Interviews

Stephen Gets Personal on Akrasia With Lyme Disease and Temptation

Electronic artist Stephen, famous for his viral hit, “Crossfire,” opened up about his personal life involving his battle with Lyme disease, his temptations and how they both have impacted his upcoming album, Akrasia. In 2016, he released the album Sincerely, and shortly after was diagnosed with Lyme disease. It led him to take a break from music for a while, followed by a few songs and an EP. Before Lyme disease, he believed he was in control of his world as long as he had the willpower to create it. That idea has crumbled and he realized that things aren’t in his control; instead, it’s important to be grateful for good health. “It’s reflective in my creative process, I’m not trying as hard to be perfect and control things, I think I’m even better at getting out of the way and allowing whatever needs to come out to come out.”

He describes his creative process as “the part that I live for, the part that inspires me more than anything, [is] fishing and just seeing what you can catch.” So he sits, turns off his brain, has patience and waits for the pull on the rod. After enough trust and persistence he gets the “beautiful accident,” or the pull. He also describes the process as “very much like my relationship with the unknown, or God, or the divine or my unconscious.” He is trying to let it be in control by getting out of the way, and once that happens, he creates exactly what needs to be said. After getting the spark of inspiration, he becomes analytical and detail-oriented in a “super overwhelming almost manic obsessive effort towards getting that idea executed as quickly as [possible].”

Compared to Sincerely, Akrasia is expected to be just as reflective, deep, and honest. It’s anticipated release is August 21. Some major themes Stephen typically covers as he describes are “embracing darkness, embracing trauma, looking at bad experiences and scary moments as defining moments and powerful opportunities to move forward and to become stronger.” This time around though he adds more playfulness to it, “I’m getting a chance to express a side of myself that I was afraid to express in the past, or wasn’t ready to. It’s this playful silly high energy side of things. So I like to say that the album, a lot of it sounds like an adult throwing sand in a sandbox.” Hearing this more lighthearted side will be interesting.

Deepening the personal relationship, Akrasia wrestles with “Delilah” and the path to self-actualization. Delilah isn’t a female character or reference to someone. Delilah is his shadow from the unconscious that tempts him throughout his life. It’s the idea of “having something that you want, but then having another part of yourself that wants something else that is more instantly gratifying.” Stephen reminisced on playing track in high school to describe this feeling, “I was a sprinter, and I had dreams of competing in the Olympics and running the 400 in college. I knew what I needed to do to make that happen. Part of that was taking care of my body and not partying, or drinking or smoking weed as a high school kid. And yet every weekend, I would continuously party with my friends and get f**ked up and regret it.” That’s just one example. I’m sure that idea is something that everyone can relate to.

This past Friday, the most recent single off the album was released: “TRACER.” It’s a nod to Delilah, with that craving of instant gratification vs. being productive after recovering from Lyme disease. After his diagnosis, Stephen started playing Overwatch as an escape from reality. The pain caused many sleepless nights and the game came in handy as an escape into this fantasy world, to forget about his problems. It was there to pass the time, but became a serious addiction even when he was healthy again. “I had moved back to LA and I’d be at the studio working on music and I just couldn’t stop thinking about playing video games. I was like, this is all I wanna do,” he admitted. “TRACER” is about this “struggle between wanting to play this game and escape into this fantasy, and be competitive, and be powerful, and become this sort of athlete. And then in the chorus it’s me being done with the game and reflecting on the reality of my life.” The lyric video for the song features footage from Kabaji, the number one Overwatch player in the world.

It took him about a year, but Stephen has gotten over his addiction and is no longer affected by Lyme disease. Overall, he says he’s calmer about his life and how things will turn out, but still has that desire. “I still want to be successful. And I still want to f**kin play some crazy shows and be a superstar, but like it’s not going to make or break me. It is a fun pursuit and I really hope that we keep growing. But like I’m healthy, and I’m happy, and I’m present and I’m alive so that’s pretty f**kin dope.”

I asked if he had any advice for anyone going through something similar. He said that there are things in life you can’t control and some you can. Don’t wallow or blame outside forces for things you can’t control, just do your best. “Focus on that which you can control, like your state of mind or your attitude. Attitude is key to getting better too. If you can maintain a healthy attitude despite all of the craziness, the experience of being sick is gonna be a little bit better. And you are gonna have a better chance of surviving too I think, because you have a will to live, you care, you want to make the most out of this.”

Stephen has shown a lot of growth over the last few years as a person and musician. He wants people to know that his music is there to comfort and challenge those who need it. You don’t need to feel alone.

Featured Image: Undine Markus

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