Barry Hyde is probably best known to a certain bunch of indie heads as the frontman of cult indie act The Futureheads, who gained infamy with a cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds Of Love’. They also had success in their own right with indie disco favorites including ‘The Heartbeat Song’ and ‘Beginning Of The Twist’. Then, following 2012’s Rant album, it all seemingly went silent.
Barry is back with a new solo album detailing a long relationship that he has endured with mania and other related mental health issues, including three spells in Sunderland’s infamous Cherry Knowle Hospital. Malody is a stark and piano led album that explores the darkness of a troubled mind in a beautiful fashion. We were lucky enough to catch up with Barry Hyde for a protracted talk about the album and the health issues that led up to it.
HTF: So Malody has been out for 2/3 weeks now, it’s a very personal album and covers a lot of dark areas, how does it feel now it’s out in the open?
Obviously, I’ve been very candid about it, but the truth is that in 2016 you can’t just release an album. You need to bare your soul. There has to be some back story – you have to promise things. For example, “if you buy my album I will come to your house and cook you roast potatoes every Sunday for the next year!” just to shift a copy of the album. It’s so convoluted now, so I had to reveal, I had to be candid about this because it’s the reason why the album exists.
The truth is probably that a high percentage of albums are by people who, like myself, have had struggles or constant battles. It kind of goes without saying; if you listen to Berlin by Lou Reed, you are hearing a very dark mind space but he didn’t talk about it, he just put the album out. But it’s a different world nowadays.
I learned how to speak about it through having CBT, going to therapy and seeing a CPN for three and a half years every week. I’ve got very good at understanding it through my own perspective, so I feel like it’s possible for me to be of use to others perhaps who are there, who are lost in it.
But we’re blokes, right? And there’s a certain stigma attached to mental health problems. I mean I come from Sunderland. I wouldn’t classify myself as an average person from Sunderland. I’m a bohemian artist basically, and a teacher so I’m not really… I wasn’t indoctrinated into football culture and the resulting masculinity, I was coming from a different angle.
There’s probably a lot of blokes out there who haven’t developed those subtle communication skills. There’s probably a lot of suffering going on that has to be hidden and I think that it’s time to unveil it and talk about it, perhaps realise how important it is and central to the human experience to go through these trials, I would say.
Sir John of the Cross said “The Dark Night of the Soul”. We all go through this dark night of the soul where we have to face ourselves. There’s something very profound about it, the fact that people are capable of having those type of difficulties, and we have to consider why? Are we basically conduits for the overall feelings of society, the sorrow in the world?
Some people are more sensitive to that, so they are more likely to become a melancholic character, inward. And then you get others who pick up on the anxiety in the world and become manic. People fluctuate, sometimes dangerously, which is certainly what happened to me. Six or seven years of undiagnosed mental health problems culminating in a pretty horrific three year stretch with some pretty horrible pinnacle moments. Hospitalization and real, real troubles. A total loss of self, a breakdown it’s called. What is a breakdown? It’s the personality, it’s the mask that disintegrates because we’ve become so identified with our own persona, we experience it as trauma.
HTF: Is it definitely a better thing for this album, and the circumstances around it to be out in the open?
Yeah, I think so. There was no going back really. I remember I’d finished the album and it took quite a long time between finishing it and for it to be released, about a year and a half, which to me was a hell of a long time. I recall going to London and meeting with my managers. The discussion was really about that aspect and are we gonna talk about it. I was unsure about whether or not to, but as I was saying before, there needs to be some weight behind a record now.
I do feel the need to explain myself, for example when I play live I have to explain what I’m about to do because people need that context in order to be able to understand, this album’s not for everyone. It’s quite a hard listen really and I think that’s definitely going to put people off. A lot of people, and I don’t blame them, want lightness and energy from music, it makes their hearts beat faster and that’s the kind of music I used to make with The Futureheads where it was all about the visceral musicality.
You have to be silent to listen to this album. This is for people who want to sit and just listen to an album in the old-fashioned traditional sense as a piece of work. It’s kind of a concept album of dynamics, so it’s comprised of melancholy, mania, melancholy, mania throughout the album, but especially with the Malody Suite, which opens the album. I felt I needed to explain that when I play it because people are like “what the fucking hell is this!?” People need to know what it’s all about and once I’ve told them, they can listen with that knowledge and I find people respond to it really well. I did my album launches in Sunderland, 2 nights in this little theatre. There were people crying a couple of times during the gig – not just like one moment, but several times.
HTF: How has the experience been performing this sort of music in a live environment?
There’s a big issue for me now at gigs of people talking and for me, it’s completely unacceptable, the person going to the gig takes half an hour to get to a gig and talks, the person whose performing takes 15 years to get to that gig. Thousands of hours and someone’s talking, I just don’t accept it. You have to create the environment, though. You can’t do a club gig and expect everyone to be silent at 11 O’clock at night, you have to be playing the right type of music. You’ve got to set the scene, you’ve got to have, for me, seated. It’s got to be seated for this album. There’s got to be no bar open in the room, so theatres and churches. That type of place – if you set the environment then it’s far more likely that people will absorb it in the way that you want them to, but you have to do it consciously. It’s a real risk to book any old venue and turn up with this.
HTF: I remember seeing you, with The Futureheads, on the Rant tour at the Brighton Komedia.
Ah yes! That was the first night of the tour.
HTF: Was that where you perhaps learned to have a control over the audience and environment of the show? Obviously, where that show was acapella it requires a lot of the same disciplines from the audience as the Malody album.
I’m not being boastful here, but it’s just a fact that when x amount of people stand and sing together skilfully, it makes people quiet. There’s something deep within us that responds to that. It’s something to do with the lullaby or our memories of childhood, being in a church. So it was really quite easy for us. But all the same, we got quite good at working with crowds. As a frontman, you have a real responsibility for making the gig, making it work, and holding people’s attention. Obviously, playing a rock show is an entirely different thing to playing those sort of shows at the Komedia, it was almost like – at the Rant shows – people didn’t want to create a kind of awkwardness generally speaking.
HTF: I recall some heckling…
Were they being rude though?
HTF: I think it was more a case of a few too many beers, shouting something for the sake of it.
I like that, I like it when people…open up a discussion. I really enjoy that. I do. I really enjoy that. It’s a terrible word now, but banter. It’s very personable and you can build quite a good rapport with the audience. I couldn’t just walk onto the stage, play my songs and walk off again. I feel the need to express myself with music but also get some kind of conversation going on with the crowd because I like to explain everything and go into things. But I think you’re right, the Rant tour gave us a new skill set and a new confidence in really holding people’s attention because actually sometimes with bands, they mean well in their wants, but they don’t always achieve it. It wasn’t until I started teaching that I realized I had gained some pretty serious skills through being in The Futureheads. Now I’m teaching three different modules on a degree.
HTF: So you weren’t daunted at all by playing on your own?
No – I’m confident, you know. I don’t get nervous, just get impatient. I just want to play, but you’ve got to wait for that moment. I don’t get nervous because I always feel like I did enough preparation. I did a BTEC in music when I was a teenager and every week I had to learn a new song and then perform it. If I’d learnt it, it was fine. If you want to become an artist, if you want to become anything you have to become obsessed with it. You’ve got to become expert to really enjoy it so with this stuff I really revel in it, to be honest with you. Because I love the piano so much and I love to just sit and show people what I can do really, you know.
HTF: Do you have any ideal scenarios for the success of this album?
I don’t know what will happen with this album really, what it will achieve. I’m releasing it myself. It’s kind of a catch 22 because I own the album. I’ve paid for it and it was an amazing feeling when I got the cd’s and saw on the bottom “©Barry Hyde,” it felt like a real achievement. But the truth is this, far more people would hear this album if it was released on a record label, but the record label isn’t going to release an album unless they own it so you can’t have both. Either I continue to make music. To own it and it be relatively… I guess the ultimate word would be unpopular, but I don’t see that as a negative thing. I think that it just has a certain size to it. Or you could sign to a major record label and through the label end up spending loads of money, you might sell loads more records, but you could end up owing people money as opposed to what I have now. Once the manufacturing costs are paid that money’s mine.
Every time I sell an album, that money comes to me, because I am the record label. It could work out really well if something comes along in the pipeline, like a big synchronization of my songs for TV or an advert, so potentially it could be great, but I’m very much concerned with staying in love with this music. Because the music business can really affect you in that way where something that you’ve nurtured and created becomes not good enough.
HTF: You touched upon your obsessive detailing, learning the songs and how you perform on stage. Do you feel that’s one of the positive upsides of mania perhaps?
Well, obsession. My piano playing came on hugely when I joined Hyde and Beast. I was in Hyde and Beast, my brother’s band, for about a year. I had to learn how to play piano with other people. That was a big schooling moment, but it wasn’t really until I was in that 3-month mania that I really started to get into the piano. At the time I was living with my parents. I had this lovely Bechstein piano that had only been in a Christian’s house for thirty odd years, she’d only ever played hymns on it. So it was a beautiful, warm and in excellent nick piano. I would wake up and start practicing the piano and half seven in the morning and before I knew it it was mid-afternoon, you know. Eventually, the neighbours, because I had no concept of time at that point… I almost got an ASBO for trying to learn how to use my left hand properly! They say ten thousand hours to become an expert, I think it’s less than that, it depends on what you do with those hours. But certainly, thousands and thousands of hours of piano playing and just falling in love with music from a completely different angle. Through teaching essentially.
When I called a hiatus on the band I was actually in the psychiatric hospital, it was the third and last time. I said to the lads “I can’t be identified with anything at the minute, I don’t feel this pressure to write and it breaks my heart.” When art becomes forced, or there’s no innocence in it. So I became a chef. I started working as a pastry chef. Making really unhealthy food… It was great! You get really good at making pies and pastries. Roasting 500 potatoes on a Saturday, making 300 Yorkshire Puddings. It was really different to performing, getting paid £3 an hour as an apprentice at the age of 33. I needed more money so I started teaching private tuition, kids of friends and that kind of snowballed and I wound up teaching at a college on a BTEC, then in a Primary school, working with 350 kids in the space of two days, leading an assembly of hymns. There’s me, 6 months before I was in a psychiatric institute, as a bona fide teacher with 3 self-employed teaching jobs. I then started to think about what I was going to teach them, so I started to consider what I really knew, what my knowledge was, and realized there were so many holes in my knowledge.
So I started to explore and properly get into music theory, which to most people is the dullest and boring thing, but to me is very important. There’s some essential knowledge, life knowledge even, to be had from studying things like harmony, what is beauty from music. So it’s like, an obsession. Attention to detail. Unstoppable thirst for it. It has to happen, it has to be there. I’ve fallen out of love with the guitar, totally fallen out of love with the guitar. It’s too limited, not enough notes. You can start using effects pedals and stuff but to me, if you’re making your guitar sound like a keyboard, you might as well learn how to play keyboard!
HTF: Let’s go back to as the band was winding down following the release cycle of The Chaos. Can you describe how it felt as things wound down a bit?
Well to be honest that kind of started to happen before then really. The truth is this really, everything eventually dies. That’s one of the facts of life. Everything has a certain lifespan. We released our second album in 2006, News and Tributes, and there was a quite high expectation for it. It wasn’t received how we imagined it and it didn’t sell very well at all. It was almost like we’d been together four years and released an album, which through various chains of events ended up being very successful and then before we knew it we were in decline. But we had enough success to keep things going on a skeleton crew, to endure. But it very much started to feel like a battle, you know. It felt like we were trying to retouch on the success we’d had in the past and the truth is once you start doing that, you’ve lost the plot as an artist. You really have and it’s so unfortunate and easy to happen. You lose your artistic integrity in order to stay at the party.
I loved The Chaos. We toured the third album, This Is Not The World, that was tough. But we felt like by the end of that we’d made some progress. Then with The Chaos, I felt it was really progressive, intricate and powerful. We worked with a few different producers on it and came up with, I think, a good guitar album. A strong guitar album. So going out and playing those songs, it was challenging, songs like ‘Jupiter’, which was our attempt at writing a ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. We should have spent longer on it, I think Queen took 18 months to write ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, I think we spent 6 weeks on ‘Jupiter’. It didn’t quite achieve the same status in rock ‘n’ roll history but it was bloody hard to play, I tell you that! There were harmonising and extended chords. We were pushing ourselves and it felt that we were progressing.
I didn’t really wake up to it (the winding down of the band) until 2011 when I realized that looking back over all of our years that over the past five years things had been winding down. Gradually, but unstoppable. Relentlessly. Once you realize that, you have a choice. You either maintain this or… I’d hit thirty by that point and thought, do I really want to be having this conversation at forty? I thought, no. That can’t be right. I had no skills, I’d missed all of those things through doing music.
HTF: Was there a feeling perhaps that having turned thirty, bouncy guitar pop probably wasn’t for you anymore?
Well I couldn’t sing those songs anymore, it just seemed like…yeah fake… You know, like, those songs were ours but we’d become really under-confident and tended to play more songs from the first album than any other album. Because we had confidence in that album. It was certainly part of the dawning at the beginning of the breakdown when I realized or felt like we’d lost our childhood. Everything we’d worked for, the enjoyment and the journey of becoming professional had amounted to nothing. Of course, it wasn’t true but at the time, when you’re becoming unwell, your take of reality is completely out. But you don’t realize it, you forget all the positive stuff, don’t you? People around you are like “Think about what you’ve achieved”. But it’s like, it doesn’t matter, I don’t care.
Once you start doing that, you’re in real trouble. Because that’s the stuff that saves you. The self-appreciation.
HTF: You were signed quite young if memory recalls…
Yeah, I was 19 when I formed The Futureheads. It was in the year 2000, I was the eldest in the band. I mean Dave, my brother, when he joined the band he was only 15. He did his first European tour when he was 15.
HTF: From the age of 19 to around 30, you had your life micro-managed almost. Did you sort of turn 30 feeling teenager in your life skills and emotional development?
Oh, without a doubt. You know, Peter Pan syndrome. I realized I had some definite insecurities and what I classed as weaknesses. In terms of simple things, but important things like I couldn’t drive and I hadn’t done anything academic since I was 18. I didn’t have a degree. I’d never done A-levels. I’d been a self-employed musician for pretty much the entirety of my twenties. It’s an unsteady life being a self-employed artist, for the bulk majority of people. It’s a very uncertain life.
I’m working in a college now and I had to go to a big secondary school for careers day in a hall. The army is there, the navy is there. There’s catering companies and there’s me talking about a career as a self-employed musician. It’s like, “Do you fancy following a completely uncertain and anxiety ridden lifestyle that your parents would rather you didn’t choose?”
Now I’ve become a teacher I have something I can identify with something else as well as being a musician. There’s this taut anxiety you get when your sole income essentially comes from the decisions of others, where your success is based on other people’s opinions of you. If your idea of success comes from those things then you’re in real trouble because you stop generating self-esteem. All your esteem comes from external sources. As a teacher, I class it as a noble profession, and I’m good at it. My students do well, so it doesn’t matter to me if Malody does well. I’d love to go on tour and sell out venues and stuff, but I’m not that bothered because I’ve got 3 months off work where I’m gonna do some gigs and then come back to work and look at making a new album. I really don’t care, I feel so estranged right now from what is happening in the music industry.
I’m realistic about the whole thing. I know certain signs, early warning signs you might say, indicators that something is going to go well. People start writing features about you, you start getting radio sessions and you start getting playlisted. At present that isn’t happening so, I know how it’s panning out at the minute and I’m fine with it. I’m not looking for esteem from anyone else.
HTF: So what are the next steps in terms of writing new material?
I wanna write for film and stage and find ways to get into that. Work with ensembles and orchestras, writing music out. There’s a long way to go. I feel like I’ve discovered a few things that not many others have because when I show them to my musician friend, they are like “Whoah” as if they’ve never heard of it either. I would like to release some more music next year. If not an album then maybe an EP or a symphony type thing. A concept piece. I’ve got this kind of requiem, a non-liturgical requiem dedicated to this awful thing that happened in Sunderland in 1883 called the Victoria Hall Disaster, in which 183 kids were asphyxiated while running on mass downstairs to get a free toy. Do you know those push bar exists? Those were essentially developed to stop that situation ever happening again. There’s an interesting story in there that I feel like if I combined it with film or got visual artist and put it on stage with an orchestra, and performed it in the right environment it would be very powerful. It might only get performed once, but I will spend years writing it, I will spend years continually working on it. I like the idea of there being a real meaning behind what I’m doing.
There’s this figure from Sunderland history called Harry Watts he was a lifesaver, a diver. There was a railway disaster down south, a train fell off a bridge into the river. He would be sent for, put on a train and would go to save as many people as possible. When the Victoria Hall Disaster happened, he was the one who attended the scene and had to disentangle all these kids. Two of them were his grandkids. You can imagine the sorrow, so that’s the kind of thing I want to put into the music. There’s a piece by Górecki called A Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs, all about the holocaust. He very effectively I feel distilled the essence of that kind of sorrow and put it into a symphony and to me, that’s where it’s at. That’s what I’m going for.
HTF: Do you think there is a lack of emotional depth in popular music?
Without a doubt. Of course, it’s because it’s not about that. It’s not about philosophy. It’s not about humanity or humanitarianism. It’s about, to me they’re just peddling tat. They are peddling faulty goods. It’s like the difference between eating a soulful meal cooked by your grandma or having a Big Mac. It’s all food but one of them nourishes you, makes you stronger and live longer. The other looks like food but it’s gonna kill you. I just hear a lot of junk music and it’s lazy. There’s no melodies in a lot of the pop music I’m hearing. It’s all about rhythm and that’s fine, but I think people deserve better than that, I think they are being hoodwinked.
HTF: Following the release of The Chaos, you went to Arizona…
Well, I became a student of an esoteric school. The word esoteric is interesting because it means hidden and the word itself is pretty much hidden, people don’t know that word. It has an opposite, Exoteric. To give an example of what those words mean within the context of a religion, in Catholicism, the knowledge that is given to the congregation is exoteric. Everyone can have it. The priests have a different knowledge to the clergy, otherwise there’s no power there. The esoteric school I joined was in Arizona teaching this thing called The Forth Way. The Forth Way was a spiritual system, a very interesting system developed by a man George Ivanovich Gurdjieff. There’s a big link between Gurdjieff’s work and the arts. Dave Gilmour, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. All these great artists found themselves into this philosophy called The Forth Way. I found it through knowing that some people I admired had got into it. Gurdjieff was a master of language and spirituality and religion and he combined them all into his own thing. It comes from Guruism. I don’t particularly agree with Guruism because ultimately it leads to egotism. Gurdjieff was a rascal. He used to sleep with his students, impregnate them. He used to make his lower students tidy his room, and he’d throw faeces all over the wall every night, just to test them. He was insane basically. As I’m saying this I’m thinking “why the hell did I become a student?”
It was because I was searching and I wanted to be given structure and a way of becoming happy. So I became a correspondence student of a great man called William Patrick Patterson, a third generation teacher of the Forth Way. He does all of The Forth Way teachings in America. So it was the authentic deal. I went to this place called the Christ redemptorist church – in the middle of Arizona desert – it was a retreat. It only lasted seven days but it changed my life. It was incredible and all we were really doing was listening to our bodies through doing lots of yoga and meditation. There’s a lot of cynicism about these religions and cultures, but they work. If you go and sit for five hours a day and meditate, it’s going to affect you. It’s very difficult to control what the results are but there is something you can do using these techniques that affect you. I know that for a fact because I’ve experienced it.
It confirmed everything I’d been feeling. It confirmed my unhappiness and confirmed my shameful feeling, you could call it, that I’d made the wrong choice in getting married. I realised that if I wanted to move forward with the life I wanted, I had to end my marriage. I did it very suddenly and I regret that. I know that I broke my wife’s heart and I didn’t mean for that, but I was so hellbent on moving forward and finding enlightenment that I hit the kill switch. I want a new life. But you can’t do it. You can’t just do that. People think they can but there’s this connection with aspects of your life that you just can’t sever. It’s very traumatic if you try to do that, especially for other people. I guess once it dawned on me what I’d done to her, that was when I really started to break down. I was trying to process it. Like, “what the hell was that all about”, you know. But then it got really dark for a couple of years. I became really unwell.
Going to Arizona sent me way high, I could practically fire lightning out of my hand’s man!
HTF: So basically you go to Arizona and come out of there with a new found motivation. A new found power and energy. As a result, you come out with this idea and execute it, but the result isn’t as planned and it knocks you for six…
Yeah, and one day you wake up and clarity comes. It all hits you at once and tears you apart. It eats at you and that’s what a breakdown is. It’s called the disillusionment because your illusions are disappearing, your illusions are fading away and you’re left with your true self. And what that is, it’s nothing, it’s a void, a true emptiness which we find very uncomfortable. Which is why I’m always talking, always trying to distract myself from being with myself. Like, “do I actually sit and think?” It’s always, I need to do this and I need to do that. So there’s this big realization that you’ve been through some real insane times and people get hurt along the way.
When I came back I was convinced I was able to enlighten other people. The first person I tried to do that with was my mother, but I was so blinkered in my understanding of what was going on that I wandered into a very dangerous position and I’m very surprised that something very bad didn’t happen to me during that period. I got away with it.
There was very, very risky behaviour. Doing stuff I usually wouldn’t do. For example, some gigantic bloke in a bar looking around staring, and I could see what could potentially happen. He’s looking for someone to start on basically. Rather than avoiding him, I’d be straight over to him. I wouldn’t be aggressive, I’d be trying to kinda hypnotise him, trying to manipulate these potentially murderous people! You can get yourself into real trouble, and I’m lucky I didn’t. Maybe a good kicking would have sorted me out!
HTF: So you wound up in Cherry Knowle…
Cherry Knowle hospital, yes. Cherry Knowle was the place where as a kid, you’d be told: “don’t talk to yourself or you’ll end up in Cherry Knowle.” I don’t think it was ever meant seriously, maybe it was. What they meant was don’t exhibit your mental health issues, don’t be out of the normal. Play the game, keep it to yourself. Otherwise you’re going to be sent away and you’ll be ostracised and marginalized for the rest of your life.
HTF: It’s something that’s engrained in, particularly Northern, working class culture… if you’re not one of the lads, then what are you?
Well, you’re a ponce! Well, you’re probably an interesting person but you’re probably not going to fit in. When I was a kid, I heard this term Cherry Knowle and it resonated with me, there was a kind of spookiness and when I eventually went there, I remembered that. Maybe that resonance I had as a kid was something telling me: “you’re gonna learn about that one day!”. Almost like a premonition. It was always there, it seemed to chime with me, so when I went there I wasn’t really surprised it had gone that way. I went there and it was a profound experience to wake up in that hospital for the first time, with it setting in that “oh my god, I’m in Cherry Knowle”.
HTF: Do you think the fact it was Cherry Knowle made it that much more of a wake-up call as opposed to being in “XYZ mental health hospital”?
Yeah, without a doubt. It was the legendary place. The truth is when people find out you’ve been to Cherry Knowle it affects the way they treat you. Some people become scared of you and some people become very understanding and help you. But it definitely affects you for the rest of your life. I’m happy to talk about it as I don’t believe anyone has the right to criticise or stigmatise anyone for what’s happened to them unless of course, they’ve committed heinous crimes. I think going there changed me in almost a similar way as going to the desert. I came out, the second time I went in was for about two and a half months. I came out and went completely manic. I became much better on the piano, but I really lost control.
HTF: I’m guessing there was a release of energy of such after being locked away from society for so long. You’d come out like a race horse.
It’s like “I remember life, this is what it’s all about”
HTF: So you try and lap it up as quickly as possible, at 500mph, and at some point you eventually burn out again…
Ah, easy peasy, because when you are in that frame of mind, you think you are infinite. But you aren’t. It runs out. You can’t control how you regenerate energy and how much you spend. Some people really conserve their energy and it works, you know. They have longevity, some famous musicians, while others have clearly run out of everything.
HTF: So you ended up back in Cherry Knowle for a 3rd and, so far, final time…
Well, Cherry Knowles hospital is closed so I’ll never be going back there! It was a turning point. I had to make a change. I had to call a hiatus on the band. Then I began to think about what the next step was, obviously I became a chef and that was great for me, I’m fond of a graft. That was a real turning point, to be honest with you. Calling the lads in and saying that. For the rest of the day, it felt like there was a sudden space in my life, which was previously too full.
HTF: That’s quite a common theme among people who suffer from mental health problems, that they get to the point where to start turning things around they’ll make, not a straight-up written down list, but they’ll make a mental list of, so to speak, reparations within their life. Things they want to sort out. Re-establishing relationships with family or things like that. For other people, it’s cutting off ties that they feel are damaging them.
It’s that kind of waking up, it’s exactly what happened to me, I had this mental list of things that if I achieved them, even if they were small things, like learning to drive or doing a degree, which I both did. I’m now a bachelor of arts and I can move around town much quicker than before! I don’t live in a different realm but there’s a massively different set of responsibilities. Self-esteem coming from achievement. It was crippling for me at one point, once I realized what I had to do to turn it around. I just didn’t think I was capable of doing it. But after that one decision, to call a hiatus on the band, eventually it all happened definitely because of that. I only started teaching because I was working as a chef, I only started working as a chef because I’d called a hiatus on the band. I only started driving because I was teaching and I did my BA through the place I was teaching at.
So it worked, it was challenging, but I was fully capable of doing it. Once I realized that I actually started to thrive. So it’s like, wow this is amazing and suddenly I’m teaching on a foundation degree and wow, it’s kind of actually worked. It really has worked out incredibly well. I’ve managed to meet someone for whom it’s right for us to be together, we help each other and look out for each other. She’s got a step-daughter who I adore, so my life has much more depth now.
To make the decision to re-establish relationships or move forward. That’s a profound discovery. If you make that kind of discoveries early, then great things will come. As long as you act on these impulses of how you can mend things and push yourself. It works.
Not enough people talk about it. People get stuck in their lives, they get completely frustrated with their lives and they forget why they are here. It happened to me. For a while, I thought it was to write songs that would be played on the radio and to swindle bigger and bigger festival fees! That’s not what I was like as a person, I was an honest musician who adored people like Lou Reed and Bowie and all that lot. All those cool bastards! They were my heroes and they were not remotely concerned with the music business. They were anti all that, they were punks, you know. I remembered that was my attitude and regained it and suddenly started writing this very unpunk-like music.
HTF: But with a sort of punk-like spirit…
Yeah, just like for me, I’m not comparing myself to those people, but say someone like John Coltrane. He’s playing Jazz music but he has punk spirit. He has that uncompromising passion for what he’s doing. It pours out of him. Those were my heroes, not stadium bands. But then I started to aspire to arena bands because I wanted to play the big shows. I mean, we [The Futureheads] went on tour supporting Linkin Park around Germany and Scandinavia. Can you imagine that? Four lads from the north east of England coming out in smart clothes in front of miserable German Linkin Park fans. What were we doing? At the time we thought it was a good idea. That’s how insane it got.
HTF: Was there this sense, when you ended the band, that you’d set out with this aspiration to be among the Lou Reeds and Bowies of the world but instead wound up, without being overly critical, as being just another of the class of 2004/2005?
Yeah, that was always going to happen. We got sucked right into it. The NME tour that happened in 2004 with us, The Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party and The Killers. That was the peak of it all as far as I’m concerned. That was when it was completely relevant. Once you’re lumped in, you’re lumped in and if the ship goes down everyone sinks and that essentially happened.
I feel if I’m being honest, out of that generation of bands, we got the roughest deal. I think we were the biggest underachievers. The only reason I can think for that is that we were torn between our roots and our situation in the music business, whereas other bands just went for it. We came from a DIY punk background really, we used to go down to Leeds and play in squats and we moved away from that. We wound up signing to a major label. Which, if I’m honest, is really not what we wanted. But it was like, shit! We’re gonna be able to quit our jobs in supermarkets… We were torn between those two worlds. We would never have become a prolific band in the DIY world but we were never going to become an arena band. But it was all about that. It was like Bloc Party have announced an arena tour, we’ve gotta get our act together…
HTF: Do you think that’s totally the line drawn under The Futureheads then?
Ah, I dunno about that. I mean we’re still close. It’s my birthday on Saturday and Jaff’s coming through and obviously, our Davey will be there, Ross is busy. I love them, obviously, I’m very fond of my brother. We never fell out really. “Is there any chance of you getting back together?” Probably not.
HTF: Perhaps that’s the thing, especially with you guys, where you never had that huge peak and you’ve all made yourselves lives now. There’s not that same urge to pick the scab again.
Exactly. For me, what the big game changer is one day you look in your bank account and you’ve got enough money to make plans for your life. That never happened to us. We never sold enough records. We ended up in debt, I mean we ended up owing Warners over £1 million. I’ve never seen a penny of it. We had this terrible accountant. He told us we’d earned that much. But it wasn’t. That’s actually what we owed! It was the worst day of my life. Needless to say, he was promptly sacked!
I have experienced huge amounts of jealousy for those people who…made it. Who were able to have some kind of security. That was part of my dark night of the soul, thinking “oh god, we’ve missed the chance for that”. Sometimes I wish we were more driven in that way, but we weren’t. We were just exploring the next opportunity. If we’d been a bit more careerist.
But the only thing you can do when you start to have these thoughts is ask yourself, where am I now? When you’re ill, in an enormous catatonic state because of depression, you’re in real trouble, so it’s difficult to look at anything but the disappointments. Everything that’s happened I’m glad. I wouldn’t be with my girlfriend. I wouldn’t be teaching. I wouldn’t have written this album. When you can become grateful, the battle’s over. There’s nothing left to fight. You’ve turned it round and done whatever is necessary.
HTF: A lot of people who go through CBT and therapy sort of make a five step plan. So to finish, what would you say are the five things that helped you and got you where you are now?
Well, it’s gonna sound a bit trite, but obviously, self-forgiveness, making positive changes, finding passion or rekindling the passion in life, having a hobby and don’t take yourself too seriously!
Those things all together will protect you from the dungeon. If you practice them.
Malody is available now through Barry’s own website and major music retailers. You can check him out on Facebook here.
Tonic Music For Mental Health works with sufferers of mental illness through the use of music to build esteem and social skills. For further support and advice regarding mental illness visit Mind’s website.