Man drugs sure are fun aren’t they? They seem to be the backbone of the very industry that defines us, informing all sides of the music, from the luxurious backstage parties, to the creative process itself. They make us ask questions and have once in a lifetime experiences, and yet when they get out of hand it ruins our lives. Yet time and time again we see young artists going over the top with drugs and alcohol because they saw their heroes doing it in a music video or read about it in an interview. So what do you do to circumnavigate these struggles and enable yourself to access a better future? Where does a band have to draw the line and at what point do you need to realize that you have ruined your life and your art becoming a laughingstock of the people you so badly wanted to impress. Understanding these things is crucial to long term success within the music business so let’s dive on in and try to find out more.
As most progressive drug policies suggest, drugs aren’t really the problem most of the time, it’s the attitudes of the people using them, just as we all know people who drink a lot but get shit done there are also people who do a lot of drugs but also get stuff done. You might want your music to be influenced by someone like Matt Pike from Sleep and decide to smoke a ton of weed to try and get those stoner rock riffs. Except here’s the thing, when you smoke weed all day you just sit on your couch and eat junk food. Matt Pike is out there reading books about alien mythology and jamming. He uses weed as a way to better understand the world and evolve his art, you’re doing it because your parents are mean to you and your job sucks and weed helps you not think about it. I think the key thing when trying to figure out drug use in the music industry is to retain a definition of the word loser and make sure that no matter what you do you don’t fall into it.
Now I understand that that might be a little vague, so look at it this way. I define a loser as someone who sits on their ass all day and doesn’t get anything done, works a dead end job and makes no regular progress towards their ambitions. Now I understand that some people have a hard time with this, but guess what? That’s the entire fucking point. It’s easy to be a loser, and recreational drugs facilitate that almost without exception, in fact I’d argue that psychedelics probably don’t help either after a certain point. So now consider that, and then consider the impact drugs are having on your art. If you’re doing a ton of blow after shows to honor bands like Motley Crue and to better understand the zeitgeist in which they grew up then you’re probably fine. If you are doing heroin all day because “Kurt Cobain did it” and you think that will somehow make your art more despairing then you are extremely misled and confused.
Something else that I think not a lot of bands seem to understand is that the situations in which their favorite seventies bands grew up are totally different than the ones facing bands today. For example, once the bands got signed they had a totally different set of expectations before them. Sure they worked just as hard if not harder than their peers do today, but they also had longer travel times and a slower pace of life. It was okay to zonk out on drugs for a while and not worry about things falling apart. Nowadays if you can’t be trusted to reliably respond within a few minutes then you are pretty much up a river of excrement without a means of locomotion. Also important to realize is that when high profile people are found doing drugs their lives operate on a totally different wavelength from yours. They do drugs because hundreds if not thousands of people rely on them for a job, not to mention countless emotionally invested fans. You do drugs because your job as an ice scream scooper stresses you out.
The rock star lifestyle has always been something of a myth. Even famous bands from back in the day spent countless hours in shitty little vans, much like their peers today. They were hot, sweaty and extremely tired, unwilling to have to deal with all the madness. Sure there were groupies and loose women, but those things are still around too, you’re just fucking creepy. The entire status of a ‘band’ in our society has changed. While it used to be something cool and unique due to a lack of musical training in the general public and relative scarcity of instruments now it’s something your sad neighbor does just as well as your stoner roommate, and that’s fine. You just need to think about what the long term effects that that attitude can have on your lifestyle and realize what it means if you get too deeply invested in it and ignore modern day realities.
When it comes down to it, if you’re motivated and have your shit together drugs aren’t really that bad for you. They can ruin your life really quickly if you let them though and that’s the issue. A lot of musicians deal with mental illness and when mixed with drugs that’s rarely a good fit. You need to remain realistic about all that your band and brand can do for you and try and embrace the future that this reality holds. The music industry isn’t one that allows for a lot of dicking around and using your fandom of certain drug addicted artists as an excuse for why you don’t get anything done isn’t going to help you get anywhere important.
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