This week we are talking with Scott Helland, the Punk in the music duo, Frenchy and the Punk.
Airship Ambassador: Hi Scott, thanks for joining us!
Scott Helland: Thanks, it’s good to be here!
AA: You play multiple roles in the group – guitar, bass, drums, and backing vocals. How did you come to start this adventure?
SH: Samantha and I met in 1998, she was an artist, I was a solo musician. We hit it off right away and started collaborating on various art projects. It worked because we complement each other and respect each other’s craft. She’s such a great creative partner. But, we didn’t actually start playing music together until 7 years later. One night at a solo show in 2005, she jumped onstage, grabbed a tambourine and basically jammed along, she was amazing, stage presence, rhythms etc then I heard her sing and I knew we had to start a musical project together.
AA: It’s great to have a creative partner who fits so well. What led up to that opportunity? Were you in other groups previously?
SH: I’ve been playing music my whole life. I started playing in clubs when I was 14 at punk rock shows in Massachusetts. I was a bass player and along the way learned drums and later switched to guitar. My first band was a hardcore punk group that I formed in the early `80s with high school friends Lou Barlow and J Mascis who later went on to form Dinosaur jr. The band was called Deep Wound and we played for about 2 years and released one record that is still available today. We’re listed in the Encyclopedia of Punk!
Also during that time I formed the punk thrash band Outpatients with my older brother. We played for 13 years and toured on the East Coast and in Argentina. I moved to New York City and was also in the Punk metal band School of Violence for a few years. Members of that band went on to play in Corrosion of Conformity and Warrior Soul.
After the Outpatients split up in 1995 I started my journey as a solo musician and released 7 solo CDs starting with the experimental Hellbox Mood Rings CD in 1996.
AA: Wow. That is quite the journey, and such a rich experience! That’s something all of us can learn from – don’t wait for opportunities, go out there and create them. And then to start playing shows at 14! I doubt many people can say they were out and about doing anything nearly as interesting or exciting at 14. For the aspiring musician, what lessons did you learn along the way, especially about input and feedback from others?
SH: All the cliches you hear, like, be open minded, loosen up, stay positive, don’t sweat the small stuff… they’re all exactly what you need to do, but usually it takes 10 to 20 years to actually know that and feel it in your bones… and then a lifetime to actually make it so!
AA: LOL, like the saying, “Too soon old, too late smart!” Also for the aspiring musician, what would you recommend to them to develop their skills and learn what they might want to pursue as an area or medium of focus?
SH: I think trying many different things is key but I also think you really have to be true to yourself and what you love. Sometimes those two ideas can conflict with each other. Authenticity has to win. You just have to be yourself. No one but you can do that.
AA: That’s so true. Only we live our own lives, and only we are responsible for what we do in it. What are the ways that you expand your techniques today? Formal classes, observation, peer groups?
SH: I check out other music and art all the time. It feeds the spirit and soul and I try to constantly create new works. It’s the only thing I know how to do.
AA: Is there a particular style you like to work with? Any that you’d like more opportunity to develop?
SH: As for my drawing, I’m really into Pen and ink art, it still challenges me and excites me. Lots of other styles influence me but I just put it all into what I do now. Musically I do what comes naturally and that’s not to say that I don’t experiment with other styles, I just follow my intuition as much as possible.
SH: Well Samantha writes all the lyrics and I do most of the music. We do a lot of collaboration on arrangements… We approach each new project very organically and let if flow. I don’t try and think about it too much, that comes later when all the songs are done and the crafting of the record as a whole piece comes together. We haven’t done a storyline or concept album yet.
There is definitely a theme in Samantha’s lyrics, and it runs through everything she does. I love how she writes, she’s one of my favorite lyricists. Most of the songs have so much depth, you don’t even realize at first listen. It’s very subtle. She’s so good at it. I stick with my guitar and banging rocks together! We do have another record though called Elephant Uproar and its mostly pounding drum instrumentals. There is a theme to that CD, and it’s the Elephants are in an uproar and want to get out of the zoos, and circus captivity and run from the ivory poachers.
AA: People I talk with often share how elements of their own lives become part of their work. How did this play into your music.
SH: For the both of us, our very way of life as creative people solely doing music and art for a living permeates everything we do.
Would that everyone could make their living doing what makes them happy and feeds their soul.
We’ll pause here in talking with Scott.
Join us next time when he talks about songs, meanings, and process.
Until then, keep up to date with news on their website.