I love experiencing great sounding music. It's my favorite drug. The high is everlasting, and the withdrawals are nothing compared to chemicals flowing through my bloodstream. When the music stops, when I have to take a break from it (maybe I'm not in my car, or in my room, and my attention is required elsewhere, and music is not a welcome accompaniment during that time period) the great thing is I don't suffer physical withdrawals like I did when I was a dope-fiend ("dope" as in heroin, smack, or Oxycontin). Sure, I've messed with all sorts of drugs, and I don't wanna get too deeply into that here, as I probably said too much already! But music is the only one that I can return to every-time without blowing up the world around me! Now, when I say music is my favorite drug, I mean it's my favorite natural stimulant. Now, there are dangers when experimenting with any drug, natural or chemical, and music is like a narcotic for my soul. And I love narcotics! So, believe me when I say that music literally saved my life more than once.
Blissful-sounding music can pick me up when I can't imagine moving another step, when all my energy has left me. It can also floor me when it reminds me of my daily struggles, or my battles of the past. There's light and the darkness in music, just like anything else in life. It's a true Yin-Yang. That's the main reason I love it so much, and it's also why I call myself a proud music addict! I need music all the time. I wanna hear it when I wake up in the morning. I wanna hear it while I drive, and I wanna hear it in the evening after a long, rough day runnin' the rat race. I know I'm lucky to work in audio and music, but as I told a friend recently: Every work is toil. Just because I work at a laptop and with pens, pencils, and journals and not a shovel or a hammer doesn't mean that what I do is any easier. I'm constantly yearning for more to discover and scribe about. Plus: Finding the right wording to describe what's in my heart doesn't always come easy: Especially if life is as stressful as it has been lately. So, why do I say music is my favorite drug, and not past-time or hobby? Because music acts like a drug when I need it. I went to the dope to numb out the world when I couldn't bear it. There was too much pressure on my shoulders, whether that was the result of physical trauma, or spiritual/emotional scars - I just didn't wanna deal. I'm sure most of you reading this can relate. We've all felt ovewhelmed at times.
And, as my good friend Russ Stratton says: "It's hard work, but it's good work." I end up listening most nights til' I fall asleep in my office chair; sometimes my head ends up slammin' into my MacBook. I get the head-nods like I used to when I did dope! It can put me to straight to sleep (meditative music like ambient or chants) or it can get me rushin' out the door at night too (for that: We need some dirty tech house).
But I gotta admit, most nights of the last year were spent on the phone with a good friend. This person has been there with me through many changes in my writing over the past couple years. Actually, so much has transpired in a mind-blowingly short span of time. We actually met through my writing, and I've been blessed to meet some incredible people through my columns and reviews about music and hi-fi. But this friend and I led very different lives. I think mine was more of a life of excess than theirs. I spent most of my high school days doing bong hits and listening to Pink Floyd, even spent a Summer following the Grateful Dead in the early nineties before Jerry died. My friend had a very different childhood. The cool thing was: None of that mattered when it came to our mutual love of the music! Like I said, I met this friend through my writing and the audio community. We shared a love of music that transcended all differences in our pasts. The big difference however, was that I defintely spent more time numbing my senses through intoxicants and such than he did over the years. I mean, when I was DJing regularly, we'd go out and blast-away the weekends. Most of the time our partying began either Friday, or, usually Saturday evening, and roll into Sunday evening. I wonder how most of us made it to work in order to support ourselves. But it was a dream life for a fleeting moment. I remember, stompin' on the dancefloor at Cafeteria in South Beach, Miami (one of the premier-thumpin' clubs back in 2004) it must've been like 6AM; next thing we know, two of our dear friends and favorite DJs: Terry Francis (Fabric, London) and DJ Three (Hallucination Limited) got up to tag-team on the turntables for the first time. I called my boy PW (my then-production and DJ partner Peter Anthony) and told him if he didn't get his ass down there to hear it he'd regret it for the rest of his life. His girlfriend Lynne (also a dear friend of mine) egged him on as well. Next thing you know, he's walking into the club and the sun's already pretty high in the sky. He says to me: "You know we gotta play at the Soma Records at like 1:00 right?" I said fuck yeah, that gives me plenty of time to sleep biiaatch. He said" "NO, at 1PM dumb ass." I was suddenly cognizant that I had asked many of my favorite UK DJs to come see us play that afternoon. And we were all still up...
I just told P: "If I fall asleep while mixing just knock me out the way and take over." Low and behold: We rocked that party. I actually woke-up while spinning. It was intense! I open my eyes, and I see these people groovin' and I'm hovering over the decks! I didn't train-wreck though. Doesnt exactly sound like the kind of thing to be braggin' about. But it was beautiful. So beautiful actually, that when I approached, nervously I admit, my friend and fellow DJ Terry Francis (an insane-fuckin' DJ whose skills I respected like he was Grandmaster Flash) I was tense when I asked him what he thought of our set. He looked at me, laughed, and said: "fuckin' Mercer, you could be the only American DJ I've ever seen fall asleep in the middle of a mix and hold it". "Great job mate." We cracked up. But there aren't many moments in my DJ career that I relish more-so than that memory - as twisted as it may sound. It was pure joy and ecstasy. Chemically yes - but it still lived out the meaning of the word. I remember one DJ event we all had T-shirts made up that said "rock-stars party like us." Those were the times. I was rockin' dancefloors and lovin' life. My friend that I spent so much time with on the phone didn't have any of that. He had his own twisted lil' existence before we met. But our collective addiction to music and great sound superseded any differences in our pasts or our stories. And that's one of the most powerful things about music. It can level the story in your head: Whether it's bad or good. Music can switch it up and get you movin' in another direction in no time...
Because of my journey this year, staring at the barrell of a twenty-year divorce, couch-surfing everywhere - from Brooklyn to Arizona, and Southern California; losing friendships I've had for decades, and experiencing living breathing proof of my dear friend Warren Chi's words when he told me (regarding some of my lifetime friendships) that "you'll learn that time don't mean shit" - I've experienced a few realizations. Some of them hit me like diamond bullets (nod to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now) and others came with a long, deep breath of relief. One of those realizations: While I no longer try to come from a place of need - I can say without reservation that I need music
I think that may get lost in the audiophile translation sometimes. It doesn't matter if I'm critically listening, in the shower, or just kickin' it with my friends, or working on a project: There's always a soundtrack that makes life better than it would be without one. I don't know about you, but I can think of few things that are better without music (of course there are exceptions). I know this's been said before here at OccupyHifi - so if this sounds broken-record-ish please excuse me: Music is a sonic soul salve for my mind and body. It can transform my melancholy to happiness within thirty bars sometimes. Bottom-line: I am deeply affected by music. It's my greatest addiction, and it's a vice I'm not giving up. I don't care if they end up claiming music is as bad for you as smoking, I'm dying a happy death. I know there are more music addicts like me within the personal audio and two-channel audiophile communities than many people think are merely gear sluts. There are also tons more in the pro audio/live music, and gaming tribes! We're a mass of music-needing sonic junkies: So entertain us, educate us, and make us believe in the grand power of high-quality audio playback. Sure, there are also the gear sluts. There's nothing wrong with loving the gear itself. But it's the music that moves our world. Forget about the ol' digital-vs.-analog and headphones-vs.-two-channel futile battles. There are so many freakin' music addicts out there who don't even know that high end audio exists. We can argue about the merits of various music-delivery mechanisms til' the end of time. I think we should focus on growing this thing, and some experiences over the last year have shone me the potential for the growth of our collectives, and their fragility.
I've read a ton of articles about what audiophiles are and what they aren't. Fellow studio scribes have told me I can't deny I'm an audiophile. I think they're right. But I also know something that either they don't - or, if they do, I don't give a shit: I don't have to classify myself for anyone. Neither do you. I know I love the sound of music through a kick-ass system. My utmost apologies for the few expletives in a short period, it's just the flow and I'm along for the ride. But, seriously: It doesn't matter if I'm an audiophile, and you're a "headphone enthusiast" or the other way around; we're all chasing the same grand thing: Great sounding music. Sure, for the last few years I've been listening to more headphones than anything else. Does that make me more of a Head-Fier than an audiophile? Does any of that crap truly matter anyway? We're living in, arguably, the most exciting time ever for the high-fidelity arts!
We've got amazing vinyl/analog playback systems at prices we couldn't dream of before. On the digital front we've got technological breakthroughs like quad-DSD for playback off our hard-drive based systems, TIDAL for streaming (at the very least redbook 44.1kHz/16 or 24-bit stereo) and fantastic additive software like Amarra-for-TIDAL and sQ+ to squeeze the most out of even the most commercially-minded music-streaming services. We've got greater fidelity in more music delivery mechanisms than ever before. Audiophiledom has never had an opportunity of this magnitude!
We need to reach more people with great-sounding music. And sometimes the best addicts make the best permission marketers. If we discover something that can keep us off the poison - we like to scream it from the rooftops! So lets leave the BS of digital-vs.-analog and headphones-vs.-in-room loudspeakers behind and forge more relationships with music lovers! I think we'd all be the better for it. Now, having all this ground-breaking technology at our fingertips has its obvious dark-side: It also means there's more crap out there than ever before, but that's where our collective passion for the music comes in - and that's where music as a drug is a brilliant thing. You'd be amazed at how many people have never actually sat down to listen to music. It's their life soundtrack all the time. They don't know about the pleasure, or the pain that can be experienced through great-sounding music! It is like a damn drug. So, get out there and recruit more addicts! I'm gonna keep on doin' so every fuckin' day. Cuz I need my fix, and it's certainly cheaper than a 300mg of Oxycontin-a-day habit! Plus: I imagine the life span is a lil' longer too...