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Addressing the Black Dog in the room..

7 Nov


Growing up I had three pet dogs. Two of which were black. One, a Labrador, and the other, some hairy mass of fur. As pets do, they grow old and eventually die. You grieve, you move on and sometimes you replace them. So now I have another black dog and he’s been with me for as long as I can remember. However, unlike the previous ones, this one hasn’t grown older and doesn’t look like dying anytime soon. He’s an odd pet. I would liken him, on some level, to a cat. He leaves the house for weeks at a time asserting his independence, and every now and then, skulks back into the house to be fed and make himself comfortable. You know the scene right? Has a sniff, walks around in a circle for what seems like an age, and then settles down. But this isn’t any ordinary dog. The floor he settles on isn’t a piece of carpet in front of the fire. He’s not chowing down on Pedigree Chum (other dog food brands are available). His floor is my brain and his food is my thoughts and, on occasion, he is ravenous.

Depression is a horrible illness to suffer from. It is not something that you can necessarily see and it is very easy for others, who do not suffer, to shrug it off. How many times have you heard someone tell you to “snap out of it”? Oh shit, I didn’t think of it that way. Holy fuck! You’ve cured me. Praise Jesus! (other deities are available).

I can’t speak for others, so I’ll speak for myself. I can go for weeks at a time with no issues whatsoever. When it hits, it can last for a day, a couple of days and sometimes over a week. It fluctuates. I have been in the deepest, darkest, depths of despair and, alliteration aside, it has been some of the worst periods of my life. Suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, overdoses, no energy, no desire to leave the house, let alone leave the bed, no sexual appetite, simply no appetite. I don’t keep score but I’ve lost count of the single days where I’ve been on an absolute high only to sink into a deep depression seemingly out of nowhere.

What triggers it? Who knows? It could be some sort of massive disappointment that I’ve experienced at that particular moment, it could even be me being super sensitive to a passing comment (sensitive soul that I am!). In a perverse way I don’t want to control this with pills, even though the one time I took antidepressants it seemed to balance me out, until I stopped taking them because I felt fine. Perverse because the musician in me finds that the devastation leads to writing great things. So why would I want to take that away? I know that I will be ok in a couple of days, so let’s just let it pass right?

What does it feel like? Depends on what has triggered it I guess. I read an article at the beginning of the year that seemed to sum it up pretty well. It triggered a song, Oblivion. In it I sing that it feels like a ten on a scale of one to five. I sing that it feels like being trapped in a block of ice, or trapped behind a sheet of ice. I sing that when you’re trying to survive and the pain swells up inside, the hardest thing to do right now is to stay alive.

Sometimes it feels like a huge weight pushing down on me. It makes my chest feel tight and numb and my legs heavy. There are times when my brain just switches off and I can’t even string a coherent sentence together. Other times I can’t switch my brain off at all. Most of all, it’s an overwhelming sense of not being able to do anything. Lots and lots of negativity – feelings and thoughts.

I push people away. I don’t mean to. Hell, I don’t even think that I want to, but I do. When I feel like this I tend to want to be left on my own. Last Christmas / New Year was a pretty awful time and I spent the entire “festive” (ironic wording) period on my own, wallowing in my own depression. Then you get that angry stage where you think people don’t care or give a shit and unfortunately, for the most part, you’re right! They don’t! I’ve had some lovely messages of support during these times but these same people are never there when things are going good. So why be there when things are bad? I appreciate it yeah, and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but the cynical prick that I am has to question “why?”

I’m a passionate person and I do tend to show my emotions so you should know when I am truly happy or when I am hiding something. So when you talk to me and notice that I’m such a happy person (for the most part) just know that like anyone with depression there is a lot more going on behind the smile than what it initially may seem.





Why I write (mostly) positive reviews.

3 Nov

“Why are your reviews so positive?”

This was a question asked to me recently along with “Hey dude, why did you give Avenged Sevenfolds ‘The Stage’ a good review? It sucked”

Music is art and, as we know, art is subjective. It is all down to personal preference. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. In MY opinion, that particular album was a pretty good listen. Sure it had some issues, in MY opinion, but nothing that impeded my overall enjoyment. You may have other issues with the record, you may go as far as saying it sucked. That is YOUR opinion and you are entitled to that. It doesn’t mean that either of us are right though. Opinions do NOT equal fact.

To write music, to play your songs in public and to make them available for the World to hear, takes guts. You are opening yourself for a potential beating. Why would you put yourself through that? As a musician myself, I know the giddy highs of finishing your latest ‘masterpiece’ and the excitement of having everyone listening to it and basking in your genius. I also know the suffocating paranoia of wondering what people will actually think when you make it available for public consumption and the crushing lows of watching your YouTube views or Soundcloud plays not tick over as much as you’d like. I’ve also experienced negative reviews. I despise the badly written ones. I can take a certain amount of criticism if it’s constructive but “You suck” isn’t.

We are all guilty of saying that a piece of music is shit, or that a band sucks. I hate myself when those words leave my mouth because what I should say is simply “I don’t like this piece” or “I’m not a fan of that band” – For every person that slates Nickelback, there are two that love them. Which group is wrong? Neither. Personal taste again. I like them myself.

All musicians want is for people to listen to their music. If I hear something that I’m not 100% enamoured with, I’ll try to gloss over the negatives and accentuate the positives. I’ll try be constructive where I can be, and always stress that anything negative, and positive for that matter, is simply MY opinion. I don’t expect any band reading a review I’ve written about their work to agree with everything I say, but I’d like to think that I am fair with my opinions and give a balanced viewpoint. If I don’t like something and I have to pass comment then I’ll try to explain why it didn’t mesh with me. It’s fine to have a different point of view and if you can explain to me why you have that point of view then that is great. You may even sway me to come around to your way of thinking. Oh I didn’t think of it like that.

So why do I write (mostly) positive reviews?

Because I genuinely enjoy music, can find enjoyment in the majority of things I listen to and am open minded enough to accept “differences” – Argh! He’s a witch!

I listen to a wide range of different music from Country to Blues to Pop to Metal and all in between. It allows me to be a bit more open minded (I think) about certain things and be more accepting. I don’t see the need to outright criticise a singer or a guitarist, or even the production because it is all down to that personal preference I spoke of before. The artist has made personal choices as to why their song sounds a certain way. It is then down to our brains to determine whether or not this choice fits in with what we like or dislike.