To commemorate World Mental Health Day on October 10, Mark Hunter is sharing his personal story regarding bipolar disorder with the new documentary Down Again.
Filmmaker Nick Cavalier, who is known for directing Derek Hess’ award-winning Forced Perspective documentary, approached the heavy metal singer at last year’s Acting Out! mental health festival with the idea to document the formation and rise of Chimaira while highlighting the singer’s lyrics.
CoolCleveland talked to Hunter about the his struggles with mental health, the film and the future of Chimaira.
CoolCleveland: Thankfully, we’re now living in a society where the stigma attached to someone talking about their mental issues has somewhat dissipated. When did you first come forward?
Mark Hunter: I remember doing a couple of articles back in the day. So I touched on it, but I don’t think it was popular — which is a bad word to use, I know. But what else am I going to use? It’s more of a talking point these days, especially in light of a lot of the musicians and celebrities that have passed from struggling with mental health problems.
CC: Can you talk about your personal struggles?
MH: It’s been pretty much my whole life starting with anxiety and stomach issues. In adulthood, it was kind of almost like exploding. Definitely had mood swings I couldn’t control. I think losing my band really helped me get the kind of attention that I needed to do soul searching. It’s ridiculous to put all of the blame on myself, but I was the leader of the group. If everyone is gone but me, it would also be foolish not to look into the reasoning that it was my fault. A lot of it came down to attitude and mood swings and just general angst. I learned to definitely control a lot of those things and it took incredible loss and stress to really hone in on making myself better. And here we are in recovery. That’s why I’m comfortable more so ever than before talking about.
CC: Naturally, Down Again is kind of being positioned in relation to Forced Perspective. In your opinion, what are the similarities and differences between the projects?
MH: I found there were some similarities. Derek struggled a lot more with substance abuse where I would say I don’t have the same amount of extreme substance problems, but I definitely did maybe a decade or so ago when I was on prescription medications. I was on many and then I would drink and it was like, I don’t even know what the hell kind of person I was half the time. But it rang true with the bipolar. It rang true with the losing things and getting to certain heights and having it all kind of drift away and then almost forcing yourself to look within and rebuild and restructure.
CC: Prior to filming the documentary, were you nervous?
MH: I guess my only apprehension was in the beginning, I just wasn’t convinced I was an interesting enough character. I didn’t realize recovery was a strong message. Where we’re used to seeing people kind of falling apart when we watch shows like Intervention, my story is a little bit kind of explaining a little bit after that I suppose. I just didn’t know I was interesting enough. Then when I saw the film, I saw that Chimaira and myself are more of an allegory and that can be about anybody.
CC: What do you hope viewers take away from Down Again?
MH: Recovery is possible. It’s about how you can turn your life around, your career around. You can rekindle old friendships even though they were at one point demolished. It took seven years for me to get onstage with those guys, so it’s not just something that happens overnight. It’s not something that’s superficial for a moment. It was years getting us back on stage, healing those wounds and looking within. So I guess the biggest thing is you can search within, you can turn things around no matter how hard they get.
CC: Down Again also includes footage of last year’s Chimaira reunion. At this point, what does the future of the band look like?
MH: I don’t want to get hopes up, but the thing that is really cool about everything is that this enabled us to talk and it even enabled us to explore potential future things. We realize that going away increased our marquee value. Our exclusivity right now is kind of to our advantage. I wouldn’t expect a full-scale (tour) going on the road. If we do something, it’ll be once and that’s that. And you won’t see us again for a little bit.
CC: So kind of like the mindset behind last year’s reunion?
MH: Yeah, absolutely. We all walked into (the Agora) thinking it was going to be half empty. And we sold out, we sold more merch than we ever have in our lives and it was the biggest bar night in the Agora history. Afterwards, everyone was like, do it again next year. I bet you if we did we wouldn’t have the same results.
CC: I think it’s possible you’re selling yourself and the band short.
MH: It’s possible. If we do it in two years, then we pretty much know we could probably have that sort of success again. Maybe we’re being overzealous with that I don’t know. Only time will tell.
You can stream “Down Again” for free at https://downagainfilm.com/