Avicii’s death drags the spotlight back to drug and alcohol abuse by those struggling to cope with constantly being in the public eye.
Be it Tupac Shakur, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and now tragically, the 28-year-old Avicii, theirs is a story of a skyrocketing career, trouble with fame, alcohol and substance abuse. In Avicii’s case there are reports of alcohol abuse, and speculation that his death was caused due to ill health too.
We asked the fraternity what it is about the music industry that makes talented stars walk a tightrope.
Coldplay singer, Chris Martin, is among the few renowned singers in the industry that is known for his teetotaler image, and stance against abuse. But he is more exception than the rule. In fact, he has come on record and said that success, fame, alcohol, drugs are all pitfalls — which many have succumbed to.
With EDM, Trance and Techno as popular genres of music, which have been associated with substance abuse, a popular DJ (on condition of anonymity) reveals, “The use of such substances enhances the effect of the beats. There are many DJs who prefer using substances to experience the music completely. Most dance parties up the tempo with music, and many youngsters today use mood enhancers at such gigs.”
Dixit elaborates, “Unhealthy competition exists but artists are free to choose how they react. It’s enticing to keep playing more and more; fans, money, fame everything becomes addictive. It’s important to keep taking breaks, and stay grounded and rooted. Sadly, nobody teaches one how to handle stardom.”
Throwing light on the DJ scene, a Bangalore based DJ, Arjun Nair is categoric, “There is no justification of indulging in drugs or consuming excessive alcohol. It happens because as a musician or DJ who tours a lot, everything is available easily, and what starts of as social drinking, ends up becoming a habit. You have to restrict it — primary factor is self-restraint.”
The bright lights and psychedelic beats might just be too much for a young artist to handle. And the whole aura of EDM music being hand in glove with abuse?
DJ Arjun reveals, “It’s absolutely not true that you need alcohol or drugs to enjoy EDM or techno music. You can enjoy music without either. The only factor is your level of social comfort. To loosen up could be very stressful to those not used to being in front of large or varied audiences or crowds (like Avicii was known not to like crowds). One’s lifestyle makes everything easily available. People, fans, organisers, friends, only get to meet you in bursts. If you are a busy travelling artist, many partygoers want to connect with you, and end up using alcohol as a means to it. You could either abuse it or be in control. As a DJ, even I travel almost 2-3 weekends a month and I make it a point to have fun but responsibly and with ground rules!”
Debjeet Basu, Perfect Strangers feels the definition of “making it” is very subjective, “Some might think that owning $28 million and being the third highest-paid DJ is ‘making it’ but I guess artists have creative pursuits and targets too, and not being able to achieve them can get depressing. People resort to adrenaline drugs and shots and what not... that abuse can be fatal.”
— With inputs from Pooja Prabbhan, Ruth Prarthana and Cathline Chen