Funkagenda opens up on depression in the music industry

From the early roots of his West Midland’s studio, to pioneering releases through reputed major labels, Funkagenda’s stamp on dance music can be felt across Europe, North, Central & South America, the Middle East, Australia, Russia and Japan. A devoted passion for music, alongside an embrace of technology, has fortified Funkagenda as a vanguard of the “tough but melodic big room house sound” (DJ Mag)

Originally championed by Positiva, Subliminal, Defected, Azuli and Big Love, as well as being a key member of the iconic Toolroom Records, Funkagenda has taken the next logical step in his career and become creative commander of Funk Farm, a prospect that looks set to cultivate him as an artist with a mass of production credentials and no doubt a further slew of awards.

Winning both the Ibiza DJ ‘Best Ibiza Track 2008’ and the Beatport ‘Best Tech House Track 2008’ award for his Man With The Red Face collaboration with Mark Knight, Funkagenda was also presented with the Ibiza DJ ‘Best Newcomer 2008’ and DJ Mag ‘Best Breakthrough DJ 2009’ awards for his solo achievements. Authenticity and originality are his trademark, establishing Funkagenda a solid reputation as an innovative DJ & producer.

Funkagenda’s sound attracts musical partnerships across a spectrum of genres, remixing artists including Basement Jaxx, Moby, Fat Boy Slim and Dirty Vegas. His production contributions to the Black Eyed Peas album ‘The E.N.D.’ were further recognized by an ‘Album of the Year’ nomination and a ‘Best Pop Vocal Album’ award at the 52nd Annual Grammys.

With a wealth of praise from artists across the dance music board, Funkagenda can be noted as the producer’s producer, backed up with his critically acclaimed mix album that was released on Toolroom Records in October 2009, further consolidating a growing portfolio of success. Since the dominoes started to fall, Funkagenda has been a firmly fixed name across global music charts, regularly achieving Beatport No.1 positions.

But in essence, Funkagenda’s deeply personal DJ sets and production have built the boy from the Black Country a rising international fan base. Accumulating fierce support both on and off the dance floor, from industry to individuals, Funkagenda continues to charge across the battlefields of dance; as a DJ, a producer and a fervent contributor to the world of music.

Our Guest Editor Paul Thomas speaks candidly to Funkagenda


When did your depression begin, and what do you think it is linked to?

I would say from the point that I realized that my parent’s marriage was ruined. It totally blindsided me. I thought we had a pretty idyllic life and I was so very happy. Then suddenly everything was a war zone. Screaming rows every night, my Mom was prone to violent outbursts, fake suicide attempts, drinking, and smoking. Then when my Dad moved out, she would stalk him, threaten my sister and I if we didn’t give up his new address and even if we wouldn’t sue him. Along with all other kinds of weird stuff. When you go from living what you think is a perfect life to that, it ruins your faith in anything staying positive for long. On top of that I was bullied at school, a girl-repellent at best and I started drinking pretty early on. I had “friends” invite me out to parties just to ambush me and beat me up, I’d get badly drunk and people would piss on me and spit on me. I didn’t have anything to really look forward to at that point.

Some people think that because you have a superstar DJ lifestyle, that depression won’t affect you, but it doesn’t work like that, does it? What would you say to the people who say ‘what’s he got to be depressed about?’

Depression isn’t about what reasons you have to be sad NOW. In my case it is more about what I have to look forward to when everything turns to shit. As far as I have ever been able to trust, everything in my life will turn to shit eventually, despite there being no evidence that something will go wrong, you believe it so firmly that you steer your path towards oblivion.

What helps you overcome your problems?

My dogs, my girlfriend, my family and my manager Rosie currently. She has been a godsend. It’s a constant battle against yourself and your own willingness to allow accept your inevitable demise, so anything that can make you feel that the path there is going to be a brighter one is important.

Your recent track, One Day At A Time, was born from your experiences about depression and alcoholism. Can you tell us a bit about the track, how it came about and its success?

When I had my last relapse it was really bad. I was holed up in a hotel in Jamaica, Queens, drinking every minute that I was awake just to make myself pass out again. I went back to LA when my girlfriend came to rescue me on a ticket bought for her by BT (a very surreal experience considering my love of his music during my early 20s). When I got back I found a guy who could explain my addiction and my depression to me in terms I could understand. It was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. “One Day At A Time” was basically an aural representation of that moment. It’s supposed to represent the ascension from sadness to being uplifted again.

How do you think depression is viewed at the moment? Do you think there’s work to be done?

There is a lot of work to be done to help the public differentiate between sadness and depression. Depression is a disease. Sadness is a feeling. You can go from sad to happy, but that doesn’t mean your depression is gone. It just means that it’s hidden better. Look at some of the great artists of the last hundred years who have experienced the highest highs and still killed themselves. All that evidence cannot be ignored. People need to learn that depression isn’t just an excuse for sad people not to try in life, or turn to addiction (which in itself becomes a serious mental health issue). Isaac Asimov said “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom” and I think that is something that really sums up the difference between definition and understanding.

There’s still a lot of stigma attached to depression. A lot of people feel like they still can’t talk about their problems for one reason or another. Yet you have always been very vocal about yours. Is this because it helps you or because you feel like it helps other people? What advice would you give to people who feel like they need to hide their depression away?

I’ve learned to be very open about it because people are a lot more accepting of me talking about it. In fact I get a lot of emails and Facebook messages commending my stance on it. I just hope that I can justify the praise with my continued airing of my struggle.

After a really difficult time, it’s important to point out that by believing in yourself and overcoming your demons, good times can roll once again. Tell us about all the exciting things you’ve got going on over the coming months, and what you are focusing on for the rest of the year.

Well I have a follow up single coming out with Armada, plus collars in the pipeline with BT, Christian Burns, Grum, Bass Kleph and a lot more solo stuff. But next up is a holiday to Guam with Sabrina. She has earned it with everything she has had to go through.


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About the Author

International DJ & Producer and label owner of UltraViolet Music from the UK with releases on Toolroom, SIZE, Spinnin, Doorn, Funk Farm and many more