Watford rapper, columnist and dream interpreter, Stacy Hart, talks about music and dealing with personal loss/illness while continuing to help other people. Stacy, who has M.E., discusses how to stay conscious and respectful of life while keeping a sense of humour. As far as I’m concerned all life is worthy – Stacy Hart.
Leslie: Can you explain, please, the meaning of the following phrases you use on your website:
- ‘Running on Empty’ or ‘R.O.E.’
- ‘White Feather Dreams’
- ‘Give Us This Day’
Stacy: ‘Runnin On Empty’ or ‘R.O.E.’ is an umbrella term. My brother had an interesting view that as humans we all have different heads with different personalities to fulfil various roles over the day and we automatically switch into the appropriate mode as and when we need – and I think he was spot on. Runnin On Empty/R.O.E. covers just a few of my heads. The actual name came about due to the fact that I have Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) & just one of its many symptoms is extreme physical & mental exhaustion. I had my own column at the Watford Observer & have just kept rolling with the same name as it’s what people have become familiar with.
‘Eargasm’ is the head I write music reviews under. It’s about an audio feast for the ears: that moment something special hits the ear canal and sparks immediate excitement. It’s a wonderful feeling when it happens. I only review the good stuff regardless of genre, so even if it’s something I wouldn’t necessarily listen to or purchase myself, there’s no denying good music, so I will still review it. Admittedly I’m a tough cookie to crack, but that’s because I’ve been around since reel to reel recording was the only way to roll (and dinosaurs walked the earth) but I think that’s part of the appeal for those hoping to get reviewed.
‘White Feather Dreams’ is my professional dream translator head. The name came about simply because white feathers are something that are very spiritual and that’s also the manner in which I try to work & live. I’m passionate about educating people on the importance of their dreams because there’s nothing more satisfying than when someone’s had a translation and starts understanding the process more. All dreams, no matter how terrifying, have a positive message so should never be feared – which is often reassuring for people to know, especially those who suffer from nightmares.
‘Give Us This Day’ is a project I set up in memory of my brother Michael who took his own life in May 2015. The first irony is that he’d been a Samaritan for 18 of his younger years, spending time helping others. My sister Michele was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma shortly afterwards, meaning we lost them both within five months. Throughout my life, for whatever reason, those with short-term and long-term mental health issues have fallen under my wing and I’ve always supported them, counselled them and found a way to reach into their darkness & shine a glimmer of light. I’ve never lost anyone. I didn’t know about my brother, I wasn’t told and nobody asked for advice. As for my own responsibility, it feels so ironically sick and unnecessary to have lost him and living with the daily excruciating guilt, but that is the karma I guess I just have to suck up. As for my sister’s battle with cancer, as she was a devoted Christian I asked her if she was angry with God & she said that she was sad but not angry & reminded me of the line in the Lord’s Prayer that says ‘Give us this day (our daily bread)’. She went on to say, “It says ‘Give us this day’, it doesn’t say this week, this month, this year; it says ‘Give us this day’ and we have this day right here, and that’s all any of us can be sure of. “
The aim of the project is to remind people of that & to continue sharing my brother’s and sister’s caring nature & light by daily acts of kindness and encourage others to do the same. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture, sometimes just acknowledging someone, a smile, a nod or hello as you pass can make a positive impact on someone’s day. Often the best acts of kindness are those that don’t require a trumpet or a viral video on social media.
Leslie: How would you describe your lifelong relationship with music?
Stacy: I was influenced by my two older siblings. Both had eclectic tastes, including Doo wop, Funk, Rock, Disco, Bowie, ELO, Kate Bush & Supertramp to name a few. Sundays in our house consisted of sitting around the dinner table eating a roast while listening to the top 40 countdown. There has always been music in my life. I reckon I came into the world trying to sing… trying, being the operative word.
I was just a white kid living on a council estate when rap/hiphop was born in The States & the first time I heard it, it literally stopped me in my tracks because it felt like home. Unfortunately it wasn’t met very favourably by white people here In the UK & while I’d never thought of music as a colour, I was suddenly being met with racist comments. No matter how much I defended this genius genre it was evident it was deemed unacceptable & there was no way I could become the artist I wanted to be. Thankfully things changed… eventually, but that’s why I still have an American twang when I rap today because that’s what I grew up listening to & honed my craft from. As Mama Chill, my music head, I like mixing it up – a bit of the old school I grew up with, a bit of new and everything in between. Success was never about a record deal or riches it was about acceptance into a genre, a family that I love, validation by those I respect & integrity.
My ‘making it’ was measured by things like the release of ‘More Wanksta than Gangsta’ because it received so much positivity. Stateside gang members began emailing to say how they could relate & share their own personal stories with me, all following a similar pretty horrific theme. Hands down, that’s why I make music. It’s about using words to connect and hopefully make a difference & also being followed on social media by Darryl DMC McDaniel’s, Chuck D, Tone Loc, Eve, Blackalicious etc. I’m still that white girl living in a council house but I can die happy. Saying that, I’ve not made music since the loss of my siblings; the longest I’ve ever gone.
Back in October I went along to the launch night Of Hempstead Road Recording Studios based in West Herts College . It’s awesome, a real top studio with all the latest tech. They even had a working Tascam reel to reel which as a retro-head made my eyes light up…. but not my heart. I don’t expect people to get it, but music has always been my saviour when life’s dropped a curve bomb. It’s sparked me back to life when I’ve felt dead inside. But this time I just can’t get it back – and maybe nothing will fix the brokenness I don’t know… I’ve never been in this position before.
Leslie: Could you expand, please, on your sentence, ‘I live a yogic life here in Watford’?
Stacy: A yogic life is how I’ve tried to live for most of my life. It’s about a whole way of living, Yoga postures are just a small but significant part of that. I don’t eat any meat or fish & don’t harm any living thing, although I’m often tempted when it comes to people LOL!
I often wonder who decided what’s worthy of life and what’s not? As far as I’m concerned all life is worthy. Contrary to belief, being yogic is not about being a saint. Many a chunky word leaves my mouth, probably more than should do, which can be a bit of a shock for those with the wrong perception… so please be warned I’m just human.
Leslie: Can you describe what it’s like to live with M.E.
Stacy: M.E. is a living lingering hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It’s a complex chronic physical illness that comes with numerous awful symptoms. Unfortunately there’s still a lot of ignorance surrounding M.E. especially from the medical profession and it’s often met with that age-old ‘if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist’ mentality, or “Well you look fine?” But If you were to ask anyone who has suffered both cancer and M.E. which one they’d rather have they would tell you cancer. Over the years I’ve had readers write, inbox, email & ring to tell me just that, and I know for many that sounds pretty shocking, but that should also tell you just how bad living with M.E. is.
I’m part of a voluntary team called Lets Do It For ME! It’s run by M.E. sufferers who work closely with the charity Invest In M.E. Research to raise awareness and funds. The actual charity itself is also run totally by volunteers so that every penny donated goes where it’s supposed to go. It may only be a small charity but the volunteers are doing epic things & moving mountains. It would be great if readers could take five minutes out of their busy day to go take a look.
As far as my treatment goes over the last 30yrs, it’s been appalling. I’ve been left in my local hospital without food for 4 days as ‘punishment’ because they viewed M.E. as a mental illness that was self-inflicted. I was thrown out of another without any tests due to slurred speech (part of M.E.) and because I ‘looked like a drug addict’. Then, ironically, I was left on muscle spasm medication by my GP until I was addicted, having been promised it wasn’t so. Then, in his efforts to sort out the mess, I was given a wrong combination of drugs that nearly resulted in my death. I came home, went cold turkey by myself, and vowed if I survived I would never take prescribed medication again. And I haven’t. I’m writing a book, telling the full story. I don’t know if anyone will read it, but I’m writing it.
Leslie: Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give readers about how to face adversity?
Stacy: Not to give advice. What works for one isn’t necessarily going to work for another. But from my own personal experience, having a juvenile sense of humour helps. No matter what’s going on in my own life I wake up with the mantra ‘What can I do to make someone else’s day better?’ We may all be taking different paths, but the destination is the same; so it makes sense to reach out a helping hand and make the journey a little easier for someone else.
Next week I interview mixed-media artist Mandy Burton who specialises in working with environmental themes, using salvaged materials.
ABOUT LESLIE TATE’S BOOKS:
- Heaven’s Rage is a memoir that explores addiction, cross-dressing, bullying and the hidden sides of families, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life. “A Robin Red breast in a Cage / Puts all Heaven in a Rage” – William Blake. You can read more about/buy Heaven’s Rage here.
- Purple is a coming-of-age novel, a portrait of modern love and a family saga. Set in the North of England, it follows the story of shy ingénue Matthew Lavender living through the wildness of the 60s and his grandmother Mary, born into a traditional working-class family. You can read more about/buy Purple here.
- Blue tells the story of Richard and Vanessa Lavender, who join a 90s feminist collective sharing childcare, political activism and open relationships. You can read more about/buy Blue here.
- Violet is about late-life love. It begins in 2003 with Beth Jarvis and James Lavender on a blind date in a London restaurant. Attracted by James’s openness, Beth feels an immediate, deep connection between his honesty and her own romantic faith. From then on they bond, exchanging love-texts, exploring sea walks and gardens and sharing their past lives with flashbacks to Beth’s rural childhood and her marriage to a dark, charismatic minister… Signed copies of Violet can be bought here.
- The Dream Speaks Back, written by Sue Hampton, Cy Henty and Leslie Tate, is a joint autobiography exploring imagination and the adult search for the inner child. The book looks at gender difference, growing up in unusual families and mental health issues. It’s also a very funny portrait of working in the arts, full of crazy characters, their ups and downs, and their stories. You can buy a signed copy of The Dream Speaks Back here.