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INTERVIEW: Music & Photography Creates ALPHA Exhibition

Veteran CALM ambassador, Jamie, from OFFICERS took time out of his busy – and we do mean BUSY – schedule to talk to us about getting Professor Green, Frank Turner and Gary Numan all under one roof in aid of CALM…

Jamie, thanks so much for talking to us. Your OFFICERS band mates must be missing you right now, as you’re flat out aren’t you? What are you up to? Yeah everything is pretty much 'go' at the moment. I've been busy again with Stuart [Semple, acclaimed British Artist] curating and creating tracks for an album due for release in the new year. It's been one of my favourite collaborations that we've done together and has formed part of his massive LA exhibition currently on show. As well as OFFICERS tracks and segues, it features tracks from Maxim from the Prodigy, Karima Francis, Nine Black Alps, Jim Jones and Charlotte Church. It's going to be released on exclusive limited vinyl and digital, with proceeds going to CALM.

We've also got a new single and album in the pipeline ourselves, which I'm really excited about, and a special 7inch split with Leeds band Fizzy Blood as part of new community enterprise label Come Play With Me.

Crikey! And we hear you've been hanging out with awesome music photographer Scarlet Page - what's that all about, you moving into photography too?! Haha, no no no. She and I have been working together on an exhibition in aid of CALM, which is opening next week on International Men's Day. It's called ALPHA.

Tell us more... It came about after a CALM event I'd organised in Leeds in March. Placebo kindly agreed to dedicate the Leeds show of their tour to help raise awareness of CALM, and I put together a secret after-show party in collaboration with the uni. Both Brian and Stef from the band DJ'd, and have been amazingly supportive. I was so grateful for them getting behind the charity and their continued efforts. Helena [Berg, acclaimed photographer responsible for much of rock band Placebo's artwork during their 20 year career] had heard all about the event and CALM via Brian, and asked to be put in touch with me to discuss her ideas; she talked about getting a load of photographers together to do something for the charity, as the cause really resonated with her.

Helena's been totally instrumental in curating the amazing calibre of photography that will be on display. I'm really proud to have been part of this and for everyone to finally see the work from these incredible artists, it's very very special. Helena, and all the artists involved, decided on the name ALPHA in relation to the cultural pressures men can often feel when trying to live up to the stereotypical 'alpha male' model. A symptom could be not seeking help or expressing emotions freely, which can lead to depression, anxiety, isolation and even suicide. The artists have tried to represent some of the emotional states photographically, to bring these issues to light.

ALPHA features the work of five award-winning photographers and support from music heavyweights Pro Green, Gary Numan and Frank Turner – what was it like getting that collaboration together, a bit like herding cats?! Ha! Well this might sound like a bit of a shock, but in the main, it's been pretty easy. Scarlet and Helena are great friends already and I was introduced to Scarlet pretty early on in the project. As you'll know from her work, she's extremely experienced and has worked with... well, who hasn't she worked with in the music business! She's extremely professional and creative, but is equally relaxed. I think that important mix contributes to the amazing work that she produces. Scarlet already had connections with Frank Turner, who already supports CALM, so that seemed to come together very quickly and easily, and I've been good friends with Gary and his wife Gemma for the last 4 or five years. We've toured and collaborated together in the past for CALM and I knew that he'd do anything he could to support the project. It was a simple case of introducing him to Scarlet and arranging for them to get together when he came over from LA (where he now lives). And as CALM's Patron, obviously Professor Green will do anything he can to raise awareness of why CALM has to exist and what we need to do to change the stigma attributed to talking about men's mental health.

Since 12 men per day kill themselves in the UK and guys are 3 times more likely to end their lives than women, we’re encouraging discussion on the topic of what it’s like to be a man today using #BiggerIssues. What does being a man mean to you? How do you feel about modern notions of masculinity? In all honesty, it petrifies me. When I started working with CALM a few years ago, suicide was the biggest killer of men under 34. It's now the single biggest killer of men aged under 45. We're surrounded by things all day, everyday, that reinforce what's seen as the traditional 'alpha male' stereotype. Whether that's in the media, advertising, the way we speak, people's attitudes, even some of the products we buy and consume. That's not good for me as an individual, it's not good for young males growing up, and it's certainly not good for our culture and mental health. The #BiggerIssues campaign has been really successful in highlighting this wider... Latte's bigger than suicide? Twitter hearts bigger than suicide? What else is there to say.

Quite. Jamie, this is obviously a cause very dear to you. If there were one thing, one message, that you wanted to get across to our readers today, what would it be? The key thing for me is that we need to change this cultural conditioning that's enforced about it being a sign of strength and aspiration for men to stay silent. We all need to promote and learn to be more at ease with asking each other if we're okay, letting each other know we're there to talk, especially in those darkest moments. It's not a burden, it's not abnormal, it's not shameful, it's not unmanly and there is always, always, help available.

The exhibition runs from Friday 20th November until Friday 25th November at theprintspace Gallery, 74 Kingsland Road E2 8DL. Admission is free, so come along! Spread the word and let's start discussing #BiggerIssues. Limited edition prints are available via the theprintspace Gallery hub, from the 20th November.

(Photo credits: Scarlet Page, Jennifer Pattison)