I don’t know how many mix CDs I used to burn before a road trip, insisting that no drive could do without music. I still have countless folders stuffed with blank CDs, ominous titles scribbled in black Sharpie. The majority of my most indelible memories were powered by carefully crafted playlists. I spent literal hours putting them together. In that way, groups and artists don’t remind me of times and places so much as they occupy precious real estate in my brain and carry genuine weight. For me, R.E.M.’s Reveal instantly recalls hiking the high Arizona desert while Moby’s Play evokes driving along the coast with the top off my Jeep. While my tastes have changed, the music has nevertheless taken root. In sobriety, it works the same way. I’ve clung to music with as much enthusiasm as desperation.
Chris Aguirre clearly feels the same way. Even if he didn’t set out to become a self-proclaimed “recovery media mogul,” it’s a fitting title for the founder of The Recovery Revolution™—the dizzying collection of fiction, nonfiction, interviews and art that Aguirre tirelessly curates. Aguirre covers an exhaustive, if not exhausting, amount of sober ground, though he’s never content to slow down. To wit, he’s just added weekly music playlists (RecovRemixes) to his site’s creative stable. Each RecovRemix is more than just a playlist, too. They’re sonic stories released, week after week, by notable guest DJs that, as Aguirre observes, are “as unique and personal as a fingerprint.” It’s impossible to categorize or label the playlists, as their tracks are alternately dark, propulsive, swampy, funky, electric or confoundingly (beautifully so) straightforward. In fact, the possibilities are as limitless as recovery itself. One glimpse at his site reveals the sort of kinetic, free-flowing, life-affirming energy he brings to recovery. If you don’t quite know where to look first—now, all you have to do is listen.
What spurred the idea for RecovRemixes?
About a year ago, two separate international DJs in early recovery (who shall remain nameless for the time being) offered to contribute mixes to The Recovery Revolution™. They each subsequently moved from abstinent recovery to moderation management/harm reduction models, and felt that I may not want the mixes. Cut to a year later and a fan of the Revolution suggested I make a mix based on some tracks I’d been sharing on Twitter and now, the rest is fast becoming beat-matched history.
How important is music to your own personal recovery?
Music is a critical component of almost everything I do, or think. If you ask my immediate family (my wife and daughter), I’ve got a song for everything. A soundtrack [for]life.
I love that different people offer different perspectives/articulate where they’re at in their individual recoveries. Do you invite strangers to participate, people you know, or both?
Other than the fan who provided the recent encouragement and myself, I’ve only asked the professional DJs in recovery that I’ve met through my recovery efforts online. However, I will be opening it up for submissions in the coming weeks.
Have you been surprised by what the mixes revealed to you about the people you’ve invited to participate?
Because I’ve been asking that the initial mixes reflect the DJs’ recovery journey in some way, I’ve been moved by the suggestion of the active addiction(s) in the mixes.
Do you choose the themes, or do they?
Other than the prompt that it reflect one’s recovery journey somehow, it’s entirely up to the individual how to communicate that with their mix. Our First Friday resident DJ, Alan B, is crafting /RecovRemixes around specific genres.
Do you set rules/parameters for the mixes, or do you let your DJs “go” wherever they want to (i.e. the DJ FM mix where they tell two separate, distinct stories)?
The other relevant parameter—other than the obvious topic prompt—is that each mix be 12 songs (in a nod to the de facto official number of recovery). With those two simple guidelines, I’ve been blown away by the variety and the nuance in the mixes. From DJ FM’s two excellent two-part suite, to Alan B’s first mix that is entirely Rare Groove Funk and Soul to Garrett Braukman’s mix layered with powerful spoken samples, it’s been an immensely rewarding listening experience for me.
What makes a perfect recovery anthem, in your opinion?
Oh, man. Anthem? I guess something that captures the gravitas of the damage done and the exuberance of the joy of recovery. Tall order.
When it comes to this project, can a mix be more effective/important than a single track?
I think a mix allows for greater nuance in telling a story. I feel like a single song can effectively reflect a chapter and on occasion capture the whole with some success but a mix really allows the DJ to craft a story with peaks, valleys and resolutions.
What has been the most surprising thing about the mix project so far?
I’m gratified that already there is great diversity in the mixes. There is no single “recovery mix.” They are stories as unique and personal as a fingerprint.
What groups and artists have you been introduced to that you otherwise didn’t know existed?
There are definitely a few tracks I didn’t know on Alan B’s initial Rare Groove mix that made me sit up and take notice. It’s also been terrific to have DJ FM and Alan B include some of their own music in their mixes.
What/who are you listening to most right now?
I’ve been listening a lot to a Pandora station I’ve made of Old School electro-funk/hip hop and freestyle.
Do you have any particular goals/aspirations for this project? Any hopes for the future for it—or just see where it leads?
I think, as with much of what I do on the Recovery Revolution, I’ll need to see where it goes. I’d love to release original music from artists in recovery.