This week is the final week of our spectacular 12 week speaker series. This week we are finishing with recapping on lead singer of Irish band Aslan and one of Ireland’s greatest rock stars, Christy Dignam. Christy shared with Pendulum delegates how he has overcome obstacles in his life through resilience, the right winning mindset and success principles but also how adversity and mental health had an effect on him and his success.
Growing up in Finglas, Dublin, there was only one thing Christy Dignam ever wanted to do – and that was sing. By the early 1980s, he had formed the band Aslan, part of a new wave of acts coming out of Ireland. Repeatedly chewed up and spat out in the feeding frenzy to sign ‘the next U2’, they stuck to their principles. developed a loyal following, and their first album Feel No Shame went to No 1 in their home country, showcased by the song ‘This Is’, which Christy proudly acknowledges has become ‘part of Ireland’s DNA’.
Christy began his presentation by speaking about what influenced his decision to pursue music at a young age…
What influenced your decision to pursue music at a young age
Well, when I was a child, I always wanted to be a singer but at that time I thought that God would have to come down to tell me this was going to happen. It was only when I got a bit older and when I was in school I realised my true love for music. My friend at the time was talking about this band Slave and he was telling me they came from a place in England called Birmingham and that they were just ordinary blokes and that was really an epiphany for me when I realised normal people can become these big music stars as well. Someone ordinary like myself from Finglas could potentially become a singer and from that moment on I started concentrating on what I wanted to do what music I wanted to create and be a part of. I feel coming from an Ireland it is practically in our DNA to have this Irish ballad background. Everyone here at some point in their life has been at a party or pub in Ireland and has ended the night by singing Irish ballads.
Creation of Aslan
Well we started in school and at that time we were just playing around in pubs and we wanted to get to the next level. This was during the 80s and as many of you know that was the time of the depression so it was really difficult for us to do this. At this time we cherry picked the members and decided to name the band Aslan. The next step after this was to release a single and I was alway conscious of the fact once you release a single it’ll be there forever, especially your first record. I knew it had to be special and that is when we came up with ‘This is’ and eventually the album ‘Feel No Shame’. What we had to be careful of being an Irish band at this time was sounding the same as every other Irish band. As Dublin is so small many of the bands doubled up on base players, drummers etc. so therefore all the bands ended up sounding the same. This is what we as Aslan wanted to avoid, we wanted to sound one of a kind and special.
Road To And Recovery From Addiction
Coming from Finglas the fame really hit us hard I almost felt unworthy. I had many other issues on top of this from my childhood, as people probably know from my book I suffered quite a lot from sexual abuse as child. So when you put all those factors together, it really made me feel unworthy. I almost tried to sabotage it as I didn’t think I deserved it.
When I was fired it truly was horrific. I will always remember turning on the Late Late Show knowing we were scheduled to be on it and this singer came out with the rest of the boys and he was just horrific. I honestly had never felt such relief.
I tried many different things to try to break free from addiction. Anything you name guaranteed I have tried it and none of it stuck. This was until I decided to attend a monastery for a month. I had no phone, I had to wear a uniform, and they made you take this drink to get you to get sick to get the toxins out of the body. It really was a hardcore place and I feel the reason it worked was because it wasn’t easy. I feel if it was any easier I could have fallen back into that dark place but because it was so hard I felt it was worth it.
After many tests I was eventually diagnosed with what is essentially blood cancer and when I was told I just didn’t want to accept it. I even got in an argument with the doctor when it happened saying he didn’t have a clue what he was talking about when in fact he really did and was right.
I realised it is all about how you look at it. I saw from when I was getting chemo everyone who I met who was also getting treatment you could nearly pick out who was going to survive and die. The people who were negative never really lasted that long. Of course I am not saying if you are positive you will survive but from my experience it does give you a better chance anyway.
I have always had this gnawing emptiness. I thought that getting my first single released was going to cure this. It didn’t happen. Next I thought getting an album released was going to cure this. This didn’t happen. I really do feel it stems from my childhood this feeling of never feeling good enough, and always feeling empty inside. The sexual abuse I suffered from as a child really effected me and I feel this is where that gnawing feeling originated. I always felt this abuse was somehow my fault and I was only 6 years old. Even when I look back on it this dark cloud comes over me and the memories are so vivid and when I took drugs especially heroin this gnawing feeling and this dark cloud went away, I just felt normal.
In one way, I do believe being diagnosed with cancer could have been the best thing that ever happened to me. I always had this feeling and I feel that this is very common today that a person never feels like they have enough. They never have enough houses, cars or anything and when I got cancer that completely changed. All that was important to me then was seeing my family, my grandson’s communion all of those little things.
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