Over the years, several artists have bravely spoken up over their personal struggles regarding their mental health. Alison Wonderland has been extremely vocal about her ongoing battle with depression and emotional abuse. At the risk of romanticizing depression, Getter has shared some of his personal insights regarding his experience with mental illness and how, in some instances, it can inspire emotive pieces of art. British underground house veteran Steve Lawler even addressed the stigma of artists speaking out about mental health in the music industry in DA‘s Beyond The Booth 009 feature series.
To expound on these testimonies, a recent study’s findings indicate that musicians in particular are up to 3 times more likely to suffer from depression than the public. In the wake of Avicii’s sad and untimely death, the stakes for raising mental health awareness in the music industry are at an all time high — and for good reason.
Enter: former Pendulum bandmate, Ben Verse, who is spearheading a series of drum & bass compilations which foreground issues of mental health and wellbeing. The first album in the series, titled MIND STATE Vol. 1, out now via Getahead Records, features 17 prominent artists and up-and-coming new talents in the DnB scene coming together to present a sonic journey celebrating life and raising awareness for those who are struggling and in need of support.
With over twenty years in the music industry as both MC VERSE and part of the platinum selling band Pendulum, Ben Verse has witnessed first-hand what effect the highs and lows, as well as pressures and strains, a life in the music industry can have on a person.
“At it’s worst, [my mental health] left me unable to leave my room, leave my house, unable to eat. I wouldn’t be able to sit in a restaurant or anything like that. It sounds funny, but at one point I found getting my hair cut really difficult. Just sitting still in that spot became a real source of anxiety for me. It’s a day-to-day thing. A few years ago, it got extremely bad and I had a breakdown. I was at my mum’s house. I was suffering really badly. I was on the edge and thinking about suicide. I couldn’t cope with anything. I felt like I’d lost my worth. I wanted out,” Verse expressed to Dancing Astronaut.
It is with this life experience and awareness that Verse approached AEI Group and Getahead with the concept of the MIND STATE compilation.
“The music industry is not a 9 to 5 job, it can be such an incredible rollercoaster. From traveling all over the world, finding yourself in different situations, meeting all sorts of people to giving it your all, we hope people will know they can reach out to others and work out a balance in their life — especially those younger artists,” Verse explained of the project.
The project’s end goal, according to Verse, is to raise money for a 24-hour phone support line for musicians hosted by partners Music Mind Matters, and Help Musicians UK (HMUK). “The first stage of avoiding mental illness is being able to talk to someone. For musicians to be able to call a number, have a chat, and share what they’re experiencing before it gets to last resorts such as drug or alcohol dependency to hide from the problem.”
Boasting 17 tracks from the likes of The Prodigy, D Bridge & Skeptical, Chase & Status, Sub Focus, Spor, and Artificial Intelligence, the first compilation album reflects the respect and unity that characterizes the bass community in the UK and across the world. Verse expands on how the album became a reality:
“This whole album happened insanely quickly. I wrote a list of people I know who might be into the idea. I called people up, met them at studios and it happened organically. Some people wanted to be involved but couldn’t be due to release plans. But when guys like The Prodigy are up for it, it really blasts the door open and it snowballed from there. Sub Focus, Chase & Status and so many more amazing names. we’re so honoured and really happy with it.”
Especially in the wake of the #MeToo Movement touching the music industry in unforeseen ways — with sexual assault allegations made against The Gaslamp Killer and Datsik in particular — the project couldn’t come at a more timely cultural moment.
North Base, contributors on the compilation, jumped on the cause because of the gendered aspects of mental health and how men, in particular, aren’t encouraged to openly express their mental health status.
“When we heard Verse was compelling an compilation to support men’s mental health issues we had to be involved. This is an issue we are all very passionate about and something which isn’t discussed or highlighted enough. We have all had friends who have or are currently experiencing or have experienced difficulties with their mental health and sometimes we’ve only known about it after, due to the stigma attached to mental health, especially amongst young men. Anything we can do to support this cause has our full backing and we hope one day means mental health is as understood and accepted as any physical illness,” says North Base.
“Mental health amongst musicians and producers, especially those under extra pressure associated with touring, delivery and social media presence has often been something that has been glossed over with assumptions of a glamorous lifestyle,” adds Artificial Intelligence. “We feel that it’s really important to educate and raise awareness around the topic.”
The album, including nothing but exclusives, is also linked to the first ever 24-hour musical gathering focused solely on Mental Health, Wellbeing & Music, Getahead Festival, which is set to take place in London, June 13, 2018. All profits of the unique musical project will go to charity in support of those struggling with mental health.
When asked how the Getahead Festival was a cause that was near and dear to his heart, Verse went deeper into his personal struggles to remind young artists that they are not alone:
“Yes it is. Massively. I’ve suffered anxiety and depression for longer than I ever realized. I’ve always been an anxious person, but I didn’t come to realize how much it was affecting my day-to-day life until I was 21 or 22. I was dealing with it in different ways. I was on medication for a while, which worked for a bit but it didn’t solve the issue of where the anxieties would come from.”
Getahead attempts to push the envelope on the stigma of mental health by bringing together a gamut of top-tier artists, inspiring keynote speakers, engaging panels, and relaxing activities ranging from yoga and massages to live comedy. The organization has a mission to help a billion people positively impact their lives in the next 25 years.
When it comes to mental health and well being, talking really is the key. In terms of the MIND STATE Vol. 1 compilation, Verse explains that it is “about action and raising funds.”
“This is just the start,” says Verse. “We want to develop the Mind State concept into a series and unite artists from other genres for the same or similar causes.”
The Geatahead event partners, Help Musicians UK (HMUK) and its Music Minds Matter mental health service, offers a free & confidential support line for artists and music industry professionals. If you are struggling to cope with addiction, depression, hopelessness, or just want to talk about pressures of working in the industry, dial 0808-802-8008 or e-mail email@example.com.
For anyone struggling with mental health issues, please visit Dancing Astronaut‘s list of resources for seeking help and assistance.