DISCLAIMER: contains some strong language.
Daniel in the Lion’s Den #2
Welcome to the second instalment of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den”. This week I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with drummer of Heavy British Rock band, The Fallen State's own Rich Walker. In this interview we discussed the many struggles that take their toll on musicians and how drumming should not be used to relieve anger, but to create the art in which it is intended to.
The Fallen State
Established in 2013, The Fallen State have steadily cemented themselves as one of the best up-and-coming bands in British rock today. Releasing multiple EP’s, including a full-length album, has generated over sixty-thousand monthly listeners on Spotify and has driven them to have numerous touring opportunities with some of the most respected musicians, across the United Kingdom and Europe. Dedicating themselves to create music that inspired them, they urged to create American-style rock music, with heavy, British vocals.
Personal thoughts on mental health
Rich has been very fortunate in his life’s development and has never suffered with long-term mental health, but that doesn’t mean that he has escaped from the underlying issues within the music industry. In his words, “[Mental Health} has been around forever but only recently become an active factor in society. It is now becoming more accepted and well-known”. Even without the grip of mental health surrounding his personality, Rich is very aware of the damages it is capable of inflicting and feels comfortable helping anyone, in any way he can. Rich stated that, “Mental health doesn’t have to be [defined by] the big 3”, referencing depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In his life, Rich has had his own confrontations with insecurity, self-consciousness, and anger, which has even caused physical damage when touring. Not between his fellow brothers, but from his instrument…
Drummer vs Drumstick
In 2018, The Fallen State were set to play at The Corporation in Sheffield, UK, supporting alternative metal band, Devilskin, but the time leading up to the show unfortunately caused his attitude throughout the performance to be shot. Whilst attempting to generate his built-up anger into his set, this caused his drumstick to snap, subsequently hitting Rich in the face and causing temporary damage to his eye. After that, Rich fixated on this experience and couldn’t be more apologetic to his peers. I had the honour of attending that event and even I was non-the-wiser. It just goes to show how difficult it is to determine how someone is feeling from an exterior viewpoint, especially when combining a heavy sound with an aggressive looking instrument. Rich defined drumming from a personal perspective by saying, “It should be a form of therapy, a way of channelling energy to produce something creative, even if it is just for yourself” and continued to express this topic right through the interview.
Face-to-face with exhaustion.
The recurring struggles of life on the road can develop feelings of tiredness and hunger, which then lead to notions of anger and stress. As the driver of the band, Rich often comes face-to-face with exhaustion, and being a “do-it-yourself” calibre of a band, it is a constant cycle of intense, psychological trauma. Driving, unpacking, setting up, sound checking, playing your set, packing up, driving to the next venue, getting minimal sleep and food just to be ready to repeat the cycle. Imagine doing that for a two-week tour with no break! I, personally, have the upmost respect for all musicians who continue to carry the industry and push themselves to achieve their goals. Rich then described his experiences on the road by saying, “It’s knackering driving across Ireland at five o’clock in the morning, especially when you haven’t eaten, slept, or showered since the previous night”, but these appear to be the daily challenges of a musician on tour.
“Smoke and mirrors”
Many musicians will most definitely experience nervousness pre-show, but for artists such as The Fallen State it can become difficult to remain confident throughout the day and especially leading up to their performance. Spending years supporting some of the world’s top rock bands such as, Black Stone Cherry, 3 Doors Down, and so many more, being in that position then became to feel like an audition-style environment. Having these opportunities can be extremely beneficial for a band but can also cause conflict within the group. How do you choose your best songs for a twenty-minute slot? How do you decide what songs go first and last? It seems like it would be a struggle for any band. Luckily for the band, they have full confidence in each other to know what would sound good, especially from a fan’s perspective. As a fan, we get the opportunity to see the finished product but not the behind-the-scenes elements that build up to the show and are hidden behind smoke and mirrors. Stress fuels that “I’d be fucked if I’m doing this… or that” attitude and it’s easy to get caught up in that moment. You don’t get the luxuries like eating and sleeping when faced with the constant pressure of putting on the best performance you can. It can’t be done. Rich said, “People judge you on your product but don’t see that it takes 100%, 24/7, from the whole band to produce that same product consistently.” and shared an analogy of how sports and music are different. “In sports, you can simply substitute a tired player for a new, fresh guy but you can’t do that in music. You can’t!”. It is a very relevant opinion and holds a substantial amount of truth behind it. Don’t you agree?
“Anxiety is about questioning the ability”
Personally, for Rich, in his words he described his confidence leading up to a show as “Feeling nervous, not anxious.” However, his anxiousness is always based on his appearance. Being a target of an online troll, describing Rich as “Looking dead inside” when commenting on a picture taken with a fan really hit hard, and has stuck with the drummer ever since. Social media has always had its advantages and disadvantages but, especially in this time, it should feel like a safe place for a band to share their music and interact with fans. Rich spoke of the personal relationships that he has developed with fans during his tenure with the band and stated that, “There should never be a divide between being fans and being friends” and promised that they would never charge anyone to meet them. This was a sensitive topic for Rich which included a tale from a European tour and an extensive rant. Whilst performing on a support tour around Europe, Rich was confronted on the tour bus by the opposing drummer who appeared in need of nicotine release from his cigarette. With no prior context the drummer blurted out with, “I wish these fans would fuck off so I can have a cigarette in peace!”. Like any other musician, Rich took offense to these comments but was able to bite his tongue, saving face. “Why would you say something like that about the people that have paid to see and supporting you?!”, Rich exclaimed. But it’s safe to say, they’ve lost a few fans.
Out of respect and professionalism I’ve decided not to share the name of the band, or the drummer.
Importance of their fanbase:
Rich spoke nothing but positivity towards fans of The Fallen State and couldn’t show enough appreciation. He encouraged people to interact with the band and even himself (In a positive way, hopefully). Rich said, “It’s important to support each other, we are all family, and you must be. You don’t achieve anything otherwise. On tour, Dismissal is a main thing to look out for because you can’t put yourself in someone else’s head.”, and he is absolutely right. As a band, you are a unit made up of your bandmates and the fans. Without one specific part of that unit, it could all collapse. As fans we hold a secret power to help musicians succeed, but even though they are labelled as musicians they are also people just like you and I. The Fallen State always hang out after their shows and are ready and waiting to chat and take pictures with the people who’ve given then the time of day, and contributed to their every project, production, video, show, song, etc. Just remember that at the end of their tenth day in-a-row, maybe even ask “how are you doing?”, or at least buy them a beer after a face-melting show! You have no idea how much you mean to musicians like Rich.
- Me and Rich Walker after their show in Nottingham, UK.
Thank you so much to Rich Walker for stepping into the Lion’s Den and giving us an insight into the strenuous work that is put into everything they do for their industry, and for their loyal fans. I Hope you enjoyed this week’s blog and I urge you to check out their latest single, Knives, on YouTube, Spotify, and all major streaming services. It will rock your socks off!
The Fallen State:
Facebook: The Fallen State
YouTube link to ‘Knives’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSjPw0yA9z4