Performing on stage, going to afterparties, getting VIP access, being surrounded by good looking people, and flying first class, sure it all may seem glamorous when looking on from the outside, but the life of a touring artist is much more taxing than one might think. For many who envy the lifestyle of a DJ, it's important to realize there is much more to the industry than meets the eye and dealing with the stress is never easy.
In order to shed light on what life is like for a touring artist, The Guardian has revealed the various issues they face by speaking with a few leading figures in the industry. From Tony McGuinness of Above & Beyond and Moby, to Borgore and Curt Cameruci of Flosstradamus, these artists provide insight that allows us to fully understand what goes on behind the scenes, and inside the mind, when living life on the road.
For most DJs, sleep is a constant battle as many go from gig to gig, playing up to, or more than, 200 shows per year. Finding time to rest is a very common issue and each artist has their own way of coping.
“Partying with people back at your hotel for three hours compared to getting some sleep: there’s just no competition,” says Tony McGuinness of Above & Beyond. “Jet lag and being unable to sleep when you need it, this is the single biggest danger in our job.”
Sleeping after a performance might sound easy, as the artist should be extremely tired from putting forth all their energy on stage, but being in front of thousands of people can boost an artist's adrenaline, which could make it hard to relax following a show.
“DJs finish shows at 3am or later,” says Curt Cameruci of Flosstradamus. “Then we have to go back to the hotel and try to get a little sleep before an 8am flight, but we’re so amped up from the show that it’s hard to come down.”
So when is the best time to sleep? On the next plane ride?
“I have friends who can’t sleep on planes, but I don’t know if I could tour if I couldn’t do that because that’s where I sleep,” says Steve Aoki. “Being on planes and in hotel rooms all the time can be very difficult on the body and brain."
The human body needs sleep in order to be able to function normally, and not being able to obtain the number of hours needed to "recharge" can lead to even more mental health issues.
“I’ve never gone on a tour and not experienced anxiety, depression and insomnia,” declares Moby. “In the early days, it seemed like a small price to pay. But at this point in my life, I can’t in good conscious punish myself and my body and my mental health out of obligation to go on tour.”
“I slowly admitted to myself that I hated touring,” he adds. “You can only tell yourself so many times that you’re happy and grateful before the brain interrupts and says: ‘Oh by the way, we’re miserable. We’re lonely and isolated and anxious and depressed.’”
Many artists turn to drugs or alcohol in order to cope with mental health issues that often result from being on tour or simply being part of the music industry. A few prominent artists in recent history have decided to stop touring altogether in order to get their lives back. Recently DJ Fresh announced his retirement from touring, while Ben Pearce canceled all his remaining gigs in order to deal with his mental health issues. Dubstep pioneer Benga opened up about his schizophrenia, but has since come out of retirement, and Sasha recently discussed how he struggles with anxiety attacks, but is able to cope and still play gigs regularly. Mental health is a serious issue, and if not addressed properly, can lead to serious consequences.
“To pretend otherwise is why so many touring musicians become alcoholics and addicts and eventually die,” adds Moby. “If you look at the mortality rates of people who tour, it is an incredibly dangerous profession – people die really young.”
Finding ways to deal with the build up of stress is key for any artist who tours regularly and wants to continue with their career. The idea of quitting is likely something that passes through their minds often, but there is always ways to get past those thoughts.
“In the beginning of my career, the first couple years, I thought maybe I should quit,” Borgore says. “I missed my family. It’s very easy to fall into depression in this industry and it’s important to have my family there to support me.”
Having a support system in place can greatly aid in the pitfalls of being a touring artists, but sometimes mental illness sets in and can seriously impact home life. Going from such a high, as is produced when being on stage, to a low, like being alone in a hotel room, can lead to mood swings that are difficult to control.
“My mood is all over the place; I feel like something is affected in my circadian rhythm,” Cameruci reveals. “Sometimes I’ll come home and I’ll be really happy, but there are times I’ll come home and be really sad.”
This sort of imbalance can make it difficult to maintain meaningful relationships. “You come home after a great tour, and the first couple of days you don’t really feel like hanging out with your friends because you just feel miserable,” says McGuinness. “You’re missing out on an important part of human interaction, which is the ability to be a real friend to people – it has a real effect on who you’re able to be in the relationships you want to have.”
McGuinness went on to say how he admires Avicii, who recently announced his retirement from touring due to his desire to focus on other things. “I felt very proud of Avicii for saying: ‘You know what? This has been great, but I need my life back.’”
Although life as a touring artist can be difficult to deal with, many who are part of the industry say they would not want to change their lifestyle. "I can’t imagine going to the same boxed office every day from nine to five,” Borgore adds. “I think I’d go mental.”
[H/T: the Guardian]
[photo by Zierros]