Combating Isolation

Isolated Tom

Tom discusses his feelings about relationships and isolation as part of new series of blog articles about isolation.


Me and Ade decided a while ago that as we released our No Side Effects singles we would share some writing and discussions about some of the themes that influenced our music.

Our first release is called ‘Isolation Explosion’ and we were both interested in discussing social isolation in its many forms. This is a wide ranging subject and encapsulates elements of social anxiety, the disconnect between our online and real lives and maintaining effective communication and maintaining or losing belief systems in a modern world.

With the imminent release of this song I have found that the world has shifted beneath my feet and given me my own understanding of isolation due to a sudden divorce.

The sensations that come with such a sudden change in status quo are quite odd. I immediately feel more connected to the world and less able to communicate to anyone about it. I have such a great group of friends and they are all looking out for me, but they can’t truly fill the void that my wife once occupied and it is unfair to expect them to. Everyone has their own lives to lead. Any time they can spare is greatly appreciated.

But what do you do with yourself in those moments in the void? I suppose for many these are very dangerous moments. Do you let you mind wonder into the past? Considering what went wrong? I do this from time to time. It is terribly un-constructive, but sometimes it is necessary. We were together a long time. There are so many memories to explore and redefine. In a perfect scenario you would leave these memories as happy and content moments, but we aren’t perfect.

My mind cycles fiercely, it always has. It likes to find answers to problems. That is what I do in my day job. That is what I do all the time, but this puzzle is the master puzzle and it can never be solved.

This is where isolation creeps in. While trying to find answers to these questions you end up isolated within your own mind. You have no external stimuli. You just have your own problems to torment you indefinitely. This isn’t healthy.

The breaking of trust can also lead to isolation in these instances. A failure of being able to trust seems to be a common theme when relationships fall apart. How long does it take to trust people again? How do you know your friends from your enemies? It is too early for me to tell.  I can only work on my instincts at this stage and I know the people I can trust, and they are the friends I am talking to right now.

There is also a trepidation of moving out of my isolation. My relationship was attentive and didn’t really cater for the more social aspects of human interaction (dinner parties, gigs etc.). Now that such things are likely to occur I have to adapt. Pre-divorce me wasn’t interested in such things, I was comfortable and happy, but now I have to try and step out of this restrictive mindset and enjoy myself.

That doesn’t sound difficult does it?

But I am someone that can spend considerable amounts of time on my own while surveying the Scottish coastline. I’m someone that is quite comfortable in my own company. I prefer an open grassland in winter to a drunken night out.

Despite this I cannot retreat fully, because if I do, who do I talk to about such places? Who will ever listen? More importantly, how will I learn about what other people care about?

I am combating this by getting out and about in public.  I am usually on my own, but sitting in a coffee shop or a bar helps (like I am while I write this). Listening to other peoples conversations, receiving the odd smile from a passerby. This is how I combat loneliness when I am field surveying, so why shouldn’t it work when my relationship has fallen apart?

This modern world is demanding and distracting and leads us to forget who we are.  Maybe sometimes it is important that these events happen so we can reassess ourselves and consider whether we are on the right path. This is much more constructive than wallowing in loss and pain.

No one can save you but yourself.

NSE Tom Icon


The music of ‘No Side Effects’ is a mix of electronic, synth pop, funk and a sprinkling of jazz using vocals, found sounds, samples, electronic keyboards, guitars and drums.

The themes sprinkled through the music, writing, art and podcasts (so far) delve lightly into religion, life and death, media, global warming, perceptions of reality, depression, understanding, reasoning and the end of everything.

The debut album called ‘Reinventing Failure’ is due out on 2nd August 2018 following the release of 4 singles and 2 music videos from the album, all of which can be downloaded through Bandcamp.

‘No Side Effects’ is a collaboration between two artists, Thomas Haynes of ‘Grasslands’ and Adrian Wallington of ‘Two Short Planks’. Tom and Ade met through their work in the environmental sector in Newbury in 2009 and in 2013, finally met to at least chat about creating music at a Newbury pub in September 2013. Tom currently resides in Swindon and Ade lives in Newbury.


Mixing and Mastering in Progress

We having been mixing the final tracks for the new album over the Christmas and New Year holidays and continuing into January and February. The final selection of 9 songs have almost all been mixed and hope to start mastering soon. We’ve also been exploring images, logos and other ideas around the themes in the album.

A Way of Creating Music

An incredibly hot day of recording, listening and creating music on Sunday. We experimented with synths and drums to try and lay a base for a new track, along with recording lyrics for Isolation Explosion and waffling around the subject of Ideals.

A new track called Final Forecast was added to the selection of tracks. The development of most of the tracks is generally done by one of us working a rough and taking it as far as we can then handing it over for the other one to work on. The tracks sometimes change completely and other times it undergoes a few tweaks. A track like Breaking News was worked up and completed in a day and Isolation Explosion, one of the first tracks, has been nibbled at since October 2013. We will now move to complete the tracks we have done so far.

Vocal Focus

We got together for an enjoyable evening yesterday, the first time since our weekend session in May, to catch up and generally move forward with the tracks. A large amount of time was spent working on recording vocals for Dark Light and Isolation Explosion, recording each verse and chorus in batches of three, overlaying two tracks to give a richer sound and the third as an enhancement. We have both been working on lyrics, some of which were used to replace the ‘holding’ lyrics on these two tracks along with a page of spoken words used on The Sun Implodes (pfft!).

We also continue experimenting with vocal effects (many hours spent twiddling virtual knobs!) and recorded ‘found’ sounds, including Cable Avoidance Tools and broken boilers! There have also been a few more tracks added, giving us around 15 to 16 tracks to develop and select for the album.


Dark Light

A new track called ‘Dark Light’, the ninth that will be included on the album, moved fairly quickly to its completion. The listing so far is below.

  • Isolation Explosion
  • Eco-terror
  • Words
  • A New Conversation
  • Breaking News
  • Turn Right And you Have Reached Your Death
  • Dark Light
  • 24 Hours
  • The Sun Implodes (pfft)

The Name Epiphany

This weekend we saturated ourselves in music. A mix of programming, guitar, vocals, tea, laughs and a lot of chatter. We now also have a band name ‘No Side Effects’ after chuckling our way through random words in The Mail on Sunday (sorry). We also added a further 2 songs towards the album, making eight musical sketches now at varying stages of completion.