RFD Question Time with Andy Dovey at Brain Attack Music

Today I speak to blogger, musician and podcaster, Andy Dovey – who runs the website Brain Attack Music – as part of my guest blog series, RFD Question Time.

1. What inspired you to start blogging?

Lack of capability to do much else, to be honest!  When I was discharged from hospital, my stroke and brain surgery left me with (amongst many other things) double vision, both horizontally and vertically.

I could only read by wearing an eye patch over one eye and reading with the other one.  After five minutes, I had to swap eyes.  After another five, I was done.  Totally wiped out. 

Watching TV or using the computer was impossible.  Even when I had some corrective prisms attached to my spectacles, it was like looking through smeared vaseline. 

My wife suggested I write down my experiences.  As my eyesight slowly improved, this evolved into lyrics for songs for my Brain Attack Music charity project, which in turn evolved into blogs that I could use on my website once I’d got that up and running (www.brainattackmusic.com). 

I’ve subsequently been a guest blogger with BEST (Brain Energy Support Team) in the USA.  So, blogging kind of evolved out of desperation!

2. What advice would you give to other bloggers starting out?

Write from the heart. Imagine you are talking to one person sat in front of you. Don’t worry about grammar.  Make it read like you speak.  Be confident.  Have fun. But do use a spellchecker and proof-read several times!

3. What is your disability and how does it affect you on a daily basis?

In May 2013, I had a major stroke (a blood clot in the brain) and subsequent emergency brain surgery to ‘decompress’ my skull.

My brain damage means I can only walk very short distances using a stick. I have extremely bad neuro fatigue so I can only do anything (i.e. read, use the computer, watch TV, listen to music, converse, etc) for about 30 minutes maximum before my brain ‘shuts down’.

I can recover maybe after a few hours but it also might not be for a few days.  So, all the music and blogs I write and the podcasts I record are done in small chunks of time over days, weeks, months and years.

The stroke (or brain attack) was in my cerebellum, which is the part of the brain that controls balance and co-ordination, so I am left with constant vertigo (the world spins around me), which makes my balance awful – I’ve had many falls and quite a few times I have been accused of being drunk! 

Emotionally, I now have bad anxiety, depression and, for some bizarre reason, intense claustrophobia.  However, having nearly died in hospital, I’m grateful to still be breathing!

4. What do you love about being disabled?

I really appreciate the slower pace of life I’ve been forced to adopt.  I now notice things that I didn’t when I was rushing around at 100mph. 

I love watching and listening to nature.  Where we live is very rural.  Many birds and animals visit our garden – hares, rabbits, deer, pheasants, badgers, owls hooting, buzzards overhead, the sound of woodpeckers in the distance – it’s glorious.

5. If you were given a pill to cure your disability, would you take it and why?

 Ah, great question!  I’ve actually just written a podcast where I talk about this and my answer is “No”!  I know this will be controversial and will surprise many people.

I was 55 when this happened to me and was lucky enough to have lived a full and happy life. 

I’ve been to the Pyramids a few times. I’ve seen Easter Island. I’ve been on safari.  I’ve swum in the Dead Sea. I’ve been through the Panama Canal.  I’ve seen live music in New York, Warsaw and LA. I’ve stood on the top of Table Mountain.  I’ve visited Shanghai.

Before I was 19, I’d been to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa. I’ve 2 wonderful sons and a great step-daughter and step-son.  I’m sure if I was 25 when this happened to me, my answer to the question would be very different. 

Of course, I would love to able to play my drums, join a band and get teaching and gigging again, and get on the golf course but . . . there is a load of other ‘stuff’ that comes with that life – stress, mainly – and I don’t want to go there again. 

I believe that my ‘old’ life was a major contributor to my stroke and I don’t want another one ‘cos that would probably kill me.  I was lucky to survive the first one!

6. What has been your favourite concert or festival you’ve attended?

Well, as you can imagine, I’ve been to many over the years but the one that really stands out is seeing Genesis in April 1975 at Newcastle City Hall playing the whole of their double album, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

Three projection screens at the back of the stage (way ahead of the time), Phil Collins on top of his game behind the drums (how many young folk today know that Phil was a world class drummer back in the day?), Peter Gabriel was on vocals, just a brilliant, brilliant gig.  Proper music, real musicians, no backing tracks or computers in sight and just a few days after my 17th birthday!  How can you top that?

7. If you were organising a music festival, which three acts would you book as your headliners?

Oooo, well, being totally selfish here, it would have to be acts that I’ve never seen before.  So, in no particular order we have Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis.  Alternatively, I’d have Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie.  And yes, I know some of these legends are no longer with us but I can dream, can’t I?

8. If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Before my stroke, I was very fortunate to have travelled a lot (both for work and for holidays) and I’ve been to over 40 countries around the world.  The only place I haven’t been to that’s still on my Bucket List would be Machu Picchu in Peru, but my health limitations would rule out any possibility of actually going there.

9. If you got stranded on a deserted island, what three things could you not live without?

My wife, my kindle and my iPod (with headphones).  That’s not 4 things is it?

10. What is your favourite film and why?

Oh, what a question!!  So many to choose from.  I’ve given this a lot of thought and would say it’s a tie between Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Michael Caine and Steve Martin, and Wag The Dog with Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro.  Both movies are hilarious but for completely different reasons. 

The first is a comedy about con artists trying to out-con one another.  The second is not a comedy, as such, it’s both serious and comedic in equal measure.  It’s about the US president who is up for re-election and his spin doctor (De Niro) decides that, in order to win the election, what is needed is a war.  However, who do you go to war with and how do you fake it?  Enter Dustin Hoffman, as the Hollywood producer who can make it all happen. Just superb.

11. Who would you like to play you in a movie of your life?

Ah, a straight-to-DVD-movie, then.  I’ve been told I have a passing resemblance to Dan Ackroyd, so it has to be him!

12. What is your favourite book and why?

Tricky. Very tricky.  It’s a tie (yes, I know, it’s a cop out again) between Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood.  I do enjoy ‘speculative fiction’.

13. If you were to write an autobiography, what would you call it?

Funnily enough, one is in the pipeline.  Well, not a full autobiography as such, but my stroke story.  The working title is Brain Attack – How I Was Upgraded

My wife calls me The Upgrade as she feels my ‘post-stroke behaviours’ are more beneficial for me, than how I was ‘before’.

14. If you could go back in time, where would you go?

Wow, another great question.  My Dad was a professional cricketer from 1937 to 1954 (except the war years), but sadly died when I was just 16.  So, I’d go back to the winter of 1950/1951 when he toured India with the Commonwealth Team to watch him play and spend some time with him.

15. If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?

I think I’d be a dog (in a loving home, of course) and spend my time sleeping, eating and making people happy.  (In the Chinese Horoscope, I am actually an Earth Dog).

16. What is your worst habit?

Haha – best ask my wife!!  She would say my stubbornness, which I like to call my ‘determination’!

17. Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early bird, without doubt.  I always used to struggle with late-finish gigs and maybe not getting home until the early hours.  Post-stroke, I’m in bed by 9pm at the latest.

18. Which is your favourite season and why?

Where I live in southern Scotland, we are very aware of the seasonal changes due to the climate and the countryside.  That’s something I love.  I’d rule out summer (sometimes too hot) and winter (sometimes too cold).

Post-brain injury, I really struggle to regulate my body temperature, so I’d plump for autumn over spring for one reason, and that is the colours in the foliage. The yellows, oranges, reds, browns and golds are simply breath-taking up here.

19. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Being male and growing up in the 1960s it was a straightforward choice between either a fighter pilot or an astronaut.  It was fighter pilot for me, preferably in an English Electric Lightning or maybe even Thunderbird 1!

20. What is your dream job?

That would be drumming with Pink Floyd (1970s-era, Meddle/Dark Side Of The Moon/Wish You Were Here/Animals/The Wall).  Move over Nick Mason.  I had a taste of this when I played in a Pink Floyd tribute band.  Just fabulous music.

Andy Dovey is planning on releasing a CD of music based on his stroke story to raise funds for the brain injury charity, SameYou.

More information is available at Andy’s website Brain Attack Music where you can find his blogs, music demos, podcasts and Twitter feed @brainattackmuse.

You can also check out other RFD Question Time interviews.

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If you would like to feature in my “RFD Question Time with…” series or publish an original guest post, please contact me.

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