Digital DJ Tips reader James writes: “Phil, electronic music for a lot of people is all about going out at the weekend, having a good time and in a lot of cases taking drugs and alcohol. However, what happens when it feels your life is so involved in electronic music and DJing that your life is constantly surrounded by all of this? I would have thought that most of the successful people in the industry had found methods to prevent them getting involved, and keeping the focus on what’s most important: Music!
“What would you suggest when you’re going to nearly every event in your city, constantly getting backstage and meeting your favourite DJs and all this stuff seems to be crossing your path daily? I’m sure this is something you must have had to get past to get to where you are, and I’m sure you wouldn’t have got to your level otherwise. So what’s the secret?”
Digital DJ Tips says:
A lot of this comes with maturity, but unfortunately DJing starts often as a young person’s game, and many people haven’t got that maturity yet. Hence the high number of DJ “burnouts”.
A friend and mentor of mine, Dave Haslam, once said to me: “All DJs need to decide early on which route they’re going to take: The drink/drugs route, or the ‘clean’ route.”
I think he’s right. You rarely DJ better under the influence of drink or drugs, and drugs are illegal, and to do this all the way through say a 20-year DJ career is clearly going to do you some harm. I’m guessing you’ve realised all of this James or you wouldn’t be asking this question. And actually, you highlight the solution in your post: As tempting as ‘getting hammered’ might be to some, the reason you got into this – music – actually outshines that.
It’s something that dawned on me early on in my “clubbing” days, long before I was DJing for a living. Once I’d realised that partying for a living was a BAD idea, it actually focused me more on the music, not less. I’m not saying I was always squeaky clean but I was always aware of the balance and the compromises I took whenever I fell off the wagon, so to speak. (Actually, too, I have what we here in the UK call a ‘Protestant work ethic’, meaning basically that an excess of fun makes me feel guilty that I’m not working hard enough. In all honesty I think that helped too. And the fact that the older you get, the longer it takes to recover. As I say, young person’s game!)
One thing I’ve learned about DJs (and people in general, whatever career they choose) is that the attitudes they have before they set one foot on the road to doing what they choose to do with their lives are what define whether they’ll be successful or not. If you’re driven to succeed, if you can set goals, and if you can envision where you want to be, you’re less likely to sacrifice long-term achievement for short-term fun – however tempting that might be.
Did you have a personal journey through the temptations of clubland to arrive at some kind of work/party balance in your life? Have you seen people go “off the rails”, or even been there yourself? What advice could you add to this for James? Please share your thoughts, observations and experiences in the comments.