Beyond the Booth 002: Louisahhh opens up on addiction, her love of horses and more
Beyond the Booth is a feature dedicated to the hidden side of artists that exists outside electronic music— a side rarely discussed with those outside their immediate circle. We venture “beyond the booth,” so to speak, and dive into their deepest passions that tie into their unique personalities. After some self-introspection, each participant then returns to the booth, providing an exclusive mix for the Dancing Astronaut audience.
For years, Louisa Pillot has been a fixture in electro and techno around the world. Louisahhh first rose to international prominence on Brodinski’s recently-disbanded Bromance imprint, gaining a reputation for her gritty production style and haunting, sultry vocals. For the past two years, Pillot has stood at the helm of the RAAR record label, delivering a brazen, unapologetic melange of techno and punk rock alongside her co-founder and frequent collaborator, Maelstrom.
While Louisahhh’s résumé as a musician extends beyond the above accolades, her story outside of the industry is as rich as her contributions within it. Pillot is a dedicated environmentalist, feminist, and a remarkably talented writer; however, her most outspoken societal contribution of late is perhaps her advocacy for sobriety amid a field in which substance abuse can be difficult to eschew.
Louisahhh has been candid about her recovery from addiction, and offers her own experience as inspiration for any individuals facing the struggles that she once overcame, and continues to dominate. Now 11 years sober, Pillot favored a 12-step method in her journey away from her vices, and gives an open invitation for those seeking help: “Slide up in my DMs.”
Ahead of her performance at HARD Summer this weekend, Louisahhh speaks with us about recovery from addiction, maintaining balance, her love of horses, and the impact that sobriety has had on her approach to love. Additionally, the RAAR label-head has provided us with an exclusive mix for the second episode of Beyond the Booth.
Venture beyond the booth with Louisahhh below.
You’ve mentioned in the past that a 2006 intervention saved your life. Do you think you’d have been able to realize (and act upon) your need for sobriety without that experience?
I’m sure that that day would’ve come eventually, and probably with a swiftness as my options were really running out. I was spending my rent money on drugs, I was on academic probation from school, not showing up for an internship that I cared about or my job or friends, couldn’t stay faithful in my relationships, couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror. Everything was falling apart and I was unable stop the bone crushing juggernaut that was my addiction. The intervention just took away the resources I might have had (financial and emotional support of friends and family) that would allowed it to go on for as long as it did and gave me a really direct path into recovery.
For some people suffering from addiction, the notion of recovering through total sobriety can seem insurmountable due to its absolute, “all or nothing” nature. How did you overcome this fear and come to terms with the fact that sobriety was a necessity for you?
That’s the thing, right? If sobriety is a necessity, it’s all or nothing. If it’s not a necessity, it’s not. If I could handle drinking and using in moderation, believe you me, I would. My reality is that if I’m controlling, I’m not enjoying, and if I’m enjoying, I’m not controlling, so moderation is mostly frustrating and futile. This leaves me with two options: continue to grind my life to dust and shove it up my nose or become willing, based on desperation, to make a serious decision. Unfortunately mild discomfort won’t really motivate someone like me – I have to be really suffering in order to take action. The good news is that action brings freedom and serenity that’s much bigger and more beautiful than I could’ve imagined. I hope to plant this seed as a beacon for anyone struggling with that today.
Maintaining a clean lifestyle is arguably a greater challenge than becoming sober in the first place. What tactics have you used to ensure that you continue staying the course after 11 years?
You’re correct in that stopping is easy(ish) and staying stopped is the tricky part. I’ve needed a consistent program of action in the 12 steps in order to stay present in the gratitude of this life, this freedom, and to ensure that my experience with the suffering of addiction turns into my greatest asset in that it specifically qualifies me to help others that struggle with the same thing. It’s this goal of altruism, of constantly turning the internal compass from self obsessed fear (with or without drugs) to loving presence, that really gives my life meaning today. It might all be a cult, but it’s free and it saved my life, so I’m okay with that possibility.
How have your did your passion for horses initially develop, and to what extent would you say that it’s helped in your recovery?
I started riding when I was six and it was literally all I did or wanted to do until I discovered dance music. I was a working student at a barn in the Hudson Valley and rode and trained competitively through my early twenties (and continued to ride and show in recovery). It was my inability to show up for my horse (Jesse James, love of my young life) that kind of woke me up to the fact that the problem was more serious than I was admitting to myself. You see, humans are fallible. Friends, parents, boyfriends – everyone was disappointing somehow, I could point out their shortcomings if they tried to talk to me about addiction. My horse, on the other hand, was unconditional love and trust – to not be able to show up for him, to not be present when we were together, especially in the show ring – this was both dangerous and heartbreaking. He’s the reason I got sober in the first place. I wanted to be who he thought I was, but when I couldn’t choose him over drugs, it got scary.
I was touched by your tribute after Jesse passed away, wherein you wrote, “The heart heals quickly and also never.” Did you feel compelled to use again while struggling through the combined grief of loss and the disruption of your passion?
Bizarrely, the thought didn’t cross my mind. He was such a huge part of my journey in recovery that to use over that – the loss of a true friend from natural causes (he was 26, he colicked) – would’ve felt like sacrilege. The thing is: when I’m caught in Self, whether I’m using or not – it’s about me, my little plans and designs, how the world owes me a living, if things aren’t how I nee them to be, I suffer. In that mindset, it might have been an excellent reason to get high. However, having recovered (one day at a time), I can see the time we got to spend together for what it was: entirely a blessing. 16 years, most of which I was sober – I am so grateful that I got to be present for it. If I surrender my idea of what ‘should’ be (the things I love shouldn’t die), and live in what is (grief is an evolution of Love), all is copacetic.
What steps did you take to move past this difficult experience without falling back into old habits?
Unexpectedly, fell in love and made an album.
For most people, love is a vague, almost supernatural notion – one which is rarely discussed pragmatically. Can you elaborate on how you view love as a pedagogy?
What a segue! I am really a novice at this loving thing, but it’s been meaningful of late to see that instead of something to hunt ruthlessly in the world, something to ‘get’, perhaps love is a skill I can cultivate. Perhaps it is something that I can learn to work like a muscle, to be courageous and openhearted, even when I’m not receiving it in the way that I would like. Interpersonally in a romantic situation, this means not only being in a relationship to suck up love like a vampire, but hopefully for both parties to be constantly teaching each other how they like to be loved, and expressing love in a way the other can tolerate and receive it. The notion of ‘love’ therefore becomes a learning process, not a destination or a fixed totem. In my experience it requires a level of vulnerability that makes me want to throw up a lot of the time, but it’s also super magical and unexpected and uncanny.
How has this intellectual approach to love strengthened you as a sober individual?
I think maybe it’s the other way around. Sobriety has taught me how to really ‘love what is’ with a ferocity. It’s cute to say that when things are going my way, but when stuff gets disappointing or tragic (as life is wont to do), that’s kind of when the rubber hits the road. Over time, the measure of my sobriety is less based on ‘how many days without a drink’ and more how kind and loving can I be, today, no matter what?’. This doesn’t mean I’m not human, I’m still working on toning down ‘being an entitled dickhead in airports’, for instance, but it’s enabled a teachability, especially in relationship, that I wouldn’t have if I was constantly anesthetizing my experience with drugs.Emotional intimacy is terrifying and uncomfortable on first examination – at least for me – but if I sit through that, that there is this thing on the other side that I didn’t know about, that’s feeling seen and accepted and understood and inspired and nourished, and like I am capable of giving those things to my partner, even in their humanness.
It goes without saying that substance abuse (and, for some, addiction) is inextricable from the music industry. What advice would you give to people who are heavily involved in the club/rave scene (be it professionally or as consumers), yet have issues with drugs that they feel unable to defeat?
If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, there is help available to you. I highly recommend 12 step programs as a way out. Slide up in my DMs if you want to talk about it.
You’ve been somewhat of a staple of HARD Summer over the years. What’s drawn you to be so involved with the festival, and what are you most excited about for this upcoming edition?
HARD is a really special thing for dance music in America and Gary Richards has consistently supported me and what I’m doing . After a decade, it really feels like a family affair, and I’m really excited to see so many old friends and get to meet people that I don’t know yet. I rarely plan sets, but for something like HARD I really want to bring my A-game, so my knives are gonna be super sharp – really excited to play new material for such a dedicated, educated, enthusiastic audience of fans and peers.
With two days remaining until her HARD Summer appearance this Sunday, August 6, Louisahhh gives the Dancing Astronaut audience a glimpse of her current tastes. Her Beyond the Booth set features selections from Skream, Boys Noize & Mr. Oizo’s Handbraekes project, Aphex Twin’s AFX moniker, and more.
Tickets for HARD Summer are available here.
Louisahhh – Tonight (Cover/Bootleg)
Tom Jenkinson – Happy Little Wilberforce
The Horrorist – Take This Step (Lenny Dee Remix)
Louisahhh – ID
Parris Mitchell – Ghetto Booty
Jubilee and Burt Fox – Keys Wallet Phone
Feadz – Go On Girl
DJ Funeral – Shutterbug
Jlin – Malkina
Skream – Bang That (Club Edit)
Louisahhh – Super Bust (Bootleg)
Boys Noize – Midnight (Boys Noize & Mr. Oizo’s Handbraekes Remix)
LFO – Tied Up Electro
AFX – p-string
DJ Slugo – Freaky Ride
DJ Rashad & Gant-Man – Heaven Sent
GA Girlz – Heaven Sent
SYNC 24/MORPHOLOGY – Ragtop
Manu Le Malin & Nicollaps – ID
RP Boo – Off Da Hook
SHXCXCHCXSH – LTTLWLF
Yan Kaylen – Mirage X84
Featured image by Nachtschaduw. Artist headshot by Marilyn Clark.