In the throes of passion, articulation can sometimes be lost. I might not be as eloquent as many a journalist, but these memories and experiences make me very thankful. There is a content warning here, there will be a discussion of mental health and associated elements.
Myspace was a strange and intriguing thing. Before it took a sad demise, you had your “Top 8” and I one day stumbled across a band called Y’all Is Fantasy Island (YIFI). There was a song called ‘With Handclaps’ and I became completely obsessed, it actually inspired the birth of this blog. Like all great things, I then started to delve into associated bands and Frightened Rabbit was in YIFI’s Top 8. I think ‘Yawns’ was one of the songs on the player and I just remember sitting there thinking “where the fuck have all these musicians in Scotland been in my life?”
Sing The Greys was the first introduction to Hits The Fan Records and a label that I came to trust and invest in when it came to music. Marcus and Claire Mackay (the label owners) were a crucial entity in Scottish music and a couple that have now been pivotal in the build of some of my most loved music.
The love affair began and there was a beautiful spider diagram forming. Frightened Rabbit led to The Twilight Sad, then to We Were Promised Jetpacks, Beerjacket, De Rosa and then back to my love of established artists such as Snow Patrol and Editors. It was all so incredibly intrinsic, incestuous and satisfying.
I was a member of the Snow Patrol and Editors fan forums. They were ridiculously heart-warming and inspiring places and online communities where I formed some of the most important relationships of my life. There were “Favourite New Band” sections and with fervour and desperation, I started the Frightened Rabbit topic. I felt proud on those days, proud that I had done it first. Yeah, I knew it was a tad sad that I had such a satisfaction, but I just knew they were going to be such an important band. A note has to be said about Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and his constant passion in highlighting new bands to the fans of the SP forum and beyond, Frabbit were a really personal investment for him from the early days and his dedication to them remained a constant. I will always be thankful to him for that as a fan. It was therefore a strange coincidence that both these bands would be so important in my journey of discovery when it came to Frabbit.
My brother Azhar and my friend Claire were big music fans and the 3 of us would go to gigs with friends, get annihilated and play a “tune each”. Amongst the Bloc Partys and LCD Soundsystems, Frightened Rabbit glued us together. We would start off singing at the top of our lungs and then as the haze of alcohol consumed us, we would just have a wry smile in a tribute to how in awe we were at Scott’s songwriting. It’s worth pointing out now that there are so many perfect pockets of relationships that have been cemented because of this music.
In 2004, I fell in love. It was the most intoxicating and consuming love. It was one that I still remember and feel the shudders in my heart at times. There was a reciprocation there, but as time went on his love spread to others and I became forgotten. There were songs that soundtracked the end, ‘Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole’ by the inimitable Martha Wainwright was one that fuelled my anger, but then ‘Poke’ came along. “If you don’t want to be with me just say and I will go” was the first line that resonated with me and then the song became a mantra for my breakdown. There were 3 lines though that kept me going,
“And now we’re unrelated and rid of all the shit we hated
But I hate when I feel like this
And I never hated you”
I cried like never before. My body shook, the tears were unending and I was so thankful to someone for writing a composition for my heartbreak. Never had someone articulated so perfectly how I felt and I played those 3 lines over and over for hours. I drank, I listened and I cried. It was an unending rotation, but it was a friend and it got me through. That’s the first time that Scott Hutchison became a hero for me.
In a strange turn of events, I sent the song ‘Poke’ to the woman who his love shifted to. It was the only way I could convey the pain I was feeling, but I wanted to do it in a way that wasn’t venomous. Scott’s words did that. It’s now a weird, yet exquisite bond that we both have surrounding that situation.
As Podcart progressed, my relationships with people who have been involved have been up and down. Two beautiful men who are still friends are also part of that pocket of love when it comes to Frightened Rabbit. Sean McCann and Alistair Burton both have their own memories of Scott’s writing, but the sometimes unspoken bond we have between us thanks to his songwriting is one of the things I hold dearest. He gave us the time of day, I guess at times I thought “we are a shitty little Scottish blog”, but that didn’t faze him, he would still speak to us and interact. That applies to all the FatCat family in particular who really helped put us on the map in terms of our presence.
Ally McCrae and David Weaver were the cruces of a collective called Detour. Euan Robertson, Ben Cowie and Gordon Connor Davidson were the cotton wool to protect a gem and the outfit were another means to amplify Scottish music and the community. The stunts they were pulling were fucking ridiculous, unsafe and hilarious, but they were all affirming. They were all another means to our connection with Scott. They did various things with Scott and introduced us to Crag Carrick from Glasgow venue Bloc. This opened up a magnificent community and one that I still hold dear to my heart. They all put Scott on in a sweaty, packed and frankly oversubscribed room, but it was one of the most overwhelming nights and one that many will remember forever. My friend Alex Kenzel. whom I met on the Snow Patrol forum, (YUP I KNOW) had moved over to Scotland from Canada and for her to experience something like this was one of the greatest times.
Along the tangents of this essay, it’s now the time to point out that I have mental health problems. I don’t think I have ever written it as blatantly as this. I suffer from PTSD and panic disorder. It has manifested itself in a way that is confusing at times. Music has been the only constant in my life and one that has saved my life. It keeps me going and I wouldn’t be here without it. The tragic irony is that artists like Scott have been my therapy. He has been part of my life’s soundtrack of the last 10 years to keep me from giving up.
Fast forward to 2016 and I wrote a personal essay, ‘Painting Of A Panic Attack’ based on the title of the band’s album. I have suffered from panic attacks since around 1999 and I had managed to get to a place that I was coping. They are the most debilitating and terrifying experiences and the fear of having one can sometimes become a problem. I had a wobble that came from nowhere in 2016 after such a glorious time of feeling “normal” and my world collapsed. I haven’t been able to get on a bus since November 2016 and my fear of public transport has led to quite a period of isolation. I had to get to work so I started walking from the Southside of Glasgow into town which is a 45-60 minute walk each way and had brought some positives. I get to listen to an abundance of music and once again Scott Hutchison provided me with a soundtrack to help me through. ‘Get Out’ enabled me to leave my house again. Scott became my hero for the 2nd time. I know that sounds exceptionally weird, but the words and sounds resonating in my ears made me feel safe enough to go outside. “I saw a glimmer in the dark” was the line and I thought to myself “you can do this Halina, you can do this.” I never want to wish this on anyone, even my worst enemies or those I feel nothing for. I never want them to experience the fear of even walking from one room to another, the fear of not being able to breathe, to not drown out your own heartbeat in your head and stop those overpowering thoughts in your head that you are going to fail. I will never wish that upon you.
I sent Scott a DM on twitter with a link to the essay:
And this was his reply.
Typical of a man that was so selfless and giving. Typical of someone that doesn’t recognise how beautiful they are on the inside and so influential.
Following his reply about Stereo, I started to wonder what I could do to make things better. I had a chance meeting with a beautiful and brave young woman called Paula McGuire and we spoke about our struggles and decided we needed to set up something. Since then, we set up online and offline safe space called The Respite Room with the aid of Nasty Woman, Mel Reeve which serves as a resource and hopefully help to people suffering from mental health problems. Scott influenced that. He was a catalyst in the set up and I will be forever thankful for that.
Then came something that was a dream for me:
We met on the 15th December 2016 and recorded a podcast. I have not been able to listen to it and I am not sure if I can for a while. He was so open, so honest, so giving of his time. I felt embarrassed as I think there has always been a bit of a divide as a fan and him as a musician. I didn’t want him to think this was about me being a fan, obviously, that was an element, but it was about getting his story out there and I wanted people to know how relatable it was. It’s very difficult to convey to someone you respect so much how you feel in a way that doesn’t come across in an often gushing manner.
The podcast went out and we received so many beautiful, encouraging and life-affirming messages. People that didn’t know about Scott’s struggle, people that had their own struggles and people that managed to figure out what they were going through because of how we had spoken about it. I always said, “if we can help one, it will be worth it”. We managed to help over 20. That was when Scott became my hero for the 3rd time.
This was my last message to him.
On 11th May at 7.04am I ran through to my other half and cried “he’s gone”. I sobbed.
I want to take this moment to share my respects, my love and my thanks to his family, his friends, his closest. You have all been crucial in my sonic constellation. You have all made a difference.
This is my timeline. This is what Scott Hutchison created and how he impacted my life. This musical family tree is something that I will never forget and my life would never be the same without it.
Scott and I discussed on the podcast how you feel guilty about talking to your friends about your mental health problems. Let’s diminish that guilt. Please. The last 48 hours have been spent reconnecting, reacting, responding and reaffirming my love for people. This has really hit home and I beg you to just take that step to make those that have touched, influenced or bathed your life feel they matter. We all matter. We may fall out, we may not agree with one another and there may be a divide, but we are human. We are flesh, bones, blood and stars. Take time to influence, to love, to care for one another and most importantly to listen.
I want to finish by listing all the people in music I have met, become aware of, followed by admiration and augmented relationships because of this man:
Azhar Rifai, Claire McCabe, Alex Kenzel, Nicola Blair, Gail Watt, Sean Mccann, Alistair Burton, Adam Stafford, Peter Kelly, Crag Carrick, David Weaver, Ally McCrae, Gary Lightbody, Tom Smith, Edith Bowman, Ed Lay, Russell Leetch, Chris Urbanowicz, Marcus Mackay, Claire Mackay, Kathryn Joseph, Martin Henry, Chris Connick, Adam Thompson, Michael Palmer, Sean Smith, Darren Lackie, Stuart McGachan, James Graham, Andy MacFarlane, Mark Devine, Nathan Connolly, Paul Wilson, Jonny Quinn, Keira Durning, Justin Lockey, James Lockey, Graham Bligh, Ian Holdich, Ella Liembach, Sian O’Neill, KatDyson-Baggaley, Lissie Kelly, Mary Young, Sarah Elizabeth, Melanie Leyland, Denise Brown, Alice Tres, Jenny Daly, Gillian Jepson, Davy Matchett, Steve Vickers, Malky B, Sharon Stephen, Yvonne McLellan, Jamie Gilmour, Jamie Sturt, Squirrel, Euan Robertson, Ben Cowie, Gordon Connor Davidson, Jessie Hoyle, Dave Reekie, Louis Abbott, Joe Rattray, Gordon Skene, Ryan Drever, Bruce Rintoul, Ross Clark, Laura Anne O’Grady, Stella Wan, Hannah Currie, Aileen Lynn, Phillip Taylor, Josh Swinney, David Steven Malone, Lloyd Meredith, Neil Wilson, Jamie Macdonald, Jason Pop Cop, Paula McGuire, Mel Reeve, Euan Davidson. The band Frightened Rabbit.
RIP Scott Hutchison. You will always be a hero.
If you are feeling particularly vulnerable or need urgent help then please refer to the following information:
- speak to a friend, family member or someone you trust as they may be able to help you calm down and find some breathing space
- call the Samaritans 24-hour support service on 116 123
- go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department and tell the staff how you are feeling
- contact NHS 111
- make an urgent appointment to see your GP
- Samaritans – 116 123
- CALM (for men) – 0800 58 58 58
- Papyrus (for under 35’s) – 0800 068 41 41
- The Respite Room