We’ve wondered before about the impact of drug abuse and addiction on the live music experience. And with the recent news about Coheed and Cambria bassist Mike Todd robbing a Walgreens pharmacy before their show in Mass, I wanted to revisit some of those questions and explorations.
And in doing so I also wanted to pass along some info about drug addiction and somethings we’ve learned this year about how artists are overcoming and coping with the anxieties of live performance.
Mike Todd’s Story
First, is the story of Mike Todd and what happened when he tried to hold up a pharmacy to get Oxycontin.
According to the NY Times arts beats blog and the Associated Press,
The police said the bassist, Mike Todd, entered the Walgreens pharmacy in Attleboro, Mass., on Sunday afternoon and showed the pharmacists a note on his telephone claiming he had a bomb. Mr. Todd, who is 30, was said to have demanded six bottles of OxyContin and then caught a cab to the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Mass., where his band was to play the opening set before Soundgarden took the stage. He was arrested at the concert hall before the show and charged with armed robbery and possession of a controlled substance, the police said. The band played without him.
Now, when I first read this story my heart sank as I began to think more about the situation.
Then I began to I thought about our exploration in to Eminem’s recovery and what Eminem said about why he took drugs before the show and what it was like now that he has been sober and how he can now actually see his fans during the show.
What To Do When Your Artist Is Addicted
Then I thought back to our time in SXSW 2011 when listened to the “What To Do If Your Artist Is Addicted” panel that boldly discussed artist addiction and sobriety.
As the panel developed it was sad to think that only a few folks besides us were there to listen and learn about such a vital topic, especially in the wake of the unfortunate death of Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr who overdosed just a couple weeks earlier.
Moderating the artist addiction panel was Harold Owens of MusicCares foundation with guests British singer and actor Michael Des Barres, Amy Blackman of Cookman management and Ozomatli bassist Will Abers.
As an artist in recovery Des Barres and Abers told candid stores of why and how they got sober and how their choice has not only saved their lives but also forever changed the dynamic of their bands and careers.
What stuck me as the most profound and was I keep thinking about when I think about Todd’s story, was when Abers, after being asked about the impact of his sobriety on the band dynamics, said emphatically with wide eyes and a massive smile of gratification and confidence, that his daily journey of sobriety has created a deeper intimacy among the band members, which as a result has allowed his band to make better music in the studio and perform more emotionally present and memorable live shows than when the band was using drugs.
Why We Explore Addiction
Here at Live Fix we feel strongly about understanding addiction on many levels — from the fan to the artist experience.
And like we did during our recent Live Fix Radio episodes on emotions and how women experience live music, we examine the complexities of addiction and human emotion.
And during these explorations sometimes we see addiction in a lighter less life-threatening situations and other times, like Mike Todd, Eminem and the artist’s from the SXSW 2011 panel situation, we take a long serious look at how addiction is a life-or-death situation, and how it has a direct and profound impact on the live music experience.
And what amazes me the most about exploring emotions and addictions is realizing how far we’ve come in understanding the truth about addiction, but also realizing how far we still have to go.
And I hope that Mike Todd, like Eminem and Will Abers, gets the help he needs to recover, live sober and get back to playing live music again very soon.
That said, I’d like to pass along a few resources and articles that I’ve a found helpful when learning how to help artists who are addicted. As I find more article and resources, I’ll continue to add to this list so you can reference it in the future too.
And I invite you to post your our resources and ask questions about addiction in the comments below, so we can discuss them in future episode of Live Fix Radio.
- 2006 Efforts of the National Institute of Drug Abuse Testimony about Treating and Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse
- Grammy.org’s Musicares Foundation treatment for artists and recovery resources.