Music has long been a medium through which people have channeled their emotions and this year a spotlight on men’s mental health has been prevalent in the charts. From Lil Uzi Vert’s 'XO Tour Llif3' to Stormzy’s 'Lay Me Bare', rappers and musicians are openly processing their issues with depression and anxiety, and The Last Skeptik is doing just the same.
The Hackney-based DJ and music producer releases his second album this week, 'This Is Where It Gets Good' - four years after his debut 'Thanks For Trying' - and on it he explores his own struggles with mental health with a little help from collaborators Trim, Takura, Kojey Radical and Matt Wills.
The Last Skeptik took time out to discuss the new record with Clash Music and how it’s provided him with the therapy sessions he’s always wanted...
- - -
- - -
Tell me about the mental health issues you are dealing with on the new album.
This new album has definitely been a defiant journey through which I’ve navigated a way to deal with my anxiety and obsessive patterns of thinking, which has previously kept me in a cloud of depression - I still hate using that word - aggression, and loss. It gets quite dark, and in contrast to my previous releases I didn't want to make something with straight up bangers on it. I focused on making a record that people had to sit down and let themselves get real deep with it.
Has it been a cathartic experience for you processing them through music?
100%. This album has been like therapy for me. Even listening to it feels like a really honest diary entry, if I was the type of person to ever write in a diary. I used to be really worried about admitting how personal and deep these records are to me, and how much emotion goes into them because I thought it sounded like self-absorbed nonsense, but I think there's no way of hiding the fact that this record is my most soul-bearing.
Did any of the collaborators relate to the mental health issues you deal with on the record?
Yes, definitely. I don't want to air anyone out personally, but I worked with a lot of musicians, singers and rappers on this album, and I had a lot of conversations in the making of it in order to get exactly the right feeling that I wanted. I'm lucky enough to call everyone who collaborated with me, my friends. Everyone knew the drama and high emotion I wanted to put in it - and from the lyrics that came out, you can tell we were all on exactly the same wavelength.
What's the one song that really highlights the turmoil you went through?
'Death'. Without a doubt that song is my favourite one I've ever made. It provides the most guidance for me whenever I need to feel something and have no idea how to process the emotion. To me, it started out a song about obsessive thinking and how that can ruin a life and relationships, but through actually having a friend pass away this year it started to to mean something different. It became about this grandiose wasting of time that we all do when our time here is so short. We waste time on worry and hypochondria and debilitating anxiety.
- - -
- - -
Did you feel as a man you should bottle up these feelings?
I think the world up until very recently, that was definitely the primary way of thinking. Now people are more open to the idea that it is not weak or “unmanly” to talk about how you feel. To me it’s a different side of the same coin to be really angry and to be next level sad. There's also the side of being super elated and excited. There's a lot of sides to this coin, I'm not sure what kinda coin it is, but there's a lot.
Basically there's two important things to note here: no you should never bottle up your feelings, you have every right to be sad and by pushing it down it causes more issues physically and mentally. The second point is that it’s really important to not shame anyone for not being ready to open up. For some people the trauma has been too difficult, or culturally there's more of a stigma attached that you or I could never understand. It's just about providing a safe enough environment to feel open to sharing and healing.
What's the response you hope people will take from the record as a whole?
To be honest I just want people to love it as much as I do.
Any advice for men and women suffering the same?
I think there's definitely been this empowering push recently to bring men’s mental health into the spotlight, and I think it’s extremely important to have role models and ambassadors speaking to both men and women. I can't of course speak on behalf of women or people of different cultures but what I can say is this: the most important thing you can do is talk to people and vent. Write things down.
Someone is always there for you, someone has your back, even when you think that they don't. There's therapy, there's helplines, there's your teacher or friend or GP who can recommend you a doctor. There's your favourite rapper's new record that will inspire you to write down everything you're feeling (even if you tear it up and throw it away).
Be kind to yourself, life is short and there is always cause to smile and keep the canoe straight and above water no matter how wavy the waters get. I'm sounding like a self-help book and I'm well happy about that.
What's next for you?
About a billion more albums, producing for a ton of upcoming MCs and singers and putting out the next generation of talent on my [Thanks For Trying] label. Also I’m heading out on an Australian tour in November and a UK tour with Doc Brown in December.
- - -
- - -
'This Is Where It Gets Good' is out this Friday, September 29th. Pre-order the album on iTunes now.
Words: Hanna Flint
Join us on Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.