Run-DMC's Darryl McDaniels on addiction, depression and Sarah McLachlan
Rap pioneer tackles alcoholism, depression in memoir; making new music with Sum 41
Twelve years after kicking addiction issues fuelled by deep depression, Darryl McDaniels of pioneering rap group Run-DMC says he's feeling "really incredible." And he credits Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan's music with saving his life.
On Tuesday, McDaniels released his new memoir, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide." He's also working on a full-length heavy-metal album as well as a collaboration album with acts including Canada's Sum 41.
Like his book, the heavy-metal album due out in September "is a no-holds-barred" account about the emotions of alcoholism and depression, he said in a recent phone interview.
Suicidal folk, depressed people, they think they're alone, but they don't realize there's a million other people just like us- Darryl McDaniels, Run-DMC
"Suicidal folk, depressed people, they think they're alone, but they don't realize there's a million other people just like us," said the Queens, N.Y., native, known as the Devastating Mic Controller (DMC).
"If I can put out the message that I'm DMC, the mightiest thing to ever happen to music — I am the king of rock, there is none higher, sucka MCs will call me sire to burn my kingdom, you must use fire, I won't stop rockin' till I retire — and I'm no different than you," he continued, citing the lyrics to the group's hit King of Rock.
"I get depressed ... I had a substance abuse problem. I've felt suicidal. And if I can represent and be an example to offer you some possibilities, examples and options, maybe you can be just like me too and not stay depressed."
'Your music keeps me alive'
As McDaniels writes in his tell-all memoir, he used alcohol as a confidence booster onstage and off in the '80s and '90s, as Run-DMC climbed the charts with the songs It's Like That, Sucker M.C.'s and Rock Box.
He also suffered from depression and was at his suicidal worst in 1997, when he wanted to kill himself every day while on tour in Japan.
McLachlan's hit Angel was the only thing that "buoyed" him during that time.
"It was hearing her song on the radio, that hit something and said, 'D — life could really eff up, but if this song exists in this form, it's good to be alive,"' he said.
"So I just listened to that song every day for, like, a whole year."
McDaniels, 52, met McLachlan in person at a Clive Davis Grammy party later that year. He told her: "You're a god to me. Your music keeps me alive every day."
"She was, like, 'Wow, thank you for telling me that because that's what music is supposed to do,"' he recalled.
"So her song saved my life."
Several years later they recorded McDaniels' song Just Like Me together at McLachlan's home studio in Vancouver. During the session, McDaniels told McLachlan that he'd just been rocked to the core with news that he was adopted.
"Before I was leaving, she stops me and says: 'Now, Darryl, there's something I've got to tell you,' and I go, 'What?' She goes, 'Um, I'm adopted too,"' he said.
"I did not know that. Everybody who was with me just got the chills.... Just that contact right there meant a lot to me."
New musical projects
McDaniels' book also touches on issues he faced with Run-DMC member Joseph Simmons, a.k.a. Rev. Run, and producer Russell Simmons.
He said he hasn't been close to them since the group's DJ, Jam Master Jay, was shot dead in 2002.
While he reunites with Run for the occasional performance, he's more focused on his own musical projects.
Rockers Sum 41 of Ajax, Ont., agreed to produce a song for his upcoming collaborations album after performing King of Rock with McDaniels at an event last year.
Sum 41 lead singer Deryck Whibley has been open about his battle with alcoholism and McDaniels said the two bonded over that.
"We said, 'Yo, this is so kind of crazy because we've both been kind of through the same thing,"' said McDaniels.
"That's a deeper camaraderie.... That's why the music that we're going to make is going to connect with so many people."