“If I didn’t reach out for help, I wouldn’t be here today…”: Doc Scott discusses his battle with depression

Photography: Brian Walsh (Thumbs Footage)

We last spoke to Doc Scott in February 2017. An extensive interview that spanned his career as one of the foremost jungle pioneers, it presented him as a fulfilled and genuinely happy individual who’d successfully commandeered the DJ merry-go-round since rave culture first exploded.

Rightfully so; his label 31 Records was releasing some of the most innovative and cross-scene supported documents out there, his DJ sets and Future events and radio show were renowned for their deeply dug and detailed dot-joining, there was even talk of him returning to the studio…

18 months later, all of this remains the same. If anything his operations have amplified even more, 31 is still buy-on-sight status and Scott seems happier about where he is, what he does and why he does it. In conversation he comes across grounded, thoughtful and more inspired than ever.

But, as he hinted in his previous interview, this hasn’t always been the case. There was an extensive period in his career where he couldn’t have been further from this point in life. A chapter in his life he once described as being ‘lost’, these are more accurately described as years of acute depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and substance abuse. It turns out Scott was on a perpetual self -destructive cycle throughout much of the 2000s before he eventually broke down and sought help in 2009.

Now, due to the ever-increasing and vital conversations being had in the music industry, and in light of the tragic suicide of much-loved chef and writer Anthony Bourdain, Scott has decided to share and discuss his own painful experiences in order help anyone going through similar circumstances. Like our discussion with Linguistics last month, the importance of talking and helping each other can’t be emphasised enough. To put simply, if Scott hadn’t sought help, he would have ended his life years ago.

These aren’t easy words to type. This isn’t an easy discussion to have. But it’s one of the most vital. If any of Scott’s experience resonates with you feel or know how a loved one feels; his story of how he turned his health around is proof that life doesn’t have to stay this way. There are people out there who understand, want to help and provide the tools and methods to deal with any challenge in life.

Massive respect to Scott for opening up in this way.

Your next Future night is coming up in a few weeks. Let’s start this conversation there…

It’s funny; if there was one personal rule I thought I’d stick to throughout my whole career it’s that I would never ever promote events. It looks like one of the hardest roles in the industry. But yeah, I actually really enjoy it. I only ever do two a year and it’s been really fulfilling to invite people I respect artistically and musically to come and know that everyone who’s come along to party is expecting the same as me; really inspiring and creative music.

Promoters are underrated. Such a thankless task!

Absolutely. I’ve seen so many stressed promoters over those years it’s scared the fuck out of me. Even the ones who’ve put on some incredible raves, they look so tense and anxious by the end of the night. Then there are the ones where you lose a lot of money. That’s another nightmare altogether. I never want to get involved in that.

What triggered the nights, then?

It had got to the point where I was bemoaning the fact that the majority of my best DJ gigs were not in the UK. I thought there was something wrong with that. I posted about it on Facebook and was very careful to make sure it wasn’t just ‘old man moaning’ syndrome. If I’m going to moan, then I need to do something about it and be constructive. A few promoters got in touch to see if we could work together. Andy at Lightbox gave me a budget and give me total freedom to book who I want and it’s been a real pleasure.

You have complete creative control…

Yeah. And the thing I’m especially happy about is the 90-minute sets. DJs feel more relaxed and they know they have a crowd who don’t give a fuck. The last one had Darren, Jubei and Fracture and it was one of the best we’ve had so far. To see Darren go off the beaten track and play some bonkers music was incredible. About half way you could feel him going ‘fuck it, let’s go for it’ and it was pure Pleasure District for the last 45. I didn’t recognise any of the music at all but that, to me, is great.

That’s the same philosophy you have with the radio show and have always had with 31. You seem to be in happy and inspired place.

Yeah I am. As I mentioned before, during the 2000s I lost myself. As a person and musically. This decade I’ve found myself and it’s been an amazing experience. There was a time when I didn’t enjoy everything about what I did, I got depressed and got caught in a vicious circle. But since 2010/2011 things have taken a positive turn. I’m much happier about my work, and about myself. All the places I DJ at now know what I’m playing and what I’m about. I don’t have to worry about what people might expect.

So this is a long way away from where you were?

Yes. Between 2003 – 2009 my life was, I have to be brutally honest, a shit show.

Why do you think this was?

So the late 80s and 1990s were just incredible. A fucking blur that just continued to accelerate. From the minute I got my first turntables at 14 I was hooked. The rave scene happened and I started playing at little flat parties, then warehouses, then all different kinds of venues and raves around the Midlands. Then I was making music and my first single went to number three in the dance charts. I was only 19 at the time. It was insane but things just went up and up and up. You had the Reinforced years, the Metalheadz years, the Blue Note which exploded everyone all around the world. The whole decade was amazing. But also exhausting. And by 2002 this started to show really bad signs in all aspects of my wellbeing

Burn out?

Yes exactly. I had been going at 100mph for all that time and I was physically, mentally and creatively drained. I can remember I’d been on a nine-week tour and I think I’d been home for about nine days between those weeks. I’d played in Asia, America, Australia and Brazil and I could remember feeling really really tired. This had an impact on how much I used the studio. And, when I did, nothing would come out at all. Really painful writer’s block. I did the worst thing you can do in that state and started to go back over what I had done in the past and it got me incredibly depressed. I’m not proud of anything I’ve written post-2000. I was suffering acute insomnia for days on end, I was also drinking too much, I was taking too many drugs and taking anti-depressants that weren’t prescribed. Just this mass exhaustion, over indulging and a total crisis of confidence and a fear of never being able to write music.

This must have felt like hell

It did. I had been laser-focused during the 90s. I knew what I wanted to make, what I wanted to play, who I wanted to work with. But by the early 2000s a lot of the guys sending me music weren’t active in that type of way anymore. Your Photeks, your Source Directs. The Bristol crew wasn’t making as much music. A lot of the music that I really identified with wasn’t there and I got into a bad funk.

This is a great job, don’t get me wrong, but when you’re not enjoying yourself when you’re on the decks then all the travelling and time away from home really hits hard. And all this made me hate myself. I kept saying to myself ‘dude you’ve got this dream job why are being so ungrateful?’ Plus around this time I also started to see online negativity on forums and can remember getting murdered on Dogs On Acid. People saying I was playing a load of shit and asking what the fuck am I doing. I don’t care who you are, it’s not pleasant to read bad things about yourself. What’s worse is that I couldn’t disagree with the comments. I was just in this tailspin that I couldn’t get out of.

You had friends who told you, right?

One or two but it’s very hard for friends to turn around and say ‘mate that set fucking sucked!’ or ‘that release was terrible’. I do appreciate that. Marcus, god rest his soul, was the most honest. He came up at a gig saying ‘what the fuck is this? This is shit!’ I couldn’t even answer him. I was scrambling around trying to find music that represented me and was just in a mess.

How long did this last for?

I thought it was only six months but, looking back, it was closer to three years. My redemption set was 2006 Sun & Bass. Instra:Mental had given me some great music. A few people did actually, they gave me some beautiful music. That was the first set I’d truly enjoyed in years and I felt like I’d turned a corner musically. But I was still feeling awful about myself and life. I was self-harming and had suicidal thoughts between 2006/8. It got worse and more intense and I seemed to be on this really scary path of self-destruction. It culminated with me getting DUI and I eventually had a breakdown. I needed help. I thought I could work it out myself but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t figure out had gone wrong so I broke down to my wife and she called Goldie who put me onto this group called The Hoffman Group.

What did they do?

I guess you can compare it to rehab but it’s not a standard rehab where you’re drying out. I was abusing a lot of things at the time, but it was the mental rehabilitation I needed answers for. What’s wrong? What are my problems? How do I face them? Struggling as an artist made me unhappy, struggling as a DJ made me unhappy, but there was still something else that was causing me to legitimately think about ending my life and honestly think suicide would be the best option for a lot of people. I needed to find what that was and address it.

Talking is the most important thing, right?

Yes. It’s not easy talking, though. Even going through this now to you, years later, isn’t particularly easy. But when the news came about Anthony Bourdain I knew I had to say something. When I heard he took his own life I was like fuck! I loved that guy, I would watch him all the time in hotels on tour. It hit me really hard and I knew I had to speak about it in case I can help just one person to ask for help. If you’re struggling with things, whether it’s substance issues or self-harming or suicidal thoughts then you need to talk to people because it’s impossible to sort out it internally. Therapy gives you the tools to deal with these things and my week with the Hoffman group was the toughest week I’ve had in my life. But had I not done it I don’t think I’d be here.

How bad were things for you at their bleakest?

The worst was 2007/8. I’d done that set, I thought I’d sorted myself out but I was still like ‘hang on. I’ve sorted out what the issue was. Why am I still being self-destructive?’ It culminated in 2008. I just didn’t give a fuck. I’d had this great life, I’d been to all these great places, done all these amazing things and lived at 100mph so if I die now then fuck it, that’s meant to be. It was so selfish. I have a son and a wife but when you’re in this state you think some stupid fucking shit. Everything was a grey that never went away. Cloudy every day. I have a great life and career that people would kill for but it doesn’t mean you’re happy. Loads of successful people have committed suicide. Everyone has their issues, no matter who you are, and we need to help each other through them. You have to talk about these things because otherwise it spirals. Badly. I’m lucky I could talk to my wife.

How did your wife deal with it during your most self-destructive moments?

She said it was horrible seeing me trying to kill myself for so long. Drinking to oblivion, taking a bunch of things and not really caring if I wake up or not. But she knew if someone is determined to do something then you can’t stop them from doing it. But she was there for me when I did eventually want help. I’m eternally grateful for that, in ways that’s hard to express.

But this is it. I was lashing out at a lot of people close to me. It was my agent’s fault, it was the distributor’s fault, it was everyone else’s fault but mine. I said a lot of hurtful things and said some stupid shit online. I wasn’t ready to accept that it was my problem. But eventually I did and therapy at the Hoffman Group helped me work on that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not been plain sailing ever since. There are times when I don’t feel too great at all. But I have the tools to deal with situations now and I can identify potential triggers and avoid or eliminate them from my life.

You have the strategies and coping mechanisms now

Yeah. They basically break you down so you’re at your absolute lowest and build you back up knowing what you have to do to understand yourself and how you react to certain things. I came out feeling reborn, if that’s not too hippie or spiritual. If I look at this decade that has passed and my life has completely changed in so many positive ways.

I’m back in love with music again, I’m back in touch with that inner kid from the 80s and 90s and worked out why I do what I do. I love finding new music and sharing it with people. The last five years of my radio show was like therapy and it’s incredible travelling somewhere and people approaching you saying how through their show they’ve found about certain artists. That’s the best feeling ever. And that’s exactly what the Future events are, too. They’re like ‘hey here’s a bunch of my friends who make incredible music, come and listen to them’.

Spreading the gospel

Yeah. I thrive off it and I’ve never felt so fulfilled about how I do it. And none of this would have happened without me getting help through my wife Sarah and Goldie. That’s the most important thing I want to say. If you’re having trouble in any way then you can’t ignore it or try and deal with it yourself. You need to get help. I think it’s becoming a lot easier for people to do this. But it’s still an issue, especially for men with this ridiculous idea of having to be ‘strong’ and all that ‘man up’ shit. It’s got nothing to do with testosterone. It’s about being unwell and needing help.

You kind of eluded to all of this last time we spoke I guess

Yeah but not explicitly. I still needed time to come to the decision about speaking out about my experiences and realise quite how important it is for people to help each other.

But you were still happy, as you are now, about where you are and who you are?

Yes. Next year it will be 10 years since I went through my therapy and, largely, things have become more and more positive. In terms of the last interview, we talked a lot about new productions from myself and I’m still having trouble in the studio. But I’m approaching that differently now. I need to do some sessions with artists who inspire me. I’ve been away from the studio process and mindset for so long I need to be inspired in that way. I was very lucky to have spent some time in the studio with Calibre lately.


He’s such an inspiring guy. He doesn’t give a fuck about the production technicality or what people think. He doesn’t care about social media. He makes music for himself. No one else. That is so fucking inspiring I can’t tell you. So yeah that’s put me further down the right track and, after the summer, I’ll look at returning to the studio and I have a better feeling for what I need to do. Also, from a musical point of view in general, I’m inspired. I’m really happy about the label and the releases we’ve had and the parties I swore I would never would run. If I can add more music to what’s happening now, and make a difference, then great. But it’s not the be all or end all that I once thought it was. The be all or end all is being happy and enjoying what I do; to pay my bills with what I do, which I do, and not play any shit sets, which I don’t, I’ll continue being happy….

Any more techno sets like you did at Craig Richards’ night earlier this year?

I hope so. I love playing those type of sets and pushing myself and having an opportunity to dig even deeper. It’s the same reason why I love longer sets. To be able to go on much more of adventure and take risks and make a statement. Any DJ can smash it out. I got bored of that mentality during the last year of the Blue Note. It got too easy to do that. It’s more fun to get people dancing to music they didn’t think they knew or liked. Seeing guys like Darren rocking a crowd to something really fucking crazy and take them to a place where they didn’t expect to be? That, to me, is smashing a place. So yeah, electro, techno, ambient sets. Bring them on.

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