Danny Steele - ADHD: "My Enemy and My Friend"



Introduction:

It’s Saturday, you know what that means… Another exciting guest braves the Lion’s Den and discuss personal opinions and experiences. This week is Danny Steele, a young man from right here in my hometown of Hull, UK, who has found ways to transform his traits with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) into a more creative outlet, through drumming. We also use our similarities to compare and contrast our upbringings into the world of heavy music. Let us begin like we always do, from the beginning – Enjoy!


Early Contact with ADHD:

Rewinding over 20 years into the past, we began discussing his first encounters with ADHD and the visual traits that started his journey to diagnosis. “My mum believes that I have been showing traits since I was young, very young. She said that it is pretty unprecedented that at ten-months-old I could talk, walk downstairs, get over safety gates at not even one-year-old. …I’ve just always been an energetic kind of person!” Dan’s hyper-style nature is just a credit to his energy level and it’s an observation which I had grasped onto throughout our nearly two-and-a-half-hour-long conversation as I believe we both have very talkative personalities. Danny then proceeded to share a story from his first noticeable experience with ADHD from his mother’s perspective, “I must’ve been ten-months, nearly eleven-months-old, and she was sat in the living room, downstairs. I was upstairs and I had two safety gates to get past, and a cot to get out of. [Somehow] I ended up walking through the living room door and saying {“Can I have a drink, please?”}. She came upstairs, I’d broken the cot. I physically destroyed the side of it. Then, climbed over two safety gates and walked down the stairs!”


Comparing our separate upbringings interested me heavily as we both enjoyed many of the same hobbies in both our youth, and adulthood. Both of us shared the same extroversive characteristics in the sense of containment. You just couldn’t contain us. Spending a small chunk of our childhoods in the hospital due to injury became the norm of our lives and helped us connect on a higher level.



"I’ve had that many head injuries; you would not believe. I think I’ve been to A&E to have my head reglued at least three, four times! I was just that kid who didn’t pay attention or even think about consequences, I’d just go running in and It would end up in injury.”



We’re a bit of a quirky family; let’s put it that way…

I wanted to know if Danny, himself, felt that his condition was understood by his peers to the extent of receiving support from his family, and from the community. He replied with, “We’re a bit of a quirky family; let’s put it that way. We’re all a bit weird. My mum has definitely been one of the most supportive people, she has always been really understanding. School on the other hand, always saw me as the problem child. I just struggled to focus [in class]. I found it difficult to just sit there… I just wanted to fall asleep; I was that bored.” Inattentiveness is one of the main, key factors upon an ADHD diagnosis, and over a decade ago it seemed to be understood a lot less than in today’s education system.

School impact on becoming a drummer:

After years of dancing around his ADHD diagnosis, the school then presented Danny with an educational support grant for his condition, in his final year. As Danny had felt so side-lined throughout his school days, he focused more upon the interest of music as a way to assist his concentration and rhythmic skills. With his fellow classmates using the grant to purchase laptops, mobile phones, and classroom equipment, Danny took it upon himself to test his luck with a more creative outlet – “I asked if music gear counted for this grant and they said yep, so I got some soundproof padding for my drumkit. I could now practice at home without driving the neighbours absolutely insane!”


With his new equipment purchased, Danny expressed a sense of freedom that appeared restrictive to him since discovering his musical ability. Starting out by tapping on his leg, he noticed his ability to create a beat, it seemed to have just escalated from there. Whilst comparing stories of using musical instruments, I spoke of the difficulties that I faced when attempting to pursue guitar and Danny told me how It all started for him, “It takes time, mate. I always tap a lot because of my ADHD. I’m constantly sat at home tapping on my legs, tapping my feet, or doing something, you know what I mean? People in high school used to get pissed off! Like, you’d just be sat in class and then, all of a sudden, you’d hear this, [tapping noises]. All of the students were just like, {“Danny, shut the fuck up!”} – ha-ha!” After developing this constant need to be moving and tapping, Danny decided to take up the drumkit which came so naturally to him as he had spent so long tapping on himself. The start was rocky for Danny as it was a completely different contrast from using his hands to using drumsticks. Although the start seemed difficult, Danny endured the stressful beginnings and found his rhythm as a drummer – “…within a week I was smashing out some Three Days Grace, Paramore, within a week of playing! My mum especially came home one day and was like, {“Who have you got upstairs?” “Was that you on the drums?” “Oh, you got good at that quick, didn’t you?”}”


I wanted to be the next Rev…

Danny took advantage of his newly acquired skills and utilised every opportunity he could to further evolve his drumming potential – “At school, If I had a lunch break, I was on the stage, on the drumkit. If there was a break time or a missed lesson due to exams, I’d be on the stage, on the drumkit. I’d get home; straight on my drumkit. I’d go to The Warren; I’d be straight on the drumkit. From about fifteen, sixteen, when I started playing, up until about eighteen, I think I played the drumkit every single day for about three to seven hours. I wanted to learn how to be the next Rev from Avenged [Sevenfold], I was just obsessed with wanting to play Avenged…” With Avenged Sevenfold being Danny’s favourite band, you can see where the obsession originates. Hence the "A7X" tattoo on his arm.


According to their website, “The Warren Youth Project provides vital support services to young people in Hull”. Danny Steele in one of those young people who used the club to create friendships, attain a job, and utilise their music equipment to help reach their dreams. “The Warren was a huge help on everything, as well. Fantastic place, and the guy who ran the music department, Stewart, was one of the main reasons I’m the drummer I am today because he was always like, {“oh well, we don’t have this for equipment, we don’t have this…”} and I would be request things like a double-kick pedal as I really wanted to learn to play metal stuff, and he’d say, {“I’ll see what I can do.”}, Then you’d turn up a few weeks later and he’d tell me to look in the rehearsal room. I’d go into the room, sit behind the drumkit, and there would be a brand new [double-kick pedal] just sat there… and I just never came off it.”


The Difficulty of Concentration:

Me: “How did your ADHD affect your day-to-day life when you were in school?” Danny: “You could tell most days that I was getting to that finicky point. I’d be alright. I’d go have my breakfast most mornings. Then sometimes I wouldn’t have slept until six in the morning because I couldn’t sleep. Then I’m up at eight for school. So I’ve had two-hours sleep, I’m groggy as shit, and I’m like, {“uhhh, I’m dying”}, then, within twenty-minutes of being awake, I’m just like, {“WOOOO!}. So I’d get to school either really energetic or really tired. One of the two; It was never a middle ground… I’d get to school and then I would be ready to learn, then the lessons would start, and It would be something really boring like maths that has no excitement to me… If it weren’t interesting to me then I would shut off… It was just a thing of not being able to concentrate. The only lessons I really focused in, to the point that you could tell it was ADHD [related] because it’s called Hyper-focusing, it is similar to what people with autism can do also, where you just pick one thing and just lock into it…”


“…Music was obviously the main one; cooking was also one; and science. Other than those 3 (with the added energy burning of PE); it was very hard to keep my attention in a classroom.”

Words of Advice

“Anyone who tells you that you can’t have social interaction as an adult is lying. Once you get to eighteen people become observant that you have to be acting prim and proper, you need to start acting like an adult… says fucking who?!”


The Need for a Back-up Plan:

As many people know, the music industry may be easy to break into, but it can be the most challenging industry to succeed in. Many musicians such as Danny look to find ways to fund a potential career in music by returning to education and receiving a degree that relates to their prospected career-path. This notion had become clear to Danny during his time spent in Lockdown, the current restrictions of our usual freedom:

“The last year; I’ve had a lot of time to think. As much as I love doing my music, like, every time I’ve got five-minutes, I’m doing something music-y or music related. But I’ve now realised at twenty-four, I can’t just spend my life thinking that I want to be the Rockstar that goes on the road, goes on tour, without having at least a back-up plan in case it doesn’t happen. My brain is like it will happen, it will. That’s just wishful thinking. It’s a hard industry but you put the time and effort in then you can do it. Some people take ten to twenty years to get there, and I wouldn’t mind if it took me that long to get there because, at the end of the day, all I want is to go on the road, have people understand the music and say that they connect with it, in a way…”


Understanding the self-proclaimed “pipe dream” of a career as a famous musician, Danny looked to prosper into his local college and take the first steps towards a professional career…


“I know it’s a really stupid saying, for those who can’t do, teach, but if you can’t get into the professional arts industry, teaching is the next best thing in my opinion because you are then helping another generation of people create something special!”


How Drumming helps with ADHD from Danny’s Perspective:

“The reason why I like drums is because it is a lot of movement. Especially when it’s the stuff that I like to learn such as Avenged Sevenfold, Trivium, Suicide Silence, like really fast paced stuff. You’ve really got to move your body… Your whole body gets a full workout. It will have you legs going, arms going, moving to the side of the drumkit, and you do get an incredible workout from drums. If you play drums for six hours straight, you will be drenched in sweat, really sore, and then you get home and you realise that you’re tired. Like, what the fuck?! And that’s why I like drums because it helps with sleep and stress. Like, you’re having a bad day and you get on a drumkit, you can tell that you’re having a bad day. Sticks will break; everything will get hit twice as hard. You’re not playing songs you normally would, like metal. If you get there in a bad mood, you’re thinking that you’re pissed off and you’ll just slam everything as hard as you fucking can to get that adrenaline out. Then, after about an hour, you’re back to playing your normal, regular kind of stuff… It’s a really good stress relief, as well!


The Connection with Heavy Metal & Mental Health:

From a young age, myself and Danny both were introduced to a heavier style of music from our parents influence and as we transitioned into adulthood, it sure did evolve. The lyrical art of music became a way to advocate both physical and mental health for people like us, and Danny believes that it plays a major role in the alternative subculture. “If you look at a lot of metal bands, they talk and actually voice the issues and opinions of themselves…It is the same with a lot of bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Trivium, other bands like Amity Affliction. Amity Affliction are a really good band to listen to because of their lyrical content. They have a big, big thing about talking about suicide and mental health, and members of their band have openly come out and said they’ve tried to kill themselves and they’ve wanted to die. Like, they’ve wanted to take away everything because they’re just not feeling it anymore. They’re just not themselves. You can hear it in a lot of songs such as Open Letter, after taking my own opinions of the lyrics, I believe that it is about a suicide note. That’s what the song sounds like, but the emotion they put behind it and the way they put the songs together, they will find that nice line between rhythm, melody, and emotion, and they will just find that little mix where they can go, Look, we have to talk about these issues, but people aren’t comfortable talking about these issues, so we are going to do it in a way that makes people feel comfortable because they aren’t talking about it. They’re singing about it; or screaming about it; or letting loose on an instrument…”




“Mental health with metal is probably more prevalent with any other music genre because we’re all more open, I think? You look at the people who listen to rap, pop, country, they’re all a little bit more reserved. Blues and country music, you’ll get some pretty emotional songs, but never about mental health… A lot of people go into rock and metal because of things like bullying, or abuse, or family problems, or going into care, and it’s because it’s a great outlet for letting out all of these emotions you have. Let’s look at Given Up by Linkin Park. Chester [Bennington] basically goes bananas for that one and the eighteen second scream in that was just proof of how much pain he was in, as a person. He was abused as a kid, same as Corey Taylor of Slipknot, Chris Cornell of Audioslave, all abused as kids. But they’ve turned around through all of this shit and pushed it into something incredible. You couldn’t’ve had a song like Given Up as in pop because pop vocals are completely different. In rock you’re harsher, you have a lot of distortion, growling, shouting, screaming or whatever… With pop music, could you imagine someone like Dua Lipa doing a song like Given Up and being like, {[Monotoned voice] Put me out of my misery!}? – It just wouldn’t work. Which is why a lot of music doesn’t tackle mental health because it doesn’t fit the style.”


He’s damn right!


Current and Future Endeavours:

Danny is currently working on his first solo album and has taken up multiple instruments to help realise his vision. Working with the Warren Project to help produce his album to begin the strenuous journey into music. He is also a regular skateboarder and loves watching his favourite anime, Dragon Ball.


Danny is also continuing his education towards becoming a teacher and an advocate for the next generation of talented, young people. We here in the Lion’s Den wish him the best of luck and hope to catch up with him again, another time.


Conclusion:

We'd like to thank Danny Steele for allowing us to discover an understanding of ADHD from his perspective and also like to thank him for his openness and comfort when speaking of such conditions. Make sure to like, comment and sign up for our website, every little bit helps, and it only takes a few seconds to help us grow. Thank you!


Find me on:

Twitter: @ITLionsDen / @DjTwitchx98

Instagram: @ITLionsDen

JP/NF



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