Men’s Mental Health Month: How Producer Wez Changed His Life Through Music
22 Jun 2022
To shine a light on Men’s Mental Health Month, Mixtape Madness spoke to Producer Wez about his struggles with depression, and how his own musical exploration has allowed him to heal. Wez has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, but his story should be a cautionary tale of how the music industry needs to do better in providing support for those that work with in it. We spoke with Wez a few weeks ago as he gears up for the release of his project, ‘Bipolar Express’.
How would you describe your like musical journey up to this point?
I started when I was really young and when I came out of school, I started as a roadie, teching for a band, the London Community gospel choir. Over the years I’ve just basically worked my way up from starting. I love music so much that I just wanted to be around it, so however I could be around it and learn, that’s what I did. I just learned on the fly a lot of the time and then spent a lot of time going back over that, and then getting better. It’s just that I’ve been teaching myself a lot of of what I’ve been doing and just making it up as I go along, but it seems to be working.
You’ve got experience on the tech side as well as production. What part of being in music makes you the most happy?
It’s nice to have a balance of different stuff, because it keeps it interesting, I don’t get overly fed up of touring, because as soon as I’m done, I can be back in the studio. I like having the mix of it or being able to do different bits. But ultimately, just connecting with people is the main bit that I like that music allows me to meet and connect with different people that I wouldn’t normally. Especially when you’re doing sessions or when you’re touring, you get to really kind of know people and have quite interesting conversations and talk about people’s life and stuff like that. So for me, it’s more the connection with people that is my favorite part to be honest.
You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the industry. Has there been anyone in particular who’s just blown you away?
I think Wyclef was a huge one for me. We were doing X Factor with Naughty boy, and Wyclef was over to perform with him. When we were doing the soundcheck, I just heard Wyclef singing a chorus and I was like, that sounds familiar. It was like, ‘Yo, that’s my song that I had just written a couple of weeks before’, and Naughty Boy was gonna release it. Being in the studio with him was was incredible, because I’d grown up listening to him and the Fugees and have been really, really influenced by him. To then be in a room with him having a session and then he’d tell us about times where he was in the studio session with Michael Jackson and stuff like that was like, ‘Whoa’. Yeah, that was that was a big one for me. That was really cool.
You’ve got this new project coming out called ‘Bipolar Express’. How has the industry like affected your mental health?
Even statistically, musicians suffer from mental health issues higher than most other professionals. It is difficult because, yeah, you’re quite isolated from normal life. You know, being on tour or being in the studio environment, it’s not like everyday life. It’s not like where you finish at a certain time, you start at a certain time. You’re surrounded by alcohol and anything else that you might want or need to get through the day if you’re not in a good headspace. So it’s been really difficult to be honest. It’s one of the things where I’ve realised I needed to have the tools to be able to deal with this myself because the industry isn’t set up for like any kind of sustainability. Personally, you know, you have to fight your own way to find some kind of some kind of strategy to cope with it all, like the big highs of doing gigs, and sometimes millions of people watching your work is is a lot to take on. And when it’s all over it’s a bit like, “what happened?’.
We were talking about this yesterday in the studio. It’s like you come off of doing a big one. And then you go back home. And it’s just like normal life again. There’s a big mismatch because you’re used to that big energy and kind of go for it, and then the day when you’re just sitting at home, in your boxers with nothing to do, you get that full rush of energy. It’s like, ‘Oh, what do I do with this now?’, and that’s why a lot of people suffer from anxiety, because it’s that big rush of energy, and all of a sudden, you start getting worried again, or you’re starting to get into that fight or flight mode, because you’re you’re so used to being in it. When you’ve got nothing to do it can be a real comedown and a real opposite to where you were. It’s something you have to work at to try and stay level. I think, of course, when you’re doing music as well, you’re being judged, you’re putting yourself out there to be judged all the time. I have a balance of not letting that really, really affect you, while putting your heart and soul into actually delivering something.
And how did the project come about? Did you have to hit a low point?
I had signed my publishing deal with Naughty Boy. This was like five years ago, and I wanted to do a book because I was doing lots of sessions with new people. It was all in and out, very, very fast moving. On a creative level, I wanted something that I could control. And that was just for me. So I started working on this idea called the ‘Bipolar Express’. And originally it was just because of diverse tastes in music. The kind of music I produce could be R&B, we could be doing Gospel, we could be doing Classical. That’s where the name came from.
Then in my actual real life I ended up really becoming aware of my own mental health issues, and so the project was already happening. Afterwards, I hit rock bottom. I was heavily addicted to alcohol and a lot of drugs, and I was really depressed. I was living two lives. During the day, I was like the fun guy that everyone liked to be around and everything was going good. Then, in the evenings, I was just a mess on my own. I mean, it got to a point where I just couldn’t keep going round and round, and I felt like I had two choices. I felt like at first I was full on contemplating ending it. I just wanted to sleep and not wake up. Then something kicked in where I thought about my daughter and I knew that if I was to take that route, I was just passing on all of my stuff, leaving it at her doorstep and saying ‘See you later’. That struck me into action, that thought of leaving it on her doorstep was the thing that kind of made me realise I needed to actually do something about this. And then I decided to give up drinking, went teetotal and really started that ask for help. think everyone was kind of relieved by this point, because as much as I thought I was hiding it, I was hiding it at all. And everyone’s quite relieved when I got to the point of asking for help. So this this album has become the soundtrack to that journey from hitting rock bottom, needing help, trying to find it and not being able to find it, finding these tools with sound, and actually making my own treatment.
Congratulations, by the way. It’s been a long journey for you. As you said, this album was kind of a sonic therapy for you…
Definitely. Like, when I when I gave up alcohol, I was going through withdrawals. Part of that was insomnia. I couldn’t sleep, so in desperation I just typed in ‘sleep video” into YouTube, and that’s how I started to realise that sounds can do more than just to entertain or be something that we enjoy in the way that I’ve been doing it all these years. Then I started to research how on earth did that thing help me have the best night’s sleep and I had in ages? The next day I went back did it again and then I started to research it and realise that the thing I’ve been working with all this time has given me the tools that helped me get out of this shithole that I had found myself in. So yeah, it was a surprising journey to see because I work in sound, So for me not to even know that this thing exists that could be helping me was quite shocking. Part of the project is making people aware that that sound therapy is actually really useful, and it’s a really powerful tool.
Can you explain a bit to me about binaural beats?
Yeah, so binaural beats, it’s a type of sound therapy that I like to really use. It helps promote certain brainwaves, which helps you get into certain states. You listen to two tones, one in each ear. Just to be technical for a second, say, we’re listening to a tone of 100 Hertz in our left ear, and 115 Hertz in our right, our brain starts to match the difference because we’re not used to hearing two different tones like that. So, as our brains are matching that difference, both sides of our brain start resonating the difference, which is 15 Hertz. Depending on if you’re wanting to feel relaxed, or depending what state you’re you’re wanting to be in, it depends on what frequency difference you’re listening to. One of my songs is called ‘French Lights’, and it’s got a binaural beat of three hertz, which is real deep relaxation. They call it non sleep deep relaxation, so it’s like, really relaxed, really chilled out. If struggling with anxiety, or you’re struggling with like washes of energy, and you just want to pull it down a bit, that ‘French Lights’ song would just totally relax you and make you feel really chilled out, but I wouldn’t suggest that you listen to it when driving.
What are your plans for this album?
The more I’ve started to have the conversation with people, the more that I’ve realised that we’re all going through the same stuff in different ways. Even being in the studio and recording with the choir and other musicians that are on it, everyone really wants to talk now about their mental health. We’ve just been through a once in a generation thing where we all got shut in our houses, and our whole lives got switched upside down. Fear and panic took over a lot of people, so it just feels like it’s time that we just get together and hang out and get better together, do you know what I mean? So a movement? Yeah, why not? It feels like we need to be moved in this way at the moment. So whoever’s on it, that’s what we’re doing and come down and enjoy it, basically.
And finally what are your plans for the rest of the year?
So for the rest of the year, we’re going to start doing a sound bath series. So different styles of music, but in a sound bath. It’s kind of open, it’s more of a non traditional sound bath. We’re not, necessarily laying on the floor with yoga mats and sleep masks, it’s more of an immersive silent disco. All of the frequencies are tuned to actually give you some peace of mind and some respite or some space where you and your subconscious can work through a few things. And the floor as well fully vibrates. So we’re not only having headphones, but yes, you should have vibrations coming through your body through the floor. We’ve got a series of them happening starting with a piano sound bath. And then we’ve also got Hip-Hop, we’ve got an R&B sound bath. We’re also doing healing with voices where we actually have the really amazing singers come down and sing with people. That’s about healing through the power of your own voice by singing and also receiving the singing and just being sang to, so that’s going to be really exciting. There’s a few other events that we’re going to be doing based around how sound can affect taste, and how sounds can affect other stuff. They’re going to be fun, magic moments that we’ll be doing so yeah, that’s what we’ve got going on for the rest of the year, really, up until the release.
It is a testament to Wez’s character that he has managed to guide himself away from rock bottom and channel his energies towards music, the art that he loves. ‘Bipolar Express’ will be dropping later this year, while the sound baths will take place over the summer.