There is a fire in his eyes as Triple-O sits opposite me and we start to discuss the themes behind his new album. It's not just about spitting lyrics, there's a passion for a lovingly crafted piece of work speaking into one of the themes that our churches are silent about, Mental Health. Having personal experience with depression Triple O knows what he is talking about. This album is his plea to the Church to not stay silent and is a reminder to the sufferer that they are not alone and that there is hope and help. I get the feeling as we talked this is not just an album or something to just be enjoyed, but a heart mission that God has laid on this man.
It's been a year since we have spoken. So it's up to you to give me the goss, what you've been up to?
Basically we've spent the past year finishing off the album. The album is done now and I am so excited to put it out. It's taken a year to record and it's taken 2 years to write and put together, but it's done and as we speak it's being mixed and mastered.
We are looking to release it towards the back end of May. I've been putting out bits and pieces on Social Media, just things like the album title, nothing too much, and just the feedback off the little tidbits I've been putting out, people are encouraging and excited for the project. I'm just so excited to put it out and I can't wait to share it.
Obviously the most interesting thing is the turtle, what's the story behind the turtle?
Theon, yes! Basically I put a lot of thought into every aspect of the project and there is intention behind every single thing I do, down to the artwork, down to the cover, everything I do there's a meaning behind it.
I always wanted a mascot for the album. I wanted a mascot that best represented what the album was about. So I took inspiration from Kanye West's ‘College Drop-Out’ bear and I thought that was really cool but I wanted to do my own thing.
So I looked at the concept of the album which is called "Zero Not Equal To One". The concept behind that is in essence dealing with depression and navigating through mental illness, dealing with a very personal issue in a very practical way. What I wanted to do was have something that represented that in a very visual form.
So I looked at animals which I felt were looked down upon or would best fit that and after much debate I ended up coming up with a turtle. Now when you look at turtles they are usually very reclusive in nature, slow, and not the most exciting of animals so people look down on them, people disregard them. They are also very much to themselves and they can just hide away in their shell and I feel for individuals who suffer with such issues with mental health and depression they can resonate with those feelings and those actions, so I thought 'great, this would be a great animal to use to represent what the albums about’.
At the same time when I was coming up with a name for the turtle I didn't want it to reflect that, I wanted it to be like a juxtaposition. When I looked in the Bible I saw the story of Jabez and when his mother gave birth to Jabez his name means born into sorrow, so the Bible shows that there is power in names, so I said to myself instead of giving the turtle a name that reflected what he might be struggling with, why not come up with a name that is the complete opposite? So after much research I came up with the name Theon. Theon in latin means quick, speedy, rapid, on the ball. I thought that's great because it's everything a turtles not.
When I was coming up with a design I didn't want this turtle to be a perfectly formed turtle. I thought let there be an idiosyncratic feature that many will look at and see as a flaw but this character takes pride in it. In his shell there's going to be a crack and that is the very thing that's going to make him proud of who he is.
People might say you're disabled, or you're not 100% whole but no, this is how God made me and it's a beautiful thing that I'm very proud of. So that is the design and the story behind the character. I really wanted to use that as the mascot for the project moving forward in terms of what it's about and where we're going and the ideas that we are touching on with the album.
You touched on the idea that there are certain aspects of the album that are about mental health. This is obviously a key thing for you, I know we discussed previously your mantra of "Keep Breathing". So is this something that has touched you personally, or is it friends, or is it a bit of both?
It's a bit of both, it's something that I have walked through, something that I have dealt with in terms of trying to get to a place of being whole and being made well. It's something that I have struggled with personally and I have had to walk through and God is still kind of guiding me through. And people around me.
Very recently I get a message from a young lady and, I talk about this on the album, this lady had actually been sectioned and I went to visit her in hospital and it was my first time being in a mental hospital, it was an institute for women, and just being in that environment just showed me the severity behind this issue, how serious it is.
It's a scary environment, I recently wrote an article called Under The Rug and I talked about my Sister who went through years of struggles with mental health, so I am very much with you, about how serious it is...
So this person...
Yeah so I went to visit her and it was very much an overwhelming experience for me, but it showed me a lot. It showed me that it is something that the Church really does need to address. It showed me that the Church is scared to address this issue and I think we really do need to get to a space where we can be honest and open and have good dialogue about this issue that is plaguing the Church.
People may not be severe sufferers but they are people who are struggling and they don't feel that the Church is there to support them so the whole purpose of this project and this album and everything that I am doing alongside it is to create dialogue.
How do you think that the Church can be better in the way that they address it?
I think they need to teach on it. Sometimes on a Sunday morning let this be the topic of the Pastor's sermon. Create avenues for counsellors to be trained in the church, training up people in the church to start in small groups interacting with people, communicating with attendees and seeing everything is OK. That will create an atmosphere for those people who are struggling to speak up because if the atmosphere is conducive then people who are suffering will not suffer in silence.
So then it is about getting Spiritual help and Spiritual counselling definitely, but if it's more severe recommending professional help as well. I think the two go hand in hand. I don't necessarily believe it's one or the other, but I think definitely professional help is necessary in some cases, but at the same time never underestimate the power of prayer or God's power and the power we believe in.
I think if the church were to speak up about this and be very forthcoming in addressing this issue then it would be something that would get dealt with.
I come from a Church background where the church doesn't speak about it. My church where I am now there is prayer and support, but when I was growing up, as a kid and as a young person it was very much "Christians don't get depressed, Christians shouldn't be depressed, we should have the Joy of the Lord!" So how do we counter those kinds of views?
I genuinely think it is the teaching, there are individuals in the Bible who suffered from depression and went through depressive spells, so we have individuals like David, just look at the Psalms. Jeremiah, the book of Lamentations is a very sorrowful book, Solomon in Ecclesiastes there are some really strong things in there. Jesus himself, in the garden of Gethsemane and He's about to go to the cross asks that the cup of suffering will be taken from Him, but then says let your will be done.
So Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, went through that period and it may not have been severe and He overcame it. There are teachings in the Bible that need to be shared with the congregation so that it's a Biblical thing. It's not just about addressing it or talking about it, but it's about helping people move out of it and giving them the strength and the tools needed to move forward.
So the album is a step towards that, bringing it out into the open and into the Church culture. How much impact do you think an album can have?
I think it can have a big impact, individuals in positions of authority, power or respect or just on a platform, people gravitate towards them. So they are more inclined to hear what they have to say. So whether you are a Pastor, leader, teacher, school teacher or musician and you use that platform to engage with an audience.
I thank God that He has given me a platform to engage with those who want to listen, to spark dialogue and create conversation through the music. People hear the music and start to ask questions, and they go away and do research, speak to your Youth Leaders, "I heard this on Triple O's album, what do you think?" or "this is the concept of Triple O's album, is this something we can address in Church? Can we start having Bible studies off the back of some of these songs?" That's the way I have written the songs, I want people to have Biblical discussions based on song concepts, song titles, song ideas and song lyrics because that is the way I have intentionally done some of the writing.
So are you going to put anything together yourself off the back of that? I get the impression that as well as a songwriter you like to dabble with a bit of writing, I read your recent blog post. Have you got plans to put something together off the back of the album?
The book is 50% done. So there is an anthology that will support the album which will be out later this on this year, so I am just tidying that up. Literally it's material to support the album. There are themes in the album that have been addressed, but it's still music and there's only so much I can address in the music. I then need to exegete the music to delve down deeper into it and then use the Scriptures to be at the forefront of the ideas that I am trying to convey within the music and the premise of the songs and the concept of the album itself.
Have you got a publisher tied up?
No, I'm just writing. This is a whole new world for me! Let me just write this anthology and then sort out the logistics as I'm going along and speak to people, I've got a few friends who have written books, and it's just learning as I go along. I think back to 7, 8, 9 years ago I didn't know how to put out an album but I learnt through doing, so the same thing with the book.
There is a phrase that people like to use that says "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called." It's learning on the job, putting one foot in front of the other and learning what God has got for you.
So Triple O's album will be available at the end of May, his new single is available now from iTunes, Amazon etc.