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EDM & Bi-Polar Disorder: An Interview with Gideon Miller

Thousands of ravers, club kids & festival attendees struggle with mental illness worldwide, myself included. I had the honor to speak to one such dance music aficionado, who balances slam dunking his professional life, some exquisite taste in progressive & an Axis-I disorder diagnosis. 

1. How was Electric Daisy Carnival 2015? Got any other fest plans for the summer?

“This year was my third, and you could say it was pretty special. I proposed to my now fiancée at Myon and Shane 54 Sunday night. She and I were at a wedding in San Diego through Saturday night, so while we weren’t able to make every night, a friend of a friend pulled together some EDC magic for the tickets, and we were fortunate enough to have about 40 of our closest friends show up for her surprise.

We just bought our tickets for Voodoo in New Orleans. We had made plans to attend last year but some family stuff came up and I had to leave after the first night. The lineup this year has a number of artists spanning a bunch of genres that we’re really excited to see. We will probably make plans for New Years Eve as well, but that might be it for us. It’s been our year of the weddings, and they all seem to fall on some of the best festival weekends. Next year, Groove Cruise Miami for certain, and we might take the plunge with a bigger trip to Burning Man, or a Eurotrip.”

2.What have you been up to since leaving the world of EDM Journalism?

“I definitely wasn’t ready to leave it, that’s for sure. Like many bloggers, this was only a side job for me. A little over a year ago, I got the opportunity of a lifetime to lead a major business unit in a global Fortune 10 company at the ripe old age of 28. It still makes me laugh when I say it. If only they knew where their suit-wearing, corporate man spends his vacations. They just think I like the beach… a lot.

The job consumes my life most weeks, but my fiancée and I are also delving into real estate to try to retire by 45. We’ve got 2 units right now, about to purchase 2 more. This job also forced us to turn our relationship into long distance, so there’s also a lot of commuting from my city to hers and vice versa. I guess you can add wedding planning to that list now… You could say we stay busy.”

3.Do you listen to the same genres of dance music that you did when you started listening, or have your tastes changed/evolved over the years?

“It’s funny, the song I credit for getting me started (after getting a new car that had a free Sirius membership) was Wolfgang and Tiesto’s “We Own the Night”. For the next six months I consumed everything “EDM” I could, and those first few songs still are some of my favorites. I’ve listened to everything both live and in my headphones, but I keep coming back to the genre that got me started, Progressive House.
When it comes to live shows, I prioritize artists like Arty, Madeon, Audien, or Pierce Fulton. Trance is another mainstay for me, and Armin Van Buuren at 2013’s Tomorrowland, in the hardest rain I’ve ever experienced, after announcing the birth of his son, will forever be the one of the best moments of my life.”

“I’m not some kind of music snob, and have a pretty wide set of tastes. I’ll generally go to festivals early to wander for a little bit. I just can’t get into Techno or Tech House. Believe me; I’ve tried, because most of my friends are hanging out at those stages these days. Also, if you produce music that could double as a car alarm (Big Room) or soundtrack from a horror movie (Dark 138 or Big Room), that’s not much my thing either.

Now that it’s getting harder to get noticed with the rise of the “bedroom producer,” we’re starting to see higher quality music tracks make their comeback, and it’s a great time to be a fan. Dash needs to take a few other artists on a jungle trip with him and the world will be a better place.”

4. What is the EDM scene like where you live? Do you have any chance to party outside of major festivals?

“Completely and totally devoid of all dance music whatsoever. I heard “Better Off Alone” once down here at a bar, before the DJ fader crashed it into Pitbull. That was nice… Sort of. Last year I drove two hours both ways on a Wednesday night to see Porter’s Worlds tour, and that was to a venue that hasn’t had a single dance artist back since.”

So this message goes out to everyone within 30 minutes of a solid music venue…

5. Do you look forward to certain events every year or are you chasing certain acts wherever they go?

“I try to keep an open mind these days. I really like to use these festivals as meet up opportunities for people I don’t get to see that often. I still am much more in favor of the “pure” dance festivals, with the two that will always hold a place in my heart: EDC Vegas, and Groove Cruise Miami. I’ve been to about 15 festies over the last three years. While I don’t chase acts per se, I usually have a list of a few artists that if I see them on a ballot for an event, the trip becomes more likely. It was like that for Galantis last year for Voodoo in New Orleans. Dubvision, KSHMR, Speaker of the House, and Michael Calfan probably have that role right now.”

6. As someone with bi-polar disorder, do you find EDM festival experiences to have become overwhelming?

“Firstly, there are four major types of bi-polar disorder with varying degrees of severity. I have bi-polar type II, which in the grand scheme of shitty hands, isn’t the worst one I could be playing with. Although I’ve been told the “lows” have a tendency to be worse than average, the “highs” aren’t as debilitating and I’ve never had to be taken into medical care for full blown mania.

With that in mind; no, not overwhelming at all. I actually find it really therapeutic and often helps combat my depression. I’ve always had a deep love for music, before I even found dance music. I thrive in high energy stimulating environments. When I’m fortunate enough to have an “upswing” as I’m going to a festival, its 2-4 days of pure euphoria, lessened need to sleep, tons of energy, and a really positive life outlook. Being around great people with great music, those are the moments that remind me that no matter what happens after these few fleeting days, everything will be alright. I’ve got chills just thinking about it.”

7. How do you enjoy the scene while still managing your symptoms, as you’ve clearly done incredibly well for yourself?

“I think I’ve become a lot more aware of it now that my life has slowed down a bit. The depression is far more difficult to overcome, but if I could be hypomanic my entire life, I absolutely would. Many of the symptoms I struggle with come from the depression.

I spend a lot of my time leading up to the event forcing myself to think of the positives, of the forthcoming vacation, or perhaps a particular artist I’ve been looking forwards to seeing. I alter my behavior slightly, spending an extra 5-10 minutes at the gym, eating a little better, and try to set myself up to “punch through” any type of depression that I may or may not have at the moment. That kind of effort is really difficult to sustain for longer periods of time, but in short bursts it’s doable.

It’s really about structure to me. I don’t give myself the option to skip a small list of things, work and gym being the absolute musts. Knowing that it’s just a passing phase, and non-depressed Gideon would really appreciate not having to pick up my own slack, or work off 20 lbs of self-loathing gained from eating horribly is also pretty motivating.

Most people don’t know, and I don’t care to let them know. For as much energy I put out into my job and my friends when I’m feeling great, it tends to come back to me when I’m not, and that helps me through the dark days. Many of those friends I see at these events. It’s the little sources of pride that give me a reason to get up every morning, for the days when I feel like I need one.”

8. What is one thing you’re really digging about what’s happening right now in a particular scene or genre of music?

“I alluded to it above, but it seems like the gimmicks, and unmelodic shrill sounds are going by the wayside. Hopefully artists will start to feel more comfortable with the genres that got them famous. Nothing is more heartbreaking than going to a live set to hear something groovy or feels-y to have them drop into garbage, and it seems like all of my favorites have done it at least once (yes, even you Audien – if I wanted trap music I would go a Floss set).”

9. Where do you think the EDM/festival scene goes from here? Any visions of the future?

“Let’s leave the whole SFX debacle out of this, which I believe was a terrible case of mismanagement and trying to monopolize a market with cash purchases instead of building on organic asset growth. The market is alive and well, albeit a little bit overinflated. A few festivals are bowing out gracefully, and that will continue for some time. Dance music isn’t likely to remain as popular as it has, and DJ salaries are also overinflated. The market will contract at least somewhat, booking fees will start to drop when attendance shrinks, lineups will start to carry more bigger names like around the initial climb circa 2012, and you’ll see more market consolidation under a few sets of promoters with HARD, one or two SFX remnants, and Insomniac leading the way.”

10. Any advice for people with Axis I diagnoses like yours that also like to go hard?

“Be mindful of what the disorders do to your state of mind, and where you are in your own personal headspace before you go to the event. Mania cultivates a desire for reckless behaviors that become much more available and to some extent, socially acceptable at these events. That’s a hospital trip waiting to happen. If that’s your thing, make sure you build in contingency plans and fail-safes to ensure you don’t get caught up in any one moment and make a poor decision.

On the other side, depression might make you want to skip the event altogether. If that’s the case, don’t force it. Before making that decision, try to put yourself in the mindset if you were actually there, and whether that would be better for you or worse. You don’t have to be the life of the party, and you don’t have to stay the entire day. I’ve had a few of those trips, and my friends know that sometimes I would just prefer to get lost in the crowd for a few hours. Being surrounded with such beautiful scenery and a generally welcoming set of people who are genuinely interested in being happy can do wonderful things for your state of mind.”

Bonus: Favorite track/mix of 2015 so far?

“This mix is still hovering below the radar at around 25k plays, of which I’ll take credit for at least 50.” 


Terry Gotham
I’ve had the luck to see the sunrise in Miami, London, Ibiza, DC, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Prague, Casablanca, LA and of course, Black Rock City. I’ll be writing about different scenes, emerging music and wild parties. I’ve graciously been picked up by EDMTunes to provide correspondence from NYC and commentary on the changing scene. Hit me up on Twitter
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