You get so many drugs given to you while you’re DJing. Promoters can hook you up way before you even get to the hotel. It’s a normal question — “What do you want tonight? Do you just want drinks?” It always starts out as innocent and fun. Your inner voice tells you, “This is going to be a great time,” but I didn’t have an “off button”. I could never could say no and that got me in a lot of trouble.
There’s also the peer pressure of not wanting to disappoint a promoter because they’re all partying, or people who want you to hang out with them after the gig, so I saw partying as an easy way to knock down the barriers between myself and others. I felt like you had to socialise to get more bookings, and it’s a lot of pressure in that sense. Delivering a great set and creating a great atmosphere in the club should be the priority, not spending hours talking bullshit to hopefully get another gig.
I come from the UK, where most DJs were clubbers before they were DJs, and it becomes a habit. Your “place of work” becomes a recreational experience and when you put those two together, you are fighting a losing battle. I had to work really hard to separate that association.
I’ve met many a DJ who can stay up all weekend — play the main party, the after party, play wherever — and then still function in the week, go to the studio and be inspired. But for me, it wasn’t like that. I’ve toured a lot in South America. In Bolivia, you can buy a huge amount of cocaine off the street, which is probably the strongest I have ever taken.
I woke up one day and had that conversation with myself: “Do you really not love DJing and music enough to do it without drugs?” I did some cognitive behavioral therapy and Narcotics Anonymous, which is very much based in spirituality and, in the end, worked for me.
But I also need to intellectualise everything, so I studied psychology and learned about my own behaviour, and having this understanding is what has kept me clean.
My first sober gig came about six weeks into my sobriety. I must have drank five cans of Red Bull as an alcohol substitute to calm my nerves (and obviously, Red Bull is not a good choice to help with anxiety).
The next day, after I had successfully played without using alcohol and drugs, and managed to get some sleep, I remember waking up with the sunshine coming through the windows, and I had this lightbulb moment — you do not have to do take drugs ever again. You are free. And since then, I truly have been.