Featured Artist – Helicon


Somewhere back in July, Purple Heart Parade connected me with Helicon and I was immediately smitten with these self-proclaimed, “Doom-mongering behemoths of Psychedelic Rock formed in East Kilbride / Glasgow”.

These particular behemoths must have come from the cheerier side of the doom-mongering clan, because when I listen to the euphonious sounds they shape, I feel revitalised and up for anything.

Helicon are also one of those bands for me, that when you delved into their back catalogue – the only surprise there was, was just how consistently fucking good it all was. Here was a band who had found their niche and who were methodically teasing every ounce of gold dust from it, not spilling or squandering one single speck of it.

On top of their ethereal, epic sprawling, reverb soaked sound, Helicon are a band imbued with those endearing celtic traits of the self-deprecating wit, and a prodigious work ethic. Latest EP ‘Gehenna’ is their eighth Bandcamp EP release since 2011 along with Album ‘Suburban Decay’ in 2013. It bears  testament to the band’s meticulous musicianship that they have also shared a stage with the likes of Wooden Shjips and Dead Skeletons, not to mention two appearances at Liverpool Psych Fest.

Gehenna is the name given to an accursed valley south of Jerusalem synonymous with pain, suffering and condemned souls. The escapist dichotomy of Helicon, is perfectly summed up in their naming their latest EP ‘Gehenna’ and including a track called ‘We’re Gaun Tae The Moon’.

EP opener ‘In A Sad Red Dusk’ may well refer to the blood soaked sands of the so-called “Holy Land”, but the drifting opening sitar chords, courtesy of Graham Gordon, transport me to an altogether more trippy, peaceful and tranquil idyll – floating on those fluffy Magellanic clouds, on one of the suggested EP covers.

Nine and a half minute epic, ‘We’re Gaun Tae The Moon’ kicks in with a darker, and to these ears, almost Sabbath-like ‘NIB’ vibe, before dissolving in a particulate, frenzied cosmic jam ritual.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyJVxITJE34&w=560&h=315]

I asked guitar-slinger, JP what Helicon had been up to;

Chr – Is there anything you want to say about what’s going on in the world of Helicon?
Hel – Right now in the world of Helicon I’m answering your interview questions and trying not to rant too much about the music industry and cunts like Twin Atlantic. Martin is trying to achieve Nirvana by finding a way to combine sleeping and eating. Gary Hughes is drinking Buckfast whilst grinning maniacally at his new custom tremolo pedal from our mate Frankie at Noise Militia. Gary Sharp is trying to remember what one the ‘D’ chord is and Mark is sitting in the corner, rocking back and forth worrying himself to death about absolutely fuck all.
In truth it feels like the calm before the storm. We’ve taken a break over the holidays as we recorded our new EP just before Christmas so now we’re talking to people about artwork, release dates and getting out on the road for a bit to promote it. We’ve already agreed to a few dates across the UK for which we’re hoping to have details confirmed and should be able to announce soon. We’re looking forward to 2015 as we’ve some pretty cool stuff lined up and plan to be a bit more productive in terms of writing, recording and releasing new material this year.
Chr – The new EP is class, did i see that’s coming out on vinyl?
Hel – Thanks. It was a little strange as it’s our first time recording outside The Old Mill in Strathaven with our old mate Marshall Craigmyle (who moved to the US) and it’s our first record since Laura left the band but we’re really pleased with it. Bringing in Graham Gordon on sitar for these recordings brought a new dimension to the music. We recorded in The Green Door Studio, Glasgow, and felt at home as soon as we arrived so we may have found a new home there. We like to record live with as few (if any) overdubs as possible and that’s exactly how we made this record. Just set up in the room and fuckin play it. It’s an analogue recording and Stuart at The Green Door really understood us so it was cool.
We’re speaking to a few people about a vinyl release in late Feb/ early March 2015 so again, we should be able to confirm that very soon.
Chr – The Hope and Anchor gig looked pretty special, was it or any other particular gigs this year highlights – like Glasgow Psych Fest?
Hel – The Hope N Anchor was brilliant and the folks from Goodsoul Promotions hold a special place in our hearts for their kindness and generosity.
Glasgow Psych Fest was cool and it’s still early days for them so we’re happy to continue to give our support to the guys in any and every way we can.
We played some great gigs with brilliant bands and cool promoters across the UK last year and would like to thank every single one of them but for purely selfish reasons my highlight was playing with The Warlocks in Glasgow back in March. We’ve adored them for many years and both bands played fuckin blistering sets. We got them ‘Helicon drunk’ afterwards and the poor bastards were playing Liverpool the next day. We heard via social media their Liverpool gig was a bit of a car crash and we got the blame for fucking them up so badly the night before. At least they’ll know next time they play with us to take the following day off.
Chr – Looking forward to making it across for your gig with The Black Ryder. How did that come about?
Hel – Yeah we’re looking forward to that too. We were asked by the promoter Interstellar Overdrive from Manchester. We played for them earlier this year in Manchester with Cult Of Dom Keller so we’re pleased and grateful they asked us to be part of The Black Ryder’s first UK tour.
Chr – Does ‘Helicon’ come from the Asimov Foundation books?
Hel – It doesn’t. As so many psychedelic bands have long, extravagant names it was a conscious decision to have something short and simple.
It was chosen for a few reasons… It’s a lunar crater, in Greek mythology it’s the mountain sacred to muses of music and poetry and we nicked it from one of our favourite Mogwai tunes.
l also like that we can refer to ourselves collectively as Helicunts 🙂
Chr – How do you make ‘doom-mongering’ sound so bloody appealing?
Hel – Musical Heroin… you know it’s fucking you up but you keep coming back for more.
We play music we want to hear. By that logic if we like it we hope like-minded souls will dig it too.
There’s no bullshit in this band. We’re ordinary working-class men from East Kilbride and the darkness in our music comes from real-life experience. Addiction, death, love, loss, anger, frustration, the ability to laugh at yourself and the fucked up world around us … anything any working class person from the west of Scotland could tell you all about.
When it’s genuine people will believe it and come with you.
‘Psychedelic’ is the latest buzzword for many shit bands that are NOT psychedelic and the latest fad for a shower of wankers to jump on till their next bandwagon trundles past. They just don’t get it and you can hear that in their music. For us, it’s a way of life. We were doing this long before the posers and hipsters arrived on the scene and we’ll be here long after they’re gone.
Chr – What does the family connection bring to the mix?
Hel – Fights!
Seriously, it brings a lot. Gary and I are brothers who learned to play guitar together as teenagers so you develop an understanding and taste for what you want to create over many years that just couldn’t arise in any other circumstances. One look, nod of the head or facial expression and you know what the other is thinking.
It also means you can be honest with each other in a way you probably couldn’t be with a friend or band mate for fear they take the huff. That may lead us to being a bit too fucking honest at times and launching guitars at each others heads but you’d be disappointed if we weren’t living up to the ‘brothers in a band’ cliché.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk1sSwtYUzU?list=PLGaduVAzOXsGwWpx6HNYCVPOhSopkfIAh&w=560&h=315]
In much the same way that Irvine Welsh gave a voice to the post-industrial jilted generations, Helicon are providing the veracious soundtrack.

Helicon are the real deal, they are so painfully authentic and steeped in the timeless mists of integrity, that you just know they are going to be around forever…


4 responses to “Featured Artist – Helicon”

  1. Bob Avatar

    This is a great interview and write up, no question. Thanks again for taking the time out to do this and put it out there for us to devour and enjoy, great work !

  2. chromaticism Avatar

    “Nice review and a little look inside the head of my mental brother” – Gary H Helicon 06/01/15

  3. […] in January as part of a Featured Artist profile on the band Helicon, I reviewed the digital release of their latest EP […]

  4. […] in January as part of a Featured Artist profile on the band Helicon, I reviewed the digital release of their latest EP […]

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