Sunday, 22 September 2019

Mental Health In Music: A Musician's Perspective #2 - Alex Bond (Musician of 27 Years+)


For this second instalment of my Mental Health In Music series, I went further afield and spoke to Floridian musician Alex Bond. Alex has played in many bands throughout his life and his perspective below is a unique one I feel, especially when talking about community and support within the DIY music scene itself. I hope you enjoy reading this and I just want to say thank you to Alex for taking time out to answer my questions.

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1. The idea of this feature is to talk about the problems that musicians face, especially those in DIY or up-and-coming bands. Would you mind talking about your own experiences with mental health?

A. I grew up with alcoholic parents, and my parents divorced when I was six. My father was barely ever around, so I never really had a father figure to lean on for support. My sister and I were left to our own devices much of the time. We both started experimenting with alcohol and drugs at an early age (for me, middle school). I am not sure if any of this lead to my mental health issues, but I was always a loner, didn’t have many good friends as a kid. I had depression and anxiety from an early age and started taking anti-depressants in middle school. 

As a teenager, it was difficult to get on track with my mental health and stability, because I was not inspired with music if I wasn’t feeling completely tragic at the time. I was also dealing with my sexuality. I felt like I was easily able to come out of the closet to friends/direct family, yet I had no gay people to relate to in my immediate area (Indianapolis, IN). I felt quite isolated on a regular basis. 

My life, in a nutshell, has been a roller coaster ride of emotional turmoil and crippling anxiety ever since I can remember. I really only now feel, within the last couple of years (I am 38), a sense of what normalcy may look like. I am able to finally hold a job, run a household, help to keep a band together, etc. Getting away from my hometown and moving to Saint Petersburg, FL has helped gain some footing over my demons (not to mention more consistent weather patterns LOL).

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2. Being in a band can be an outlet for people to express their feelings and to help them get over certain things in life but do you feel that it can also have a negative effect? If so, what do think these effects can be and are these linked to writing, recording, touring etc?

Growing up in the punk/hardcore community, it was quite the double-edged sword. Initially, it felt like I had found the community in which I belonged. It soon became apparent that we were all there due to how fucked up we all were. At times, I felt accepted and embraced in spite of my issues. Other times, I felt like I was part of some fucked up cool kids club where I felt like I had to compete with others for acceptance. 

I started playing drums in bands when I was eleven. Music was all I cared about, which in itself was a drug, a toxic dependency. All I had to look forward to was practice/shows with bands, attending shows, collecting records. I was being fed all of these ideas from people I did not personally know. If I did not agree with the flock about certain ideas/political themes, I was rejected. Naturally, I felt just as alienated by the punk scene as I did by the rest of society, so I drank more and did more drugs. I was angry, depressed, anxious constantly, had very low self esteem, no sense of self worth. I was always getting kicked out of bands and butting heads with people. 


3. How do you deal with things now? Have you got any advice for those who are struggling themselves, musician or otherwise?

I try not to bottle things up. I taught myself to be open and honest about my emotions and thoughts, even if it meant sacrificing friendships/relationships. I also taught myself how to be more constructive in serious conversations, rather than place blame or attack the other parties. It’s all about sharing information and ideas and seeing all sides before drawing conclusions. 

I also try as hard as I can to keep up with my physical health. I cannot stress enough how important eating healthy, drinking tons of water, taking vitamins and exercising every day can be. Taking hikes, spending more quality time with my canine companions, catching up with loved ones on a regular basis. Watching inspiring documentaries or reading a great book also helps with my daily outlook. I am constantly trying to stay focused on how fortunate I am to have the life that I do rather than focusing on all of the negative, toxic bullshit in this world. 

If someone is struggling with anxiety and depression, my biggest piece of advice is to talk. Talk to your friends, your family, those that you trust. Open up to them. Never bottle up your feelings, anger, anxiety, confusion. Stay physically active as much as possible, but also know when to relax. Take care of your body, which will in turn benefit your brain. 

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4. What more do you think can be done in the underground scene or even the wider music scene to support people who may be struggling?

I think just keeping the honesty alive in lyrics and music is most important. Keep the doors open to discussions regarding mental health and the struggles that come along with it. Forge friendships with people that lift you up instead of tearing you down. Always welcome the newcomers with open arms. If you see someone struggling, do not shy away from helping them by just being there. Be a good listener and always be ready to TALK. 

Horsewhip's website is here - http://www.horsewhipfl.com/

If you've been affected by any of the above or you want to speak to somebody or donate, and you're in the US, you can visit Mental Health America here - https://www.mhanational.org/donate-mental-health-america. Wherever you are though, if you need to reach out to people, do so. There are people and charities globally that can help.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Pelican - Nighttime Stories


Labels: Southern Lord Recordings/Brutal Panda Records
Formats: Vinyl/CD/Tape/Digital
Release Date: 07 Jun 2019

Tracklist:

1. WST
2. Midnight And Mescaline
3. Abyssal Plain
4. Cold Hope
5. It Stared At Me
6. Nighttime Stories
7. Arteries Of Blacktop
8. Full Moon, Black Winter

The other night I mentioned the number of incredible records that were released recently and how I was way behind in appreciating them all. I'm slowly catching up on them and latest album from Chicago, Illinois post-metal/instrumental band Pelican was one that I was eager to hear. It was released in June on vinyl, cd and digital via Southern Lord Recordings, along with a tape version via Brutal Panda Records that saw the light of day about a month later. I probably can't say anything that hasn't already been said about Pelican and their music, but this is all about enjoyment of music and its creators.

Elegant soundscapes and subtle textures are exactly what’s needed this evening, as the barmy late summer sun recedes and “Nighttime Stories” promises that. Opener WST provides a glimpse into a mellower side of Pelican, though it’s only a mere intro of sorts. Midnight And Mescaline is a very different beast with upbeat tempos and driving instrumentation. The quartet has matured well beyond the point of a band still finding own way and it shows here.

It’s actually amazing how upbeat this record is considering the heavy sludgy beginnings of the band well over a decade ago. Abyssal Plain is another example of this, albeit one that does call on passages of off-kilter instrumental black metal-like guitars and blasts at times. It convinces you that vocals are not needed. Cold Hope is by far the heaviest song on “Nighttime Stories” so far as it takes things in a more dissonant and doomier direction.

The second half of the album is ushered in by another calming piece in the form of It Stared At Me. It tempers back Pelican’s more full-on side but it still gives you plenty of time to appreciate their musicality at the same time. Time is short but when it’s spent listening to this, it’s very previous indeed. Just when you’re at your serenest though, the title-track shatters that feeling with a bass-heavy smash to the face. There’s still plenty of melody here but it’s the rumbling noise that takes true hold of your senses. The volume seems like it’s been turned straight up beyond maximum and it gets the heart beating as a result.

There’s a slight reduction in the heaviness as Pelican wind their way to the end of “Nighttime Stories” but that does nothing to stop their momentum and penultimate song Arteries Of Blacktop is still a driving effort for sure. Closing song Full Moon, Black Water is most definitely a positive and life-affirming way to end. It gathers everything that is great about Pelican’s music and shoehorns it into the perfect summary to conclude the album. There are no histrionics or pretence, just honest musicians making honest music. A fantastic contender for album-of-the-year.

You can stream "Nighttime Stories" and purchase on vinyl, on cd and digitally below:-




Tape copies can be purchased via Brutal Panda Records here - https://www.brutalpandarecords.com/collections/all?page=4

Southern Lord Recordings - https://www.facebook.com/SLadmin/

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The Glorious Dead - Imperator Of The Desiccated 7"


Labels: Bindrune Recordings
Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 18 Jul 2019

Tracklist:

1. Mangled Cerebration
2. Celebrate The Corpse

Staring at the black/white artwork and the red writing of the band logo had me hypnotised for a minute. It reminded me of so many old-school death metal record covers, from before albums were adorned with spilling entrails and bodies being defiled. Michigan (US) quartet The Glorious Dead have returned with their first EP in a decade and with it a sense of OSDM as it was before slam took over. At this point, I'll be upfront and say that I really enjoy guitarist Marty's Youtube Channel but that's not the reason I'm here tonight. I'm here to celebrate this 7" and indeed The Glorious Dead for what they are.

Good old organic, live and mad death metal is what’s on show here. This EP begins with Mangled Cerebration and its rawness is more than matched by the instrumentation and vocals, which are clear and super enjoyable. There’s a sinister and gloomy edge to TGD’s sound that seems to be brought out even more by the recording. Celebrate The Corpse is a doom/death leviathan that was recorded in a live setting. The vocals are deeper and they match the low-end rumble that takes the music in an even darker direction. Their musical skill is obvious given their previous involvement in other bands over the years. 

It’s not delicate nor is it easy listening but it’s genuine. Often people get too tied up with wishing that their favourite bands would release greater amounts of music, but sometimes less is more. The Glorious Dead take that latter approach and make a greater impression because of it. OSDM the way is should be!

You can stream "Imperator Of The Desiccated" and purchase it both digitally and on vinyl below:-



Sunday, 15 September 2019

Meditations In Affinity Vol.1 (Bond): Life In Vacuum/Canyons/Crowning/Hundreds Of Au - 4-Way Split 7"


Labels: The Ghost Is Clear Records/Zegema Beach Records
Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 10 May 2019

Tracklist:

1. Life In Vacuum - Nine To Five
2. Canyons - Storing Light
3. Crowning - Visceral Ghosts
4. Hundreds Of Au - Out In The Streets/Elevator Music

I've spent an hour or so this morning just taking stock of what I've been sent to review recently and trying to do some organising of my schedule for the coming weeks. I didn't quite appreciate how good releases have been over the last few months. I've still got catching up to do but that's a constant. 

As the seasons here become more autumnal it's post-hardcore that I feel myself reaching for and so to kick off this Sunday, here's the first split 7" (sub-titled - Bond) from a series called "Meditations In Affinity". The series will feature five four-way split 7"s featuring twenty bands and is a collaboration between The Ghost Is Clear Records and Zegema Beach Records. Each band contributes one song and here they are Life In Vacuum (Can), Canyons (USA), Crowning (USA) and Hundreds Of Au (USA).

Life In Vacuum’s contribution Nine To Five seems to be influenced by UK Indie/Brit Pop to start with, as it’s angular riffs and clean vocals lead the way before the trio explodes into the more usual post-hardcore sounds. It’s more accessible due to the varied musical application that the trio exhibits. Really creative punk. Canyons are equally as angular and off-kilter on Storing Light, but the sense of foreboding that’s enveloped within their mid-paced post-hardcore is palpable. More bass-heavy and containing harsh vocals from the get-go, there’s no light that shines through.

Crowning’s Visceral Ghosts is the closest you’re going to get to the sassy-grind/emoviolence sound on this split. It threatens to explode in a fireball of technical instrumentation and crazy tempos, but the band holds-off from that and instead creates a hardcore song that’s as mesmeric as it is unnerving. The split’s closer is reserved for Hundreds Of Au and Out In The Streets/Elevator Music is a combination of typical heaviness and cinematic post-rock, held together by solid instrumentation and caustic vox. The way they transition from Out In The Streets to Elevator Music leaves no time for a pause and their raging final bars make for a fitting end to this release.

This split series is a fantastic way for people to discover bands that they otherwise would not have. I appreciate that all of the participants have probably already been confirmed for this series but it got me thinking; being based in the UK, I’ve always felt that native post-hardcore/screamo bands have been under-represented on releases like this. It would be great to join together with a label (or labels) to seek out a new band or two from the UK for a release. This is a spark of an idea, so write to me if you think it could be a grower. 

You can stream "Meditations In Affinity Vol.1" and purchase it digitally below:-




Physical copies can be purchased from the labels below:-


The Ghost Is Clear Records - https://www.facebook.com/TGICRECS/

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Radien - Aste


Labels: Bunkkeri Records
Formats: Vinyl/CD/Digital
Release Date: 03 Jul 2019

Tracklist:

1. Tunne
2. Haudat

It's a weird feeling when you feel mentally drained but physically raring to go. Maybe it's because it's nearly the end of another working week and hedonism awaits. Either way, passing another milestone on the blog this week has left me with a satisfied inner warmth and the impetus to write more. Radien is a band that I've featured before and because of my love for Finnish bands, I was excited to review, though it's taken a little longer than I had hoped to get to this point. The band's latest work "Aste" was released in July via Finnish label Bunkkeri Records and since it's release, support slots alongside Full Of Hell have been and gone, only to be followed soon by equally as big shows in November alongside Inter Arma,

“Aste” features only two songs but they’re both long players. Tunne begins with plenty of ambience and emotive vocals courtesy of Noora Kauppila (melodic singing) and Juuso Raunio (chants and throat singing). It takes a while for Radien’s black/doom/sludge to build and in doing so, it paints a bleak image that’s inescapable. When Radien opens up the delivery provides an equal atmosphere with pained growls and metallic layers that remind you of slower, sludge-filled metallic hardcore from the likes of Integrity (at times). The bass-tone accompanies the slower tempos throughout dragging Radien’s sound down an ever deeper and darker rabbit hole.

Second song Haudat is equally as atmospheric, with a much heavier slant than Tunne initially. Radien’s avant-garde vision definitely came through during that first song and it’s alive and well here thanks to the addition of the Saxophone played by Tommi Rapeli. It works really well alongside the dissonance and feedback (as well as what sounds like whale song, though it’s probably not). Being mainly instrumental, Haudat is left to wander on it’s own and forge a path that’s sometimes disturbing and sometimes hauntingly beautiful. Overall, “Aste” is a lovely body of work but it leaves you hoping that Radien’s productivity will lead to more songs and even a longer full-length record soon. For now though, the band's entire back catalogue is worthy of your attention and admiration.

You can stream "Aste" and buy it digitally and on vinyl below:-



CD copies, vinyl and other Radien merch is available from Bunkkeri Records below:-

Monday, 9 September 2019

Sete Star Sept/Monochrome Nausea - SSS/MN Split 7"


Labels: Duel Disk Media/Friendly Otter Records/Don't Live Like Me Records/Cake Soda/Kakusan Records/Destruktomuzik Records
Formats: Vinyl/Tape/Digital
Release Date; 23 Apr 2019

Tracklist:

1. Sete Star Sept - Follow Rules
2. Sete Star Sept - Dizziness
3. Sete Star Sept - Commander Error
4. Sete Star Sept - Merits And Demerits
5. Sete Star Sept - Collapsing Castles
6. Monochrome Nausea - When We're Ready To Sing, We Step Up To The Microphone And It Comes Out Something Like This
7. Monochrome Nausea - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Art-Core Band
8. Monochrome Nausea - Anger And Violence
9. Monochrome Nausea - Perception Happens In The Brain
10. Monochrome Nausea - Bicycle Rocket Man
11. Monochrome Nausea - My Typewriter Is Drenched In Booze, Sweat And Semen From Problematic Post-Modernists
12. Monochrome Nausea - A Rapid Exit Through The Local Vomitorium
13. Monochrome Nausea - Experience And Theory: A Defense Of Kantian A Priori And Kepler's Philosophy Of Science In Light Of Modern Space-Time Physics
14. Monochrome Nausea - You Big Fat Sack Of Merda
15. Monochrome Nausea - He Dit

Here's a long overdue review of a crazy split 7" that was released earlier this year! Japan's Sete Star Sept and Norway's Monochrome Nausea came together to commit 15 noisy, grinding and improv tracks to wax and tape, which were brought to life via the labels above, while also leaving a scathing aural whole in the Internet.

Having written all of this split’s song-titles out above, it feels like the opening paragraph is a little small in comparison. Still, there’s plenty of opportunity to change that. Japanese noise-mongers Sete Star Sept get five songs in as many minutes here. Noisy is the right adjective to use when describing this duo as well. Their bass-heavy rumble on opener Follow Rules is frightening, as is the feedback. Dizziness induces just that as the cacophony of bass, vocals and drums railroads you into submission. 

The rawness of their sound is unbelievable but there’s still a perversely listenable element in there too, even during the screeching feedback that ends Commander Error, which grinds like a lunatic. There’s no let-up with Merits And Demerits either, with the vocals flitting between high-pitched shrieks and tortured deeper bellows, SSS’s final song Collapsing Castles is filled with mesmerising bass riffs and extremity that only the Japanese can pull off. Not for the faint of heart.

If your’re hoping for an easier ride with Monochrome Nausea, it’s probably best to turn away now. Quickfire opener When We’re Ready To Sing, We Step Up To The Microphone And It Comes Out Something Like This is eleven seconds of similarly hellish noise and it gets no easier as the amusingly titled Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Art-Core Band takes over. This one feels long in comparison but its music deconstructed into its most primal form. 

The aptly titled Anger And Violence sums up this entire split as its improvisational nature sees tempos change and ear drums explode. MN takes things to further extremes during Perception Happens In The Brain and its followed by a slew of songs that are equally as short. Bicycle Rocket Man highlights the influence that they’ve gained from their split-mates, while My Typewriter Is Drenched In Booze, Sweat And Semen From Problematic Post-Modernists highlights their more obtuse side.

By now, you should know that it’s not gonna get any easier but the fast, slow, faster structure of A Rapid Exit Through The Local Vomitorium is great fun. Things return to the weird thanks to Experience And Theory: A Defence Of Kantian A Priori And Kepler’s Philosophy Of Science In Light Of Modern Space-Time Physics…all four-seconds of it. Penultimate song You Big Fat Sack Of Merda is no lengthier and kind of feels a bit strange given the pause before and after it. Split closer He Dit seems like a true long-player at this point, but don’t let that fool you. The abrasiveness is still there as is the improv madness. 

Fifteen songs in not very much time at all from two bands that don’t care for normal structures or melody. If you like your music fast and loud then this is for you. An acquired taste maybe, but one that’s addictive and just plain silly.

You can stream the split and purchase is digitally below:-




Physical copies can be purchased from the below labels:-


Don't Live Like Me Records - https://www.facebook.com/dontlivelikeme/

Friday, 6 September 2019

0N0 - Cloaked Climax Concealed 7"


Labels: Transcending Obscurity Records
Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 03 Mar 2019

Tracklist:

1. The Crown Unknown
2. Hidden In The Trees (Sail This Wrecked Ship)

I'll be reviewing some lengthier releases on Sunday and into next week, but this evening is made for something shorter. "Cloaked Climax Concealed" is the latest release from Slovakian industrial doom/death trio 0N0. It was released on limited vinyl back in March of this year and it adds to the band's already impressive discography, which spans two full-lengths, four EPs (including this one) and a digital-only single. 

This is both glorious and spellbinding in equal measure. 0N0’s doom/death metal backbone on first song The Crown Unknown is heavy, atmospheric and off-kilter all while being totally cohesive. The mix of clean and harsh vocals that sit slightly within the mix balance out the eclectic textures that are weaved by the instrumentation, while it actually sounds like there’s a real human playing the drums (they are programmed). 

Second song Hidden in The Trees (Sail This Wrecked Ship) is no easy ride either, with death metal taking more of a lead in proceedings. It makes me think of the maddening noise of Fluerety twinned with the accessible melody of Astronoid. I appreciate that they are probably bizarre comparisons, but somehow they seem to work (in my opinion).

“Cloaked Climax Concealed” is brief in length but it demonstrates exactly what 0N0 is trying to do as a band. It shows off the entity’s instrumental genius and the bravery it has to do something different. I always get slightly worried when I see the term “Industrial” used to describe a band but here it works in subtle ways. Definitely a band worth your time and another fantastic addition to the Transcending Obscurity roster.

You can stream "Cloaked Climax Concealed" and purchase it on both physical and digital formats below:-



Tuesday, 3 September 2019

夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) - Ѫ (Yus)


Labels: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Release Date: 26 Apr 2019

Tracklist:

1. First Utterance
2. Last Utterance

Ever since I reviewed their split with Sutekh Hexen earlier this year, I've had an itch that's been gnawing away at me. The heaviness that was contained on that split was epic and the black/Experimental noise of international band 夢遊病者 called me back. Now, I'm jumping back a month, give or take, to their latest solo release. Ѫ (Yus) was released on 12" etched vinyl by Sentient Ruin Laboratories in April.

The integrity that seeps though Sleepwalker’s music is unbridled. They’re keeping ancient themes alive while being rooted firmly in the modern day and on Yus, they’re focusing on contradiction that it’s meaning carries amongst different languages (I hope that's right, but kindly correct me if not). First Utterance isn’t so much black metal but more a layered musical piece, featuring elements of it alongside more traditional instruments. At times it does venture into more extreme territory, but those moments are short-lived and fade in and out, ensuring that melody is ever-present,

Last Utterance is very much a heavier prospect. There’s guitar riffs that move between traditional heavy metal and obscure, off-time jazz. The drumming is equally off-kilter and the vocal rasps are buried within the dissonance. That jazz element remains as Sleepwalker finds quieter moments, though their mind-bending extremity is never too far away. This song and indeed Sleepwalker in general demonstrate why you shouldn’t try to understand what’s inside the head of somebody who likes extreme music. Just listen for yourself and you’ll hear the artistry and genius that exists within it.

Stream and purchase Yus both physically and digitally from Sentient Ruin Labs below:-



Sentient Ruin Laboratories - https://www.facebook.com/SentientRuin/

Monday, 2 September 2019

Mental Health In Music: A Musician's Perspective #1 - Paul Priest (has played in bands since 1996)


(Photo Credit: Instagram - os___photo)

Sometime ago now I decided to try my hand at something different. I wanted to reach out to some musicians that I knew and some I didn't, to get their perspectives on mental health with the DIY/Underground music scene and also to learn about their experiences, using a short set of interview questions. It was going to take the form of a big one-off feature and I had written to several participants, but things change and people are busy so I've taken the decision to turn it into a series of features instead.

This first interview features prolific Leeds musician Paul Priest, someone I consider to be a friend (even though I don't make over to Leeds anywhere near as often as I should). Paul's been playing in bands, putting on festivals and gigs for as long time and his energy for music, especially heavy music, is unflinching. He was kind enough to provide an insight into his own experiences with mental health and his insights into how people can help each other. I hope that this piece will raise some awareness of what people face and will maybe help to contribute to conversations about health and wellbeing.

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1. The idea of this feature is to talk about the problems that musicians face, especially those in DIY or up-and-coming bands. Would you mind talking about your own experiences with mental health?

A. Just want to start by saying it's an awesome concept. Anything that leads to more open discussion about this topic is a great thing.

Essentially, I've had depression ever since I can remember. I didn't go through a particularly unhappy childhood or anything, but I was definitely more of an introverted loner, inside my own head a lot of the time, preferring to just listen to the radio, read, write, than 'play out' or be particularly social, especially since, as a result of being that way, I was bullied, which just served to push me even further into my shell.

When I was in my mid-teens, my brain definitely felt noticeably wired in a strange way, and I was very down a lot of the time. I felt like I had no enjoyment of almost anything. The clouds over me got darker and more intense very quickly, and the noise in my brain and bleak thoughts would be overpowering. I had almost stereotypical teenage anxieties and wanted to wipe myself out in whatever fashion I could (drink, drugs, self-harm etc), absolute self-hatred and misanthropy for almost everything around me, and it grew until it was barely manageable.

At 16, I didn't think I would make it to 20. 
At 25, I had no intention of making it to 30.
Even more recently, at 38, I embarked on the worst spell of my entire life, and had a couple of years where I was entirely at rock bottom, had given up, all of life situationally had fallen apart as well as the strength in my spirit and sanity in my mind, and was convinced that was the end, but, the resilience in the human spirit can be quite unbelievable and unreal at times, and, whilst I battle every day with the noise in my head, the continuous torture that can be inflicted by a brain that won't stop calling up every single bad moment in my life at the worst possible times (usually when trying to get to sleep!), I feel like I have found at least a basic strength that will keep me away from ending my life, which I'd not had for most of my life previously. 

Along with extreme depression, it can lead to spells of agoraphobia, troubles with sleep at each end of the spectrum, as in I either can't sleep properly for days, or can do nothing but sleep for days, panic attacks, and sometimes endless suicidal thoughts. I'm 42 now, and every day is difficult, but if you can persist, you can find ways of suppressing and quietening the noisy demons of depression. 

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2. Being in a band can be an outlet for people to express their feelings and to help them get over certain things in life but do you feel that it can also have a negative effect? If so, what do you think these effects can be and are these linked to writing, recording, touring etc?

The timing of you sending these questions over was quite perfect really, because I saw them the day after getting back from a particularly difficult tour, in terms of my own battles in the mind. 

A lot of the time, I am able to, in a way, press pause and get so engrossed in the fun and cathartic side of touring, playing the loud music that was written to be the very release to get you through the hard times, but, this one I struggled to do that, and had a couple of really bad days on the drives between countries. I felt exhausted and broken even before we had got to the venues, so then add on the load in and outs, the prep, the playing, the social side, the not being in my own bed at the end of it, that side of things can be difficult at the best of times, but certainly so when you're not feeling right.

Thankfully though, I managed to work through a lot of what was troubling me right there and then, so that the post-tour blues, the return to reality that can be really intense, it wasn't as bad as I was expecting piled on top of what was also already going on in my head. Out of all the aspects of being in bands though, that can be a tough one at times. It's hard enough sometimes having just, say, had a good night visiting a friend and then returning home, you feel down because you miss that nice little nugget of good times, but, after a tour, which can be the best and most fun experience a musician can have, if it goes well, to come back to the reality we absolutely try and escape, it can be a bludgeoning back down to earth. 

As for writing, I love writing music, this is where I can channel anything I need to away from myself. It's not always necessarily in lyrics, which most people think it probably is. Writing a really heavy riff is amazing, for purging out really bad things inside your mind, or a big or emotional riff can be incredibly cathartic to play over and over. It can lay periods of time to rest, and help you to get through similar times later on. The recording part of it is that final closing of a certain spell.

It's not always like that, but sometimes it's nice to assign certain feelings, situations, problems you've overcome to specific riffs, that way you always get something out of them when you play them.

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3. How do you deal with things now? Have you got any advice for those who are struggling themselves, musician or otherwise?

For the most part, you're in bands with your friends, and so, you get to a stage where you can just pull even just one person aside and say 'You know what, I'm not doing well' and try and work out getting a bit of space or help, but, sometimes it can be difficult to even say anything, depending on the kind of person you are, depending on how open the other people are about stuff like that. Generally, especially in the sort of music we all play, the people we gravitate towards as a result, there are other people in the bands or other friends there that go through similar, and so it can be easier to just get the feelings out in the open. Particularly on tour, you can have daily spells where there isn't much you can do, so take a hour out, away from the other people, just let your mind breathe a little in a quiet space, go for a wander away from the others. Nobody is going to mind, everyone will understand.

But, for anyone... No matter how difficult it is to say something, when you're feeling at your worst, always remember how much better you feel once you've said something, just one thing, one sentence, a few words asking for a bit of help or friendship can make unbelievable amounts of difference, right there and then AND in the future too, because it then becomes easier to say something again further down the line.

I've generally been someone who doesn't say much about problems at the time, and prefers to work through them myself. Sometimes this works out good and sometimes not so much. Internalising can be dangerous, but, I've got much better at knowing when are the times I know I'll be alright to sort things out, or when I need to speak up and ask for help.

Occasionally I will post up long rambles (can you tell with the response to this?!), big brain dumps, to friends, just to kind of update what I have been feeling, or where I am / where I've been, mentally, usually it is AFTER getting through the situations. That's in a way my closing account and the final purging I need to be able to move on, gain the strength needed from what has happened, and (from what some people have said to me) it helps others in their personal struggles as well, which, if that's the case, then amazing. It has been worth going through if it helps others as well.

A trick that has worked to a degree for me, and has for others, is to physically write down the particular thoughts that are repeating, or causing trouble in the mind, then, walk away from it for a little bit, come back, read it, and dispose of it, rip it up, set it on fire. That's literally emptying your brain and destroying the toxicity inside it. You can do the same with typing something out, saving it, closing it, opening it up again, reading it, chucking it in the bin! 

There's always ways. Some people hit the gym, go for a run, put on loud music and throw themselves around, some comfort eat. To be honest, whatever release you find in times of need, just do it.

At the end of that though, there is nothing better than just saying something, anything, to anyone. Text any friend saying 'Help, I feel shit', or put up a post on social media saying 'I'm not feeling right, and I don't know what to do', or call a helpline. They will understand, they will know how to put you at ease, they will be the voice you need. Just don't go it alone, because your brain can take you to some terrible places if you let it.

It took me a long time to accept that all of this side to my personality is never going to fully go away. It's chemical, it's been heightened by situational stuff, but, how I am now, I am happy in myself, as contradictory as this sounds. I've accepted that all I can do is manage this sometimes debilitating illness, sometimes I will be able to, sometimes I won't, but I have conquered so many spells over the course of my life, that I have decided I'm never giving up on myself. I've got this far, so I may as well see what other interesting, fun, weird, twisty adventures this life can throw at me.

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4. What more do you think can be done in the underground scene or even the wider music scene to support people who may be struggling?

I think, generally, it's already heading in a good and positive direction. From what I see around my circles of friends, people are a lot less afraid to make that first statement of not being alright, to let people know that they've had a bad spell, or to bear with them whilst they work through problems. 

The music we listen to, the musicians making that noise, a lot more of them are able to speak up about their battles, it's there in the lyrics, in the sounds, it gives people hope, it makes people feel less isolated or lost. The scene is growing at a huge rate, and with it comes more people, more future generations that are less scared to put their hand up and say they have struggles. 

Normalising the feelings of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, to a degree helps people focus less on them and more on something positive, that they can use these 'brain quirks' to be creative, to help others, to be compassionate, to be selfless, and if you can dig deep and find the energies to accomplish any of these, to any level, then the possibilities of feeling that little bit better about yourself as a whole are increased.

The simplest way of putting the best advice is 'TALK MORE'. There's a spate of graffiti that, I believe, started in Leeds, I saw it quite a bit, and it's ingenious and perfection. 

There's still talk that there are stigmas attached to problems with mental health, and, maybe that's the case in different areas or types of people, but certainly in the 'alternative' or 'creative' worlds, I think that stigma is at least massively eradicated, so hopefully that can continue on further throughout the world. There's always going to be some people who ruin that goodness, but, I think they get shut down and told why they are wrong to be so thoughtless, and people aren't scared to take the side of those in need, and those in need are seemingly getting less scared about asking for the help.

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I want to take this opportunity to thank Paul for taking the time to talk about his experiences. His message is a positive one and If it helps one person, it'll be worth it. Please reach out if you want to talk via the comments section below or via social media.

As mentioned in the title of this feature, Paul's been playing music for over two decades. More information can be found via Metal Archives - https://www.metal-archives.com/artists/Paul_Priest/.

If you're struggling or you know somebody who is, please talk to someone like Leeds Mind at https://www.leedsmind.org.uk. Also, if you would like to donate to this very worthwhile charity, the proceeds will help them to provide more support for those who need it. Thank you.