DJ Bone: "They can't come back with the same game plan... Everything has to change"
Detroit DJ and producer DJ Bone has been putting on some of Europe’s first legal post-covid events. Who better to ask what clubbing and DJing might be like over the next 12 months?
RADION in Amsterdam is the site of DJ Bone’s latest club event, ‘Further’. However, due to pandemic restrictions, the shows take the form of talks and music delivered in a listening context, rather than a traditional party. With substantial safety measures and extremely limited capacity, it’s a first tentative step back into nightclubbing. We spoke with Bone about what the events are like and what a post-COVID DJ and clubbing landscape might look like.
Attack Magazine: So how did your first post-pandemic socially distanced event go?
DJ Bone: It was great. It was kind of surreal for people. First time out of COVID-lockdown and they’re back in the club and its a completely different setting, with couches, social distancing etc. but it was cool. The setup RADION did for me was great – it was like a classroom almost so I felt like a professor. It’s a more laid back atmosphere and I’m speaking about the tracks I’m playing and walking people through it. Building up their historical memory – whether they had it or not – about the music they’ve been dancing to all these years.
The first part is more of a presentation and the second part is a two-hour show and I do a mix; and that’s when the people struggle to stay in their seats. They’re not supposed to dance but as long as they stand up and dance right in front of their seats or couches then it’s fine, but they can’t just get up and fill the dance floor.
"…THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN A LONG TIME WHEN THE ENTIRE WORLD AND THE HOUSE AND TECHNO COMMUNITY CAN ONLY LISTEN TO DJS."
Tell us a bit about the safety restrictions?
We have to limit the amount of people for now. It’s thirty people at the moment then I think it’s going to go to eighty and then to a little bit over a hundred. The normal capacity is 800, but the cool thing is the way they did it: they bought carpets and rugs and nice lounge couches and bean bags. A few people were masked but not many. I think it’s kinda like that in Amsterdam now, most people don’t wear a mask when they’re out and about in the city centre. It’s kind of weird to me, but they’re pretty cautious about the social distancing and making sure that they sanitise and wash their hands so, so far so good, it hasn’t worried me at all. And the club is really smart with the way they’ve structured it, so everybody comes in through a certain door, they leave through a certain door…
So do you have a sense of what clubbing is going to look like over the next twelve months?
We know that they’re going to ease up on the restrictions, it’s inevitable – it’s just a matter of when. But the distinction is going to be what club is ready to try and morph to try to change the way they operate in order to survive. They can’t come back with the same game plan, they can’t come back with the same huge festivals and the same massive line ups – everything has to change.
So whoever adapts the best – and you know Detroit guys have had to adapt. I would be the resident of a club, play there every week and every weekend something different would be broken and you can’t just cancel the night. You have to do the best you can with what you have in that DJ booth – so if the monitors aren’t working you still gotta play, you have to figure it out.
So if the clubs, events and festivals can do that, and find their way through this by adjusting then they’ll be fine. If they can’t then maybe they’re not that creative to begin with.
"DO NOTHING BUT CHARGE PEOPLE TEN GRAND-AND-UP WHEREVER YOU PLAY? THEN THIS TIME PERIOD RIGHT HERE IS PROBABLY CRUSHING YOU."
So that’s the clubs; what’s going to happen to DJs in the immediate post-pandemic period?
It depends on the type of DJ. For a lot of DJs, this is ultimately going to crush their careers. If things can’t get back to normal to the way they were with these huge mega parties it’s gonna kills some careers – and it’s already starting to press a lot of people. Because of in the last ten years or so we’ve seen the rise of the social media DJ … a lot of them are going to go to the wayside. I see them struggling to have content. If they don’t have gigs and flights and expensive hotels to post about and pictures in front of 1000s of adoring fans then what you do as a fan is you listen to them. And this is the first time in a long time when the entire world and the house and techno community can only listen to DJs.
And I think that’s what it should only be about – you listen to someone and you decide if you like what they’re playing. It’s not about what antics they do, it’s not about how they wave their hands behind the decks, it’s about how good of a DJ they are – and do they play good music?
So you predict some kind of thinning of the DJ herd?
I would love it. I wish DJing was one big cage match! No, I treat DJs the same across the board – I look at you on a personal level and I look at you on a professional level. So I may not like your music or the way you DJ but that doesn’t mean I don’t like you as a person or hold any kind of animosity towards you. In the same way, someone might like something commercial, I can’t get mad at them because they like this type of music… but there’s going to be a culling, it’s going to thin out.
…and I think it’s going to be based on a lot of DJs saying I need to rethink the way I approach DJng or they’re gonna say I can’t make the same money I used to, is it worth it. You know, some people get addicted to that lifestyle.
I could go and play Awakenings or Mysteryland and for the next gig I could be in a 150 capacity underground venue; but do nothing but charge people ten grand-and-up wherever you play? Then this time period right here is probably crushing you.
So someone had to start putting events back on, I guess the question is why: why you and why now?
Because I don’t want people to think that clubbing is over. A lot of people are discouraged now and they think that the whole year is cancelled. I think it’s time that people gained some perspective…
…So in the beginning for me in Detroit, I would always go to a club and start a night and build a night. It wasn’t always about going to a club that was already packed and was already popular and just showing up and playing – because I hadn’t put any work in and built a rapport with the people there. So I felt the strongest clubs and the strongest nights were built on residencies, and they were built on a good resident DJ building a crowd.
So with this, it’s like we’re starting from scratch from the ground up. But now its more intimate, it’s like a special thing. I do two shows a night to try to fit as many people in as we can and then we’re archiving them. It’s a unique special intimate experience that I’m not going to do again and each week I change the topic. The first show was about Detroit techno – ‘Mutated Machines’, this week coming up is about Chicago: ‘In The Beginning, There Was…. a Journey Through Chicago House’. And next week is dedicated to my record label so it changes every week. And I think it’s pretty cool to give people special moments like that that not everyone can experience or buy their way into.
© 2020 Attack Magazine