this is the 500th post on radio free midwich

September 6, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Posted in blog info, musings, no audience underground | 2 Comments


About forty minutes into my first experience of private healthcare I looked across the desk and, in a voice cracking with excitement and trepidation, asked:

So what happens now?

My meaning was small scale – when do I see you again? How do I communicate all this to my GP? etc. – but the doctor opposite (whom I won’t name for now) addressed the bigger picture.  He replied grandly:

Mr Hayler, I am the most senior psychiatrist in the City of Leeds – what happens now is that we fix this,

I began to cry.


2015 started with a dip in my mood and a swelling anxiety that I tackled using various weapons and strategies from my anti-depression arsenal. Then a work colleague coughed in my direction, I started coughing the day after and four unbroken months of viral illnesses ensued. Whilst I was in this weakened state my depression/anxiety ran around my feet – barking, jowls flecked with foam, black coat glistening – until I finally collapsed and it sat triumphantly on my chest.

A further four months passed. I had an uncharacteristically poor experience of NHS care which left me despondent.  18 years since my first diagnosis and no-one had ever offered anything more ambitious than ‘managing’. The cycle, as regular as the changing of the seasons it so often mirrored, remained absolutely unscathed.

However, this glum resignation was tempered by two more positive coincidences.  Firstly, the shysters at my bank repaid me two grand they’d stolen for PPI on a loan I had as a student in the 90s (seriously folks, if you had any kind of financial product in the UK at that time they probably fucked you with this.  Download a form from the bank’s website, fill it in, send it off.  Takes an hour, you barely need any of the details, they have to respond in eight weeks.  Public service announcement ends.).  Secondly, a fellow sufferer suggested paying to see a particular consultant psychiatrist privately, saying that his experience with the guy had been game changing.

Now, I have principled objections to private medicine – the idea makes me feel sick and angry – and I winced at the dough I’d have to hand over for the privilege but, but, but… something had to change.  Oh well, I thought as I trudged to the appointment, it cost more than this to fix the steering on our nine year old Ford Focus and my mental gears have been loose for twice that length of time…

The doctor was elderly with silver hair, pin-stripe suit and reassuring manner – the very model of the semi-retired, impressively senior healthcare professional – and within a remarkable half hour he had me pegged.  He argued, convincingly, that there was ‘nothing wrong with me as a person’ (meaning nowt substantial for talking therapies to get hold of) and that this was a brain chemistry problem that had a pharmacological solution – a combination of medications that had never been suggested to me before.  I was choking back the blubs at about this point.

There then followed two weeks of shenanigans as I got hold of the drugs needed and all has gone well since I started taking them.  I was actually looking forward to one of the main side effects listed: unusually fast, all over hair growth (!) but, alas, I do not look like Captain Caveman yet.  Things are moving in an interesting direction.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.


So why tell this story?  Why start the 500th post with 500 words about how I’m doing?  Well, partly it is offered as a ‘mea culpa’, an explanation as to why I’ve left much of the hard lifting to my colleagues here recently.  Mainly, though, it is because this is all personal – the circumstances of our lives affect the art we make and the way we respond to the art of others.  The way radiofreemidwich expresses this is, I think, one of its great strengths.  In fact, to play down the essentially subjective nature of what we are all up to is to misunderstand its purpose.  This point-missing is what makes the pseudo-objective, hackademic, would-be-journal-of-record writing you might find in, say, The Wire so joyless and unreadable.  In a nutshell: what we are doing is how we are doing and vice versa.  Here’s a couple of examples – first good, then bad.

Since a big number last caused me to take stock, the largest, most positive change here at RFM is the trio of Chrissie Caulfield, Sof Cooper and marlo eggplant joining the team.  That the writers here are split three female/three male is, I think, something worth noting in what is a depressingly male-dominated sub-culture.  Now, I didn’t arrange this with a big agenda in mind, rather a growing personal uneasiness led me to think about what measures I could take to redress the balance.  It got even more interesting once their articles started coming in.  To what extent could I edit these pieces or dictate their subject matter?  Whilst I would certainly be vain enough to enjoy watching the review pile dwindle as a sexually diverse staff churned out pastiches of my narrative whimsy, it turns out that these people (I’m including Joe and Luke now too) have their own styles and interests.  How am I to square my own, quite proprietorial (some would say territorial), emotional investment in this blog/scene with the collaboration I have invited?

I was reminded of ‘Mimesis and Representation’ by the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur – a short, elegant, difficult article I was obsessed with as a student twenty-odd years ago.  In it Ricoeur explains that we can understand fiction (he talks mainly about fiction but I think the point is good for art/writing in a more general sense) because we share with the author a common understanding of elements of the world, the author sheds new light on these elements by configuring them in a novel (pun intended) way and, having read/experienced this art we are returned to the world with our understanding of it, or at least of these elements, changed or augmented.  The notion explains how refiguring the blog is changing how I am as a person which in turn is influencing how I experience music as I refigure the blog.  Sheesh.  I thought I could just get some chicks in, pick up an award for ending sexism then stick cruise control on.  Turns out the situation is a lot more complicated than that.  It is kinda beautiful though.

Oh, and then there’s the dog fucking.

For months I’ve been sitting on a retrospective of very harsh noise, a four tape set packaged in a plastic VHS box.  The artist, whom I have met several times and have seen play live, has impeccable credentials.  The label is run by a lovely guy, infectiously enthused by the project and anxious to hear what I think.  The music is exhilarating, with that nostrils flaring velocity and/or scalding bath intensity that the best HNW shares.  But, fuck me: the packaging.

The whole project seems to be celebrating a *cough* ‘golden age’ of vile VHS-era pornography.  The cover, accompanying booklet and inserts are mainly crude, violent collages of crude, violent images at least one of which is a (grainy but explicit) scene of bestiality.  My reaction to all this was far beyond the prudish tutting I’ve directed at nylon fetishists like Miguel Perez or horror obsessives like Lee Stokoe.  It made me angry.  Think about it: this is not the sort of distant scandal or outrage that the twitterati trade ‘hot takes’ over.  This set was lovingly hand-crafted in a tiny edition and distributed to those in the know.  Like it or not: I am one of them.

So what do I do with this?  Do I go hackademic and attempt to put it in the context of early industrial culture and explain it away as perverse nostalgia – folk music of a nihilistic, affectless age?  Should I ‘do a Keenan’ and double-down, revelling in something truly underground: friendless and transgressive?  Can I/should I go to the trouble of separating the music – which I enjoyed on a visceral level – from its trappings or should I just trust my gut and say: no, this isn’t good enough?

It’s the latter, isn’t it?  I can’t just ignore or gloss over this kind of stuff any more.  As for ‘blog policy’ – well, it is to be decided.  Again, thinking about the music and its context has me thinking about the blog which has me thinking about who I am and what I believe is important which returns me to the music which returns me to the blog.  It’s like taking the central tenet of the no-audience underground (*ahem*) ‘theory’ – that the scene has no audience because the scene is the audience, that there isn’t an easy split between active and passive participants – and applying it at a deeper, philosophical level to my understanding of, well, almost everything.  My face is right scrunched up as I type this.


So how am I and thus how is the blog?  Well, returning to normality after a period of mental illness is like returning to your house after a burglary, or a flood.  The shape is familiar but things are missing, or ruined, buried in shit.  I’m not starting from scratch but washing off and reshelving my thoughts is going to take a while.  I have to admit to dodging the review pile during what feels like a transitional period, instead listening to podcasts and headbanging to pummelling techno by Regis and Surgeon but I can hear the gurgling of my tank refilling.  Soon the engines of the metaphor-generator will be roaring once more and I will return to the task refreshed.  Or I’ll get Joe to do it – one or the other.

So there you go – here’s to the next 500!

With love and thanks to you all,

Rob H

September 2015


[Editor’s note: logo in sand pic by Luke.]


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  1. Fist pumps, slaps on backs, high fives and hardy handshakes. Good to hear the fog is lifting Mr. H.

    • Cheers Mark and Idwal remains a source of inspiration too. Love to you both, Rob x

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