I started playing the trumpet at school when I was 9, but then I transitioned into learning the guitar and bass when I realised playing the trumpet as a teenager wasn’t that cool. I grew up on the Isle of Wight with my parents who are Baptist missionaries, so most of my upbringing was playing in church with church bands. So every weekend I had a guaranteed gig. I left the island when I was 18 to go to London to study at bass tech, so I didn’t start gigging or taking music seriously until after I was 18. However, I dropped out of my course after the first year, as it wasn’t working for me - I just wanted to gig rather than learning theory. I then moved to Southampton where my parents had relocated to and joined a metal band, which was hilarious as I’m not really into heavy metal.
I got a job working in a guitar shop, which led to a job working for a bass guitar company, Warwick Bass. This position allowed me to play at guitar conventions and demo products, which was cool, but not what I wanted to do at this point in my life. After this, I ended up joining my favourite band ‘Ozric Tentacles’ through going to see them play, chatting to them, and to a point pestering them. I’d only been married a few months and was just settling down into a day job when this opportunity came along. It was an enlightening experience, I was very young and my expectations were higher than what was realistic. I’d never toured either. When I left Ozrics, the sound engineer was tour managing for Black Label Society with Zakk Wylde and they were looking for a bass tech. I’d just left a band and was available so of course I said yes. There were only a few weeks between me not having a band, to supporting for Black Sabbath.
I then went on to bass tech for Megadeath which gave me a good reputation which led me to guitar tech for Lamb of God, and the list just grew and grew. But even though I was working in the music industry and being a part of some amazing tours, my playing had taken a back seat, which I was unhappy with. I just wanted to create my own music. So, I started my own project Keepers Brew. In 2015 I was on a long tour with a lot of death metal bands, I wasn’t taking the best care of myself and I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep (which is the nature of being a stage manager). Everyone was partying, and even though I was exhausted, I wanted to join in.
My brain became tired and during one show at the sound check, my ears failed on me. This was harrowing. Gradually more and more frequencies were disappearing, and I felt very dizzy and drunk. After the show, my wife took me to the hospital, and I was pumped with many heavy-duty steroids to try and fix what had been damaged. At this point, everyone assumed it was damage from volume but we found out later on that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my ears, and there never had been. But I was completely deaf! It was a condition called conversion disorder and basically, it was the only way my brain could think of to make me stop and take a break. And because I was pumped with all of these steroids, it actually brought to light a mental health disorder that I’d been suffering with but never really paid attention too, which was Bipolar disorder.
There was total silence for a while, but thankfully I could communicate with people using sign language and hearing aids, because my daughter is deaf, which meant we were used to having subtitles on at home and making sure everyone could lip read. This lasted for the duration of 18 months. I went back on the road once my hearing was almost back, still as a bass tech, but once the show had started I went to the bus and waited until the music was over to protect my hearing.
So now, Keepers Brew is my main focus. I’m part of a studio project in Southampton and we’re refurbishing a four-room studio where we’ll be doing a lot more production work. I’m also writing an album for Rob Chapman. I’m also starting my Master’s degree with WaterBear, which I’m really looking forward to. My hope is that this will validate what I’ve been doing for 20 years.
Touring is a hard thing to balance; it’s so key to figure out what your limitations are. The hardest advice I ever got was to just slow the hell down. But that is truly what people in my position need to do. Even just leaving the room and getting fresh air and taking a step back sometimes. Talking to people is best thing to do if you’re suffering with anything, especially mental health related.