TheVine story: “Group Therapy: Does Australian Music Have a Drinking Problem?” February 2014

On the back of Bliss n Eso MC Max MacKinnon’s revelation that he has recently beaten a drinking problem (see previous story here), I surveyed twelve artists from around Australia — including Drapht, The Basics’ Kris Schroeder, Sietta’s Caiti Baker and The Butterfly Effect’s Ben Hall  — to get their thoughts on whether local independent music has an endemic issue with alcohol abuse. Check out the excerpt below, or follow the link at the bottom of the post to read the whole story on TheVine.

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The Australian music industry did a double-take last month at Bliss n Eso MC Max MacKinnon’s revelation to TheVine that he had recently beaten a drinking problem. In a phone interview, MacKinnon told of his battles with alcohol and subsequent recovery.

“I had a huge drinking problem because of this industry,” he said. “Every show there’s five bottles of vodka and ten cases of piss. The amount of live shows we do, you can fall victim to that shit very easily. So for a while there I was definitely a huge drinker and it was stopping me from being creative and stopping me from doing a lot of different things.”

MacKinnon’s struggles — along with the recent revelation by fellow rapper 360 that late last year he entered a rehabilitation clinic to curb a drinking problem — has brought to the surface questions surrounding the consumption of alcohol in the music industry.

Against a background of the wider discussions taking place regarding Australia’s attitude towards drinking, TheVine wanted to find out more about how the music industry views alcohol. Does the industry have a problem? And how do you go about successfully negotiating an environment where for successful bands free booze is a given while young bands are often paid by the rider?

So we picked up the phone, dialled a whole bunch of different artists at different levels in the industry, and began with the following question:

Does Australian music have a problem with alcohol? 

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I think Australian music has a massive problem with drinking. But I wouldn’t draw the line at the music industry – I’d say Australia in general. I remember drinking at 13, having two older sisters. Even my dad would somewhat allow it because it’s acceptable in our culture. And that’s where it seems to start for young people.

When I gave up drinking, everything else seemed to open up. When I was touring and drinking at the same time I was doing twenty-six shows in a month. We have this industry where we’re given these riders. I travel with a band and I’d get two cartons of beer, a bottle of red wine and a bottle of vodka. So I had this availability of alcohol where I had at least half a carton a night. When you’re doing six shows in a week you drive yourself into the ground. Particularly because I had to deal with some hereditary health issues — that was the real catalyst to quit, and a blessing in a sense.

I was a massively shy kid when growing up and of course alcohol gives you confidence. Sometimes before I went on I’d have up to eight beers, slur my words through my set and it would just be horrendous. And I thought I was killing it, y’know? I probably thought I did need a few beers to jump onstage and gather that bravado.

It was Splendour in the Grass in front of 10,000 people that marked my first sober show. I remember the beginning and the end, but the middle I was probably shitting myself and super scared and going into fight-or-flight response. But you go through that experience, and afterwards you know you’re sweet.

Now, it’s been years since I had a drink. And performance-wise I’ve improved ten-fold: breath-control, clarity, and having control over certain things I didn’t in the past. But other things have changed also: it’s turned into bit more of a job before and after shows. Now I rock up, do the soundcheck, go back to the hotel, and then I arrive at the show maybe half an hour before I’m on and then go straight back to the hotel after I’ve played. And it makes touring hugely easier. I’m writing a lot more on the road, because my head’s constantly clear. My touring party is usually hungover, so I’m usually driving or writing [Laughs].

For sure I’ve watched other people struggle with booze. You see it all the time. Especially someone that comes up overnight. They don’t know how to take it and they don’t know the ins and outs of the industry and they get swallowed up.

For the full article, visit TheVine.

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