Bury Tomorrow Frontman - Daniel Winter-Bates: Part One

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Welcome all to part one of this very exciting instalment of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. This interview was with arguably the loudest advocate for mental health in the world, Mr Daniel Winter-Bates. Dan lifetime has accumulated many accomplishments and traits which has made him the ideal guest speaker to enter the Lion's Den. Along with being the respected frontman for heavy metal band, Bury Tomorrow, Dan is also an over 13-year veteran of the National Health Service - currently the Lead Freedom to Speak Up Guardian for the Solent NHS Trust. In this chat I wanted to dig deep into the origins of his life and discuss how the sub-cultured lifestyle of our youths, although from different environments, appear to have similarities. We hope you enjoy the journey.

“Let’s start from the beginning…”

I wanted to begin this discussion by asking about his childhood to begin to discover the foundations of his current lifestyle. I asked Dan if we were able to go back over twenty-years ago and walk me though his days as a young man.

“Yeah, I had a really good upbringing. Working-class background in my first memories, but then quickly we moved down south when I was younger... My parent’s were incredibly moral, ethical, taught me all about inclusion; diversity; equality; and had a really, grounded youth, in that sense. I could talk to them about anything, you know. There was no real stigma from my perspective around mental health. It was always {“you can talk to us about anything”} which was the best thing because that’s the thing when trying to strive for it within the mental health community or the appreciating mental health community, and I think I had the best possible options that are available to me to be able to approach some of the stuff I was going through.”

Before finding music, Dan had always been a talented kid, especially when it came to musical instruments, and his transition from primary to secondary school really settled him into the niche of the music-scene in an alternative subculture. His maturity into the world of rock and metal came from noticing the passion behind the lyrics and the music itself. Surrounded by a more alternative friendship group and grasping the concept of the “Emo world” became Dan’s fuel to begin a life within the industry.

"I was always the drummer in bands, I was always that kid. So, I used to spend every lunch break that I had in the drum room, drumming for like an hour before going back to classes. I just really fell in love with playing music… then I started in an assembly, playing drums or [being] in a band on breaks and I really started pulling myself out of my introverted kinda ways, and shyness, or nervousness.”

In his early teens, around the same time his love for music burst onto the scene, Dan that began suffering from an eating disorder known as Anorexia. This affected his life drastically as he started developing a negative reaction to food that he believes may have been perpetuated from the scene in which he was labelled. The alternative scene has always had its stereotypes and stigmas, as have any other modern culture, and many of its inhabitants appear to have an image of what they must look like. In some cases, eating disorders and conditions of self-loathing are seen as the norm for a majority of people within the subculture.

“I just became incredibly skinny, and I had a really poor relationship with food… I was hiding the fact that I had an eating disorder from my parents, which again was odd because I could’ve spoken to them about it, and never did… I used to throw away lunches and tell my parents that I ate at school so I wouldn’t have as big of a dinner; I’d either leave early or late from my house [even though I lived around the corner from my school] just to avoid the conversation about food.” – Daniel Winter-Bates on his avoidance of food.

“That was the last day of being a kid, I think?”

Dan’s experiences within the alternative subculture have been both beneficial yet torrential. Evolving into his character required to follow the paradigms of his culture: Long hair; dark clothing; etc. His friends may have seen this as a normality, yet the outside world had other opinions…

“I was playing in bands and we were doing well, for a kid band. We were playing shows in local venues when I was like fourteen, fifteen, so we were doing alright. I was a drummer… Then, what switched everything, for me, was back when I was fifteen. I was walking my then-girlfriend back from school because I walked past my house and walk her down to the bus stop to go back to her house. Then a twenty-three, twenty-something year-old guy was yelling derogatory stuff. The usual stuff for someone with long hair. I was in my school uniform. He then came over. He was with his girlfriend and dog at the time which seemed bonkers… Then I snapped back a little bit saying, {“What are you doing?”; “You are an adult”; “Are you a child-molester or something?”}, and I remember saying that, vividly. He then asked me if I wanted a fight. I said no, and then he slipped out a three-ring knuckle duster and punched me in the face, broke my nose and split it all the way down just because I was in this alternative subculture…”.

Fortunately for Dan, his previous experiences with the martial arts and defence assisted the strength of his face and helped maintain his composure after the impact. Dan encountered the standard of bullying that is faced with the culture, but never anything to this extent. The proceedings of this interaction shifted Dan’s mindset on his appearance and really flipped the switch from wanting to continue with his current appearance.

Suppressing emotions until breaking point:

After discussing similarities in our upbringings, I asked Dan about his diagnosis of anorexia as I really wanted to know if that one specific diagnosis then triggered multiple other conditions such as anxiety that would further affect his mental health. He described his experience of post-diagnosis as nothing short of suppressive.

“…from that moment, I was never truly happy, and never truly sad. So, I just went emotions down and did the worst possible thing and not talked about it. My dad, at that time was training to be an NLP and was known for dealing with anxiety and depression, and people with a nervous disposition when it comes to driving. He tried a few bits on me which was good, but I just knew what was happening. I knew that I could navigate those questions and I could do my thing. I weirdly never reached out at all. But what it had done was have a really strange effect on my eating disorder! Because of toxic masculinity and the sense of wanting to be big; and strong; and manly; and I needed to shave my head [generated the feeling of] never wanting to be a victim again. It really was in this perfect storm of it coincided with me joining Bury Tomorrow. Becoming the frontman of Bury Tomorrow, which was unusual for me because I’d been a frontman before but only for school stuff and hadn’t really performed as a frontman. Then being quickly thrown into a place of being sixteen and touring Europe. It was this perfect storm, but also this perfect opportunity. Obviously, there are hundreds, thousands of positives that I’ve had since joining Bury Tomorrow and one of those is being able to create this persona; to be able to be this person; to be able to be confident; and to be comfortable in adoration, in some places. Being comfortable in accepting that you are good, and you are worthy and people like you, and stuff that comes along with the element of fame, or whatever that may be? But being in a band and people liking our music, helped me grow. It was a really good turning point in my adult development.”

Daniel Winter-Bates has done numerous interviews and in very recent ones referred to “masks” that we, as society, wear. These masks indicate to barricade of not seeing the negatives when the positives are outweighing them. Unfortunately, in his late teens, Dan appeared to be having incredible success with his new band, Bury Tomorrow, and because of the list of positives that came with the lifestyles of a Rockstar, the negatives where masked away from him. – “On the flip side, I never really had to deal with emotion and just using that mask never helped me really have to develop my coping skills. Weirdly because the positives were so good, and I was obviously seeming to be positive as I was very extroversive at the time. There was no real point for my parents or my friends to kind of go {“Hang on, have you actually dealt with that traumatic period of time?”} and the traumas that have happened, which is quite a traumatic thing to happen to anybody, let alone a fifteen-year-old. But it was all masked by the fact of {“Wow, look at what he is doing!”; “He is obviously thriving!”}, you know. I got amazing GCSE’s, like really good. Went to college, hated every minute of it but met some amazing human beings. I left college because we got signed to our first record label; our band got signed to tour in Europe. As I said, things were just looking up! ‘Portraits’ came out, our first album. Which again got loads of success. So, it was just this whirlwind of {“…this guy knows what he is doing.”}. – Which anyone would do, right?

“When I was 15; 16; 17; I hated the way I looked. Like, despised it.”

In a recent interview with Sophie Eggleton on her podcast, Dan spoke on the topic of self-loathing to quite a high level. Being in his late mid/late teens, he hated the way he looked and even caused physical harm to himself even though he never really dealt with the condition of body dysmorphia.

“When I was 15; 16; 17; I hated the way I looked. Like, despised it… I would look in the mirror and I’d punch myself, or scratch myself, or something because I hated the way I looked.” – According to the NHS website page on body dysmorphia, “Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others. People of any age can have BDD, but it's most common in teenagers and young adults. I myself have fallen victim to the condition and you can read more about my experience with it on my previous blog discussion, “Why are you so skinny?”.

“I’d never even thought about mental health in a long, long time. It wasn’t even on my register. Looking back now with rose-tinted, horrible spectacles, probably less rose tinted but more mental health tinted, I can look back at hundreds of examples where I can go back and think that it was anxiety or that was low-mood and depression, or that was OCD thoughts, and I can go all the way back to probably about seven or eight [years-old] and having thoughts like that. It was a joke in our family that I had this mental guilt complex. So, I would do something bad and then six months later I would wake up in a cold sweat and just want to admit it. Even if it was something that made no difference… but now I look back and know that’s anxiety, that’s OCD thoughts. It was like I couldn’t get myself out of the rabbit hole.”

Thank you all for reading part one of our in-depth discussion. Stay tuned for part two where we discuss Dan's career in the NHS and more on his experiences with mental health and Bury Tomorrow!

If you are enjoying our discussion so far then let us know in the comments below - thank you!

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