Helter Skelter interview

This interview was carried out over the telephone and recorded with my crappy walkman so my full apologies to Bee if any of the following is slightly different. I think that after many hours of playing back the tape I have got most of it right.

Your debut album, Assassins, is about due for release, do you feel that it is a true reflection of what you feel now or is it something you have been planning for some time?
It is a true reflection of the way both of us feel about our personal sort of things. It's been recorded a few months now and looking back on the album there's nothing really that I'd like to change, so I guess it is a true reflection of how we feel at the moment.

Who plays on the album?
Well Barry plays all the music, apart from the pipes which I did. I do the vocals and Rose helps on backing vocals. So basically it's me, Barry and Rose.

What sort of inspiration is behind the songs, a lot of the lyrics sound as though they could have been written as poems.
Yeah, well I find it really difficult describing what the songs are about. They're basically a series of images most of the time, sort of dreamlike imagery and it's very difficult to actually pinpoint what each song's about. Because we don't write sort of political type songs it is very difficult to say exactly, not like the IRA, PLO or Thatcher or whatever. I get inspired by dreams or by people I meet or read about and find interesting. People like Brion Gysin, also by personal experiences as well.

Your songs seem to have got a lot subtler nowadays. Is this to keep your interests and thoughts more personal?
Yes I have noticed that we have got a lot more subtle. The main reason for this is that we think it is far more interesting for people to find out for themselves what we are about. Therefore not making it so obvious you can write about things and get away with a lot more.

Also the music seems to have taken a couple of changes in direction over the last year, why is this?
What happened is that we are now performing live as Into A Circle and sound as we do when there is just me and Barry. What sort of happened over the last two years was that we were using session musicians who were playing the music in a very different way to the way Barry had written it so it wasn't really a true reflection of what we really sounded like or what we wanted to sound like. Everything just seemed to get drowned by guitars. That's why we stopped playing live for a while coz we couldn't handle going through different line–ups and none of them were how we wanted to sound. That's when we started to use drum machines, tapes and things. We are expanding and on the next tour we hope to have a keyboard player. So really the music has changed live but not from when we first wrote it.

Did you get fed up of people who overstressed the Manson connection, people who thought that that was all you were about?
Yes that happened more with Getting The fear than with Into A Circle. Getting The Fear was a very Manson type band, the name was Manson, the T–shirts were Manson so I suppose we were really asking for what we got. I still find Manson very interesting but what people didn't understand was, well, people would come up to me and say, “You must be into Myra Hindley and Ian Brady” or “I've got this great photo of Sharon Tate's corpse”, when no, I'm not into the murder side of him at all. I find that in Manson it is his mind that interests me and the murders were the worst thing that could could have happened coz now he's just got himself locked up forever. So I'm still interested in Manson but I did get fed up with people going on about it all the time.

A lot of the new material seems spiritually uplifting, was this planned?
It's remarkable the amount of people that have been saying that. It's not really planned at all. It's probably because we've been getting very into this Islamic religion. Not practicing it but just reading about it and getting interested in the sort of control, the sort of devotion to it different people have and why they're even prepared to strap bombs to themselves. We both find that very interesting. Barry prefers the earlier culture and I prefer the later and present day. So yeah, there's a big influence as far as that goes. There's a song on the album called ‘Allah Akhbar’ which is an old Islamic saying which basically means God is great. It's like an old Islamic chant. There's stuff like that on the album.

Do you enjoy playing live because apart from the recent tour you seem to do hardly any gigs?
Yeah but we find it very difficult playing live because we always seem to have a lot of trouble with promoters and managers but yeah we do enjoy playing live and we are doing a tour towards the end of May and the beginning of June and we will have the new keyboard player by then.

A lot of people seem to think you've lost the enthusiasm to tour.
No, not at all. I'm starting to really get into playing live and using more imagery.

The slide show that you use on stage, what do they reflect?
They're something that I put together, some to illustrate the songs, some of them are inspired by trying to recreate dreams. Trying to make it seem as though we're not just playing in a discotheque or whatever. We find most venues very boring, all just flashing lights. For the next tour we are trying to get our own lights together. The clubs seem to use so many lights at once that it ends up white anyway. We just want to create a moodier atmosphere.

Is the band the main aspect of your life at the moment?
Yeah, well it always has been really. Most things I do are geared towards the band.

Have you ever played abroad or if not, would you like to?
What as this band or in another band?

As Into A Circle?
No not yet but we'd really like to. It just takes so much preparation.

Where do you see the band heading? What would you like to achieve?
I'd like to get onto a major label again. When we started out we were on a major but now we are on an independent but we've established our own identity and we've learnt how to get across. We'd like to get back with a major that understands us and wouldn't want to change us. We don't want them to say "We like you but we want to change this or you've got to change that." We don't want to compromise. So far we've only met one that really understands this so we may end up with that one. Yeah just basically get bigger and more out of it.

What sort of things do you admire and do they influence your music?
Various people. I go through phases usually. Recently I've been very influenced by Brion Gysin, which is quite odd because I got into him a couple of years ago as well. I got very into his thoughts and wrote a couple of songs about them and I've found that this has been happening again.

While other bands on the so–called “gig–circuit” rise and decline in popularity, you have always seemed to stay about the same size, is this the way you like it?
No, not really. We'd prefer to be going sort of up all the time. I don't want the band to become a sort of cult band, but I'd like to get much bigger.

Do you think you could handle major chart success?
I think we could because we've been going for so long now and also because of our past. I've worked in Japan with quite a successful band, and Barry was in the Southern Death Cult. So yeah, I think we could handle it pretty well. It's difficult to say really.

Have you got any interest in the present music scene or do you have all time favourites?
I do have all time favourites. I like Patti Smith, also things from Prince to Big Black. I also like some house so I'm a sort of dabbler. I don't really like a lot of the independents at the moment. I do like the Sugarcubes but most stuff seems too tame and heavy at the moment.

How would you like to play somewhere like the Reading Festival?
No, I don't think so. I don't see us that sort of a band.

Would you like to do more video work?
Yes, we haven't really done that much yet but we definitely want to do some more. It can get quite boring actually shooting them, standing around for ages but the actual planning is great fun. We like to get involved with the actual production and that's good fun.

Is the present line–up permanent or do you plan to add more?
Well it's me and Barry really who are Into A Circle in that sort of sense. But we are adding a keyboard player. He'll be doing the end of the May/June tour, and hopefully Rose will stay with us. We are looking for a percussionist at the moment. Not just a drummer. So we are planning on expanding again but it's just a matter of finding the right people.

So there you go, don't forget the tour in May/June and watch out for Assassins which promises to be one of the best albums so far this year in my opinion. But why take my word, why not find out for yourself.