Name: Nick Kohler Role: Music Producer/DJ, N2N Based in: San Francisco Age: 26
I met Nick prior to him being the full time artist and music producer that he is now. We met on the streets of Shanghai as kids, having both decided to take part in a study abroad program made available to us at the university we attended. That’s also where I befriended Alex, his friend, who’ll later come up in Nick’s story as an important character. More known by his stage name, N2N, Nick has amassed a rolodex of years and experiences that led him to being the plant loving, funk music producing – DJ extraordinaire that he is today. One common thread that’s left an indelible mark on Nick and continues to impact his work and life is his journey with mental health. As a thriving artist and human, Nick has become a passionate advocate of mental health over the past couple years (read his full story here). Together, we have an honest chat and break down some prevalent issues pertaining to mental health – around the world, in the community at large, in his personal life and in the artists’ realm.
Walk me through your wellness journey
Nick: I’ve been doing yoga since I was 15, for almost 12 years now. I also ran cross country in high school. When the first bout of really intense depression kicked in in 2011 (my freshman year of college), music and friendship was a lot of the why of what pulled me out of it, but exercise kept me out of it, specifically spending time with my yoga practice and developing it over the years.
A lot of the mindfulness kind of disappeared in LA, and I got sucked back into bad habits, not eating enough, and doing way too many drugs. Part of the work I did on myself in SF when I wasn’t in a good place were implementing to immediate changes to my lifestyle: I stopped eating meat, and committed to a consistent yoga routine weekly, and I do this now still, if not biweekly. I also started running almost every day a week (6 days a week) and I meditate every morning and filled my room with plants. And this system developed slowly over months. I could feel doing these routines every day was good for me, good for my mental and physical health, whether it was talking to plants or doing yoga.
Mental Acknowledgements: “Every single day I know I’m doing something that’s beneficial to me”
and part of that includes maintaining some sort of emotional stability and getting back into the actionable things I know for certain will make me feel better and make me happy when I’m in a rut. There is something a lot of people miss about having depression though: it’s that the getting out of bed part is impossible. It’s fucking impossible. You’re so low and you know that yoga.. running.. is good for you, but the problem is you can’t fucking move. I know I’m starting to feel better on my own when I am better able to get into that routine and it comes steadily, sometimes slowly. There’s sometimes triggers, and I expect the things that will happen. It’s 3 days of good, then down down down, then back up.
What is a topic or issue in wellness you see to be the biggest distinction or concern or buzz in the producing and music industry?
Nick: I think that (and this is a generalization) from my experience, I’ve observed a pattern of producers being pretty extreme introverts. I mean you’re working by yourself, year round, alone most of the time. It’s also something that most people here are most comfortable with. They’d rather be in their room by themselves making music instead of interacting with a bunch of coworkers and sure they want to be famous but a lot of these people aren’t prepared for this success, the limelight. From going from their bedrooms producing music to having their photos taken everywhere and performing in front of 100000+ people. It’s a sudden change, and you’re suddenly having to be on all the time. At a certain point, you might cease feeling like a human being and start feeling like a commodity and for an introverted person [at least for me] that is a fucking nightmare. What happens then is that you see these music producers who start making it begin to slip down the slope of substances to cope with this kind of thing they can’t avoid.
So you see them start with alcoholism to cocaine abuse to heroin. And it’s not uncommon here. I know a few people hooked on heroin. I think the demands of the music industry are overwhelming for people who might… not be built to take it a lot of the time.
Another thing that I see becoming more of an issue recently is a more recent strain of imposter syndrome dilemma emerging amongst creatives.
Creativity is an expression of yourself. It’s not reasonable for an artist to compare their work and self expression to another’s because it’s just so different, but that’s what we end up doing, and social media, and digital media and content platforms exacerbate that and encourage us to. In today’s landscape when so many people want to be producers and DJs, and there are many that think the success in it lies on 90% image and 10% music, it’s easy to get lost in what other people are doing and how they’re making it while surfing these platforms. And this goes back to my concerns about social media. I think negative comparisons are amplified in artists as social media encourages you to compare your insides to someone’s outsides (someone’s display of themselves on IG). And that fucks with you.
You’ve become more vocal about your stance on mental health and wellbeing on your artist platforms, was there a particular moment that compelled you to start doing so despite it being as well I’m sure part of some natural progression?
Nick: Somebody reached out to me privately who said my music had been a major part of him overcoming his depression; at the time his dad was in a hospital recovering from something and he told me that that they had actually bonded over one of my sets during that time. Hearing this person be brave enough to open up to someone he didn’t know talking about something that was really vulnerable for him at the time and saying that something [my music] had this positive impact on his life made me see that I’ve experienced situations like that too; it helped me see that if i can use whatever platform I have for anything, I want it to be for something uplifting, and I since felt empowered to do the same thing this incredibly brave person did. Because I have experienced the lows, that side of things; depressed, suicidal.. I can be open about it, and uplift another in the process, that is a good thing. I have no reason to hide it.
Have you ever sought out therapy? Is so why? If not, why not?
I’ve been to therapy. I was hospitalized twice. Once in New York, and once in Tennessee after my first year of college. The one in Tennessee was for a longer period of time– part of the stay included daily therapy in group sessions and individual therapy. Once I was released, I was part of an outpatient program for a couple weeks, but I missed having the individual one-on-one time, because I still had a lot things to unpack from my childhood, a lot of trauma that I really had to come to terms with. So when I was in Nashville before I came back to NY, I went to a therapist in NYU– it was accessible to me because I was in the school program. After this whole spell, recently I decided to seek out a therapist and start going back. Therapy is a beautiful, healthy thing to pursue and I feel everyone should feel empowered to speak freely whether it be with a friend, therapist, with your plants, or anything and allow themselves to feel comfortable about speaking and expressing how they are at any given day.
Aside: One’s wellness is not a line that just goes consistently up or consistently down. It looks more like a pattern of zig zags. Kind of like when you’re looking at the lifecycle of a certain company’s stock prices. And that understanding should not surprise.
What do you think about the lowering threshold to getting prescriptions to medication , particularly antidepressants, through the tidal rise of “diagnostic” apps and physicians being made available through digital interfaces and eschewing physical face to face interaction?
Nick: I think that’s a horrible idea. To be able to get prescriptions just over an app. No matter what you’re dealing with, getting prescription drugs over [just] an app I think is a bad thing, whatever it is. You can’t fuck with them. They’re not a laughing matter, and it’s important to have some kind of face to face conversation because antidepressants will change your mind, which is what makes up your life. They will literally change the way your brain functions, and that’s dangerous. I think being able to speak with someone on an app is awesome, but I’m against getting prescriptions from that interaction alone. You need help, here’s some therapy, and apps and telephone therapy is a great way to facilitate a portion of that, but not with administering something that will alter the way your brain functions.
What are 3 actionable things, whether it be diet based or mental, emotional, or spiritual that you do every day or week to maintain and stay well that you could share with readers?
1. Sometimes when you’re feeling low, putting a bandaid on it for the short term with the intention of working on it in the long term is O.K. because sometimes you just really need that day to be whatever you are and whatever you’re feeling.
2. This will change your life: Fill your room with plants. I spend 15 hours a day in there producing music.
3. Plan your day with a pre-meditated act of self love that will make you excited to wake up. If you’re into coffee, buy a coffee maker that has an automatic start, put it next to your bed, set your coffee maker up to start at a certain time– that’s me. Every single day at 7:21am it starts going off and wakes me up. I wake up to a cup of fresh, hot coffee and I read my book for 40 minutes before I go run. I think a lot of people can replicate this and it makes me happy everyday and I start my day in a good headspace because I am loving my morning.
4. Regular exercise is huge
5. GO VEGAN! (This is a personal hack)
Where ought wellness be?
Nick: Wellness ought to be a personalized plant. A lot of words like that, words that act as cultural buzzwords are very powerful, but they mean a lot of different things to a lot of people, and people conceptualize these words in a way different from another. Wellness for me is the same thing. How I describe wellness is that it’s like a personal plant for my own mental health– a customized syllabus that’s personal to me. Your diet plans and your class schedules, they’re personal to you, so wellness should be that way to you too, shouldn’t it? Mine involves books, running, and the timed coffee. It’s really tapping into what makes your heart, soul, mind, and body feel better. I don’t think there’s any other way to define it.
Interview by Susan Yoomin Im
Photos provided by Nick Kohler
Read on here for a look up close at his wellness and music artistry story and witness his incredible journey in becoming an artist starting from childhood years, struggling with depression, the things that keep him, and all things exciting on how he’s made it as N2N.