“Mental health is a bit of an issue in the arts industry,” says Maniac Music Factory director Thomas Welladsen. He’s not wrong either. A report released in 2015 by Victoria University found that those working in the arts sector are likely to experience symptoms of anxiety at a rate ten-times higher than the general population, as well as symptoms of depression at a rate five-times higher. Moreover, they have higher rates of suicide than the general population. It’s a sobering truth, but one that needs to be aired and appropriately digested.
“I feel like creatives on the daily are suffering from stuff like that,” Tom says. “I thought, ‘what’s the best way to get the word out with a product that’s used nearly on a weekly basis’. To me, that was guitar strings.” Maniac Music will be developing their own brand of custom, hand-wound strings to ensure that the product’s integrity matches that of its message. “We’re doing pure nickels as an electric string to begin with, then we’ll be looking at a long life acoustic string. I think they’re great.” Like many in the music industry – and society at large for that matter – Welladsen has endured through issues of mental health. Following the example that he so proudly sets, he openly discusses it.
“In all honesty, I’ve been a sufferer of anxiety and depression for a number of years. Being a creative, I definitely know how hard it is to get music out there – to actually view your art – I know how hard it is. This is going to be such a great venture to spread the word about mental health and awareness. I’ve had a couple people around me attempt suicide, and they were musicians as well. The more awareness there is out there, the more help there is for people, and the more help they can get.”
In Welladsen’s opinion, it’s paramount that we have organisations such as Beyond Blue and their many partners – Maniac Music Factory included – continuing to raise awareness around these issues. In some instances, people may not even know they’re suffering through symptoms of mental illness, preferring instead to vehemently ignore it. “If anything can stop someone from taking their own life, or going down that path – it’s vital.”
Aside from their admirable ethos, Maniac Music Factory are also working towards developing strings at the highest quality possible that stands out from what is currently on the market. “Most of the electric range, they’re wound tighter” says Welladsen. “The whole point of them being tighter doesn’t allow caustic alkali from people’s fingers getting into the strings quicker. So it actually makes them a longer lasting string without being coated. I can hear the tone from a non-coated string to a coated, and a lot of people don’t like that.”
“I’m using them for my project at the moment,” he says. “I’ve had them on my Telecaster for about nine weeks now. Obviously they’re a bit worn and battered, but they still sound great.” Ultimately, the reason behind Maniac Music Factory’s charitable strings and Beyond Blue partnership was simple. Welladsen just wanted to make a difference, in any way that he could. It’s something the bigger brands could learn from, and extremely refreshing coming from a locally owned start-up.
“The way I see it, how could we make a difference without us just being a wholesaling company? What can we actually do to benefit the arts industry as a whole? That’s out motive and passion about what we’re doing. We don’t just want to move products; we want to help people and we want to help bands. That’s what we want to do.”
Life as a musician can be hard, and hardships can spiral out of control if left unattended. At the end of the day, Welladsen wants musicians to know that they aren’t alone, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. “With the strings, I want [play- ers] to take away a new mentality on how to address mental health,” he says. “I want them to be sure that it’s OK not to be OK, but also to express themselves. Awareness through expression.”
Maniac Music Factory will be donating $1 for every pack of strings sold to Beyond Blue. To a secure a pack, email [email protected] or call 0434 254 116. For more details, head to their website or Facebook Page.
Image by Beau Young.