Phill Young is a musician from Manchester. The former frontman of chill-ravers Christian AIDS, now has a new project – Moses Gold. Early tracks ‘Luvsick’ and ‘Power And Blood’ showcase Young’s emotionally-charged vocals set to surging, writhing beats. Phill has had depression since his teens and talked to CALM about the impact the illness has had on his life and how music has become a central part of his recovery.
How long have you suffered from depression?
I’m 31 years old and I believe my depression started as a teenager, so I’ve been battling with it for nearly 15 years. It’s hard to remember life without it; it’s part of me in the same way my fingers and toes are.
How did your depression manifest itself in the early days?
I had a very happy childhood. I grew up in a small village on the outskirts of Staffordshire, had loving parents and a great amount of freedom. When I was 13, my dad had an affair with my best friend’s mum. I remember coming home from school, finding him packing up his things and leaving me to be the one to tell my mum he’d left. It was a devastating blow – we moved house, I lost half my family and I retreated into my own head. I have blocked out huge parts of my teenage years because it’s pretty upsetting thinking about it. My hatred for my dad was nothing compared to the hatred I had for myself. I lost all confidence and went from being a reasonably popular kid to being bullied. I became shy, introverted and stopped showing an interest in school – getting by on any natural intelligence I might have had. I remember head-butting my bedroom wall on a regular basis. I was so frustrated. I was isolated and found strange ways of dealing with it. I went through a phase of stealing things – things I didn’t even want. Looking back, I was not just being a ‘difficult teenager’. I now know that something much worse was going on.
When your depression is at its worst, how does it affect your life?
At its worst I can barely get out of bed. My room will be total chaos – paper scattered everywhere, unwashed clothes, uneaten food, closed curtains. I feel anxious about doing even the easiest of tasks. I’ve sabotaged many relationships and friendships. I ignore those that I love and will say hurtful things even when I don’t mean them. I’m very good at pushing people away but I feel totally ashamed and guilty to be wasting my life. I feel like I don’t deserve love or happiness.
In my 20s, I worked nights for nine years stacking shelves at a supermarket. My diet and my sleep patterns were messed up. Spending all night alone with your thoughts is not a healthy thing for anyone – let alone a depressive – and I began to question whether I was really attracted to the job because it was the best excuse I could ever have for feeling the way I did. It was like being in a self-imposed prison cell and each inmate had his own personal battle going on for freedom.
Have you ever contemplated taking your own life?
The answer is yes. This might sound strange but I actually found myself planning it during one of the happiest times of my life. I was travelling round Germany with good friends. Every day was a new adventure and I was filled with hope, excitement and love. I didn’t want it to end, but I could see the end approaching. I was running out of money and I knew that I would have to return home without any real prospects.
I remember the exact moment. It was during a beer festival in Arnsberg. I went for a walk – drunk – and stood at the top of a bridge and for a fleeting moment had to resist the urge to throw myself off. I thought about being found, I thought about my family and friends. I thought about all the things I’d be missing out on and walked away like nothing had ever happened.
Have you ever taken any medication for your depression?
I have been to my GP twice. I was offered anti-depressants but refused both times. I never liked the idea of using drugs, or the idea that I can’t deal with my illness myself. This might be the wrong thing to say but I always had this feeling that if accepted medication I was accepting defeat.
Have you ever had any counselling?
Not yet. It is only very recently that I have come to truly admit to myself the extent of my problems. Perhaps in the future I will undertake counselling. I like the idea of talking to a stranger; it must be a liberating feeling to not be judged.
What support network have you got?
Beyond my mum and sister, I am lucky to have a few close friends that I can talk to. Although I have become very adept at pretending that everything is okay, sometimes, in moments of what felt like weakness, I have opened up to people. And almost always I have been surprised by how many people have been through similar things.
How has your depression been impacted by your music career?
I first became part of a musical project at the age of 29, having wanted to do it for most of my life. Depression had stopped me from following my ambitions. Finding my voice is the singular most important discovery I’ve ever made. I very quickly found myself performing before hundreds of people in places I’d never been to.
Every second is treasured. Every time I sing, it is a total release for me. I am letting out years worth of emotion and slowly growing in confidence. I have now found an incredible songwriting partner that has allowed me to bloom and the fact that people from different parts of the world are responding positively makes me feel overwhelmed. Right now, I’m feeling very positive.
What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
Whatever advice I could give he would probably ignore it – I have always been very stubborn. But, if I had the opportunity, I would hold him because that’s all he ever really wanted – to be held and loved. I would also tell him to get into Radiohead a lot earlier!
Listen to Moses Gold HERE