HomeEntertainmentRight Said Fred brothers speak out on battling depression for Mental Health Awareness week
Right Said Fred brothers speak out on battling depression for Mental Health Awareness week
May 17, 2022
Fred Fairbrass, left, used drink and drugs to overcome depression (Image: Getty)
His brother Richard laughs, knowing Fred is only half-joking. The fact is, the Fairbrass brothers – instantly recognisable with their bald heads and burly gym-sculpted bodies as the pop stars Right Said Fred – have both suffered for many years from severe depression. It’s Mental Health Awareness Week when we meet at a riverside restaurant near their homes in Windsor, and they’re keen to share their experiences.
It may come as a surprise to discover that the people behind such upbeat, rib-tickling Number 1 hits as I’m Too Sexy and Deeply Dippy suffer so, but as singer Richard points out: “People are like, how can you be depressed, you’ve got everything? But that has nothing to do with it.”
Fred, the guitar-playing younger brother at 65, was first diagnosed as clinically depressed in the mid-nineties. He now takes a daily dose of Escitalopram, a prescription antidepressant also used for anxiety and panic attacks.
As a result, “It’s a little bit better. But the main thing for me is training. When they locked down gyms, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
Richard, who will be 69 this year but looks at least a decade younger, took Prozac for many years. “The only problem with tablets is they knock the edges off. They used to call me mono man because I had one emotional response to everything.”
As Fred suggests, the lengthy lockdowns of the past two years only made things worse for them. Both contemplated suicide at different points.
Richard says he was driving to Ascot one day when he had an overpowering desire to drive into oncoming traffic.
“I had to pull over to stop myself doing it, to get out the car and walk around. It’s a very common thing, apparently.”
Fred and Richard during the ARD TV-Show (Image: Getty)
Fred was living in Brighton at the time and found himself parked on the edge of a cliff “with my engine revving. You can’t see a way out for you. You think everyone will be better off without you. My wife phoned and that snapped me out of it.”
He adds: “I’m still depressed, but I’m not suicidal. It’s a very strange thing. I put myself to bed and I get this huge wave of colour. It’s like a CGI thing. I can physically see it. Sometimes, I hallucinate people standing over me. I’ve woken up screaming in my sleep.”
But if depression is their nemesis, nothing else seems to phase the Right Said Fred duo at all. Famously fearless when challenging conventions – they are, variously, opposed to lockdowns and masks, yet vehemently anti-vax, both Leave-voting Brexiteers and anti-government – they play no favours.
“Labour Party people can’t even tell you what a woman is,” Richard says dismissively. Keir Starmer is “a joke”, says Fred. “But I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Boris Johnson. Even if he offered a free gram of coke with every vote.”
“I’d still vote leave,” says Richard. “But Ukraine now has replaced the EU obsession, because everything is pro-Ukraine.”
He sneers at the story of U2 singer Bono and guitarist The Edge playing a heavily publicised ‘surprise’ set for Ukrainian president Zelensky, in Kyiv.
“NATO and the West have been poking the Russian bear for so long,” says Richard.
A younger Fred, pictured in 1992 (Image: Getty)
As for Vladimir Putin, “He takes his shirt off more than most gay blokes I know!” he hoots. “There’s definitely something going on there.”
Unsurprisingly, such uncompromising views have attracted a raft of critics. They tick off the list.
“It got pretty gritty last year,” says Fred. “Had lots of hate from the usual suspects, like James Whale and Piers Morgan. James Whale tweeted, ‘You haven’t got the guts to come into my studio’. I replied, ‘I don’t want to be between you and your mute button. Why don’t you drag your ass down to the gym and we’ll do it face to face?’ Silence.”
Then there was Andrew Neil, who suggested they should be punished for their views.
Fred: “I tweeted, ‘I beg you, Andrew, come to my front door and try and punish me’. He blocked me.”
When Piers Morgan took exception to a published photo of Richard attending an anti-lockdown protest in London, and called them ‘cretinous numpties’, they accused him of being a ‘MSM mercenary… profiting from other people’s misfortune.’
“I went out of curiosity, to see what a demo was like,” Richard explains. “I went on my bike and watched from a distance. But I was photographed, and he just threw his toys out of the pram.”
Brothers Fred, left, and Richard, photographed in 1992 (Image: Getty)
It’s clear they enjoy the controversy they stir up. But they accept they have suffered for their beliefs.
Fred: “We had some writers in LA refusing to work with us because of our politics. ‘You’re anti mask’. Not really. I’m asthmatic. One said, ‘You don’t seem to understand. My mom’s ill’. What’s that got to do with anything?”
Richard: “We are an easy target. Either we’re not to be taken seriously or we’re taken too seriously.”
Nevertheless, they were both surprised and bemused when in January this year they won the People’s Choice award for UK’s Most Controversial Band. Fred: “You wouldn’t think just speaking your mind would be controversial.”
“Where are the usual suspects?” asks Richard. “Liam Gallagher’s got an opinion on everything. Lily Allen, Noel Gallagher, Billy Bragg…an opinion on everything. But not now.”
Fred: “Right from the beginning, when Richard came out in ’91, we’ve had death threats. We’ve had crushed glass sent to us in food. We were held at gunpoint in Lithuania, beaten up in Russia.”
The band in 1995 (Image: Getty)
They laughingly recall the death threats they received in 2015 after their hilarious appearance on TV comedian John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show. Oliver revealed that a stolen phone belonging to Syrian president and mass murderer Bashar al-Assad, contained Too Sexy on its most-played list.
Richard and Fred performed a special version of the song, replacing the line, ‘I’m too sexy for my shirt’ with: ‘You’re too awful for this earth’.
Later, chortles Fred, “there were these Syrian rebels pictured in a collapsed building with this huge poster, ‘Thank you, Right Said Fred’.”
Amidst such antics it would be easy to forget that Right Said Fred are still one of the most famous and successful British acts in the world. Taylor Swift took I’m Too Sexy and turned it into her 2017 British Number 1 and multi-million-seller, Look What You Made Me Do.
Last year, Drake took his hipper-than-hop version of I’m Too Sexy back to No.1 all over the world. In the past, Tom Hanks has affectionately lampooned them, Madonna has said she wants to sleep with Richard. They have performed by invitation for both the Queen and Nelson Mandela.
Say the line, ‘I’m too sexy’, in that funny arch way, to almost anyone in the world who speaks English, and they will immediately reply: ‘for my shirt.’
“I’ve never once got sick of performing it ever,” says Fred. “People go absolutely nuts when we play it,” says Richard. “It cheers them up.”
The new Right Said Fred single, Godsend is less cheery. It’s a sombre yet catchy “warning of where the world is heading.” And they are publishing their autobiography in August, Too Sexy: Surviving Right Said Fred.
There is also a film coming out later this year “or next” which they insist they can’t talk about yet, except to explain: “It’s not a biopic. We’re not in it. It’s just a great story.”
Meanwhile, the irrepressible Richard is planning a TV Reality show called Buskers for Britain.
“There’s a whole bunch of really great street performers being ignored by TV. What concerns us about the cashless society that’s coming is that the street performers are going to be killed. We want to hear from them. Everybody’s got a story.”
Right Said Fred never seem to run out of them.
*Right Said Fred’s new single Godsend is released on Tuesday (17th May)