC-10, Digital, Club Upside Down, Grey's Yard, Illusion, Inside Out, South and Stage & Radio.
"I think what this whole situation has done for many artists, or at least for me personally, it has given me a lot of time to reflect. These reflections are not always positive, there have definitely been times of self-doubt about my career, with questions cropping up in my mind, like...
Will we ever get back to normal? Will I still be relevant? Am I going to have to change career path?
These questions have all crossed my mind during this time but I try and tell myself these thoughts are normal and will probably be crossing a lot of artists mind in long periods of not performing. I think as a DJ its the gratitude of bouncing dance-floors we thrive on, crowd feedback of elation and joy vindicates us, you could even be as bold as to say it feeds our egos.
However you want to describe the feeling, it is essentially the ‘buzz’ you get from playing music to crowds. This inspires you and keeps you striving and with a distinct lack of gigs at the minute and the lack of being able to attain this ‘crowd feedback high’, it is only natural doubts about your own career may slip into your mindset.
All this downtime does have its positives though, increased studio time being the main one. I think with all this extra time to spend in the studio it allows you to experiment a bit more, you are no longer making tunes to play out on the following Saturday night, which can become a bit of a painting by number process, instead, without looming gigs it's almost like the shackles are off to be a bit more experimental and creative in the types of music you are creating.
Personally, I have managed to play a few high profile gigs this summer in Croatia, which was great as social distancing measures were not in place as stringently. Therefore it felt a lot more like something we're used to, packed dance floors, pumping systems and insanely positive vibes. It was actually quite emotional to be in that setting once again, it made me realise I took all for granted before and just how much love for these settings I do still have, it reignited the fire in my belly once again, which in times like this is crucial to staying positive and motivated.
I also feel coming back from Croatia each time directly led to weeks in the studio where I was making some of the best music I’ve ever made. The inspiration I gained from being back in the club setting certainly gave me a new wave of ideas in the studio and the fruits of this will be there for all to see next year when all this new music written throughout the summer of 2020 starts to be released.
If I could give any advice to producers through this time, don’t force the issue, don’t feel like because you have all this time that you are pressured to make music non-stop.
I know some artists do, its each to their own, but I found inspiration comes in waves for me. There are days I would sit in the studio and nothing seemed to be happening and I would look on my socials and see what seemed to be every other producer out there churning out banger after banger and I would beat myself up, this can have negative impacts on your mindset.
I learnt if it's not happening, if I'm not feeling it then take a step back, don’t water a dead plant as it were. Instead, I would listen to music, all genres, go walk the dog for hours, or go out on my bike for long periods, basically get out of the house/studio into a different setting with my headphones on. I would listen to a lot of mixes from other DJ's, some I wouldn’t normally have listened to, I would sometimes go a whole week or two doing this, not in the studio but just listening to tunes and I would find it would spark my creativity and new ideas would be running through my head. Then when I did return to the studio I was full of myself and in turn, the music would start to flow again inspired from the collective of everything I'd been listening to whilst away from a pressure environment like sitting in front of the mac in a studio.
Fingers crossed this whole situation sorts itself out sooner rather than later and we are back in the clubs, festivals, fields, car parks wherever it may be, playing music and making people dance, doing what we love!"
Toriah, a.k.a Vicki Scott has been making moves in and out of her native scene of Liverpool since 2013, quickly gaining residencies at some of the city's busiest nightclubs. With Clubs such as; Victoria Warehouse, EGG LDN, and o2 Academy Brixton, together with a string of appearances on the white isle at Cafe Mambo and Amnesia alongside the likes of Hannah Wants, MK and Gorgon City.
Releasing under Toriah on Toolroom Records and American label Deep Tech LA this year alone, she has also recently accomplished debut gigs at Creamfields, Cream Weekender, Reminisce and has had a huge amount of support on her music on platforms such as BBC Radio 1, Capital, Kiss FM and more.
Currently, a presenter on Liverpool’s brand new radio station In Demand Radio hosting her own show ‘Dance Sessions’ every weekend alongside a huge line up of other top Liverpool DJs, Vicki shows no sign of slowing down.
"At the moment it’s obviously difficult to determine when we will get back to being able to perform live sets in nightclubs, at festivals, all the venues and places we want to be DJing at again. But I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in a brand new radio station called In Demand Radio, which is absolutely blowing the socks off many radio stations out there at the moment! So I’ve really dived back into radio recently which is keeping me very very busy, with plenty of plans behind the scenes of things I’d like to do, linked to this going forward. Lockdowns kind of made me re-evaluate some things and decide which directions I want to head in, which is basically wanting a piece of the action in everything haha! But I’m ok with that because If I’m not busy, I get down quite easy. I’m doing whatever I can to be consistent and keep my socials up to date by doing live streams, creating new music, doing vlogs, interviews with other artists and more.
Since the beginning of lockdown I’ve been literally been producing more music, making anything I want to make, I realised I seemed to pigeon hole myself into making certain genres of music solely based on what other people like rather than stuff I like to, so making stuff I love and enjoy and finding other people have enjoyed that, and the process has been great. It’s strange but during the lockdown period, I seem to have just really embraced it and found other ways to keep active and consistently coming up with new ideas, mainly with vlogs that I’ve started doing recently and trying my best to make people laugh with the randomness that goes on daily for me lately!
To stay motivated, I spend a lot of time working on things I want to achieve, I find that if I start to look at what others are doing I can really beat myself up about, where I am in my career at the moment, but you’ve got to realise that everybody is on their own journeys and things happen at different times for different people. You’ll always find me listening to music, no matter what that's my biggest motivator. If I’m having a bad day, I just throw some of my favourite music on or some music I’m feeling at the time and it just changes everything and gets me back on track heading to where I want to be heading, I suppose it was always going to be an obvious one as a DJ that music is what keeps me motivated!
Always be yourself, work hard, be passionate about what you do and never give up! Most importantly look after you, focus on you and believe in YOU!!
I’ve fully taken advantage of filming, so doing much more professional looking clips of me just talking about everyday things, a little bit of randomness, studio bloopers, stuff to put out on my socials, while I can’t be posting about my gigs. I actually wish I’d been doing it pre lockdown because the engagement and my followers have been flying up from the content I’ve been putting out from doing these videos.
I’ve found that in the last few months, I’ve really taken care of myself more than ever, physically and mentally because it's been the most vital time to make sure we look after ourselves as best we can and also look out for each other during the madness we’re faced with at the moment. I’ve been surrounded by good people, I come from a city that fights for what they believe in and it's made me feel really proud to be a scouser and stick together with them and all our families & friends during these tough times.
It’s always been an important thing to me, especially mental health, if this was a few years ago I’d of struggled really badly, but for some reason, I’ve just had a totally different outlook on life these past few months, but for the better."
While each of the Artist above has had their own take on how to get by, a number of patterns emerge in mentality. Having a clear vision of their career's life span has helped them to move past the situation we have found ourselves in and prepare for the better days ahead. Having that scope can help ease the mind, knowing that you don't have to rush or achieve great feats, during these times of uncertainty. While no one welcomes the Pandemic's effects on the Music Industry, it has provided an opportunity to slow down and reflect, giving us the time to look back on what we have achieved and more importantly, what we are going to achieve in the future. If you are serious about your career in music, then this is a just a small setback on a very long and winding road.
Another common recurrence that can be highlighted in each of these statements is looking after yourself and doing what makes you happy. Now more than ever we need to make time for mental and physical exercise, spending time with loved ones and keeping routines & habits that help us be our best selves.
We want to a huge thank you to the Artists for providing their insights. Check out their latest releases by clicking on the images below
To get notified when our next blog post goes live, and to keep updated with our events and other news, click the button below to join our mailing list! 👇