Nostalgia can get expensive. Unlike many of her peers, underground house and techno DJ Laura Jones didn’t adopt CDJs and USBs for mere convenience or because everyone else was doing it – she simply couldn’t afford to maintain a vinyl collection. “When the digital boom happened, I only really had one option and that was to get involved and make things that little bit more affordable,” she told us via email.
But digital devices were more than cost effective – they were necessary for her health.
In 2008, Jones was diagnosed with Stargadt disease, an incurable condition that causes progressive vision loss, sensitivity, and usually leads to legal blindness. So now she dons big, orange-tinted sunglasses at night to block out bright light and blue wavelengths that can cause her condition to worsen. "Many people think I wear them for image reasons,” she said, “but [I wear them] to stabilize and keep the light environment constant."
Hearing loss directly affects a DJ’s ability to engage with music. Though Jones can still hear her sets – in fact, she insists her other senses have heightened – the strobe lights of her environment are harmful and uncomfortable. Blind spots in her central vision make it tough to read and recognize faces. When she lost her driving license six years ago due to the disease, she lost a lot of independence. Though the condition is progressive, she remains hopeful. "It’s a case of continually adapting and changing as the condition worsens,” she said. “The body is an amazing thing.”
Adapting to day-to-day home life has been a natural transition for Jones but she admits her craft has suffered. "[Music making and performance] is where the biggest challenge lies,” she said. "I’m the sort of DJ who likes to work in the moment rather than have any pre-planned set...and reading the crowd can be tricky.”
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In some cases, she relies on help from trusted colleagues. "I also can’t see to arrange my own music any more so I’m having to work with an engineer now, which has been one of the hardest things to get my head around as I’ve always wanted to do it myself,” she said. "I don’t find it the easiest communicating to someone else what it is I want and [I] actually feel it can be a hindrance to your creativity at times.”
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Perhaps in an effort to reclaim some of her independence, Jones just launched her own label, Sensoramic Records, something she’s had planned for as long as she can remember. "I’ve always wanted to have the creative rein and freedom of decision over a project like this and I'm keen to support new talent just like I was supported.” Sensoramic’s first EP, Karousel’s Planetary Rebirth, was released last month. Jone’s own release is scheduled for September.
Jones hasn’t lost her love for vinyl. Now that money isn’t as tight as it once was, she’s begun collecting records again, but her condition restricts her from playing the records how she'd like. Instead, she's digitizing the music each week so she can spin them on CDJs during her weekend sets. “Sometimes creativity is born out of trying things out and seeing what works or doesn’t work,” Jones said, "and you don’t really have that liberty with Stargardt. I’m making it work though, just perhaps not quite as quickly as I might have liked to or been doing in the past.
“It’s been an eight-year rollercoaster ride,” she said, “but it has taught me a lot of life lessons and I’m grateful for that.”
Laura Jones. 10 p.m. Friday, June 3, at the Electric Pickle, 2826 N Miami Ave., 305-456-5613; electricpicklemiami.com. Tickets cost $10 to $20 via residentadvisor.net.