When Bowie died, I was upset for a variety of reasons. The world had lost one of its most interesting and changeable influencers, a star had been dulled too soon, and a man whose music made millions of people dance and cry had gone. Ziggy Stardust was no more. But there was always something unreachable about Bowie, something so otherworldly that we could never touch it.
When Scott Hutchison’s body was discovered late last week, I felt like I’d lost a friend. That will sound ridiculous to some – I had met Scott twice, but both times it was nothing more than a handshake and quick chat after a gig. I’m fine with sounding ridiculous, though. Because Scott was someone who had invited me into his life in a way that many of the people I’m closest to have never done. He was a man who had shared his deepest thoughts and feelings with me. A man who’d laid himself bare. A man who took his most difficult moments and made them into music that was thought-provoking, funny, macabre, and occasionally difficult to listen to. But almost always brilliant.
Scott was also a man who had been there through some of the most difficult moments of my life, even if he didn’t know he was there at the time. What has struck me most since his death is how many people feel that way. Twitter has been awash with conversations about how Scott’s music, particularly the album ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’, helped them through a heartbreak or made them see that they weren’t alone in their struggles.
For me, one of the main things it did was show that no matter how shit you feel at a particular time, things will get better. And that however close you get to the bottom you can climb back up. Which makes it even more upsetting to think of how Scott’s life ended. But I think the best thing anyone can do to remember Scott is to remember the good things that he did or was a part of. There is a line in the song ‘Head Rolls Off’ where Scott says ‘While I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth’. From reading all the comments on Twitter in the last week or so, it is clear to me that he did that and so much more.
Of course, the main thing we should remember about Scott is the music. A recent collaboration with his brother and two members of Editors resulted in ‘Dance Music’ by Mastersystem; a superb album that adds a bit of a post-punk edge to Scott’s usual writing. In 2014, we were lucky enough to be gifted a solo album from Scott, going under the moniker of Owl John. Again, it is evidence of a superior songwriter who should have been more widely acknowledged. But it is, quite rightly, his work with Frightened Rabbit that he will mostly be remembered for.
I haven’t listened to anything but Frightened Rabbit in the days since Scott was first reported missing. It’s a difficult listen at times right now, and I can’t help but look out for clues of what was coming or hints that Scott might not make it through the darkness which he often discussed openly. There are a lot of them. Every man and his dog has been pointing to the song ‘Floating in the Forth’, which details a fantasy of dying in a way that now seems all too real. But songs throughout Frightened Rabbit’s albums are replete with references to death, depression, suicide, graves, and bones. It’s everywhere.
But the message I still get from their music is hope. ‘The Modern Leper’ (performed in the video above; a video that sums Scott up for me, witty and charming but clearly struggling and sad) was the first song I heard that talked about depression so openly and with so much honesty, but also kept coming back to the chink of light that was acceptance and familiarity.
‘My Backwards Walk’ talks of messing things up completely, but finding a path to putting them back together again. ‘Still Want To Be Here’ tells its listeners (and probably its author) to try and accept that things will never be exactly as you want them to be because there is a lot to love in life anyway, that things are always and will always be okay. ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’ lets us know that someone will be there to drag us from the mire. And a million other songs, from ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ to ‘The Woodpile’, instil a similar sense of triumphing over adversity. This is fucking uplifting music. And okay, there isn’t much hope or uplift in ‘Poke’, but it’s a piece of complete and utter magic nonetheless.
So that’s about all I have to say. Like Scott, I’ll try and be concise and clear in my misery and leave you with a bit of hope at the end. As sad as Scott’s death will always be, it has been refreshing to see such an open and accepting discussion of mental health and suicide on social media in the last few days. Maybe Scott’s final ‘tiny change’ will be to make anyone who listens to his music and hears a bit of themselves feel more willing to share their struggles and talk to somebody. I hope so.
In ‘Yes, I Would’ Scott sings ‘I wonder if they’d notice that I’m not around/The loss of a lonely man never makes much of a sound’. Well we’ve definitely noticed, Scott, and if you are the lonely man you’re referring to then I think you’d be surprised to see the sound your loss has made. Thanks for the music, mate. You’ll be missed.