Interview With Rae Earl

 

If you haven’t seen or read My Mad Fat Diary recently then you have been living under a rock. There’s a fabulous woman from Lincolnshire named Rachel Earl who now lives in Tasmania; now along with being wonderful and inspirational – she also suffers from mental health issues that she kindly took the time out  to speak to me about a little while ago. This interview has been one of my most favourite pieces to ever work on and I do hope you enjoy it!

Hi Rae! The first question we have for you today is how are you feeling about the reaction that My Mad Fat Diary has got from the general public?

I have to say it’s incredible. I am so proud of the series. It’s just wonderful – the writing, the acting, the team behind it all – there is NOTHING I would change. The reaction on Twitter – I’m absolutely blown away. Obviously when something goes on TV you know it’s going to get attention, but the amount of reaction is just fantastic. Being far away in Tasmania you think I’d be kind of buffered from it. But, because of the joy of the internet and the people working on it and the joy of Sharon who is utterly marvelous who plays me and keeps me totally in the loop, I’m blown away by it.

I’m just thrilled that some of the reactions are genuinely moving, y’know? People are saying “I wish this had been out when I was seventeen.”, “I felt exactly the same way as you did”, ”Oh god, this is getting me through a hard time” – I mean, really, you’d be a bloody tit if you weren’t moved by the reaction that it’s getting and it’s just blown me away really, it’s unbelievable.

But yes, I’m genuinely touched. It’s doing everything that I ever wanted it to and more. I mean, it’s entertaining people but it’s making people think as well and that’s just the most brilliant thing.

People are sharing not easy stuff, and I think that’s the amazing thing. Even if it happened to you twenty years ago, or ten years ago, or five years ago the pain is still there.

How does it feel to know that the book and the TV series are helping people through the issues that you yourself went through?

Oh god, it’s wonderful. It is wonderful. I mean you write a book you have no idea what’s going to happen. It’s like having a child and sending- That’s a shit analogy, Chrisselle (laughs), I’m absolutely known for my shit analogies, you can put that in, it’ll make all my friends laugh, Rae and her shit analogies that make people go “whaaaaat?!”.

You know, the reaction to the book was great but the reaction to the TV series has been WOW! And yeah, to think that one person might be feeling better or comforted because of it is a lovely thing, that’s a bloody lovely thing to me.

It can be quite overwhelming, because you think “Well ,y’know what, I’m actually – and you can print this – I’m actually a bit of a tit”. I don’t get things right all of the time. I can tell you now, I don’t get things right, I don’t get things right all of the time and I still have struggles from time to time.

I think that’s important, that people don’t think that I’m some kind of ‘I’ve got it all right and I’ve got it all sorted’, ‘cause I can assure I bloody haven’t. But, I think having the ability to go out there and say that is a really important one, because I think many of us are trying to be ‘perfect’ and it just doesn’t bloody exist.

Both the book and the show have proven to a lot of people that they’re not alone, but how does it feel knowing that you weren’t alone in what you went through?

Well the weirdest thing for me, and it relates back to what you just said about people that you’ve known for years getting in touch, I’m really lucky, I went to school with a phenomenal bunch of people, I mean I really did and from that time I’m basically friends with – and great friends with, all of them now and that in many cases has been made stronger by the book. The weird thing though was that loads of them, and I’m talking loads, have got in touch and said “Oh god, I had no idea you were going through this. I felt exactly the same way.” And this was from women that I thought had it completely bloody sorted! They were gorgeous; they seemed to be going through life like a swan, gliding along like – they seemed to be everything I wasn’t, but they got in touch with me and said “Oh, y’know, I was feeling exactly the same way.

So I think, I think the message there is even if you think people have got it sussed around you, the chances are that they just bloody haven’t.  – I say ‘bloody’ a lot, you might want to edit the ‘bloody’ down. – But no, even people you think have got it sussed haven’t, and I think there’s a real solidarity in that, because none of us have got it sussed at seventeen.

The saddest thing is that a lot of people feel guilty, and they write to me from that time and say “I should have realised, I should have known.” But there’s no way they could have done! It’s like Sharon’s portrayal of me, why it’s so spot on, is because you wouldn’t know that I was going through all this stuff because I looked like this fun, brilliant, ‘Hahaha!’, y’know? Very few people knew, and again I think that’s the important thing that a lot of mental illness is hidden.

Do you think it would have made a difference to your teen years if you had had the chance to read someone else’s memoirs of going through what you went through?

Yes, I tell you what I wish I did have, I wish I’d had the Wikipedia page about OCD, and I really mean that, because people think that OCD is ‘Oh, I’m gonna check the gas is off 25 times’ – which it partly is, but then there’s also intrusive thought OCD which is just the most horrible thing to have, and something that I did and do still suffer from and I wish I’d had that and then I wouldn’t have felt so terrible.

I remember seeing, and I don’t know when it was, but it was an Oprah I think in the early 90s, and it was with a famous American actor who basically talked about OCD and I thought “Oh my god, that’s me! That’s me! I might be mad, but there are other people that are mad too!” So, that would have been an enormous help because I just thought I was the devil – literally. I thought I was evil, and I was too frightened, even with psychiatrists, it was easier to go along with what they thought was wrong, than actually saying “You know what? I think I control everything. I think I’m even controlling whether or not your car crashes tonight.” I think that was too terrifying to say to anybody and was too terrifying until I was about 29, and that’s the truth. So, y’know, I did touch on it, but I didn’t really get the therapy I needed until my late twenties.

The next question is quite an intrusive question, and if you don’t want to answer it you’re more than welcome not to –

Go for it!

What do you think triggered it all? What do you think caused your nervous breakdown?

Well, it’s funny. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have OCD. My personal feeling is that I think I was born with it. I think just like the Victorians had a view of mental illness, I think as much as our medical science is moving forward, the mental health medical science just isn’t moving forward at the same pace because the brain is a hard thing. I think I was born with it, I think I was born with this thing. And, I think certain situations exacerbated it, but I think I was born with this brain. There is a history of mental health issues in the family; my mum is a manic depressive – now I’m not a manic depressive, I have lived with a manic depressive and I know what depression is and I don’t suffer with depression. I am an anxiety and OCD sufferer and those are different things.

I think I’m wired wrong, I think I’m wired wrong, and just like people have holes in their heart or arthritis in their leg. I just think that’s my lot and it’s my job to manage it.  I mean, that may be a load of all bollocks, and a psychiatrist might say I’m in denial, but I genuinely do not remember a time where I didn’t feel terrible anxiety for at least some of the time.

How do you manage your OCD and anxiety?

Ehmm, my anxiety and OCD is managed by distraction. I enjoy writing, still. Music has saved me, and continues to save me on a daily basis. I’m a great walker, I’m a great doer, I’m a great writer, I’m a great crafter – My craft’s friggin’ awful, you couldn’t sell it on Etsy but it gets me through! (laughs)

But when it gets bad, and situations trigger it, I go and see a councillor. I will go and see one, and I have no problem in doing that. I will go to a doctor and I will say “Look, all of my methods of coping are not working; I’ve reached a level that I can’t cope any more, what do you suggest?” I have got no problem doing that.

I find that CBT therapy works very, very well, and I really benefit from sitting down and talking- because my brain will go into a spiral that I can’t get out of. I can’t manage it. I will find a councillor. I won’t necessarily have to go every week, or every month, I’ll just need to go when it’s bad and I will go, and we will talk, and that really helps me.

I see it as it’s no different than going to the gym. I see seeing my councillor like going to the gym; it keeps my head healthy just like getting on a treadmill keeps my body healthy. There’s no difference.

Do you think it’s important for people to know when they’ve reached that limit where they need professional help?

Yes. Absolutely, because I think – this is where we get into a really tough area – I think that adults, not children and not adolescents, and I want to make that quite clear because they’re not capable. I think that adults have a responsibility to themselves and the people they love to go and get help. As much as they can, because obviously if you’re very, very poorly that’s not going to be something that you can do.

The thing is, there’s such a stigma. And this is where I understand that people are terrified of going (to get help). And also, some doctors are bollocks! (laughs) Some doctors are still saying shit like “pull yourself together”. So I realise that it’s not as easy as that and it’s not as easy as just saying “Go to the doctor and everything will be fine.” I know it’s not as easy as that, but yes you have to, you have to go and get help. It’s a fundamental. There’s only so much that nonprofessionals can help you – however much they want to..

How would you describe your experience of mental health care?

As an adolescent it was not good. But – and this is very important – the mental healthcare professionals were, first of all, dealing with somebody who wasn’t being honest with them; like I said to you, I wasn’t telling them how bad I was. In terms of living where I lived in Lincolnshire in the 1980’s I think the facilities were limited.

Putting me in an adult psychiatric ward was not a good decision. It was not a good place. It was a very scary place for a 16 year old with anxiety, but I understand that nobody quite- as an adult I can see that nobody knew quite what to do. I mean, I’d had a breakdown and the truth is that I was extremely difficult to deal with. I think the healthcare professionals did what they could in the remit in what they had to offer me and because I wasn’t really telling them just how bad I was, they could only work with what I’d open up to.

However, the mental healthcare I got in my twenties was life changing. It really was life changing and allowed me to live the life I lead today and do this basically.

What do you think needs to be done to break the stigma surrounding mental health?

That’s a really tough one because, I think when you’ve got people like – and I use the obvious example, but I think he’s a great example because he is a national treasure – when you’ve got people like Stephen Fry being absolutely open, completely open and making series about their struggles you think “Well what bloody more can be done?”

It comes down to us as individuals, I think. It comes down to our whole society’s attitude changing towards people who are ill, so that we’re not frightened by it anymore. It’s certainly partly to do with talking about it more, I think the more we talk about something the less frightening it is. It’s as simple as that. It’s the same with everything; the more you talk about something the less frightening it is. It’s important to talk about it, it’s important to keep talking about it.

I’ll tell you what’s important – It’s important that employers and the law changes so that people who have had a mental health problems aren’t stigmatised; because at the moment, society at its most fundamental level, AKA the law and businesses, I think if you’ve been sectioned then you can’t do certain things. Now, you may have been sectioned in 1990 and be perfectly fine in 1994 yet – you’ll have to check up on this*- there are certain things that you’re not allowed to do. Now,at a very fundamental level, society needs to change there. The law needs to change, ‘cause the law leads the way, it sets the agenda, if that changes then I think that will make a huge difference because at the moment it’s like “You know what? If you’re mad, you’re always gonna be mad and really you can’t contribute in a sensible way,” Well that’s bloody awful! That’s a bloody terrible thing to say! That’s outrageous!!

That discrimination goes on day after day and consequently people who are really suffering do not feel that they can go and get the help they need and because of their suffering, their family suffers, their friends suffer, society suffers. There are people not working because they can’t get the help they need to get back into work, because they can’t get the mental health support they need. Well, that’s fucking bullshit! Y’know? We don’t let people on the NHS walk around with a broken leg for you know, six weeks, it’s frickin’ sorted! So why is the same thing not happening for mental health? – IT’S BULLSHIT!

(coughs) I’ve made myself cough from ranting. That’s not good.

What was the initial reaction to publishing the diaries?

Well, the initial reaction very much mirrored the reaction I got with the TV show albeit on a smaller scale. It’s very rude book, with rude things in it. God, I sound like my Nan! – (C: It’s an amazing book!). What surprised me was the amount of teenagers that came forward and said “OH MY GOD. THIS IS MY LIFE! Oh my god, you are describing my life right now!”  That was the astounding thing on top of people going “This described my life x amount of years ago” I suppose because I’ve put things out there that is embarrassing – like ‘cardboard cock’ – I think that because I shared that I used to pretend I had a cock made out of cardboard, that people think they can share stuff with me which is lovely and I really appreciate that.

And I don’t really give a shit that people know I made a cardboard cock. Who gives a fuck? ‘Cause I guarantee that all of us, perhaps not as bad as cardboard cock, have all done things that are embarrassing and so fucking what, who gives a shit? Life goes on. So much of what we obsess about is actually bollocks.

Have you noticed that I swear a lot? I’ve got an English degree, my mum shouts at me “Rachel, you’ve got an English degree, can’t you find words that are more appropriate?” “NO!”(laughs)

Was it scary to let the diaries out to the public eye, knowing that everyone you knew would know what you had been through?

I can’t lie. No, not really. I didn’t care. I think when you’re loved, and I am so lucky I have a fantastic husband, a lovely mum, a brilliant brother, the best best friend in the world and the most fantastic group of friends – I think it gives you a confidence to share, because you know that certainly gives me the confidence to share and I feel like I can go out there and say that.

To be fair to my mum, bless her, she is the one who’s had to have the bravery because we talk about – if you’ve read the diary – we talk about stuff in there that is immensely personal to the both of us and she’s very brave in letting me let that out there and I am bloody proud of her, and I am bloody delighted to have a mother that is like that. I love the relationship we have now, she comes out here for three months at Christmas and I hate when she goes home – it’s horrible.

But, no, I wasn’t scared. People can think what they like. And you know what? I’ve been proven right, because people have been lovely. Nobody has said “You shouldn’t have shared this” nobody has said “You freak.” – well, they have said that, they’ve said “We’re freaks together” which I think is a lovely thing. So, no, no problem sharing it.

I’m not sure if this question is still relevant after that, but, has opening up with the diaries changed your relationship with anyone?

No, because the people that I’m very close to already knew. As I say, referring back to the school friends, there were school friends who had no clue and they got in touch and said “Oh my god, I’m sorry.” And I said “No, no, no, no, no, no. No! If I’d told you then fair enough, but I didn’t tell you.And even if I had told you, what could you have done? The point is nothing. This is something that needed professional help!” It needed a professional. They got me through by just being lovely and being wonderful distractions and having a laugh.

So, no it hasn’t is the answer to that.

In the book you talk about the people that taunted you, and in the show as well there’s the Green Lane Gang. Have any of those people been in touch?

(laughs) Green Lane Twats.

But, no, ‘cause they were inconsequential, they were different groups of people.  I mean, that was the sad thing, some of them were the same people and I know who they are but I doubt they’d even recognise themselves, y’know? That’s just what they did, they were bullies and it wasn’t just to me; they did it to everybody a bit different. They did it to everybody smaller than them, or everybody of a different colour, or everybody fatter. It was personal, but it wasn’t personal. They were bullies. They were bullies in the proper sense, and I can still see them sitting on that wall. There was a wall near Green Lane shops, it’s still there, and funny enough when I go down that passage I still feel tense. I mean it’s insane.

But it wasn’t just them, I’d get spat at on the way to school and people would just call me things, it was just horrible. I can’t quite get my head round it because I have never looked at someone in the street and thought I needed to tell them that they looked bad or, in fact I tell people that they look good!

There was this woman in the shop yesterday, she was about fifty and she was wearing this bloody amazing kaftan thing and she looked like she should be married to Picasso or something. Yellow, red and tie-dyed, who looks good in that? But she did!

But no, none of them, and as I say I doubt they would recognise themselves, that’s just what they did. I think people can be horrible for a number of reasons, I think very few people are horrible without a reason, y’know? You get people who are horrible because their home life is horrible and I think we have to have forgiveness for that. I mean, how do I know? These people could have been bullied at home, you just don’t know. I mean it was a pretty grim area that I lived in.

If you had the chance to go back and relive life without your issues, would you take that chance?

Ohhh, what a great question. That’s a bloody great one. Uhm, I don’t know. I think that – Oh god, that’s a great question! That’s a magnificent question! Do, do I? The short answer is yes and no. Yeah, that’s a really bollocks answer. (laughter)

Let me give you a better one if I just have a think for a minute.

I wonder what it must be like to not have the issues. Sometimes, when I’m really, really, really bad, in the past, I’ve gone to the doctor and they’ve given me a tablet that has taken off the anxiety and you think “FUCK. This is how normal people feel!” (laughter) They don’t feel like the world’s going to end in the next five minutes! But then at the same time, I don’t think so creatively. So, the same things that give me problems are the things that I think are the things that let me do the things that I think are good. I think it comes from exactly the same place.

I would go back and I would, I’d be a lot, I’d just enjoy- But y’know what? Teenage life is always messed up! What am I talking about?! You’ve confused me woman, I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore! –NO. I WOULDN’T CHANGE A THING. BALLS. (laughs)

Do you still keep a diary or was that something that was better left to your younger self?

Do you know what? I never used to, and then I had a baby. I didn’t think I could have kids, and I’ve never been a child person at all. Never, never, never! I’ve never found babies cute, never. I got here, to Tasmania and didn’t think I could have kids – as detailed in the diary I’ve had various gynae problems all my life – so I got here, and I was feeling a bit weird and I thought “Oh, I’ll just do a pregnancy test.- FUCKING HELL I’M PREGNANT.” (laughs) Made my husband come home from work and everything. (laughs)

But anyway, I was pregnant which I was excited about but terrified about at the same time because I thought “Oh my god, what kind of mother am I going to be? I’ve never liked kids” I was very lucky, it was literally the cliché; out he comes and they pass him to me and it’s like “OH MY GOD, I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE THE BEST THING!” And I realised, that really, I just wanted to keep a note of everything.

Once the initial nuclear bomb of having  a baby had passed – at around month three – I started to keep a diary, and it’s only one of those five year ones so you literally have four lines a day, it’s not one for meandering.

But, then, I enjoyed it so much that it spiralled out of control. So now, I have; a book, I bought a diary this year to just record everything that happens with the TV show ‘cause it’s a special time. I have a gratitude journal, which I write in every day, and you just write everything you’re thankful for.  I have a Q&A which is this brilliant five year journal that just asks you a question every day that you answer. So I’ve got 1,2,3,4 and I’ve got the fable poetry diary which I’m writing haiku in every day, ‘cause I’m a twat, which I’m really enjoying. One, two, three… I’ve got FIVE diaries!

I’ve always ranted on A4 though!

Well, the diaries themselves, I mean I’ve got nine volumes of diaries, but I’ve also got paper, A4 rants, honestly, I’ve got that much from that time and it’s unbelievable. The thing I can’t find, and I wish I could, is I had this enormous art folder full of letters, post cards and I can’t find where the hell that is. If I could find that, my life would be complete.

But yeah, to answer your question, yeah, I keep five now and it’s all my sons fault.

What would you say had the most positive effect on you while you were growing up?

Well, I didn’t realise it at the time because I didn’t know my mum was a manic depressive, but, my mum. She was absolutely inspirational – obviously her depressions were dreadful and she hid them very well but now I realise when she had them and they were awful – but she’s the most quick witted, fantastic person on earth. She thinks everything is possible. So she’d say to me “Rachel, you could be prime minister, if you work hard enough you could be prime minister.” And we were from a shitty council estate in Lincolnshire. “There’s no reason you can’t be prime minister.”

“Mum, I want to be a three day eventer.” “Well, there’s no reason you can’t be a three day eventer, just start mucking out stables and…” Y’know? There was the absolute atmosphere of ‘You can!’

And I think, she’s tough and she comes across as tough in the book but I think she had to be, because I think she realised that I was smart and if I didn’t get my shit together then I could’ve been stuck in a small town for the rest of my life and that would’ve been death for me, because like I said my mental health issues need distraction and school, university, writing, friends were big distractions. And work, in fact I dreaded going to work but work was wonderful, it was oh my god, wonderful. So, y’know, any sort of thing like that has really really helped me, so yes, I’d say my mum.

But the thing that really changed me, and really started me on the road to real recovery was I went to work abroad in Poland for a few years with my best friend… I can’t give too much away because it’ll give too much away for the next book so I’ll just leave it at that.

I’d say that those two things have been the big things in my life; the pivotal points.

What’s been your greatest achievement in your life from your perspective?

Obviously I’m thrilled with the TV series and I love writing. They are big achievements. In other parts of my life it was finishing the London Marathon. I did the London Marathon in 2006 and I think genuinely – this is quite serious – if you’ve got a mental health problem, do a marathon or train and do a half marathon/marathon. People were saying to me “You’ll get to mile 18 and you’ll feel like giving up.” And I went “Nahhhh, I won’t. Don’t be silly!” I was sobbing at mile 18 and then out of nowhere, this little boy appeared with a bag of Mint Humbugs – I swear to you this happened! I’d just been overtaken by a Dalek, a guy dressed as a Dalek and I was like “I can’t do another eight miles, I’m gonna die.” My toenail had come off.

And then the most brilliant thing happened at mile six, because you know, there’s so many people at it that you never get seen but Sir Steve Redgrave was being interviewed by the BBC and I overtook him so I was on telly. So I’ve overtaken, Steve Redgrave, a five time Olympian – it was a magical moment. But yeah, I have to say I think doing that marathon, because I’m the most un-bloody-sporty person in the world,y’know writing books is something I love doing, and this is going to sound ridiculous but the two things that I’ve managed to stick at that I’m crap at.

So, Marathon and passing my driving test! It took me six years. It’s because my brain does not work in a logical function and I’m terrified of it as well, I’ve only driven about four times in eleven years; that’s absolute fact, my husband does all the driving.

So, that may seem like pathetic things but it’s overcoming things I’m terrified of, those are the things I’m really proud of. Now if I can just pass Maths GCSE then that would be wonderful, ‘cause I haven’t. I’ll never forget they changed the rules about getting into university the year before I went, you used to have to have Maths GCSE and they changed it – yes!

What advice would you give to any readers out there who are currently in the place that you were when you wrote the diaries?

Talk to somebody. There is no shame. You need help. Talk to somebody professional, go and see your doctor. We’ve discussed that doctors aren’t always great, but I tell you what, if your first doctor you see doesn’t help you; go to another one. If that one doesn’t help you; go to another one. Find somebody who can help you because with the right help you can have a great life.

And that odd brain that you have, absolutely might be- if you can just flip it and change your thinking, that odd brain you have might bring you real happiness, make you a millionaire – anything. It’s no surprise or shock that there are so many famous people and entrepreneurial people and business people that suffer from mental illness. They’ve had to cope with their brain, they’ve got strength from doing that and their brain works in a way that makes them think differently and thinking differently is brilliant, thinking differently is good, but you just need help to help you train it.

I think it’s a case of, when you’ve overcame your own demons then nothing else seems quite as scary.

Well, I’d say my daily life is still lived in some degree of terror, but you’re absolutely right; I accept my anxiety and OCD as part of my life and another terrible Rae analogy is the alcoholic analogy in the way that it’s always there, but it just has to be managed.

But, yes, because I’m frightened of opening my front door some days, well if you’re frightened of opening your front door, you might as well move abroad for a few years, you might as well do a marathon because you’re terrified of everything anyway, you may as well be terrified of something good; legitimate. It’s just flipping your thinking, but it’s very hard to do that when you’re on your own and you’re in a spiral of doom, or, worst of all, and I’m not going to pretend that I understand it because I haven’t suffered from it, but manic, terrible depression is another thing all together but that certainly needs intervention and that certainly needs help. Go and talk to someone is the advice.

What’s the best advice that you yourself has ever received?

…Thinking. Skype’s not gone dead. (Laughs)

You’ve got to love yourself before you can be loved. You can crystallise it like that. You’ve got to love yourself before anybody else can love you. I’d give that advice for adults rather than teenagers and children. I think we really need to differentiate between what you’d say to and adult and what you’d say to a teenager or child because teenagers and children are in a completely different mind-set and have different needs, and I’d hate to give that advice to them because they need completely different specialist treatment.

But, to adults, that would be my thing;

You’ve got to love yourself.

How’s the no-hugging policy going?

I’m still bad with hugs! (Laughs)

I’m much, much better. I have these awful times; I had a magazine come to do a photo-shoot with me and at the end the photographer, lovely French guy, and he went to hug me and we ended up just like in a chest-slap. (Laughs) It was so embarrassing, ‘cause I’m still really funny with it! But I’m much better, much, much better.

It’s weird, when I meet strangers, sometimes I feel I can hug them and I can really give them a big hug and be fine with it, but sometimes I really get this vibe that I can’t. And it’s not because they’re bad or good people, I just really get this vibe that I don’t wanna touch them, so I end up, I’m frozen and they’re hugging me – I mean in episode four  where Rae pats Finn on the back, that’s just like me! I thought ‘My god, Sharon has got me so right! That’s the best portrayal of a crap Rae hug that I have ever seen!’ (Laughs)

If my best friend walked in just now I’d squeeze her and not let her go for about ten minutes, y’know? Living abroad I think you think “When I see that person again I just wanna bloody squeeze them!”

Sometimes I actually warn people now, I say “Oh, don’t hug me.” And I’ve got a lovely friend and I would hug her but she used to stroke my arm and I’d stroke her arm and that was our kind of hug. I’m just not that huggy person. Like I say, I’m much, much better, but there’s other times where people will run up to me and hug me and I’m fine. And I’m very huggy with my little boy, that’s the weird thing. I hug him all the time.

The hugging policy has mellowed, but it’s still quite staunch!

The next few questions were asked by some of our lovely Twitter followers:

Do you believe that you are ‘cured’ or does mental health stay with us forever? – @misslolitalove

I think some people can be completely cured, I think some people can be completely cured of it. I think for lots of us it’s like having a sixth finger, that’s a crap analogy again(Laughs). My point is, it’s the alcoholic analogy; it’s always there and you just have to manage it. Now, you can get pissed off about that or you can accept it, as I say, that’s easy for me to say – and I keep having to say this because it’s something I feel quite strongly about – depression can be a far more debilitating thing than anxiety, so I don’t want any depressives out there to say “Well, that’s easy for you to say…” Well, they’re absolutely bloody right, because having lived with somebody who has terrible depression, my mum, I can just see how it would be the most friggin’ awful thing on earth.

I think it can be cured, but for a lot of us it’s about managing it and finding ways to manage it, whether that be by medical or a mixture of medical and our own ways of managing it.

Being an open music lover, which songs in particular got you through the hardest of times? – @daaaani_ellee

Oh my god!!! That’s a great question! Uhm, I’ll give you a list. But, the trouble is they’ll sound quite miserable. As a teenager when I was feeling really pissed off I’d listen to How Soon is Now by The Smiths ‘cause it said how I felt better than anything.

A song that I adore, because I really struggle with change, and I struggle saying goodbye to things and I hate having to admit that things are over and things like that because obviously for an anxiety sufferer change is horrible; Walk Away by Cast is just beautiful!

I’m just gonna go random, from across the years. D’ya know what I’m gonna do? I’m going to look at my iPod, I’ve got this playlist called Pop Prozac, I’m gonna look at my Pop Prozac list. (Laughs)

Party Fears Two by The Associates that used to sum up how I felt a lot. Oh, do you know what? A song that I love and it’s how I’ve interpreted it, and it might not be what it’s about at all! The Universal by Blur. They talk about “When the days they seem to fall through you, well just let them go.” in other words; when you’re having a bad day, fuck it, just let it go and it sounds like the most beautiful song ever.

There’s a beautiful old soul record called Rainy Night in Georgia by Brooke Benton and he’s in a train, he’s pissed off, he’s knackered, he’s had enough and he just says “No matter how you look at it, or think of it, it’s life and you’ve just got to play the game.” And I listen to that and I could just sob; I could sob now.

We need something more cheerful, don’t we? OHHHH! No, no. Going Back by Dusty Springfield! Which is a song about how, y’know, you’ve just gotta get in touch with your inner kid to feel good again. That’s brilliant.

When I need a song just to get me going, The Bitch is Back by Elton John! I don’t think I am a bitch, I just love that song!

Ohhh, god! Any Frankie Goes to Hollywood! Sorry, I’ve gone now, you’ve got me on music. (Laughs) The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I think it’s probably the most perfect pop record ever made. That’s a big claim, but I really do.

Now, this sounds awful, but, a song that’s got me through many a bad moment is this absolute bit of German cheese called Keeping the Dream Alive by Freiheit. It’s this beautiful song and it came out, I think, just after my breakdown and it sounds Christmassy and it just talks about “The hopes we had are much too high, way out of reach but we had to try, ‘cause we’re keeping the dream alive.” And I love that. I love that.

Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick by Ian Dury and The Blockheads, I can just listen to that on the worst day and feel fantastic.

I love Jarvis Cocker and Pulp, I have to say. If you’re having a bad day and you hate politicians and you hate the world and you think it’s not fair, listen to Running the World by Jarvis Cocker and you’ll feel better about everything.

Ohhhh! A Bad Dream by Keane, that sometimes sums up a day for me. Oh, that’s a great song.

I would urge anybody who isn’t into Mama Cass to get into Mama Cass, who was the singer with The Mamas and The Papas. Forget what she did with The Mamas and The Papas, go to her solo career. New World Coming by Mama Cass is beautiful as is The Good Times Are Coming by Mama Cass.

Oh god. Bring Me Sunshine by Morecambe and Wise; completely unrepentant about that.

I’ll tell you what my favourite Oasis track is. Stand By Me. I’ve got a real thing about that. “Nobody knows the way it’s going to be. Stand by me.” Love it.

Right. My brother went through a bit of a mod phase. If you want a song to just lift you up try My World by Secret Affair. Devotion by Nomad. I Wanna Give You Devotion by Nomad, that’s bloody brilliant. Uhm, If Only I Could by Sydney Youngblood, Miracle by Tom Baxter.

If you’re getting done over at work and you’re pissed off, listen to Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who.

And then, just finally, The Theme from The Flumps. (Laughs) I dare you not to feel happy when you listen to theme from The Flumps! And also, Theme from Black Beauty.

And that’s it. I’ve given you a sprinkle of songs. We could be here all bloody night frankly, and all day, whoever asked that question shall now regret it. (Laughs)

 

(**Note: You can listen to all of the tracks listed by Rae over on our Youtube Channel here:  http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIeDr6hpxLArrp8U3xPVR5Z-aFiLt6JN9**)

Are you into the same music as Rae is? If so, are any that stand out from what’s been played in the show? – @jjevison

Yeah, you see I don’t really go out of music until about 2005, that’s when I give up (laughs). Not give up, but I get increasingly jaded by bollocks, and uhm, I love that era (that is covered in the show). I have to say, I was a Blur girl, but most of all I was a Pulp girl. The best night of my life, bar my wedding day and the birth of my child, was seeing Pulp in 1995 in December at Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Jarvis, the guys, it was just brilliant. I do absolutely love Pulp.

There’s been so many great tunes been used in the show! Ohhh, I know what was used in the show and it was from episode 4 and I just couldn’t believe it because I didn’t suggest it but it’s one of my favourite songs and it’s from one of my favourite albums, it’s Bad Head by Blur from the Park Life album. Bad Head is my leaving university song and it just summed it up so much.

So yeah, Rae (in the show), Rae’s music taste absolutely does mirror mine. Any era, any era, Pulp are my favourite band of all time.

 Ehm, I think this is our last question. I’m not sure, I’ll have to check but –

That’s good ‘cause I can get the half ten bus into town (laughs) and get my child a milkshake. That’s worked out brilliantly! Go on darling, sorry. (laughs)

When did you decide to publish the diary and why? – @ClaireBabesKen

Well, it had been a radio feature, I used to do a breakfast show with my husband and it had been a radio feature and we’d had a great reaction to that but obviously the radio feature was very different because it was sanitised, because what you can say at ten past eight in the morning is completely different from what actually goes on in real life. Off of the back of that I wrote it up and that’s how it happened basically. I knew from the radio reaction that I had something that people related to and I knew that if I really put what happened with everything, then we could, you know, really – I didn’t think there was anything else out there that talked about teenage life like the diary did at the time. Put it like that. So, that’s why.

I think that’s us!

Ohh! You’ve timed that brilliantly lady! Excuse me for rushing off, I wouldn’t normally but I can literally go and get the 10:25am bus. (laughs)

So, you are lovely. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this. Thank you so, so much. Do send me a copy of it or whatever, and, and, go to bed. (laughs) Okay darling, thank you, thank you, bye,bye!

The real thanks of this goes to Rae, for without people like her who are brave enough to be outspoken about their own issues then we wouldn’t have the driving force to open up about ours and to encourage you guys to open up about yours. They say that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, and although it was via Skype I can definitely disagree with this. Rae Earl is my hero, and speaking to her about things that are so close to my heart made it that bit more important to me. If you can dream it, you can do it.

You can find Rae on Twitter at @RaeEarl.

Thank you so much for reading, and I hope that you guys enjoyed this just as much as I did.

Much love, C xx

Interview With Hammy Havoc of Hordasken

Starting in early 2008, Hordasken began as a hardcore band on the outskirts of Liverpool after the breakup of Hammy’s previous band. Several incidents and genres later, and the whole thing is now written, played, recorded, mastered and distributed by Hammy Havoc. As the only official member of Hordasken, Hammy Havoc is completely in charge of the musical direction of the band and assembles a touring group of musicians for live material. With Hammy Havoc about to release his single, ‘2002, A Great Year For Calendars’ as well as his full length album entitled ‘The Withdrawal‘, I had the chance to ask him a few questions about both his music and himself.

“It’s been a tough few years for me, I’ve assembled my own private studio and converted the upstairs of my home for the sake of my music. I’ve slept in a blanket with a few pillows on the floor of the studio for the past few years; Brings new meaning to ‘suffering for your art’. I’m just kidding though; Sleeping on the floor is a choice I made to save space and to make my back feel better. There was a time when I really did think that it was time pack in the whole ‘music’ thing and call it a day rather than pour more money into something that probably wouldn’t amount to a great deal other than frustration and upset. I’ve been involved in recording music since the late 1990s and made a demo at the age of ten years old with a group of friends; These CDs are still out there somewhere, good luck trying to find one. I’ll consider uploading everything I’ve ever been a part of at some point just for the simple element of nostalgia, hopefully you’ve enjoyed the small fraction I’ve uploaded thus far.”

What guitar and microphone do you use for the single?
“There’s a 1989 Fender Stratocaster in there; I’ve done a lot of modifications to it over the years to get it sounding pretty unique and feeling nice. Usually I don’t believe in electric guitars as they’re pretty tuneless, but this is the exception to the rule. There’s also an Italian acoustic guitar in there which is completely custom built for me; It’s not the greatest of instruments, but I’m very fond of the sound because it is somewhat ‘gigged’. I’ve been thinking about live stuff recently and I’ll most likely end up using my electro-acoustic Martin as it is very diverse and I’m fond of the fretboard on it. In terms of microphones, there’s a custom ribbon microphone and custom preamp made by a local musician, but of course there’s also the good old Shure SM7 in there too.”

Will or does Hordasken have an official Facebook page?
“There is indeed an official Facebook page for Hordasken. Only started it on August 17th, so we don’t have many fans of it yet, but you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/TheOrionCorrelation I’m not much of a fan of Facebook; I view it as a trend which just like MySpace, will eventually die when people jump onto the next trendy social network which lets them import all of their old data via the API system. Facebook seems like a very temporary and very crude social network to me and I think the idea of using it for all of your communications and networking is a very poor decision, although it does give some very rough analytics for your fanbase. Though I think I could tell you more about my fanbase with a quick look at my Twitter timeline than a look at the Facebook statistics.”

Is there anyone in your life right now that inspires the majority of your music?
“I would have to say Brendan B. Brown; He has been a huge influence on my life in both music and lifestyle choice.”

As a young independent artist, what, other than funding, is the greatest problem that you face whilst trying to get your music heard?
“The biggest problem is probably people not taking me seriously and believing that they can exploit me just because I’m younger than most other people in this field. Fact of the matter is, I’ve probably had more experience in the past five years in terms of the music industry than most people will have in their entire lives; Everything from radio to production to recording, I’ve seen it all and heard it all. I’ve had several major label opportunities over the last few months and rejected them all as I like doing things my way.”

What are you most looking forward to after the single has been released?
“I’m looking forward to getting out on the road and gigging with close friends again as well as people that inspire me. It’s been several years since the last concert that I was the one performing at. It’ll be nice to see faces from Twitter! I owe a lot of hugs and high fives to my followers. Once I’m done touring? Um, probably the fact that I’ll have plenty of fellow music artists to collaborate with. I daresay being out on the road will give me some more inspiration for material too.”

Who was your greatest influence growing up?
“Definitely my father, Stuart Routledge, several people reading this might know him as ‘Timehammer’. He’s a great man and if I’m anything like him when I’m that old then I’ll be more than happy. He encourages me to acquire knowledge, learn new skills and monetize it. My mother, Judith Desrosiers (née Malaney) encouraged me to embrace my creativity. The divorce of these two big forces in my life when we moved from Eastham to Hoylake was what caused me to make the most of time alone as I had to entertain myself.”

Where do you see yourself ten years from now as far as music is concerned?
“Still rocking of course! I’m probably going to be making even more music than I have been for the past few years as well as doing a lot more production for other people too. Hopefully getting out on the road a lot more too!”

Why did you choose to go the independent route?
“It isn’t so much an ‘ego’ thing as some people keep pointing out to those that follow me, but more from the perspective of creative reasoning; I need to have complete creative control of my music as I know exactly where I want to go with a piece of music before I’ve even begun recording it or playing it; Other people can prove to be a real pain in the backside later down the line when it comes to the ownership of songs and just generally relying upon others. I find that it’s a lot easier to just sit down with a cup of coffee and a guitar than to organise a big gathering of any description. Besides, I’m temperamental and I will do things again and again until they’re perfect; Other people simply don’t have the patience that I do.”

Is music something you’ve always wanted to do with your life, or did you have other dreams as a child?
I’ve always wanted to make music a part of of my occupation and I’ve successfully done that for almost a decade now alongside software development, that’s where Split An Atom’s web development comes in. As a kid, I wanted to solely write software, but that didn’t always satisfy my creative urges which made me turn to music after being seriously inspired by bands like Wheatus, Sublime and Marillion.”

What advice would you give to anyone out there who wants to get into music?
“Stay away from labels; They just want to exploit you, get their money’s worth and throw you over the side when the initial influx of sales for your album has been and gone; They don’t want to nurture artists and see an artist gradually perfect their signature style, they just want more of what originally sold and what will supposedly continue to sell.

Which song best describes your lifestyle?
“A song that describes my lifestyle? That’s a pretty difficult question, but I am going to need to say Apple Trees, y’know? That one song by Eels?” Love that song, I’m a big fan of Eels.”

What’s your favourite song off of your upcoming album?
“It would certainly be ‘Beast‘ or ‘2002, A Great Year For Calendars‘. Although having said that, I have a soft spot for all of the songs on my album. I think it’s one of my favourite albums of all time because it’s done entirely the way I want it to be.”

Do you record and produce everything yourself as well as write it all?
“I do indeed, I play all of the instruments in the studio and do everything; That even includes the CD duplication and packaging. If you want a job doing properly then do it yourself, right? I’ll be pressing the vinyl soon with a friend for the single which I will be checking by hand and signing each one to show my approval for the quality of it as well as individually numbering it. I am very much a perfectionist when it comes to music and I can’t stand to crush the work of others so I record everything myself, but I take a group of musicians with me for live material or do acoustic sets on my own.”

Why do you give away your music for free?
“I wouldn’t say that I gave it away for free; I’d say that I let people sample it completely free of charge and then ‘pay what they like’. Music is a very subjective thing and music is worth different amounts to different people. It is very much a case of ‘give it away or nobody will ever hear it’. How do people know what to download illegally if they don’t even know that you exist? The world is a big place, I don’t mind if I need to give away what I spend my life creating, it’s better than it never being heard after all of the effort that I put into it. My friends in Wheatus have been a real inspiration for adopting an alternative business model; I adopted their ‘pay what you like’ business model a long while ago with my web development services; Just make it worth my while and if you enjoy it, support it, otherwise I can’t carry on creating all that I do.”

Why did you never release your demos and the like from the early 00s onwards?
“Oh, I released them within my own social circle, however I specifically requested for the music to never be copied or uploaded to the internet. Why? Mainly because I lack confidence after bullying throughout my school years at Calday Grange Grammar School and because I am a complete perfectionist. Although as you know, I’ve been releasing them through Twitter lately. Hopefully you’ve been enjoying them; I’ve been loving some of the feedback I’ve been getting.”

The demos you’ve released thus far have been wonderful! You’ve been getting donations from those alone, hopefully that’s an indicator of how well the single will do! -I hear that you have quite the vinyl collection; Are you still making additions to this?
“Of course! Vinyl is superior to the majority of digital audio formats; I am a real audiophile and I enjoy having the best quality possible. Besides, vinyl is nostalgic and extremely impressive considering how crude it is. I run the output from a magnetic cart to a pre-amp; Sounds fantastic through my Yamaha studio monitors or mahogany Denon headphones; They’ve got quite the frequency response. I’ve been an avid vinyl listener for many years, you get a piece of culture, technology and art with a vinyl record; The analog sine wave is the closest thing to actually being in the studio at the time that it was recorded, that alone is pretty special. It’s like an artist trapped in time. Amazing.”

Talk to me about concerts.
“Well, I’m planning on doing a small UK tour early next year, but I’m also planning on doing regular live HD video streams from my personal studio and accepting donations from people whilst playing what is most likely going to be an acoustic set. I figured that a lot of people want to hear my music and a lot of people want to meet me, but they won’t have the opportunity until next Summer, so I wanted to give them something personal, intimate and almost as good as the real thing. Hopefully they’ll appreciate the interactions after the show. I love my fans; They’re all my friends.”

How would you describe your fans?
“I don’t think that I could give a general description of them except ‘a family’. There are so many people from so many different backgrounds and not all of them speak English; I speak several different languages and I manage to communicate with my followers on Twitter. They all have something that connects them and it is ‘love’ and ‘music’. They might be completely different from each other, but a message of peace and happiness connects them all.”

If you chopped off all your hair and weighed it, how much do you think it would weigh?
“Good question, probably one of the most interesting things I’ve been asked, but I honestly have zero idea; I’ve never really thought about it. I relayer my hair every single day, I usually take a few grammes off every few days, but my hair grows rather quickly, thus I trim it so frequently to keep it looking healthy. I’m guessing all my hair would be pretty hefty.”

Sexual preferences?
“I have none, I don’t consider myself to be ‘straight’, ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’. If you love a human being then you love a human being for their mind as opposed to their body. I believe that anybody can fall in love with any other human being. As opposed to ‘gay pride’ or any other type of pride march, I don’t agree with it, you should be proud to be a human being, not proud to have a sexual preference of any description as that shouldn’t matter. Love marches? That is something I would support; Self-segregation is one of the most negative concepts in the world. To be shunned from society is one thing, to remove yourself from society for these bozos is another.”

Where do you think society is going in terms of social media?
“I think we are all definitely moving towards a ‘do it yourself’ world in which people are a lot more educated in terms of software and hardware; I personally don’t see the traditional style of record labels existing in another thirty years and they’ll seem like a really outdated concept. I can see people moving away from popular social video websites like YouTube and Vimeo though. I personally think that society is going to start keeping corporations at a certain size and not allowing them to grow past a certain point. Besides, there’s no excuse for not hosting your own video in all honesty. The only benefits of hosting it on a site such as YouTube is that you get independent third party statistics, which although they’re fairly meaningless and not of much use to the average individual, they’re still an interesting thing to see. I think the future of YouTube is providing statistical proof that something was viewed x number of times, perhaps even a distributed blockchain of proof. Why? People want to retain control of their content and not allow corporations to profit from it.”

You really don’t seem to like big corporate entities, why is that?
“I dislike talentless individuals exploiting those with a lot of intelligence and skill; It happens in the record industry and it happens in every other field too. At the end of the day, your boss will almost always take a bigger salary than you although he doesn’t have the abilities that you do. That’s the way the cookie crumbles and it isn’t right. I believe in supporting people who do things in small teams and do everything by themselves without a big titan such as Google being involved, especially when it comes to promotion; If you want to impress me, get your own domain, design a kick ass site and host the video on your own server; Show that you are willing to pay for bandwidth even though YouTube is unlimited. If your content is that good then you’ll put money into it, if you’re not willing to do that then you’re not worth my time. I’ve zero respect for people with just a MySpace.”

I’ve seen photographs of you with and without glasses online; Are they a fashion statement or do you genuinely need them?
“I do indeed wear glasses for the majority of the time, but you can also catch me wearing disposable contacts from time to time, especially at concerts; There’s nothing more distracting than metal on your face when you’re moving around… Or getting your glasses embedded in your nose by a stray elbow. Messy.”

I’ll see you at a concert later this year!
“Great, I’m looking forward to it; Bring your friends along and I’ll see you on the road. Make sure to check up on www.theorioncorrelation.com on a regular basis so you can download the single when it’s released as well as the album. I’ll also be updating this on a regular basis with fresh new content and I’ll also be relaunching my clothing store next year, so be sure to keep an eye out for that so you can find some nice merch. Much love and many thanks for having me. Tata for now.”

My pleasure. I shall be sure to post up a review of the single and the album once they’re released. Adios!

Special thanks to Jeff Erickson (@Erickson222), Angela Wilson (@AngelaPangela00), Jess Nario (@whoaitsjess), Timehammer (@Timehammer), without whom, this interview would not have been possible.

Update 05/30/13: Hammy Havoc now makes music as The Orion Correlation, so be sure to check it out!