Composing daily. Meeting deadlines and running off mixes, edits, more writing, around and around. Website updates, promotion, admin, more admin, around we go again. For a lot of us, this represents something all too familiar in our work regime. We work long weird hours depending on where the client is based. If like me, you live in the UK, you are 8 hours ahead of west coast USA. That’s a blessing and a curse rolled into one and here’s why. Ok, so when you’re ahead, everyone who can grab you isn’t conscious. They are all sleeping soundly in their beds. That’s awesome.
But the downside is, when they awaken, you have a constant stream of emails and calls and you are back on duty for the rest of the evening and sometimes a little longer. When you sit at that station, you are working on the go, so your mind, body and lifestyle supporting this are very much hand to mouth – lets grab coffee, lets grab something quick. What the hell is daylight anyway??? I had got into this pattern from day one. It was totally self assigned, and no one made me do this. I just lunged at work with both hands. I mean seriously?? Someone out there wanted me to write music! I felt blessed to have the chance and I didn’t want to disappoint. In fact that sensation of not delivering quickly, and perfectly, gets to me. I get quite sick of comments that only suggest quick music is somehow always flawed. That it can’t be done. Something will give if it’s too quick.
Well I’ll say it one time, I call bullshit of the highest order. I don’t profess to be anything or anyone special, but I can do it. End of story. I get asked to write a thing, said thing gets done. As soon as I can do it, to the best of my ability with all the love rolled into it. Now the problem isn’t the way I make music. It’s not working fast and intensely that gave me my health issues, which I’ll get into now. It was that my mindset was just one speed.
So ok, I felt terrible, that’s my opener for you. I had spent most of my adult life very active and managed to keep my weight to a level where I could say, I’m ok, I’m over weight – yeah, I smoke too much, I eat the wrong things, but I’m active. But as we all know, just being active doesn’t count or mean shit. In fact it’s just a way of delaying all the other things you do from taking hold of you. That’s just fact. It is what it is. If you smoke 20 a day and eat nothing but pizza but you jog a lot, yup you’re still gonna get some heart problems later on in life. I don’t make the rules, it’s the way it happens. Be skinny and boast about your high metabolic rate but no matter what you “think”, you are killing yourself for later life.
My stomach felt awful, I had dull aches on my entire front. From chest to, well, everywhere! So it got me scared. I thought I could get away with this frankly cos I’m indestructible like we all think we are. Well I did. So Doc takes my blood pressure and says, well this isn’t great. It’s too high and you’re very over weight, you do no exercise and your diet is awful…oh, and you have smoked for 20-25 years.
So the prognosis isn’t looking ideal from anyone’s moral stand point. I couldn’t “jog” this one off if I wanted to. No amount of good will or disbelief will make me feel better and the life long headaches?? I could do without those too! So next he says, he will take other readings but it’s likely I will need medication to control my BP and once you’re on them, that’s it for life. Then the blood test came back and I’ve got some mean high cholesterol although the silver lining is blood count is good, blood sugar stable and within range. So that’s not information I wanted to hear, but I was glad I knew now, rather than 10 years on and I have a stroke or heart attack and start wondering why.
My reaction was, I’m not going on the drugs until I get my shot at fixing this. I mean you can’t tell me that’s the road we are heading and I get no chances to put this right! I said give me till next week and I’ll show you some improvement and what I know I can do. I walked home, feeling quite upset actually that I’d just dropped myself off a cliff eating every kind of crap, working long hours and smoking, being excessive and not caring. How was I about to hit 40 and hadn’t realised that this wasn’t a good idea? I’d made 3 successive trips to California and each time, I’d destroy a lot of amazing big big food groups!! Taking no prisoners and just slaying racks of prime rib, big steaks, burgers, surf and turf plus all the fancy dressings. I could list the carnage, but someone would petition me on some form of animal rights disgrace. I was a one man live stock deficit machine. No really, count your cows and chickens cos I’m coming through!
So how do I not work so hard? How do I start getting exercise? What exactly do I need to change? The short answer was, everything must change. And so it did……….a life long smoker, that’s a tough habit to break – even more so if you have already given up in the past. Your mental memory of that event means giving up again can certainly be like taking on that 1000 step climb to the temple carrying a whole cow on your shoulders, although I guess the option to put the cow down and eat it would have eased my load! So no more snacks. No crisps, chips, chocolate, tea, coffee, burgers, and fast food at all. Nothing with too much or any salt. No saturated fats, no high simple carb foods. You name it, I stopped eating it. Actually I tell a white lie, I had a morning cup of tea with skimmed milk and one sugar, but you need to start a day with some form of sanity or the rest of it won’t happen.
I ordered a vaping E cig and gave that a hit. I was pretty shocked but it was ok, it felt like something I could do. Until I realised it was “ok”. But before I quit, i researched a ton. Anyone who knows me, knows I love a bit of research!!!! I spent HOURS upon hours looking, reading and getting right to the bottom of this one. I wont go and bleat all my arguments and attack the stupid claims being made – but it’s safe, in short. A decent vaping setup and that’s me off full cigs. 2 months on and I still love vaping. I get my hit but minus 1000’s of shitty chems and carcinogens that were surely going to deal me with a poor hand sooner than later. I didnt have a problem giving up chocolate. My legendary sweet tooth was declining over the years to the point I had become a savoury chap. So that’s not a hill for me to climb. We got into the Joe Cross juicing with fantastic results. Both myself and my partner Lisa, we got the very best from this whilst retaining a decent healthy evening meal. We struck a perfect balance and by walking 3-4 miles a day to start off with, we started to feel mobile again. For a few weeks, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Just walking.
Now just a couple months on, I’ve lost 24lbs and I’m still on this for another 14lbs thereafter. I haven’t smoked, I had one cheat day binge on my birthday and we still love our new lifestyle. We dont see this as a diet, it’s a permanent new way of eating for us now. I genuinely don’t crave 90% of those things we don’t have now. Just every now and then I think, I could murder some chips or I could eat this and that but truthfully, my resolve is solid. I can’t bear the thought of being that heavy, slow and sick again. I’ve checked my blood pressure since, it’s super low now. Like well inside healthy range. My resting pulse went from 90bpm down to just over 60. So what’s the new regime???
Well I work from waking up (after some vaping, email reading and a juice to kick off the day!) until lunch, when we usually hit up our second juice and a good walk. From the afternoon onwards I can choose to go back and do more work or just play it by ear. Maybe to some extent some of the relentless drive has gone, but it can’t be maintained without some cost. Having written 2000+ cues since sometime in 2011, that’s like 20- 25k mixes, hundreds of hours of admin, research, sound design – the list is endless. It really was like condensing 8 years of work into 4. What I feel I can achieve hasn’t dipped. My focus and energy have gone up, so in a different style of working, I can very nearly achieve the same output, even though I spend more time with the family, chilling and exercising. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did.
The lifestyle of a solitary composer can be a seriously rewarding but dangerous game. I’ve seen folks lose their marriage, their health, their social skills and much more besides. I don’t really have a big lesson sum up to offer anyone but I would urge anyone to re assess where they think they are. Just take a minute and think, am I doing this and feel ok, so I’ll do it as much as I please? Will this affect me later in life, and do I care?? I can’t answer anyone’s personal life choices for them and wouldn’t want to come across like a cheap web campaign trying to sell anything. I’m really not, but selling the idea? Maybe.