Destiny Stopped Screaming: A Tribute to Adrian Borland
Those first chords hit.
They keep building up.
Then the drums come in.
Then the synth. Dark and uncompromising.
Then he sings.
"So many feelings pent up in here,
left alone I'm with the one I most fear."
The first words to come out of Adrian Borland's mouth for the first album by his band The Sound. Words that would ring true 19 years later when he succumbed to his condition. The one he most feared killed him. "I can't escape myself," he sings with this almost passive-aggression. The instruments halt before he can finish the sentence, leaving him with just his own voice to continue the lyric. This is The Sound, a band who released five albums since their formation in 1979 and break-out in 1987.
This isn't where Adrian Borland, a young Londoner with a lot to say, began his musical career. It started two years earlier, in 1977, the peak of punk. He and his school-friends started messing around, playing songs in Adrian's front room. They eventually self-recorded, with Adrian's dad Robert acting as engineer and producer. Together, they pressed one thousand copies of their debut album as The Outsiders, calling it 'Calling on Youth' and containing both typical punk-rock numbers and the introspective, brooding tracks that would later define Borland. It came as some surprise to me to learn that it wasn't even Borland who penned the lyrics for this album, because they seemed very like him, especially in tracks like 'Walking Through a Storm.'
This album has the distinction of being the first DIY LP punk release in Britain, a fact that seems to have completely disappeared from music for reasons that completely escape me, although as would become apparent as Borland's career continued, he didn't have the greatest relationship with the general public: his music never gained popularity, and this was something that contributed to his tragic ending.
I'm going to stop writing so formally now. The Outsiders made another album a year later, then, after a member departed, they deformed and reformed as The Sound. And Jesus, is that music good. I first got into post-punk music a few years ago, and although in general The Sound weren't mentioned often, in that corner of the blogosphere that really explored post-punk, they were respected and lauded for their introspective lyrics and complex, beautiful music. It took me a while to venture into them, for some reason I was put off by the band name. It seemed like such a weird band name, but now the name brings feelings to me as dear as hearing the name of an old friend. Even though I never met Adrian and he passed before I could even consciously grasp what music really could be, I feel like he is a friend to me. I stupidly look to him for guidance in my hours of need, almost placing him as my personal guardian angel: a powerful, incredible man like him is certainly an inspiration to me, and so this placement I feel is entirely justified.
He suffered badly from depression, but this was worsened by his diagnosis with schizoaffective disorder. Wikipedia says schizoaffective disorder is a combination of psychosis and abnormal moods. A fellow band-member once talked of a moment, shortly before they disbanded in 1987, in which Adrian was on a plane convinced that he was abducted by aliens and that his fellow band-member was an ET. It may sound funny, but the tragedy that surrounded this is all too pure: his condition worsened in the late 80's, and his band-members decided they couldn't let him continue in the band as he was spiraling downward and what he truly needed was help. He was adament he could continue, but they couldn't enable that, so they left. He was lost, but soon found himself in other projects: he started a side project called Honolulu Mountain Daffodils, a bizarre psychedlic-infused alternative rock band with crazy pseudonyms and cool song titles. The lack of success The Sound found with the mainstream I feel contributed partly to this bizarre concoction: my theory is that Adrian wanted to see whether his name itself was a taint to his music, so started something new with a new name, and really hoped it would sell. I can just imagine him truly excited, flirting with the idea, "what if the Daffodils became really popular?" he'd ask himself. "Wouldn't that be great?"
Sadly, it wasn't to be. So he left after three albums and continued on with his solo career, by then into his second album. Three more albums, and more production credits, and then writing and producing music for a new band called White Rose Transmission, almost completing a sixth studio album, and then he ended it. It was all too much.
I read online somewhere that he didn't commit suicide that morning. I read that instead, he was "murdered by his illness." I would agree with that. This is something I think about daily. I find myself wandering around in the transom of my brain, and it always comes back to Adrian. I have such a profound connection with a man who I haven't even met. His lyrics read so true to me, his story so tragic and yet so hopeful at the same time. I was walking home from work a few weeks ago and began thinking about it. "He was murdered by his illness," kept repeating, cyclical in my brain. I almost cried there on the street. It's weird. I can't explain it really, but I know that anyone who is a fan of Adrian will understand exactly where I'm coming from. The man could cut your siders, he knew how to get in and strike a chord.
Just before his suicide, he wrote on his website about how happy he was with White Rose Transmission's new album, '700 Miles of Desert.' "It's hard to be objective but I'll just say the final mastered slice of silver has rarely left my CD player," he said. His optimism was clear. His optimism was always clear. Although he wrote about some truly dark things, and some self-deprecating material, he was always so positive. This can't be more clear than in 'Someone Will Love You Today', a track from his third solo album 'Beautiful Ammunition'. "Someone will love you today, hold on now someone will care" he sings with glee. This song has a somber tone to it after learning that it was indeed played at his funeral. I can't imagine the emotions of his friends and family as that song played: to really comprehend that he didn't have to fall victim to himself - to know that he was truly capable of more had he just fought a bit more. But I know it's hard. Impossible, even.
In his last blog post, he also talked of his new album he was halfway through. "Six is my lucky number so maybe I'll find a wider audience with this one," he wrote. "This is going to be another epic." He suggested some titles for it: "I might call it Destiny Stopped Screaming as I'll either finally get the music in my head on tape or I'll feel like quitting altogether, so it will fit either way!" he jokes. "Other possible titles are Body of Work #19, Get Me a Witness, In the Field, Land Meets Ocean or Harmony and Destruction."
But perhaps the most upsetting thing to me is the note he signed off with. His last communication with his fans, his last effort before a month later jumping in front of an early morning London train. He wrote:
To those that still care, thanks, see you soon. You'll be hearing from me!
I hear from you every day, Adrian. In your music; in your lyrics; in your soul.
R.I.P. Adrian Borland
December 6th 1957 - April 26th 1999
Joachim Pimento - http://emotionsoundmotion.blogspot.nl