Depression, Introduced. - Indie Music on Tap: S2E1
posted 18 Aug 2019 by Krister Axel
Architects vs Gardeners, The Myth of Fully Automatic, and Multi-Classing. Why Are We Depressed, & What Do We Need To Let Go Of?

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Featured music

The Luxury of Being Human: Bring Summer Back
yeardley: wedding preparations in the country

Hello, and welcome to CHILLFILTR Indie Music on Tap, where we discuss issues that affect the indie music community, and we talk about what it is like to be a musician today. We have listeners all over the world for our podcast at, we publish weekly song reviews to our blog at We are starting our second season with a new format, a new theme, and a new schedule. We will be publishing weekly episodes through the end of the year for our second season. The main subject will be depression, and how it affects musicians today. We will also continue to discuss the difference between architects and gardeners, as I hope to recreate my own personal steps dealing with depression, and perhaps help chart a path for anyone dealing with those same issues. First, a little about me. I started CHILLFILTR just over a year ago, as a way of giving indie musicians some nice quotes about their music. Now, that is what I am known for: I listen to hundreds of songs per week, up to a few thousand per month, and I write about my favorite songs - Folk Pop, Electronic, Hip Hop, Americana/Roots, and Indie Rock.

Every episode, we have a theme that we discuss, and we will also be hearing some of my favorite music. So let's get started!

Now, for those of you that stayed with us last season, you will see that things are bit different this year. The sound is better - I invested in a nice microphone - but I also decided to script more of my discussion. Last season was just me, an episode topic, and a cell phone, and I just rambled on and edited later - in typical gardener fashion I might add. You get the idea to market without worrying too much about the specifics. I put out 10 episodes that I was proud of, but to be honest, by the end there I was a bit burned out on editing clips together. So for this season I had the bright idea of actually writing it out - I am a writer, after all - and it's a win because I can just read the copy, roll the tape, and edit nothing. Who says innovation is dead? So that means (if you are watching the video feed), you are introduced to my little production lair - all 3 meters squared of it. Welcome to my world.

So what's up with depression? Well, I got the idea from a Twitter poll a few months back, there was a record label that was offering money to help support podcasts that would touch on topics like depression, and although I didn't get enough votes to get any money out of the deal, I thought it was a good enough idea to stick with, regardless. I certainly know a thing or two about depression. And it struck me that it is the topic of our time. The more I researched it, the more I realized that the 'science' of depression is utterly misguided, and at very least for gardeners like me, you are completely on your own for guidance if you are depressed. Not only will the world not understand you, it will actively give you consistently bad advice. Well-meaning, perhaps, but destructive all the same. Because the world was made by and for architects, and if you are a gardener who is starting to understand the situation, you will quickly realize that the status quo is totally inadequate.What do I mean by that? Well, for this episode we are going to tackle a few big concepts to start - the 'myth of fully automatic', gardeners vs architects, and the related concept of 'multi-classing'.

So, you might be asking yourself, what am I? I used to think that Architects and Gardeners are mutually exclusive personality-types, but since then my understanding has evolved quite a bit, and now I view it as a spectrum. So some people might be a bit of both, in which case the distinction is perhaps not that useful. I think many among us play both roles according to our daily situation, but I still think everyone has a natural affinity to one side or the other. So: an architect builds a house. He or she spends a long time planning, evaluating, price-comparing. This house is truly superlative - it is the MOST modern, the BEST design, no details were spared, no compromises were made. It took as long as it took, but it finishes.

A gardener builds a garden. He or she starts right away - I will plant this here, and that there, and look for more things to plant. A gardener pivots - changes mind; countless times a day. What IS working, what isn't working, what can be tweaked? A gardener enjoys nothing more than monitoring his/her garden, pulling the plants that die, and dreaming of new things to plant. The garden is never finished. And perfection is not at all the point.

You can make a simple heuristic - on a given day, in the CREATIVE space, how many things are on your mind? ONE, or many? If it is one, you are probably an architect; if it is many you might skew towards gardener.

Why does this matter? That brings us to the myth of fully automatic. Because, as Allan Watts described to us, the games we play on children are inexcusable. His discussion of the myth of fully automatic is simply this: as we raise our little ones, our primary sense of messaging is that this child is apart from the world, and needs to find entry. It is by us that you enter society - by pleasing your parents, by toeing the line, by following rules, by coopting our own sense of emotion and visceral experience and replacing it with 'behavior'. Accepted behavior; but what of the self? What about our own nature? What about intrinsic beauty? We are taught from the very beginning that we need to prove our way in, that there are good thoughts and bad thoughts, but we are given no tools for introspection. None. That is the myth of fully automatic - that the universe goes on without us, and will not miss us when we are gone. That the quintessential human lives alone in contrast to an automatic cosmic system that is separate from him. One that he can exploit, and one that does not benefit from an identity. And so the child is taught to do well in first grade, that she might graduate to 2nd; and so on through high school, and college, always a step to precede the step that precedes the next; but nowhere are we taught about the importance of kindness, or that it is okay to do something else, to be free, to start over. We are often taught that we only get one choice - so choose wisely. This is the worst thing to say to gardener. It can be paralysing, and it denies the beauty of starting over that gardeners hold dear. Which leads me to the concept of multi-classing.

I am glad to see that Dungeons and Dragons is making a comeback - that game played a large part in my childhood, and was the first experience I had with this concept that eventually came to be the architect/gardener divide - which i should also mention has a counterpart in the work of Malcolm Gladwell, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Allen Watts, probably more. The extent of my experience with D&D amounts to a summer playing solo with my friend Greg as dungeon master. I don't remember the campaigns much, but I do remember the mental calculus I had to do around multi-classing, which boils down to a simple question: would you rather be one person, or many? So either you obsess over doing one thing better than anyone ever - like being the most powerful mage in the world, but who is very physically fragile; or do you flesh out a few different skill sets, and create unique magic in the synergy between skill sets - a Ranger/Thief? Cleric/Warrior?

A single-classer is an architect; a multi-classer is a gardener.

But what gets complicated is the way that we decide to move forward; Watts talks about the process that every adult needs to go through, which is abandoning the belief sets that are imposed on us when we are young, and finding a new, personal and personalized truth. This, can come more naturally to a gardener because we pivot every day; once we see what needs to be done, we do it. This kind of thing can come as a shock to an architect, because they are not natural pivoters. This comes to another, even simpler heuristic - if you have struggled with depression for a lot of your life, you are probably a gardener; if you are coming to it in middle age for the first time, you are probably an architect. Ok, that's it for now on architects vs gardeners, we will come back to that again, but I wanted to put that out there because it is one my my favorite themes. I like it so much because it works as a stand-in for all of our current dichotomies - alpha vs beta, hard vs soft, Western vs Eastern philosophy. It is all there. This season we are also going to cover the evolution of depression as a modern social phenomenon, so we are starting with ancient times. It should come as a surprise to no one that the origins of depression as a pseudo-medical diagnosis date back to classic complications in pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing.

In her book The Female Malady, Elaine Showalter describes three themes that were prevalent through three historical phases of English psychiatry: psychiatric Victorianism (1830-1870), psychiatric Darwinism (1870-1920), and psychiatric Modernism (1920-1980). WE will be discussing each of these in future episodes.I also want to touch on something personal. For me, the most personal thing, and something I imagine many of us struggle with, is the concept of failure. Having expectations for ourselves is hard enough; in some cases, feeling like we have let someone else down can be even more debilitating than the failure itself. And in my case, sometimes you let people put ideas in your head, and forget that they are there. Until you start feeling like a failure.I always thought I would be famous; I spent my 20's preparing for the fame I was sure was coming. Going to college in Madison, Wisconsin was more or less a full-time party, I was dropped off at the age of 17 in the midst of my parents' divorce. I had a band in high school, so in this new environment I went straight to the only skills I had - playing piano. Eventually, I taught myself to sing so that our college band could start getting gigs. A few years later, we were part of a cool music scene. Great. The only problem was, I let people feed my ego. So now I am 20 years old, writing songs for a successful band, getting some recognition as being a decent frontman. And somehow, quite obviously, I fell in love with this dream that I was destined for stardom - mostly just because I heard that from a few people, and I let it stick. So I decide to move to Los Angeles, still in love with this dream. I never let go of it, even as my life started to change.

the concept of letting it be something else

Now I am 45, and I will certainly be touching on these issues consistently, but only last year did I really come to terms with the fact that my 20-year-old self still feels like a failure. Still does, right now. But instead of ignoring it, I look it straight in the face. Part of me feels like a failure - let's see what we can do to keep the rest of me from feeling the same way. How do I do that? by letting it be something else. We get so used to goalposts, we start thinking that we need them. I will share with you a thought experiment that helps me tremendously in moments of doubt: what if there are different parts of you? What if your brain is not just a single thought process, but a complex system of redundant logical reinforcements? So that, in my 20's, when I decided to live my life the way I did, with the upsides and downsides of every logical choice, where I allowed this self-description of someone who 'deserved' fame to hold value; what if the pain I feel now was exactly the point? What if part of me confused the other part of me on purpose? What if I needed to hold on to a failed dream for the time that I did so that I could find other things to be inspired by, and then finally realize that the dream needed to die? Is that inexplicably sad, or intensely beautiful? Or perhaps, both? So that is the concept of letting it be something else: like Buddha said, the root of all pain is expectation; but a life without pain is not much of a story, is it?

So we have choices.

That all we have time for, I will see you again next week.

Stay tuned for the two featured tracks for this episode: first up is newcomer The Luxury of Being Human, also known as Sylva Kay, a promising artist/producer from the UK. Her single Bring Summer Back creates an atmosphere of wistful nostalgia, joining the uncomfortable feeling that time cannot be stopped with the beautiful notion that everything is fixable.

We are left to navigate between the poles of individuality and codependence, with a language that is rich in detail and affect as we reinvent the glorious moment that once was, a thousand times over. Beyond the lesson that we can't always have what we want, we also learn that our hearts have a way of making the past perfect. With an understated electric guitar track and a delicious shuffle, this melodic indie rock banger is ready to inject some excitement into the summer of your dreams.


Hello, and thanks for sticking around. We are going to close with one of my favorite bands. yeardley is back with new single 'wedding preparations in the country'. This track extends their indie-rock aesthetic towards the sound of punk, in an acoustic play on a band like SWMRS if they were jamming with Wilco.

We wrote about their last single, and found it to be refreshingly original and a bit wistful. This time, the energy is big, the language concise, and we follow the tumbling drum pocket through a tunnel of half-logic and casual observation - under the influence, and among friends. We are not sure what the symbols mean, but we are glad they are preparations in the country, the latest track from yeardley, is a full-throttle ride through life's beautiful mess, and a reminder that the only person it needs to make sense to is you.Thanks for supporting Independent music.


This episode of CHILLFILTR: Indie Music on Tap was brought to you by Krister Axel and The River South, and was produced in Southern Oregon with help from ASHLAND IO LLC. We support our local community and are proud to be underwriters for Jefferson Public Radio. Our blog pieces are published weekly at, the podcast is available at, and our video feed is broadcast to Tibo subscribers on Euro Indie Music TV.Next week, we will be back with a deeper dive into the origins of mental health, and another few of my favorite songs. As always I appreciate your support.

Thank you for listening to the first episode of Indie Music on Tap, Season 2.

About the Author


Krister Bjornson Axel

Ogdensburg, New York

Paris, France. Madison, Wisconsin. Los Angeles. Ashland, Oregon. Ottawa. I write music, I write about music, and I write code. See also: photography, prose, podcasting. I have 1 gorgeous wife, 2 amazing kids, and many interests.

Recent Awards: 2020 ND (Photo) Honorable Mention, 2020 Accenti Writing Contest Finalist