My ears are still ringing, and my fingers are a little raw. There's a lingering aroma of beer in my nose and a dull ache in my shoulder. I have sweat running down my back and a big stupid grin on my face. There can be only one explanation …
The band is back together.
At 36 years old, I have long given up the teenage dream of becoming a rock star. Yet over the last couple years, I've had the privilege of playing bass guitar for a band made up of some mates from work. (I say 'privilege' because - as I'm well aware – the bass player is pretty much the most replaceable position in the band, requiring about as much skill as it takes to play the triangle - for the songs we play anyway. )
Although our predominant state is 'on hiatus', we get together for a few months every year and rehearse a bunch of mostly 80's New-Wave and punk rock songs for an industry-related Battle of the Bands competition. We don't sound half-bad most of the time. And for 15 glorious minutes on that stage every year, I get as close to being a rock star as I'll ever get. It's all a bit silly really, but damn it's fun.
One of the songs we're jamming on at the moment is 'Transmission', by English post-punk band Joy Division, whose late 1970's hey-day was tragically cut short by the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis, who had suffered from severe depression and epilepsy. I had a much-loved cousin who also committed suicide following a long struggle with epilepsy and depression, so the words of the song always hit home hard for me.
Eyes, dark grey lenses frightened of the sun.
We would have a fine time living in the night,
Left to blind destruction, waiting for our sight.
And we would go on as though nothing was wrong.
And hide from these days we remained all alone.
Staying in the same place, just staying out the time.
Touching from a distance, further all the time.
Well I could call out when the going gets tough.
The things that we've learnt are no longer enough.
No language, just sound, that's all we need know,
to synchronise love to the beat of the show.
There's something to be said for losing yourself in the joy of music – or any art for that matter (even cartooning!) when things feel hopeless.
I'm not saying it's a solution to all or any of life's problems (Ian Curtis is evidence of that) but for me, in those moments when I'm with the band and we're tight and pounding out a great riff, or I'm sitting in front of a blank white page and the ink is starting to turn into a cartoon, I sure do feel alive.