15 November 2015
I’ve been carrying a secret. Thing is, for the longest time I didn’t know about it.
I started playing music when I was 16, and at 19, became a roadie for a covers band. It went on from there, and now I’m 42, still working behind the scenes. I’m a professional roadie – guitar technician – and I’m heading into Europe for a five-week tour.
These past few years I’ve noticed some changes. I suppose it happens when you get married and have kids. You know, forced to grow up. But that secret I mentioned – it only really revealed itself recently. I’ve been carrying it around for years, not fully aware.
When I was growing up, depression was just feeling blue for a while. Stress was a tightness in the stomach that interfered with your appetite. Big deal, get over it. Anxiety? That was just excitement. Then you start to ‘mature’ and realise something. These recurring physical and psychological symptoms affect the people around you. Eventually you start looking for answers, and tick boxes:
–Feelings of impeding doom? I got that.
–Wondering if life is worth the effort? I got that too.
–Unstoppable voices in your head? Uh, yeah I got that.
–Self-destructive, somewhat addictive tendencies? Yep.
–Curling up into yourself because you think you have no value? Shit, I got that.
It’s not all bad though. When I’m not feeling blue I’m an optimist. I tell myself:
‘Now I’m aware of this, I can get a handle on it. I’m used to fixing things. I’m a roadie. I can fix this too.’
The symptoms last longer. The voices louder. The concept of life as a pointless sinkhole becomes ever present. If this doesn’t get fixed…Well, impending doom.
But it’s not all bad. There’s a good side to my personality:
I’m a funny fucker. Or at least I try to be.
Even in the blackest mind-fog, laughter brings relief, like a warm shower in the middle of the day. You need a break from feeling terrible. You have to look for humour sometimes. This thing depression is a bit of a curse, but if you take your condition too seriously, you won’t believe in a cure.
So. I’m going to Europe, where things have just taken a very depressing turn. Gunmen killed and held people hostage at an Eagles of Death Metal gig in France. They had a guy selling their T-shirts – a merch guy:
He was killed in the Bataclan theatre. My friend Tom (from the Leonard Cohen tours) was in the Bataclan visiting Nick. Tom left before the attack. Lucky bastard.
We used to think life on the road was fun and frolic: see the world, hang with rock stars, do cocaine, fuck, drink for free, trash hotels and live on a tour bus. Then the world gets serious.
I’m not here to co-opt the pain and grief of that night. As far as this blog goes, I only mention Bataclan because it’s inescapable. I think I can speak for the entire music industry when I say Nick was family, and this previously unthinkable tragedy has touched us all. Anything you say about life on the road can’t compare to Bataclan. The ground has been swept out from underneath us.
You can just imagine…even on September 11…some guy, somewhere in America, yells at his kids for breaking a window. Life rattles on mercilessly. In the music industry, tours will still happen. And sooner or later, some fucker will complain about the quality of the dressing room snacks. It seems unfathomable in the light of Bataclan, but it’s going to happen. Roadie life finds a way. It has to, because it exists in that world of clichés where the show goes somewhere.
If I don’t complain about sweaty cheese and weird crisps, the terrorists win.
I’m not writing this because of Bataclan. But it’ll come up, because as far as our road-family goes, it’s huge.
What I’m trying to do over the next five weeks is convey the everyday things that impact mental health on the road. Good and bad. I’m trying to show that the almighty roadie, the foot-soldier of rock ‘n roll is as fragile as anyone. I want to show how life on the road can affect the body and mind. This thing depression and anxiety: it can’t be a secret anymore. Denying it is like locking secrets away. Something always comes back to bite you.
So now it’s out there. My name is Leif B and just because I’m smiling doesn’t mean I’m happy.