Booze and Music Videos

Why shooting a music video hungover is not a good idea...

I meet director Joel by a reservoir in Macclesfield. It’s our second attempt at finding a video that works for a new tune called Cut So Deep - a ballad about coming to terms with a break-up (I promise - it’s nowhere near as violent/angsty as the title sounds).

The first time we shot was tough going. It was a Monday and I was approximately halfway through a three-day hangover, brought on by a Saturday night spent drinking so much post-gig alcohol that I woke up Sunday morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar person and a very unfamiliar dog, without the faintest idea how I’d managed to get there.

Needless to say, this didn’t make me the easiest subject to shoot.

We’d decided on a fairly specific filming technique where I needed to mouth the words to the song at double their original speed whilst walking next to a river. The idea was that Joel would then slow down the footage to half-speed, turning the world into a treacly slow-motion.

The problem was, given the fragility of my mental state, mouthing the words at double their speed whilst attempting to convey something of myself AND walk purposefully by a river was a pretty tall order.

Director Joel was a consummate professional and did his absolute best but the end result was as flat as I was.

So, we were back, this time on a gloriously sunny Monday in Macclesfield. I hadn’t touched a drop of booze in the intermediary period.

I still haven’t - and I’m not sure I ever will (though I’ve said that many times before).

This time the shoot was perfect - we climbed up hills, caught the sun, drank coffee in a ramshackle beer garden - and early edits look fantastic. Thanks to him and his patience, the project was saved.

It’s an interesting mental exercise to compare the two days.

Alcohol is something I’ve had a fairly testy love-hate relationship with for years now.

I thought I’d cracked it in 2019/2020 and spent a good nine months as an irritating anti-booze evangelist, until a sunny day in a field watching Fairport Convention broke my duck.

Though I still determinedly saw myself as a non-drinker, the last few years seem to have consisted of long sober periods that have gotten progressively shorter as time has gone on. By late 2022 I was back in full weekend warrior mode.

By last Christmas this had reached a bit of peak - I think it’s fair to say there probably weren’t many days in December when there wasn’t alcohol in my system somehow, either hanging around from the night before or being rapidly reintroduced.

My problem is that I’m a fantastic drinker - I don’t vomit, I don’t fight, I don’t do anything embarrassing, I remain pretty lucid and I can really put it away. I’ve never felt any sort of physical dependency and its never even approached becoming a daily habit.

I also just love the feeling of getting drunk - that escape velocity I can reach where tomorrow disappears and the walls of the world narrow around me to the point at which only the next moment seems to matter.

I think my mind tends towards being fairly relentless - I find it difficult not to be chasing after something all the time (a song, a girl, a goal) and that can get pretty exhausting. Booze, amongst other drugs, has always been so appealing because it’s just able to turn all that off so effectively and allow me to be present, rather than endlessly constructing variations of the future in my own head.

The problem with alcohol, though, is that it comes at a cost.

Hangovers for me now are biblical. It’s two days of feeling physically ruined, followed by another two of self-loathing and low-energy. That’s pretty much a working week - by the time the hangover wears off I’m just about ready to drink myself into another one.

And, though I’m no trouble-maker, I’ve made my fair share of poor decisions under the influence, particularly where sex is involved.

I’m no stranger to the science either, having done a (predictably) thorough amount of reading around the subject. Beyond all the standard health warnings, I was especially interested in the background effects alcohol has on the brain.

Dynorphins are the opposite of endorphins (pleasure chemicals) and are released by the brain in order to bring you back into balance when you’re assaulting it with feel-good chemicals like booze. If you’re drinking regularly then these dynorphins are being pumped out in high volume and, crucially, they outlast the alcohol and hang around for days - meaning that, if you’re regularly getting hammered, your world becomes greyer and emptier in between. This just doesn’t strike me as a way I want to live.

I suppose I’ve come to the conclusion that booze now takes more from me than it gives, and that doesn’t seem like a fair deal any more.

I can’t do moderation (I struggle to think of anything more pointless than having ‘a couple’ of drinks) so I suppose, for now anyway, I’m staying sober.

The problem with this, though, is that taking alcohol away doesn’t necessarily deal with reasons why I’ve spent the last 15 years overindulging in it.

I need a new way to turn my brain off - especially post-gig, where the body feels like it’s in a restless state of over-drive. I also need a new reward - it feels almost sado-masochistic to be grinding everyday towards some unknowable destination that I probably won’t recognise, even once I’m there.

I can already feel new habits growing like Japanese Knotweed in the space alcohol has briefly left behind: posting on social media, obsessively checking streaming numbers, coralling people over WhatsApp.

I’m becoming over-organised and impatient.

On Wednesday I walked for four hours to buy a sandwich.

It isn’t normal behaviour.

But I suppose, like the brain in its constant quest for homeostasis, it might just take a while to find a sense of balance.

And at least now I can do that without waking up next to unfamiliar animals.

Or ruining my own music videos.

Keep dreaming,


Rob Jones & The Restless Dream

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