"I can't tell you how often I think about taking myself out of the game and ringing my own bell," says Anthony Green. "And it's not something people should be afraid of talking about, because it's the first step in realizing, Yo, we need each other right now, we need to connect, we need people to come out and say, 'I'm thinking of ringing my own bell, I'm thinking of getting out of this fucking mess, I hate the pain that I'm in.' That's the only way to really address it."
The Circa Survive and Saosin singer is not one to hide his feelings, however manic or intense they may be. When applied to his songwriting, this head-on, honest approach allows him to release frustrations that may otherwise lead to self-destructive behaviors, and results in lyrics that deeply connect with fans. No matter what is happening musically, Green is committed to accessing intense personal experiences — including past relationships, addictions and mental-health issues — and channeling those poignant emotions into poetry.
That openness is present in the musician's conversations as well. I first learned this in 2016, when I interviewed Green about his return to Saosin. Shortly into the chat we unexpectedly discovered that we both shared common ground in our own struggles with addiction and finding sobriety. At the time I was just under a year sober — and still coming to terms with the new lifestyle, which often felt closer to an annoyance than an achievement — and it was refreshing to hear a musician not romanticize his past problems, or new sober lifestyle, but instead speak honestly about how much it can fucking suck to not drink in a social environment, and how even when one removes drugs from the equation the addictive behaviors remain.
Two years later, Green remains unflinching when it comes to examining his life in the name of art, as he demonstrates on his fifth solo album, Would You Still Be In Love. Throughout the sparse, intimate record — many songs are simply presented with just his voice and a guitar — Green delivers a candid portrait of his own mental-health state: moving between feeling paralyzed to help those he loves to fearing if he does intervene he will cause irrevocable harm. And instead of trying to answer the whys of his feelings — or attempting to solve anything — the singer instead uses his platform for pure catharsis.
"The only time it's this authentic beautiful thing is when I'm the saddest, and I'm just in this moment of pain or suffering," says Green of his writing process. "It's this weird thing where this compulsion that I have to create, that's all there is. And I have to find all my joy in just that, because this product I work toward … it fucking gives me nothing. And it means nothing if people like it or don't like it. It's literally just the act of doing it where I find all the freedom."
In the following interview, Green gives us a surprisingly candid (even by his standards) update on his life: from the ongoing process of dealing with mental health issues to the drive that keeps him moving forward despite being "hardwired for self-destruction."
True to form, Green jumped right in the deep end, and began our call asking how sobriety had been going for me since last we spoke.
IT'S BEEN WEIRD FOR ME LATELY. RECENTLY I FEEL LIKE MY BRAIN THINKS I'M SMARTER THAN I ACTUALLY AM WHEN IT COMES TO DRUGS. LIKE, "OH IF I LOOK AT DRUGS IN A LOGICAL PERSPECTIVE, I MIGHT BE ABLE TO USE AGAIN." BUT THEN I REALIZE OH WAIT, THIS IS JUST ADDICTION FUCKING WITH ME.
ANTHONY GREEN Yeah, I think that's a good tool to use — there's going to be ways you're going to rationalize wanting to do things, but the fact is that it's an addict thing: we're hardwired for self-destruction. It's like even if we know something is harmful, we know it's going to hurt us, there's still this innate curiosity there, and I've spent a lot of time wondering if that curiosity is healthy or not. There's things about that idea of, Hey, you know this might suck but I'm going to do it anyway, that's inherent in our nature that makes us grow. I've been trying to find little substitutes ... It doesn't necessarily have to be a healthy thing, it could be going for a run or drinking a fucking Red Bull, it could be a goofy thing that's less harmful than smoking crack or shooting heroin. [Laughs]
HAVE YOU BEEN THINKING ABOUT USING RECENTLY OR IS IT A CYCLICAL THING?
I go through periods of obsessing about it, and periods of never thinking about it at all. And there's times where it's the most opportune moment to get high, or like have something like that tempt me, and I couldn't care less about it. And there's other moments where it's the least opportune times to do it and then all of a sudden it'll pop into my mind, or I'll get a weird taste in my mind for it and I can't shake it. You know, that's something I've been trying to work on. I get obsessive about things. Every transition from winter to spring I go through periods where I just can't stop thinking about dope, and it just gets in my head, old times using get in my head. I'd just love for there to be some catchall, like, "Oh this doesn't happen anymore if this or that happens, or if you go to this many meetings." [Laughs] But it's fucking annoying.
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU WHEN YOU'RE NOT WORKING ON ART OR MUSIC? IS ANYTHING EVER ENOUGH?
Oh man. So I was literally just talking about this to my wife because I've been home for like three days, and today's been the first full day I've been home without a schedule. As far as writing, I have to get myself into a schedule, where if I don't do that — if I distract myself from writing — I get really dark. I feel bad about myself, I get distressed in a way where it's like I can't not be writing music or playing music.
It's like a sickness in a way where if I don't treat it, it gets out of hand. I've been able to use it as a positive force in my life, but recently I've just been feeling I'm literally never going to be satisfied, ever. The thing I like the most about the thing that I do goes away so fast now where I can't even appreciate something a few months later when it's released and people are loving it, I'm already over it ...
My ability to be high off of that moment is just ... I need to go harder and harder for it. And I don't know… I'm in a moment now where I just put Would You Still Be In Love out and I've got some other stuff I'm working on right now I want to make good, but I almost feel like I've set myself up for not being able to enjoy or ... fuck I don't know. What do I do now? I wrote it and I love it but the next day, I need to do it again. It's not even for anyone else, it's not like anybody is making me do it. I just can't feel good about anything anymore. [Laughs] And it's fucking brutal.
The only time it's this authentic beautiful thing is when I'm the saddest, and I'm just in this moment of pain or suffering. It's this weird thing where this compulsion that I have to create, that's all there is. And I have to find all my joy in just that, because this product I work toward so I keep doing it, it fucking gives me nothing. And it means nothing if people like it or don't like it. It's literally just the act of doing it where I find all the freedom and I feel distracted about it. And all of this stuff comes up where I want to make a living off of it, and I want to support my little freaks. But it's like, I wonder if I'm doing some kind of mental damage to myself.
DO YOU FEEL DISSATISFIED BECAUSE THE REALITY DOESN'T LIVE UP TO WHERE YOU THINK SOMETHING SHOULD BE?
No, the worst part is it does, like at the time I feel, This is incredible, this is who I am right now. And then I immediately need more of whatever that is, and I need to do it again. There's so much more, there's always so much more. I'm overwhelmed by it. I have three bands I'm trying to start right now, I have this project I've been working on with my producer that I want to get off the ground. Sounds of Animals [Fighting] stuff to do next year, Circa stuff next year. I want to not do records anymore, there's too much sometimes.
And I have to hone this ability to do it and turn it into something to share with people that makes sense, and in doing that I get caught up in it, and it takes me away from the actual thing. The songs are beautiful on the new record, and each song I've worked out live over this last year, which I've never really done. I booked all these live shows in California and all over the place ... I would go to the open mic night in my home town to work out an idea in front of nobody so I could record the song like that and have that feeling.
It lives up to this thing in my head, but then I want to do something that makes me feel better than that. It's a total compulsory, addictive thing, and if I don't get a grip on it, there's moments where the pros and cons aren't equal. There's too much suffering for just too little joy. It's kind of a similar thing to parenting, where you have all this pressure and you're so stressed and tired and you just want to be a good communicator to your children and you want to communicate to them in a polite and kind way. And you find yourself flipping, and you don't know why — why is it so hard to just maintain this balance of understanding and application?
DO YOU HAVE THIS PLATONIC IDEAL OF WHAT YOU IMAGINE YOUR ART TO BE IN YOUR HEAD?
Honestly, I'm kind of living it, there's elements that change. Like, you ever save up to get a car or something, and now it's like, "Ah shit now I want to get the hubcaps." There's this thing where my whole life is focused on making music, making art, and I have this family that takes up all the other time and they're really fun to be around. And I get so caught up in the game of it all sometimes that I forget about how awesome it actually is.
As a child, I could have never imagined my life being the way it is now where I get to make music, I get to hang out with cool people — but there's times now where I don't want to hang out with anyone. I find myself wanting more. It's bullshit and it's fucking annoying. I want to be able to be happy with what I have. Like I really would love to be financially secure, but I can't make stuff that I don't like, it's a strange thing where I put all this shit into what I do, but if I tried to do something more popular I'd be better off in a way. That's scary too.
I've had people in my life who have been like, "Why don't you just do it like that?" And it's like, "Well that's not what I want to do, and that's not what makes me feel good. But I'm constantly hearing it in the back of my head, like maybe you should write songs for other people and write happier songs. Some shit like that and it's like ... fuck. I don't know, I thought I'd get to this point in my life and I'd be stoked, I have a house and I'm touring and I don't really worry that much about money because I get paid to sing and shit is pretty cool, but it's really not that cool.
IT'S SORT OF HARD TO BE ANY KIND OF CREATIVE AND NOT BE DISTRESSED AS OF LATE. I SAW THAT KATE SPADE KILLED HERSELF RECENTLY ...
It's so disheartening. It seems like suicide is around a lot lately, like maybe it's not and maybe I'm just noticing it a lot more, but the other day I was at the gym and having a really tough morning with my kids and feeling like a bad dad, bad person. I met this guy, my buddy Neil at the YMCA and he decided to tell me that day was the fourth year anniversary of his son, who was 36, who killed himself. Like that day, I was listening to Soundgarden and was just fucked up about how that happened. Last night I was watching some thing where Chester Bennington's wife was talking about her life now that he's gone, and that depression was this thing she didn't understand and that nobody really sees it as this thing with these warning signs. It's not like an illness. Are you noticing it's popping up a lot?
ABSOLUTELY, IT SEEMS INESCAPABLE.
I mean Kate Spade, she was successful, she was a mother, she had a husband, from a perspective of people like you and me can't you just imagine that's something people would work their whole lives toward as a victory? And yet she wasn't happy with it. And that's this notion where you have all this money or you have all these things ... Trust me, I don't have a lot of money. I don't value things, I value music and songs. My children grow up kind of outside of nature, but I don't think of them as mine, I don't try to put ownership on everything. I check my ego, I'm not falling for some rockstar bullshit, I don't think I'm anything that I'm not. I think maybe our creative capacity leads us somewhere that makes it more difficult to cope in a world like today, I don't know. What do you think?
TO BE STRAIGHT UP, I TRULY DON'T FEEL LIKE THERE'S MUCH OF A POINT OF ME BEING ON THIS EARTH. AND THAT'S NOT SOME "PLEASE FEEL SORRY FOR ME" THING. I JUST LOOK AT SOMEONE LIKE CHESTER BENNINGTON WHO WAS ABLE TO USE THE SUFFERING HE FELT IN HIS LIFE AS SOMETHING THAT CAST SUCH A WIDE NET FOR SO MANY PEOPLE TO CONNECT TO, THAT MADE HIS BAND MAYBE THE BIGGEST ON EARTH, AND THAT JUST WASN'T ENOUGH. THERE ISN'T AN ANSWER FOR ANY OF THIS SHIT. THE CLOSEST REASON I CAN COME UP WITH CONTINUING ON IS JUST BEING OF SERVICE TO OTHERS AROUND ME, AND TAKING CARE OF SOMEONE ELSE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
That's the closest thing to the answer I think. There are times when I find tremendous comfort in the idea that there is no answer because it settles my mind. And I feel like your mind is constantly like, Well we need to get here, we need to get there. It needs to be reminded: all of this is fucking bullshit. None of it matters. What you make doesn't matter, what you think of yourself doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is when you're there for that other person. If we spent more time in the service of others, then we'd get more connected and in tune with the part of us that isn't meant to be disoriented by the world.
There's this archaic part of ourselves that isn't meant to be chasing dreams or dollars, that's meant to be protective, and to help others and to gather and love. You say things like that and you sound like a hippie or sound dismissive, but it's true. I can tell you, I've experienced this, I've given the last of what I've had away, most emotionally and physically. The meaningless of everything is beautiful, the void of it is beautiful, but doesn't have to be an answer ... I can't tell you how often I think about taking myself out of the game and ringing my own bell. And it's not something people should be afraid of talking about, because it's the first step in realizing, Yo, we need each other right now, we need to connect. We need people to come out and say, "Yo I'm thinking of ringing my own bell, I'm thinking of getting out of this fucking mess, I hate the pain that I'm in." That's the only way to really address it.
I feel like there's this fire completely destroying humanity, but there's also this tiny bit of humanity growing at some exponential rate that's going to have to get burnt out. Mine and yours — we're going to be in this state of perpetual growth where we're going to be in distress and we're going to find comfort in that distress. And we're going to forget about it, and get reminded about it again, like a beating heart that's clenching and opening, that's going to be our life. If we can just figure out how to find peace in those moments.
I know you feel it too, as a creative spirit I know you're looking for it too. You want this experience to pay off, and we look to each other, friends and lovers, and we find comfort in the fact that it's meaningless as well. To not take things so seriously and live courageously.
I THINK TRUSTING THE UNCONSCIOUS TO SORT OF GUIDE YOU ALONG IS PRETTY ESSENTIAL IN ANY ENDEAVOUR. I MEAN, LIKE I GOT PITCHED THIS INTERVIEW, AND WE'VE SPOKEN BEFORE AND I WAS PRETTY SATISFIED IN HOW IT CAME OUT, BUT FOR WHATEVER REASON I FELT LIKE THIS WOULD STILL BE A GOOD CONVERSATION AND I WASN'T SURE WHY I FELT SO.
Following that notion is what's going to get you everywhere, I think. People call them coincidences or serendipity, but there's all these little things our brain will tell us, Hey this will be a good idea, this will benefit you in a way and you should do it. I think if we listen to ourselves and we listen to each other, there's this wealth and a canyon of knowledge we can help each other with.
IS IT EASIER FOR YOU TO PROCESS WHEN OTHER PEOPLE ARE TALKING TO YOU ABOUT THEIR SHIT THAN IT IS TO LOOK DIRECTLY AT WHAT'S GOING ON WITH YOURSELF?
The ways that I process things is always in talking about it with other people. I try not to give advice to other people, it's almost like as a young man just figuring shit out it feels arrogant. But I do see things in my life that I'm not afraid to point out, and there are things I like to talk about. So I don't find it like a thing where I'm trying to give someone a direction, I'm just telling people where I came from or what path I'm on.
A lot of times I'll find when I'm working out somebody's issues in my head I'm really just working out my own. I find that understand, yeah shit isn't supposed to be one way or the other, it's all a perceptual illusion that's manifesting when we're here. And that can be a heavy burden. But I noticed when I talked to you earlier that I'm not happy with what I'm doing, after a moment like that, like I can live with that. I was complaining about it in a way because it was sort of overwhelming me today, but in just talking to you about it, I felt "you know, if my life is going to be compulsively making these moments to revel in, like a spider weaving a web, and then just getting the web destroyed by the weather over and over again, if that's my life than ok. I'm okay with that. Sometimes it makes me sad or overwhelmed by it, in between those moments where for a second you get to look at your beautiful web that you just made and worked so hard on, and all of you came from that. And you just know the wind is going to come and the rain is going to come, and the bugs are going to come and it's going to be destroyed. But just to exist in it for that one second is so worth it. And when you're in those moments of toil, you forget. So in talking about it I remember oh yeah, I'm just being a fucking dummy and I have to suck it up and keep weaving this web.