At some point I’m going to stand down and focus on being an illustrator again. I’m not quite sure when all of this started. I called it ‘moonlighting’ for a while – but my naughty flirtations with disciplines in which I had to right to be turned into a full on drunken handful. One freezing afternoon a couple of months back, Steve Merchant is calling my shitty Motorola Defy and I’m talking to the same man I’ve spent hundreds of hours listening to as he prods Karl Pilkington with Ricky Gervais. We’re talking about The Campaign Against Living Miserably – CALM and the arts. Now it’s a straight up affair with journalism and campaign direction. Steve is a hero of mine – a man who has used his talents and passions to lever himself into a successful career in film, television and writing. I guess that’s what the Xpress campaign is all about – finding what activates you, personally or professionally and embracing it.
It’s full throttle now. On Monday, Dirty Freud and I were on Amazing Radio. Tuesday it’s interviews with Creative Review and Design Week and on Wednesday we’re on BBC 6 Music News, right in the middle of the Radcliffe and Maconie show. The week before that, I sat next to my brother, both of us obsessive pro-wrestling fans, as we interviewed three-time WWE champion Mick Foley. All of it sounds great and trust me, I’m still struggling to take it all in, but there’s a bigger picture to all of this than chasing celebrities.
Over the last six months, I’ve been turning around some of the biggest illustration commissions of my career and I’m half a man from the fourteen-hour days. In the evenings and the weekends, I’ve been grafting into the small hours and travelling the country, caking my face in fucking Nivea Soft in a poor man’s effort to halt the alarmingly heavy eye-bags decsent onto my chin. By ploughing my very existence into this awareness campaign, I’m starting to see tangible results. People have started to tweet me about it, some have direct messaged me and added me as a ‘friend’ on Facebook and others have heard about it through a mate, asking me about Xpress in the pub toilets, at the urinal. I love it and talk about it anywhere.
I love what I do. I may not know what that is any more, but by creating something from nothing and seeing a project conclude, I get the same feeling that Leeds United used to give me in my teens with a victory. That’s why I approached CALM about forming a campaign through which I might be able to share with others everything the arts bring me. But I’m in the minority. That’s why CALM exists, because too many young people loose sight of life’s beauty and see no reason to continue. It’s tragic, but if you have never been shown any ways to express your feelings, how would you know? It sets a dark precedent when things stay inside. The mind is a fragile thing.
The Xpress seventeen-track album is released next week and any profit we make will be donated to CALM. All we’ll lose is the cut taken by the websites and stores who stock it. It’s a banger. Dirty Freud is a DJ and producer, also known as the High Wizard of ‘Electro-Dub’ and the founding father of ‘Ghost-Drone’. He sat in the dark for weeks, sweating and agonizing over perfecting each of the tracks and he nailed it. So please go and buy a copy – it looks beautiful, adorned by the paintings of the talented Hannah Ward with Graphic Design by Sam Price and it will support the arts, new music and CALM’s vital work.
After the BBC 6 Music preview of the album, I received an email from a gentleman who had heard the piece. He told me about the guilt and exasperation he has suffered over the years, that he felt like he was doing wrong by feeling depressed. He went on to tell me that he loved what we were doing with Xpress and that he writes songs to vent his feelings and emotions. I said at the start of this project, that if just one person benefits from this gig, that I would have surpassed anything I have achieved so far. At the time of writing I’ve talked to at least ten people who have come forward and shared their own troubles with us. Every one of them told me that Xpress had helped provide a context through which to do that. Thanks to social taboos, many lads think it’s weak or embarrassing to talk about things on your mind. Fuck weak and fuck embarrassing. We’re all human and life is tough for much of the journey. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel anything more real than the sensory overload I get when I see in someone’s eyes that they’re for real and our work has helped them. To me, that’s the highest high I’ll feel. It makes all those late nights lit only by the glow of my laptop worthwhile and the rest. I’ll return to concentrating on being an artist soon, but whilst this is all going off, I’m just going to go with it.
Check out the Xpress campaign at http://xpressofficial.com
For more on CALM, visit http://thecalmzone.net