Last Thursday was the VICE UK staff summer party. Last Friday was quite possibly the most hungover I've ever been. Are those two facts linked? Quite possibly, yes.
Having stumbled into bed just two hours before I had to get up and go to work again, I arrived looking dishevelled and feeling worse. Painfully aware that I couldn't just go and tell the receptionist I didn't feel well—and ask if she could ring my mum to come and pick me up—I was grimly resigned to one of the grimmest days in living memory.
I soon realised that I wasn't the only sack of damaged organs sitting about waiting for the release and relief of clocking off time, and decided that I could try and sneak some sleep into my day as long as I did so under the guise of it being "research" for a "piece". This is that piece. This is me trying to work out what the best music to soothe a hangover at work is.
While I've spent a disproportionate amount of my life listening to new age music, I've never used it in the way that the more spiritually inclined amongst us do. Even the Valentine's Day I spent with Streatham's finest crystal healer, Valerie Pitts, an afternoon that I thought was going to have life-altering consequences, wasn't, in the end, enough to see me spending my evenings inhaling incense, scratching myself with crystals and breathing in time to the sound of dolphins shagging. If there was any day where the healing properties of new age music might actually come in very handy, this was it.
Armed with a bunch of bananas and a rapacious need to sleep—even for a minute or two, just a minute or two—I slapped 4 HOURS Calm Music: New Age for Meditation, Most Relaxing Music, Yoga, Massage & Deep Sleep, SPA on. The result was like trying to nap by the till of a large-ish garden centre. A Notcutts. A Notcutts with a busy cafe full of pensioners eeking out a cup of tea and a bakewell tart for hours on end.
My brain conspired against me. There were no peaceful visions of pastel-hued sunsets and sun-dappled mountain ranges. No bubble-baths or big-winged birds. This music was too passive. It was leaving me room to mull over everything from the night before. It was just an endless loop of embarrassments: fluffed conversations and spilled drinks. Embarrassment coursed through me, taking complete control of my nervous system. I was tense and agitated and the aural slop filling my ears was only worsening my mood. I tore my headphones off and sat on a bench outside the office. "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen drifted from the speakers hidden inside the coffee shop nearby.
Midday rolled round and I was still in the depths of boozy despair. Convinced that alcohol was seeping from each and every one of my pores I headed into the bathroom and spent a good five minutes coating my face with tap water. I slunk back into my chair, wet and mildly ashamed. What my aching body and woozy mind needed was a burst of intensity, a musical treble espresso. Gabber seemed to be the only solution.
It didn't seem like sleep was going to be a possibility if I remained chained to what I (very grandly) think of as my workstation, which in reality is just my portion of the desk covered in Trebor wrappers and books I'll never actually read, so I decamped to a meeting room. We call this meeting room "the soft room" because it's stuffed with lots of very soft sofas and we're an incredibly imaginative bunch of creatives.
The combination of soft furnishings and hi-octane musical throbbing was a heady brew. Have you ever tried to fall asleep in a gap between sofas whilst listening to a gabber version of "Zombie" by the Cranberries, all the while perilously hungover? It's about as relaxing as taking part in a nettle eating contest with Joe Pasquale, Christine Hamilton, and the guy who played Mickey in the Head & Shoulders 'everyone knows a bloke like Mickey' advert. In a high security prison. Naked. It was a blessed relief when another member of staff walked into the room and politely noted that they'd book it out for a meeting and I was currently eating into their meeting time staring into space looking very, very glum while what sounded like a broken Casio keyboard stuck on DJ mode parped out of my laptop. I left and ran to the nearest McDonalds, hoping that salt, fat, and sugar would lull me into a deep and restful temporary coma.
I've written before about how listening to tropical house left me feeling both incredibly old and utterly emotionally bereft. So why I thought that listening to it after a quite heavy night out is sort of beyond me now. But hey, that's the kind of crazy, wacky thing I do the day after I've had three bottles too many of European lager! I've had a drink and if I want to reflect morosely on the unstoppable sadness of ageing then that's my choice!
Bored of my desk, I cradled my laptop and headed up to the most relaxing place in the office: the toilets upstairs at i-D. i-D have better toilets than us. Rather than the standard assortment of pube-splattered urinals and a few stalls—stalls which always have snot crusting on the walls—the fashionistas up there get to micturate in total luxury. Seriously, these are seriously roomy bathrooms, the kind of toilet set-up that you can imagine someone like Richard Branson or the bloke who played Shadrach Dingle in Emmerdale having at home. Every time I step out of them—hands shiny with the really fucking good handwash they have—I feel like I've really made it. This is the kind of pissing I want to do every day.
This afternoon though I wasn't there to piss. I was there to listen to Best of Deep & Tropical House Music Mix 2016 Summer Vibes #1 | 100K Special | by a bloke called Anthony Gerrard. I picked it because it was the second mix on YouTube that pops up after you search "tropical house mix". I needed something comforting. The McDonalds I'd eaten earlier was sitting there in the pit of my gut like a saturated fat soaked cricket ball. I was nearly ready to concede defeat. Still, I soldiered on. I shut my eyes. I thought about beaches and palm trees and the feeling of sand on my arse. I tried really hard to let my worries vanish into the ether. Sadly all that happened was that I got pins and needles up and down my entire body and had to spend a few minutes remembering how to stand up. I left the stall, looking back one last time at the decadence I was about to leave behind, and slid back down the stairs, still no closer to the sweet release of sleep's warming embrace. A single tear rolled down my cheek and stained my lips with the taste of vodka, lime and soda.
Cigarette Reviews on YouTube
All that tropical house had made me want to bask in the glorious glow of British summer time. Obviously I couldn't just amble down to the nearest park and force my fingers deep in the grass beneath me, ants crawling over my limp and lifeless body, strings of saliva dribbling down my chin as I succumb to slumber. So I had to settle for the next best thing: sitting at a garden table just outside the office while the building next door's being torn down by an assortment of incredibly heavy machinery. And to soundtrack this delight? Music wouldn't do. Music was causing me pain. So instead, I closed my incredibly heavy lids and listened to a man from the internet review cigarettes.
Marlboro Ice Blast, Kormet Red, Lucky Strike Unfiltered—I listened to the lot. Taking on ASMR qualities, the work of ChurchillCigar became almost hallucinogenic. I sat with lids firmly clasped together and the world melted all around me. For a split second I think I slept, but before I'd had the chance to escape into the world of dreams, I heard ChurchillCigar mumbling about Lucky Strike Oriental Blend cigarettes and reality punctuated that brief moment of respite. I felt a chill. It was time to go back inside.
Resigned to an entire working day of being awake, I spent the rest of the shift looking increasingly more and more morose. I smelt of sweat, beer, and Big Mac sauce, and had gone a shade of grey that wasn't particularly pleasant for me or anyone around me.
Music can do a lot of things, but it turns out that helping a hungover self-pitying man fall asleep in the office he works in isn't one of them.
Not being brave enough to leave early, I stuck it out and waited till 6.30 on the DOT to leave. By the time I arrived home, I was an aching wreck. My knees clicked as I sat down. I fell asleep in front of a clip of Blanche from Coronation Street being incredibly rude at an AA meeting, glad to finally be at rest.