Victoria Holdsworth caught up with The Yards' Chris Helme and his guitarist Chris Farrell for a chat to find out if they’d be playing in our yards any time soon.
Chris Helme is probably known as being one of the greatest rags to riches stories in recent music history, when he was plucked from obscurity by John Squire to join The Seahorses. However! Now he has gone on to bigger and greater things with the launch of his own band and his own styles, The Yards.
I caught up with Chris and his guitarist Chris Farrell for a chat to find out if they'd be playing in our yards any time soon.
You played with the recently departed Arthur Lee from Love a few years ago and he asked how much he was paying for you, was it too much and then said you had better be good - do you think he was suitably impressed?
CH: We did that gig with The Yards, and I did it on my own as well, and I probably got to know him a bit better when I was working with him on my own. He never really used to say much, he just used to smoke so much weed and just sit and talk to us really, and tell us not to trust anybody. He'd had quite a rough deal from all accounts, but he was a really nice bloke, and I think we were worth it, and he didn't pay us enough anyway [laughs].
CF: I think he still owes me some money from that last gig.
CH: I don't think you're gonna see that mate, but yeah it was good fun playing with him, it was an experience.
Are you sick of trying to live up to the ex-seahorses moniker?
CH: Yeah, I am sick of the whole Seahorses thing, it's just a pain in the arse.
Don't worry, there's only one question about John Squire - after a much publicised rift with John Squire, and his reported dismissal of your own ability to write great tunes, what are your song writing methods these days?
CH: Oooh did he say that? When did he say that? [I point out the article to Mr Helme]
So what are your song writing methods these days?
CH: Well they haven't changed! And why would they? He was just one style of song writing, and mine was completely different, and that's it!
CF: His dad's bigger than your dad though [laughs]
CH: Yes, his dad is definitely bigger and harder than mine.
You said it's very unlikely that you would ever work with Squire again, but would you consider or want to work with any of the other baggies?
CF: Tom Hingley [who just happens to be playing this weekend by the way]
CH: I have done some stuff actually with Tom Hingley, a few years ago, but I was never really into that scene anyway, it was kind of like... I was into other stuff, and I was asked to join a band with someone who used to be in The Stone Roses, and I'd have been an idiot to say "no, actually I'm not going to do it", otherwise I'd have been busking forever, so it was a great opportunity, and I took the bull by the horns so to speak, but at the end of the day if you're not getting on with someone, it doesn't matter how much money they chuck at you, you can't do it, it's just a fucking nightmare. I think now I've got older, I can kind of understand why John was like he was, and I think if I probably spoke to him now, after not speaking to him for years, I'd probably get on a lot better with him. But I don't know. Whatever!
In past interviews you have always said that you didn't really want to or know you could have made a career out of music, but have never revealed what it was you did actually want to do - so what did you want to be when you grew up?
CH: I didn't know to be honest, I was a bit clueless, I didn't really have any idea. I think I wanted to be an artist, but I didn't really know what that meant, so I ended up becoming a graphic designer for a bit, but I'm colour blind, so I was crap at that! I don't know really, I used to really like doing art and stuff. I could lose myself in it, but it was always a little bit weird because I could never really lose myself in it totally, where as with music I can. That sounds really gay doesn't it?
No, not at all!
[CF just sniggers and pulls his hat down over his eyes]
As a musician and a person in general, you always seem to have a load to get off your chest. Do you have any gripes at the moment you'd like to vent your spleen about?
CH: No I don't! I know what you mean though. I've listened back to some of the old stuff I've written, and I tend to be a bit too literal with my angst and problems. I don't think I've got any of that any more. You just get on with things don't you. I'm a lot happier now I think.
So for those who don't know, you're from York. I've seen you play in The White Swan. What's your favourite venue to play in York and what's your favourite pub to have a pint in?
CF: You have to be careful here don't you [laughs].
CH: Favourite venue... hmmm [ponders].
CH: No! I like playing theatres, they're good fun. We're trying to organise more gigs in strange places, I suppose York Minster was the favourite venue to play. That was pretty special! A scary place as well, but they charge you £400 to hire it out. I just prefer strange places. My favourite pub would be...depends whether I want to get completely wankered or not. My mrs is the assistant manager of a place in York, but the drinks are too expensive, so I don't go in there [laughs] I'm getting a bit old for that now do you not think?
I'd have to say the Tap & Spile on Monkgate or The Lendal Cellars.
CH: Yeah good pubs. I haven't been in there for years!
You have admitted in the past to your sister having good musical taste and you used to play her records - what were your favourites?
CH: It would have been Quadrophenia I think. She got me into Prince as well, I was really into him at that age for a bit, so I was kinda like this mod who also liked Prince, so it was really quite strange.
What? A mod that wore a beret?
CH: Yeah, a raspberry one! [ba boom!] She got me into all sorts of stuff, like The Kinks and all that kind of thing. My dad was a big Beatles fan and my mum was a big Tom Jones fan, so it was all very complicated [laughs]. Jimmy in Quadrophenia was my hero though, and when I was 22 I watched it again and just thought he was the biggest tosser ever.
Do you prefer playing solo? And how does it differ musically on the creative side for you to do so?
CH: Not really, I like playing with a band as well, I like them both equally. When you're playing solo there's a lot more freedom and you can just do what you want. It's as far as your imagination stretches really, but when you're with a band you all have to know when someone else is going to do something. But for more freedom it's definitely easier playing on your own, and you can get a bit more wankered. [laughs]
Unlike a lot of other artists, you seem to have your feet firmly on the ground and have almost an air of self doubt about everything you do. Do you struggle with self confidence in the work you produce?
CH: Is that really apparent? I don't know really. I appreciate stuff that I've done years after I've done it. If I've recorded something, I'll rip it to pieces until I think it's ok, and then I can think that it's brilliant, but then sometimes you have to get so battered and take a look at it from ten steps back, and you can listen to it as if I've had no involvement what so ever in it, then listen to it and see if I think it's alright. When you're so close to something, it really is difficult to see what you're doing. I'd say there's probably about a year gap that I have to leave it before I can listen to it. Sometimes it really does take me that long!
Describe The Yards music in one sentence.
CF: [long silence before laughter] What??
CH: Deli Counter! [smiles from ear to ear]
CF: But that's just a word really [laughs]
CH: Yeah but you can put it in a sentence it just wasn't structured. I like deli counters, and that's what our music is like. There's just loads of different stuff, and it's all very nice!
Finally - If you could go out in a blaze of glory - what would it be?
CH: I don't know, I've got loads of different ones, but I'd probably get arrested for them under the terrorism act or something. It would probably be... no! I can't say because I'd get myself into trouble [laughs]
CF: Just do it Jon Bon Jovi style! Standing on a mountain side, with your hair blowing in the wind, and then get electrocuted by the guitar, there you go.
CH: Yeah ok, that would be fun [?].
The Yards' eponymously titled album is out now.