'TAMING THE BLACK DOG' - Raising Awareness of Mental Health & Suicide

Naomi Jeremiah & Lindsay Smith-Boam


With so many reported suicides of prominent, well known musicians recently, it’s clear that mental health is a subject matter that particularly resonates with the music world these days.  


On 18th October Nambucca Live and Cairo Son present in association with SANE Mental Health charityTAMING THE BLACK DOG’. A night of live music and entertainment to raise awareness about mental health and suicide, with live performances from Cairo Son, Voodoo Six, Jawbone & Romances.


With just one week to go, we caught up with Magdy (Cairo Son) and Romances to have a chat about this event and worthy cause.

Cairo Son have been instrumental in putting this event together, can you tell us what motivated you to do so?


Magdy - Well I guess it was a decision made after Chris Cornell passed away.  He’s been a big hero of mine and I was affected by it deeply.  Also I myself battle on a daily basis with my mental health and the song ‘My Brain’ is a reflection of that.  We originally back in April were thinking of releasing it as a single and setting up a ‘single launch’ gig, with some of the takings from the door and merch sales being donated to a mental health charity...to do our part in giving back.  But that all changed.  Not to go into details but my mental health has been a real struggle these past few years and got worse just before and certainly after Chris took his own life.  At that point I said to my guys I don’t want to release ‘My Brain’ as a single but instead to do a gig entirely based on raising awareness of mental health and suicide to raise some money for one of the charities.


What made you choose SANE as the charity to benefit from this fundraising gig?


M - SANE is a charity I’ve been following for many years now.  Their symbol of a black dog just kinda made sense to me and a lot of what people were sharing with their own struggles, I could relate too.  So I felt they would be the best charity to support especially after going to their offices and meeting the team.  They are non-government funded charity and have been around since 1986.  Seeing as I don’t have any faith in the government and the politicians it felt right to support a charity that’s out on their own!  Kinda relates in a similar way to us ‘unknown’ ‘DIY’ bands that don’t get any help or assistance from the Fat Cats of the music industry.


‘Taming The Black Dog’ aims to raise awareness of mental health and suicide. Why do you think so many people in the music world are affected by these?


M - That’s a really hard question to answer but i think there are many factors that play a part.  Everything from selling your soul and being told that you’re not good enough, constantly having to fight for your place to show and sell your art, to being unable to pay your rent and live your life working full time on the thing you were born to do, to being promised things and then have it ripped away from you cos the industry bods are simply out to make a fast buck or you’re fucked over by selfish musicians that turn on you...the list can go on.  Many musicians I believe, like myself, just feel totally misunderstood, isolated and alone.  I’ve scarified a lot to be a musician and an artist, regardless of whether it’s my choice to be one.  I’ve lost partners, friends, a social life and money because of who I am which again is the only thing I know how to do.  Does that mean I’m not allowed to have some kind of happiness in my life?  To quote Chris Cornell from one of the Audio Slave songs “Be yourself is all that you can do”.  Each individual is uniquely effected by their mental health (with similarities of course) when it comes to their involvement in music.  Many touring musicians suffer from ‘post tour blues’ I call it, where they come back to everyday life and find themselves not fitting in if you know what I mean.  Similar to military folk who become civilians after a long stretch of tour duty.  I think the biggest issue is that regardless of knowing that there are people out there that feel the same way as you, we all individually are alone in our own heads.  I feel very alone.


Is the problem any worse now than years ago, in your opinion?


M - Yes very much so I think, and not in the music world alone but in human society as a whole.  Especially with the rise and overtaking presence of social media.  Regardless of the very few minor positives social media brings, it’ll be the destruction of society and human interaction in my opinion.  We all can see it happening having fallen into the traps of needing to be a part of it and yet very few of us are actually doing anything about it.  I personally believe, yet I can’t prove it but just feel it deep down inside, that suicide rates have risen with the increase and development of social media platforms.  I believe more people are suffering from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety because of things like Facebook.  I’m very worried about the generations to follow us...


How has being involved in the organisation of this event changed your awareness of these issues?


M - If I’m honest not much because I’ve got a fair understanding and awareness already however the info and stats from SANE have been an eye opener.  One thing that has been nice is seeing the response from people about “that’s such a good thing you guys are doing by organising this event”.  I’m glad people are happy about it but let’s see them put their money where their mouth is by purchasing a ticket for the event regardless of whether they attend or not.  At least the money they’ve spent on the ticket will go to the charity!!!


Is there a role the industry could play in raising awareness of mental health issues?


M - I’m sure there is but you’re dealing with an industry that revolves itself around money and not supporting the needy.  It’s left to artist and musicians who have ‘made it’ to do something.  Which many have.  Check out the charity Skunk Anansie have set up!  But yes, the industry SHOULD make more of an effort in raising awareness and helping...they need us after all don’t they?  And not just musicians, but everyone in the music industry for that matter.  The stage crews and techs and all the people that work SOOOOO hard to make things happen for us.  We are all in the same boat and need each other equally!


There is a fantastic line-up in place for Taming The Black Dog, and every penny raised through ticket sales goes to SANE. What else can people do to support this event and SANE Mental Health Charity other than purchasing a ticket and attending on 18th October?


M - Go to the SANE website (www.sane.org.uk), read up and learn more about the issues with mental health and suicide.  Offer to be a volunteer if you have the strength for it.  Set up a direct debit plan or just do a one off donation.  EVERY little thing can help.  


Is there anything else you’d like to add?


M - Let’s start being nice to one another in the world...we all have shit to fucking deal with, none of us want more grief than necessary.  Let’s help each other instead of hating and killing each other.  I for one am very tired and wish things could be different and try as hard as I can to make the changes.  It will take ALL of us to want to make a change if we want to make a difference.


Tell us about what you have been up to over the last few months?


We recently released the first of three songs from our debut EP "Live at Visconti Studio"


It's available on Spotify, Itunes etc too all links provided on www.romancesband.com

We also just finished our first UK mini tour.


What made you decide to sign up for this charity gig?


Most of us in the band have friends and loved ones who've struggled with mental health issues and some of us have lost friends to it so we know just how hard those problems can be and want to do whatever we can to help raise awareness.


Were you aware of SANE UK before you signed up?


I wasn’t personally aware of it


The suicides of Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell have led to much press speculation about addiction either drug or alcohol and its links to their suicides. Why do you think so many people in the music world have problems with addiction?


Anyone from any walk of life can struggle with addiction, but the life of a touring musician is usually pretty hectic and accompanied by a lot of stress, which, when combined with alcohol and all the free time you usually have on tour, can lead to some pretty bad habits. There are also a lot of enablers around that really don't have your best interests in mind.


Is the problem any worse now than years ago, in your opinion?


We don't think so, we believe that people have become more aware of it and are more willing to talk about mental health in public.


Has being involved in the gig made you look at yourselves and how you are all coping?


Well yes actually. I mean, we all are experienced enough to understand and deal with the psychological aspects of the profession on a daily basis but, being on the line up for the gig definitely is a good way to dedicate some extra thoughts about it.


Is there a role the industry could play in raising awareness of mental health issues?


There are some organisations trying to do so already. I know MU and BAPAM. Of course, the stronger they are the better they can deal with many cases and the public opinion.


What’s next for you guys?


We'll be doing a gig at The Finsbury on the 28th of November and we're planning to go back in the studio this winter to record some more songs for you all. We all are very excited about the upcoming gigs and the new songs we've been writing. Can't wait to share our music with you all. 


Facts about mental health and suicide:


- Around one in six adults (17%) surveyed in England met the criteria for a common mental disorder (CMD) in 2014


- One in three adults (37%) aged 16 to 74, with conditions such as anxiety or depression, surveyed in England, were accessing mental health treatment in 2014


- There were 5668 deaths by suicide in 2016 in Great Britain. This equates to roughly 15 people dying by suicide every day.


- Of the total number of suicides registered in Great Britain in 2016, 75% were males and 25% were females.



Check out our article Mental Health, Suicide and The Music Industry


This Friday 13/10 download the latest episode of DOWN THE FRONT PODCAST for our mental health and music special.



Tickets for ‘TAMING THE BLACK DOG’ are ONLY £10.00 - with that full amount going to SANE Mental Health Charity.


Get your ticket HERE


We hope to see you at Nambucca on 18th October for what promises to be a great night for an even greater cause.


#TamingTheBlackDog #SANE18thOctober #RaiseAwareness #EndTheStigma #KeepTalking

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