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From Despair To Where? - Melody Maker, 8th April 1995

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ARTICLES:1995



Title From Despair To Where?
Publication Melody Maker
Date Saturday 8th April 1995
Writer Ben Stud
Photos Tom Sheehan


CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

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Almost exactly 12 months ago, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana ended his life. This week, Richey James of the Manic Street Preachers is still missing after disappearing in February. Meanwhile, MM's postbag is overflowing with letters from readers mourning the loss of America’s greatest rock icon of the decade, and fearing the worst about arguably Britain’s leading alternative rock figure of the decade. What is it about the nineties that has produced such tortured artists -from Kurt and Richey to Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and Radiohead's Thom Yorke? Why do so many people identify with their torment? Is there, as has been suggested, a culture of despair? In this special debate, chaired by the Maker's Ben Stud, Martin Carr of the Boo Radleys, Louise Wener of Sleeper, Ed S*M*A*S*H, Russell Senior of Pulp and Michael Ransome of the Samaritans plus a panel of MM readers and writers discuss the death of Cobain and the disappearance of Richey, attempt to demystify and de-stigmatise the means by which depression affects people and find out whether there is a solution to this most troubling of contemporary malaises.



THE PARTICIPANTS



TAYLOR PARKES: MM writer, diagnosed as depressive as teenager
MICHAEL RANSOME: Samaritans counsellor LOUISE WENER: Sleeper's singer and outspoken opponent of victim culture
ED S*M*A*S*H: Ed's best friend hanged himself. The experience has left a lasting impresssion on Ed and influenced the lyrics of several S*M*A*S*H songs
MAT CAREY: Manics and Nirvana fan. Mother committed suicide when he was nine
SOPHIE PATTERSON: Friend committed suicide by jumping out of bedroom window
MARTIN CARR: The Boo Radleys' songwriter. One of Martin's best friends recently died of a drug overdose
ANDREW MUELLER: MM writer, diagnosed as depressive four years ago
ANDY SAUNDERS: Head of Press, Creation Records
MARK THOMAS: Manics fan
RUSSELL SENIOR: Pulp's guitarist. Russell believes pop's present preoccupation with death are morbid, overwrought and pointless
JULIAN BROWN: Manics fan
GILL ARMSTRONG: Manics fan. Into self-mutilation
BECKY CRAIG: Manics fan
JAMIE McREADIE: Manics fan
BEN STUD: MM writer, interviewed Kurt Cobain shortly before his death
SIMON PRICE: MM writer, interviewed Richey James shortly before his disappearance



LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT



Ben Stud: "It's been a year since Nirvana's singer, Kurt Cobain, shot himself. In subsequent months, this paper received many, many letters from readers, most of them expressing their sympathy and concern, some condemning Kurt as a coward. In the year that's followed, it has become fashionable to talk about a culture of despair and nihilism. This is especially so now, in part because of recent releases by Pearl Jam, Radiohead and S'M'A'S'H, but mostly because of Richey James' sudden disappearance. I'd like first to ask you all how you feel about Kurt a year from his death, and whether pop is genuinely undergoing a pessimistic shift."

Julian Brown: "I can remember how it felt, it seems so long ago. It seemed a long time even after a month."

Gill Armstrong: "Also, it's difficult to believe he's actually dead, because he's on MTV alI the time. It's almost like he never died."

Mark Thomas: "And Nirvana are still in the Melody Maker virtually every week..."

Becky Craig: "And Courtney [Love] doesn't act like he's dead, she's out there flirting all the time."

Ben Stud: "And you don't approve of that?"

Becky Craig: "No." Julian Brown: 'Well, I think she's right, I think she should get on with her life -he's the one that got out, isn't he?"

Ben Stud: "Why do you think he did it?"

Julian Brown: "Because he couldn't stand the pressure. He couldn't stand the pressure of what was coming. I think he felt he couldn't live up to it. All the touring, all the expectations people had of him. I think he was too sensitive for it alI, it had nothing to do with the drugs or anything."

Martin Carr: "I think he was going to do it anyway, whether he'd been in the band or not. I don't really think it was much to with the pressures or the drugs, but they certainly didn't help much."

Ben Stud: "People, fans and journalists have called him a nihilist. Does anyone here agree with that?"

Julian Brown: "No, not at all, I think he was an optimist, he was beaten down by what he'd been through."

Andy Saunders: "Questions about optimism, pessimism and nihilism are irrelevant. The truth is that, like many people, he was clinically, desperately depressed. The sod thing is that, because of what he was and what he did, the media have attached spurious significance to it, mythologised it. Fame -the pressures of fame-do not kill, despite what Ben claimed a month ago in his Radiohead piece. There are an awful lot of people who suffer far greater pressures than Cobain did and they do not kill themselves. Cobain's problem was that he was clinically depressed, and maybe nobody realised it or was interested in it, or worse, they realised it and exploited it. "This is an issue that ought to be addressed. I mean, when an artist is that ill, why aren't the management and record company doing anything about it?"

Ben Stud: "From the letters we received after Kurt's death and Richey's disappearance, it would seem that no one, not record companies, not PRs, not even family and friends, take clinical depression as seriously as they might."

Julian Brown: "But that depression is precisely what made him successful and sadly what killed him. You only have to read the lyrics to know that. Jesus, look at the song titles ..."

Andy Saunders: "NO, NO, NO, what made him successful was the quality of his songs:

Martin Carr: "I agree with Andy. I mean, it's true that songs come from the inside, but it's not your psyche or your problems that sell five million albums. Whatever Kurt had been doing, he would have felt the same way and the result would have probably been the same."

Ben Stud: "Andy, you said Kurt's problems were mythologised. Isn't that inevitable, isn't that partly at pop is all about, partly what your job as a press officer is about, partly what my job is about, to mythologise pain, excess, suffering and all the other stuff that makes for such good copy?"

Andy Saunders: 'It's partly what pop is about, for sure, but the fans and the media should constantly remind themselves of the fact that stars are also people. That being a star does not preclude many of the ordinary day-to-day pressures."



ROCK 'N' ROLL SUICIDE



Ben Stud: "How do you think Cobain's death differs, if at all, from previous rock 'n' roll deaths - Keith Moon, John Bonham, Jimi Hendrix and the rest?"

Julian Brown: 'They all did themselves in because of their lifestyles, drink and drugs and all that. He died because he was just too sensitive."

Martin Carr: "It differs as well because we were all there. John Bonham and stuff, well, some of us weren't even alive then, and those of us who were don't remember it. It's just history, not something you feel and experience."

Andrew Mueller: "There was something unequivocal about Cobain's death. Unlike Bonham, Hendrix and the other people you mentioned who simply pushed their luck too far, Cobain's death was a matter of choice. It was premeditated."

Ben Stud: "So you're saying his was the first real rock 'n' roll suicide."

Andrew Mueller: 'Well, er, yes. Other than Ian Curtis, of course."

Michael Ransome: 'Well, I would say that Curtis' death didn't have much to do with rock 'n' roll."

Andrew Mueller: 'Well, yeah. That's what I was coming to. I would argue the some about Cobain."

Julian Brown: "Kurt's death was to do with rock 'n' roll. Ian Curtis' was much more personal."

Gill Armstrong: "They're all f***ing personal!"

Julian Brown: "Yeah, yeah, they're all personal, right, but Kurt's was about rock 'n' roll."

Andrew Mueller: "No. I don't agree with that at all."

Ed: "I think it was down to heroin ..."

Andrew Mueller: "So how do you account for all the hundreds of rock stars and junkies that don't kill themselves? Deliberately, that is ..."

Julian Brown: "But the thing about Cobain was that he was too sensitive to handle the rock 'n'r oll thing, being a rock 'n'r oll star. Curtis killed himself because of his personal experiences."

Andrew Mueller: "Yeah, right, the thing is that Cobain's personal experience was being a rock 'n' roll star."

Ben Stud: "Cobain honestly believed that the nature of pop, the way it glamorises suffering and elevates depression, is ultimately demeaning. The appalling irony for Cobain was that his most naked and vulnerable moments were rendered anthemic, that he himself rendered them anthemic. Now, I would imagine that if you were to realise that the single thing that you were good at, great at, reduced your darkest feelings to a photogenic consumable pose, you would feel pretty ring bad. So, while I would agree that rock 'n' roll wasn't what killed him, it must surely have contributed to his depression."

Russell Senior: "Jesus, the man wanted to be a big rock star, you have to accept the pressures that go with that. I have no sympathy whatsoever with people who complain about those pressures. As for his songs being demeaned by public acclaim, that's bollocks. If you love your music and you believe in it, you are going to want people to hear it."

Louise Wener: "I also think you have to know that when you go into this, that writing songs is not some kind of therapy. It's never going to be. I don't have a need as a songwriter for everyone to understand exactly what I'm about. I don't expect that, and don't expect people to expect that of me."

Gill Armstrong: "Yeah, OK, but you're obviously different to Kurt. I don't think he could put up with what was expected of him, because people expect so much."

Michael Ransome: "I can definitely see what Ben was saying. I mean, if you're f***ed up and think your only salvation is to be in a rock band, to be a rock star, and then you discover that being a rock star actually takes things away from you, then it's certainly not gonna help your state of mind."

Julian Brown: "Yeah. He must have thought he was a complete failure."

Sophie Patterson: "I think he achieved everything, but believed there was still something more. He couldn't find it, and he ended it all." Andy Saunders: "Don't you think that that's tremendously selfish?"

Gill Armstrong: "It's not so much to do with selfishness as with desperation. There really is no other way out. I'm sure he probably thought about what he was doing before he did it, but decided there really was no other way."

Andy Saunders: "Isn't the thinking about it the point? I mean, blowing your brains out takes a certain amount of organisation, and this bloke had a wife and a kid —that's what mode it such a selfish, futile gesture."

Ed: "But when you're feeling the Kurt obviously did, responsibilities can only make things worse. Yes, he had a wife and a kid; he also had a band. They were his band, and that must have rested very heavily on his mind. I mean, he overdosed in Italy and, a couple of months later, he killed himself. Now, in those couple of months, he'd come off heroin. He was at his most f***ing vulnerable. He needed people near him. Now what I wish is that I could have been with him every minute of every day to make sure he avoided picking up a gun or a needle. And that's partly what our song, 'Turning Back Time', was all about. What I'm trying to say is that the guy had so much on his f***ing plate. It really was a question of ‘Where the f*** do I go now?' I'm bitter that this multi-million dollar machine didn't have someone to stick by him like f***ing glue. I mean, we're all here and were all missing him, but some f***er should have been with him."

Andy Saunders: "I agree with Ed. The record and management companies were a big contributory factor. I work with o lot of very volatile artists and we have to be very aware of the pressures that they're under."

Michael Ransome: "Ed is right in a way. A man of Cobain's stature ought to have had someone to look after him. The fact that he lay dead for so long, without anyone noticing, is disgusting. That proves how little people around him gave a f***. But, at the same time, if you are determined to kill yourself, you will make sure that you provide a little space to get away from all the people around you. If you want to do it, you will do it. You literally cannot walk around in someone else's shadow 24 hours a day."



MANIC DESPAIR



Ben Stud: "With appalling synchronicity, the anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death has been marked by the disappearance of Richey James. Richey's disappearance has inspired more mail than Cobain's suicide — a very different kind of mail. To begin with, hardly any of it has been cynical in tone; in fact, quite the reverse. The letters this paper have received have revealed a genuine concern. The writers have also been mostly women and, perhaps more to the point, have written about their own sense of inadequacy, their own state of depression and how the Manic Street Preachers and Richey's lyrics and interviews have mirrored those feelings. Firstly, I want to ask the girls here why they feel so strongly about the band."

Jamie McCredie: "The Manics are one of the few bands who talk about how proud they are that girls come to their gigs."

Andrew Mueller: 'This is what I thought was so interesting about the letters, because the traditional view of pop fans is that males are supposed to aspire to being like their heroes, whereas women are supposed to admire more passive heroes, and none of the letters about Richey were like that. Obviously, a lot of them expressed admiration, but it was the intense identification with him that struck me."

Andy Saunders: "Why did the Melody Maker ask for letters from Manics fans? What was the point there?"

Andrew Mueller: "Because having received so many letters about his disappearance, we wanted to do a piece that would discuss readers' reactions in more detail than they might otherwise have been afforded in the Backlash pages. We were amazed last year when Kurt died, the response was extraordinary, and yet it wasn't reflected in the mainstream press. I mean, the biggest rock star in the world kills himself and he gets a paragraph underneath the fishing results column, if he's lucky. Now, Richey, in the grand media scheme of things, is not famous. Is not a celebrity. And the coverage he received in the mainstream press was derisory. Since we have begun to take on interest, not just in him, but in his fans, the very same media has suddenly started taking it very seriously indeed. The Times are this week running a piece about this piece, and Radio 4's 'Today" show interviewed me this week, and I have done more than 30 interviews in the last week on the subject of Richey [for, among others, the BBCI and ITN news] and his fans. Most of them, of course, have got everything arse about tit, they all wont to run a piece on Richey's crazed wrist-slasher-cult. The reason Richey's disappearance has had so much more of an effect than Kurt's death is because a) no one knows what the hell has happened to Richey and b) because, when Kurt died, he was so famous. Plus, the whole thing with him and Courtney had become so much of a soap-opera that he was a cartoon."

Ed: "He was a soap-opera in Britain but he wasn't in the States. His death probably had just as much effect over there as Richey's disappearance has over here."

Andrew Mueller: "Yeah, fair point. Richey is British. But I've been talking to South African bloody radio about this."

Gill Armstrong: "Also, a lot of the fans have actually met him. I've met him between 20 and 30 times, and when he's taken away a big part of your life goes."

Julian Brown: "I genuinely believe that Richey's disappearance wouldn't have been as significant had Kurt not killed himself."

Everyone: "NOOO ... That's bollocks ... No way."

Ed: "It's like a Ruth Rendell mystery, innit? He's not dead, he's not alive, he's just missing. That's what is so f***ed up about it. The thing is that, assuming he is oaive, are we applying more pressure to Richey Manic by talking about him, by talking about him in print?



RICHEY MANIA



Ben Stud: 'The main reason we're all sitting here together today is not so much to do with either Kurt or Richey but because their experiences have forced many of our readers to admit, confess, whatever, that they also have considered killing themselves, mutilating themselves and disappearing. Up until now, however, their letters suggested they believed that, if they were to express these feelings, they would not be taken seriously."

Andrew Mueller: "That's right. We felt we had to do something because it wasn't being taken seriously anywhere else. And it is our readers particularly, because the first letters we started receiving were it November. Simon Price had just interviewed Richey after he had come out of the clinic, and he talked bravely and lucidly about his anorexia, his self-mutilation and his depression. For our readers, this was a kind of outing. People now felt able to out themselves as depressives. People who no longer feel ashamed about coming to terms with the fact that they have a problem. Sadly, what the tabloids have been trying to say over the past fortnight is that kids are killing themselves because of Kurt Cobain and mutilating themselves because of Richey. That's bollocks. The fact is that, because Richey was brave enough to come clean, he has empowered people. Everyone else who has felt the same way, has said 'YES!"

Michael Ransome: "That's what's so healthy about today. It's a way of bringing these problems out into the open. Please let's not bury it under the carpet and make it a taboo subject, like it has been for so long. Everyone is scared to talk about it, and therefore doesn't get any help. The minute you start talking about something is the minute you start helping yourself."

Andy Saunders: "But the problem is, we are talking about pop stars, and I think many people live vicariously through pop stars. We want our pop stars to do the excessive things we would never dare do. Now, I'm not necessarily talking about Kurt or Richey or anybody present today. I'm just talking about a pop star that leads a cartoon life, any pop star who has become an icon rather than a person."

Gill Armstrong: "It's probably a better way of living. You know, living through someone as opposed to living it."

Taylor Parkes: "The thing about the Manics is that, since their genesis, they've been aware of that. Kurt Cobain never was. Nirvana were all about certainty. Certainty of failure, certainty of success, a certainty about the workings of the rock' n' roll machine. The Manics, on the other hand, are all about doubt on every f***ing level, even down to Richey's sexual ambiguity. Which is why it's so horribly appropriate that Kurt shot himself and Richey just went missing."

Gill Armstrong: "Yeah, the Manics ore a question mark."

Ed: "The Manics were aware of the workings of the machine. They were very well educated, very sharp. Kurt wasn't so well educated, he was more blunt in his approach."

Louise Wener: "Perhaps the Manics were too aware."

Julian Brown: "They understood the media completely. And it didn't help them one bit."



DESPERATE DAYS?



Ben Stud: "Is there at the moment a culture of despair? People are certainly talking about one, and perhaps they're right to do so r all, we've had "Nevermind" and "In Utero", we've had Pearl Jam getting blacker by the minute, we've had the Manic Street Preachers' "Holy Bible", Hole, Babes In Toyland, not to mention S*M*A*S*H and Radiohead's new album..."

Gill Armstrong: "I don't necessarily think there's a culture of despair, because that implies that it's kind of fashionable. What I do think is that people are more open about their problems, less ashamed."

Andy Saunders: 'What are we talking about here? Because if we are talking the general mass of people that buy pop music, then they just don't give a f***.

Ed: "I think they do, because music is enlightening and instructive and exciting..."

Andy Saunders: "For some people, Ed, for some people."

Andrew Mueller: "It's not for everybody."

Louise Wener: "For a great deal of people, music is just escapism. They don't care about what was said, they just care whether it was loud, or something."

Andy Saunders: "Louise is right, the vast mass of people who listen to music do so hedonisticaly. They like a fast, competitive drug. A lot of music is speed, it's cocaine. The brilliant thing about the Manics is that they understand all sides. The hedonism, the vicarious kicks and the depth. And they make all the bits look and sound like one and the same thing."

Ben Stud: "OK, I'll rephrase the question. Do the people in this room believe there is a culture of despair?"

Everyone: "Yes... Yeah... Absolutely..."

Gill Armstrong: "The Manics, Nirvana and Radiohead have all brought together people who identify with the despair in their songs."

Becky Craig: "The songs are so desperate that people like me can honestly identify with them."

Ben Stud: "Do you particularly identify with the songs' suicidal desperation?"

Louise Wener: "That's absurd - how many doctors commit suicide?"

Gill Armstrong: "Or farmers? I mean, farmers kill themselves more than any other profession."

Michael Ransome: "Isn't that the point? Whether you're a farmer or a huge f***ing megastar or someone signing on the dole in Bradford, you can be so depressed that you kill yourself."

Ed: "That's true. But the thing is, after Kurt and Richey, people feel more able to come out and say they feel these things. The whole tabloid thing about copycat suicides and disappearances is nonsense. The effect these people have had is to make people feel a lot better about admitting stuff. It has nothing to do with them being artists — it has to do with them being in the public eye."

Andrew Mueller: "That's the point I've been making. It's not true that all art is born of suffering. Some artists are messed up, most aren't. Most people who are mentally ill are not artists."

Jamie McReadie: "It's a cliché."

Andrew Mueller: "It's a terrible cliché, and what we are trying to do with this whole piece is to demystify and de-stigmatise the means by which depression affects people."

Ed: "Totally right. Mental Illness and disability— if you're in a wheelchair, you're only disabled if there isn't a ramp. With mental illness, there are no f***ing ramps, it's society that helps disable you. The people who succeed when they're mentally ill do so respite, and not because of, their mental illness."

Gill Armstrong: "The problem is that people don't believe that mental illness is real. They think it's fake, an excuse ..."

Taylor Parkes: "And that is something that is totally encouraged by glamorising mentally ill rock stars. Cos ... like ... I've been mentally ill, and people I've known have been mentally ill and you can't talk about it, because as soon as you do people think you're either trying to make excuses or trying to be cool."

Gill, Jamie and Becky: "Yeah "

Andrew Mueller: "But that is exactly the reaction you get. I have attempted to get help for severe depression before. I have even attempted to get help for a schizophrenic friend of mine. I took him into a casualty ward. He was babbling away. But because he wasn't actually bleeding or anything, the doctors and nurses didn't take him seriously. It's really hard to communicate that it is something real."

Andy Saunders: "It's not just rock 'n' roll, though. Look at Stephen Fry. He said, 'If I had a broken leg or pneumonia you would take me seriously." Andrew Mueller: " but ,as it was, everybody took the piss."

Gill Armstrong: "Precisely. If somebody's depressed, if they ever put a smile on their face or they try and cope, people think, 'Oh, well, they've not really got a problem.' But they're trying bravely to cope. Depressives don't go around with a ha dog expression all the time. They do try and cope ..." Becky Craig: 'Yeah, that's right. You're a fake until you try and commit suicide."

Julian Brown: "That's why someone like Eddie Vedder isn't taken seriously, and he wont be until he does something completely drastic. And that's a hell of a price to pay."

Ben Stud: "Gill, what does depression feel like?"

Gill Armstrong: (laughs) Depression? Right, depression. Well, basically, I was just completely cabbaged. I didn't want to go out anywhere, I didn't want to speak to anyone, I didn't want to answer the phone. It actually came out as o physical illness: I wanted to be sick all the time and I couldn't sleep. By the time I went to the doctor, I had agonising pains in my wrists, in my ankles, in my legs, in my back. I couldn't move for the pain. In the end, I would pray that when I woke up it would stop, and sometimes I would pray that I would never wake up at all. Eventually, I went to a doctor who prescribed Prozac. I would be dead if I hadn't taken Prozac."

Andrew Mueller: "Well ... about three doctors have told me to take Prozac and another three have told me to avoid it like the plague, so I don't know."

Ben Stud: "The symptoms that Gill spoke about are they familiar to any of you?"

Becky Craig: "Yes, they are. But people don't take the symptoms seriously. You know, I was at the clinic that Richey was at for depression and, when you do that, everyone just thinks you're trying to copy him. They think you're trying to be cool. They think you're corny."

Andrew Mueller: "That's exactly the angle the tabloids are taking on all this. A weird idea of copycat depression. That somehow Richey's responsible for all these suicidal self-mutilating people."

Ed: "And it has been made trendy. In Hollywood at the moment, rich people compete about how many weeks they've spent in detox. Some have done two weeks, some have done three weeks, some have even done four weeks. They're the trendiest. It is fashionable to be f***ed up, but these people can afford depression as a fashion accessory. They're wankers. Most people don't want to be depressed, can't afford to be depressed and can, eventually, be destroyed by depression."



ONLY WOMEN BLEED



Ben Stud: "I want to get back to the question I asked earlier. Why is it that so many women are so attracted to frail young men like Richey, Kurt and Thom Yorke?"

Louise Wener: "A lot of the reason that women identify with these people is because they are very often the victims of mental illness. And it's always been, 'Oh, women are just hysterical, why don't we just send them away and give then some Valium and Prozac?' Ironically, it's token these men to legitimise what women have been suffering. It's awful, but it seems that it takes a famous bloke to legitimise what women are going through."

Russel Senior: "Exactly. The very fact Richey was able to talk so openly about his anorexia must have come as an enormous relief to women in general. Because, let's face it, women are still the main victims of eating disorders."



SUICIDE IS PAINLESS...



Ben Stud: "Earlier, we talked rock 'n' roll suicide. Let's forget about that and talk just about suicide. Ed, you've spoken and written about a friend of yours who killed himself. Could you explain the circumstances?"

Ed: "Er, well, yeah, OK. I was living with him. I had never met his family, but I was very close to him. One day, he asked me to move out, so I moved out and a week later he was dead, and I felt really guilty. Like, 'For f***'s sake, I should have been with him.' I felt bad about feeling bad."

Sophie Patterson: (very quietly)"I had a friend who committed suicide. A male friend. Just before Christmas. He jumped out of his bedroom window, for no apparent reason, but I knew he was going to do it. I mean, he had everything, he was like Richey, like Kurt. He was at Oxford University, his father was rich, he had friends, he was good looking - but none of that made any difference. One morning he was sitting at breakfast, he asked his dad to watch the toast, le went to his bedroom, he didn't come back, and that was it. He'd jumped out of his window. An hour later, his father was waiting in intensive care, and an hour after that, his father was told he was dead. You see, it didn't matter what he had, because he thought he had no future and that's what killed him."

Ben Stud: "Martin, you had a friend who died recently. How did you feel?"

Martin Carr: "Not so much as you would think. That's one of my problems ... you see, after a while I didn't feel anything."

Mat Carey: "You have to get on, though, don't you. My mother committed suicide when I was nine years old. I don't know the circumstances of it. To tell the truth, I don't know why. I feel now a certain amount of guilt, but there is nothing I can do. Life has to go on."

Ben Stud: "Do you feel angry?"

Mat Carey: "In a way, yes. I feel ... deserted. But the way I deal with it is to think that my life has to go on. I can't forever live in the past."

Ben Stud: "Does anyone else here feel angry? Do you feel angry about Kurt's death, about Richey's disappearance? Angry about the loss of friends and family?"

Ed: "I feel angry with myself, for not being there, but not angry with him, if that's what you're getting at."

Gill Armstrong: "Anger is the wrong word. I remember talking to Richey about his best friend committing suicide. I will never forget the state he was in, just rambling on and on, completely incoherent. He wasn't angry, he was in a state of shock."

Ben Stud: "What about anger towards Richey? Does anyone feel angry or betrayed by/about his disappearance?"

Jamie McReadie: "I definitely don't feel angry. I feel sorry for the other Manics, but not angry. He will come back some day."

Andrew Mueller: "If we are working on the assumption that he is still alive, then don't you think it's bloody irresponsible not to let anyone know? He could just send a postcard just saying, 'Look, I'm OK, just leave me alone.' I mean, Richey isn't Stephen f***ing Fry. I do not believe that if Richey were to send a postcard from somewhere, Fleet Street would suddenly dispatch their finest. Like I say, in the grand scheme of things, he just isn't that important. Basically, all I'm asking is that, if he is OK, does anyone think he has a duty to tell us so?"

Becky Craig: "Not really, no. Because when you're seriously depressed you don't think about stuff like that, duty doesn't come into it. It's just not part of the equation. "

Taylor Parkes: "That's right. Because when you're suffering from depression, something really weird happens to your ego, because it's a combination of really hating yourself and being a complete f***king egomaniac at the same time."

Gill Armstrong: "Yeah, totally, yeah. Because you hate yourself. Because half of you believes you're really special, that you're the only living thing on the planet. And the other half of you believes you're a complete wanker for thinking that. And you know that, however low other people's opinion is of you, yours is lower still. Does that make sense?"

Martin Carr: "Yeah, you don't think you're important. You don't want to bother anyone else with your problems."



SLASH 'N’ BURN



Ben Stud: "Some of the more distressing letters that we received were from people who said that, if Richey were to be discovered dead, they would kill themselves. These were invariably from people who also detailed how they mutilated themselves. Don't the tabloids have a point? Isn't there some kind of appalling copycat thing going on here?"

Andrew Mueller: 'No. It's demeaning and patronising to explain away people's suffering by talking about copycat behaviour. Yes, some people did kill themselves after Cobain's suicide, but there are also 30 million Nirvana fans who didn't. And the point that they're also missing is that no one killed themselves because Kurt shot himself. There are far more fundamental problems than that. Someone like Kurt, or someone like Richey, become focal points because they're able to articulate those fundamental problems. They are not the cause of those problems. All of the letters we have received have said that Richey is the only person who explains what they feel. He's the only person who makes any sense of their lives."

Julian Brown: "Which is why everybody is up in the air now because they don't feel that he knows what he's doing."

Gill Armstrong: "Yeah, it's like he's given us beauty and dignity, given us the credibility to say what we feel, and now he's gone."

Simon Price: "The tabloids have got cause and effect completely the wrong way round. It's not that e see Richey and want to follow him, it's the other way round. People have those feelings, and therefore identify with him."

Ben Stud: "Might the identification also have something to do with the way they look? After all, Richey and Kurt are very pretty, very sexy."

Taylor Parkes: "Absolutely. They were the ultimate fmed up pretty boys. More than anyone else they embodied the male idea of the Super Model."

Simon Price:' "I remember being on a tour bus with the Manics, and the whole thing was covered in pictures of Kate Moss— not out of lust so much as empathy."

Ben Stud: "What about that vulnerability ? Because many of the letters we received were almost motherly in their concern. And, when they weren't that, they were implicitly, sometimes explicitly, sexual in nature."

Gill Armstrong: "Yeah, well, he looked so vulnerable, he is so vulnerable."

Ben Stud: "Given the present circumstances, this may sound like a grotesquely insensitive question, but is there anybody who found his serf-mutilation and anorexia sexy?"

Andrew Mueller: "Sexy is the wrong word ..."

Gill Armstrong: "Yeah, it tugs on your heart strings, it makes you ache for him."

Taylor Parkes: "I'm frankly amazed that you can say that because I found the 4-Real thing really sexy. And I speak as someone who has mutilated themselves in the past, and, when I did it, I didn't find it at all sexy."

Gill Armstrong: "You are all missing the point about this. It's not to do with being sexy, or thinking someone else is sexy. It's not to do with being kinky or anything else. It's personal...Which bloody set of scars would you like to see?" (reveals star-crossed arms)

Ben Stud: "I want to know why you mutilate yourself."

Gill Armstrong: (long pause) "Well, basically, unlike Richey, who said he did it out of frustration, I do it because of depression. I get to the stage where I can hardly move, I can hardly think and I'm going to be either cabbaged or I'm going to do something. And then, once I've done it, I think, 'Oh, you stupid twat,' but it does relieve the pain of depression. It concentrates the pain, it makes it tangible and easier to deal with. The pain inside is too real. That [points at arm) says 'HELP, but it's superficial, and it doesn't hurt. When I focus on my body, when I hurt my body, it's somehow easier to deal with."

Martin Carr: "I used to do that... not cut myself, but hit myself. Forages, I just used to beat myself up. Literally beat myself up. Then I discovered drink and drugs and a more acceptable way of hurting myself."

Andrew Mueller: "This is something we've heard time and time again. If you cut yourself, beat yourself up, you know why it hurts, you know what hurts, and you can control how much it hurts. And, if you have huge raging inarticulate pain inside you, that must come as an enormous relief."

Taylor Parkes: "My take on this is slightly different. You know the way people leave memos to themselves saying, 'I must wash the car, I must talk to my bank manager.' Well, to me, cutting yourself is a memo on your skin, and it says, 'Don't die today.



FROM DESPAIR TO WHERE?



Ben Stud: "Have we arrived anywhere? Have we concluded anything? Was ere a point to any of this?"

Ed: "If you're asking about definite conclusions, then no. Because we’re all I' fled in our own different ways and there is no single solution to all those little individual problems. But, yeah, something has-been achieved here, because all of us have spoken openly..."