Neil Barnes of Leftfield on being a therapist: “The more we talk, the better we get.”

Leftfield spoke with Neil Barnes NME on the importance of counseling after training to become a therapist and the influence on the dance pioneer’s new album.

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Last week, the duo released their fourth album, This Is What We Do, with themes inspired by Barnes and exploring his mental health. The musician describes the path to becoming a therapist as “a natural process of self-discovery.”

“Years of very depressive thoughts and things I didn’t understand led me to therapy,” Barnes said. NME. “My experiences have given me a unique insight into the world of performing arts in particular, and how and why so many people in the industry are depressed. It seems to attract troubled people. “

Barnes underwent a course of therapy before starting his Master’s course, then stopped working on his latest record. He plans to go back to graduate school, but his studies and new side job definitely affected the album.

“My interest in it is really about attachment theory—thinking about our early attachments, our relationships in early life, and how important that is to our happiness,” she said. “The album has a lot of ideas about self-awareness and listening. There are also many subtle shout-outs to great people from various fields of therapy.

His interest in mental health is common to many who work in his genre and the DJ world, Barnes said.

“I am not alone; Ed [Simons] The Chemical Brothers are really skilled therapists and I know a few people, particularly from the electronic music world, who have done therapy or counseling,” he said.

“An interesting question about art: is art a way to get rid of feelings, to live with them, or to understand them? Many artists are on the verge of passing away. Much of our work is solitary, as we spend most of our time in dark studios, analyzing our work – or on the road.

Speaking about why the electronic music world has seen so many mental health issues, Barnes described the “long-distance runner’s loneliness” as a major factor.

“It’s the disconnection from people, it’s the late nights, it’s the long periods of illness, the demands that people expect you to live up to, and the lonely nature of it can take a toll,” Barnes said. “There are great highs and great lows. Some people can’t handle it. You get excited when you stand in front of a crowd, and then you go back to your normal life.

He continued: “Sane people think it’s great, and it should be because it’s an unreal world, but it’s a fictional world. We know countless drug addicts in the music business and people who can’t get off the high.

Leftfield 2022 press photo
Left field. CREDIT: Steve Gullik

Barnes referred to acts of creation and performance in which artists “put themselves out there” for catharsis or other challenges.

“Most artists are very sensitive people and they like to feel that they can handle everything that comes their way, but often they don’t,” he said. “Equally, are people drawn to music because they’re depressed, or is it the music itself that makes you depressed? I know there are a lot of people struggling with their mental health, and that can’t be a coincidence.”

Referring to travel and the stresses of life on the road, Barnes said it “takes a lot out of your body and mind.”

“I recently had to cancel a four-night tour due to my health and the health of the people around you,” he said. “It’s nobody’s fault, but your expectations of what you should do when you put out a piece of music are so extreme. You have press, you have to explain your art, and then you have to travel everywhere and play four shows in a row… it’s a privilege, but it’s exhausting.

“Then suddenly you came home. If you’re not in a good place, it can be very difficult to deal with.”

When Barnes first did therapy before becoming a therapist, she noticed how much her happiness and understanding improved.

“The more we talk about what we’re going through, the better off we’ll be,” she said. “In our culture, people resist that, and it’s sad. I often meet people who are struggling and I just tell them, “Get a therapist!” “My time”. It doesn’t mean you have anything; it’s an opportunity to express your thoughts to a very competent and supportive person.

“Otherwise, life will bleed. Many people use their friends as therapists. Aren’t we all? Don’t we all know people who are burdened by life? Therapy is fun because it allows people to discover who they are.

Barnes dispels some of the myths about therapy, noting that “the old adage of halving the problem really does work.”

“People just go to therapy and think they’re going to be a different person in six weeks,” she said. “It can be very difficult and sad, but I still feel like it’s great in the long run. It takes courage and bravery. It’s not easy to open up and reveal yourself, so I can understand why people might be quiet about it.

“It’s not for everybody, but what I’m trying to say is that there are a lot of different forms of therapy that you can look into.”

For people in the music world, Barnes says therapy has helped him manage his creative and mental health.

“There are people who can’t get therapy because they think it’s going to ruin their artistic process – that’s absolute rubbish!” he said. “In my case, it made me more creative. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it unblocks things and lets you define who you are.

“If possible, see success and failure as two sides of the same coin. Don’t get too excited when things are going well and don’t be too sad when things aren’t. That’s the reality of real life and the unreality of the performance world where everyone says you’re great.” is an attempt to maintain a balance between

Pushing the artists aside, Barnes urged those who feel bad to talk to someone. For those with problems who are considering seeking help, Barnes advised that “the first step is to invest in yourself and find someone to talk to.”

“There are so many free places you can call and so many avenues for help,” she said. “Especially in the North, men’s groups are growing, where men talk about their problems. People are starting to express themselves and this can only lead to better health. There are working-class people like me who talk about and share terrible things that have happened to them, and that keeps them alive.

He added: “It’s no longer a stranger and now there’s more understanding that it can do good. It can really do wonders. Give it a chance, don’t miss it.”

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