We Love Life – Sam Fender

4 months ago   |   Words: Sue Bennett

We chatted to singer songwriter Sam Fender for our ‘We Love Life’ exhibition which continues through mental health awareness week at Constellations in Liverpool. 

Okay. What’s your full name, age, and where you’re from?

I’m Samuel Thomas Fender, I’m 22 and from North Shields Tyne and Wear

Are you studying or working?

I’m working.

What, and where?

I’m working as a singer-songwriter at home and away.

Awesome. What are your plans for today?

I’m going to record the next single vocals. Do a chat with you; go do some photos and the have a rehearsal. Then pack my bag and go to bed.

Awesome. What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

I’m reading a book called Sapiens, which is fucking mental. It’s absolutely crackers it’s about the beginning of mankind. It’s like pretty nerdy but it’s about the human race and there were loads of different species of humans coexisting at one time. There were about 7 different types of human. So that’s been kind of boxing my head. What have I been watching on TV? I just watched that Green Room thing last night. That was pretty brutal. And what else?

What are you listening to?

Oh oodles of stuff. But always always Joni Mitchell. I listen to Joni Mitchell all the time. She’s my hero.

What would constitute a perfect day for you?

I don’t know. Because there are different types of perfect days isn’t there? Cos like there’s a perfect day if I get loads of work done and then I’m happy with myself, then there’s a perfect day when I just lay may work beside and get lashed and have a great time. So, I don’t know. You can’t really combine the two because that just doesn’t exist.
But like an idealistic, perfect day. Something where you want to wake up and you can have like a blissful day?
Okay. Wake up in the South of Italy. That’s a perfect day. That’s where I’m going to go on holiday. Yeah, so I wake up in the South of Italy. I’d go to Franco for a pizza. If I had a boat that would be cool. That’s probably perfect like, having a boat, going round the Med, getting pissed. Just being like a Geordie swashbuckler, but in the med. With loads of red wine and carbs. That’s a perfect day.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful for?

I am most grateful for my friends because they are wonderful. And I’ve got a really, really good group of friends, I know that’s pretty wet but – that’s really important. Family and friends man. You choose your friends so it’s important. And I think when you actually, when you find out, I think you go through a lot of phases when you’re growing up and you hang out with a lot of people who are total cunts probably. If you are lucky enough and you actually find a good set of mates who will actually stick by you for life, that’s the most important thing. And there’s nothing I love more then getting off to go see them.

Awesome. Complete the sentence for me: Ace mental health for me means __ ?

For me it means, what it means to me? Well, I think anybody would want that, but it’s very rare that you’re going to be. What is good mental health? Is it being balanced, is it having a good-? Oh, what is it? I don’t know. That’s a tough one that. I actually struggle with that question. Cos, I think for me, I don’t know what it is for me really. Just, staying busy. Like, I think I get myself in a rut when I’m not doing anything. But, also I think it’s quite easy to go in on yourself and think everything’s against you. And I think what helps me is helping my friends. So if my mates are in bother or if anyone, I think just trying to adopt a more selfless life. If you start becoming more selfless and looking after the people around you, you will look after yourself. Like, just completely subconsciously, because you will be doing something good. You will feel good about it. As long as you are looking after other people, I think the Universe will give that back. Not that I believe in any of that, but you know what I mean. Just if you’re doing good, it will come to you naturally.

What do you do to stay mentally healthy?

Do my music. This is the wettest interview I’ve ever had to give. But, it really is my therapy. If I’m not doing this then I go a bit mental. I think just writing. Documenting what’s going on in my life. It’s kind of like a diary where I can unload all of the stuff that I want to talk about. And again, just looking after, it’s just the same answer really, like if you kind of try and make a conscious effort to be more selfless in your day to day life with even people on the street and friends. You know if you like smile, you know that thing where just smiling at someone a day, stuff like that. There’s a lot, you can adopt a lot of little habits like that and make it into your mantra and that makes you, probably makes you happy. I think so. I think everything’s just trial and error.

I think probably people will just be like ‘eat well, eat healthy food, set goals’, but I think that, was it someone saying that the main things that a person needs to be mentally stable is that you need to feel wanted or something or that you need to have a purpose? And something else. I think those things are pretty imperative to good mental health. I mean whether feeling wanted is somebody having somebody to love or having just being loved in return and purpose is well. I don’t know. You can get purpose from anything can’t you. Because even doing my music and stuff like that, that is purpose but it’s not like, I don’t think it’s as important as something like having a kid or something, that’s real. That’s purpose. That’s real responsibility. That’s life changing. I’ve got to guide this little creature through this shit storm. So, yeah. I think I would like to be good at that. That’s purpose.

Last one. Who inspires you and why?

There are loads of people who inspire me. I don’t know. I love all my singer-songwriters, stuff like that, but when you say who inspires, I kind of instantly on autopilot go to music because we’re talking about music all the time. But I’m trying to think of maybe someone else that inspires me. I’ll come back in like a week and answer that. I don’t know. I’ve got like all the wettest answers it’s really bad. Me mam – we’re best mates (joking). I really want to say the wettest answer ever but no I’m not saying that, I can’t say that. What have I become, who am I. Let’s move on. That’s the last one. I will think about it. We’ll come back to that one.

False Heads – Going Through The Emotions

2 weeks ago   |   Words: Mark Taylor   |   Photography: Natalie Curtis

Having recently shared stages with The Libertines and Queens of The Stone Age, East London’s False Heads are proving they can transition from punk-rock basement gigs onto bigger platforms without compromising the intensity of their live show. With new recorded material soon to be released, Frontman Luke Griffiths discusses the importance of keeping your internal fire raging, and how to stop negative mental thoughts from putting it out: “Why does Shawshank Redemption get the number one film on IMDB? It’s life-affirming innit, it’s that hope that things can better”.

What are you working on at the moment?

We’re going on a 22-date UK/EU tour in September. Our latest EP ‘Less Is Better’ is being released across September and October. First as digital release in September, then we’re having the physical release and launch show party at Dingwalls, Camden in October. We’re already talking about an album too. We’re thinking about it pretty seriously, we’ve got the songs ready. I want to re-record some of the old songs for it and I’d like to record our more delicate stuff that we never really get a chance to show off live. I don’t want it to be flat out heavy punk music, I want it to be diverse, we want to create a body of work. Looking at the timeline, we’re looking to have the album ready late next year. We’ve got a lot of stuff going on.

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

To be honest I’ve suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. Since I was 11 maybe, pretty heavily. I get bouts of it, then it sort of goes away then comes back. I’ve got a condition that causes me to have seizures that led to anxiety. I tried counselling for a bit and I tried antidepressants -they didn’t really work. I’ve got a good doctor that’s helping me deal with anxiety. The way I overcame it – well not overcame it because it’s not something you ever really overcome – is channelling it into something.

For me that was music, it was always music. It was writing lyrics, it was playing guitar that helped me channel that pain and misery that I felt. And also being a bit more open about it. I didn’t quite understand why I was feeling so miserable all the time. It’s that cliché of ‘Do I have a reason to be this miserable?’  I know the people I can talk to about it now: my girlfriend, and eventually my family. That stuff is never an easy conversation.

Depression tries to put out your fire, and you’ve got to do the right things to keep the fire going inside of you. Channel it into something you love – a hobby or a sport. Don’t let it define you, accept you’ve got a mental health issue, but you don’t have to let it take over your life, you can fight it . You’ve got to be willing to face it front-on and not allow that fire inside to be put out.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

Probably write a good tune, having a few drinks with my friends, having sex, playing an amazing gig and hanging out with my mates and girlfriend afterwards –  that’ll probably do the job. Or even things like sticking your favourite sitcom on or something.

What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

I’ve been listening to quite a lot of Strange Bones and Calva Louise, and also a bit of resurgence in Elliott Smith, who I’d say is one of my favourite artists. Probably not the greatest example to give on mental health because he stabbed himself in the heart…or did he? There’s conspiracies surrounding it.

I read Radical by Maajid Nawaz. A story about his upbringing, he joined an extremist Islamist group, went to prison, read George Orwell in prison. He left prison, tried to secularise and reform his religion. Safe to say I’m not a fan of organised religion at all, he’s a bit of a hero of mine.

I watched Mindhunter, the one about the FBI detective after the Manson killings, and he goes around interviewing all the serial killers at that time. Based on a true story. It’s on Netflix, It’s incredible.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

My family, my friends, my girlfriend and music. I’m grateful for the drive I’ve got to make the band work. I’ll take some credit for that. I don’t really mind sounding like a conceited prick because I work really hard with the band and our music to get where we are. I’ll take it as far as I can possibly take it. I’ll take it to the very end.

Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”

I’d say it’s waking up and being glad that you didn’t die in your sleep. If you wake up and you look forward to the day, that’s ace mental health.

What do you eat to stay healthy?

When I’m at home I do try and eat healthy. It’s difficult when you’re on tour, you do eat shit – until you’re getting catering and that when you’re in U2 or whatever. I’m trying to be a vegetarian, I’m trying to cut fish out. I don’t know if that’s had any real impact – that decision wasn’t because of any mental health issues, I just didn’t want to eat animals anymore. I don’t really miss it that much.

Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?

I do a bit of boxing, a bit of jogging, sit-ups in the morning that type of thing. It does make a difference. I don’t have any real routine or anything, I just try to get in some sort of exercise. It does just make you feel better.

Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground everyday and loving it – can you share a similar memory?

I used to get these little Thomas The Tank Engine things, these wooden train tracks when I was a kid and my Mum and Dad got me a load of them. I think it might have been my 5th birthday. The whole day I was occupied with this little train set and I was really happy. Apart from that I’m really struggling to remember. Oh, and Florida. I went to Florida, I think I was 10 and I went on The Hulk ride with my Dad. Quality ride. I was in my element as well because I loved comics, I loved Spider-Man, they had Spider-Man wandering around in a pretty sick costume, and the Spider-Man ride where he webs you. That day was amazing.

What three songs lift your spirits?

A Question Mark by Elliott Smith – even though the lyrics are still pretty dark, I think it’s a great song.

Karma Police by Radiohead, for that uplifting awe-inspiring feeling. The ending, even though it’s still quite melancholy, there’s something about ‘For a minute there, I lost myself’. I actually think that section of that song is one of the greatest bits of music ever made. Including classical music and everything. It’s otherworldly.

Guerilla Radio by Rage Against The Machine if I was just gonna go for a flat out something that would get me pumped up.

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?

If you feel like you need to speak to someone – speak to someone. Don’t question yourself. Speak to the person that you feel is best to help you, if they’re not about, speak to the second best person. And if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed there is no weakness or shame in it to ask anyone for help. Don’t let that fire go out inside of you.

 

Maven Grace – Going Through The Emotions

3 weeks ago   |   Words: Rebecca Durband

Maven Grace  are comprised of friends from Hong Kong, Connemara, Rome and London. Individually they have performed at Glastonbury and written Hollywood film sources. We caught up with the band’s Jason Magnus to discuss growing up in Hong Kong. 

What was it like growing up in Hong Kong? It’s a busy place!

Hectic and beautiful. The city moves at an insane pace but it’s also an island with the most calming coastline. I grew up in Hong Kong under British rule, then left for a few years, and when I returned it had been handed back to mainland China, all the while the city has always craved its own independence. So there’s a bit of a local identity crisis which feeds into the manic atmosphere of the city – it can drive me crazy at times but I definitely can’t live without it.

A large part of the population in Hong Kong practices Buddhism, is this something that you do?

Hong Kong is pretty multi faith actually – I’d say there’s an equal number of Buddhists and Taoists, as well as Christians in the city, and Confucian values are heavily followed in local education. I’m not a Buddhist though I believe in meditation and my wife and I try to fit in a Qigong session (a type of Chinese meditation involving rhythmic breathing) everyday – she’s more disciplined with it than I am.

Would your agree mental health awareness in Hong Kong and China has grown in the past decade?

Not really and I think it’s something that should be more widespread. Hong Kong can be very stressful with a huge emphasis on school grades for kids and earning a decent pay packet for young adults who can barely afford to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I’d say mental health awareness in Asia probably lags a bit behind the west because, out here, you really feel that there’s only so many hours in a day.

What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

I’m loving ‘Prequelle’, the new album by Ghost, particularly the song ‘Dance Macabre’ and I watched Collateral the other day – no one makes movies quite like Michael Mann. And that scene where Audioslave is the soundtrack to Jamie Foxx speeding his taxi in the LA night…it really made me miss Chris Cornell’s voice.

I’m reading The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie and I really don’t recommend it.

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

Having music be an active part of my life instead of a passive one. The industry means it’s getting harder to be an artist and there’s a lot of sacrifices made by yourself and those closest to you in order to even have a taste of something you believe in. I’m in a band where everyone lives thousands of miles apart. The day we officially released our first song made things seem possible.

What have you learned about yourself over the past five or so years?

How much I need my friends. I’m an only child and the older I get, the more I realise I shouldn’t take my friendships for granted.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

Playing my old vinyl records, a couple of glasses of pinot noir, and a bowl of ‘sorrowful’ honey roast pork rice (incidentally, the winning dish in Stephen Chow’s God of Cookery)

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

My parents, my wife – she gives me the balance I always thought I could do without.

Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”

Staying calm when a storm is brewing.

What do you eat to stay healthy?

I drink a glass of hot lemon water first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?

Make it up though I try to do about 30 mins of exercise each day to kick up a sweat.

Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground everyday and loving it – can you share a similar memory?

Kicking a football in the parking lot after school with friends.

What three songs lift your spirits?

AC/DC – It’s a Long Way to the Top.  Rock ‘N’ Roll’s greatest band at their most youthful.  Remember this song playing at the end of School of Rock with all those Ramones posters in the background?  Music with no cynicism, it’s just pure joy.

Wu-Tang Clan – Triumph.  I have no idea what this song is about but the way I feel when all the MC’s each take turns on the mic makes me feel pretty invincible.  Inspectah Deck’s opening verse is just insane.

Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road.  There’s a bunch of Springsteen songs that make me feel hopeful about realising impossible dreams, but Thunder Road makes you feel like you just swam the Atlantic and still have something left in the tank to walk across America.

What is your favourite self-help book, or motivational quote?

“You got to roll with the punches to get to what’s real” – Van Halen ‘Jump’

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?

It’s ok to talk about it and time is a healer.

Redwood – Going Through The Emotions

3 weeks ago   |   Words: Rebecca Durband

Alt Hertfordshire five piece Redwood have recently released new single ‘Mother.’ – touring alongside the likes of Sam Duckworth, Indian Lakes and Fish Tank. We chatted to vocalist Conor Bond about family challenges and his junk food ban.

What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

Hello! I’m having a hard time latching onto any new music at the moment. This isn’t for any kind of weird self-righteous reason, however I really enjoyed the new Young The Giant single that Alex (vox/guitar in Redwood) showed me the other day. Aside from that I’m sort of revisiting records that I’ve loved over the years. I’ve listened to American Football LP1 and Brand New Eyes by Paramore about 20 times each in the last two weeks. I’m currently reading Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – I work at a golf course and one of the members whom I talk to about books quite a bit let me borrow it. My watching situation is pretty much the same as my listening at the moment. I just finished Brooklyn 99 for the 6th time. I will probably start Community again soon, and then watch the Harmontown documentary for the 100000th time.

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

In the latter years of his life, my Grandad suffered with dementia. After having a pretty bad accident at home in Belfast, he moved in with us in Hertfordshire. He also had a major back surgery which we all helped in his recovery process, which was great, but exhausting, especially at 17/18 years old. It was pretty terrifying to watch someone who used to be so sound of mind (literally the most intelligent person I have met, even to this day) suddenly regress mentally and eventually come to no longer recognise you. I was told by my parents that this was “one of life’s shitty hands and you just have to get on with it, unfortunately”. We were all in the same boat so at least we had each other. Carrying him out of the church with my dad, his brother, and my brother was obviously heart-wrenching, but there was a small piece of happiness in that unity, and within that I thought to myself, “This is our last ride, George.” My friends came forward for emotional support in that time too, and I still don’t let them forget how grateful I am that they were there.

What have you learned about yourself over the past five or so years?

I’m 23 in less than a month, so five or so years ago I was still a teenager, so there has been plenty to reflect upon. I think above all, I have learned that I have a tendency for anger that can spiral out of my control pretty quickly. Although I don’t think this is uncommon amongst men, let’s be honest.  To combat this, I have tried really hard to work on patience and perspective. I’ve learned that it is so much easier to let things go and move on, than it is to hold onto something that has pissed you off and harbour feelings of resentment towards someone. By doing this, it’s only ever going to come out piece by piece on your friends, family or significant other, rather than the person who you’re holding the grudge against, purely because you don’t actually have the bollocks to confront this person who has “done you wrong”. I feel that it’s important to be able to see the bigger picture when it comes to these sorts of things. A co-worker has pissed you off? So what? You’ve got the weekend off; you don’t need to think about stacking shelves for the next 50 hours, nor do you need to dwell on a person you don’t see outside of your place of employment not doing a menial task “properly”. Let it go.

 What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

Waking up when my body tells me to. No alarm clock. A cup of tea within 30 minutes of waking up. All my mates also having the day off work. Clear blue skies, about 21/22 degrees. Maybe a nice meal out in the evening. I don’t know. There’s perfection in every day at some point if you’re looking for it.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I hate to sound like matey off that “Every Pop Punk Vocalist” video, but I am incredibly grateful for my friends. I’m surrounded by a group of very hard-working, intelligent and creative people. Everyone is working on their own stuff right now and we’re all at a very similar point, where we’re almost at like a fork in the road. We’re all the verge of “taking the plunge” and you know, going balls to the wall and risking it all for our “art”*. I like that we have that in common, especially as none of them are trying to make it in a band. * I put “art” in quotes so I didn’t sound so pretentious, but I guess this disclaimer has hit that one home innit.

Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”

Waking up in the morning and saying to myself “I got this”. Then proceeding to crush it throughout the day with whatever (if anything) needs doing without any mental roadblocks.

What do you eat to stay healthy?

My girlfriend and I are doing our best to cut out sugar and crisps and just general junk food. It’s not super difficult for us, as we’ve been vegan for over two years, so it’s just more fruit for when we want something sweet and it’s an extra handful of spinach on our plates at dinner.

Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?

We’ve also gotten back into the gym. So we’re pumping iron 4-5 times a week – you don’t realise how good for you two hours a week of PE was until you’ve left school. I also play football a couple of times a week. I started taking my physical fitness a bit more seriously when I realised that a half-hour set onstage would KILL me.

Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground every day and loving it – can you share a similar memory?

When I was in Year 5 (9/10 years old), I got picked to start for the school football team. Five minutes into the first half, I Cruyff-turned this Year 6 kid who was easily a foot taller than me (I was a very small kid) and unleashed a rocket off my right laces (not unlike Stevie G). The ball struck the underside of the crossbar and dipped under the keeper’s head. I couldn’t believe it. I even got a shout-out in the next-day match report in assembly.

What three songs lift your spirits?

1) Never Meant – American Football

For a number of reasons. A) I first heard American Football shortly after getting a car. So Never Meant always reminds me of the freedom I felt being able to drive myself to work and college. I’m also on the American Football shit-posting group on Facebook – someone posted an amazing video of a compilation of Jordan Pickford saves in the 2018 World Cup, all syncing up with the first snare hit in Never Meant. I’ll send you a link.

2) Blood I Bled – The Staves

My girlfriend got me into The Staves. She found them on YouTube years ago and we both fell in love with them instantly. Any of their songs remind of the weightlessness of being 16/17. Anyway, this song gets me SO fired up. It builds so cleverly and all the instrumentation blends together as if it was crafted by a higher being. Near the end of the song also, is one of the best uses of tension and release I have EVER heard.

3) My Name Is Jonas – Weezer

Need I say anything?

What is your favourite self-help book, or motivational quote?

Quiet, by Susan Cain. It’s not really a self-help book, however it provides a pretty in-depth insight to the study of Introversion vs Extroversion. Not versus as in “meet me in the Thunderdome”, just talking about the differences etc. Anyway I picked up a copy when I was about 16; prior to this, I hadn’t heard of the concept of introversion and extroversion, but reading this book answered so many questions and almost justified what I had previously thought to be strange behaviour throughout my life. Nope, just an introvert mate.

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?

It depends on what is making them feel overwhelmed. If it is a creative or interpersonal issue, I will suggest that a person should take a break and remove themselves from that environment for a short while. Whether it’s 5 minutes or 24 hours. Step back, reassess, jump back in. If it is something that isn’t quite as simple and can’t be solved by just calming down, whether it be money or work issues, I would suggest that you try to see the problem from someone else’s perspective. Not to belittle how someone may be feeling, but instead to encourage someone to come up with a logical solution to their problem. It’s a bit like asking someone for advice, but for control freaks.

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