When Danielle Partis was just a teenager, she was mocked for taking a notebook and camera to gigs. She was even told by an editor of a local blog that she would never write for Metal Hammer and that her work was merely “passable”.
Despite being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia at just twenty-one years old, Danielle not only went on to write for Metal Hammer but has established herself as a prominent figure in video games journalism. As co-founder of Overlode (an independent games publication) and editor of PocketGamer.biz (a leading video game website that focuses on mobile, portable and handheld games), her voice in the gaming industry undoubtedly serves as an inspiration for both women, and disabled aspiring journalists.
We got a chance to speak to Danielle about her success in video games journalism and how her disabilities have affected her journey.
Born from the innovation of her long-term friend Harry and his friend Jordan, both of whom were interested in setting up an independent outlet, Overlode became a popular space in games journalism, that would favour and spotlight rising talent and minorities in the industry.
“I kind of wanted to be on board anyway because I will just stick my fingers in any kind of projects that I get my hands on,” Danielle says.
With her previous experience of running a website, Danielle had an essential role in bringing their vision into fruition. “I really liked their concept and what they had going on. They just kind of needed a little bit of guidance.”
“It was a combination of just creating something a little bit different from my day job (because that’s very business orientated), and just setting up a kind of grassroots project with two people that I really like. I think their work is great and so yeah, it just it just kind of fell into place.”
Though initially set up as a “side hustle”, the project has developed from the joint work and vision of three people to being funded through Patreon. With regards to the future, Danielle expresses her hopes that Overlode will progress to becoming more sustainable, employing writers’ long term as well as offering up commissions.
Despite the gaming industry being very London-centric, Danielle roots in Hull are rigid. Yet by working remotely from home, she has been able to connect with other industry professionals all over the world.
“I think initially I was incredibly lucky with the position that I got at Steel Media that I’m still at almost four years later, because while the company is technically based in Bath (we have a HQ in Bath), everyone that works there works remotely. So, it really wasn’t an issue for me to kind of jump in. Although that did come with a lot of traveling around and going to events and things, I was able to have this quite high-profile role and this responsibility from home. That’s something that has obviously stayed with me as the role has progressed, and as my career has progressed as well.
Conscious of the south-centric reality of the media and journalism scene, Danielle and her team at Overlode aspire to even the scales by staying located up north.
“We wanted to sort of become a beacon for people that think that they can only curate these high-profile careers and roles if they go to the locations where this kind of stuff thrives. We kind of want to say no you don’t have to do that – you can build this from anywhere.”
With the pandemic forcing industries to adapt to remote learning and working from home, Danielle feels that at least one positive message about accessibility has been illuminated in people’s everyday lives: “You don’t need to be in the right place at the right time – you can just create whatever you want to create from anywhere.”
Since the Covid-19, she jokes that her typical day mirrors Groundhog Day due to its repetitive nature. Her full-time job enforces a busy routine that has her working on multiple projects at once.
“I’m up eight or nine in the morning and I log in to talk to my team because I have two very lovely full-time staff members and we set what we’re going to do for the day. Then my day job is just running Pocketgamer.biz. So, I’ll be doing anything from interviews and features, kind of deep dives and then I will spend my lunch breaks and early evenings doing Overlode stuff.”
“My late evening is either spent playing games with friends, catching up on stuff that I’ve missed or doing a bit of writing for Overlode. I think that was another reason I was so keen to get involved with it because I wanted to do more creative writing again outside of the very business focused stuff that I do at work.”
Looking back at her own success, Danielle expresses that it feels almost surreal. Five years ago, she describes a life in which she was struggling with money and a place to live, completely blindsided by the pressure of making her career sustainable. But with dedication, discipline, and an unwavering desire to work, she secured a freelancing job at Metal Hammer which led onto the life she currently leads as co-founder of Overlode and Editor at Pocket Gamer.
“It was like a massive amount of luck as well,” she admits, “but I think that if you just keep going and you keep taking the creative stuff seriously then you will eventually make an imprint.”
“I still even now catch myself like looking around at the things that I do, even like the apartment that I live in and that I’m able to have this kind of life for myself just with money that I earn from writing. It is still mind-blowing so many years on.”
Despite the criticism she was met with as a teenager for taking reviewing gigs seriously when she was not being paid, she didn’t let the ridicule get to her. In fact, she argues that resolute attitude at the cost of so-called ‘street cred’ benefited her in the long run.
“In my head I was like if I want to do this as a job as a career you have to take this small stuff seriously,” she says. “You have to act like everything is serious – not in a kind of way where you take yourself too seriously and you become a little bit of a wanker about it – but you know, you have to treat everything as a serious task, whether you’re reviewing like a local gig down the pub or you’re at the O2, it’s all the same thing it’s all the same skill set.”
Danielle’s advice to budding creatives is both realistic and reassuring. Having gone through the financial struggles herself, she admits that deviating from an intended career path is often necessary in order to pay the bills and get into the industry that you want to be in.
“I remember working in a call centre and thinking oh this is it for me now, working in a call centre I failed at my path, and it’s like no, it’s just another step isn’t it? It’s another tool to enable you to get where you want to be… don’t be afraid to kind of divert from the path a little bit and do something that might not be the direction that you’re heading in, even if it’s just so you can pay the bills.”
With regards to games journalism in particular she reiterates the importance of working in working in various formats: “even if you’re just writing on a blog and you’re reviewing the games that you that you can get hold of. Or reviewing music or whatever. As long as you’re doing something that is keeping you developing that particular skill then that is beneficial to you.”
Due to the small nature of the music and games industry, reputation is a major factor in attributing success according to Danielle. She particularly warns against misusing social media and creating an unappealing online presence as these industries are already so competitive and saturated.
“I’ve seen people that are in positions hire new people who literally won’t hire somebody if they’ve posted an annoying tweet or something,” she says. “I think that’s wild because that you know what you say in a personal social media space ideally shouldn’t dictate your professionalism. Probably the most opportunities that I’ve had in my career so far, is just by being kind and not thinking that things should be handed to me, because it’s all luck ‘cos nobody owes you anything in any of these spaces.”
On reflection, Danielle expresses gratitude for own disabilities due to the effect it had on her motivation to hone her skills. Prior to her diagnosis she describes a very busy life scouring local gigs that didn’t give her much of a chance to seriously cultivate her abilities.
“I mean it felt worse at the time, but in hindsight it made me really focus down on like bettering my skills as a writer because I had nothing else to do,” she says. “I was housebound and struggling to manage these disabilities and all I could do was write. I was like, well, this is my strongest skill set. I have to make to make this work if I’m going to live and I did, and it obviously paid off.”
Though she has a more positive outlook on her disabilities now, she is open about the downsides as well – “it feels like you are working twice as hard as everyone around you to achieve half as much,” she says.
“I have a really good team that’s really understanding of my disabilities, but it can feel like that and it can also feel sometimes that opportunities are kind of closed off to you because of your disability.”
Even though society is slowly becoming more accessible, there are still instances in which those with disabilities are not considered; Danielle has encountered many accessibility issues with live events in the game industry, citing 8-hour conferences in particular that do not consider her chronic fatigue.
She recounts one such instance of inaccessibility: “I remember going to a party that was on the top floor of a car park – like an abandoned car park – and there wasn’t a lift, and it was just sort of an oversight on every level of accessibility. But I feel like I am in a very privileged position now that people are aware and accommodating of my illnesses, which makes my job a lot easier.”
As someone with a growing presence in the gaming industry, Danielle hopes to be a beacon for others with limiting disabilities and has a desire to help other people like her get to such a distinguished level. Her story is one of encouragement to those who feel like their disabilities are robbing them of their dreams.
“[Your disabilities are] not going to stifle you because there are people here now that will help you up, that will help you get to these same heights and I think that something that’s really important to me – making sure that there is space here now for people like me, not in the way that it was when I was trying to get here.”
“The road to more accessibility to more inclusion gets better when there’s at least one person in a room of decision makers that has experienced or lived with a particular ailment and that can be, you know, a physical disability, it could be a mental disability, it could be, you know, somebody of a different race. You have rooms of white people making decisions and it only takes like one person of colour in a room to say, actually, this is a bad decision. It’s the same for me if I’m the only disabled person in a room of these decision makers.”
Negativity is undoubtedly an obstacle all creatives face and sometimes it’s spite that drives them forward as opposed to talent or determination. Danielle argues that this is partly the case for herself too when citing a time when she was 15 and dismissed by an editor for a local blog. Those discouraging words stuck with her and were proved wrong eight years later when she went onto write for one of the world’s most famous heavy metal magazines.
“I will use a Ginger Wildheart quote; he said in a song ‘Fuck all the experts with all due respect, because no one’s an expert in what’s coming next.’ I think that’s true… nobody knows what’s going to happen next and you know it might be you and you will never see it coming. So just keep working you know, if you have a dream and you have a goal just keep working towards it and keep taking it seriously and keep trying.”
Kind, encouraging and inspiring, Danielle Partis’ final words are a helping hand to those who are in a similar situation to what she was in as a young adult.
“I am now in a position where I can help somebody else, like don’t ever be afraid to reach out to me, because I will try my best to give you some kind of actionable advice to help you grow the thing that you want to grow.”
Born in 1981, Rachel Jepson started getting into music in the late 80s and 90s. Tricky, Martina Topley-Bird, Juliana Hatfield and Jill Scott sound tracked her youth. As she grew older, she got into making music herself by singing in a big band. Currently, Rachel is now a qualified counsellor, mother, radio presenter, author and one half of acoustic act, Black Lake Hotel. Though it was initially her plan to make her name through music, Rachel is now an esteemed professional in the mental health sector and gained global recognition and support through founding her company ‘Counselling for Musicians’ in 2017. Her service has worked with organisations such as the NHS, BUPA and AnxietyUK and strives to fill the gap in mental health support and awareness surrounding those in the music industry.
We got a chance to talk to the ‘Women in Music Award’ nominee and founder of Counselling For Musicians about her brilliant work in the music and mental health sector.
In January and February 2020, her band Parent recorded their EP, the band was booked for a few gigs, but it didn’t happen due to coronavirus. Despite the pandemic halting live music, Rachel hasn’t let that stop her from being creative during lockdown. Going forward as a musician, Rachel tells us her band are in the process of writing an album. Throughout lockdown, the band collaborated with an animator to do a music video. The video was released on Halloween and won Judge’s Choice at an anime video awards ceremony. Alongside musical talents, Rachel is also an established writer – it was this that catapulted her into founding Counselling for Musicians.
“I wrote an article for Therapy Today and the editor at the time, Catherine Jackson, was really encouraging for what I was doing, and it made me think oh okay, maybe I could do this on a larger scale,” Rachel explains.
“[I can] actually write a book and put some client transcripts in there because that was basically what the article was and then yeah, I kind of ran with that. I was also at the time hosting a radio show. Musicians and industry professionals would come in and talk to me about their experiences with mental health, so those two things really inspired me to write the book.”
Her book “Mental Health In The Music Industry: A Guide,” expanded on the article she wrote for Therapy Today and was separated into 12-13 chapters detailing mental health related issues she felt were most prevalent in the music industry. Her analysis of case studies including Kurt Cobain and Boy George forces people to change the way they look at artists. She breaks down their experiences and encourages critical thinking around the music industry. The book explores the importance of removing people from a pedestal that will only do them more harm than good.
The journey from musician to mental health professional has transformed Rachel’s definition of success. “For me it’s definitely changed over the years,” she says. “But that’s a natural thing as your needs change, as your situation changes, your circumstances… success to me now is to make a good living out of something you enjoy doing and possibly on another note, being well known for it? But that again, has become a fairly recent thing for me. I know that a lot of people want to be the next big thing and famous for what they’re doing – that definitely eased off for me. I don’t think I wanted to be like the next big thing – I just really loved singing.”
On her own journey and progress, Rachel admits to the life-altering change she underwent as she began to train as a counsellor.
“Once you start on the therapy training and all that kind of stuff, you just carry on doing it for the rest of your life,” she explains. “You’re always growing, always developing, I love having my mind open about stuff. I love admitting that I’m wrong about something or that maybe that I’ve had a different view on something that is maybe not quite right. Or that I was quite narrow-minded about something. I love that I can change my definition of things, you know, depending on my circumstances and what’s happening to me. It’s a process, it’s always flowing, always fluid, that’s what I love about mental health and being in this world, it’s just great.”
The exact moment Rachel decided to make the decision to counsel for the music industry was an intimate one – in the comfortable silence of rocking her three-month-old (at the time) baby to sleep.
“I always had a lot of time to think in those moments,” she says. “A lot of things were born in those moments, a lot of thoughts that I had, and it’s something that I thought about whilst I was finishing up my training because I’ve researched provision for mental health in music. I can’t remember what kind of inspired to do that, maybe I’d been struggling a bit with my mental health and was starting to realise that maybe that was to do with my experiences in music.”
After researching it, Rachel found a few charities and organisation that offered help to musicians, but nobody was doing counselling at that time. “I say at that time because that’s changed massively,” she adds. “And I kind of came back to that moment when I was rocking my son and thinking okay this is something I can actually do. In a few months when I’m off maternity leave, I’m gonna really explore this, I’ve got to do this. So yeah, I met up with someone from Help Musicians and we shared ideas going forward with counselling. Then I founded Counselling for Musicians a few months later and haven’t really looked back. Basically, I just kind of pestered a lot of people – like I’m a counsellor, I’m a musician, and you know I can offer this.”
But it turns out her ‘pestering’ paid off and she secured work with institutions like BIMM to provide counselling for musicians. Her personal history as a performer in the music industry helped provide her with valuable transferrable skills that combatted her initial nerves and anxieties as a newly qualified counsellor.
‘I remember specifically in that first placement session, before they turned up thinking this is it now, this is what you wanted to do, this is the moment, you’re gonna be great. I remember thinking you’ve got up on stage to thousands of people like that is…this is you know nothing compared to that. Of course, you know you can’t really compare that as it is you know just as nerve-wracking to be with one person.”
“I remember kind of specifically saying that to myself and I do sometimes when I’m doing a workshop or something that I’m a bit nervous about. I’ll think you’ve got you’ve gone into like massive places and loads be like this is nothing compared to that and I don’t know whether that’s necessarily true but it’s what I tell myself in those moments.”
When discussing her hopes for the industry Rachel hopes management companies and labels start investing money into counsellors and being mindful of the mental health of their clients.
“I think that it would be really beneficial if that happened. If management companies and record labels put a budget aside for mental health. I know some are, not the major labels as far as I know, but there are smaller labels that are still doing quite well.
Considering the recent, shocking documentary Framing Britney and its exposé on how the music industry can destroy an individual’s mental health, Rachel’s emphasis on the need for support for musicians is especially poignant. “Personally, I believe that and there does need to be when someone goes in and signs a contract,” she stresses. “In that scenario, there does need to be a ‘right this is what we’re doing to help you with your mental health and well-being, and this is what we’re putting in there.’ I don’t see why that couldn’t happen – they’ve got a responsibility to make sure that you know people are safe and feel okay, [and that] there is a provision for them to go to if they’re feeling down or they need some help with something.”
One of the key issues Rachel wishes to combat, is changing the narrative of the disposability of musicians. People are made to feel that if they don’t cave into what management wants of them, that they’ll be replaced – this is an experience Rachel has experienced herself 20 years ago.
“That is still happening now,” she says, “So that is really disappointing and there definitely needs to be a bit of a switch of ‘right we understand that you’re struggling, these things need to be done at some point, but right now you know, what do you need? If you can’t do these things, maybe we can put it on hold and maybe we could just do it in a little bit of time.’ There’s no HR department is there? There’s nobody to sit down with and say ‘my boss is doing this, my boss is saying this, I find it really difficult, I need a week at home but I can’t because they won’t let me take any time off.’ There’s nobody like that so it’s very much you’re lucky to be here, and if you don’t want to do it, someone else is going to do it. That whole culture for me massively needs to change.”
With regards to the future, Rachel is currently working on a Masters but hints that there’s a PhD in the pipeline. She plans to continue trying to change and incorporate things into the industry, as well as representing more musicians. As she is doing counselling on her own, she doesn’t have to deal with the politics of charities and instead, can offer an authentic service as a musician who has overcome her own struggles with mental health.
Counselling for Musicians offers a two-hour workshop for music students that educates them on the mental health implications of joining the music industry. As well this, she provides one-to-one and group counselling sessions that have been taking place over videocall throughout the pandemic, which has simultaneously allowed her to connect with clients all over the world. However, Rachel is eager to get back to face to face appointments. Rachel’s message for people looking into her work is a compassionate one. She says there is no pressure to contact her unless you feel it’s time to make that step but that she’d love to hear from anybody who wants to come to her for help.
If you are a musician or work in the music industry and are struggling with your mental health – there is help available. Reach out for it.
When we think of therapy you might imagine sitting awkwardly on a sofa while a stern middle-aged man wearing glasses scribbles away on his notepad. You might imagine a woman showing you pictures of ink blotches. You might even imagine journaling your darkest thoughts away in a notebook every night. What probably doesn’t come to mind is listening to loud and aggressive music to cheer yourself up.
But one clinical psychologist begs to differ. We got to chat with full-time NHS worker and founder of Heavy Metal Therapy, Dr Kate Quinn. Heavy Metal Therapy (HMT) is a community project which is about the link between heavy metal and mental health, which argues that for many heavy metal enthusiasts, the extreme music they listen to is actually good for their emotional wellbeing.
Dr Kate is an avid fan of metal and heavy rock (particularly Nine Inch Nails), and has found solace in the thrashing drums, shredding guitar, and growling vocals of the genre. Having worked with teenagers and young adults, Kate stumbled across a trend of heavy metal fans finding the music to be a good stress and anxiety relief. Though typically, the music is assumed to be listened when said listener is angry or sad, however HMT encourages us all to see the healthy and useful side to engaging with the anger in heavy metal.
The community psychology project started off as a little Facebook page and has grown exponentially from there through the power of social media. Currently, their Facebook page has over 6000 followers despite their initial aim being only 100. The group works to delve into the psychological side to heavy metal, particularly what happens when people listen to metal. Since experiencing such unprecedented growth, HMT are now able to offer workshops and are even selling merch.
Though the project initially started as a hobby, Dr Quinn recognises the higher levels of engagement requires a much heavier workload and far more responsibility. Her voice is tinged with gratitude when she explains the amount of time the metal community has invested in making sure the community project stayed afloat – “if people didn’t do stuff for us for free, we couldn’t exist.”
Since taking off, HMT has become a great resource for the people. The project builds on the connection between heavy metal and depression and has since evolved into a brand of sorts, but one with ‘values and principles’ Kate quickly stresses.
When discussing the germination of Heavy Metal Therapy, Dr Quinn admits that for a long time she thought her love for the genre wasn’t helpful – apart from conversing with angsty teenage boys she jokes.
“I did a piece of work with a particular client; we spent a long time building up his back story using heavy-metal lyrics. For example, thinking about like the way it helped him. We used to always joke that it was like doing heavy metal therapy, and from that we sort of started thinking that they must be other people like this. There’s something about the sharing of [recovery] stories that we think is really powerful and really helpful.”
Though HMT is not particularly about that initial teenage client’s story, the idea of metal music as a tool that can be used to quantify experiences and that many can relate to the anguish and anger often fuelling the genre, helped spark the idea of Heavy Metal Therapy.
“My background is in the Hearing Voices Movement where they do a lot of sharing of stories and I believe that’s really powerful part of recovery,” Kate explains. For context, the Hearing Voices Movement (HVM) is a ground-breaking movement that builds upon the book Living with Voices: 50 Stories of Recovery, to amplify the experiences of people who hear voices as a lived experience. HVM produced various hearing voices groups up and down the UK and worked well to create a sort of “community healing,” through the cathartic exchange of lived experiences.
“I guess we sort of attempted to create [Heavy Metal Therapy] out of some of the ethos of that, but on social media and or on the Internet.”
Though HMT has its own mission statement and ten principles, Dr Quinn narrows it down to one defining trait: “It’s very much by the metal community for the metal community – that’s the idea.”
“We have these resources; we have these stories…I often think of us being a bit like a library rather than a support group.”
Despite heavy metal music’s ostracization by society and labelling as a ‘destructive’ or even ‘demonic’ subculture, Dr Quinn is confident in its ability to benefit many fans’ mental health.
“We have a little bit of a responsibility to do a bit of myth busting about the negative stereotypes about heavy metal music,” she states. “And [a responsibility to] try and understand a little bit more about what’s happening in terms of all these people that are saying that this is a really important part of their lives. And music is isn’t it? A massive part of loads of people’s lives. And I really think it’s sort of underused in therapy.”
The psychology project involves a combination of work within the community and outreach, as well as the sharing of good news within the group. Though the organisation hasn’t received much support from the music industries or famous bands or musicians, they have thrived through support that is community generated. “It’s got a grassroots feel to it which I really like,” confesses Kate.
Despite the home-grown support and initial small volunteer base, HMT has made huge strides in psychiatry.
“A few weeks ago we managed to get a bit of Heavy Metal Therapy into The Lancet Psychiatry which is like a major journal in mental health which is really cool.”
“But really the best thing about it is the sort of the feedback you get from the community members. We get really really great feedback from people and the stuff they’re willing to share and contribute – that’s always going to be the best thing about it.”
As the project relies heavily on community support, Dr Quinn encourages those interested to get involved. So we ask, how can we get involved?
“There’s loads of stuff,” Kate says. “If people have personal stories that they want to share that’s great, it can be anonymous – just drop us a DM on socials or email us.”
Contributors have the opportunity to write blogs for the project or if they have a certain topic that they want to discuss, they are given a platform to do so.
“People can follow us on social media and can contribute to things like building playlists or sometimes people participate in little bits of research that we’re doing ourselves or can it put people to contribute to.”
“If you have a skill in something like marketing or you’re brave and want to tell the people about it, that’s also great. Spreading the word is the main thing. We don’t care if you’re in a band with a million followers or you’ve got three friends on Facebook or never leave your bedroom, we’re interested in what you’ve got to say.”
Dr Kate Quinn’s own background in clinical psychology has been quite a journey. The professional field is particularly competitive and requires years and years of dedication but she admits she had a stroke of luck.
“So, you know I did a lot of research…and it just so happened to be that there were some psychology related projects that I could get involved with at an assistant level. I totally came to clinical psychology through geekiness. That was it. At the time I was a professional questionnaire scorer and really only got into the more sort of lived experience side of things, and peer support co-production stuff, when I was pretty much nearly qualified actually. That’s when I got involved with the Hearing Voices movement and started working in early intervention which became a really big passion of mine, going on over ten years now.”
Heavy Metal Therapy is more focused on the wider picture as opposed to offering individual support/group therapy.The group works to challenge conventions of therapy and traditions of self-care that often leaves people discouraged.
“First of all, I think that not everybody finds the traditional self-care stuff to be that helpful, a lot of people get disheartened, let’s say they do some meditation and it doesn’t seem to quite work for them. I’ve never been able to do meditation… for me lifting weights is a more mindful practice.”
“We do a lot of stuff about wellness and the idea of wellness and that there’s lots of different things that support people’s wellbeing and that might include stuff that you might not think are your classic wellness activities. It could be about angry music, for example we do metal mindfulness when we do the workshops.”
Dr Quinn defines metal mindfulness as using music that starts off in a traditional mindfulness way (she describes it as ‘a bit tinkly’), and then lets the music build into something really heavy. As the crescendo builds, listeners are advised to tune into it and think about what resonates with them specifically.
“We’re trying to make the point that when we talk about things like selfcare, compassion, wellness, it’s not necessarily what you think it is, that can include engaging with some stuff that’s difficult. For example, that can include alternative wellbeing activities that don’t fit with the mould of what you might be expected to do.”
Essentially, the premise is that it’s mindfulness but according to the person and their individual tastes.
Kate goes onto add, “When I do bits of work with people, I really adapt it to what they are interested in and what they find helpful, and for some people, that’s stuff like metal and that’s fine and valid and legitimate.”
“I think a lot of people who like metal have been dismissed about their interests, and that there has been quite a lot of stigma around liking certain kinds of music.”
HMT works by bringing the metal community together to inspire self-care. Inclusivity is integral to the community project and HMT aspires to have a wide variety on their playlists so everyone has something that they can relate to or enjoy. The group don’t gatekeep the playlists either.
Kate stresses “[we] don’t like metal elitists…if someone says they like something and they relate to that and that means something to them, I think that we all should respect that because that’s them showing vulnerability.
They even have playlists on Spotify that allow members of the community to contribute to and create themselves. Some of the top artists featuring include Kill Switch, Bury Tomorrow, Slipknot, Megadeath and the Architects. There are lots of things in the pipeline for this innovative group; a blog about their Wellness Movement has been published in a psychiatry magazine and now unsigned bands who follow HMT, are being given the opportunity to create a playlist of their own work that relates to mental health.
Words: Jay Mitra
You can find out more about Heavy Metal Therapy below:
Soundsphere Magazine are pleased to present KEEP TALKING—a brand new podcast centered around the music industry in lockdown presented by Stewart Baxter, drummer in Hull based band LIFE.
Supported by funding from the Disabled Entrepreneurs Network, Soundsphere commissioned a locked-down Baxter to record a series of podcasts with the simple goal to re-connect, catch up, and check in with musicians and friends he has met along the way.
Launching on Friday 18th September 2020, for the first episode Baxter speaks to Primal Scream bassist Simone Marie Butler, who has also performed and recorded with artists including James Williamson (The Stooges), Faris Badwan (The Horrors), Ed Harcourt, Zak Starkey, and more.
The pair first met when Baxter performed live on her Soho Radio show a couple of years ago. Over the course of their candid chat we hear about Simone’s early musical memories, her journey as a bass player, and she talks openly about mental health and the experiences of being a touring artist. The pair also discuss Simone’s recent work as a spokesperson for the #letthemusicplay campaign, lobbying for government support to keep the live music industry afloat during this unprecedented year.
Commenting on the project, Baxter says: “When I’m touring with LIFE I meet so many wonderful and interesting people, but we rarely get a chance to have a proper chat between the constant movement. Allowing time to talk and listen is an important thing, right now more than ever. These podcasts are an open and honest discussion about life, art, and everything in-between, and a chance for myself and my guests to take time out to just hang out and catch up.”
The remainder of the first series will also include interviews with Lee Kiernan (IDLES), Jehnny Beth, Chris Slorach (METZ) and more TBA.
An alternative music and culture media brand for the North of England and Worldwide, Soundsphere was created by editor Dom Smith, who was winner of the National Diversity Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence (Disability) in 2012. He has been voted “one of the happiest people in the country” according to The Independent on Sunday, and has also carried the Paralympic Flame for the city of York.
He also works as part of Wobbling About and Rocking Out promoting disability and mental health awareness, and has written for The Metro, Rock Sound magazine, WhatCulture, The Quietus, T3 magazine, NME, Stuff magazine, Metal Hammer magazine and more.
Commenting on the new project, Smith says: “Stew is the beating heart of Hull’s music scene. His love and dedication to maintaining the area’s creative soul for young people, and the wider arts community, is something I’ve admired for more than a decade. I have wanted to work with him for a long time, and I’m proud that we could launch this podcast through Soundsphere, and pick the brains of some of the best and most dedicated musicians and artists in the world.”
In our next in this series of Creative Spotlights, we chat to Hull-based photographer Joshua Elliot about his work and inspirations.
Can you introduce yourself, and tell us about what you do, please?
My name is Joshua Elliott. I’m a 19-year-old photographer and videographer that specialises in many fields. I’m both a hobbyist and professional, meaning that I do it for fun, and I do it as a job as well.
What are the biggest challenges that you face?
Getting started professionally was a task that was hard at first, and still has its struggles. When you first start out in the creative industry, you have nothing to work with, no reputation, no portfolio, nothing. It can be tough to get those first few initial shoots to jump start your career. That’s why I love keeping it as a hobby too, I don’t have to worry about expectations from clients. My mental health also has a massive impact on what I shoot, and has at times made me consider giving it up.
When you live in a world where everyone knows everything about you, and can see your work 24/7, it can sometimes be overwhelming for me knowing that I have expectations to provide a high quality service to both my clients and followers. It makes me doubt my skill a lot of the time. Luckily, I have people around me that support my journey, and leave positive feedback, and even constructive criticism so I can constantly strive to improve.
What kinds of things motivate you – people, places or games and music?
Getting out and doing photography for fun is one of the many ways I motivate myself. Getting out and doing it is the best way in my eyes. I also love taking a scroll down the feeds of other photographers on Instagram and down pages on Facebook to see what other Togs have done/are doing.
Even though it may seem that I only do photography, I’m also a gamer, I love taking days off just to play on my Switch, PC or Xbox One. Having a wide variety of genres helps to keep me occupied and prevents me getting bored. It’s similar to photography actually, as I don’t just stick to one thing, I play anything from shooters and racers, to RPGs, platformers and adventure games. I have a small passion for music as well. I don’t listen to mainstream music, even though I don’t have an issue with it. A lot of the music I listen too actually comes from YouTubers. One of the albums I’m in love with at the moment is called Flashdrive, made by Will Ryan.
What have been a few career highlights?
There has been quite a few so it’s kinda hard to narrow them down haha. But if I had to pick one, it would have to be my first exhibition. Taking place in 2017, I submitted a photo that I took during NCS in the summer of 2017. It was of a house across the lake from where we was staying during the first week at the Lake District. It was easily one of the best photos I had taken at the time. Seeing the photo on the wall in an actual exhibit was weird and surreal considering that I had only being doing photography under a year at that point. It made me realise that I had a talent for photography and that I wanted to keep going with it. And here I am in 2020, three years later and I’m still doing it. Another highlight I must mention would be starting up my photography Instagram account. While it doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment to most, to me it signified the start of my portfolio and journey. If you scroll down my feed and go to the first photo, it’ll be from April 2017, only improving from there.
What does success mean to you?
Success can be interpreted in many ways. for me, success is can be successfully working with a client and having them be satisfied. Success can be going out on a shoot with other photographers. Success can be just editing a good photo and being proud of it. It could even be just having one comment from someone saying the photo is good. It can come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re all as equally important.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a career in photography with a disability or mental health issue?
The best piece of advice I can give to anyone who wants to start a photography career, if they have mental health issues or any disabilities, would be to work for free at the very start. I get that this seems backwards, I mean you’re working and putting time in, and your time is worth money, so what gives? Well, at the start you have no experience or portfolio to show a client your skills. And if they’re not impressed or have nothing to look at, they’re not going to want to put money into you. I suggest finding what genre of photography you want to work in, contact people who would need that service and offer it for free. After you’ve done it for a while and have a few good shoots under your belt, then you should start charging. I know some people will disagree with this, and thats fine, but this approach has worked, and still does work for me and many others.
WARO speaks to local tattoo artist Troy Eyaad who is helping people in his local community get the food and supplies they need in this current crisis. In this interview, we talk about how he started paying for it out of his pocket and the volunteers who stepped up to help, alongside a lovely story about 50ps.
In times of uncertainty, people have to stick together and show community spirit to get through great ordeals such as the current coronavirus crisis. One such man is doing his part for his local community; 36-year-old tattoo artist Troy Eyaad owner of the House Of Ink tattoo studio, and Prospect 82 mini-market in Hull has stepped up to help his community in this crisis.
It is amazing what Troy has achieved and is a far cry from years earlier when he was working as a bouncer in McDonald’s breaking up fights. He shares one particularly harrowing story of being attacked with a bottle: “I nearly got killed once I was helping out a guy and five people jumped on him that were bullying him, and I got hurt by a bottle and then literally next thing I knew I had sixteen stitches in my head.”
Before the lockdown, Mr Eyaad was already donating paracetamol to vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and the elderly. But he wanted to do more, and he started “making little boxes at first by myself making between five and 20 boxes a day, and then I start advertising on social media asking for help and I got a great team – I call them the A-Team because they’re like local heroes,” he says. “We’ve started putting money together and just buying more boxes, and putting more stuff inside it, and now we send them over 200 boxes a day.” He labels the boxes with the phrase, ‘You are not alone’ in order to raise people’s spirits. Troy has even had donations from Makro (a whole food retailer in the UK) and other members of the public to support his cause.
Troy and his volunteers have managed to reach so many more elderly and vulnerable people than when he started – the group went from providing 20 boxes a day to 200.
Troy also comments on the process that is involved in running the operation, which involves being contacted, usually through Facebook, but with the elderly community, it’s often done by word of mouth: “I’ve got elderly people down the road from where I live asking me if I can send them a parcel to help, and of course I need to do that – a lot of elderly people don’t have social media they don’t know about Facebook or the internet.”
It also involves a lot of early starts for the Hull native, “These are the kind of people I’m trying to reach by 12 pm or 1 pm. I start waking up like six in the morning and going stand in the queue, and that’s how I get the stuff at seven o’clock, and then I start setting up. From 10 am to 12 pm, by that time I have usually done 100-150 boxes.”
With this new venture, there are surely some different clientele than his usual customers at the studio. Troy tells the incredible story of an elderly lady who wanted to thank him for his amazing work, he says: “I dropped the box to her, and she said ‘hold on I want to give you something’ – she literally donated 50ps it was like 1ps and 50ps in the bag and I said, ‘We’re not taking money, we get help from other people, we’re not taking money from elderly people, and yeah she cried and she said ‘don’t make me feel useless’ and that really hit me.”
Troy’s work has not gone unnoticed either, along with news articles on the work he does, there is a Facebook group titled ‘The Troy Eyaad Appreciation Group’ which is for people in the local community to say thanks to him for all his hard work.
Rarely, local heroes come along too often, but Troy and his volunteers certainly fit the bill. Let’s hope they keep doing this for a long time to come.
Wobbling About and Rocking Out strives to inspire and motivate the disabled and mental health community to feel more confident in their everyday lives and beyond. Our vision is to curate a resource that brings together people with disabilities - hidden and visible - that empowers them to create, design, write and accomplish.
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WARO’s Dom Smith was recently a guest on the Prelude Podcast to talk about the development of WARO, plans for the future, Soundsphere magazine, mental health and more. You can listen to the episode below!