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IN THIS PHOTO: Scott Hutchison/PHOTO CREDIT: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty
Why the Death of Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison Should Lead to Radical Action in the Industry
SOMEONE remarked how it is tragic…
IN THIS PHOTO: Frightened Rabbit/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
we tend to remember certain artists more after their death than we do when they were alive. That reaction came following the death of Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison on Thursday. I am aware of Frightened Rabbit and have been following the Scottish band for a while now. Listen to albums such as Pedestrian Verse (2013) and it brims with emotion, honesty and exceptional quality. Frightened Rabbit were/are one of those bands who won the critical soul upon their introduction – they have been seducing and entrancing music lovers of all values for fifteen years. Maybe that initial statement is true: we tend to notice an artist and dig into their music following their death. There are icons who have died and their level of popularity has remained high – David Bowie and Prince – and was hot when they were alive. There are others who gain increased fame following their death. That is not the case with Scott Hutchison. He is not a man who hid in the shadows and penned some nice little songs to be exhumed following ill-motivated and delayed public gratification: he is a warm soul whose humanity, humility and passion touched countless lives. I use the term ‘is’ because, to many, the news he is no longer here is too raw and unreal – I have a hard time believing he is gone and we will no longer hear music with his voice on it (no new recordings anyway).
I will bring in a touching tribute CLASH wrote but, right now, a word about the effect and shock Hutchison’s death has caused. Although we know his death is a result of suicide; one cannot fathom and truly know what was going through his mind in the hours that led to his death. I have been in a situation (more than once) where I have been in the bleakest place and panicked about my life – whether I wanted it to go on and unable to rationalise existence. Fairly recently, events and eye-opening soberness have caused a similar shock: the black dog barking in the year with a rusted chain around its neck; the rain lashing its weathered and scared face. You can romanticise and distance the sharp bite of mortality and suicidality all you want – the actual starkness of it is not lost on those who have been affected by it. I will not go into my own experiences but I can, at least, emphasise with Hutchison and what must have been going through his head in the days leading to his suicide. Words he spoke in the days prior to his death painted the picture of a loving man who felt unable to ably and proficiently profess love to those dear; a slight sense of detachment and numbness that was causing him immense pain: a gut-wrenching and shocking revelation from somebody who has provided so much incredible music.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
As part of Frightened Rabbit; the frontman delivered some of the finest music of his generation. Although the group will, inevitably, garner new curiosity and increased sales following Thursday’s devastating news; I hope people do not solely seek them out because Hutchison is no longer here – or people do not feel weird or strange investigating their music because he is dead. What makes the songwriter’s death so sad is the testimonies and stories being recounted and regaled so warmly and vividly. Journalists, fans and musicians have shown a unified love and positivity from the now-departed Hutchison. One might assume a man who wrestled demons and disturbed thoughts would be a sullen and isolated figure; emerging from the shadows a few times a year and snapping at anyone who came his way. The truth, really, is this: the sheer presence and force of nature that is (I should say ‘was’) Scott Hutchison charmed and affected everyone he came into contact with. If human beings can be compared to albums, then Scott Hutchison is, to me, Rumours: there is complexities and battles going on behind the scenes but the overt and life-affirming pleasures one gets from him remain in the soul forever. His music and melodic sensibilities were complex, universally adored and unique. His look and demeanour has the nature of a warm and cuddly bear and, in reality, that’s what he was. The man never looked down on anyone or judged another human; he was candid but gentle; human but, oddly, immortal and different from all of us.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
The music Hutchison helped to create (as part of Frightened Rabbit) revealed his inspiring D.N.A. and how his mind ticked. Although a lot of the music had a bleak and afflicted quality; the man who helped articulate those sensational moments was not a fatalistic and doomed figure we would associate with that kind of music. If my thoughts seem tangled and contradictory then you will excuse me – piecing this all together and trying to coherently react to such a figure’s death is a hard thing to do. I want to talk about the wake of Hutchison’s death and why more needs to be done. I said I would bring in a tribute from a writer and friend of Hutchison. Robin Murray, writing in CLASH, provided memories and thoughts about the Scottish icon:
“…Everywhere, though, was this radiant, magnetic personality. Everything Scott touched seemed to exude a pure, instantly recognisable, creativity. Trained in visual arts – he studied at Glasgow School Of Art – he drew many of Frightened Rabbit’s album covers and gig posters, before recently illustrating a book of poetry for a close friend.
Some time ago, Clash invited Frightened Rabbit to send the office postcards from a tour of tiny venues in the Scottish Highlands. Most bands were wary of the invite, but Scott leaped to the task, grabbing the naffest postcards he could find and filling them with obscure reminiscences, ribald jokes, and the odd drawing or two. A lesser noted talent was his beautiful handwriting; Scott could make even the most prosaic sentences leap from the page”.
That is a perfect and no-need-for-amendment expression and representation of Scott Hutchinson. Whilst words like this do proud a man who made so many happy; it is bittersweet because we wonder, given what we know, a human who was beloved by so many would take his own life. I am not here to forensically examine his psychology and what triggered the decision he made last week – that cannot change the facts and bring him back. What I do want to see if greater awareness and support given to musicians. I have written about mental-health and how lives are being lost, possibly needlessly – the last time I wrote about it was after the suicide of Linkin Park’s frontman, Chester Bennington. Although there is not a sky-high rate of suicide in the music industry; there are thousands suffering mental illness and struggling with daily battles. The manifesto of mental-health is a rich, worrying and complex one: it is a spectrum that cannot be defined as ‘depressed’ and ‘happy’. Not everyone who has a mental illness is depressed; not everyone who is depressed can be seen and helped. That may sound like a simplistic and harsh assessment of a battlefield that is seeing too many casualties. Great organisations such as the Samaritans and CALM exist to help those in distress…is this enough?
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
Those organisations do fine work and tirelessly aid those who need urgent help. Whilst their resources are stretched and vital; I have to wonder whether greater investigation needs to occur. One can say people outside of music suffer poor mental-health so we need to cast a new on society as a whole. Music is one of those industries where mental ill health is acute and well-documented. Barely a day goes by without stories of stress, anxiety and self-harm. I do not pick my contacts on the state of their mind: it is an indiscriminate and irresponsible illness that stalks those who deserve happiness the most. We can see the unpredictable nature of mental illness means we cannot help everyone or force anyone to speak. There are bespoke music/mental-health charities that are open to those in the industry but it is tragic and wrong seeing fine musicians take their own lives. I know Hutchison’s situation and worries are different to other people – it is not obvious why he made the decision he did and whether more could be done. He was love and supported by those around him: the decision to end his life was one he felt he has to make…something that may seem incomprehensible to some. Mental illness is a tough thing to comprehend and each person is vastly different.
I would like to see more money spent offering help to musicians and raising more awareness. The campaigns and posts on social media – following Hutchison’s death – are heartening but, in a few weeks; have we made progress and sent a message to those in the government. Funding is coming but it is not enough – it is not fast enough. A huge and adored human such as Scott Hutchison had legions of fans and countless admirers. There must have been something going on he felt he couldn’t control. Every notable and tragic death raises questions as to whether music is too demanding or we are lacking necessary resources and focus. I feel we have got to a point where more artists will take their life and nothing will be done. The army of voices out there is not as powerful as the potency of financing, movements and real change. Whatever form that takes, we have to make this declaration: something needs to be done. Hutchison’s music and memory will last forever; his spirit and personality are present in the blood and bones of those he met; his influence and legacy will affect and drive the next generation. There is no doubt the bonny and bright songwriter will fade from public consciousness at any point – let’s hope his death leads to action and proactive change. I, as I have said, have been affected by the worst grip of depression and came out the other end – nobody who suffers poor mental-health is immune and safe from its devastating sting. I, like everyone, want to see improvement and a proper response to the epidemic. It should not take a single person to get the government into action and taking a stand but if the death of Frightened Rabbit’s lead gets the ball rolling to a revolution then…
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
SOMETHING good will come out of a tragic and horrible loss.