View From The Side: Music Is My Sanctuary But Also My Prison


It's 10.30 at night and I'm sitting with my head in my hands. A repeating loop is blaring out of the speakers and the lights from my various synthesisers and drum machines are flashing around me. Even before I switched my studio on I felt that crippling worry that it would not amount to anything, that it would all be shite. My heart is sinking through the floor. I switch off the pieces of equipment one by one and walk to the kitchen and reach for a beer.

Music can be a sanctuary but it can also be a prison. Creativity often comes with a price and can take its toll, especially if you have a tendency towards depression. It's hard work when you're stuck in an office from 9 'til 5 and then try to shoehorn time to be creative in alongside being a "normal human being". Add to that the ever-present fear that you're not good enough, days when your motivation is at rock bottom; the constant ups and downs can be extremely tiring.

One minute you're on top of the world and your music is amazing. The next minute you're nothing and your music isn't even worth scraping off the bottom of your shoe. And that's before you even factor in the emotional rollercoaster of sending out demos. Jeez…

It seems that in every interview you read an artist is saying "yeah it just came together organically" or "I wasn't even thinking about a career and then I bumped into what's-his-name from such-and-such records…" and, while I think big up and fair play for those for which this is true, this is a hugely misleading image in most instances. It often reads a bit like that guy from The Fast Show that ends every anecdote of excruciating good luck with "…which was nice." For the vast amount of artists who get anywhere in this business, they get there by working their arses off for years. Write a track. Realise it's shit. Fret for a week. Then write another. Which is still shit. But a bit less so than the last one. And repeat.

Drugs have always been linked to art and creativity with both celebrated and tragic connotations. From Coleridge's opium haze of "Kubla Khan" to the dense and tangled acid excursion of Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew", we laud the artist for venturing down the less-trodden paths of their minds but we tend to ignore or glamorise the downsides. For some they can be an essential part of the process but they come at a cost and you'll always be robbing Peter to pay Paul. I use drugs when I work, partly to overcome my own personal inhibitions, partly to make me concentrate for 8 (10… 12… 18…) hours on the trot after a long week in the office and partly because I have an addictive and self-destructive personality. It helps but this comes at a high price in the long run.

I don't write this to say "woe is me." My problems are tiny compared to those of others so keep your violins in their cases. There's beginning to be a bit of discussion around this issue within dance music – such as Benga's recent brave revelations and Prosumer speaking so eloquently about his problems with depression in the past – but I think there needs to be more. After speaking with a lot of like-minded people, I just think that my experience may resonate with others who are in this game. Always pushing forward with their love for music and always being pulled back by their own personal daemons.