Stories of DJs come and go, but sometimes there are those that go beyond the ordinary and need to be shared.
I’ve known Edward Fields for a few years now. he’s always been incredibly kind, polite and a great supporter of the House community. When he shared with me the story about his battle with schizophrenia and the mini documentary recently done on him, I thought this would be the perfect launch to what will be one of many inspiring stories that go behind the people playing our music.
How long have you been DJing for and did you take this up after you were diagnosed?
I started spinning in December of 1986 after I got all my equipment for Christmas that year. And The first time I was diagnosed was in 1997, over 10 years after I started spinning.
Who were some of your inspirations growing up and how has this music helped you cope?
My main inspiration was Derrick Carter. We lived right across the street from each other in Broadview, IL. So Derrick influenced me to start spinning because I saw all the fun he was having doing neighborhood and school parties. I wanted to do exactly what he was doing because I thought House was what I’d been missing musically, up until that point in my life. It was so cool, original, and moving emotionally!
My other main influences were the Hotmix 5. The music helped me cope with life and made me feel like no other music could!
How long did you stop your medication and how long were you incarcerated for? What individuals and groups have helped you beat and overcome this condition?
I stopped my medication so many times that I can’t even count. I started taking meds in 1997 and I did on and off up until about 2002. I became consistent with it at that time because I finally realized that it would help me.
My longest incarceration lasted for about 2 1/2 years, from 1999 to 2002. I spent half of that time in Cook County Jail while my case was being handled. And once I got convicted, I went to the penitentiary from November of 2000 and got out on good time in February 2002.
The organization that helped me beat my illness is called The National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI). Their drop-in center in Oak Park provides a place for people with a lived experience of mental illness to come talk to people like themselves and gain knowledge on how to handle situations that can arise from it. They helped me a great deal.
Side note: NAMInation, a group I’m in, is a performance group. We host talent shows and open mics, and also perform in hospitals and other human service agencies. We’re also developing a program called “Through the Blues to Recovery” that looks at the ways people have “transcended having the blues” through Blues music and through forms that grew out of the Blues, like Hip Hop. This program highlights how music can help people have good mental health, and also highlights tools to help prevent suicide.
Do you still have struggles today and how do you deal with them?
I have struggles related to this illness quite a bit! Sometimes I feel like I have to fight more than the average person. But when I start feeling like that, I just remind myself that strength and character, the things that help you have a full life, come from struggle and I feel better! I basically deal with struggles by continuing to take my meds, keeping strong supportive people on my side and not listening to anything the negative voices in my head say.
You and your mother are extremely close. Tell us more about her.
What saved me from mental illness was my awesome, extremely compassionate and just all-around great mother! She stuck by me through everything I went through with my mental illness. That’s partially because she has schizophrenia and knew what I was going through.
She’s an incredible woman and means the world to me. She’s so giving that I do whatever she wants me to do. Whether it’s giving advice, tough love or simple reminders about stuff I should be doing, my mom is the greatest!
What do you recommend to people who may be suffering with something similar?
To those out there suffering with any mental illness, DO NOT ISOLATE YOURSELF! Seek out help from organizations like NAMI, find a psychiatrist, a therapist and try to associate mostly with those who encourage and inspire you to overcome the problem with positive things, not things that’ll drive you down like drugs or alcohol. And lastly, always think positive. I can’t stress that enough. Realize that the course of your life is determined by how you respond to situations and without proper mental tools, you’ll be slipping backwards.
You can check out Edward’s mixes at mixcloud.com/edwardfields1.
Published first in 5 Mag Issue #130, featuring Kerri Chandler, Dance Mania, Spiritchaser, Fatback, Edward Fields and more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full access to everything House Music and save 60%!