James Rhodes - Concert Pianist and Author HARDtalk


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James Rhodes - Concert Pianist and Author

Sarah Montague speaks to James Rhodes, internationally-acclaimed concert pianist and successful recording artist, about how he deals with the pain of the past.


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how it will make sure such

abuses never happen again.

0:00:020:00:03

It's time now for HARDtalk.

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To the talk. Yesterday is living his

dream, he is an internationally

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acclaimed concert pianist and

successful recording artist but read

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his account of his life and it

resembles a nightmare, when he is

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away from the piano, James Rhodes is

still haunted by the violent sexual

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abuse he suffered three years on the

age of six. He has written about how

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it drove him to drink, take drugs,

self harm, and spend time in a

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psychiatric hospital. And how he was

saved by music, only rediscovering

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in his 30s that he could really play

the piano. But in this latest book,

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he recounts what his successful life

really feels like, and it is almost

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unbearable and distressing to hear.

How could he lived with the pain of

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the past?

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-- how can he.

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James Rhodes, welcomed the HARDtalk.

It is nice to be here, thank you.

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Quite a dramatic introduction, I

have to say.

Quite a dramatic look.

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Yeah, possibly.

And you intended it

to be.

No, I never intended to be.

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The whole drama thing, I've had

quite enough of. Sometimes it can be

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quite sensational as the talk about

certain topics and to me, what I

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really want to do was just tell the

truth and be transparent. And so, so

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much of our lives today seem to

entail kind of perfectly curated

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Instagram selfie 's and pretending

everything is a certain way and that

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we somehow have all the rules and we

know how to live perfectly well, and

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actually, I think the reality,

certainly for me and I think for a

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lot of us, is very different, that

actually life is quite challenging

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and it can be quite messy, and it is

OK to kind of admit is the wrong

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word, but it is OK to say that, talk

about it, be open about it.

And you

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have been very open about it in your

book but the descriptions seemed

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that almost any time that you are

away from the piano, on your own,

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you almost in a state of constant

torment. Is that unfair?

Do you

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know, it is probably not unfair. I

think when you put it like that,

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God, I feel more depressed now than

when I came in. I... No, actually, I

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think it is unfair, I would not say

almost any time. There are more

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moments that I feel quite

comfortable with my place in the

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world, but there are a surprising

number, large number of moments

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where I do feel very tormented, but

I think the thing is, I don't think

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I am alone in that. I really think

that many of us wake up a lot of

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mornings with that idea of God, I

have had too much to drink last

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night -- think last night and I just

had those voices and all that

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dialogue going on, today going be

awful. You look at yourself in the

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mirror and you just think oh God, I

am a disaster. I feel destroyed, I

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do not think that is on common.

But

it is quite extreme review.

It is

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extreme with me only because of

where it could be potentially, only

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because of...

Because of where you

have been in the past?

Exactly,

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because they have history being in

various locked psychiatric wards and

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suicide attempts, and AM I suppose

understandably nervous about going

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back there, so when I have a bad day

and things seem to be spiralling out

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of control, IDP is that I am not too

long away from ending up back where

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I was a few years ago.

-- is that.

And we can hear from a concert last

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year, when you were playing Chopin,

and I suppose this is the day job.

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Yes.

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It is awful, watching that. It is

like hearing your own voice on an

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answering machine. No one watching

this will know what an answering

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machine is, will have voice mail

now, but do you remember when you

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were a kid annuity your own voice

and you would go a God?

What do you

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think?

Probably the same thing that

you think when you see yourself on

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TV or what journalists think when

they are reading articles they have

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written, it is just slightly

uncomfortable.

When you are actually

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paying its?

That is the best, time

just disappears and that is why I

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think it is important to find

something that you love, something

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that is ideally created. The big

problem that I have fallen for and I

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think we all have it is that we are

not designed to live the way we are

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living in 2018, we are just not

built for it. We looked outside of

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ourselves all the time to try and

fix what is happening on the inside,

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and without sounding too much like

Deepak Chopra, it is not working. I

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do not think it works to get

self-esteem from how many retreats

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we get on Twitter or how many

Facebook friends we like, or if we

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get the shiny new iPhone before

anyone else. That is not the point,

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the point is I to find something,

that awful word mindfulness, but the

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point is we go inside, rather than

outside. That is what music does to

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me, what art does to some people, or

painting. It is always music.

It is

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music that safety but the cause, the

reason you need savings because what

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happened to you when you were six?

Yes and no, personally yes, look

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around you, I think the kind of all

need saving, we have all experienced

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former, I think there is no question

about that. Whether it is parents

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divorced, disease, people dying, you

cannot quantify trauma, that is the

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point, it is part of the human

condition.

Year, it was extreme. It

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was the age of six when you are very

violently raped.

Yes, for a long

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time, for many years, to the point

where it ended up with spinal

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surgery is to try and repair all the

damage, physically, the emotional

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stuff is still there. Obviously does

not take a rocket scientist to

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figure out if you take a

six-year-old and you do that that to

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him for four or five years, it is

going to result in some pretty city

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issues.

And it was a teacher who did

it to you?

Yeah, gym teacher at

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school and it was the 80s, which is

not an excuse, but nothing happened.

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Do you want to know something about

this country, England, the UK, where

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we are shooting this, even though it

is what all around the world? People

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in other countries hearing this will

not quite believe this but I promise

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you it is true. Still in 2018, in

any clerical setting such as a

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school, a teacher could walk into a

classroom and see another teacher

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raping a six-year-old girl or boy

and they could shut the door and

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walk away, and they don't need to

say anything, and they won't have

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broken any laws. That is the point,

we do not have mandatory reporting.

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For the UK, they do have a duty to

report.

No, they do not will stop

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that is the point. We are one of the

only countries in the world that

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does not have mandatory reporting

and if they do report to the School

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or the police, they have no

protection like whistleblower status

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or anything like that.

You bring

that up because comedy teaches at

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that school no?

That is a hard

question to answer, yes is the short

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answer to that. I was found by

teacher with light on my face in

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coming down my legs and hysterical,

and... I mean, as you would be. And

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I changed overnight and that was

witnessed also by teachers and one

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of the teachers in her police

evidence statement, she said there

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is no issue, I have permission to

talk about that because she told me

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I can, but she went to the head

teacher and said something is

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happening here and it is not right,

and the head teacher said, as they

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did in the 80s, he needs to toughen

up and nothing was done, nothing was

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done.

And we should explain that she

only came forward after you have

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done an interview about it.

Exactly.

You have done your research. I

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didn't interview where I mentioned

it, it was a big interview in the

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Sunday Times, it was a couple of

sentences were I said this happened

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to me when I was at school, and she

got in touch with me and said I read

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this interview, I know who it was

and I have Misys -ish and. I was

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quite naive, I was quite innocent,

did not realise was in nature but I

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realise something was happening and

I thought it was physical, not

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sexual. Of course, it was both. She

went to the police, she gave a

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statement, they track the guy down.

He is the thing, sometimes, there is

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a lot of very angry people, I think,

in the world, sometimes that comes

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out on social media, it comes out

below the articles when people are

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writing comments. Very occasionally

people will say you only talk about

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this because you want to sell a few

albums, and I always tell them this

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story, I talked about this for the

first time in 2000, in this

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interview, and as a direct result of

that, the police found this guy and

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you know what he was doing at the

time that he was arrested? He was an

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old man, he was a part-time boxing

coach for boys under ten. When

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people accuse me about this to get

sympathy or sell albums, if I had

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not spoken, this guy would still be

doing it. It could be teaching your

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son, your grandson, God forbid, your

nephew. Would you rather that were

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happening?

He actually, there was a

police investigation.

Yes, he was

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charged, the CPF board charges.

There was a trial date set and he

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died before it got the trial,

Justice turn slowly.

Had he feel

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about the fact, though, that he knew

eventually what he done to you, the

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damage?

Nothing, is nothing.

No

feeling?

No, God sound so

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melodramatic, but that part is dead.

I mean there is no feeling now.

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We're talking about your teachers

and things but what about your

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family because you say you changed

overnight?

Again, I can only really

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talk about myself. It is like in the

book, in MMI wrote, instrumental,

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where I talk about it, talk about me

because it is my story, not my

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family's story. All I will say is

again, it was the 80s, it was a

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different time, people were very

naive then. I think now of any of

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those signs going on in a kid, we

would be all over it. It does not

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mean that it has stopped, as we

know, it is still an epidemic all

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around the world, but people are

aware of it more now. We need to

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talk more about it.

There was

something else, you mentioned it

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took quite a few years to come out.

This was almost worse than what

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happened when I was a kid, if you

can believe that the yeah, you are

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right. I had to get the Supreme

Court to give me permission to

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publish it. It took me legal fees

because they tried to ban the book,

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not only banned the book that they

were at the gagging order that would

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stop me from speaking or writing in

any medium anywhere in the world

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about any aspect of my past.

And we

should explain it was then ex-wife

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was concerned about your son...

Well, ostensibly yes. Her belief was

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that I was doing this intentionally

to inflict psychological harm on my

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own child by talking about my own

past, which defies belief, but...

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Well, eventually, the Supreme Court

ruled...

They intervened and they

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change the law to stop this

happening again because the

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President was so terrifying.

But he

talked when they book came out about

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how people are in denial, whether it

is your family, the teachers...

I

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think two people in my family have

read the book, one of them has

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barely mentioned it and the other

one has kind of mentioned it is my

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mum. It is like it does not exist,

the culture of silence, which is

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what allows abuse of any kind to

thrive, it is like we do not talk

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about this stuff, how could you

write a book? And the shame, the

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secrecy, sexual abuse is predicated

on shame, it is predicated on the

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fact that shame will stop you from

talking. And that is why I promised

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myself that if I ever had a mark of

one, even a small one, I would talk

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about. It is not the only thing I

talk about, I will talk until I'm

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blue in the face about Bach,

Showtime and really lovely things.

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It is a love letter to my son.

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-- Chopin.

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But they also about this terrible

thing, that is really one of the

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scourges of our society.

But there

were, of course, many years when you

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did not talk because he moved on

from the abuse... Tried to. And then

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it was in your late teens that you

start a drink, everything.

And self

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harming and everything else. And the

truth is, it can't outrun, sadly you

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can't outrun these things. It is

another reason I talk is because my

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own experience and that of thousands

of people who have got in touch with

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me since the book came out, is that

it is talk or die, I mean I know

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that sounds very melodramatic but

you have to talk, not necessarily to

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your family, not necessarily to your

friends, maybe to a good therapist

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or doctor or the Samaritans, who are

amazing, or their organisations you

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can call, but you have to talk about

this stuff. Otherwise, it is like a

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cancer inside you.

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You said your mother had spoken to

you, what did she say? She is very

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supportive and loving and kind.

She

is a wonderful woman. The thing is,

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when you have a child, all

paedophiles say the same thing. They

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say, you cannot talk about this. If

you cannot talk about this, you

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cannot imagine the horror of things

that will rain down on you. You will

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go to prison I will go to prison,

you will be killed, your family.

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Whatever it is used. And when you're

five or six or seven, your brain is

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not fully wired, it is still

plastic. It changes the way you

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think and act. Every time you around

that person, you have to act

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normally, you say yes, server or hi,

dad and shake their hands. You

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become complicit in the crime they

have carried out. It's like you have

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robbed the bank together and you are

protecting him and every time it

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happens, that bond, it sounds crazy

but that bond gets stronger so it's

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no wonder that we have people

speaking out now 20 years, 30 years,

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40 years later which is why things

like the statute of limitations on

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sexual abuse crimes are so

ridiculous. It can take 30 years

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before you have the courage and

strength to speak out.

There are

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many remarkable things about your

life... We all have stories. But in

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your particular life, you got your

life back on track effectively. You

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had a successful job at a financial

publication.

I worked in the city,

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the only thing I am embarrassed

about, Finance.

You got married and

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had a son.

You stopped the piano. I

didn't play from 18 until 28. And

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only started properly at 14. I did

everything in reverse. It was like

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Amy Whitehouse in reverse. I did all

the drugs and stopped and when I hit

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28, I thought life is too short, I

quit my job, said I'm going to be a

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concert pianist. Everyone looked at

me like I was crazy. And they are

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not laughing now because I did it.

To me, that's a wonderful thing. I

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have lost count of the number of

people who said to me, I know I

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could write a book or I will always

wanted to be an actor. We get

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trapped in these jobs that we don't

like, marriage is that kind of

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convenient but a little bit shabby

because we have a mortgage together

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or we have to pay the Bills and I

think, you know what? You get one

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shot. I walked away from all of that

and I'm doing whatever since I was a

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little kid I wanted to do which was

planned concert halls around the

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world.

You talk about what it means

to you, music safety. Around that

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same time, you were having a son

growing up who then hit the same

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age.

They don't tell you this. I

wish they had. I'm not sure how I

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would have prepared for it but I

realise afterwards that it is very

0:17:420:17:47

common if you were raped or abused

as a child and you also have a

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child, when that child turns the age

you were when the abuse started,

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it's very likely that your entire

world will implode. That's what

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happened to me. On a biological

level, I could not do the maths. I

0:18:000:18:07

couldn't see this perfect miracle

child who was four, five years old,

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this absolute God-given miracle, and

see that I was that size when this

0:18:130:18:20

was done to me and not only that,

the terror of what have I done? I

0:18:200:18:24

bought this kid into a world where

these awful things happen. What was

0:18:240:18:29

the effect on you? Everything fell

apart. Everything fell apart. I was

0:18:290:18:36

aggressively self harming, I was

suicidal, I ended up spending nine

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months in various secure wards. I

hasten to add, not because of him.

0:18:400:18:47

He is still perfect and the greatest

thing in my life and as any father

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would attest, it is the most

overwhelming feeling of love and it

0:18:510:18:57

only ever gets bigger. They don't

tell you. Just when you think it

0:18:570:19:01

can't get any bigger, it does, it's

amazing the capacity to love your

0:19:010:19:06

child. It's everything. But at that

time, it bought up a lot of

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unresolved things. I tried to run

away from it because I hadn't dealt

0:19:120:19:15

with it. I don't know how I could

have dealt with it. It's like when a

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train stops but the carriages behind

it haven't stopped and they crash

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into the back of it, that's what

happened with me and it took a long

0:19:240:19:28

time to deal with that.

It took a

lot to recover from it but in a way,

0:19:280:19:33

that is one of the messages in your

book, it is that you don't ever

0:19:330:19:37

really recover.

It is what it is.

It's a daily reprieve. That's why I

0:19:370:19:44

am so deeply suspicious of self-help

books, the idea you can find

0:19:440:19:48

happiness in six weeks if you do

these simple things or find peace of

0:19:480:19:52

mind in one year if you follow these

little guides. The pursuit of

0:19:520:19:58

happiness, it's in the Constitution

in America. We shouldn't be pursuing

0:19:580:20:02

happiness, I don't think. I think

happiness is fleeting. It's lovely

0:20:020:20:07

when it comes but we are not

designed to be happy. Even most of

0:20:070:20:11

the time, I would say. Just because

we are not happy does not mean we

0:20:110:20:16

are unhappy. There is a giant scale

in between. It can go further down

0:20:160:20:22

into depression and anxiety but the

message in the book, if there is

0:20:220:20:27

one, it is that life is kind of

messy and imperfect and all the

0:20:270:20:31

steel a loan in a crowd sometimes.

All of us feel slightly like we

0:20:310:20:37

don't belong. Sometimes, just

getting out of bed, getting the kids

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ready for school, getting on the

subway to go to work, getting home,

0:20:410:20:45

putting the kids did bed, eating

something and going to sleep is an

0:20:450:20:50

heroic act. No one says well done,

you made it through the day like an

0:20:500:20:55

adult! A lot of us, it's an

extraordinary thing to achieve when

0:20:550:21:00

your head is saying, throw yourself

under the tube, life is meaningless,

0:21:000:21:05

no one will care, life is too much.

Just to survive and Intuit is

0:21:050:21:10

heroic.

For you, we come back to the

music. Yes, please. You had come out

0:21:100:21:17

of hospital and you are putting your

life back together again. It is this

0:21:170:21:21

combination of writing, talking and

playing that saw your career saw.

0:21:210:21:29

Yeah, I had no career before. I got

out of hospital and that my manager

0:21:290:21:33

purely by chance at a coffeeshop and

in 2009, I released my first album

0:21:330:21:38

which is crazy because concert

pianists, you start at two or three

0:21:380:21:42

years old, six hours of practice a

day and I was in my mid- 30s, I'm

0:21:420:21:47

not that old, and I did it all the

wrong way around. But music, is the

0:21:470:21:54

one consistent thing. I'd been on 35

different medication, I'd seen the

0:21:540:22:01

same number of psychiatrists and

psychologists, I tried so many

0:22:010:22:04

different things. The only different

thing -- the only consistent thing

0:22:040:22:09

that has worked his music.

Do you

know how it works?

That is the magic

0:22:090:22:15

thing. What I do know is that when I

was seven and the world was like a

0:22:150:22:19

warzone, I found an old cassette

tape with a piece of music by Bach

0:22:190:22:26

and in that moment, everything

changed. Thank goodness it was in

0:22:260:22:30

the Bible. Everything would be

different but to me, it was Bach in

0:22:300:22:34

a bidding was changed.

You are

sitting here with Bach emblazoned on

0:22:340:22:38

your T-shirt.

Let's see you playing.

Sure, why not.

Is there an answer to

0:22:380:23:16

the question why Bach? It's like why

oxygen, why water? Everyone wanted

0:23:160:23:21

to see that piece. Everyone watching

this programme, everyone watching,

0:23:210:23:26

if you have to hands, you would be

able to play that piece by Bach in

0:23:260:23:31

six weeks. You are looking at me

like that.

In a stroke of marketing

0:23:310:23:36

genius, recalled the book How to

Play the Piano. It shows you how to

0:23:360:23:44

do it. You don't need a proper

piano. That can cost £150,000. You

0:23:440:23:49

get a £30 keyboard. You spent 40

minutes a day, Sundays off, six

0:23:490:23:54

weeks later, you are playing Bach.

Imagine in an age where everything

0:23:540:24:00

has an app if we can't do it within

three minutes, to find 40 minutes a

0:24:000:24:04

day, it is amazing.

James Rhodes, on

that note, thank you very much for

0:24:040:24:09

coming on HARDtalk Thank you.

0:24:090:24:33

Sarah Montague speaks to James Rhodes, internationally-acclaimed concert pianist and successful recording artist. But read his account of his life and it resembles a nightmare. James Rhodes is still haunted by the violent sexual abuse he suffered for years from the age of six. He has written about how it drove him to drink, take drugs, self-harm and spend time in a psychiatric hospital. And how he was 'saved by music', only rediscovering in his thirties that he could really play the piano. How does he deal with the pain of the past?