INTERVIEW: Barry Hyde | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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“Piano is my first instrument. It is the ‘instrument of instruments’ and is a master key to the secrets of the art form.” Barry Hyde declares. “I became utterly mechanical with my writing on guitar, I think The Futureheads had exhausted all possibilities with those instruments, perhaps that’s why we made Rant, our a capella album”

Malody is Hyde’s first recording as a solo artist, with the familiar angular guitars put back in their case. In contrast it’s stark, hauntingly beautiful and gets under your skin as, indeed, it’s got under his. “The process is very similar – to me it’s like a puzzle, you have to sit with your instrument, try to find something essential about it, something to attach to. If that’s not there for me it doesn’t classify as ‘art’. I always wanted to make art. The early Futureheads stuff was very much about uniqueness, about personality and idiosyncrasy. With Malody my main focus is on staying in love with the album. This lead up period is emotionally strange. It’s difficult not to fall in to the ‘what if?’ trap. I avoid this at all costs. I find it works as a method of giving the record the affection that is needed to stay in love.”

Hyde was first diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in 2011, and the years following would prove to be a battle of extremes. Suffering chronic mental illness, he was hospitalised three times. “It is well known that creative people often have mental health struggles.” He says. “I see the album as a farewell to my demons. I know for certain that I wouldn’t have been able to make this music had I not have become so unwell.”

Opening himself up to the press and fans about his battle was at first a way of explaining the story behind the album.I am not on a crusade, I’m just doing what feels natural. The music seems to say more than I can. Let’s face it, we live in a fucking lunatic asylum and those that have the keys to the front gate are easily the most insane people on the planet.”

“The human experience is utterly profound and this music is just my attempt at understanding my own madness. I have only one conclusion and it is that ‘life is good, but life is hard’.”

As Hyde explains it, creating Malody became a “distillation” of his personal struggles, but the recording process was also a protracted one. Having worked with First Avenue Studios producer Dave Curle on previous projects, the producer helped Hyde to make the most of the music he was creating. “Working with Dave is amazing because, it seems to me, he has psychic powers. He just knows what the next step is with clockwork consistency and emits a calmness that helps keep things on track. I honestly had never thought of making a solo album whilst in the Futureheads. I’m glad I have waited until now as I feel like I have something that people can really get in to. It’s not for everyone, but what is? I had to go to the depths in order to make sense of my life, and this album is like a document of an almost catastrophic battle that took place in my reality. I performed for the first time with my ensemble at the Journal Culture Awards recently and it was such a massive experience that I cried pretty much through the whole set. It was so strange. Touring this record is going to be a road to Damascus experience, I think.”

Hyde describes Malody as a “bi-polar album”, and indeed, the tracks swing between drama and melancholy. From the piano-driven Blixer, with its complex and chaotic – almost vaudevillian – sonic approach, to Sugar’s choppy piano and stabbing strings, and album closer Thunder Song, with its explosive cacophony of instrumentation demonstrate a musician at the height of his creativity; while the melancholic and sombre notes of scene-setting opener Theme and the fragility of the title track expose a unique reflection of the songwriter himself. Monster Again takes this theme to its limits, simple and expressive, an almost self-explanatory photograph of Hyde’s twin persona, its title taking a sharp stab at the writer battling inner demons.

“My philosophy toward the track order was to try and play with the listener by putting contrasting songs one after another. I want the attentive listener to feel exhausted at the end of it. The album is bipolar, very deliberately. This was part of the embracing of my mental health struggles. I feel like I have just about contained it now. I can leave the stage and try like everyone else to find some form of balance in life.”

With ambitions to tour the release this year, and seemingly in a stable and creative place, Barry Hyde’s cautiously optimistic about what lays ahead, both for him and his record. “I’m a little bit wobbly when it comes to confidence. At this moment in time I feel satisfied that I have made an album that has honesty and artistic integrity. The main thing is not giving a shit about what others think, but this is hard because I believe that ultimately all performers want a round of applause. I have had some excellent responses to the record, which is fantastic, but I have to protect myself from taking too much esteem from others. If that happens, then a person can lose the skill of creating self-esteem. Without self-esteem people disappear into themselves and can run into trouble. Never again.”

Barry Hyde releases Malody on 3rd June. He plays Sunderland’s Royalty Theatre on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th June.

 

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