1. Tell us about your new album, Something Heavy. What are the songs about and what is the inspiration behind it?
Something Heavy is about the process of radical transformation through the eyes of a blue-collar mystic. Like Chogyam Trungpa said, “Enlightenment is ego’s biggest disappointment.” There are so many using spiritual practice to dharma-splain and dissociate themselves from life on the ground, I felt it was important to share my perspective on this part of my existence. I’ve also found some truth in the respective thoughts of Rob Bell and John Muir that “Everything is Spiritual” and “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” This evolved with the Buddhist notion of not one, but not two for me leading to an album that explores the idea Rev. Angel Kyoto Williams presents at the beginning of Radical Dharma that generally the deeper the truth, the more paradoxical. From the music to the lyrics, we explore trying to find the connection between seemingly disparate truths, ideas, and sounds.
2. Can you talk about your struggles with mental health and how you dealt with those struggles?
This entire band is a discussion about my mental health, but to fill everyone in my ACEs score is a 7 or 8 depending on how you categorize cold shower torture in the presence of your abuser. If you don’t know what an ACES score is, let’s just say I’ve only been able to find parallels to my life experiences in articles about children living in war zones. I’ve actually come to dislike the way we talk about mental health. It’s often worded in a way that treats one’s mental health as the end result of ones actions or lack thereof like exercise or diet or medication or meditation. Awful things were done to me by people that were responsible for my health and it changed my brain and body irrevocably. Some things don’t wash out. I remember my mom sometime last year saying, “I’m sorry you had to go through that” to which I replied, “mom, I’m still going through it” and that’s kind of how life goes with c-ptsd or ptsd or however you would pathologies it. I deal with it by making this music and re-grounding myself in the present a hundreds of times a day. It brings me joy to think that my own suffering can help others feel less alone in theirs, thereby lessening their suffering. It is hubris to think I can save people from their own darkness, but just maybe I can crack a window and let a little light and fresh air in.
3. You have also experienced triumphs through self-exploration. What type of self-exploration did you engage in and what did you discover about yourself. And, how did that lead to triumph?
For years I mainly used uncontrolled dissociation, stepping outside of myself to look paradoxically inward. In recent years however, I’ve just started LISTENING. Listening to my inner experience, listening to the world around me, listening to whatever you want to call what’s been channeled through me since I hit my head 3 years ago. This blue-collar mysticism I’ve been experiencing has been profound and subtle. It is not an end to my suffering but merely a contented understanding of my/our suffering.
4. What is grounding meditation and how have you used that to help you?
I utilize a few methods of meditation depending on how my dysautonomia is affecting my body and my brain on any given day, but it cycles between mantras during walking meditation, grounding exercises like the one described in our song “Ram Dass Dick Pics” or open-eyed mindfulness meditation as taught to me by David Nichtern, under Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s Buddhist lineage. A grounding exercise can be like a fast-acting pill when you are in great need of returning to the present. It calls upon your senses to bring you back into your body, which can only physically exist in the present. It’s simple and often effective. What more could you want?
5. You also write about gender/sexuality. Can you share a little about your own personal journey with gender and sexuality and how that shows up in your music?
My queerness has followed me, tragically unbeknownst to me, throughout my life. People thought I was a girl when I was very young because I was so cute and had long hair, so my dad thought he should toughen his toddler son up by showing me horror movies when I would visit, starting at the age of 3. My nickname in elementary school was Ben-Gay. My mom thought I was gay in middle school because I only hung out with girls, but that’s because I was sprinting home from school being chased by bullies, being chased home, choked, and having knives pulled on me by boys I thought I was supposed to be able to call friend. The quote “we accept the love we think we deserve” comes to mind. I existed for 30 years of my life as a reflection of what others demanded I be, in order to avoid violence against me. It took years of stability and a sense of safety, made possible almost entirely by my wife Christine, for my mind to stop hiding that part of me from my self. You find many explorations through lyrical and visual choices. I wouldn’t want to give that all away here as I’ve found find those things for our listeners is akin to Damon Lindelof leaving easter eggs in his shows.
6. What advice would you have for musicians or other creative people who are not feeling creative? What helps you create when you are not feeling inspired or creative?
You’re not feeling creative because you are avoiding vulnerability. It’s not your fault, we have old hardware and creativity is new-ish, relatively speaking. Anytime you have an idea or sit down to work on something, I’m guessing your brain is telling you it’s not good enough or you aren’t good enough at all. However, that doubtful voice is the surest sign you are working on something meaningful to you. That voice is your guide. The louder it shouts, the closer you are to gold. Don’t confuse this with narcissistic confidence. If you don’t have doubts, the work probably won’t be very satisfying to you at the end of the day.
7. You write about a dystopian world. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about our world? If so, why?
I write about the world we live in. I am deeply pessimistic about what we call civilization today but I am equally optimistic about humanity. Progress is a neutral term. Edward Abbey once said, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell”. This delusional paradigm we’ve lived in since the invention of private property, one of being separate from nature is an aberration, a cancerous growth on the history of our species. Balance will find itself, but that will be on the planet’s scale of time, not ours.
8. Where can people find your music or more about you?
You can find the band wherever you’re already listening to music, at our website youmeband.com, or on social media, where our handle is usually @youmeband. Find us on twitch.tv/youmeband every Sunday at 7pm best where we discuss all things existence. Thank you for your time and interest.