(Original Photo By: Stuart Tracte)
We all have dreams, we all have an ideal of what we’d like to achieve and what we’d like to be doing with our lives. What happens, though, when you start walking that path and you realize it may not be all it’s cracked up to be? In fact, you’re sad more often than deriving any type of joy from what you thought was your true calling. That was what happened with British DJ/producer/sound engineer, Adam Walder, better known as Funkagenda. After developing a name for himself over the course of many years, he began to tire of the scene. Coupled with depression, Funkagenda left the scene for a while. However, now he is back and has found his groove again, not only as a solo artist but also working behind the scenes as a sound engineer. Like so many others, music was not his first love.
“Well when I was a kid I wanted to be an archaeologist, but then I found out that they were NOT like Indiana Jones and were actually more like teachers with those suede patches on their blazers so I strayed from that idea. Then when I was about 11 years old I started to play with my grandfather’s keyboard collection and that just ignited something in me. I wanted to learn how to make the sounds and program the drums. I got really into making music and it’s been my passion ever since.”
Although he’s been in the scene for almost a decade, it’s tough to peg Funkagenda into a certain genre. Oliver Heldens and Sander van Doorn recently revived his 2008 tech-house hit, “WTF.” He’s dabbled with various genres and conforming to fan expectations is always something that’s irked him. It was these mounting frustrations, along with other personal issues that caused him to leave the scene momentarily.
“I find it irritating that sometimes I can’t experiment as much as I would like because I’m ‘expected’ to be a certain thing. I was never one kind of producer. I started out making drum & bass when I was 17, then hip hop, then techno, trance, and house. I always like to try my hand at new styles and it’s saddening when “fans” lash out at you for trying to be creative. However, I get afraid a lot in life. Life bewilders me. I just want to be able to survive and do what I love and sometimes those simple tasks become incredibly difficult. It was one of my major reasons for withdrawing from the scene. The scene is draining on your soul. I found myself playing music I didn’t like in a desperate attempt to please crowds who were just not that interested. And I just thought to myself ‘this is meant to be my dream, this is meant to be making me happy…why am I miserable all the time?’ Being diagnosed with borderline bi-polar depressive disorder didn’t help either, but at least it helped me to understand that it wasn’t all me.”
Despite being in a dark place, armed with the knowledge that he had an illness, Adam returned home to the UK from Los Angeles where he’s been able to work and overcome his depression with the help and support of his family, girlfriend, and two dogs. Adam says as a sufferer it’s not initially clear that you have a disease and to those around you it appears as though you’ve gone off the rails. As is commonplace, Adam was prescribed medication, but that did not solve the problem either. He cites a strong support network as the main factor that has allowed him to go back to work.
“Well the hardest thing is realizing you have a legitimate problem, because it’s not clear as a sufferer and it isn’t clear to other people – they just think you’ve gone off the rails. I would have these very high manic days, maybe like 4-5 in a row, and I would feel so good about everything, worked really hard and be so positive about life. But then it’s like a light bulb just switched off and the world got dark. Then for the next 2-3 weeks I was unable to do anything. I could lie in one place in silence for hours and hours at a time. It was awful. I just thought my life was making me unhappy or that I wasn’t any good at what I do. It disrupted my self-confidence. I started medication, but it wasn’t the right choice for me. I couldn’t feel ANYTHING and as an artist that is as crippling as being depressed. So I have been working my way through it with the love and support of my friends and my girlfriend (and our two wonderful dogs), and although it hasn’t been the most instant solution, it’s certainly allowed me to work and write music again.”
Although he still produces his own music, a lot of Adam’s focus has shifted to engineering and he says it’s ironic how he encounters so many producers trying to make cliché music because they’re going for something successful. Adam tried doing that and it left him feeling empty. He has discovered all you can do is follow your path and hope for the best, because success is far from guaranteed. But, like Wayne Gretzky said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. You have to try to achieve something.
“Ironically…a lot of work you get is people wanting to make records that are very cliché because they are trying to succeed in the same way as I was trying to survive, by making records for the crowd and not for the love. I find that still writing my own music allows me an emotional output, though, and my first real single since I left LA went top 10 on Beatport, so I think that the hiatus was necessary. The main thing is not to quit. Things can get very hard and you might feel like you are getting nowhere and that’s because success is a lottery in this business. However, if you stop buying tickets you’ll never win and that’s the key. You work hard, get good, believe in yourself and others will believe in you. I think you can achieve anything if you really want it. I did.”
It’s incredible to see someone successfully overcome their struggles and achieve something great. Happiness is not a destination; it is a journey. When we see the silver lining and become grateful for our past, current, and future challenges, we can experience true peace and joy. With the help and support from those around him, Adam is now able to do this and sees the light at the end of the tunnel after it eluded him for several years.
If you or anyone you know is feeling like something is not quite right, those feelings may be early warnings for possible mental health conditions. Do not hesitate to seek help or offer support. Taking a screening can help determine if additional help is required. Visit www.mhascreening.org to take a free, confidential, and anonymous mental health screen. Several global online and regional recovery support communities can be found at the links below:
Visit JED’s Mental Health Resource Center for information, resources, and tips for how to help yourself or a loved one.
To share your story, and learn more about mental illness, please visit Bring Change 2 Mind.