Life on the road is, for many, an absolute dream. A different city every night, with flights criss-crossing different countries, even entire continents. It's a lifestyle that can inspire, but it's also one that can prompt extreme loneliness and fatigue, as the days and hours spent travelling from identikit hotel room to identikit hotel room hundreds of miles from your family mount up.
This summer has born witness to a flurry of articles describing the strains of touring life for bands, and this is to be welcomed. However it often seems as though the message simply isn't getting through – and indeed for club culture, that the message is barely being raised at all.
Dubstep pioneer Benga broke his silence yesterday (September 16th) using Twitter to detail his struggles with mental illness. The bass kingpin spoke honestly and frankly, revealing that he had been diagnosed as bipolar and had battled with extreme paranoia and schizophrenia. Causing enormous stress for his family and loved ones, the producer explained that he wanted to set the record straight, and to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
It's certainly an incredible start. Benga retired in 2014, following an attempt to move into more commercial spheres with an EDM-led sound. It's worth remembering that before this the producer was one of the most vital forces in UK bass culture, with debut album 'Diary Of An Afro Warrior' setting in heavyweight stone the template for dubstep – a template that still resonates in clubs across the globe on a nightly basis.
It's more than this, though. Benga's persona – afro-clad head bobbing behind the decks, a larger than life figure in every sense – made him enormously likeable. This writer has interviewed him twice, and found him to be a complete and utter joy. It's moments like that that ram home the simple truth that mental health issues can impact upon any of our lives, at any time.
So is enough being done to aid young DJs? Simply put, the industry needs to become more aware of the pressures and temptations that surround young talent. In his heartbreaking message on Twitter, Benga blamed long hours travelling, a back-breaking schedule and heavy drug use for facilitating his mental health battles. It's easy for a young producer to get swept up in this lifestyle – after all, Benga was literally a kid from Croydon making beats in his room, hardly somebody who approached music with a career plan.
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Furthermore, when you're swept up in the party the last thing anyone wants to do is pull the escape cord. The natural instinct is almost to rein in those doubts, to keep pushing harder, to be the figure that everyone is looking up to – after all, if you're the headline act, it can be difficult to simply slink back to the hotel room and switch on a True Detective box set. Expectations can weight down, and it's easy to play up to them.
Almost everyone who read this article has read the DJs Complaining feed, but maybe they should complain more often. The stresses and strains of the road always find ingenious ways to explode from every pore, and – given that high profile DJs can go weeks, sometimes months without venturing home – it's really no wonder that the occasional moan can be heard on social media when a connecting flight is delayed, or when a hotel booking goes awry. It's normal. It's natural.
Sure, the DJs Complaining feed can fling up some occasional gems from a pampered selector but, more often, it seems to reinforce the misguided, and much wider, notion that these people have nothing to complain about. Spinning music that people love on a huge rig every night might well be a dream to most, but living with immeasurable strain is a nightmare no matter where your name is on the line up poster.
Right now Benga has a life to re-build, and that's immeasurably more important than music. But hopefully the industry treats this as a warning sign, as a point that opens others up to the impact touring life can have on those at the centre of the maelstrom. More artists need to speak out, and each of us has a role in providing the support needed to achieve this.
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Have these events resonated with your own experiences? Try CALM for help and advice.