Welsh cult icons Helen Love have been concocting technicolour bubbles of lo-fi bubblegum punk pop for thirty years now, and their forthcoming tenth album This Is My World, out tomorrow on the ever-wonderful Alcopop! Records, showcases a more introsepctive side, as Helen explains:
“Getting older, life changes. Children grow up and leave home, loved ones pass away, friends move on. It’s easier to look back and harder to push forward…it’s not all Bubblegum punk rock DISCO around my house any more, but in truth, of course, it never was…”
Helen Love has never been a band afraid to wear their influences on their sleeve, quite literally in the case of This Is My World, whose cover includes a framed copy of the artwork for Joni Mitchell’s Blue. We caught up with Helen to find out more about the songs that have helped to shape her life in music.
1) What is your earliest music-related memory? What do you remember being played at home when you were a child?
My dad driving me to Nursery School belting out ‘Mrs Robinson’. He would sit me on his lap and let me hold the steering wheel while we drove there. And we never got arrested…I think.
2) What was the first single/album that you ever bought? Where did you get it and do you have any recollection of the experience?
‘Beach Baby’ by First Class, Sullivans record shop, Gorseinon, Swansea. 25p in the bargain bucket. All my friends were buying records so I thought I should too not to get left out. It’s still a fantastic song
3) When did you really start to develop a passion for listening to music? How did that come about and what were you into at the time?
1st year of comprehensive – my friend loved a song called ‘The Drummer Man’ by Tonight. It was a stupid faux punky thing, but I thought it was fucking fantastic. That one record led me to the Ramones and then I was so into music nothing else mattered. I started reading Smash Hits, then the NME, but that just depressed me.
4) What was the first gig that you went to? Where was it and what was it like?
With my mum and dad to see Brotherhood of Man, at the Swansea Grand. It was so exciting – drums, electric guitars, women in glittery dresses…blew my mind, great gig. Still love them.
5) What are your memories of starting out making music? What was the first song that you learned how to play?
‘White Riot’ by the Clash. I bought a chord book of their first album. It was great. 3 chords. Sounded like shit on a Kay acoustic guitar mind.
6) What was your first band/musical project? What music was influencing you at that time? What are your memories of playing your first gig?
Helen Love, that was my only musical project. The first gig was in New York playing a show for Joey Ramone. We played 6 songs, it lasted 12 minutes, and was scary as hell. We were rubbish. Joey said he loved it, he brought his mum too.
7) What are your memories of forming Helen Love the band in 1992? What was your first release and what do you think now when you listen back to it?
We just stumbled across this thing now called Helen Love. We couldn’t play, we used a casiotone keyboard – you only needed 1 finger to generate a backing track. We made a song and Mark Radcliffe started playing it – it was only ever going to be a one single thing. Listening back it’s shit but has a certain charm, I suppose. ‘Tail Lights Fade’ by Buffalo Tom was the song I was listening to the most around that time.
8) Which band/artist do you think has had the biggest influence on your music over the years? What is it about them that inspires you?
The Ramones – their songs are so simple but classic pop tunes. Joey’s voice is fantastic and they looked fucking amazing, they gave all of us losers hope. I will never get tired of listening to them.
9) Who are some of your favourite current artists?
I love The Bug Club, Dream Nails, Cherym, Femmebug – there’s lots of great music out there right now.
10) You have a new album due in January, how has your approach to making music changed since you started out, and how has your sound developed over that time? Is there a particular song on the record that epitomises what you’re aiming to achieve or that is particularly special to you for any reason?
I would choose ‘This Is My World’ as the most special song for me, it’s a kind of ‘My Way’ (it’s been described as that and I like it). We have got a bit better now – can play better, can write better, this is almost a proper album. It’s a departure for sure. It’s an honest record, a record I didn’t expect to make. If no one likes it that’s fucking fine, I’m not stuck in the music industry, I don’t owe any label money, I don’t have to play ‘the game’—I can say what I want, piss off who I want, and do what I want and that’s fucking ACE.
This Is My World is out on 28th January via Alcopop! Records – order now on vinyl or CD
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Interview by Paul Maps