Electrum Malleus is probably one of my favorite albums. It is a 19 track beast, by far the largest album of original works I've ever assembled at once. It was also, for a while, supposed to be the last music I ever wrote.
This story contains elements of a rather dark time. Reader discretion is advised. If the topic of suicide makes you uneasy, I don't recommend reading this article. I also don't recommend reading this article if you really like the album and knowing why it exists might spoil it for you. It's really not a good reason.
I had just started releasing new works on Bandcamp. red01.ruby was just released in 2010 and I was really pleased with how it came out. I got the idea of releasing on Bandcamp from then-named Lapfox Trax. For all previous releases, I used SoundClick from the years 2002 all the way through 2010. I couldn't release whole albums on that platform. It was very "traditional": you uploaded your tracks like a playlist rather than discrete releases. I had also previously released my work on sites such as MySpace and MP3.com. These sites worked much the same way.
Music distribution has come a long way for us musicians in the last decade. New services with friendly payment processing and statistics tracking hit the scene. It finally felt like the internet was made for us, too.
A lot changed in my life from the years 2010 through 2012. A relationship got serious and then we got married. I finally started my professional career in IT. We got a new place to live, free of the tyranny of our former landlords. (They weren't pleasant to deal with, but that's a story for another time.)
Around this time period, though, I was experiencing increased disconnection from the world around. I felt like my communities and friends were growing displeased with me. They were growing distant. I primarily worked second shift (and that included weekend days), which put me working when most of my friends were available. In addition to that, there was some immense pressure around the marriage, there was anxiety as a result of the interations I had with people (as I worked on the help desk for an ISP,) and I also experienced some chronic focus and memory loss which often led to confrontation between myself and family.
On top of this, I was experiencing some serious dysphoria and didn't feel like I could talk to anyone about it. I brought it up to my wife at the time, but she objected to me exploring it further.
I had substituted trying to be social with attempting to progress in life and my own skills. I spent hours locked in my room overnight slaving away at my pet projects. I worked on Bizhawk's Commodore 64 core. I worked on reverse engineering projects for the Bemani community. I worked on my music. These were the only places that felt right. The things I could work on that would satisfy me.
I couldn't talk to anyone about the things I was feeling without also feeling like I was being judged or looked down upon. But I could write about it to a rhythm. It was the only skill I felt was worth anything at the time, and also a form of expression I could get other people to listen to and feel with me.
Underneath all that, though, I really did feel like my life was going to end up shorter than I imagined when I was younger. I don't know where I heard it from, but somehow the idea that I wasn't going to live to see a year past 25 lingered. And I felt if I waited, I would suffer. I didn't want to suffer. Nobody who feels mortally doomed wants to.
I hadn't planned on anything dangerous to start. But somehow, I just couldn't lose all the emotional weight bearing down on me daily. It got heavier day by day. I got weaker every single day. Panic attacks where I froze and became unproductive for extended periods of time became more frequent. And I thought all the while, I'm useless.
And if I tried to tell anybody, it'd just make my life more hell. More responsibilities when I couldn't keep up with the ones I had. Nobody to share this with. My music is the only thing I could possibly leave behind that had any meaning, that had any attachment to my existence. Without that, I may as well have never existed at all.
I wrote Last Day Alive thinking about all the things I was going to be sorry about and could never atone for. The ending was crafted in a way such that, to the listener, it was supposed to feel like falling. The glitch noise at the end? Impact. I listened to this over and over again and even today it cuts me emotionally.
I wrote You Are Here to paint a scenario where everything's over, and I'm just in some kind of void. The subject in this song was the reaper. Written as kind of a casual "hey, come here often?" mood of addressing whoever it is that'll take me to the other side. There's some laughing in the background during the uplifting part which is supposed to be reminiscing about the good.
You Better Run is about dying either in a fire or confrontation with an armed robber. Lost Again relates to my stress induced memory loss. Stranger is about growing into something unrecognizable, a statement about my growing dysphoria. Human Too mocks all the justification I did for my failures resulting from problems I felt I couldn't fix.
All the vocal work I did on this album was about the pressures and things I was feeling in those three years. All the anxiety built up and resulted in an explosion of creativity. I would burn the brightest at this point in my life until I burned out like fireworks.
The whole album was about feeling worthless and being ready to die. And I almost did it.
After the release of the album, things only seemed to get worse. The wedding was a really poor experience - much of her family abandoned her rather quickly after the ceremony. There was also some tension around intimacy and my own finances, which I could never seem to straighten out. We made it seven months. It turns out getting married is easy, but getting divorced is the biggest pain in the ass unless you like filling out 50-page forms in triplicate.
I produced Do You Feel Me? in record time afterwards, as I was devoting every waking hour for weeks straight to my craft. Socializing be damned. Even that album, with its more lighthearted presentation than Electrum Malleus, had some negative expression sprinkled throughout.
Looking back, the year wasn't a total waste. But it still wasn't enough. I still felt out of control.
Two things happened in 2013 to ensure I kept going. One, I sought professional help. And the other is so profound and yet, so simple: somebody noticed and said something. It's incredible what power empathy has.
Dude, come visit us sometime. We'll relax with some good food and some rock climbing and help you detox from all of this and then some. we're close by, after all.
I didn't like to spill this stuff out into public spaces. There was stigma against posting this kind of thing in public spaces, especially in the communities I belonged to at the time. Would it just be seen as another attention grab? But they didn't see it like that at all.
We didn't actually go rock climbing. I don't really care for that sort of thing. Instead, we just hung out. That and the therapy (or as I called it, "spilling to a total stranger") helped me come around. We spent time doing little things like getting ice cream and venturing out to other local landmarks. But the significance of these little things really felt amplified.
I haven't felt the need to write this kind of morbid music since. It was also around this time that I had begun making a lot more friends in the furry fandom, and also was invited to room with them for Midwest FurFest 2013. There, I met a lot of really awesome people and brought them into my social circle.
There's a lot more to the story, but this should paint a general motivation. Incidentally, the two albums I released in 2012 are my favorite works an probably my best.
A few folks saved my life that year and they don't even know it. Thank you. 💜