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The Dark Side

5DarkSide_0Sometimes musicians -- or entire bands, for that matter -- lapse into a state of disrepair due to avoidable outside influences. Everyone knows the stories; VH-1's Behind the MusicĀ is based entirely on the explosive nature of rock bands on the rise, how quickly they can dissolve into fits of drug abuse or alcoholism. These things may seem like just another rung in the rock music ladder, like something every young musician must go through, but they aren't. This is no rite of passage; substance af buse can completely ruin the lives oeven the most dedicated bands, and while there's no all-encompassing method to keep this problem from coming up, there are specific ways to handle it if, or when, it does.


Alcoholism is typically the most common problem among rock and pop bands for one very understandable reason: alcohol is constantly shoved at you. Every bar, every club, even a ho-hum band practice usually features at least a beer or two, and those beers can quickly become a drinking problem. What was once a few drinks to loosen up before a show can suddenly morph into full-fledged alcoholism, and before you know it, you (or one of the other band members) can't separate your drinking habits at shows from your drinking habits at home. This is precisely how alcoholism starts.

While it's usually impossible to ban alcohol from the band completely (and who would want to, anyway?), it's wise to put a limit on the number of drinks consumed at shows or on tour. The occasional drunken night is fine, of course, but if the whiskey starts coming out at 2pm, it's probably time to give it a rest. Alcoholism can, and will, sneak up on young musicians suddenly, and denying that you have a substance abuse problem, or enabling the substance abuse problem of a band member, will not make the threat of alcoholism evaporate into thin air.

Of course, that's much easier said than done, so what happens if one of your bandmates lapses into a drinking problem? First, do not under any circumstances dismiss it as part of the rock music lifestyle; sure, it might be common, but we only hear the horror stories. No one talks about the young musicians successfully staving off alcoholism every day. This is your friend, remember, and you have a responsibility to him or her outside of band obligations. Talk to him or her about the substance abuse, mention it to the family, stage an infamous intervention; do whatever it takes to keep your bandmate away from the alcohol. If the alcoholism proves to be more powerful than any intervention, offer to help set him or her up with AA meetings or rehab, if necessary. And don't be afraid to put your band on a hiatus to take care of someone's drinking problem. You may lose some momentum, but your friend and bandmate won't be stuck in the terrible substance abuse cycle.

Drug Abuse

Like alcoholism, drug abuse is a common problem among rock musicians because of the availability. Fans and promoters alike are often anxious to offer drugs to bands, and it's usually not with malicious intent; they just want to have some fun. And maybe it starts off as just a little here and there, some lines in the bathroom before a show, a pill to take the edge off. Maybe it's nothing at first, no serious drug abuse to be seen. But then, suddenly, it's an addiction. Full-blown substance abuse, the likes of which is notoriously difficult to cure in young musicians.

The best possible way to keep drug abuse at bay is to ban all drugs from the band; they aren't necessary after all, and most of them (save for some strategically prescribed pills) are illegal. Make sure every one of your bandmates understands that any drug use will get them thrown out of the group. It sounds harsh, but drug abuse affects even the non-users in rock and pop bands. Consider it; most bands will get pulled over at least once or twice on tour, and the better part of them will be questioned by police for no reason other than their appearance. If you look like you live the rock music life, authorities will tend to treat you accordingly, however unfair. And if you or one of your bandmates has any illegal drug in tow, you'll go to jail. No questions asked.

But what can you do if someone in your band is dealing with substance abuse? Like alcoholism, don't treat it as part of the rock music lifestyle. This is a serious problem that needs serious attention. Stick to your promise, however difficult, and ask that person to leave the band. Don't, however, end it there. Out of sight is absolutely not out of mind, and you have an obligation to help this person get past their substance abuse. With the help of his or her family, get your bandmate to rehab or therapy. Again, put the band on a hiatus if you must, and don't discount the idea of allowing the person back in the band once they've cleaned up. Young musicians have the ability to be fierce and resilient, and signs of good faith are always appreciated.

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