Smile Politely

An update from the decks: What’s this been like for DJs?

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen all sorts of things go by the wayside to take precautions for social distancing and keeping everyone safe. Certainly, music scenes and venues have taken a hit all over the country, which has lead to the development of things like the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which I posted about last week. There is such a wide variety of musicians and creators to take a look at during this time, DJs being one of them. We’ve all looked to things like Bandcamp and GoFundMe campaigns alike to support artists (or restaurant workers, or just about any other person that’s out of work right now as unemployment continues to soar) while we’re staying at home, and much of the world has turned to streaming in some capacity to keep up, and drum up something in order to stay active and earn support from those watching that are able to chip in.

DJs around C-U are no different. If you’re a full-time DJ, whether you’re spinning at Glow or Joe’s or someone’s wedding or something in between, you’re out of work right now. Although not all DJs locally are like this, times are certainly rough out there for those looking to spin in front of actual humans in a real brick-and-mortar establishment. I thought I’d ask a few of them how they are coping with the current state of affairs as a DJ, what they are up to, how people can listen to their music, and more.

Disclaimer: This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive piece about all DJs in C-U, but if you’re a local DJ and want to drop us a line, feel free to get in touch with us at [email protected].

IMAGE: Dark image of a man wearing a black hat in a dark room with blue lights. There's an exit sign on the right side of the image. Photo by Matt Harsh.

Photo by Matt Harsh.


Smile Politely: What are you working on at the moment? 

Kevin Miller aka DJ Belly: So let’s see here, as far as what’s keeping me busy is mainly a mix of playing the Final Fantasy remake and working making some beats in my studio, I’ve been selling beats here and there to rappers for $50 a pop to get some cash coming in. 

SP: Any plans for live streams?

Miller: As far as live streams go, I have done a couple so far. I have been streaming on Twitch. I definitely more live streams coming, more than likely they will be randomly popping up as there’s so much good stuff going on, I want to watch myself live [laughs]. I’m going to aim to do one per weekend at least with some random ones popping up in the daytime during the week.

SP: What sorts of things are you listening to?

Miller: The Verzuz Battles that Swizz Beats and Timbaland have set up on Instagram live have been amazing. They just did RZA from Wu Tang Clan vs DJ Premier and it was really dope to watch. Also, I’ve been tuning into Truth (dubstep act who runs their own label) and their Quarantine Sessions on Twitch. They have been doing these 8+ hour broadcasts with some of the best bass music DJs in the world.

Also have to give a big shout out to DJ Silkee, Kayla Brown, Larry Gates, DJ Vader (Chicago) and Dance Music Therapy for providing some great streams for people to stay entertained at home during this mess.

SP: What are you doing right now to get through this stay-at-home order?

Miller: Been really trying to keep it positive and have been listening to a ton of 90s hip hop and classic soul music.

SP: What can people do to support their local DJs? 

Miller: Tune into a stream, hop in the chat room and hang out, if they have a link to their cash app/Venmo/PayPal, drop ‘em a couple of bucks to help keep us going. Most of us aren’t able to even apply for any aide until May 11th as we are all 1099 workers.

DJ Belly:

IMAGE: Woman sits on red staircase, wearing a black shirt and red pants. There's a turntable sitting in front of her. Photo by Chad

Photo by Chad “Boots” Howard.


SP: What are you working on at the moment?

Ja’Naea Modest: At the moment, I have just been practicing on my mixes and making sure they become more crisp.

SP: Are you doing any live streaming during this time?

Modest: Yes sir I am. I actually host a virtual Happy Hour at least once a week. Last week, I did a virtual kids’ party and I also do morning mixes. I know everyone is having a rough time with what’s going on and by playing music I hope to brighten up their days for a little bit.

SP: What sorts of things are you listening to while you’re staying at home / working on music?

Modest: I’m honestly listening to a little bit of everything. I’m trying to build up my library. When this is over, I plan on DJing to everybody.

DJ Silkee:

IMAGE: DJ with his back turned to the camera in the foreground, in the background is a crowd of people with their hands in the air. Photo by Mark A Spomer.

Photo by Mark A. Spomer.


SP: What are you doing right now to get through this?

Tim Williams: I’m doing my best in the situation. I have been working for 30 years, so I’m using this time to give my ears a rest. While at home I have been working on a massive “to-do” list that has always seemed to grow in size.

SP: Are you doing any live streaming during this time?

Williams: I do plan to do one; I’m still working out the logistics. I have had a few requests for pre-recorded sets I am working on too.

SP: What sorts of things are you listening to while you’re staying at home/working on music?

Williams: I have listened to other colleague’s streams. But also listening to some albums just for the enjoyment of it. John Prine and Bill Withers, of course. Also listening to Junip, St. Germain, Black Keys, Jason Isabell, LCD Soundsystem. And still Prince and Bowie. I miss them.

DJ Tim Williams:

IMAGE: Man in a black shirt and hat stands next to a turntable, DJing. There's a large JOE's banner to the right. Photo by Rico Rivera.

Photo by Rico Rivera.


SP: What are you doing right now to get through this?

Mike Alves aka Alvettee: Well, I have been not doing much of anything in the DJ world at this point. My screen printing business went to a step above nothing. My coaching of high school baseball at Centennial is gone. My Saturday night residency at Joe’s Brewery is gone. So I have been working on projects around the house and finishing up my new printing facility. I have also been producing a bunch of new music for TV (my music in the past has been on Kardashian’s show, Total Divas, MTV’s The Challenge, So Cosmo, and many others). I’m finishing up my album that I have been working on for almost two years; I put the finishing touches on last night and sent it to the label.

SP: Are you doing any live streaming during this time?

Alves: I have not been doing any live streaming. I get bored spinning with no crowd so I have taken a break from the DJ thing for a while. If this drags on much longer I might setup gear in house and do some spinning for fun.

SP: What sorts of things are you listening to while you’re staying at home/working on music?

Alves: So much good new stuff out from new Masteria, Malaa, Camelphat, Seven Lions, Nervo, Martin Solveig, Kaskade, Gryffin… I could go on. I also have been spending time listening to my other favorite genre emo/punk from Assuming We Survive, Sleep On It, Makeout, Doll Skin, and hating that all the spring tours were cancelled.


Top photo by Chad “Boots” Howard.

Executive Editor

More Articles