As 2013 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on what has been a very chaotic and eventful year. Lots of downs and some ups.
It started off in January with a flurry of Suicide By Cop activity as we entered the studio to complete our final recordings with Stevie Ward before his announced departure. Most of the results were released as the Ice Cold Sunshine EP. The rest of the songs we kept back as we are planning to release a full 15 track album. This will include all of the songs which we wrote and recorded between 2009 and 2012. The release date and title are as yet undecided but we want to coincide it with the release of a brand new EP sometime in early 2014.
In February, tensions which had been surfacing in Dawn of Elysium between drummer Phil Holroyd and the rest of the band finally came to a head. This resulted in him leaving the band. As these things often are, it wasn’t really a massive deal in hindsight. It was unpleasant for us all at the time but in reality it was a situation which arose from misunderstandings. It was the first time Phil had been in a band and he underestimated perhaps what was involved and maybe we expected more from him than he could give. It could have been handled better but it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s just band stuff. He’s a great guy and a great drummer and our first EP Sense of Belonging is testament to this. We haven’t really spoken since but we certainly bear no ill feeling towards him.
Around about this time, it was announced that the company for which I had worked for 15 years was planning on making a considerable number of redundancies. It was scary to think that I could lose the job I had loved for many years from the company which had provided me with most of my professional experience and education. It was all I had really known.
March started off with Suicide By Cop’s final gig with Stevie. It was a fantastic night and it was great to have one last blast. We were genuinely sorry to see Stevie go but in reality, we had kept him for a bit longer than he originally planned in order to draw a fitting line underneath everything.
Throughout March, we developed the sound of Dawn of Elysium considerably as we switched to programmed drums as well as adding more atmosphere by introducing various effects. I think Phil’s departure brought a much needed kickstart to the band and the three of us became closer as musicians and friends.
On 28th March, my world fell apart as my mother passed away. To say I was absolutely devastated would be an understatement. It all happened so very quickly and it is something that I presently don’t think I will ever fully come to terms with.
We had planned an all day event called Honeypot at The New Beehive which took place on the 30th, just two days later. After much soul searching, I decided to press ahead with the gig and I am so glad I did. The love and support I received from all of my friends that day was overwhelming and just what I needed. The only bad thing to stem from that day is my breaking my three month abstinence from cigarettes, something which has remained broken since and which I am planning to address in the new year.
In the days to follow, the redundancy period was happening very rapidly and shortly after losing my mother, I also lost my job.
They say that these things often happen in threes and my final days of employment were ruined for me by a very painful injury to my knee. This rendered me immobile and in a lot of pain and my friends kindly helped me retrieve my personal belongings (which had mounted up considerably in my time there). The painkillers I was using zombified me for a time. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going, probably neither.
The spring/summer months saw me begin my journey towards finding new employment, whilst taking some time out to recuperate and recharge the batteries a bit. My confidence was in tatters and it was difficult to try and find my place in the world, especially since the one person to whom I always turned in times of difficulty was no longer there.
However, it has to be said that my girlfriend Emma has been a rock for me throughout all of these times and beyond and I truly love and appreciate her for everything.
Gigs with Dawn of Elysium were happening very frequently and they helped to occupy my mind to some degree. It was great to finally get out there, play in front of new people and make some fantastic new friends.
Suicide By Cop started on the long and difficult road getting used to a new band member in the shape of drummer Liam Brook. He had not played for years and his confidence was low when he joined the band. We essentially started from scratch but with that came a couple of much needed brand new songs. We rehearsed as and when we could and progress was very slow for a while but we stuck at it.
I went for a number of job interviews, initially losing more confidence with each one. I found it a harrowing experience overall. I very nearly secured a job in August and reached the point where it was between myself and one other candidate but alas this was not to be as they chose the other fella in the end.
At the end of August, we went on holiday to Vienna to visit my elderly relatives. It had been 13 years since I had been on holiday to a foreign destination and almost 25 years since I visited Austria as a child. It was exactly what we all needed. We had a fantastic time and returned with some very special memories. It was lovely to connect with some of my roots and I really want to go back in the not too distant future.
Upon returning home, my job search continued to no avail at first and hope was a bit thin on the ground. However, in late September a lifeline was presented to me as an ex-colleague offered me the opportunity to do some short term contracting work. This lasted 5-6 weeks and really gave me a much needed boost.
Around about this time, some friends of mine opened a new venue/nightclub in the West End area of Bradford called Vampire. I found myself falling in love with the club and taking the opportunity to be in the position of club promoter. I ploughed my all into it, working with the owners on building a roster of varied entertainment from the ground up. The initial push was demanding at first but served well to occupy my time before my contract work started.
Throughout October, I enjoyed working again for the first time in what seemed like an age. Things were starting to look up. The contract was temporary but it really brought my confidence level back up. I continued my search for further work and when the contract finished in early November, I stepped up the search, whilst enjoying my free time for the first time in ages.
A highlight of November was taking my daughter to her very first gig. It was for her 15th birthday. It was fitting as the gig took place at Leeds Met, which is where I went to my first gig when I was 15. She loved it and we loved taking her. I am looking forward to taking her to many more. I am immensely proud of the way she has turned out. She shares the same passion for rock music as me and she is very intelligent. I love her very much.
In early December, my friend informed me of a job which was going at his place of work. I duly applied and was offered an interview more or less straight away. After the first interview, I was invited back for a second and I am happy to say I was successful in securing the job. This allowed me to breathe a huge sigh of relief and enjoy the Christmas period with peace of mind.
We finished December off with two gigs, one for each band. These took place on consecutive nights at Vampire. The Dawn of Elysium gig was very enjoyable and we are hoping that it will be the last one playing the same set. We are gig weary from the gigs we have done and are eager to take some time out and write more material. Although we have a couple of gigs booked in February, we’re hoping to invest in more development time. We’re also in the process of finding another guitarist to give the sound more dimension.
The Suicide By Cop gig for me was more enjoyable. We hadn’t played live since Stevie’s last one in March. It was the first one with Liam and there were a lot of nerves building up to the gig. It was nice to finish off the year with our first gig together and we are all now very excited about starting 2014 in a much more positive light. Liam has now very much put his own stamp on the band and it has been great to see his confidence build up over the last few months. It has been a tough year for the band and there have been times when each one of us has probably considered our enthusiasm for it but the dedication and hard work have paid off. There is much work to do but I think the hardest bit of that first milestone is done.
The festive period has been an enjoyable but strange one. Christmas was always about family and the foundation of that for me and for many of us in the family was Mum. Certain things have changed in the family which I haven’t been ready to deal with so far and certainly Christmas was something that needed to happen before I could even bring myself to begin to. Consequently, this has seen me employing a certain amount of distance towards some of my family for a while. It certainly hasn’t been out of malice or ill feeling. I guess it’s just a part of the grieving process. Hopefully, when the decorations have been taken down and I start a new year with a clearer mind I can start to deal with a few things better.
We spent Christmas day with my friend Magda and Emma’s Mum. It was a lovely day and after a brief period of stress earlier on whilst we got the food all sorted, it was very relaxing.
And so, we are left with planning our last few nights out of the year before a new start next week. Looking forward to a fresh start, new job, security, new non-smoking regime, more productive in my music projects (bands and venue) and hopefully start to take better care of myself.
2013 has been a very emotional and at times a reckless journey but I survived it. It was probably one of the most challenging years I have experienced. Massive love and thanks to all my wonderful family and friends for helping me through it but most of all thank you to my wonderful Emma for being right by my side every step of the way. I can never express how much that meant and I will be forever grateful.
I hope you all enjoy the rest of the season and all the very best for 2014.