Living with Anxiety: Mike Chunn

I’d had the dream from the
age of 12 of being a Beatle. And that involved
traveling the world. And playing to millions of
people around the world. I spoke to a class of about 40 or 50
in Wellington a few years ago, …on the subject of Split Enz. One of them asked,
“Why did you leave the band?” I said I had a phobic disorder
called Agoraphobia. And in the end it beat me
and I had to retreat… and I had to leave
the band. And this boy who was
about 14 or 15 years old… looked up at me and said,
“I’ve got that too.” And I still communicate with
that boy who’s now about 20. He wrote a song and
it went on our CD. A beautiful song but
a troubled song. Songwriting to me
is a great escape. In terms of saying things that you
need to say and that are exorcisms… …about what you need to actually
get out of your system. Maybe if I had been
a songwriter… I wouldn’t have been
agoraphobic for 18 years. The literature on it is
all about sweaty hands… oh my heartbeat is going
about 160 beats per minute. Which yes that happens but
I don’t care about all that. For me it’s the absolute
sense of terror. I found that very difficult
to explain – a panic attack. They need to be flung into
a place of terror. That’s the word “terror.” Not fear…fear is fear. Terror. And then they’ll understand. The best way I’ve found,
I’ll say to someone… something that they intuitively
inherently are very scared of. So are you scared of big spiders?
“I hate big spiders.” Okay, blink, now you’ve
opened your eyes… and this room is completely
covered in spiders. What would you do?
And they say, “Run.” I say, “Okay run out the door… …and everywhere you look
is covered on spiders.” “So what would you do?” And in the end they realized that
they would go into a small ball… like a cornered rat and just hide
from this world of spiders. A panic attack for someone
like me with agoraphobia searching for that
place to go… there’s only one place to go
and I can’t get there. So those spiders are all there
but they are invisible. (Piano music) I couldn’t resist. The sad part of this whole
story for me… is that I didn’t have a name
for it for eight years. So I just thought
that I was mad… and I didn’t work out
the pattern of the attacks. If I’d kept a log or something
I would have noticed… …I never had one in Auckland. Whenever Split Enz
flew into Auckland… I would always be in
a really good mood. Go inside my parents front door
and just love being there. But I see now that was because
Auckland was my safe haven. And if my parents happened to
be living in Christchurch… I wouldn’t have wanted to go
to Christchurch to see them. So it wasn’t until I read that
article in a magazine… Phobic Disorders, I went through them
all and a lot of them are easy… Arachnophobia – fear of heights… we understand that because
there is a physical side to it. Then they talk about Agoraphobia, a fear
of leaving a place where you feel safe. And I thought…that’s me. This is a big guitar and
also it plugs in, so when you play live it
goes throughout the PA, you can walk around and you don’t
have to have the microphone on it. Then we have this guitar
a baby Martin. All these singalong instruments
always done in a social situation. I never played guitar on stage,
but this I do play. This is my bass. It’s not very loud and someone said
to me once, “How do you make it loud?” It’s a bit like a car with
no engine in it. So you plug it into
the big amplifier. The bass to me is all about playing
with people on a stage. I couldn’t stand to be
on a stage alone, with an audience being made
to listen to me play the bass. In fact I wouldn’t walk
on the stage. I went to a psychiatrist he said, “It
sounds like something you’ll get over.” I thought I’m out here alone
and so I just kept it secret. The panic would be I’m
trapped here in Wellington and I’ve got to get back
to Auckland right now. You can’t you’re doing a
show in about 45 minutes. So I would just disappear and
hide in a corner of the theater, …waiting for the show to start. My father was a doctor and that’s how
I managed to survive in the bands… …for the time I did. I would say, “I get scared
on stage dad,” he would say, “Stage fright
it’s a problem.” “You should take these tranquilizers.” And so I had close to 20 years
of tranquilizers. But it’s like having this big
heavy blanket thrown on you. If you are in the van traveling around
London doing 30 shows in 33 days, I would have been the one
nodding off in the back seat. So the joy of the brotherhood
was kind of robbed from me. The joy of the music
was always there. And the joy of the stage
performance… …because we were one, good live band. In 1992 I got a job running
Apra in New Zealand. And I thought this is going
to be interesting… because I will need to go to
Australia probably 4-5 times a year for discussions, seminars and
retreats and all of that. And I went over there and I was
driving a hire car along Military Road, …and it left me, I felt it go. And I thought this could be
Queen Street in Auckland, this could be anywhere,
I don’t care anymore. What I think it was is that I thought
for the first time in my life… …I can support my family. In the band days and all my life
right through until I was about 40, …I use to dream of having
$1,000 in the bank. And all of a sudden I had this job
representing all the songwriters in NZ, and I think I’d finally reached somewhere
where there was a security for my family. I can be a good father.
And it left me. I love talking to people, so doing
the Like Minds Like Mine TV ads, it’s been a while, 10-15 years
since they came out. I’ve been stopped 20 times
in the street. This woman and I were
crying in the street. There are some people who
are dying out there. And they haven’t told anyone. The best one was in a bank
and a teller looked at me, and she said, “Thanks
for doing the TV ad.” As I always say, I go,
“Are you okay?” And she says, “No.” And so we were crying. But the funny part was that the
queue had built up behind me. I had to turn around and say,
“Sorry guys.” So she and I talked. Imagine going to a bank and standing
as a teller all day in a sad affair. It has all got to change, everyone
has got to talk about it. But it’s best face to face. Face to face is incredible. Music’s the ultimate collective of
bringing together of people. Hello? (Music) We’re putting together a song
for the Paralympics because every nation should
have a sporting song to represent… what lies behind the
purpose of those Games, which is a national unity
taking on the rest of the world. My old friend Paul Fitzgerald,
who went to school with me and played drums in
my band at school, ended up living in Paris
and writing songs. And one of them he called
Long White Cloud. (Singing) I’m very dedicated and in
love with my country… and so to have a song that represents
the emotional connection we have to those Paralympics
in Brazil next year… …it had to be a New Zealand song. (Singing) And it has to feature New Zealander’s
who might have just turned the corner… “Come in and sing it with us,”
and so the musicians, the people arranging it then they’re
not people who are held up in lights, or celebrities or any of that stuff.
It’s not a celebrity fest… …it’s not ‘We Are The World.’ It’s ‘Long White Cloud’ and I think
it’s going to turn out really well. If we did want to include some
singers then we could have… a small group singing in
the chorus at the end. Whoever they may be it would
be really good… to have people who are confident
and can take direction… …and be good in a studio. Who’s Natalie Te Paa? I went to Takapuna Grammar
years ago to talk about songwriting. I said to the students that I would like to
hear an original song from someone. And they all basically went… except for this girl at the front
who said, “I’ll sing one.” “Can you show me where the piano is?”
She’s blind. I led her to the piano and she sat
down and sang out a song. She’s been on our CD 2-3 times
over the years. And I had a year of mentoring her
through a disability system. She’s a great kid and she’s
amazingly confident. Have you got a recording
of her voice here? Yeah. (Plays Natalie’s song) That’s it! I love it – what a voice! Wow. Fantasic, really nice. Hello? Is that the one and only
Natalie Te Paa? It is indeed. Mike Chung here from
Play It Strange, hello old friend. Hi how are you doing? I’m very good.
Good to hear your voice. Yeah you too. A good friend of mine from
school that’s many decades ago, has written a song called
Long White Cloud. And our good friends at Attitude TV
are going to record it… and launch it on World Disability Day
at the Attitude Awards. And it’s also going to be the official
Paralympics song next year in Brazil. And we want you to sing on it. Really? Well there will be quite a few
of you singing on it… but we want you to play
an integral part. It will be at Roundhead Studios
and it’s not far off… so if you are keen about it we’ll have
to get together and start talking. But you and I have always managed
to talk quite well haven’t we? Yeah (laughs) I would
absolutely love to. Good on you. And you’ll love the song it’s a
beautiful song Long White Cloud. Oh definitely it sounds gorgeous
already (laughs). Oh my gosh!!! That is so exciting! To be a part of this recording… Mike started me off with all the
recording stuff really, he inspired me to submit my first song
and that got me into the studio. Honestly I have so much
respect for him and… I have so much respect for Play
It Strange and what they do. (Singing) Mike realizes that there are people out
there in schools that love writing songs. And I did not know that Play It Strange existed before he came and talked to us. I’m one of the lucky ones really in that
I get to listen to hundreds of songs… written by secondary school
students every year. But also we put on shows
because performance… is as imporant as writting
a great song. We’re talking about songwriting and
so that brings us to the word “song” …and what is a song? Holidays? That’s if you have global
success with your song… you will have a holiday for
the rest of your life. Your chances depend on how
ambitious and hardworking you are… how talented and how
imaginative you are, and where ‘lady luck’ comes
into the equation. But a song is two things,
it’s words and music. Play It Strange exists to shine
the spotlight into schools. And to bring to a national awareness the
great songs that are written there… because there is no
mechanism for that. The mystery of music completely
fascinates us… we don’t know why
three notes in a row… make us want to jump up,
scream and shout… because it’s something that we’ve known
and will love for the rest of our lives. And if you play them in
reverse it means nothing. So you put something that’s very
tangible and part of our day to day life, words in with music, which
is that magical world. We whittle them down to a Top 40
and they go to professional studios. By putting them in the studios they
come up with amazing recordings because they have it in them
to be excellent… and they just need that
door to be unlocked. The words of songs need to make
you want to… 1) keep listening and 2) find something special
in the story that they tell you. (Plays song) What do you think of the intro? It sets the tone of what
the song’s like. (Plays song) Now that’s a great
opening line… “The wind’s fingers
play with my hair.” (Music) Some people hit golf balls
and they always vear out to the right. I just like being in
really cold water. If I get on my boad and
bob out behind the waves, it’s the perfect escape and
no one can touch me out there. There’s every chance standing here that
someone could come up and say… “What’s been happening
how’s your week been?” But out there the only thing I’ve ever
had come up and talk to me… was a dolphin who was literally
2-3 inches away from me. I said, “Stop dolphin!” He came back and said,
“What do you want?” I said, “What’s it like down there?” He said, “We like it on the big days
when you surfer guys smash… …we think it’s funny.”
I made that up. But the dolphin was there. For a fraction of a second
you think it’s a shark. There’s an end to this story, which will
lead you to believe I’m a complete fool. Late 90s I got it back again. I then went for the first time in my life
to see a psychologist. And he said, “That first panic attack you
were vomiting, diarrhea simultaniously… …you couldn’t control a thought
for a fraction of a second.” I said, “Yes all of that.” “What was going on in your life?” I said, “I was in a band,” and
then I started weeping. And to cut to the chase we had
played a show in April 1974 we had the perfect band and
we triumphed magnificently. And then things happened, my brother
was on drums and I was on bass …and we were a bloody
good unit. He left, Bob my dear friend left,
Phil Judd came back in… there were tensions and I thought
this isn’t going to be the same band. I’m weeping while telling
him all of this. And he said, “You were in a deeply weak
psychological state… and all you did was just break
one of those links in your chain.” And he said, “Now you’ve come
to me with it again.” “What is happening in
your life now?” And I started to cry again.
Because I had been asked… …to do a particular project that
was so stressing me. So deeply stressing me. He said, “Can you stop that project?” I said, “I’m not going to do it.” He said, “Okay well there’s absolutely
no reason for you to have agoraphobia.” I looked at him, bless that man, I was
out his door and I’ve never had it since. An agoraphobic has to have
a rock someone to hold onto. So if ever I was traveling alone
I would be by far much worse …than if I was traveling
with Brigid. In those days it was a very private
thing so you couldn’t say to anyone, “Actually I’m feeling terrible
this is my problem I have to go.” You had to keep it all inside
and so you had to make excuses… …to try and cover it up. Hopefully it’s not like that now? No. People are much more understanding
and open to talk about it and accept it. Maybe someone who really knows about
these things could say you’re cured. But I don’t know if I am really. I always think well it
could happen again. Maybe it’s like a
recovering alcoholic… you’re never cured and you
never say you’re cured. I think you’re best
to presume that you’re not. I feel very good. This is where I come
to be alone. Because as you can see there’s
no one else around (laughs). I’m a people watcher
I love people. I imagine the lives of
each one of them. So that person there
are they happy? Are they glad to be living
in this suburb in this country? Would they rather be
somewhere else? What do they do well?
What do they do badly? Are they using their capabilities
as much as they should? I think I wonder if they go home
and play the piano? And if they don’t why don’t they? I wonder if they can play the guitar?
And if they don’t why don’t they? I was standing in front of about 200-300
Intermediate school kids one day, and I said to them, “How many of
you have got a parent… that can play the guitar or
that can play the piano?” And probably 10 or 15
put their hands up. “How many of you have a
parent that drives a car?” And everyone of them
put their hands up. And I said, “You should go home
and tell your parents… that it’s actually harder to drive a car
than it is to play the guitar.” Shall we stop that one there
and ask them? Do you wish you could
play an instrument? And they all do but they’re
never going to start trying. Why not? So we’re heading into Roundhead
Studios and we’re going to… record the vocals for the track
Long White Cloud. This is the control room in here. Jordan this is Natalie she’s
our singer for today. Hi lovely to meet you. Nice to meet you. The number one thing to do
is lay down all the master vocals and then go for all the harmonies
and all the gorgeous stuff. Hello Michael. Hello everybody. You’re such a camera hog mate. That’s me. Hello Natalie
are you good? Doing great. That’s the little pop sock
and the mic is right behind it. My hope for this track is that
everybody in New Zealand knows it… and that we have stadiums
of people singing it. I’ll tell you a little story
about this song. Okay got enough tape? Here we go… Jordan Luck is the main judge in the
Play It Strange songwriting competition. And every year I put one in that isn’t a
song from a school kid to play with him. And I put Long White Cloud in with the hundred songs that he has to listen to. And I said to him what about the Top 40
this year what are we going to record? He said, “I’ve got a winner,” I said,
“What is it?” He said, “Long White Cloud” so he
had that as a winning song. And I thought well if Jordan Luck thinks
that’s a winning song we’re on a winner. I think that someone will be
singing this in 50 years time. I’m liking it. [Narrator] The song Long White Cloud
will be launched… at the Attitude Awards this Wednesday
the 3rd of December. Watch the music video

12 thoughts on “Living with Anxiety: Mike Chunn

  1. Mike Chunn has given so much to the world. First with his music and writing and now in educating people about this disorder.

  2. this is fantastic. I've spoken to Mike a couple of times and he is a true gentleman. there is no ego with this guy, he is just straight up honest and real. kudo's for making such a raw and hard hitting doco.

  3. I have agoraphobia too. And Avoidant Personality Disorder. It is a living nightmare but I am on my road to recovery. The agoraphobia is curable but I have to learn how to live with my AvPD. I am trying to stay positive, because I am not about to give up on life!!

  4. I have it as well. I've gotten a lot better but nothings ever gone and you're never the same afterwards.
    Now when I go out I bring a friend and use my fidget toy which helps. But I rarely go out.

  5. Hi Mike Chunn…. I was wondering If Id ever crossed paths with you, think this is as good as it will ever get ha, I had crippiling anxiety as well, got me for a good 10 years or more, the one where you cant get your dinner at the supermarket sometimes and you go to the dairy instead…..or go without…..that kind…..I do a lot of music as well, play regularly at local bars at open mics now, well in the last 3 months, recorded an album at Toi Ora Live arts, my home made ones were better Mike ha, and I've just done 4 of them, no support from anyone musically throughout it all, one day a mental health support worker said my stuff was good and I guess it through me then I literally heard it in a completely different way…..It is good, I think so, and local musicians at for instance the Portland Public House have been supportive now, it's great, you can listen, maybe to my video for my songs "10 years" or "My Friend The Angel" I have on my channel, there not my best songs but mean so much, I film them myself, It's all done myself, I went for video funding once and to record properly but no support there either, but I'm hoping one day I get an honest "hey your stuffs A ok" from someone that's done it before, I've met popular NZ musicians before but maybe I'm just no good, I'll wait for the A OK one Day anyway…..:) Great story here of yours, some people would act like it's a tall tail, imaginary, literally……I don't…..I wrote about it… can listen…..ha ha:) Bye Mike keep up the good work, And Attitude thanks a lot for my "thanks for watching" message I will get soon…..:)no one else ever bothers…..but it's worth it!…..:) thanks!!!!:) byyyyyye from Alex.

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