In late 1991 I jumped on stage with my band
Strangelove at the Camden Underworld for our first ever performance. I had taken
amphetamines and drunk some vodka in an attempt to deal with my nerves - it was my
first drink after a year of sobriety in which I'd concentrated on writing music.
Before this, I'd experienced problems with drink and had been sent for treatment
at a centre dealing with alcohol and drug problems. I completed three weeks before
walking out, convinced that my interest in music would keep me sober and fill the
gap alcohol had left. Throughout my subsequent year of sobriety, I became more and
more withdrawn, isolated and alienated from other people. I had no idea why this
was, and remained completely unaware that the problems of an alcoholic / addict don't
end with putting down the drug of your choice.
a while I only used alcohol or drugs when I had to perform. We were signed to Food
records and EMI publishing - a dream come true. But I found meetings difficult. If
I didn't drink, I couldn't say anything and I'd go away feeling frustrated and angry
with myself. In the studio I was also experiencing problems. I had strong ideas about
how the songs should feel, but found this impossible to explain. I couldn't contribute
as much as I would have liked - but instead of attempting to learn ways around this,
I internalised it and went off on a roller coaster of self pity, resentment, anger
with the music press were a nightmare. My work is very personal and I found it near
impossible to discuss it with anyone, let alone with journalists. I felt I had to
try, so I came up with a plan to overcome my lack of confidence: I experimented with
varying doses of alcohol, speed and valium in order to produce a state where I could
become lucid about my work. I literally fell asleep half-way through an interview
with the NME (thank God it was never published), so the next time, with Melody Maker,
I took so much amphetamine I couldn't speak at all for about 20 minutes and when
I did, it was vaguely suicidal and extremely confused to say the least. After many
failed attempts, I eventually tried a Melody Maker interview straight - all I can
remember was that I sat there shaking.
My work is very personal and I found
it near impossible to discuss it with anyone, let alone with journalists...In Britain,
how you come across in the press is ridiculously important to your chances of success,
and even though we had received a lot of support, I couldn't help but think when
I read my interviews that I was somewhat inadequate; I seemed unable to communicate
what my songs really meant. Also, I would take the slightest criticism in the press
as proof of this.
Britain, how you come across in the press is ridiculously important to your chances
of success, and even though we had received a lot of support, I couldn't help but
think when I read my interviews that I was somewhat inadequate; I seemed unable to
communicate what my songs really meant. Also, I would take the slightest criticism
in the press as proof of this. I would be deeply hurt and throw myself into drug
and alcohol binges.
bands who were doing well all seemed to have singers with a very different personality
than my own. Or was it that they could feign that they were cocky, self-confident
and content in a shallow sort of a way without a glimmer of self-doubt? I knew our
songs were genuinely different and genuinely good, but I couldn't just seem to strut
around like a walking advertising board for them - it seemed crass.
I stopped reading any music papers and told my manager I couldn't do interviews.
My self-esteem was plummeting now due to drinking. I felt more and more inadequate
and needed a drink just to be on my own. I was drinking every waking hour and taking
amphetamines to keep me sober enough to function. I had become consumed with the
fear of failure and carried around a feeling of impending doom that rarely left me.
I had got it into my head that my inability to operate in this music press-type world
would lead to our failure and our ability to release records would ultimately be
taken away from us.
did, however, feel a sense of achievement at the live performances. Here was a sense
of freedom and a chance to sing the words I'd written. It was a real release and,
for a while, the one thing that got me through. I am eternally grateful to the people
who turned up and gave me the chance to do this. But I was beginning to lose control.
was sick and tired of being sick and tired. My personal life was now in tatters -
and I decided my last chance was to throw what was left of me into our album. Something
was left in me that wanted to do something positive. Thank God. To work on songs,
I would force myself to straighten out, I'd take valium for a few days and shake
and sweat and vomit my way into a sort of sobriety. I would reduce the valium, eventually
facing the terror of being straight, and wait until I could write. I'd work until
I was satisfied with what I'd done, then reward myself by sinking back down into
process happened on every one of the songs on the album. However, with the support
and genius of the rest of my band and producer Paul Corkett, I was involved in creating
a brilliant album, Love And Other Demons, which I am immensely proud of. Shortly
afterwards I was booked into a rehabilitation clinic.
I am sure, has undoubtedly saved my life. I no longer fear failure but truly believe
we can and will take Strangelove anywhere we want now. Although I still have bad
days and still experience fear, depression and self-doubt I deal with it differently
now. Thank God.
by Patrick Duff (left)
for The Guardian