Monday, June 28, 2010
Helicon Review and Interview
I love a lot of bands. There is so much creativity and talent in independent music today, and I feel lucky to be a part of it all, seeking out exciting artists who make music that DOES SOMETHING FOR ME, something TO me, presents to me a different world for a little while, a world only psychedelic music can let you enter. So the love is there, for many of today's artists who are giving this to me; however, once in a while, some very special band finds its way to me. In the past I have profiled some of these bright stars in our psychedelic musical cosmos: Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, Sky Picnic, Lucifer Sun, Pilot Cloud, and of course, the namesake and inspiration for this blog, Black Market Karma, have all graced the columns of DSK as artists who have something special to offer us and who want to say something to us. I love getting into the heads of musicians I admire and respect. It just makes their music mean all that more to me. John-Paul Hughes from Helicon, a band from Scotland, featured on Trip Inside This House's Summer Solstice 2010 psychedelic compilation (out now, go get it if you have not!), is my bright star to present to you today, a true Sirius in sky of our love, psychedelic music!
Helicon make music that will leave you feeling in awe of your experience, and will have you scrambling for the repeat button. Take The Ride EP is drone-heavy and dramatic, a big sound made from layers upon layers of guitar effects, all swirls and conflicts of light and dark, absorbing and deeply engaging, endlessly intriguing. Requiem for a Dreamer EP contains destined-to-be-psychedelic-classics, a mind-blowing cover of Neu!'s Hallogallo, and their contribution to Summer Solstice III, Panic, Everything is OK, and a song that give me the shivers every time, Requiem. Listen to these songs on Helicon's MySpace page.
Here is what John-Paul Hughes, singer and guitarist for Helicon, shared with me about some things that are important to us music fans:
Terri: The first time I heard of Helicon, was as part of Trip Inside This House's BEST OF 2009 feature, and you were rightly chosen for THAT honor! Now, the members listed on MySpace are all the current members? You are a 5 piece?
John-Paul:Yeah we’re a 5 piece and all current members who’ve been here from the start. Gary and I are brothers. Laura is now Gary’s wife so has gone from an O’Brien to a Hughes and Steven and Martin are good friends of ours. Gary Sharp is the old “6th member” and looks after us for promotions, gig bookings etc etc as well as contributing to musical ideas and, being a drummer himself, has chipped in with some little bits of percussion on our EP’s.
You have been active as a band for about 2 years now? You sound as though you've been playing together forever. There is a vibe there, something the initiated person can zone in on immediately and feel. That is incredibly important for a music fan such as myself. I'm sure you understand what I mean, and think that connects you to your songs and their listeners.
Thanks for that. Yeah we’ve only been together 2 years and in all honesty have played what is comparatively, by other bands standards, only a handful of gigs. It genuinely means a lot from a lover of the same type of music as us to hear you say that as I don’t think it’s something that can be faked or played with and used as some sort of fad. We mean what we do. If you really want to make psychedelic music it has to come from a very real source and experience. If you’re jumping on the latest fashionable band wagon then those who understand the music will suss it out in no time at all. What we do is not pop music and should never try to be. It’s for people like you who get it and have already been indoctrinated in the ways of psychedelia and all it stands for so you pick up on the vibe of it straight away. You need to have an unflinching belief and love for it to be able to go out and play and suffer the confused looks and “constructive criticisms” of audiences who think that music begins and ends with X Factor contestants and corporate pop concerts disguising themselves as music festivals.
I'm not very familiar with Scotland & its scene. Can you tell me a little bit about it, what the music scene is like, what the city scene is like, how do you feel about it and how does it affect your music? Do you feel close to anyone else in music there, maybe a close-knit community who all support each other? I'm interested in what it's like where you are based.
On the whole, the music scene in East Kilbride doesn’t exist, which is something we’re hoping to help change. Glasgow is a very frustrating place. Very insular, parochial and predictable in their tastes. The amount of utter shite indie-pop garbage that is spouted is ridiculous. It’s hardly surprising though as high street stores and major record labels have hijacked what was once considered an attempt for Glasgow to subvert normality. When every second person on the street, at gigs or in pubs looks like a Franz Ferdinand reject with straightening irons and an eating disorder who’s been kicked through a Top-Man store, it’s hardly surprising this mass brain-washing has diluted the live music being heard. It appears the current buzz word around the scene these days is “Psychedelic”, which is anything but what most of the bands we come across actually are. I’m not intentionally having a go at any other band in particular, they’re just doing their thing but jumping on the band wagon of whatever seems to be the latest trend is fucking obscene. There are a few bands out there trying to do it the right way and really mean what they do and we’ve been fortunate enough to play with a couple of them but we definitely seem to be understood and appreciated a lot more in places like the US and Australia
I’d say geography has definitely had an effect on our music but The Jesus & Mary Chain, Mogwai and The Twilight Sad are really the only Scottish bands we’d draw influence from. There is definitely something inherently Scottish, especially Glaswegian, about our lyrics in the sense of their sneering sarcasm and cynicism and relation to the darker side of love and life. You cannot fail to be influenced in some way by religion, drink and drugs in this part of the world such is their effect on our society... for good and bad.
You have released 2 EPs, one with 3 songs, one with 4. From what I can see, you've quite a great reception to these. Are you playing a lot of gigs around town?
We’re really happy with them. Our manager Gary Sharp has been working hard on this for us. Our primary focus for these self-releases was to simply get the music heard and gain exposure. So we’ve basically tapped in to individuals, media and communities who, as fans, we were already aware of and whose work and musical appreciations we already respected. We’ve had amazing support from local ‘independent’ media, and it is very inspiring that these guys are working to incredibly high standards, typically for no profit, in their spare time to help promote what they, and we, perceive to be good music. Especially as it would be very easy for them to commercialize their venture’s to raise their own profiles by featuring more popular, but shit, bands… which thankfully they’ve chosen not to do. The nature of our style possibly makes us harder to find than most bands, but we know that the people who do manage to find us are the people we want on board… the type of person who actually takes the time to listen to music, form their own opinions and attend gigs. The internet is a great tool and gives us exposure to great bands, radio stations and magazines all around the World. The people who were playing and reviewing the music we love when we started are now giving us incredible feedback and exposure, which is amazing and gives us more self belief to continue in the way we’ve begun.. To hear our songs on radio shows we love, or to be conversed or written about alongside some of the bands we love is a great buzz, whether that’s featuring in a track listing alongside the Black Ryder, Helicon being praised as a band, being compared to the Warlocks, or having your EP in a list of ‘must listen to’s’ beside the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Smoking Acid EP. It’s all fucking great in our opinion.
We do have digital distribution for our EP, but we opted to knock back the offers of ‘we can get you in every online store in the World’ as it’s pointless to us at this moment in time. We instead decided to go with one independent distributor (although we’re in the process of adding ourselves to an Australian stores roster) and people can be directed to that if they choose to purchase our music. Typically we give our music away for free as we’re happy that people are keen to listen at such an early stage and word of mouth has been incredibly important for us. We have been receiving a lot of interest from independent labels, labels we have massive respect for, and ideally we want someone to help us finance recordings and help us take things to the next level. We are aware that there is a massive uprising going on with regards to what we do and who we like, and we want as many of these people as possible to hear what we have to say musically.
We probably don’t play as many gigs as we should or could but it’s what we really love. On the odd occasion we can get a sound engineer who understands what we’re about, someone who doesn’t think all bands should sound like the fucking Kaiser Chiefs and isn’t afraid to push the boundaries a little, it really can be something worth going out of your way to see. We’re in the process of adding a light show and maybe some visuals to this along the lines of those early freak out 13th Floor Elevators gigs, which should add a new dimension to our shows. We’re still relatively new to the live thing so we’ve never played outside of Scotland but we’d love to. Been a long time since any of us were teenagers so still have to deal with the harsh realities of earning a living so it’s been difficult..... until some bastard decides to start paying us for this that is! Ha ha
You are working on a full length album now, right?
Well, we’re just about to record it with a top bloke called Marshall, at The Old Mill Studios just outside Glasgow. He did our first 2 EPs and understands us perfectly. I also want to see his beard again, it’s incredible (Terri laughs! Excellent!)... We are also contributing towards a couple of psychedelic compilations and vinyl collections. I know you’re aware of our track on Summer Soltice Vol III by Valis from the immense US radio show, ‘Trip Inside This House’ and our psyched–up cover of Neu’s “Hallogallo” is with ‘Fruits de Mer Records’ and might be going out as a double A side. We’re really excited about these. Getting amazing feedback from guys like yourself, Valis, Drone, and some of the stations in Australia and the US, has really put the wind in our sails in terms of our writing, so we’re certain we’ll have lots for you guys to enjoy in the coming months.
John-Paul Hughes, thank you for contributing so much to us here, both your music and your thoughts. It means a lot to us. You are welcome back any time!