Frightened Rabbit - December 2016 - Newcastle Riverside
Frightened Rabbit – December 2016 – Newcastle Riverside

I’m writing this as it’s the only way I can come to terms with what happened and start to move on. It seems like an appropriate time as it’s Mental Health Awareness week. When I began writing this I just wanted to say a few words but the rest flowed out. I’ve been a bit taken aback by the sudden loss of Scott that I’ve not really been able to process my thoughts. Gordon and I decided it’d be nice to pay our own respects to the man that brought us so much musical treasure. Hopefully, my thoughts and experiences here will help someone else. I feel better for writing it. It is very personal and there are some things here which I’ve never said to anyone other than my therapist.

Music is my life, my escape from reality, the reason I became a music photographer is due to a breakdown in 2012 ish. A friend committed suicide around that time and that really shook me. My recovery involved CBT which taught me to set goals and learn to enjoy things again. I realised that whenever I have a camera in my hand I feel no pain, when I listen to music I forget about my pain. Hence I became a music photographer and it’s taken over my life. Don’t think I’d want it any other way. I’ve quit music photography more times than I can recall (usually due to mental illness and alcohol abuse, not a good combo!) but I always come back. I love it.

Those who know me will be aware of my fondness for a handful of Scottish bands. I was lucky enough to have seen Frightened Rabbit a couple of times and Mastersystem on their surprise UK tour.

Scott was very good at songwriting. I am still unable to listen to this without crying. It was always a brilliant song, seems so much more now. This song means so much to me.

I spoke to Scott a couple of weeks before he left us. His passing was sudden and although he’d been hugely open about his struggles, it still came as a huge shock. He did seem in a better place mentally. I’ve battled depression most of my adult life, this year it became unbearable and I found myself not wanting to continue. I came close (twice) but ultimately I couldn’t do it. The last time I locked myself in a bathroom and searched for ways of making it look like an accident. I chose to stay, throw myself into photography instead. During this period I found no enjoyment in anything. Only music helped. I binged on the Mastersystem album when it came out. I just connected with it instantly. “I instinctively and instantly connected to it without necessarily understanding why”.

To me, It seemed like Scott had found peace with his inner demons and Mastersystem project seemed to be quite a cathartic exercise. Now looking back and listening to it in hindsight, it seems like a different thing altogether. Now it feels like In Utero.

The thing I admire about Scott is how much his songs have made a massive impact on mental health awareness. He helped to make it okay to talk about these things. I’ve secretly lived with depression since my teens but I’m from an age where such things are not to be spoken of. The shame, the stigma, the shit advice of pull yourself together ‘some people have it much worse than you’ a former boss once told me that. Truth is it’s a deadly illness. It’s an illness that takes over and often feels there is no cure, just endless pain, sometimes that pain is physically debilitating and you’ll do anything to make it stop. Depression is a strange thing, on paper my life is perfect, good job, a loving partner, ticking all of those life goals etc but that doesn’t stop it. It’s when I faced my own end that realised how dangerous it is. Get help, the NHS has helped me immensely. I’d also recommend reading material and support on www.mind.org.uk

During my darkest days, I’d enjoy some Frabbits (Painting of a Panic Attack on repeat. Which got better and better with each play), lots of Eels, The National, Sigur Rós and recent period Mogwai. I’m pigeonholed as a metalhead, but I couldn’t listen to metal, it just triggers panic attacks, I couldn’t watch any TV as it’s all empty advertising fuelled drivel that wants to sell me shit that I don’t need to make my life less shit. So I hid indoors and listened to my mellow music, occasionally breaking out to see a band and get some photos. I saw British Sea Power in Glasgow and for the first time in months, I was happy, if only for one night.

The day of the Mastersystem gig came, my panic attacks were already giving my brain excuses to not go, let’s stay here indoors away from alcohol and loud people, I got a last minute call that Scott was available for interview. I panicked and convinced myself I can’t possibly do it! Then had a word with myself and said aye, fuck it, let’s do it. It was short chat, around 15 minutes but it was hugely positive and funny, Scott had a terrific sense of humour. Scott was genuinely excited to be doing the Mastersystem stuff. I debated uploading the audio recording of the interview but it’s just too difficult to listen to at this time.

Mastersystem - April 2018 - Cluny Newcastle
Mastersystem – April 2018 – Cluny Newcastle

We chatted about the Dance Music album and the usual stuff, how the project came about, the recording process, etc and what he was planning next, more Frightened Rabbit and Mastersystem stuff. On the recording, you can feel his excitement for it, like he has a purpose.

One of the ways I’ve been coping with my illness is to speak to other sufferers and see what helps them. I don’t think I can do that anymore. Not yet. Maybe down the line, but for now I can’t. We talked about depression briefly; “Yeah, it’s something I’ve been battling for a while, I guess the thing is before I realised what was going on I was sort of relishing in it, it becomes such an integral part of my character and I was like well I right these sad songs and it helps me creatively and then it gets to the point where like, no!! fuck that!“. Read the rest of the interview here.

I came away from the interview buzzing, he was very inspiring and of course, his infectious sense of humour made me feel at ease. I went to the show and it was bloody brilliant. The band were on top form, clearly relishing in the music and they finished the night talking to fans, signing records and having a good old laugh. it was great!

Mastersystem - April 2018 - Cluny Newcastle
Mastersystem – April 2018 – Cluny Newcastle

I’m grateful for the music and I’m very grateful for the time he took to speak to me. No ego with Scott, yes we’re only this little tiny website from Newcastle that no-one has heard of but he took the time to speak to us, to me that’s just amazing. Afterhe went missing I descended into a 3-day long depressive state, bursting into tears at the slightest sad thought, deep down I felt that he was gone, I couldn’t accept it. The guilt from the pain I could have caused my loved ones destroyed me and I didn’t leave the house for a few days. I just felt so bad for his loved ones.

I was a latecomer to the magic of Frightened Rabbit. I actually came to know them via their penchant for bringing amazing support bands on tour. This tour they’d chosen a favourite (and criminally overlooked band) Wintersleep on their 2013 UK tour. Excited to enough just to see Wintersleep, Frabbits seemed like a nice bit of icing on the cake. When Scott played a solo version of Poke in Hall 2, no mic, just acoustic and his voice in that sonically perfect room. It sent chills down my spine. Just perfect. That was it. I was hooked. I once played this song to a girl I dated, she made a twisty face at it, maybe it was the swear word. We split not long after. No regrets.

The best advice I can give any fellow sufferers is to get help. Be open about it but take your time, it can take a long while for you to become comfortable talking about it, baby steps. Speak to your doctor and you’ll find the right treatment for you. It takes time and everyone’s own experience is unique. What works for one person is not necessarily the way for you. It’s a deeply personal illness. I’d highly recommend speaking to someone you don’t know, be it a GP, councillor or Samaritans. They are unbiased and can help you make sense of the pain from a third person perspective. I found talking to loved ones made me worse, the guilt of putting them through it just added to my decline. I started with talking to neutral people then built up to opening up about it to friends and colleagues. It’s working for me. I’m still very ill but I’m on the right path now. A good friend also recommended a book by Matt Haig: Reasons to Stay Alive. As the title suggests it’s a tough subject but it certainly helped me understand the physical impact of the illness and he has this way of putting into words something that I couldn’t explain to friends and family. I found myself frustrated at not being able to do that, I can only talk in metaphors. Matt nails it. I still have a copy of it with highlighted parts for the days when things don’t go well. I’d recommend it to anyone suffering and particularly to their loved ones who feel helpless, it might give you a clearer idea of something they can’t put into words.

That’s all from me. Frightened Rabbit are one of the greatest bands to come out of Scotland and that is saying something. The love for Scott has been amazing to see. That’s the thing I’ve really loved, hearing other peoples stories and how the music has helped them. Such a lovely bloke and such a brilliant songwriter. I can’t believe there won’t be any more gigs or new songs. We’ve lost a real treasure. Thank you for the music.

Here’s a selection of my favourite photos of Scott

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Before I go I’d like to share one of my favourite songs. I adore the lyrics. They are just perfect.


Gordon Armstrong recently unearthed some lost photos from Frightened Rabbit at Hit The North Festival at the Riverside in April 2017. After hard drive failure it was feared they were lost for good but he managed to retrieve them, he’s kindly shared them with us and picks a few of his favourite songs.

PHOTO GALLERY – Newcastle Riverside April 2017

 

Whilst chatting about which songs he loved, Gordon mentioned “During a recent conversation with a friend it came up that so many of their friends have been affected by his passing and each one has posted links to different songs. This speaks volumes to the mans writing skill and how he could reach people in so many ways.” I think that’s such a lovely tribute to leave this piece on. We have lost a really unique talent.

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