Ex­pe­ri­ence

I threw away a pop ca­reer to deal drugs

The Guardian - Weekend - - Contents - Adam Nor­rie

I grew up in a sta­ble, work­ing-class home in Hull in the 1980s, but I al­ways craved ex­cite­ment. That’s prob­a­bly why, aged 18, I moved to Tulsa, Ok­la­homa. I started vis­it­ing the city in the school hol­i­days, be­cause I had fallen for a girl who lived there. On one trip, I was in­tro­duced to a pro­ducer called David Perce­full, who was putting a band to­gether. I de­cided to move to Tulsa per­ma­nently, to be with my girl­friend and join the band, Fanzine, as its singer.

By the time I moved to the US, my girl­friend had be­come ad­dicted to crys­tal meth, crack and other hard drugs. She was also liv­ing with an­other boyfriend. I was dev­as­tated, but I’d sac­ri­ficed a lot to be with her, so I con­vinced my­self I could fix her and our re­la­tion­ship.

Fanzine quickly be­came quite suc­cess­ful in Tulsa. We went from play­ing small dives in front of 15 reg­u­lars to sup­port­ing Cy­press Hill and Evanes­cence at the city’s Edge fes­ti­val, in front of 50,000 peo­ple. We were unsigned, yet I was rub­bing shoul­ders with mas­sive bands and leap­ing off stages to crowd surf among thou­sands of fans. For an or­di­nary kid from York­shire, it was amaz­ing, sur­real.

Fanzine may have been thriv­ing, but I couldn’t help my girl­friend, and what had bro­ken her was break­ing me. Crys­tal meth, crack, co­caine, heroin – you name it, I took it. My band­mates were aware, but we were do­ing so well that get­ting clean was rarely dis­cussed. Drug ad­dic­tion robs you of your time, your friends, your health and your dig­nity. My apart­ment seemed to have a re­volv­ing door for ev­ery type of lowlife. At one point I found my­self shar­ing with a white su­prem­a­cist and a drug dealer who, in be­tween pis­tol­whip­ping me on a whim, would reg­u­larly sleep with my girl­friend.

I still loved her, de­spite it all. But our ar­gu­ments would quickly es­ca­late. She at­tacked me with knives; she’d throw things; she even stubbed cig­a­rettes out on my face. One night, I found her hold­ing a gun. She said she was go­ing to kill her­self. She passed out for a few sec­onds and when she came around, she turned the gun on me. I left her for good that evening.

Fanzine was still do­ing well. My man­ager had ar­ranged for me to record at Abbey Road stu­dios in Lon­don with­out the oth­ers. A Par­lophone ex­ec­u­tive was im­pressed with my ses­sions and paid to have the rest of the band flown over to record. I would score smack in Cam­den and shoot up in the toi­lets at Abbey Road. Dur­ing one play­back, I passed out on the exec’s shoul­der, end­ing the deal be­fore it even started. He’d seen it all be­fore, and got up and left. My mu­sic ca­reer was in tat­ters.

I headed back to Tulsa and de­cided the best way to score drugs was to start sell­ing them. I be­friended a fan who hap­pened to be in a Mex­i­can drug car­tel. What he gave me was far bet­ter than the opi­ods avail­able to lo­cals, so I sold it on to them.

I had a new girl­friend, from a rich fam­ily, and was cruis­ing around in her BMW. The car helped me con­vince deal­ers all over the city to ac­cept dodgy cheques. I once got a call from a dealer to whom I owed thou­sands. He had just cooked up a batch of crack at his home in the sticks, and in­vited me over. If I’d gone, he would have killed me. Gangs from ev­ery neigh­bour­hood wanted me dead, so I left and re­turned to Eng­land.

Back home, I joined an­other band, called the Shine, but we never had the suc­cess I’d en­joyed with Fanzine. It took over a decade and the nearob­lit­er­a­tion of my health for me to have an epiphany. The drugs had caused me to gnash my teeth so of­ten that they were ground down to rot­ten nubs. One day I looked over my body – rid­dled with holes and ab­scesses. I re­alised that God didn’t give me this body to de­stroy it.

I had been in re­hab mul­ti­ple times, but I al­ways went back to us­ing. It was only when I checked into the Car­pen­ters Arms, a Chris­tian-run re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre in Le­ices­ter­shire, that I got clean. It will be two years this Oc­to­ber. I still love mu­sic, and have started study­ing at Nexus ICA, an in­sti­tute for cre­ative arts in Coven­try. I have a fi­ancee, and she re­cently gave birth to our first child. We’ll tie the knot next July.

I threw away a pop ca­reer, a de­ci­sion I re­gret­ted for 13 years. Now I’m grate­ful I did it; that I missed out on all the money. If I had made it, I don’t think I’d be alive to­day

Do you have an ex­pe­ri­ence to share? Email ex­pe­ri­ence @the­guardian.com

I passed out on the record exec’s shoul­der, end­ing the deal be­fore it be­gan. He’d seen it all be­fore

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