Monday 28 October 2019

Mental Health In Music: A Musician's Perspective #4 - Reece Thomas (Vocalist, Guitarist & Solo-noise musician)

Here's the latest instalment in my ongoing Mental Health In Music interview series, focusing on musicians within the metal and punk scenes, talking about their own experiences with mental health and what can be done to help people who're struggling. I have a few more on the way and in the planning stages, but for now please take some time to read Reece's perspective. Note: as with the previous interviews, these are not meant to be about the bands but rather the people and their own feelings.

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’ve struggled with my mental health my entire life. My depression and anxiety has been a constant. Never really feeling like I’ve quite fit, even in music. In my early teens I turned to self destructive methods, trying to gain some sort of control. Severe Anorexia, drugs, cutting etc. My weight has always played a part in it. I used to have to cancel shows because I didn’t even have the energy to stand up without passing out. Music has been a saviour and destroyer. It’s carried me through my lowest possible lows, and sometimes kicked me down there. I got my first Walkman when I was about 6 and have been obsessed with music since. I’ve been playing in bands since I was 12 or 13 only really finding comfort in screamo. 


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?

It definitely can have a negative effect. I found it slightly easier in bands just because you can dissociate yourself from it a bit. When you’re screaming to a room about how you want to die in a band of friends, it’s easier to bare. 

I’ve had a love hate relationship with music. I've been writing as Alocasia Garden for almost 6 years now, that’s a big chunk of “important years”. Everything I’ve gone through has been put into this project. I can look back at releases and think “wow, if I didn’t make that at that time, I would of ended my life”. But that catches up with you and it feels like a dark cloud hangs over my desk. Every time I try to write something, I'm taken back to that mindset that I don’t want to be here. Currently I’m at a point where I need to stay away from it for a while, let that cloud clear a little. With that, there’s always a pressure to keep consistent, in your releasing and performing. Music moves quick. 

I find performing a really big challenge. I’m completely consumed with anxiety and guilt. “I’m no where near as good as the lineup, I don’t deserve this, someone else should be playing, I should just stay at home and never leave”. When that’s running through your head at 1000mph, it gets hard to hear what your playing. 


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

I'm guilty of putting so much pressure on myself. To stay focused, keep creating. But sometimes, it just doesn’t work. Don’t force it. If you want to stop, stop. Don’t feel guilty. Your productivity doesn’t determine your worth. I’m getting better with that now. I think it’s common for musicians (especially solo artists) to hold on so much with a fear of letting go, even for a minute. A fear of loosing your place. There’s new music and labels every day, some people just instantly click. But it’s totally fine to take a break, or even just stop entirely. If you make sure you’re doing what you want to be doing on your terms, everything will be fine. Make time for yourself. 


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?

Just listen. Make it known you’re there for your friends, for strangers. Keep being honest with yourself. What am I doing to help? How can I do more? What am I doing to make a difference? What do I need? It’s amazing how much of an impact those questions can have when you start acting on them. When times are tough, know it will pass. 

Thanks go out to Reece for taking the time to answer these questions and for speaking so honestly about his experiences. I'm not posting a charity link up this time, as I realise that donating to charities are a matter of personal preference. 

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