I always remember waking up at about 6:OOam on a Saturday morning, creeping out of my bedroom and into the lounge, switching on the television, and with barely any sound feasting my eyes on the T.V show Rage. Music video after music video with all kinds of Metallica, Rockafella Skank from Fatboy Slim, Daft Punk and their mind bending yet addictive Around the World. Then, at some point during my early morning binges, two particular clips would always surface. One, a song from a time before I was born, refashioned into a new, twisted beast intended to shock. The second, an aggressive rallying cry to the others, the trash, the unwanted and weird.
As a child these aggressive images did little to shock, but instead fostered what your typical do-gooder would lament, I wanted more. Each weekend I would attempt to sneak away from my bed to feast my eyes on these horrifying and gorgeous displays of art, without having a clue what art truly was. As time passed I would see it more and more, until another clip began to make the rounds, something even more disturbing, unimaginable, yet completely enthralling to me. What seems a man, but with those lumps on his chest, that’s… confusing. I begin to see the man from the video clips on the tv, only rarely but he’s there. Media moves slowly still but afterwards all I see are stunned news anchors who shake their heads, make an apparently hilarious quip and move on to the weather.
“I’m not a slave to a God that doesn’t exist, I’m not a slave to a world that doesn’t give a shit!” I had these words screamed at me through headphones as I pretended to complete my I.T assessment during class. The words terrified me. Years had passed with me stuck in a Catholic system, reading Bible passages ad nauseam to the point i’ve read the damn thing several times over (never once impressed). Having to be lectured on morality from staff members that, as I later found out, were unfaithful to their spouses or creeps to the young girls in uniforms clearly designed by a man to go clear in wet or humid conditions. Words like these triggered a genuine fear, an isolation, a pit in my stomach as I lost one tether after another to a world that already had my future planned out for me, that would suck me dry of whatever it needed along with all those around me.
Both inside and outside of the classroom music was a constant. Always something in need of listening to, of experiencing. Lessons about geometry? Blow it out your arse and let me listen to this song. If I have a memory of being in a classroom it’s likely related to a piece of music, or being told to put my music away. A teacher once pronounced to the class at the beginning of the lesson that music would no longer be allowed in his classroom as some of the Rock and Roll the kids enjoyed bred violence. At the end of that day, he proceeded to coach a game where teen boys crash into each other head on, and throw each other to the ground whilst chasing a little leather ball. I laugh when I return home to see one of the video clips that had been circling my grade, how adorable. I can’t say I was sorry or sad to leave, however life beyond school proved to be even worse.
The worst part about depression is the loneliness. But when your enemy is inside your own head what is there to do? If a wild dog ran at your and tried to maul you, there’s always a chance of knocking its lights out or having someone come to your aid, but not with mental illness. So many times you’ll see gifs, quotes, comic strips, books, depicting the moments when someone just doesn’t get what’s wrong with you, or trying to cheer you up with a cheesy quote from a Facebook post they’ve shared recently. For me, music was the only part that remained during these times as well. Early morning trips to work or the local swimming pool, my head drowning with emotion, fresh from a sleepless night, my hands trembling with rage, fear, anxiety, all could be quelled with a few songs from a few people exorcising their own demons out loud.
I still wake up even now, covered in sweat, muscles cramping, heart pounding, head a blur and everything i’ve done that I can remember flashing through my head. All the pain and abuse, what i’ve wrought on others in my attempts to avoid the vortex swirling below. It still happens and it still requires hearing a certain voice, even if just for a short while. Sometimes my admiration I think can be confused for idolisation, but it’s far from that, and far less vapid. And when a simple journey into a news agent with my sister turns into her buying me a seemingly meaningless gift that she knows will provide me the joy that she knows I get from his work, I can’t help but be humbled, grateful and feel a little bit stronger.
In time it seems possible that he’ll become someone’s #metoo and ruin all the work he’s done for individualism and freedom of expression. Should that time come to pass the right thing will be to let go, but for now my wall reminds me that that kid back in the 90’s…
…he did ok… and there’s plenty more to come yet…
Thanks Sarah. It means a lot.