"You only get one set of ears. You can’t become undeaf” - Eats Everything
Back in April All Ears hosted a panel talk about tinnitus in the music scene at the Brighton Music Conference (BMC) - a gathering of leading delegates, speakers and lovers of the electronic music industry. Shortly before heading onstage I briefly met Dan Pearce, or as most people know him, Eats Everything. As a vocal tinnitus sufferer himself, I was itching to learn more about his first-hand experience and, in his opinion, the progress being made to protect people within the scene. Unfortunately the timing was particularly poor for both of us.
Fast forward four months and we’re at Creamfields. After three days of constant rain and arctic temperatures (ok, it was about 15 degrees but with a strong wind) we met Dan an hour before he was due on stage. Getting out his taxi he immediately took out his custom earplugs and put them in. Next he grabbed a big bucket of beers from the boot and went inside to sort himself out. Priorities. As he came out the heavens once again opened up, so we found shelter in a unused staff marquee. It’s been a pretty intense 24 hours for him, coming straight to Creamfields from an Elrow gig in Ibiza, further evidence of his commitment to spreading awareness about tinnitus.
Dan has a long history involved in the clubbing scene. Hailing from Bristol, a city iconic for its rich musical talent particularly within electronic music, Dan’s career in music began with local DJing. “I’ve been DJing since 1992 in clubs in Bristol. I wasn’t doing it for a living but I was DJing in clubs and stuff all the time. And I had monitors really loud and just, [what it did to] my hearing... yeah it’s not the best.”
About a decade on, and hundreds of gigs later, his hearing showed signs of deteriorating, “I noticed a middle ear infection”, which consequently led on to further health problems related to his ears, “I’ve got vertigo now and I’ve had it ever since then.” The end result from this was the chronic hearing condition we all dread, “Since 2003/2004, that’s when I started to get really bad tinnitus, and that’s when I got earplugs.”
The larger-than-life beat maker made a rapid and far-reaching impact on the electronic music scene in 2011 when the fittingly titled debut ‘Entrance Song’ was released on Catz N Dogz’ ‘Pets Recordings’ imprint; a track that went on to become championed by the likes of Carl Cox, Seth Troxler, Jamie Jones, and Pete Tong on BBC Radio 1. After winning DJ Magazine’s ‘Best British DJ’, and becoming the only DJ ever to put out two BBC Radio 1 Essential Mixes within the space of a year, he has continued to reach new heights as the years have gone on.
What’s more impressive, Dan has managed to continue this meteoric rise despite problems with his hearing which have prevented him from performing in the past. Back in 2014 he took to Facebook to apologise for not making it to Aberdeen after his ears were affected by a cold. Something that is a mild annoyance to most, a common cold can heavily interfere with his work and, if he’s not careful, stop him from DJing completely. It’s not only a job but his passion, which means he’s taken protecting his ears to new levels to ensure he can continue listening to music forever. “I even wear them [ear plugs] to the cinema, I wear them everywhere. I think I’m a bit too cautious because now I can’t go anywhere without them, it fucking hurts.
Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a sound in the absence of any external sound. This sensation can come in many different forms such as whooshing, humming or buzzing, but most people explain it as ringing. You may have heard this after a night at a club or concert but it goes away. Unfortunately for 1 in 10 adults in Britain, it stays forever. Dan is one of many in the music scene that has it for life.
“It’s very much mental thing as it is physical. If you panic about it and you let it get on top of you it gets worse and worse and worse and worse. You get into a cycle of fear from getting tinnitus. I’ve kind of, because I’ve learnt to cope with it I don’t get tinnitus half as bad as I used to. It’s down to ear plugs but I also think it’s because I don’t let it worry me, I don’t let it panic me.”
Unfortunately there isn’t a cure, but lots of research is going into finding one. People have found different ways to cope with the symptom. Meditation is one which, like Dan says, focuses your mind on other things and allows you to come to terms with the sound. For now prevention is key in ensuring people don’t get tinnitus. Many organisations, including All Ears, are focusing on educating people as well as promoting the use of earplugs.
“So yeah you’ve got to look after your ears. I use ACS custom earplugs. I used to have the AR15s but I got Pro 17s now.”
High-fidelity earplugs allow you to hear the music clearly whilst lowering the volume so you don’t damage your hearing. To many people’s surprise there are affordable (£10+), universal high-fidelity earplugs on the market for music lovers. Like for Dan, custom earplugs are the standard choice for most musicians. These set you back around £130 and include a hearing test, ear moulding and the actual product. The Musicians’ Hearing Health Scheme has been an integral part of making sure musicians are protecting their hearing. Offered by Musicians Hearing Services, in partnership with Help Musicians UK and the Musicians’ Union, any musician who earns their living through the music industry are eligible for discounted custom earplugs.
“I get my earplugs through the Musicians Hearing Services. Yeah it’s really good man. I lose so many pairs as well. I always buy three pairs and then my tour manager has a pair, I have a pair and then there is one at home so when I lose one of them I always have a backup. Then I reorder another pair so there is always three. Safety first!”
The Musicians Hearing Services have been going for over 25 years, working with other prominent artists such as Chris Martin from Coldplay, Bicep and Zane Lowe to protect their hearing. Unfortunately, according to Dan, lots still don’t protect their hearing.
“I’ve seen a few more artists [protect their hearing] but still a lot of them don’t wear them. I’m like what the fuck? They all say they can’t DJ, but you’ve just got to learn. I mean I didn’t really enjoy it at the start but it was just something that I had to do. I’ve been doing it like this for 14-15 years so it’s just totally normal to me now.”
Back when I met Dan at BMC, he was part of a panel talk on corporate and social responsibility. In the past the industry has traditionally not been known for its focus on social responsibility. The talk delved into a few trailblazers who were leading the way and making a positive change in attitude, Dan being one of them. At the end of last year he donated his entire New Years Eve fee to Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, a charity that works closely with the electronic music community to make a positive impact on the world. As part of the ‘Have A Drink On Me Campaign’, Dan aimed to raise £30,000 for wells to supply clean, safe water across Africa and India. It’s always great to see artists taking the initiative and using their influence to help others in need. But what about when they themselves are the ones who need guidance and help? It has long been discussed the role of artist management in ensuring the wellbeing of their artists. There are blurred lines between personal responsibility of the artist and the responsibility of management in ensuring the artist is healthy and able to perform to the best of their ability. Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears, Avicii are some of the names that spring to mind when asking the questions of management’s responsibility on artist wellbeing. Alongside drugs, alcoholism and over exertion, hearing damage is a pertinent problem that’s crucial to address early-on in order for the artist to perform at the best of their abilities.
“My management [have ensured that] every person has earplugs. The musicians hearing services came round and fitted everyone with them. All the DJs, everyone. My management sorted that out and did it. But at the end of the day we make them money so they need us to be protected, basically. Also all the people who work in the office are in clubs so they have to; we are all in it together.”
Launched at the end of last year, All Ears is still in its infancy. Our focus has been; 1. protect people’s hearing and 2. change the perception of earplugs in the music scene. Although we’ve now protected over 3,000 pairs of ears, we know we haven’t even scratched the surface. We have started to see a slight change in the way people view earplugs having attended many venues and festivals across the UK. Education is key in this, and thanks to all the other tinnitus troopers out there, more information is readily available to whoever wants it.
“I think, it definitely seems it [awareness] has increased. It’s hard to police it with ravers because, like, you know, when you’re young you don’t give a fuck. There is definitely still more awareness but there needs to be more. People need to realise you only get one set of ears and once you’re deaf, you’re deaf. You can’t become undeaf.”
So, what is going to help change that perception?
“I think people like myself and other DJs and other musicians being way more vocal about it. Obviously there are bigger problems in the world but this is something that affects so many people. Everyone likes to party, everyone likes to go out. [By] protecting your hearing, you’re going to be able to go out and enjoy listening to music for longer.”
You can tell he’s really passionate about the cause. If it’s not the fact he’s happy to speak with us after a night of no sleep, just before he goes onstage at one of the biggest dance music festivals in the UK, then it’s the passion in his voice when he talks. As we finish up, I ask if there is anything he wants to tell the world about, releases or otherwise. Instead of plugging himself, he affirms the point he’s been making over the last 30 minutes and shows why he deserves respect, not just as an artist, but as a human being.
“Just protect your hearing. Really, your ears are very important for you to enjoy yourself and communicate so protect them as often as you can.”
FOLLOW EATS EVERYTHING
Words by Oli Katz