A slew of dance legends have opened up about the immense mental and physical toll of professional DJing in an eye-opening new documentary, Why We DJ — Slaves To The Rhythm.
The DJ Sounds produced doco was premiered recently at Amsterdam Dance Event, and features in-depth and candid discussions about mental health and addiction with acts such as Erick Morillo, Carl Cox, Luciano, Seth Troxler, Ben Pearce, and Pete Tong.
The 40-minute film points to factors including creative pressure, constant media attention, omnipresent drugs and alcohol, and extreme sleep deprivation caused by a relentless touring schedules as to some of the reasons DJs experience such poor mental health.
“It’s a crazy life…I think there’s an expiration date on your own sanity and trying to keep human with being a DJ,” Troxler says at one point. “It’s an odd profession where you’re [on stage] in front of hundreds of thousands of people, and then someone puts you in a room and you’re just…alone. That’s when it gets a bit sad. That’s why I think many DJs have problems with drugs, or even sex addiction — it’s just to cure the loneliness.”
“We’ve lost a lot of people to drugs,” Troxler adds. “A lot of really talented people. They just kind of…floated to the wayside.”
“I was drinking every day and chucking my life down the drain,” Ben Pearce confesses later in the film. “It got to a point that I knew that if I didn’t do something about it, I wouldn’t be around much longer.”
Despite the obvious issues DJs face, Pete Tong says artists struggle to get support and sympathy: “Everyone’s got that image in their head of private jets and champagne…but the touring life of a DJ is really hard.”
Why We DJ — Slaves To The Rhythm is now online, watch it below.