song : Tom Helsen
Produced : Tom Helsen
Year : 2000
Record co. : B-track
Tom Helsen was discovered in 1996, when he had been practising
on his first guitar for only about a year or two, during the Humo's Rock Rally
of that year. Through a number of self-written songs and an impressive cover-versionof
the song Hotellounge of dEUS, Tom Helsen landed a terrific
second place, behind Novastar (but in front of An
Pierlé and Arid). The jury concluded that "Tom
Helsen is a solo-man who brings songs that touch you, and who knows that a good
song does not need to filled with layer upon layer of superfluous guitar-picking"
Later, he told this episode to Knack as: "When I entered
the Rock Rally, I even hardly knew what that was. I thought it was a presentation
of big bands that already have at least one cd. I had little material then, a
few hoempapa-tunes, but my brother said : "you've got at least one song that
kicks ass, take that". I then recorded a tape and sent it in, without expectations.
And then I ended up becoming second in the final, I went crazy. But well, since
then I've been doing my homework and I realised what has happened to all the bands
that have come second in the history of the rock rally: none of them has any stature
now. So it doesn't hurt to put things into perspective."
As a promotion of his one-man band, he recorded a first single
in the fall of 1996 (Like her vacation), and did a number of performances,
alone in clubs and on a small tour with the The Sands
& Sheffield Wednesday. Somewhere in the middle of all that, he grew tired
of the idea of being looked upon as a rocking troubadour (the belgian Billy Bragg,
was the most often heard comparison) and realized the solo-formula had some serious
limitations. "It was never my intention of remaining a solo-artist forever.
I only wanted to try out the songs on my own. I was finding myself, and I know
that it was not a bad idea to continue on my own in the slipstream of the rock-rally
publicity. Until I grew tired of the limitations. Unless you have a very well-known
repertoire, it obviously is almost impossible to keep the audience interesed for
more than 10 minutes."
In March of 1997, he found in Desmond van Weddingen on
drums and in Wim Janssens on the bass two "compagnons de route",
and together they started working on a first CD: Tom Helsen had become a band.
The attention to the song-material had remained, but with the trio-formula the
sound had of course changed completely, and almost all of the songs from the solo-period
had been swept overboard. As it was said in in the bio in 1998: "Gone
is the Billy Bragg of the Low Countries, instead here's a band that brings you
crystal clear guitarpopsongs in the rich tradition of for example Buffalo Tom".
Another commenter said "nice melodic songs with a tasteful accompaniment
of guitar, bass and rums. If you want to stick a label onto it, Tom Helsen is
the perfect crossbreed of The Counting Crows and Buffalo Tom". Or as
gvn said in Humo : "The debut of Tom Helsen is not the world-class
album that will put your senses into "astonishing"-mode, but it just
contains 11 fragile songs (of which at least 7 will not lose their appeal by next
month), which are played with an enthusiasm that makes you suspect they will be
even better live. And then you hear Tom Helsen live - that voice! - and you are
certain. It's that kind of an album. At least that's something". The
songs "All you broken homers" & "Great American Sex Scandal"
also were released a single, but didn't cause much upheaval.
Very calmly, the band (nowa quartet with Geert Peeters
on bass) continued working on a second CD, that was released with much delays
in the fall of 2000. In the meantime, the only sign of life had been the beautiful
single "Tom is doing Great", and that also became the title of
the full-CD. The reason for the delay was that a number of the songs had been
totally re-arranged with the aid and cooperation of Joost Zweegers of Novastar.
The single "When Marvin Calls" had all the quality that cooperation
promised, and became the breaktrough for the band. Tom about this in Humo : "Joost
has taught me that I was focusing on the wrong thing in songwriting: I was writing
stories with a beginning and an end, but I neglected the struchtur of the songs
... I've been making music in a very naieve way from the start : I just did it,
without thinking. The best is to combine these two ways as Joost does: to make
music that is very sensitive and has the goal to touch people, but also: knowing
how to do that and how to bring about those effects". The result was
an album with 10 storng songs with a rather melancholic undertone, and with more
evidence of a unique voice than on the first cd.
The ambition : "When the first album came out, I really
had the urge to score, to have success and sell a lot of records so I would be
able to live off my music and do 100% what I wanted to. Now I have a part-time
job so I can make music in a much more relaxed manner. If I gain something from
a gig or so, it's a nice extra. ... I only would really like to have a really
huge budget for my next album, to make everything sound exactly as I want it to
... I've been on a melancholic trip for the past two years, but these last times
I've really felt like starting to rock again".
Band members :
- Tom Helsen (vocals, guitar, piano)
- Wim Janssens (vocals, guitar, keyboard)
- Geert Peeters (bass)
- Desmond van Weddingen (drums)
Buy CD's of this band at
- Like her vacation (CDS, 1996)
- Tom Helsen (CD, Universal/B-track, 1998)
- Great American Sex Scandal (CDS, 1998)
- Tom is doing great (CDS, 2000)
- Tom is doing great (CD, BTrack, 2000)
- When Marvin Calls (CDS, 2000)
- Slowly (CDS, 2001)
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