If you're either into, or interested in, Mindfulness, the one name you'll have come across is Dr. Danny Penman. After a horrific accident, Danny's journey was triggered and continues to this day. It's a fantastic read.
Stuart Semple is an incredibly talented contemporary artist. He has exhibited his work all over the world and constantly pushes the boundaries of art in the modern age. He also lives with PTSD, after a horrific life-threatening experience as a young man.
In our frankly brilliant interview, Stuart talks openly about this, his work and how his own struggles with mental illness have impacted on his life.
Hi Stuart, thanks so much for finding time to talk to us. Let’s get the most important question out of the way. For someone who lives with PTSD, anxiety and panic attacks…how are you?
Thanks, that is a really important question. The good news is I'm really well at the moment. I'm in a good place.
Glad to hear it! For those who don’t know and, providing it isn’t going to cause you any distress, could you tell us a little about what caused your PTSD and subsequent issues?
I think looking at it all now, with retrospective vision, I probably had some propensity to what happened to me, due to the way I was as a child. I spent a lot of time alone; making art and listening to music. I was very inward, very into thought, rather than being out in the world with friends. So I suppose I never really had an environment where saying how I felt could really flourish.
When I went to university as teenager I started to have what I know now as panic attacks. I remember shaking on the floor the first week I went and ending up in an ambulance. Nobody considered it was a mental health thing, whatever it was passed, so they sent me home.
The truth was moving so far from home (Bournemouth to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park) was too big a move for me. I was very homesick and lonely and felt really out of place. I didn't know myself well enough to be alone in the world.
Leaving my home was deeply traumatic. I desperately wanted to go home, but forced myself to stay because I knew, if I went too soon, I'd probably not go back to uni. I needed to break through the fear. So I stayed and the panic attacks became more frequent, I stopped being able to sleep and would spend most night alone in my dorm scared I was dying.
I went to hospital time and time again. Nobody mentioned 'mental health' so I was convinced this was all very much to do with a physical medical problem. For those that don't know the symptoms of a panic attack are very physical; your heart races, you can't swallow, breathing changes, you lose sense of where you are and what's going on. It really feels like the body is at risk and that you might die.
Then, one day, it was time to go home and visit my family. On the way home I bought a sandwich from a service station, but I was allergic to it. My throat closed up, my tongue swelled until there was barely any air coming in or going out. I somehow got to my mum's and flopped on her doorstep, basically dying. This was the catalyst for all the other mental heath problems, my mental health was weak anyway, but this was the moment where it went into freefall.
The physical symptoms of the allergy were so strong, the subtler emotional and mental ones were hidden. I got to hospital and they tried everything to bring the swelling down or find out what was wrong with me. Nothing worked. It became very clear that they didn't know what was going on or what could make me better.
I found myself in the position of saying my goodbyes to my family, a few days in and no improvement meant that I would have to face the fact that I was going to die. I lay in bed as a teenager, waiting for the end.
Then a doctor came around with a bag of plasma-type stuff that they got from another hospital and they felt this could help bring the swelling down for some reason. So, in the middle of the night, when I was all alone, they put the bag through me on a drip. I was allergic to that too.
My whole body came out in hives and I died. I flatlined for several seconds. I came round, I survived but I was left extremely terrified, particularly of food almost anything going into my mouth would trigger very painful flashbacks to that night.
For something so traumatic to happen to you at such a relatively young age, do you believe it forms an integral part of your artistic style? Do you think your work would be different had that not occurred?
I always made art. I was at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to study painting but the work before the near death experience and the work after are worlds apart. It changed every aspect of my life. I was a different person.
The big change with the art was that now I needed it. It became my crutch, my way of coping. In fact the only outlet I had to start to unravel what was going on in my mind.
What does the feeling of creativity give you that other forms of therapy may not?
For me, I've never been very good at describing thoughts or feelings in conversation. I feel shy and I struggle and I get nervous. Other forms of therapy for me are hard, because of the level of social interaction needed.
I think art taps into deeper levels of ourselves and it gives the chance to externalise something and really see it outside of us. This shift of context can be really, really enlightening.
Sometimes I didn't understand what I've made for years later. I think the self really needs to be expressed and bottling things up is quite dangerous, so creative outlets are vital for good mental wellbeing.
For a medium that is so personal to the artist, where do you take your inspirations from? How much of your own mental illness do you put into your work?
I think in the early days the works were extremely autobiographical. They were driven by this anxiety and my day-to-day experiences. They were a lot more like a diary.
As the years have gone on, they've become much more about wider societal and cultural issues. Inspiration can come from anywhere, music, images, conversation. I read a lot. I love poetry and thinking about the impact technology has upon is as a society.
When you’re putting on your own exhibitions, which you’ve done since 2000, how do you manage to keep your anxiety and panic attacks in check. Has there been times when they’ve simply been too much to overcome and how did you handle that?
Actually I don't find the shows too worrying. Having a show to work towards is nice for me. I like having something to get my teeth in to. The first few big shows I did I got really nervous.
I remember my first gallery show, I was in a toilet in a cafe nearby with my girlfriend at the time; throwing up, nervous to go as all the people would be there but that was very normal nerves I think.
I do get nervous in the lead up to a show, but again that's normal and if I didn't, I don't think I'd care enough about them. The nerves and stress of a show isn't unhealthy. Some of them have been really hard to do, some of the more complex ones and I've put everything into them, but it's always been worth it in the end.
Do you ever get overwhelmed by people’s expectations of you, as an artist? How do you manage that, if at all?
That's never easy. I just always give my best. I'm tougher on myself than anyone else is and I push myself quite hard. I'm never 100% satisfied with what I do, but if I can finish a project knowing that I've put in everything I could, then even if it doesn't work for some reason or even if people are disappointed, I can live with it and move on, because I know in myself I didn't sell myself short.
Of all the pieces you’ve done, do you have an personal favourites or are they like your children which you have to love equally,
There's a piece I made straight after hospital, the first one. I still couldn't speak as I was so swollen up. It was called Masquerade Parade (see pic). I've not looked at it for about a decade, but that means a lot to me.
Otherwise the paintings are really a continuation, one leads to another. They are all part of a process, but none are really finished. It evolves. It's always about the one I'm going to make next with me. I'm always excited about what I'm about to do and disappointed with what I've just done. I think that's why after all these years I'm still in that studio every day doing it.
You’ve never been shy about pushing the boundaries of exploring the digital world with your art, where do you see the next paradigm taking you?
Actually I know where that's going! I'm going to be performing digital video art live. So performance is coming soon. I think through this I can fuse my love of music, visuals and technology with new audiences. Very exciting.
Your recent ‘My Sonic Youth’ exhibition touched on many aspects of modern life. In the increasingly digital, connected world we live in, do artists like you have to explore new avenues like this? Is it the nature of the modern world that there should be a more interactive element to your work.
Actually, I think my work is quite traditional. The backbone of it is still paint on a surface in a gallery, but that work discusses what it means to be in a digitally connected world. I just describe what's in my reality.
I think artists will always make things from what's around them, so it's perfectly natural for them to make digital art now. You can make things on a laptop that don't need physical spaces to show them and studios.
I love that non-fixed accessible space that's opening up. Ideas can build so quick in a digital world that it's thrilling to watch it evolve.
Do you feel the digital world, i.e. social media and our obsession with being constantly connected, impacts our mental health. Is it a blessing or curse when you’re feeling unwell?
It's a double edged sword. On one hand you are never alone, there's the promise of a gazillion people out there, ready to help, or comment, or 'Like' your status. So you can share your emotions with the whole planet.
However, when we are constantly connected in this way, when we don't have our phones or our connection, we develop a different kind of anxiety and a lack of understanding of what it feels like to trust and be safe with ourselves. They did a study and when people are separated from their phones and hear them vibrate, but aren't allowed to touch them, they start to panic.
The other danger is the unrealistic images we are being fed about what life could, or should, be. People tend to censor their own lives for the internet; choosing the best selfie, sharing the nicest view of their holiday, their home, their partner, their meal. It's of course a fiction, but it's a believable one.
When you see your friends with these 'perfect' lives, it can really make you feel inadequate. Before, when these images were made by mass media, we knew it was constructed and it was above us. Beautiful models were airbrushed on luxury beaches. Obviously an aspirational fiction. Now fantasy and reality are so close, they are virtually indistinguishable.
The tools that kids now have to adjust their appearance in apps, to make their bums bigger, eyes brighter and tummy's thinner is dangerous. The disparity between the self-projected online and the true self is a time-bomb waiting to happen for a whole generation. I think they are going to struggle to relate in real physical spaces.
We have already had tragic stories of people taking their lives because they couldn't make the perfect selfie or people who have committed suicide leaving behind Instagram profiles that make it look like they were living the dream life. I don't think we really know the impact of the social internet. I think emotionally and psychologically we are playing catch up with the technology.
The ‘HappyCloud’ project that you did in 2009, was a brilliant way to spread smiles across London. Where did the idea for that come from?
The recession hit hard. Almost everyone I knew was really low. The newspapers were spitting out phrases like 'doom and gloom' and 'credit crunch'. Even some best friends of mine were losing their homes. It was horrendous. I just wanted to do something direct and the most positive uplifting symbol I could think of was the smiley.
I'd seen someone had invented the cloud machine in America from a modified movie snow-maker. I managed to get the first of those machines in the UK and in a moment of bravery (or stupidity) took it down to the Tate and used it.
I didn't really think about it the whole thing came about really quickly. I think if I had of thought about what I was doing, I'd have talked myself out of it. I never for a minute expected the reaction it got. It just blew up after that. People really got it and I think it quite honestly did do something to lift the spirit.
I guess what I was trying to get at was that at times like this art might be able to contribute something to the situation. I wasn't seeing any of the other artists making a point or contributing so I sort of felt I had better do something myself.
You opened the North Light Centre for Art and Design at your old college in Poole. Who should we be looking out for in the next wave of young, annoyingly-talented artists?
That's a difficult question, there are so many amazingly talented artists about. There's always someone new doing something. I actually think the biggest surprise we are about to have is all the older artists that have been overlooked who have been making really strong consistent works for decades getting their moment. We had a big moment there where super young artists were being hurled up the art market with massive prices after one or two shows. I think the shift is going to be away from the novel and new to something more solid. However there are always amazing new artists coming to light. I still think one of the best hotbeds for that talent is the Royal Academy Interim Show. That place is magic, it's just an incubator for incredible artists.
When you’re feeling low (for any reason), which of these would you always turn to make you feel better…
Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead
REM - UP
Howl - Ginsberg
As part of our ‘chain reaction’ feature, one guests asks a question of the next, our last guest, actor Dyfan Rees, wanted to know….....What do you enjoy most about your profession? By using the gift you have to share with the world?
I'm unsure I have any special gift. For some reason, I've been allowed to participate and I've been welcomed. So I feel so unbelievably thankful every single day that I get to do this.
There's not one aspect I love more than any other, really the whole thing is a total dream. I think if I was forced to pick one part of my profession, it would be the people I get to interact with.
The art world has the some of the most open-minded, loving, genuine and inspiring people you could ever hope to have in your life. From the people who connect with the work, to those that show it, write about it or collect it. To get the chance to play and share with them is worth everything to me. My friends!
Your taking part in next month’s Scratch the Surface Mental Health Arts Festival in Coventry. Can you tell us a little bit more about your involvement in that and how people can get involved?
The best way to get involved is to get on the Pod Coventry Facebook page. There's so much happening across the city and all art forms.
I'm hosting an audience with Bryan Charnley's brother, James, about his work which will be on show at The Pod and a wonderful film provided by the Bryan Charley Trust. Jo Bannister is showing at CCCA. Title Ruse are doing an afternoon of short films. There's an activism symposium at Warwick University. A Zine festival. Honestly there's so much, this is tip of the iceberg!
I'm showing some work as part of a group show in Coventry too. It's going to be amazing. Everyone should come. I can't think of another city-wide mental health arts festival in the UK quite like this. My friends do one in Dublin of the first fortnight of every year, it's just wonderful for everyone to come together. We are all so excited for the first Scratch the Surface.
You are also an Ambassador for Mind. What kind of projects do you get involved with them and why is it important to you?
With Mind I helped found the Creative Therapies Fund. The fund provides grants to local Mind's around England and Wales to fund arts-based therapies that might be needed in their area. Everything from buying a piano and sheet music to funding creative writing groups, animation production or choirs.
I also speak about mental health and my experiences for Mind at events and things. I just try and do what I can and, if possible, raise some funds sometimes at my shows and things. I made 'My Happy Colouring Flip Book' last year and a pound from each copy goes to the creative therapies fund.
It's important to me to support Mind because for me they are at the forefront in pushing for better mental health in this country. Mental health in the UK is a mess, but Mind are making serious headway. Through groups like Mind I can honestly see a better future for everyone. I believe in what they are doing and I've seen the lives they've touched be changed.
Do you still have your Blue Peter badge from your appearance in 2009? Have you used it to get into any Shire Horse Centres for free?
Yes I do have it. But do you know what? You can't use it to get in free if you're an adult, I tried!! No go! It's cool to have it, but believe me it doesn't open any doors. I have tried!
With the rise of artists like Banksy and the ‘street artist’ movement in recent years, where do you stand on his work and that of his contemporaries? Is it vandalism? graffiti? or legitimate art?
It's art, no doubt about it. I'm not against it, I'm not against any genuine expression. I like the accessibility of it. I like the way the public can come across it. I'm not sure it's got the depth that I personally enjoy in my favourite artists and artworks.
I guess Banksy is what Britney Spears is to Scott Walker. It's very lightweight. It's art, it's valid, it's just not my cup of tea. Give me a Sigmar Polke, Bacon or Caravaggio.
Psst. Can you tell us Banksy’s real name? Aww go on. No-one’s reading this. We won’t tell anyone.
There's reason why nobody has revealed his name. I like my toes too much!
For someone who may be looking to embrace their creative side to help their own mental health, but perhaps struggling to take that first step, what advice would you give to them?
See what's available locally and you might find a group, I think that's the best way to go about things. Otherwise (this is probably a shameless plug it's not meant to be) I've started a free art school on YouTube.
I post up how to draw type lessons. That might give you a starting point.
Also, remember it doesn't have to be drawing, it could be photography, dance, poetry. Maybe there was something you used to really enjoy doing that you haven't done for a while. Pick that back up. You'll be surprised how many musicians put down their instruments and how liberating it can be to pick them back up again.
Most important, don't beat yourself up about being good at it. You really don't have to be! For it to be therapeutic, it's the 'doing' of it that counts, not the finished result!
Finally, complete this sentence. It’s important to talk about male mental health because...
Men deserve to be understood as full human beings. We need to shift the stereotypical images, language and false expectations that have weighed down the concept of masculinity for way too long.
We need to create an environment where our children feel that there is the societal space and understanding for them to express who they really are. Men get mental health problems too, and we're not ashamed of that. Those problems don't make us any less of a man, they actually for the most part, make us more compassionate and loving.
A massive, Men Tell-sized 'thank you' to Stuart for his honesty, openness and crucial insight on the limitations of the Blue Peter badge in adulthood. I think you'll agree it's an amazing read. Thanks also to Emily for helping to arrange the interview and credit to Nadia Amura for the portrait image of Stuart.
For our Welsh friends, Dyfan Rees will probably be a household name, for the rest of us, Dyfan is an actor and one of the stars of the BBCs longest-running soap opera....no, not EastEnders, but the Welsh-language series Pobol y Cwm.
Not only that, Dyfan and the team behind the show were lucky enough to win the Mind Media Award in 2015 for Dyfan's portrayal of OCD, through his character Iolo White. Here we talk about that and how he prepared for the challenge and many other topics. It's a brilliant interview (but then we would say that!) so find out for yourself below!
First of all, let us be one of the last people to congratulate you on your Mind Media Award in 2015. How does it feel to win an award like that?
Thank you! It's a great feeling. Mind is such a great charity and it was a pleasure to be a part of it. Celebrating positive portrayal in a main stream award ceremony like this is so important to change people's perceptions of mental illnesses.
Whilst the show’s name is on the trophy, it was your performance that won. Have you had to fight the rest of cast to keep the award?
Not at all. It's our trophy and is in the Production office. Where it belongs! Everyone worked so hard and it's great we can all share that.
For those who don’t know, Pobol y Cwm (which means People of the Valley) is actually the BBCs longest-running television soap opera and the most watched programme on welsh channel S4C. How did it feel, as an actor, to join such a prestigious show?
It's an absolute honour to be a part of such a show; the cast, crew and the producers are fantastic and work so hard. I have to admit It's always a surreal moment when on the street of Pobol y Cwm and remembering that I work there! But I think it's more of a shock for my grandparents, who love the show!
Pobol y Cwm hasn’t shyed away from covering mental illness. They also won the Mind Media Award in 2009 for the portrayal of post-natal depression. How did you feel when you first heard that Iolo’s storyline would be covering OCD?
I was excited by the challenge. As an actor all you want to do is try and do the story justice. It was a challenge, but I'm proud that a charity like Mind have given us their seal of approval in a way and feel that we have helped in some way by telling this story.
What was your understanding of OCD at that time?
I didn't know much about it, but once I read into it and researched myself, I saw how serious it was.
Pobol y Cwm's researchers helped me meet someone who was recovering from the illness and that really helped me a lot. After that, it gave me even more of a drive to do well in this storyline. I wanted to give this person a voice and show everyone who weren't aware of this realise how severe it is. You always want to do your best for everyone involved.
Iolo is a very likeable character. Where you worried that the stigma mental illness sometimes endures would affect how viewers perceived him once the storyline developed?
Not at all - OCD and other mental illnesses are complex and so often misunderstood. This was an opportunity for the audience to understand Iolo better.
What kind of research did you do to ensure you could deliver a realistic portrayal? Where did you (and the writers) even start?
Every medical story on Pobol y Cwm is thoroughly researched and discussions are had with many experts and patients during the storylining and filming process. I met with a few people who live with OCD from day-to-day and learnt a lot from them.
I also spoke to support group leaders in order to understand both sides of the condition and the affect it can have on them, as well as friends and family.
How did your research alter your perception of OCD? Was there anything you were determined to tackle to help in people’s perception?
I didn't expect the effect if has on individuals from day to day to be so serious. I had to portray the guts and determination it takes to deal with rituals before even being able to leave the house in the morning.
What kind of reaction have you had from people with OCD since the show has aired?
It's been positive and that's what makes me really like what I do. All I want is to do justice to the story and people who are dealing with this. Give them a voice. Positive portrayal of mental health is something I really care about and feel that everyone should be made aware of it to break the taboos attached to it.
What kind of things do you do to relax, away from the show?
Golf, snooker, any sport really. And going out and spending time with my girlfriend Sara and my family. They're always there supporting me and I see myself very lucky to have them in my life.
You recently took part in a tree-planting project to create Wales’ First World War Centenary Wood at Coed Ffos Las. Why was that important to you?
It's somewhere that is by the village I grew up and I would always try and be there or support anything that I can in my area. I feel you should always remember where you are from and do your best to represent them.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Are you going to be ‘Ken Barlow’ or ‘Ian Beale’ of Pobol y Cwm?
They are two great actors and I respect them very much! I always loved Pobol y Cwm, it was my grandfather's favourite show and therefore I will always have a soft spot for it. Always hoping that he's looking down proud of me.
If I continue to have strong stories that challenge me and the show wants me, I would be more than happy to still be here in 10 years!
One day, do you think you’ll be following Ioan Gruffudd away from Cwmderi and onto Hollywood?
Never say never!
When you’re feeling low, which of these would you always turn to make you feel better…
They're two; either 'Holocene' by Bon Iver or 'Hoppípolla' by Sigur Rós.
Bon Iver - For Emma Forever Ago
For a show, like Pobol y Cwm, that has such a intense working schedule, how do you make sure you’re on top form to deliver the quality of work you do?
I think it's muscle / mind memory! You do something so many times you just get used to it! I started the show when I was 19 and found it difficult at the start, but I luckily had friends in the show that I looked up to and I learnt from them.
I observed how they would prepare for scenes and work. Then tried to do that myself. I'm very lucky because I do get to learn off the best here! I never forget that, I'm so grateful to all of the cast for always being there when you need them! It's really like a family.
This next question is going to require a brutally honest answer from you. Be truthful. Can you correctly pronounce Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch?
Easy! Can do it over and over.. Maybe even better than my Twitter friend Liam Dutton! .. Who did say it on Channel 4 weather!
‘Only’ around 20% of Welsh people actually speak Welsh. How do you feel about that as a proud Welshman?
I wish that would be higher. But I do feel that this is growing every year and it's getting stronger. I have great pride in the Welsh language. I feel that it really does make us unique as a nation that we have that.
As part of our ‘chain reaction’ feature, one guests asks a question of the next, our last guest, David Kingsbury, he wanted to know….What would be your advice for someone looking to follow their dream job that is lacking the confidence to do so?
Always do something that scares you. It'll make you stronger, always have character and believe in yourself because, as Paul Newman said; "A man with no enemies has no character. Always back yourself, because trust me you will surprise yourself."
As a self-proclaimed retired Chewbacca impersonator, has the success of the latest Star Wars film made you reconsider your position?
I never left! Ha-ha
Finally, complete this sentence. It’s important to talk about male mental health because…….
You're not alone.
A brilliant interview given by a genuinely wonderful guy. We wanted to say a huge thank you to Dyfan for finding time in his busy schedule to talk to us. Do you live with OCD? Did you see Dyfan's performance? Did it help you to understand the condition more? Let us know in the comments below.
You can watch Dyfan and his cast mates on S4C every day on Pobol y Cwm, via Sky (Channel 134) or Freesat (Channel 120). You can also keep up-to-date with Dyfan on Twitter, where he's @DyfanRees
You may not instantly recognise the name, but you will recognise the work David has done over the years. David is a fitness trainer to the stars, having worked with the likes of Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth (and more, as you'll read later). He has also had his own fair share of problems with mental illness.
David has written for the Daily Mail, Men's Health and a number of fitness websites. Here, David talks openly about his work and how he has used physical fitness to help with his own mental health. It's an incredible read and we thank him so much for finding the time to talk to us.
For someone who’s been through anxiety, panic disorder and depression, we ask the most important question first…..how are you?
Firstly I wanted to say thank you for having me, it’s a real pleasure to chat to you. Secondly I am pretty good thank you. Overworked but happy!!
For many people, your name might be a new one, but they will have definitely seen the results of the work you do. Can you tell us the names of some of the actors you’ve worked with and the movies you’ve worked on?
I have been working in the film industry as a personal trainer for around 6 years now. Over this time I have worked with around 40 actors and actresses so I am sure you will have seen some of them on the silver screen. Some of them I can mention, some I can't.
In recent years I have worked with Hugh Jackman on many movies including Pan, The Wolverine and the X-Men movies, Michael Fassbender on X-Men and the new Assassin's Creed movie, Jennifer Lawrence on latest X-Men movies, Sam Claflin in Pan, Amanda Seyfried on Les Misérables, Jessica Chastain on the forthcoming The Huntsman and Chris Hemsworth on In The Heart of the Sea to name just a few.
Who are the hardest working actors when it comes movie roles? Who really surprised you with their passion to inhabit their roles?
I would have to say most I have worked with have an intense work ethic and will just keep going when it seems impossible.
The life of a successful actor is tough in its own way (not so in other ways I know) with press tours, travel, shooting, rehearsals and intense lack of privacy. It’s pretty amazing they make it through the gym door really.
When you work with these household names, what does your role involve? How much ‘control’ do you have to get them into the physical shape they need to be in?
This will vary from to person to person, but for the most part I manage their training and nutrition. More often than not we will have a chef cooking the meals for them on set which I will plan. I also take care of the fitness requirements for them. This can be gym training, out and about doing cardio or helping to warm them up for stunts.
Out of hours I trust them to stick to the program. When you are putting so much into it you want to get the full return so most will be pretty strict.
Do you ever worry that your role at risk from technology and creating characters from CGI? Can you make the body beautiful from pixels or will hard work always win?
This has already happened in a number of blockbuster movies, I think that is probably all I can say! Ok maybe a little more, adding abs, boosting muscle and thinning waists are all part of the movie magic.
How did you get started as a personal trainer? Was fitness always something you were keen on as teenager?
I have loved fitness my whole life and have been in intense training myself since age 12 when I played football for a Premiership academy.
I qualified as a personal trainer at the age of 18 and worked in a number of gyms before starting my own business. My experiences in sports, from cycling to Muay Thai and everything in between, have certainly helped develop my methods of training.
You’ve had your own struggles with anxiety and panic disorder leading to depression. How did it affect you and how did you (and do you) use physical fitness to help you through it?
Fitness is my number one stress reliever and without it I would be lost I think. When I am stressed or anxious a blast out on my bike does the trick, all the discipline and structure are a huge aspect of keeping my anxiety at bay.
For me, I understand my mind better now than I did when I was younger and I know what triggers my anxiety. I try and avoid these things and keep positive about it. Sleep is one of the most important things for me, and sure enough my exercise helps this massively.
One thing that people with depression often share is the feeling of hopelessness that the feelings won’t get better and things won’t improve. You seem to be proof positive that isn’t the case.
Can you share your experiences of how you won your own personal battles?
I still get those feelings from time to time and want to try and achieve more to feel more positive about myself. Other days I look around my gym or my home and feel proud about what I have done.
I really feel that, when I have had the negative feelings in the past, I have tried to rewire them into a positive. Rather than feeling things won’t improve, I have thought, "how can I make things improve"
As a personal trainer, you clearly understand the benefits of physical fitness. How do you think being physically fit and mentally fit coalesce?
I think mental and physical fitness go hand in hand for a number of reasons. We have all heard about the positive endorphin releases exercise give you. If you have ever talked to someone after a great training session you will see this; they will be buzzing, chatting fast whilst experiencing a mini euphoria.
I also think that confidence and pride are a big part of this. If I can help someone develop these feelings about themselves through exercise there is no greater achievement as a trainer. Confidence and pride in your body will help improve mental confidence too and that is a big part of it I believe.
Aside from your work with the Hollywood 'A List', you also work also work with us ‘normos’. Have you seen any signs of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (aka Bigorexia) in recent years. Is it becoming more of a problem in your opinion?
I think so yes, I personally don’t see it as much as I used to because I don’t venture out to gyms any more really, working just at private gyms for the actors. But on occasions I do visit a gym there are number of body dysmorphia issues, like you mention bigorexia or people who are really lean but thinking they are fat.
Health and fitness are at their most popular I have seen currently in my career with huge numbers of people following clean eating plans, or weight training sessions. I always try and remind people that priority should be health and if you what you are doing isn’t healthy, then it's worth being aware of that.
How has society’s fascination with physical appearance impacted your work in recent years?
As I mention above, there has been a huge influx of people into the fitness world, bodybuilding shows and cross-fit have been making weightlifting and high intensity training mainstream. I believe the increase in social media use and more fit bodies in the public eye have really started to put the pressure on people to get in better shape.
Do you think we place to much emphasis on being physically fit, but not enough on being mentally fit.
Absolutely, most people are willing to train for hour and many hours per week, but won’t spend 20 minutes on relaxation or mental fitness. Life is all about balance and without your mind being healthy, your body is unlikely to follow.
Clearly fitness is a huge part of your life, personally and professionally. Do you ever feel the urge just to pig out on junk food?
I do feel the urge, and I do on occasion overeat but I don’t worry about it. I eat what’s good for me 90% of the time probably, and that 10% of the time if I fancy a burger, I have it. However ,with my exercise and physical job, it gives me huge flexibility on my diet.
Here at Men Tell Health, we’re a big believer that good nutrition and it’s impact on mental health plays a vital role in getting well. Working out and exercise are only a part of getting fit. Nutrition is also a huge factor.
Given that most of us will have overindulged a little over Christmas, can you give us some tips on foods that can help our minds as well as our bodies.
Keeping blood sugar levels in check I think is really important for the mind. Trying to reduce spikes in insulin will help reduce mood swings and hanger (hungry anger). Slow release carbs are great for this, such as brown rice, sweet potato and oats. You can also add cinnamon into your diet as it is a natural blood sugar stabiliser
Being an 'online' personal trainer seems like a strange marriage. How do you use technology when working with your clients, to get them fitter and healthier?
I love working with people in person, but since working on the films, I do this a lot less. I went from doing around 50 sessions per week to more like 5 with the transition from a “normal” trainer to a “film” trainer. I love to interact with and help as many people as possible and with my work schedule the way it is going online was the only option for this.
When you’re not working with the great and the good from Hollywood, how do you like to spend your free time?
With my wife and daughter, it doesn’t matter what we are doing, just being together.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Too many espressos (one or two I wouldn’t say is 'guilty', but I am certainly in the guilty zone with the amount I drink!)
What kind of music do you use when you’re working out? Any favourite songs or genres to get the blood pumping?
I pump a lot less iron these days and a lot of my training is outdoors on my bike, I listen to the thoughts in mind and the world around me.
When I do gym sessions it will either be some upbeat music, maybe rock or hip hop. Sometimes in the gym I also listen to audio books when I am training, I wouldn’t recommend this though, it doesn’t do much for my training intensity!
For many people who may be suffering through mental illness but struggle to make that move towards physical wellbeing, what advice would you give for someone as a first step towards fitness. Are there any simple exercises you could recommend that people can do anywhere without spending a fortune on equipment?
My first tip would be to find something you enjoy. This for me is crucial. The gym certainly isn’t for everyone and that’s no problem at all as there are plenty of other options.
Sports that have a social aspect are great and a team environment is always going to help with positive thinking.
As part of our ‘chain reaction’ feature, one guests asks a question of the next, our last guest, Eddy Temple-Morris, wanted to know….....Can you expand on the link between physical exercise and mental health, from your viewpoint?
I see mental and physical health being very strongly linked and are very positive for each other. At the same time I can also see the mental pressure applied to people to be in perfect shape through social media and the media. Fitness should be about health, wellness and positivity. If you enjoy your exercise it will have a positive impact on you mentally.
When you’re feeling low, which of these would you always turn to make you feel better (and why)…
Napoleon Dynamite; it's funny and positive.
Electric Feel by MGMT – me and my daughter dance to this!
Foo Fighters – memories of being in Thailand when I was younger.
I don’t watch much TV really.
My parent's house; family support is always important to me
I am really dyslexic, so I don’t read often. I do listen to audiobooks, but don’t have any specific ones.
I can imagine that the post-Christmas, pre-summer exercise boom is one of your busiest times. What advice can you give to make those New Year Resolutions last longer than normal?
Make it a lifestyle choice and do something good for you every day. Large or small steps every day lead to great results over time
Finally, complete this sentence. It’s important to talk about male mental health because…….
We need the topic to be out in the open to give people the confidence to talk about it.
We just wanted to thank David for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this interview and his honesty and openness. You can keep up-to-date with David on Twitter where he's @DavidKingsbury.
If you're motivated to kickstart your own fitness program, you can visit David's website at www.davidkingsbury.co.uk . We can only hope he's not this handsome in real life! ;-)
It's no exaggeration to say that Eddy Temple-Morris is a legend in the world of music. From the early days of MTV through to Radio 1, XFM and now Soho Radio, As a DJ and producer, Eddy has been a major player in music industry for many years, something he is clearly passionate about. He has also had his fair share of problems with mental ill health and talks openly and candidly about them with us.
Eddy brings his honest, insightful and unique perspective on a range of subjects and it's clear why he is so in-demand. We're are forever grateful for his support. Share it with your friends, it's a must read!
For someone who’s had their own share of problems with mental ill health, the most important question we ask is right up front. How are you?
That's very sweet of you to ask, thank you. I'm in a much better place now and have been since Spring 2014.
Good to know. “How are you” is one of those questions that those with mental illness get asked a lot, but the answer is rarely an accurate one. Men huh. We’re a funny old bunch. Discuss.
When people say "how are you?" it's usually meaningless words that don't need or want an accurate answer. I'm one of those people that always responds honestly. That makes some people uncomfortable, but in my mind it sorts out the wheat from the chaff. The ones that are OK with an honest response are my kind of people.
In the depths of my despair in 2013 I remember an XFM colleague, a sweet man called Neil, pass me on the stairs and ask "how's things Eddy?" and - because at the time I was driven to feel suicidal by being in such a toxic and abusive relationship, I snapped back at him "Shit, totally utterly shit"- and I remember his face, stunned. Within seconds I had a rush of guilt and sent him an email explaining that I was going through a nightmarish period and that I should have been less honest with my reply. He was so understanding and nice about it.
That's a key point for me. When you're depressed, you often feel like not talking to friends or colleagues because you don't want to be a burden. You don't want to bring them down. But more often than not, they are there for you, they want you to communicate and they appreciate your reaching out more than you know.
You were one of the original presenters on MTV in the UK. From those days of back-to-back music videos, it now seems to be a constant stream of reality TV shows. Is the art of the music video dead?
Certainly not. It's been through its golden era, where budgets were enormous and directors could do anything with anyone, but now budgets are comparatively tiny and the creatives have to be more creative.
In one way there is an even bigger audience out there for videos now, if you think now many people watched MTV compared to how many people watch YouTube, it's like comparing Kidderminster Harriers to FC Barcelona.
I think it's healthy for directors and producers to make these things with a small budget, people have to stretch themselves creatively and have ideas that don't revolve around money. Money is the root of most evil and having less to do with it can, in my mind, only be a good thing.
Do you ever foresee a time when you’ll be DJing by streaming tunes, rather than playing a physical disc?
I'm still using CDs, only because not all gigs have CDJ2000s, so I'm always safe with CDs. I did my first ever gig with Virtual DJ software this week, for the launch of a new Microsoft version of an iPad. They asked me to use it, to show how easy it is, and it really was, but for me, it was too easy.
It sucked all the fun out of DJing. The fact that things can go tits up any second makes it a live performance the same as a gig or a play. Pressing a button marked 'Sync' and letting a machine do it for you, takes all the joy I get from matching tempos and keys with my ears and my hands. I also like to look at the crowd and if I have my head buried in a laptop, there would be less of a connection between me and them. I'm old fashioned in that respect. I play for the crowd, not for myself.
Over the years you’ve remixed artists as diverse as The Prodigy to Athlete to Snow Patrol (one of my personal favourite so well done fella). What music do you like to listen to when you’re not either remixing, playing or DJing?
Right now I can best answer your question by sharing my two albums of the year: 'Currents' by Tame Impala and 'Fast Food' by Nadine Shah. Both have such clarity of vision, in their production and such brilliant song and lyric writing as their spine, I'm in awe of both.
Actually both of these artists are not afraid of talking about their feelings in their song writing, and Nadine, especially, is a top drawer mental health advocate.
In your time you’ve written, produced and presented for TV and radio, remixed songs for some of the biggest names in music, you’re a DJ, voiceover artist and brand consultant. For someone with so many jobs on their CV, what does your passport say under ‘Occupation’?
Haha. They used to have 'Religion' on passports but don't anymore. I'm guessing 'occupation' will be the next one to go. If the religion box was still there, mine would be Jedi. All religions are make believe, but that one has light sabres so I'm on board.
When I fill in forms and come across the occupation box I usually put 'Musician'. That's my main job. It's what I did before radio, during radio, and the day I stop doing radio, I'll still be a musician.
Do you ever wonder if your life would have turned out better if you’d gone on to become a fully paid up member of Johnny Hates Jazz?
Hahaha. Someone once told me that what you turn down is just as important as what you do. I've had quite a few 'Sliding Door' moments, or forks in the road. I always took the low road, the road less travelled, the rockier, more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding road. The road with the nicest view. For example, Top Gear asked me to audition (this was before Hammond and May) and I said "No" because my DJ career was just getting interesting and my advisor at that time, Malcolm Gerrie, told me I'd never get another DJ gig if I was "that bloke from Top Gear".
I also turned down The Big Breakfast, when Chris Evans left, because I just couldn't see myself getting up when I normally go to bed, and I've never been very interested in the mainstream, I'm more about the underdogs.
Yes I'd be much wealthier now if I'd taken all those opportunities, but if money was something I cared about I wouldn't be a musician, I wouldn't be in radio, and I wouldn't work pro-bono for CALM or the British Tinnitus Association. I look back on my life now and I think Ive had a fantastic professional career, I've been so happy in what I do, and you can't buy that. In fact I know you can't. I have a friend who lost a friend to suicide a couple of weeks ago. The man he tragically lost was a billionaire, from a family of billionaires. Money really cannot buy happiness.
For someone like you who works, shall we say, very long, traditionally unsociable hours, how do you ensure that a lack of sleep and this high-energy, high-octane existence doesn’t affect your own mental health or are you used to it by now.
Good question. Sleep is so important. I found this out, the hard way, between April 2013 and April 2014 when, purely because of anxiety and stress, I slept, on average 8-12 hours per week. At the lowest point I'd been awake for four days non stop - no drugs involved here, just old fashioned anxiety and stress - and the walls were moving. I thought I was going mad. That's when I called my sister, in tears and asked for help.
She recommended a type of meditation, a mantric, thousands of years old, indian 'vedic' meditation. I called in and they had a seminar that day, so i attended, signed up, learned how to do it that weekend, and have never looked back. Twenty minutes a day, twice a day, gives me a measurable minimum 3 hours worth of deep sleep daily. That's enough to function. To do all the things I needed to do in that year, I did with just that. A handful of hours of actual sleep, per week, but meditation, every day. I cannot recommend it enough.
My insomnia was triggered by a person. I was in a catastrophically stressful and toxic situation. My body was trying to tell me that I was in danger and I was. At the time I just couldn't explain it. I had never suffered from insomnia before. Someone who describes themselves as a 'sociopath' had targeted me with the cynical intention of furthering their career. This is what they do. They are dangerous and manipulative people. This remorseless individual abused me and, even worse, abused my then 13 - 14yr old son. The day I let this person into my life was the day my insomnia began. Always listen to your body when it is showing you the warning signs. The day I cut this person out of my life was the day my insomnia stopped, and it's never come back. I've never slept better now and I've never felt happier.
When it comes to male mental health, one of my pet peeves, is this notion that men should just ‘man up’. We’re all about talking about mental health at Men Tell Health. Is talking about your own mental health something that comes easy to you or has it been coaxed out over years?
I've always been very emotional and sensitive. But I don't know where this comes from. It's certainly not learned. My father is the opposite. He has the emotional age of a 6 year old, a crippling fear of intimacy and a pathological aversion to any form of emotion, to such an extreme that he comes across as cold and uncaring to all his children. In many ways the way I am is shaped by knowing how not do do things.
By approaching my relationship with my son at a 180 degree opposite angle to that of my fathers to me, I've managed to cultivate what my friends and family - aside from my father of course, who thinks I'm an "idiot, failure and disappointment" believe is the paragon of father-son relationships. My sensitivity comes from my mother, but even she is very guarded and plays her emotional cards close to her chest.
I've never been afraid of telling people how I feel, and in a professional context this translates to my usually being the first to praise someone, if I think they're doing a great job, but also the first to call them out if the opposite is true. I've never been afraid of, or shied away from the difficult decisions or the hard conversations.
Can you give the readers any advice for starting that conversation?
Sure. We all have white elephants we don't talk about with certain friends or family. Something that is awkward or painful to address. Call that person now and just talk to them about it. You'll be surprised how good you will feel afterwards. Things that remain undealt with cause stress. Dealing with them lifts that stress and makes you happier and healthier.
You’ve talked in the past about the impact the death of your friend Charlie Haddon, from the band Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, had on you. For anyone who’s been affected by a suicide of a loved one, it must have been a truly horrendous experience but you found out about it whilst you were DJing live on air at XFM. Can you talk a little about how that affected you personally then and since? Did his death change your outlook on life?
Yes that was a truly horrible night. I played an Ou Est Le Swimming Pool tune and was met with a chorus of messages saying "have you heard what happened?" - then it unfolded while I was on air. The same thing happened with the horrific night in Paris a few weeks ago. People were being murdered in the Bataclan while I was on air.
I'm a firm believer in taking positive from negative. What I mean is I believe you can learn a lot from a negative experience, learn to take something positive to balance it out. The positivity I took from the utterly tragic and devastating waste of life, and of the superb, shining talent with which Charlie glowed, was witnessing the grace and dignity with which Joe Hutchinson (Ou Est keyboard player and dear friend) handled himself.
After the trauma of what happened at Pukkelpop - and what happened is still not in the public domain, the story about his jumping was invented by the Belgian press, the truth is far more harrowing - Joe got his head down and organised the most incredible wake, and album launch, asking a different artist to cover each of the album tracks, so they could all be played live. I had the honour of compering the evening.
What was interesting about that night was that Charlie's family sent me an edict to not mention mental health. They refused to accept he had any sort of mental health issue, and I was verbally barred from mentioning it. I understand the grief that motivated that, and my heart went out to them, as it does now and always will, but at the same time, as I said, I've never shied away from the hard conversations, so I ended up going against their wishes, for the greater good, and urging everyone at KOKO to do what I suggested in the last question you asked.
I appealed to everyone present, that on their way home, they should talk to whom they were with, about something they never normally talk about. Something that they find hard to talk about. Something awkward. I had an avalanche of messages the next day from young kids who had done exactly that and it changed their evening for the better, to such a great degree that many of them said that it changed the way they think and act, and that they were so grateful for the inspiration. They told me that I'd changed the way they think and the way they live. That was huge.
It absolutely changed me, personally. I was inspired by Joe, amazed that someone so young could be so mature and thoughtful. It was Joe who introduced me to the incredible Jane Powell, who was at that time, the only person working for CALM. There was no office, no phone line, no employees and by the look of things, no future. Joe inspired me and Jane inspired both of us to really step in and help this vital charity. My whole outlook on life has changed since that time.
It’s with some degree of serendipity, that something so terrible lead you to become involved with CALM and you’re now the Chair of the Music Board there. For those who don’t know, can you tell us a little about what that involves and how it links in with the great work they do.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. Nothing else comes anywhere near. I think the best way to get the figures across is in this little flyer that Lynx put together for our awareness campaign on International Men's Day recently.
My role as Music Board chair is to help Jane in her aims and goals by galvanising musicians. For example, I asked Stephen Manderson (Professor Green) to get involved or the night before our recent campaign I asked Elliot Gleave (Example) to pitch in. Each time those boys say anything, over two million people might see it. They're both big supporters and fantastic human beings. I asked Brian Molko that night too and the next day Placebo's Twitter was crackling with tweets about suicide and CALM.
Also I see my role as developing the Music Board to include further supporters who really understand what we are trying to do, who get it from the inside. Nadine Shah has agreed to become involved, and that's great for us because the board has traditionally been more heavily weighted towards males. I'd like to steer us towards a more balanced future. CALM is male focussed, it has to be, but we should firstly be there for women too, and acknowledge that because women are far more emotionally intelligent than men, we must learn from them and work together to understand ourselves better.
CALM’s current initiative is the #BiggerIssues campaign. Suicide is, sadly, still the biggest killer of young men the UK as it is in many countries around the world. Why do think so many men find it hard to talk about their problems.
Because of societal pressure. The pressure to be strong and to take things on the chin. The patriarchal pressure to be the breadwinner and the one that holds things together. Ridiculous phrases like "man up" or "keep a stiff upper lip". It's actually much braver for a man to cry than keep a stiff lip. This is a pressure that society has put on men for a long time, and they have become conditioned. It really is time for these shackles to be lifted and for men to start behaving more like human beings.
We all bleed the same. We are all fragile. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. It's all part of the same thing, but many men are conditioned to believe that acknowledging this, much less actually talking about it, is in some way weak. The idea that silence is strength is ridiculous. It's much easier to keep you mouth shut than to open it.
Of all your achievements in music, how proud are you that you helped to get the sound of almost complete silence lasting 4 minutes 33 seconds to number 21 in the UK charts as Cage Against the Machine?
Immensely. The support we got from artists was amazing. From UNKLE to Enter Shikari and from Paul Epworth to Madness, we filled Dean Street Studios with musicians from alternative music and almost broke the Top 20.
What that stat doesn't tell you is that the story was, around that time, the number one story on bbc.co.uk and in the news bulletins right across Europe and the world. It was such a powerful metaphor, both for mental health - as i always say, a silent scream is often much more powerful than an audible one - and of course, for the other neglected cause that i support, Tinnitus….in silence, that is all you are left with.
(You can still buy the single here)
Moving on from silence to noise. Tinnitus affects around 10% of people in the UK and for someone, like you, who lives with it and has done for many years, does this trend for headphones that are bigger and louder than ever before worry you?
Of course. One in ten people in the UK lives with Tinnitus. I always say "living with" not "suffering from" because it's all about positive mental attitude. That's the key to dealing with it. The headphones issue is truly worrying, and if we did some more research - I should say - if we got any funding from the government to update the research, I would bet one of my kidneys that the figure has now gone up.
Like mental illness, tinnitus is a condition that affects the brain, not the ear. What advice would you give to your younger, gig-loving, rocking self?
I'd say "plug up dude, otherwise you will never hear silence again". I'm encouraged that you know it's a brain issue and not an ear problem. That's something I've been banging on about for a few years now. I was the one who coined the phrase "tinnitus is brain damage", just to drive that point home.
The sad fact is that your being aware of this puts you ahead of a worrying number of GPs and surgeons in this country, who still haven't got a clue about Tinnitus, and who think it's just an ear issue. The kid who asked for his auditory nerve to be severed, in other words to become voluntarily deaf, and who's GP allowed this to happen, provides sad and shocking proof that grass roots awareness of this problem is pitiful.
The government are prepared to spend enormous amounts of money letting us know we may burn our fingers on a frikkin' firework, but nothing on Tinnitus, which affects probably one in eight or nine people now. That kid killed himself, by the way. Wake up Whitehall. This is happening while you are more worried about that duck island you claimed on your expenses.
Who was your role model as a child?
That's an interesting question and something that I've not really thought about. People always ask me who my musical role models were. My mum will tell you that I used to cry because I wanted to be called Steve and be blonde. That was because I loved Steve McQueen. I identified with him as a rebel and a challenge to the status quo. His calmly going into "the cooler" with a ball and a glove, in The Great Escape. I could identify with that. I could see that my father was really up tight, and in an uptight world, and that I didn't want to be a part of it, from a very early age. McQueen embodied that for me.
More personally, my Great Uncle, Asadollah, who was the Prime Minister of Iran, was a man i found very inspiring. He taught me that you could be in that world, yet act in a rebellious way, be mischievous and spread joy with a smile. He taught me how to swear - in Farsi - while everybody else tut-tutted, he taught me to swear like a trooper, and gave me such joy in that. He made me realise that sometimes the best thing is to be inappropriate, and that the rules and regulations that society imposes on people are there to be bent, stretched or broken. Otherwise life is just too boring, and you become part of the establishment. If everyone towed the line all the time, there would be no progress. I believe that lots of little revolutions can make a big one.
For someone working in the music industry as you do and for whom hearing is so important, how do you manage your tinnitus?
With moulded earplugs, the ACS ER15 ones, which are fitted to my ear and have a 15db filter that attenuates across every frequency equally, so i can still hear the boom of a kick drum and the sizzle of a hi-hat. I carry them wherever I go and always put them in at gigs, my own or other people's. Even in loud cinemas.
I'll always have Tinnitus, once you have it, it's for keeps, so it's just about damage limitation. The brain is amazingly good at tuning things out, so if you - literally - forget about it, then it will not bother you. Some of the best and most successful musicians and producers I know live with Tinnitus. One of my friends is proof that you can get Oscars, Brit Awards, Emmys, Number One singles and albums across the world, with Tinnitus. Don't let it beat you, and don't let it take you away from music if that is what you love.
Has having tinnitus affected your own mental health? Does one tend to impact on the other? Maybe not now, but has it in the past? Did you worry it would drive you ‘mad’ at first?
I'm very philosophical with these things, so it didn't affect me as much, or as badly, as it has affected some of my friends, and many people who have got in touch with me about it. I've had to talk people down off ledges before.
When you first get Tinnitus, it can be shocking and extremely frightening. That's what I call the "rabbit in the headlights" phase. I remember the stark, staring eyes of certain people when they were in that phase. It's horrible. You can allow it to take over your life completely, and that's the most dangerous stage, and the stage at which most who do commit suicide as a result, do that.
What they will never find out is that you get used to it, just as you get used to many things. The human brain and body is really an incredibly adaptive thing, it just needs time to adapt.
When you’re feeling low, which of these would you always turn to make you feel better (and why)…
Absolutely, something funny or uplifting, or something other-worldly to transport me far away from where I was in reality. Anchor Man or Star Wars.
Not one in particular but, most obviously, sing a happy song, like you mean it, and you will, for that time, be happy. Less obviously, I've always been uplifted, in a way, by beautifully described sadness, in music. People, usually men - further to our discussion earlier - who are articulating pain and loss in a beautiful way, is something Ive always found moving. When I can so clearly see that someone else is in much greater pain than I am, is something I find reassuring. Not in a schadenfreude way, more in that "there is always someone worse off than you" sort of attitude.
I will always have Steely Dan to fall back on. They are my desert island band. I could happily just listen to them for the rest of my life and never be bored, and always find something new in there. Of all those great records, the one I'd choose is Aja.
Again there's the obvious way of lifting your spirits with comedy, Father Ted is, for me, the greatest and best written TV comedy show.
In all seriousness, when I was really in trouble, and unable to sleep for days on end, what would help me was cooking shows. I'd watch a cooking program, or a skit on YouTube, then I'd do the recipe, in my head, in real time. That really helped to relax me and give my mind something other than the horrendous situation I was in, to think about, to fixate about, if you like, and therefore to relax and let my body get some badly needed rest.
Wherever my best friend, and other half, Simone, happens to be. That aside, my show - therefore new music - really helped me when I was down. I remember going in to do my show in 2013, wanting to drive into the Thames on the way, or into the path of a lorry, but then playing music and getting such huge amounts of love and support from listeners, many of whom I see as part of my extended family. Those people have no idea how much they helped me. Well, a couple of them are close to understanding, but most have no idea just how healing their love of my show was, for me.
Normally I'm a biography man, love them, especially the musical ones. But they can be pretty depressing, at least the ones I read - I've always been drawn to those that have issues - in art, music and literature especially, so to pick myself up, I'd always go to a book about food or a simple recipe book.
As a fellow bass player myself, I get so much enjoyment out of playing a musical instrument. I came to it fairly late in life, but now it’s a fantastic way to spend a little ‘me time’. How does playing bass in Losers help you (and can you give me any tips).
I'm now learning to play an MPC1000 on top of my 1978 Musicman Stingray, it's never too late to learn something new :) I'm glad you get so much from playing your bass. My 'help' doesn't come from playing the bass, per se, but more whom I'm playing it with.
Tom is my brother from another mother, we are very close and he is a constant source of support and inspiration, we're always there for each other come hell or high water. Paul and Dean, as well, are so goddam talented that it's inspiring just being around them.
Best tip I can give you is that sometimes it's not what you play, it's what you don't play. The air in a bass line is often what makes it.
As part of our ‘chain letter’ feature, one guests asks a question of the next, our last guest, David Owen, wanted to know….
Eddie, you are a music expert. Why does no one in this country properly appreciate Status Quo?
Because they are the musical equivalent of watching skin form on milky coffee, and because, like Muse, they are so pompous and have no self awareness.
I remember being at Radio One in the mid nineties and those guys being so pissed off that we weren't playing their songs any more. They wrote letters. They protested, actually protested outside the station, it was all so pathetic and sad. Rather than grow old gracefully they got so bitter and complained so acridly, while we were turning the station from something your parents listened to into something their children listened to. They were the embodiment of everything we were trying to get away from, they were a band of "Hairy Cornflakes" and best left to Radio 2.
You’ve recently just left XFM (now called Radio X) after many years. I don’t want to go into the reasons why, but I’d be interested to know your thoughts on radio as a medium. Do you think it’s in decline due to this on-demand music we seem now to crave. Does it need to adapt as television seems to be doing or will it carry on.
Yes, I was at XFM for 15 years and loved it, up until I told my boss I had to walk away, after that it became a long a horrible countdown from February to September. I thought I'd die there, like Peely at Radio 1, but that wasn't to be because Global, the company that owns the brand, decided to kill it and rebrand as a "male focused" radio station. I find that idea offensive. I wanted no part of that and was the only presenter that refused to renew their contract.
It was a hard decision at the time, heart-breaking, in fact, but made much easier once I realised the whole brand was being garrotted and replaced with something out of a 90s time warp. The 90s thing is the distillation of why FM radio audiences have been in a tailspin and continue to drop year on year. The radio business model adopted by behemoth companies like Global is a very 90s one; corner an audience then build it so you can charge more for adverts.
The way audience figures are derived in this country is, when you stop to think how far technology has come, actually laughable. A company called RAJAR give a few people ("a cross section of society") a diary to fill in.
While we're all using Shazam these guys are relying on a frikkin diary!!! Pen and paper. It beggars belief. It's like operating on somebody with a stone knife and a bearskin.
Mainstream radio has to therefore play this game of programming for a few RAJAR diary holders, slimming playlists, rotating records so heavily that the same song appears two or three times in one show. It's a creatively bankrupt idea that's contributing to young people abandoning the medium and going to the World Wide Web.
The most interesting radio station in the UK is BBC Radio's 6 Music. There is a shining example of what can be done if you have the balls to trust curators, rather than machines and focus groups. I saw thousands of tweets and Facebook posts from Xfm listeners who said they were crossing the dial to 6, but of course that's obvious, what's more interesting is how it will pan out. Because Radio X is now on the same digital multiplex as 6 Music, and spending millions of pounds letting people across the country know, they will get a huge influx of new listeners. Many of these new listeners will feel disenfranchised by the self confessed "male focus" of the new brand, and the 1990s lad culture obsession which many will find outdated, then these listeners will gravitate towards a station that thinks and acts in the "now".
As long as this awful Tory government recognises that stations like Radio One / 1Xtra and BBC 6 Music are vital in terms of offering an alternative to commercial - and therefore mainstream, centrist - radio, and see how crucial, in terms of the BBC Charter, this is, then radio will be OK. As long as there is a balance to the tiresome commercial mainstream, then the playing field will surely be green enough for people to want to play on it.
In your career, you’ve given first plays to likes of Kasabian, Reverend and the Makers and Plan B. Who are you next tips for the top?
Tame Impala, Nadine Shah, Rene LaVice, Special Request, Fable, DC Breaks, Dead Rabbits, Claudia Kane, Culture Shock, DBFC, and every year TC should be bigger than he is, so TC!
And another top tip is the new Primal Scream album which drops in Spring. I have a feeling they are going to stun everyone with the best album they've made for a long time.
What's your guilty pleasure?
Movie wise I'd say Austin Powers - Goldmember (the greatest on screen Scotsman, and Dutchman, are both Canadian). For a TV Show, I'd go for Brooklyn Nine-Nine (it appeals to my stupidity and makes me belly laugh). Musically it has to be New Radicals 'You Only Get What You Give' (it's the perfect pop song).
Most embarrassing song in your library?
The unreleased version of The Killers "Smile Like You Mean It [Phones Says The Killers Can Suck My Balls Remix]. Embarrassing for The Killers ;)
I’m off to Ibiza with my family next year, what advice can you give to a middle-aged father of 1 to look something approaching cool when I’m rocking the party isle?
Aviator shades and clean white linen dawg.
Finally, complete this sentence. It’s important to talk about male mental health because…….
it could save your life.
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You can keep up to date with Eddy on Twitter where he's @eddyTM, through his website www.eddytm.com or listen to his show The Remix on Soho Radio, Friday nights between 10pm - midnight.