In Quarantine with: DJ Bone

Everyone responds to crisis differently. There's no right way of doing this, only your way.

In this short three-part series, we talk with three people at the heart of our industry to find out how COVID-19 has changed their professional and personal lives and envision what a post-Corona world might look like.

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This article was conducted before the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests started taking place. Although this topic is not specifically discussed in the article, we want our readers to take the following into consideration:

As a nightclub for electronic music, we are deeply influenced by Black culture, Black artists and their music. They have helped shape WAS. into the place it is today and continue to do so with the music that is being played during our club nights. We feel the need to use our platform to talk about what's going on and to create more awareness for this topic. We'd also like to ask you, as our community, to do your part in helping to end systematic racism and the needless violence it continues to cause. We're fully aware that we still have a long road ahead of us because, unfortunately, racial justice doesn't happen overnight. But every step towards the right direction helps. If you'd like to do your part but don't know where to start, please reach out to us and we'll help you.

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After some technical difficulties setting up the audio and video for our meeting - somehow these plug and play tools never seem to do just that - I get online with one of Detroit's DJ Prototypes and vinyl veteran, DJ Bone.

The time of the call, he and his wife are full-blown quarantining in their house just outside of Amsterdam. Their recent move from a top floor apartment to a 3-level house with front- and back-garden couldn't have been timed better. "I'm so lucky, we're so lucky to have this house, without it I would be affected much more."

What does an average day look like for you amidst this crisis?

It's kind of been peaceful for us. We just recently moved outside of Amsterdam. It’s peaceful and calm. It’s also been kind of peaceful for us because we get to cook more, enjoy each other, catch up on work that we’re so far behind on. I mean, the stress of the whole situation is still there but we always complain that we don’t have time to do this and do that and now we have a little bit of time so yeah, it’s been working out. 

Do you feel like you have to be productive?

A little bit but not much. It was more like I was procrastinating and now I could do all these things. The other part is to be able to make music in my downtime. Before I had to request a month off. To be honest, I requested all of January and half of February off for bookings to go in the studio. And when I got out, I was complaining 'Ah, it was not enough time, I didn't get enough done.' So now I get to finish up the stuff I wanted and create some more, some new stuff.

So if it was up to you, you could stay home a little longer?

Well, even if they say it's lifted, I'm not eager to run out. I'm a proponent of caution. I'm the guy on the aeroplane who, when they say 'keep your seatbelts fastened at all times when you're seated', tells my wife: 'fasten your seatbelt, fasten your seatbelt.'

I don't know what people are expecting; that if the quarantine is lifted, that the disease goes away? That is not the case, you still have to be careful, you have to be cautious you know. Today, I looked out the window. I felt like we were living in Vondelpark. I mean, I looked out the window for two minutes and literally saw maybe 40 people.

How has your physical and mental health been?

See, my wife suffers from anxiety and she has it really bad at times. So for her, it's really good that we have the garden now. When she feels anxious, she likes to tend to the garden, to cut the grass, pull the weed. It's out and it's fresh air, so we don't feel claustrophobic in our house at all.

For me, growing up in Detroit, I'm used to hard times and extreme measures, so it doesn't bother me at all. I'm the kind of person who likes solitude; I love it. I love being away from people. I love peace and quiet because my job is noisy and it's crowded. 

Yes - everyone seems to respond to this differently. Where did you get your resilience from?

I learned to cope with difficult situations at a young age. Without knowing, I grew up for so many years with PTSD symptoms just for growing up in Detroit. Simply because there were gunshots every night, helicopters flying over the house every night, danger, every time you leave the house your parents are worried about you. You have to watch your back at all times. We call it: keeping your head on the swivel. So to go from that to this... And you know, they say you have to stay in your house... if I had a small house it would probably affect me more, but I'm lucky.

You’ve been living in The Netherlands for almost 3 years now. How has it been being away from home/loved ones in these times?

It's been okay. It's been kind of tough because we miss everybody but at the same time, we're kind of glad that we're not in the United States because it's depressing and horrible. We're lucky our daughters are working, they have an income, even though it's dangerous out, they have to be protected but...

They live in our house in Louisville and the rest of my family in Detroit. They're just coping. My really young brother is at university and couldn't even go back home because he didn't want to bring any germs back to his mom. So, it's just coping. The main thing I worry about is how long they're going to be able to withstand the circumstances. We're lucky, we're very lucky to be where we are right now. 

The most vulnerable in our society are hit hardest. As founders of Homeless Homies, how do you think this crisis will influence good causes and how they work?

It's true. For the people who are in hard times, it's even worse. We kept thinking, what about all the homeless people? There are people who keep talking about quarantine and unemployment, they say shelter in place. But what if you don't have a place?

We are so worried because we have a lot of people, especially here in Amsterdam, from De Regenboog and Stoelenproject that we've come to know as family. And we were just wondering: how are they doing? We keep in contact with them so we know they're doing okay but we can't help but worry about them every day.

I think in this crisis there will be fewer donations. It's not because people are greedy, it's just out of the fact that people need to take care of themselves. Not everyone has a surplus to be able not to work for a few months or a year or half a year. So they won't have extra to be able to donate. This means that the people who do or who are able to help, they're going to have to try and do more. I think that's the case: just step up and do as much as possible. It's funny because we keep seeing these DJs speaking on how elaborate and glamourous their DJ life was before and how they miss it and I just think: just try to do some good for someone else instead of ranting about what you miss out on, you know.

Can you tell us something about what you'll be doing post-Corona?

Yes, I've been working on a very exciting project. I'm going to start a residency at RADION  Each show will have a theme and since they can only allow a certain amount of people, it's going to be a scaled-back vibe. I'll be seated and I'm going to discuss songs and why they were made; there will be a visual aspect too. 

It's going to help people pay attention to the music again as opposed to the entity that is playing it. I'm not going to be up there waving my hands and conducting. The idea is to make it interactive too. It reminds me of how I used to build crowds in Detroit. You always used to start with a club that is empty when you do the first night. You can't guess how many people will be there but build a core audience that you expand. 

It's hard to scale back when you start big. Do you think slow organic growth is going to be the future?

A lot of people are realizing this now. They should have scaled back or had something that, as you said, was organically grown. So when they do come back, they have their audiences still. I call it the microwave society: we want everything fast. 

Any last thoughts?

As far as the industry goes, it's good to remember it's tough times, of course, but survival depends on the individual. People whose careers are rooted and based on talent will survive. You know, my wife was kind of laughing at me: "What if you can't play any gigs this whole year?" And I said: "Yeah, what are you going to do?" I've always been this way. If you're rooted in talent and truth, you'll survive no matter what your resources. Because you'll have people looking for you when it's all over. But if your career is based on hype and all kinds of antics, you could possibly fade away.

FURTHER is a new concept by DJ Bone that debuted at RADION in Amsterdam on June 6th. DJ Bone will be curating a series of weekly, intimate (since only 30 people are allowed inside) shows taking the form of talks, audiovisual performances and listening experiences. The shows include journeys through Chicago House, DJ Bone’s Birthday Sitdown Rave; Journey through 25 years of Subject Detroit (Bone’s label), etc. Check out Radion's website for tickets.

17.06.2020 | Words by Manal Aziz