“Regret” by DJ Zeke Thomas: Club Hit or PSA?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

DJ Zeke Edwards, White Plains NY, November 2013Musician and DJ Zeke Thomas, son of legendary NBA star Isiah Thomas, has released a new dance single and music video, “Regret,” that veers away from traditional club-music plot lines; it portrays a night of partying gone wrong. We spoke to Zeke about “Regret”’s unique message.

Phoenix House: “Regret” sounds like a catchy club tune, but the message of the video isn’t one we often see in that genre—on the contrary, it’s a warning that drugs and clubbing can have tragic consequences. How did you get the idea for the song?

Zeke Thomas: I co-wrote the song with a vocalist; we were in the recording studio coming up with ideas and we started with this hard-hitting, bass-driven track, because I knew I wanted to do a party record. But the thing is, I also knew I wanted to develop a real, strong message for the song. I wanted to inspire people to live a life without regrets—and our regrets are always made from bad choices, right? So I drew inspiration from an event from my life, when a party went too far and someone close to me lost their life.

PH: You decided to throw a twist in the generic, worry-free, “party all night” plotline.

ZT: Yeah. I wanted the video to feel very real and honest. Everybody loves to party, but I’ve seen firsthand that in that lifestyle, things can and do go terribly wrong. Drugs and alcohol are not just fun and games—they come with severe consequences. You need to be careful, especially in the entertainment industry where drugs are so widespread and oddly accepted.

PH: It’s true. Have these issues also touched your life outside the entertainment industry?

ZT: Absolutely. I’ve had family members struggle with alcohol and drug addictions in the past, many of them have lost their lives but many have overcome their addictions and come out of the battle that much stronger. So I’ve seen both sides. I struggled with substance use myself and ended up taking a whole year to focus on overcoming my problem—I went to rehab and therapy. So when I finally lost that friend at the party to an overdose, it wasn’t like addiction was a new concept to me. It was more like such an eye-opener that it could literally lead to death, and that could happen to someone I cared about. It was shocking. Of course I had heard of these things happening around me, but never so close to home. You see things differently after a loss like that.

PH: Did it make you see your own history of drug use differently as well?

ZT: It did seem like a bigger deal after the fact. Because at the time, you know, I was young and living life in the fast lane. I was clubbing and spinning at events, partying hard in college…it wasn’t too long before things got out of control. But I’m lucky I came out on this side. It only took a few brushes with the harsh reality of my actions before I knew it was the right plan to take a step out of the limelight and learn to be more responsible—to learn to respect my body and my health and myself.

PH: How do you think music and film can work to enact positive social change?

ZT: All art can reach people, but music is unique because it’s a universal language. As humans, before we learned to communicate in English or Spanish or whatever, we communicated through song or rhythm or beat. That’s just how powerful music is, and it can definitely be used to speak to social issues. Today, a lot of our problems just get swept under the rug and people have forgotten that it’s OK to take a stand for something. I’d like to see more artists and celebrities speaking out for various causes. Music, film, and sports are the largest media for shaping a culture because they revolve around our need to be entertained. And there’s no reason we can’t entertain while also sending a powerful message to a large audience. Music doesn’t have to just be a beat that is universally understood; it can also be socially conscious messaging that is universally understood. That’s something I’ll continue to strive for in my career.

PH: What sort of feedback have you received from listeners/viewers about this song and video?

ZT: You know, some people were upset that I didn’t just do a normal, fun video! They’re like “Why do you have to end on such a downer, man?” But most people have understood the weight of the message I’m trying to convey, and the depth of the story behind it. Some people have even felt compelled to share their own experiences with substance abuse after seeing the video, and that’s fantastic; I love that it’s a conversation-carrier. I look forward to hearing more peoples’ stories.

PH: Our Phoenix Rising Music Program introduces music composition, performance, and recording to our clients – mostly teens – who are in treatment for addiction. Do you have any advice for kids who are trying to build new, creative lives in recovery?

ZT: I want to get across to kids that even if you’re struggling or have struggled with substance abuse—that’s not the end. It doesn’t define you. You create your own ending. I certainly struggled, and I’m happy to say that I’m in a much better place now, following my dreams.

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