Barry Hyde (The Futureheads) – interview

Best known as lead singer and guitarist in ’00s favourites The Futureheads Barry Hyde will be playing a solo acoustic date in Derby in December. In this interview Storge editor Sarah Lay did with Louder Than War magazine last year she catches up with him about the band’s hiatus, his diagnosis of bipolar, his incredibly intricate solo album and the link between creativity and mental health. 

“Malody is a word I have invented, derived from the words, melody and malady.

“A malody is a melody that expresses mental malaise, mental illness and deep sadness or its opposite, mania. I know about these things as I am bipolar.

“This album is a bipolar album, it was written in the rare and exquisite moments of intense creativity that comes in an almost complimentary way with the highs and lows. It’s a deep, highly personal catharsis; a document of my experience.”

Barry Hyde, lead singer and guitarist with The Futureheads, has just released his first solo album and is reflecting on the meaning behind its title Malody. He had his first experience of the mania of bipolar at age 19, but channelled the energy into the band. But between their 2010 album Chaos and 2012’s acapella album Rant Hyde received his diagnosis in the midst of struggling to keep his personal life on track.

“I used to be this hugely energetic person, and I watched the flame go poof, and then it was nothing. That was the most terrifying time of my life – when I thought about the future it was just black.

“We need to make plans, and I stopped making plans, I stopped making music, I stopped socializing. I spent a large period of time in an almost-catatonic state, unable to form words because my mind was such a mess.”

He began teaching guitar and piano and last year started to write Malody, an idea he’d first pitched to The Futureheads as a musical about vampires, as a follow-up to Rant. As he began writing the idea developed, becoming an opera centred around twin girls personifying bipolar, before settling into its final and more personally reflective form.

“I didn’t realise it but yes it was a personification, at the time I was just messing around with words during a creative rush. I think my music is always personal, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I realised that these songs could become part of an album.

“I wasn’t writing an album I was just learning how to play the piano and writing songs as I went along, as I got better the songs starting changing in to more and more elaborate and dynamic piano pieces.”

The album’s melodies are built around Barry Hyde’s piano compositions and those he has been influenced by, including Bach’s Prelude in C, a piece Hyde became interested in after hearing it in the film Bagdad Cafe. But beneath the influences, and the musical representations of the highs and lows of bipolar, is an underlying theme of loneliness; something which has been a part of living with the diagnosis and fluctuating mental health.

“These songs have been my creative obsession for many years and I feel with them I have a found a new musical reason for being. It feels like a rebirth to be honest. I can’t imagine living in a world without music. Writing music is a great thrill to anyone that can do it, as is making anything I guess.

“Yes, loneliness is a theme. The strange thing about loneliness is that you sometimes feel it more when there are people around. But I must say I haven’t found it difficult to talk about my mental health problems or my experiences.

“I think the fact that there is a stigma attached to the human mind is very telling. We are still in primary school, learning how to deal with our emotions through living our lives. I find the openness about emotion is always the better of the two options.

“So when people say that I have been brave to talk about my experiences with chronic mental health I don’t understand how it’s brave, it’s just the only way of dealing. Plus I felt it necessary to disclose that information so that the concept of the album is understood.”

With the concept of the album being so linked to Hyde’s own mental health it leads to reflection on a more general link between creativity and wellbeing.

“If the history books are correct then some of the greatest artists were some of the most mentally ill people you could imagine. Who knows what would have happened to those people if they didn’t have a means of expression? Probably would have turned in to maniacal dictators.

“I have felt for many years that we have missed something when it comes to understanding creativity. If we are going to be perfectly honest every single living creature is a creative genius, is it not?

“We create the world we live in. We are like living sculptures full of emotion. So I say it’s impossible not to be creative. What matters is creative freedom. If it’s not free then it’s not true creativity. How can it be?”

There will be a few live dates to support the release of Malody but music will very much remain part of Barry Hyde‘s future.

“Since moving away from relying on it as my sole way of making a living I have completely reinvigorated my thirst for writing music. Suddenly I remembered what it was always about for me when I decided to become a musician.

“I remembered that music was important. I was free.

“I’m going to start recording my second solo album this summer. I have many new ambitions. I am feeling increasingly liberated by the album. I want to write for film, stage, orchestras, write symphonies and ballets and record the most creative music I possibly can.

“I have been a musician for 20 years and I’m only just starting to appreciate what music is. Malody has been a four year, predominately accidental process. I don’t want to wait another four years before I put more new music out. And I’d quite like to form a band.”

This piece has previously only been available in print. You can order back-copies of Louder Than War magazine here.

Barry Hyde plays The Venue, Derby on 6 December 2017 and you can get tickets here. More details of the event are here.

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