During Mental Health Awareness Week, the band BLACK SHEETS OF RAIN released the track Weight Of Shadows and their EP In The Eye Of The Storm. The song Weight Of Shadows reflects on vocalist Rich Davenport’s own personal experiences with depression and what he would say to a loved one going through the same thing. He spoke to Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham about Weight Of Shadows, the charity Ian’s Chain where the single proceeds go towards and his own experiences with depression.
Hello Rich, thank you for joining Rock Out Stand Out today. So, you have released a song called Weight Of Shadows with Black Sheets Of Rain. Can you tell the readers about the song writing origins behind Weight Of Shadows?
I have been in quite a lot of bands over the years. I’ve personally struggled with depression on and off for twenty years. I grew up with Robin Williams, I am a big fan. In my childhood, he was on a programme called Mork & Mindy in the late seventies. He then went on to become a film star and he was someone who brought so much laughter into everyone’s lives. So, to find out what pain he was hiding and what happened to him was just heart-breaking.
With Black Sheets Of Rain, some of the lyrics are about light hearted matters and themes based around Poe and horror. Other lyrics are about getting through difficult times whilst trying to keep a note of hope in there. It’s important to be realistic about what you have been through and on how bleak things can get. It’s also important to remember to talk about getting through these difficult times and how you got through them.
Black Sheets Of Rain is the most suitable band to do that with and I was very keen to do this song. I have had it in the can for a while. I bought it forward to the band as I thought it was well suited to the band. You also look at what happened with Chris Cornell, I think his wife said that the anxiety medication he was on caused suicidal thoughts. Given that he was struggling with depression, his wife said the medication was to blame. Apparently, the same thing happened with Robin Williams.
In the song, the verses are my attempt to describe what depression is like for me and then the chorus describes what I would say to a loved one going through the same thing. The chorus is the voice of a friend saying “I know this is horrible, but I will sit with you until it has passed.” A part of the chorus states “I would rather lose a few hours’ sleep than lose you for a lifetime.” It’s the idea of keeping an eye on your mates, particularly if they seem out of character.
The EP came out in April and we talked about putting a single out. Turned out it coincided with Mental Health Awareness Week and there was a DJ that gave the band quite a lot of support, who runs a charity called Ian’s Chain. The charity counsels’ people who have suicidal thoughts, they also provide help and support for the families and friends who have lost loved ones to suicide. They do intervention courses and they have saved people’s lives. They will help someone look at the situation, help them find a few grains of hope. It’s called the Assist Course; it prevents suicide and the people at Ian’s Chain have done this. It’s used all over the world and it’s based on techniques that work in helping people.
The guy, who runs the charity, lost his son to suicide a few years ago. Just through getting to know him, we didn’t know that he ran this charity. With the subject matter of the song, I didn’t want to just bang it out there. I wanted to try and do something with it that would help this charity and try make something positive out of it.
That answers my question on why you chose Ian’s Chain to dedicate the song to. From what I understand it was through a personal connection to help the charity.
Yes, that’s right. There was a chap called Alan Savill who was from HRH Radio and he supported a previous band that I was in. I kept in touch with him on Facebook. Ian was his son, who the charity is named after and he posted about fundraising events that he was doing. He was auctioning a guitar that was signed by members from Iron Maiden and he put on gigs with rock bands. I dropped him a line saying that if he ever needed a band to open up the bill, we’d be up for it and we stayed in touch.
One day, I had the idea when we were putting the EP together last year. I thought if Weight Of Shadows was going to be on the EP, we might as well do something useful with it. Everything from the download single goes to Ian’s Chain and we give a percentage from anything we make from sales of physical copies towards the charity.
So, the song Weight Of Shadows came from the EP In The Eye Of The Storm. Do the rest of the songs on the EP explore issues surrounding mental health?
In a way yes. Again, it’s all about getting through difficult times and trying to find a bit of hope. Not wishing to sound like a miserable so and so, it’s just some life experiences I have had in the past. Through the storm is generally about getting through difficult times. The title In The Eye Of The Storm is about real-life experiences that you are going through and hopefully coming out the other side. My wife had a serious accident three years ago and nearly died, she’s got paralysis in one arm as a result and she was in hospital for a few months. So, the song, Through The Storm is about sticking by one another through a situation and trying to find a way out together. It’s also about supporting one another through the situation and come out of the other side. I had an asthma attack that nearly killed me, luckily, I didn’t have a dog otherwise it would have died and I would have had to become country and western singer
The song mentions what it’s like being at a low point and it’s a thank you to those who helped me get through that. My wife, the ambulance crew that were there ready on the spot and the chorus looks at what’s its like to be stripped down and to be pushed passed caring yet you still find that spark that helps you to keep going. It’s about people that were there for me when things were really rough. They helped me get through it and gave me that little spark of hope.
Having gone through anxiety related issues myself, I completely agree that having a good support network around you is very helpful. Especially for when you relapse.
Absolutely, sorry to hear about your experiences. I know what that’s like. Having people around you that you can be honest with and ones you don’t have to put on a mask for really helps. It’s often easy to put a mask on and pretend everything is fine even when you’re going through a difficult time. You don’t want to burden people with your problems. There are times when you do open up there will be people who are hard faced and won’t help but there’s a lot of other people that will listen to you and support you. Like you said, it’s very important to have that support network.
You mention that you have struggled with depression yourself for the past twenty years. Luckily there is more awareness surrounding it and more people are wanting to help. Do you notice a difference between now and twenty years ago in terms of mental health awareness?
This is the advantage of being a relatively old git. It was very much different; I can’t remember there being much awareness at all back then and also not knowing what depression was. In the last ten to fifteen years, there is a lot more awareness and a lot more help. It’s equally bad for guys and girls, in the last five or six years I have noticed for guys. More in terms of that you don’t have to put on this macho front and you don’t have to keep everything bottled up. In general, there is a lot more support, a lot more awareness and a lot more treatment available. I didn’t know what depression was for years, I thought it was just low moods and I thought it was normal. That’s just how things were. I think a lot of people have had mental health problems in the past but didn’t know why they were acting in a certain way. Maybe it’s someone who lashes out, someone who medicates themselves with drink or drugs. I think this stoic attitude coupled up with lack of knowledge caused a lot of problems for a lot of people. Now people can get help and treatment.
For most people, if you are suffering with a mental illness it’s what goes on inside your head. It can be difficult and upsetting, that’s not normal but it’s normal for you. Until you’re able to unpack that and talk to someone who won’t judge who will say that’s an illness, it’s very difficult to deal with it. You have done well to cope with but let’s help. A lot of people have this stuff going around in their heads and don’t realise what there is more to it.
I really liked the way Weight Of Shadows sound, I want to ask who Black Sheets Of Rain are influenced by musically.
There’s a lot in there really. For me, it’s more classic metal and hard rock. So, bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and bands like Thin Lizzy. Also, heavier stuff, some of the original thrash bands like Metallica and Anthrax. I think we have all kept our ears open over the years, it’s great what’s coming out now. There’s some really cool stuff, we’ve got great bands coming out of the UK. So overall, classic rock and metal bands.
Speaking of new bands, are there any on your radar at the moment?
Yes, there is, we’ve played with a couple. In terms of a band that I have heard, Dead Man’s Whiskey are really good. They’re kind of bluesy, hard rock with a metal edge. We’ve play with a couple of traditional metal bands; Eliminator are really good and Seven Sisters are classic metal. So definitely those three. Black Orchid Empire are of a quote on quote modern sounding band. That’s just bands in the UK.
There’s a band from Europe called Bullet. They’re influenced by AC/DC and Judas Priest. We supported them in Sweden a few years back. Also, a band that are bit more well know such as The Amourettes. From where we’re based in Lancaster, Massive Wagons and it was brilliant to see them take off. They’re nice lads as well so they deserve it.
To round things up, do you have any self-care tips when you are under going a bad day with depression?
I think if you are feeling really rough with it, take some time to rest. Sometimes depression goes around and round in your head and you feel exhausted with it. If you need to have a duvet day, because you are feeling really ill with it, then do that. Let someone know you are feeling really low. A lot of the time with depression, you can feel trapped in that mindset of not wanting to talk to anyone or feeling like no one will want to talk to you. Your self esteem is low at that point too, to the point of feeling you’ll be burden to others.
When you feel low or when you feel it coming on, send a text to someone you trust asking them to give a text or call later in the day to check in. I think there is value in things like CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapy] and being aware of your own thought process. That’s helped me and be aware of what the symptoms of depression are. I have been making use with books on CBT and depression, it takes you through the effects of thought processes and what can cause extreme thoughts. Those thoughts can be upsetting but it’s a case of thinking in the same case of spraining your ankle. It’s going to throb with pain, those thoughts are the throbbing pain. When you feel low, talk yourself through and remind yourself that these thoughts are caused by depression. Also breathe deeply, deep breathing is great way to calm yourself down when things are distressing.
Another thing that helps me, even when I don’t feel like it, going for a walk around the block. Even if it’s to go to the shops. If I am feeling better than that, I go to the cinema or grab a coffee somewhere. Getting out of the house where the depression can feel claustrophobic. Music can really help, particularly the songs that perk you up a bit and give you a lift. Having that thing that gives you a lift as part of your routine. As much as you can, check in with people. It can be a very isolating illness so having people you trust that you can talk to. There are also anonymous counselling services you can ring if you are feeling very low, they know what to do and it’s unburdening talking about stuff that’s going around in your head. It can lift a lot of weight.
Thank you very much Rich for taking the time out to speak to Rock Out Stand Out. Best of luck with the EP and the single.
If you or someone you know has been affected by depression and suicidal thoughts, here are some informative websites below with support and help.
Ian’s Chain – A charity set up to help those who have tragically lost a loved one to suicide.
Papyrus – Provides information and support for anyone under 35 who is struggling with suicidal feelings, or anyone concerned about a young person who might be struggling.
Depression UK – A self-help organisation made up of individuals and local groups.