The way in which I met the music producers of Temple; "Slumber," (Oona Dahl and Amber Cox) is a fascinating one. I first met Oona in Orlando around 2009, whilst deejaying together amongst the leftovers of one of the oldest known underground dance music meccas in the states. Little did we know, the three of us would soon be playing together inside a desolated country saloon somewhere in the swamps of Florida (this is of course seen from a haughty New Yorker's point of view, ha).
The night will always live inside my mind as the night we drove an ungodly amount of hours, the night that ended with a mental and emotional breakdown on the shower floor of my hotel room.
I’d been living the life of a Dj, for too long, and in complete ignorance of any other thing around me, including my own desires. I’d felt the high of playing for large crowds early on in my career and held onto that beautiful high like a lifeline. Everyone needs something to believe in, and for me, it’s always been underground dance music, and the culture surrounding it.
But there’s a caveat, being a professional DJ isn’t rooted in reality; you travel, you party, you have amazing times, while the rest of world gets up everyday and works, and learns about life in difficult, yet sometimes meaningful ways. And while they’re hopelessly plodding through their daily routine, you’re excitedly planning your next show, nursing a hangover, maybe sleeping in if you’re lucky. When this madness continues for too long it’s impossible not to develop a warped sense of reality, and it can be challenging to come back to earth.
I’ll save the details of my past for future posts, but let’s just say when I first arrived to NYC in 2004 after having been touring for a couple years abroad and recovering from the 90’s, things got weird. Fast-forward a few more years to 2009 and I’m at the saloon with Amber and Oona in the jungles of Florida. I’ve had horrible things happen behind the decks while deejaying, I’ve spilled candle wax on a record while it was playing in front of a packed club, I’ve done the cliché “take the needle off the wrong record” move because I took a bad pill and didn’t know wtf was going on, etc… but this particular night shattered my ego in a spectacular way.
The guy whom played before me left somewhere around 40 seconds for me to mix into, and then something happened with the sound and it cut out while I was mixing into his last song. Then, the four miserable people sitting at the bar started booing. It’s hysterical when I look back though, I mean, I was thinking, “I went from playing to thousands of people to this? I’m really losing my mind now. Where am I? Who am I? What is this? Why am I here? And… are there horses tied up outside like in the Wild West? This is insane."
And in this horrific moment Oona(bless her soul) saves the day by turning on the microphone and chanting in a sarcastic yet endearing tone, “We drove a hundred thousand miles for this...??? We drove a hundred thousand miles for this…??? We drove a hundred…etc.” Everyone laughed and the mood changed instantly. Thank God for her in that moment, or else maybe I would have just stabbed all the alcoholics booing at the bar (Just kidding).
But something else riveting was happening inside me in that moment, revealing a matter stuffed deep into the pit of my stifled soul. Oona’s chant on the microphone offered an eerie reflection into a part of me that was long dead and gone… the part we’re all forced to ignore; the path, the truth, the sixth sense. And in that reflection I suddenly remembered who I’m here to be. I’m not just a Dj, I’m a singer, dancer and performer.
I’d say throughout this lifetime I’ve felt this pain about 4 times on various occasions. And let me tell you, it’s 4 times too many… It’s amazing what we go through to avoid the inevitable, to avoid the little voice inside telling us to follow our dreams and take the road less travelled. Later that night was when I completely broke down, and collapsed on the shower floor of the hotel room for hours, crying hysterically, wondering how I’d ever feel good about myself again.
A few days later I made the pact to myself that I would return to NYC and begin singing and performing, even if it killed me. I’d do whatever it took to make it, the shift had occurred, and NOTHING was going to stop me.
A year or two later I had been singing in my best friend’s band Jaded Lover, in Brooklyn, when Oona and Amber approached me and asked if I’d like to write vocals for a song they’d finished. Undeniably, after having formed this type of a relationship with them, it makes sense that Temple would spring forth from those seeds.
Temple, is a song that takes you far beyond the dance floor - they had literally created pure magic and handed it directly to me. It was truly uncanny, and the lyrical process was unique as well in that it gave me the feeling I was tapping into something else - remembering, honoring, disclosing...
This is when the ghost of Amunet Shah appeared, and Abagale left the building, forever.
The mind of an artist is a scary place. One day it's pure unadulterated creativity, the next day it's dark night of the soul and feeling as if you're being buried alive. I've read that this dichotomy is common so perhaps I'm not so different.
As your career progresses you do tend to see more light at the end of the tunnel, many times corresponding with a major release, big show, etc.. but that feeling of victory quickly subsides as you arduously prepare for your next big venture and/or challenge.
My first manager, Sam Mollison once said, "In this business you're only as good as your last release." I've found this to be true. He also said other things like "Nothing beats the element of surprise in this industry." Meaning, it's best to bombard the industry from out of nowhere. I've always lived by this. These days I'm really quite the hermit, for the past 4 years or so I really don't go out much at all, I just sit in my room and make music and strategize my attack. Living this lifestyle takes its toll on you. One day you're up the next day you're down. One day you're feeling proud, accomplished and on top of the world, then 2 days later you're questioning why the fuck you chose this path and wondering who in their right mind would consciously choose to play music for drug addicts at 8am?
Moreover, why did I sacrifice literally every single thing in my life, and I mean everything, to do this? It's not even about deejaying specifically, in this example I'm actually referring more so to the music production and performance aspect..as a singer etc.. although usually if I'm doing a a singing performance, it's not at 8am. However, that luxury could evaporate soon as I merge my skills into one show..
Point being, it's a crazy wave we ride. You do have to learn to take the punches and get right back up again. Because the longer you stay down, endlessly circling in your own abyss of negativity, the harder it is to come out of that space and see the light.
Ya gotta bounce back. Ya gotta bounce back from the ping pong of thoughts in your mind. And in this sinister reality of the biz the truth is, suffering produces great art unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you view it. But I suppose bliss and pure happiness do as well. Although I wouldn't know, because most of my art and music come from emotional pain as well as financial hardship and the overall anxiety of trying to make a living with this. So, I really wouldn't know what it's like to make art from that headspace.. But the juxtaposition here is that for someone who writes lyrics and performs from a relatively dark space, my dj sets come from a completely different point of reference. They spring forth from my life as a raver and dancer in the nineties. It was all about love and I aim to keep it that way. I'm not there to make the dance floor more miserable. I'm there to lift their spirits and save their lives for a night.
Perhaps the deejaying could save my own life too, if you look at it that way. As my singing and deejaying continue to merge into one show, perhaps my lyrics and singing will become more uplifting to match the music I play in my sets. This is something I've been debating..
The merge is currently underway, and it's not a simple one by any means.. But every morning I wake up, put one foot in front of the other, and consciously make the choice to stay out of the abyss. God knows I've spent too many days and nights there already..
Over and out. Goodnight. <3