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.

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