Mental health is a prominent issue within the music community, so New Noise Magazine reached out to a diverse group of artists and asked them to speak about their personal experiences with mental illness. This is an exclusive ongoing spotlight—coinciding with Issue #31, The Mental Health Issue, of the print magazine—that showcases a refreshing transparency on the struggles many individuals face and the coping mechanisms they’ve developed to overcome them.

Stefan “ The Count” Murphy of Count Vaseline

The experimental psychedelic pop project, Count Vaseline—helmed by Irish vocalist and instrumentalist Stefan “The Count” Murphy and Judas von Basf, his trusty tape machine—first manifested in May of 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Several months later, in September, the project birthed its debut full-length album, Yo No Soy Marinero. Now located in Atlanta, Georgia, The Count released his sophomore follow-up, Cascade, on March 31—an album Murphy refers to as a “micro-universe of record.”

Are there any personal experiences with mental health issues you’d like to share?

I’ve battled with depression most of my life. Not for as long as I can remember, but certainly since my early teens. It has made my life a hellish nightmare at times. Right now, I’m on top of it, but it’s stifled my work, my relationship with bandmates, and my relationship with those closest to me.

How does your mental health status interact with or inform the way you make music?

The wild fluctuation of my mood and the emotional Ferris wheel that it takes me on can render me incapable of making music sometimes, and then at other times, it can shift me into top gear. I have never been diagnosed with bipolar disorder [or] manic depression, but I do experience pretty violent fluctuations in my mood. When I’m down, I can get nothing done, so I use the periods when I’m “up” to my advantage. Though I know the feeling is not healthy and not really to be trusted, when I’m experiencing mania, I’m really dialed in to what I need to be doing. My songwriting flourishes, my organizational skills are on point, and my general work rate exceeds expectations.

In terms of how it informs my songwriting, I try not to wallow on the bad feeling that depression brings. If I’m gonna write about anything, it’s usually the unpredictability, the destructive behavior, and the misadventures that I end up going on.

What are some mechanisms you’ve developed and/or discovered that help you cope?

The practice of mindfulness has been a great tool to me in the past few years. I learned it after a particularly disastrous breakdown. Broken down to plain English, mindfulness is the art of being in the moment. Forgiving yourself or forgetting about the suffering of the past and not looking too far into the future gives you a tiny bit of breathing space in the present. I try to center myself with this concept when things in life get hairy—internally or externally. It doesn’t always work, but it’s something. 

Are there ways you think the music world could better accommodate and/or include those living with mental illness?

Just to be open and accepting of artists with mental issues and try to understand them and their art. Also, as artists, musicians [should] be in touch with the world around us. Music has great healing power if we engage in our communities—even at a family and friends level—with anyone we know to be suffering and, if possible, offer up our services to anyone trying to raise money or awareness for mental health charities. Back home, Pieta House and Aware are two charities that do a lot for people and families affected by depression and suicide. A lot of homegrown artists are very generous with their time and money when it comes to these causes.

Mental illness has always been something closely associated with creatives. Everyone making music should be aware of that and exercise compassion and vigilance to those suffering in close proximity to them. 

How are your personal experiences impacted by external forces—subculture, dominant culture, political rhetoric, policy shifts, the news media, social media, etc.?

I find it’s hard to have a mood-related mental disorder in a world that is almost designed to test your moods to their absolute limits. News can be very pessimistic. Social media can be vacuous and negative. I’m trying to raise a young girl in a world that fills me full of dread and nihilism at times, so it can be tough… One of my answers to the problem is to write songs about it. My new record, Cascade, really ticks this box.

Joe Taylor of Versus

Seattle nu metal band, Versus, was formed in 2014 by former members of Lakeview Drive. Comprised of vocalist Joe Taylor, guitarist and vocalist Josh Kendrick, guitarist Mack Newman, bassist Brandon Boylan, and drummer Anthony Zaragoza, the band released their debut EP, The Black, in January of 2016. Despite their aggressive sonic approach, Versus imbue their music with a positive message of hope and mutual support, reaching out through their songs to let fans know they are not alone. Now signed to Revival Recordings, the band dropped their first full-length, The Cardinal, on March 3.

Are there any personal experiences with mental health issues you’d like to share?

About two years ago, I lost my stepdad to suicide. It was and still is a rough thing to deal with. You have ups and downs. But you have to take the tragedies in life and roll them into direction and motivation. That’s what I’ve done. Used my pain to help others see that they are not [alone]. 

How does your mental health status interact with or inform the way you make music?

We carry a lot of meaning behind the songs. Our music is a message to those struggling. It draws a picture of what it’s like to live with depression and how it effects every single part of your life. This music is meant to acknowledge the fact that I have my past to bare as well. Everyone has their demons. We just have to support each other to get through the tough times. 

What are some mechanisms you’ve developed and/or discovered that help you cope?

It’s taken a lot of time for me to learn to cope with my emotions. Yelling to the top of my lungs is one of the most effective [ways]. But the most effective coping mechanism I’ve learned is just owning you. Owning your feelings and your past. You can’t even begin to heal until you’ve done that. It’s a scary but important part of the grief cycle. 

Are there ways you think the music world could better accommodate and/or include those living with mental illness?

There are so many things we, as people, can do to change how mental health is approached just by living morally. Stop this whole cliques thing. When you’re at a show, say hey to the person next to you. You don’t know what that person is dealing with and your split second of caring and compassion could save a life. That’s not an exaggerated piece of information. It’s a fact. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I don’t think I’m the only one with skeletons in the closet.

How are your personal experiences impacted by external forces—subculture, dominant culture, political rhetoric, policy shifts, the news media, social media, etc.?

I think everyone is impacted by what’s going on around them, but one of the positive things about going through really crappy situations is that I focus on the things I truly care about. Not too worried about pop culture these days. It’s all overrated.

Write A Comment