Moby And Other Techno Stars Talk Dealing With Sobriety & Mental Health On The Road

By David Konow 08/02/16

With erratic touring schedules, these big-name DJs are striving to find a healthy way to deal with insomnia, depression and the temptation of substance use. 

Moby And Other Techno Stars Talk Dealing With Sobriety & Mental Health On The Road

We’ve read a million stories about rockstar debauchery on the road, and how musicians indulge in their addictions, but it’s not often we hear musicians analyze why they turn to alcohol and drugs when they’re performing around the world.

This is why a recent article in the Guardian, which talked to a number of top techno artists, including Moby, was especially enlightening. It’s clear that these artists know the dangers of being on the road, and how they try to avoid them with healthier behavior.

As the English electronic band Above & Beyond’s Tony McGuinness says, a bigger problem DJs face is “the speed at which [we] can tour. You have this completely flexible timescale that’s not available in rock 'n' roll at all, and you’re often on in the middle of the night.” A member of Flosstradamus pointed out that a DJ can perform until three in the morning, and it’s hard to come down and get some sleep before getting on a flight at eight in the morning to the next city.

Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest enemies for a touring musician because it can lead to anxiety, depression, and memory problems, and as one producer told the Guardian, “my life is a constant jet lag.”

Techno giant Moby said, “I’ve never gone on a tour and not experienced anxiety, depression and insomnia.” Being in a new environment away from the familiarity of home is often what causes anxiety in musicians. “When I’m home, I’m in a space that I have chosen,” Moby continues. “They’re healthy spaces, they’re filled with comfortable things. But when you go on tour, you’re constantly putting yourself into a space that someone else has designed. And the last criteria is: is it comfortable?”

Moby also commented that making a lot of money and achieving fame does not change the need for basic human necessities. “To pretend otherwise is why so many touring musicians become alcoholics and addicts and eventually die,” he says. “If you look at the mortality rates of people who tour, it is an incredibly dangerous profession—people die really young.”

While it’s a cliché to say that the rock 'n' roll lifestyle can be hazardous to your health, it was especially surprising that an actual study conducted by UC Berkeley looked into musician deaths by genre, and techno actually came out ahead of rock music. (Hip hop, punk, metal and rap have the highest mortality rates on this chart.)

In fighting off the dangers of the road, many DJs practice yoga and meditate, which techno star Steve Aoki says is a “great tool for resetting and finding calmness in chaos.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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