Do We Ever Know What’s Going On In Someone’s Head?

19-07-25 soundgarden_band

I would say it has been a strange few weeks, but frankly these days it often feels like the whole world has gone mad, yet alone my little corner of it. I can’t tell you all that is going on because some of it is not my story to tell, but the ripples are spreading and it seems pertinent to the event I attended all the way back on the first of July.

I like many people have picked up different groups and pages in my Facebook and there was a message that you dread to see announcing that someone had died. It wasn’t someone I knew but a couple of my people were close to them and are hurting pretty bad right now. It feels like we’re not great at dealing with death at the best of times but in this age of fragmented local communities, overlapping digital spaces, and all the rest of modern life it is hard to manage that grieving process in a unified way to find some sense of closure.

The reason I’m writing about this is because on the first of July there were IMAX screenings around the world of the film Soundgarden: Live from the Artist Den.

I would say that I am a Soundgarden fan, but I am not the Soundgarden fan in my household as they are one my of partner’s favourite bands and she loves all things Chris Cornell so we were both incredibly upset when he died by suicide in 2017.

In fact we still are and so the start of this film was really jarring given that it opens with Cornell giving an introduction to the gig that we were about to watch. There he was in front of us, quite literally larger than life on an IMAX screen talking from beyond the grave about a preference for playing in intimate venues where you can look the audience in the eye.

We had been in such audiences on more than one occasion. Standing in theatres in the UK we had seen him sing with both Audioslave and Soundgarden when they reformed.

One of the impressive things about the reformed Soundgarden was that they didn’t just go out and play greatest hits sets, though they could have. No, they wrote an album called King Animal that is as good as anything they had previously put out, toured it, and were working on a new album. My partner and I were looking forward to new music; ready to go see the band again when they came back to the UK. That won’t happen now.

The Live from the Artist Den film is not the first thing of Cornell’s to be released after his death. However, the show that was shot back in 2013 at the end of the King Animal tour is legendary amongst Soundgarden fans even though they hadn’t seen the film and only a few had attended the show. The film was finally shown as part of the recent Cornell memorial concert and ahead of it being released at the end of the month; fans were given a chance to get the full viewing experience for one night only in various IMAX cinemas around the world.

And what a show. The band were on great form that night, playing songs from across their career including some they rarely played and one that had never been played lie before. I have always made sure that I was a drummer who didn’t just listen to drummers and Soundgarden really are a musician’s band. They play with song structure and time signatures without making a thing of it and have always been sonically interesting. I have always loved Kim Thyall’s guitar tone. The benefit of this being an intimate show is that we have close up views of the band without camera men being right up in the band’s face and you could get a real look at everyone playing. I absolutely looked up Thyall’s gigging rig on the way home having seen his use of a Mesa/Boogie combo amp, with a head stacked on top flanked by two cabs.

19-07-25 Thayil_Amp

I am a drummer though, and watching Matt Cameron is always fun as he’s a really good player, who doesn’t dominate but enables Soundgarden to explore however they want. He, like a lot of the drummers that I am drawn to, has an interest in jazz and manages to play complex patterns and songs whilst singing backing vocals. Oh, and in case that wasn’t enough he also plays for Pearl Jam.

What I had forgotten was what a compelling, almost belligerent at times stage presence Ben Sheppard can be. Soundgarden were not a flashy band full of stage choreography but Sheppherd was the wildcard to Cornells centre stage charisma, stalking the stage with his bass as he provided so much more than the low end of the band.

The two obvious things with Chris Cornell are the voice and the song writing. So many good songs and yes the high vocal in Jesus Christ Pose is not the same, but once the band was going he carried them all night. However, sat watching this time capsule of a performance was so uncanny at times. After the jarring opening we have a straight ahead concert but it was a different viewing experience seeing it on the big screen with the cinema sound system.

It’s a beautiful performance, but whilst all shows are unique in their time and place – there can’t be another one with Chris and that is sad. It’s another reminder that he’s gone and as much as we wanted more music, there are friends and family who miss him.

Children who no longer have a father.

A hole in the world where a person should be.

Grief is a funny thing. I’m not sure it fades with time so much as lurks for the next reminder and maybe those get spaced out more but they still sneak up on you and hit you with the same power.

There’s a Toby Jug of the cricketer commentator Brian Johnston that I inherited from my gran as cricket was one of the interests we shared. It’s not a pretty thing (sorry Gran) but I love it a lot and it brings me happiness. When England recently won the cricket World Cup recently I shed tears several times in the aftermath, and partly that was the release of tension from following the tense conclusion of the game but also that my gran never got to see the turnaround of the one day team and this win that seemed so impossible only a few years ago. I think she would have enjoyed it despite her preference for test cricket (I confess I could be projecting my own feelings there).

There’s something about what the trigger is that affects how the latest wave of sadness hits. I’ve shed plenty of tears putting this post together, but I can listen to Soundgarden again. I can hear, ‘Nobody sings like you anymore’ and hold it together but then remembering this picture sets me off every time:

19-07-25 audioslave-cornell

That picture was shared Tom Morello shortly after Cornell’s death and it gets me every time as they just look so damn happy.

That was the theme that kept cropping up in the aftermath of Cornell’s death. He was in a good place, he had plans, he was the last person you’d expect it from.

But the signs aren’t always that obvious. And sometimes it doesn’t take that much for someone to be gone.

I’m not sure we ever know what is going on in someone’s head.

I know people who are still with us despite past attempts and who are grateful they are. I know too many people hurt or wrestling with their own brains.

There are posts that I see on social media encouraging people to ask for help or check in on each other. Check in on the strong ones. The ones you might not expect as depression is too often hidden, skulking in the shadows and avoiding the follow up question we might never ask.

We should do all this.

I read a fascinating article in the New Statesman about how mindfulness has privatised a social problem. I believe it raises some really interesting wider questions, but sometimes we need to survive the environment we’re in. Given the news these days a change in social approach could be a ways off.

So whilst we be the change we want to see. We also have to stay afloat and look after ourselves as well. They are turning self-care into an industry just like mindfulness but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to take moments for ourselves so be a little kinder to each other. Check in on your friends as it is not always easy to reach out for help. They might feel like a burden even when they’re not and sitting with someone is more useful than trying to fix them.

Despite what some might tell you, humans are social creatures. We might need different sized clans around us but very few can survive alone. If you think that no one will miss you, it’s not true.

The ripples are out there.

The dance of life, death and taxes.

It’s the bits in between that are important.

Those infinitely varying links.

We can’t know what’s going on in somebody else’s head.

That’s why we have to ask.

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or emailjo@samaritans.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

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Why do you write like you’re running out of time?

Here was are in 2019 and I was supposed to have a summary of 2018 already posted for you, but life got in the way so I’m going try to fold that into my first post of the new year as I talk about what it was like to be in the room where it happened. Now, that’s a second Hamilton reference in this post already so no prizes for guessing what I saw last week. Now, I won’t win any prizes for originality or foresight if I tell you that Hamilton is brilliant so rather than rehashing what others have written I’ll talk you through my thoughts as I look back on the last year, including some bits of pieces that hit me at the show and after.

So, where to begin? Always an important question for a writer to answer. When you last heard from this plucky scribe you either were reading about my Halloween trip to see The Dresden Dolls, or you got an insight to how December was treating me and some thoughts on books that I’d been reading from my newsletter.

What’s that you say? You didn’t know I had newsletter? Well indeed I do. It comes out roughly once a month, covering what I’ve been up to, thoughts on mostly books but films and other things get in as well and that’s where you’ll get early warning of things I’m scheming up. You can sign-up at https://tinyletter.com/Gavin_Writes and I’d love to hear from you or for you to share it with the writer or reader in your life.

So looking back it’s been an up and down year, much like most of life. The stories that I could spin you about health, love, death and illness, but they’re not all mine to tell. Some of them might creep into something because a as writer life’s events have a habit of slipping into stories one way or another, but if I’m doing it right it will be in ways that services the story and won’t be recognisable. The early advice to a writer is always to write what you know, but I don’t believe that should be the limit and as long as you do your research and start with good intentions then I don’t think you can too far wrong.

It has been a good year for seeing and doing though.

I managed to complete my fourth year of blogging about the NFL and have completed the regular season on my fifth.

I published my second book, a sequel to A Ghost Called Dog, entitled The Price of Magic, that picks up four years later from the original events in Ghost and carries on the story arc. I have also made a good start on the third book, but there’s a long way to go before I start to think about publishing it. There’s plenty more to do with the first two in terms of sales before I know how to publish the third, but I’m thinking about it. Right now I’m making lists and jotting down ideas, but you’ll be hearing from me.

I’ve kept this blog ticking over with posts about the second book and a couple of events I have been to. I plan on doing the same next year as it’s nice to keep the writing hand in when book research takes over, plus it’s always handy to try new things. I managed to see two bands I never thought I’d see last year, writing up my experience of both The Dresden Dolls and The Gaslight Anthem.

I perhaps should have written up my experiences with the band I’m in, called Diceratops, who got through to the finals of the Metal 2 the Masses Leicester competition and so although I didn’t get to play Bloodstock, we got to play at the De Montford Hall in Leicester, and network with some very cool musicians. I got a new phone last year that seems to help no end taking decent pictures (so much its even helping me learn what I need to work on with my digital SLR) so here are a few of my favourite photos from the competition. We are entering again this year, and perhaps it will be third year lucky to get to the festival.

I’m not good enough at lists to be able to say with absolute certainty what my favourite things were of last year other than book, which was undoubtedly Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors. I wrote about it in a newsletters so feel free to follow the link there to take a look.

I also got to see a few shows in 2018, including Matilda and Agatha Christie’s Love from a Stranger at The Curve in Leicester, and both parts of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child where I was suitably nerdy.

I also got to start the year seeing Hamilton as I previously said. My partner and I really wanted to see it, even before various family members saw it (some of them multiple times) and so off we went last week. I had become pretty obsessed by the soundtrack in the last couple of months. I’m still not good at learning whole songs, but various lines and bits jump out to me. Whilst I don’t exactly relate to all the experiences of the ten-dollar Founding Father without a farther, but the title of this post comes from Non-Stop and I certainly know why I write like I’m running out of time. Mostly because I am, which is probably the kind of thing a therapist would want to interrogate me about. It certainly might explain me trying to do all the things I can, but back to the musical. I might actually just be belatedly falling in love with Lin-Manuel Miranda having discovered his previous musical In The Heights through getting the digital copy of Hamilton:The Revolution. I’ll be getting the full book from my friendly local book shop as I didn’t fancy hauling it back on the tube and nursing it under my seat at the show.

‘I will send a fully armed battalion
To remind you of my love!’

I’m pretty familiar with the soundtrack, but it was great to see Hamilton performed so you can correct all the lines you’ve wrongly attributed by voice and it’s pretty amazing to see how it is staged. I’ve always had a soft spot for King George in the play and he was suitably fantastic, but then so was everyone. I missed the doubling up of parts before reading the programme, but the nearest thing the whole show has to a misstep is having to suspend disbelief for an adult playing a nine-year-old son. However, I was taken away by the story and had new record set for number of times the second half made me cry. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say the senselessness of duelling over honour is really jarring to a modern ear.

‘Look around, look around, at how
lucky we are to be alive right now.’

Stepping back out into the world was also a jar but I’ll take a lot of memories with me, including the cheers at:

‘Immigrants: We get the job done.’

It feels like we are living in tumultuous times right now. A cursory glance at the news will generate a litany of things to sap the mind and spirit, so it’s been nice to take stock and remind myself of what I achieved and the things that lift the spirit. Art should challenge and throw a mirror to the world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be entertained and cheered by it at the same time. There is space for different types and I hope to produce more in the coming years, including some more things for this site ahead of the next book.

So, as ever, to all the things!