Interview: Nachtbraker speaks about missing complete silence

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Amsterdam-based DJ and producer Nachtbraker has been making detailed percussive house music since 2008, however it wasn't until he released on Detroit Swindle's Heist in 2014 that his career really took off.

Three years down the line and Nachtbraker has a steady stream of EPs on Heist and Dirt Crew Recordings. He DJs very regularly in his home country but has also ventured as far as the USA, Turkey and China.

Nachtbraker's struggle with tinnitus didn't have a clear beginning, but it gradually made its way into his life over a few years involved in the scene. Here, he talks us through his struggles with the permanent tone and provides some advice for those with and without tinnitus.


How long have you had tinnitus?

I can’t really remember 100% when I first got it, since I guess it just creeps in. I think I was about 19 or 20. At first I didn’t really know that it was tinnitus... To be honest, I didn't know of the existence of it! Of course I knew that because of listening to loud music I risked hearing loss. But having a constant high tone in my head? No I didn't know that before I got it. Hence, these kind of awareness campaigns are of utmost importance.

How has tinnitus impacted on your life?

Tinnitus has impacted my life in many ways. I’m lucky that I only hear it when it's silent. So when there’s background noises my brain usually cancels out the high tone. However, when it's silent, or almost silent, I do hear the tone. When I’m in bed, or when I’m in the studio with no music on.

But the most annoying thing is when I’m tired or stressed it seems more severe. The volume and the pitch tend to go up. Then I sometimes also notice when there is background noise. So, when I could use some rest and peace, that annoying tone comes luring round the corner... This makes it pretty difficult sometimes - especially when touring. If I play a night in a club when I’m tired, my ears are more susceptible for getting damaged. So when I’m playing while touring I usually don’t spend much more time in the club room itself, just to protect my ears.

I started wearing earplugs, which are custom made. I think it only costs 180 euros and they last about 5 years (If you don’t lose them that is). I have -9db for DJing, which is actually not enough, but otherwise it's really hard to mix and get into the music. I have extra earplugs of -15db when I party. I also wear these if I go to a concert or bars where they play loud music.

What problems have you encountered as a result of the condition?

At first I really felt down because of it. Especially because you know that, unless they find a treatment for it, you’ll have this for the rest of your life. Permanent damage.

This is hard to accept when you’re that young. Now I’ve learnt to accept it and I can live with it, although I still regret the fact that I didn’t pay more attention at first. The concept "complete silence" is non-existent for me. That is something I miss the most.

What advice do you wish you had been given prior to suffering from tinnitus?

Earplugs, and wear them. I think it's the responsibility of the music industry to advise and create awareness on this subject. By the industry I mean myself (the artists), the labels, the distributors, the press and blogs, the promoters/clubs/venues and maybe I’m forgetting other people or institutions, but its important that we educate people on this. Prevention is quite simple, but treating or curing tinnitus is not.

Some advice to someone struggling with tinnitus - I would say again, make sure you have those earplugs and wear them. Then, second, learn to ignore it. Embrace it and let it become part of you. As soon as it is the standard for you, you’ll notice... that you don’t notice ;).