“Anyone that has known me for longer than a year knows that I used to be well into having a drink or bit of a party, but what a lot of people didn’t know is that a lot of my nights were just me sat on my own boozing myself into oblivion and doing nothing.”
Damian shows up perfectly on time and, for a band as confident and memorable as Allusondrugs, he is incredibly humble. We decide to head to a café around the corner to get some much-needed coffee. Damian’s anniversary of sobriety was the subject of a post on the Allusondrugs Facebook page and would eventually become the main subject of the discussion. The band have an impressive online presence with a typical left-wing political alignment that can be seen via their social media posts. We open up with a spiritual question in light of his year-long sober glory.
What are your thoughts on religion? What is the idea of a God to you?
Damian emphasizes his thoughts on how he “can’t believe in a deity. I don’t believe there is some guy with a beard who is angry because men are having sex with each other. I don’t believe in God per se but God is the singularity.” We agree that it is the idea of a god that unites us, before he states that: “Everybody is connected in that way but everything in society is built to bring people away from that idea and away from each other.”
In the context of music, he believes in his “strange idea that lyrics or music based around language is less pure than instrumental music.” Language-based music is less primal than the universal styles of instrumental language. Language brings in the context of country or nationality. Damian enjoys listening to the phonetics and non-English lyrics of Rammstein or Sigur Ros because the words become phonetic sound when we lose the context of lyrics. This in turn brings it back into the spiritual realm of sound.
“In terms of organised religion though… I don’t follow them. Religious extremism aside, there are a lot of religious groups that do good.” Damian goes into an anecdote about his girlfriend doing a gig in the impoverished area of Skid Row, Los Angeles: “There are so many homeless people and the people who are helping them are from the church and nobody else is helping them.” He goes on to say how “I don’t agree with anything the church is saying and their views on social issues can be quite damaging to progression but then they are helping people in this respect”. His overriding view is that “people can be quick to demonise people”, as seen with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. “There are worse things than religion in the world. I’m not into organised religion but the right wing and greedy corporations are far more damaging to the world than organised religion.”
What about the band’s political stance?
“Everybody should be treated fairly. Everybody should have the same opportunities. A lot of people are more privileged than other people and they need to realise that they are and use their privilege to help share the load rather than feeling guilty about it.” There is a definite liberal stance for equality. We then discuss the EU as the news features on a wall-mounted TV behind us. Why would you want to take power from Brussels and give it to people in Westminster? After all, we are young and our mutual instinct is that we stay in the EU. “A lot of older people are saying leave”, the older people who have been manipulated by the scapegoat immigration debate. Damian answers with his idea that “people think that we will be independent and awesome like Iceland but we won’t because the people that run our country are not about fairness or helping the people at the bottom. They want to increase the disparity and keep the rich, rich and the poor, poor, and it will get worse”. There is a general rule for young creative people to be against austerity. We discuss budget cuts to the arts and its effect on music and culture.
The fading of British culture, as Damian puts it, “is all about money. Corporations want to make money out of people and make people stupid so it becomes easy to sell to them. People get stupid and less bothered about culture. The UK is the biggest mongrel of a country and people don’t realise that.” Damian’s view is that “the essence of Britain is multiculturalism”.
What about the influence of politics or religion in your material or energy on stage?
“All that stuff might go into the lyrics. That is, more conceptual and abstract concepts is what would be broadcast through language or the lyrics. We jump around on stage because the sound is exciting to us and the adrenaline.” He begins to describe the passing of vibes between the crowd and the band: it is certainly primal but also more complex than it appears. Whatever their aesthetic is, “it has to be natural. The audience can tell when it’s being faked”.
Do you have any pre/post gig routines?
The conversation turns towards his sobriety. He is now straight-edge: “Pre-gig… try and keep hydrated, do a vocal warm-up. I don’t drink or smoke or anything but we can talk about that in a bit. Try not to eat anything for about three hours before”. This is simply because of their high energy output; such performances are harder to achieve on a full stomach.
Would you like to talk about the Facebook post regarding your year of sobriety?
Damian is interesting because he contradicts the generic view of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. After a brief pause he begins: “I’ve got bipolar disorder and I would get depressed and instead of addressing it I would just pour some booze on it. The other side of it would get me hyper and I’d want to drink”.
Damian’s intention with this is to help other people in similar situations, not just to draw attention to his case. Seeing him during the interview, he has got over that point: “I want to inspire some positive action, if I can.”
“It got to a point where I was used to drinking all the time. I’d be staying up until eight o’clock in the morning drinking and watching Youtube videos, taking Codeine Phosphate tablets and stuff like that, just slavering on my keyboard. I just felt like shit all the time.” This obviously had an effect on him as a member of a working band: “I put loads of weight on. I didn’t have any confidence anymore and didn’t know how talk to anybody really.”
As a songwriter, the more pressing issue was the effect on his ability to write: “It killed my productivity as well. I couldn’t explore my subconscious as much so I wasn’t really writing well”. This absence of creative output built up an absence of self-worth: “I wasn’t actively trying to kill myself but I’d be drinking and taking tablets and thinking [that] if it does something then I’m not bothered.”
Did the band know about this at the time?
“I don’t think they really got the full extent of it. They knew I had a problem because I’d turn up to practice smashed and start to drink at sound-check. I don’t think they realised how bad it was affecting me”. Further into this, we discuss the point of realisation and whether it came from himself or an intervention: “I would tell the band, I’m not allowed to drink at a gig anymore. If they saw me sneaking a beer, Connor [the drummer] would come and take it off me. We did that for a while. My girlfriend helped me a lot when I started seeing her”. It is apparent that the excuses he made for alcohol became farcical at this point. He is not anti-drugs, keeping his liberal freedom of expression principles: “Everything in moderation but if you can’t control it, like I can’t, it is better to just abstain”.
One can never truly conquer an addictive personality – David Bowie famously had to abstain from all drink and drugs for the latter part of his life – but Damian wants to leave the discussion with a positive outlook: “Thanks to the people that have supported me and inspired me to make positive steps, stay grounded and stay on track. I really appreciate the help. I needed it. You’re all wicked.” It is plain to see Damian’s experience with the rest of the band has truly bonded them together as a unit, a unit whose splendour can be seen live up and down the UK.
Find out more about Allusondrugs here: