interview took place online - May 8, 2001.
Devil In Sister George Homepage is very proud to present
an EXCLUSIVE online interview with Helen Terry.
Helen Terry is today a producer and she lives in Scotland
dreaming of making the "perfect garden". Helen have,
of course, changed since the Culture Club days and doesn't
think much about those days anymore.
After this interview I can't help feeling a little sad that
Culture Club didn't treat her as she deserved. This interview
is published as a tribute to the fifth member of Culture Club.
We love You Helen!
I can't tell You how thrilled and very honoured I am to
do this little interview with You. I grew up with Culture
Club and You was a very large part of that band. "Do
You Really Want To Hurt Me" would not reach the top without
You! The "Colour By Numbers" album wouldn't be what
it was, and still is, without the soulful voice of Helen Terry.
I'm not alone feeling this way. Does it come as a surprise
for You that You still have fans today?.
It does rather startle me if someone remembers what I used
to do. When I decided to get out of the music business I did
rather deliberately kick over the traces of my old life -
so I look very different - it would be too sad if I still
had the same haircut and wore the same kind of clothes at
my old age. I tend not to hark back endlessly on the 'good
old days'. Life changes, and we have to move onwards and sideways
if not upwards. Having said that I do know that CC played
an important part in the lives of quite a few people, especially
those who might have had problems conforming to the so-called
norm and I'm delighted if I contributed in any way to making
their lives a little less scary.
Please tell me what You do today. You are a producer. Tell
us more about it.
I have two main strings to my bow. My passion is making documentaries
that entertain and enlighten - sounds pretentious I know,
but I am a firm believer that art and culture in all their
forms are vital to our development. Unfortunately (in this
country at least) the TV companies seem to think that the
general public will only watch exposés or the tv equivalent
of junk food. My other field is putting together or producing
music shows and directing the odd promo although I really
only do videos for mates.
A video You produced for" Everything But The Girl"
was nominated for "Billboard Music Video Awards"
in the dance category. So You do music videos as well?
I don't really sell myself as a video director/producer but
the promos I have made tend to use the visual techniques I
use for documentaries. For the "Everything But The Girl"
video we used hours of footage that I shot in the streets
of Soho over a three week period - It was like a zoo - thousands
of pissed up people behaving badly.
Tell us more about Your projects. What are You working
on right now?
At the moment I am producing the Classical Brits which is
the grown up sister to the Brit awards. I was the music producer
for the main Brits show which meant that I chose who got on
the show and what they did - having said that I must now state
that Hear Say were nothing to do with me - ITV made us put
them in the show.....
What would be your dream project? TV, singing, performing,
something completely different from what your fans are familiar
Making the perfect garden - Since I moved to Scotland I have
become horrendously middle aged and my house is littered with
You told me last time we were in contact that You were
best friends with Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders). Do You
work with her as well?
Chrissie and I put together the Linda MacCartney memorial
gig which was one of my most memorable experiences. Thanks
to Chrissie's indomitable spirit, she persuaded an amazingly
diverse array of major pop persons to show up and give it
some welly. The rehearsals were unbelievable - people like
George Michael would stop by even if they had done their thing,
just to hang out - Sinead and Chrissie made Patsy and Edina
from Ab Fab seem unfunny in comparison and it was a generally
warm and fluffy time for all involved. At the gig, a significant
section of the audience left the gig with tears in their eyes.
Aside for that I do the odd bit of filming with Chrissie but
I try to get someone else to do the interview because we do
tend to get side tracked - she is the funniest person I know
and has a heart the size of Alaska
What are Your influences? Have You got any "idol"?
Musically or producer.
Um, Germaine Greer, Djuna Barnes, Massive Attack, Damien Hirst,
Keith Allen, Etta James, Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein (in
small doses), The Rolling Stones circa Let It Bleed and Janis
Joplin. In no particular order
We're aware that you have left your singing career behind,
but would you consider, under the right conditions, recording
again and do you continue to reap the benefits of your singing
days? Royalties, and are you enjoyed being recognized as the
famous diva you are, do people still stop you in the grocery
Ohmy god a multiple answer question...
I spoke to George recently about the singing thing - I am
out of practice and in all probability would have a hard time
hitting the high notes, but I do rather like my low voice
but never had a chance to use it in CC. I do the very occasional
bit of singing but on a mates-only basis. I worked a bit with Leslie Winer on an album called Witch - it's one of my favourite bits of work.
I don't get royalties on CC stuff, never did. I don't really
want to go into that as it's old news. As I told You before
- nobody recognizes me anymore, certainly not where I live
now - If people do they are far too polite or far too busy
worrying about their sheep to mention it - I certainly haven't
mentioned my old job to anyone - come to think of it people
up here don't care what you do for a living or how much cash
you have in the bank which is why I love it so much.
George and I might have a bash at something - it all depends
on when I'm in London really and if I'm brave enough.
George...?! Ahh.. so You are in contact with him again?
Last time we had contact You said that I have made You think
and that You were going to contact George again. Just to clear
the air. You did it?!
I called him up and said that we should meet up -well I actually
said lets go somewhere expensive to eat and YOU'RE paying.
So we did.
I'm very happy to hear that, and many with me! If we
take a large step back to the 80's when You were singing with
Culture Club. Was it George You were closest with?
Yes... I know we had a big fall out but it was because we
were really fond of each other - we are two sides of the same
coin in a very peculiar way - both second generation Irish
who did not fit in - the difference was, and is, that I am
circumspect and fairly quiet whilst he is direct and needs
to be heard - I'm a swot and he's the bad kid who always sits
at the back of the class causing trouble. I am delighted however
that we are now communicating electronically and eating large
meals together whenever we can.
How do You react to the fact that an Helen Terry album
sell for high values in eBay auctions?
I wish I had a copy - I lent my only copy to a friend and
they lost it. I'll have to save up.
(Don't worry, Helen - I'll rip it for Ya! *smile*)
How has the internet changed your life? Many people think
the internet has extended the careers of many artists who
might have retired years ago if not for a global fan community
keeping everyone up-to-date with their favorite artists' whereabouts
and goings-on. Do you agree with this, or do you feel 80's
artists had more longevity than, say 60's or 70's artists?
Someone ( I think it was Annie Lennox) once said that you
are only as good as your last single, I'd probably amend that
to you're only as good as your next single, but the principal
is that good music will always find a home somewhere. It's
a question of letting people know its out there
I don't really think that you can say an artist from a specific
decade has more longevity that one from another because there
are so may mitigating circumstances to consider. 80's artists
were really the first to utilize computer technology in the
writing and recording process and so are more ready to use
the available internet technology to their advantage - simply
because they are familiar with the way these boxes work.
Artists from the 60's were, by and large tied to draconian
contracts which gave them little money and worked them like
dogs, so they probably would use the live circuit to promote
their cause as they are familiar with the way it works. Ditto
Personally I use the internet for research - to a point -
you can't always believe what you read - I always call people
and chat for hours to make sure the story is straight before
I film them or follow a lead.
What happened to Your second solo album? We remember the
excellent tracks "Lessons In Loneliness" and "Fortunate
Fool". There was never an album! Why?
I had an argument with the A&R man - he wanted me to make
a dance record and I cannot dance. So I walked (which I can
do) . It has taken me 10 years to get out of my publishing
Many of your songs had subtle (and maybe not so subtle)
sexual innuendos. Today's music doesn't hide anything, some
of the lyrics are shockingly offensive. How do you feel about
today's pop music having a much more overt attitude towards
sex, or violence?
Songs only act as mirrors to the writers' life - a song cannot
change the way a generation acts or feels but they sure as
hell can reflect it. I blame it all on bad press and television
myself, and that is entirely the fault of my generation -
after all Eminem grew up surrounded by stuff that people my
age wrote or put onto the box and he simply tells us what
he sees and feels. So the 'horrified' parents really have
to look to their own peer group to apportion blame.
Back to Culture Club, sorry for being a pain ....... Did
You ever feel "left-out" in Culture Club? I have
a feeling not everybody though of You as the "fifth member"
as we - the fans - did.
There were times when my position within the hierarchy was
difficult. Certain members felt that I had more press/publicity
than they did and that I should be 'let go' - which, in a
very subtle way I was - they stopped paying my retainer ...
and then asked me back at George's insistence to help them
out on the 4th album.
The most difficult part was travelling by bus when the others
flew - we almost missed a show because the van driver was
deranged and we had no money to get ourselves to Berlin -
luckily I was a grown up and had a credit card so stumped
up for the other session musicians to get to the gig on time.
To be honest we were treated like shit a lot of the time.
Have You got ANY good memories from that time....?
Oh I'm sure I must have... Umm meting people like Aretha Franklyn
would never have happened to a fat girl from Essex if she
had not been associated with a huge band - as CC were in those
There's a lot of fan discussion about what happened between
you and George after the release of "Take It Like A Man".
Would you care to discuss what happened? All we know is what
George have said in interviews. We haven't heard Your side
of the story. This is Your chance...:)
Oh dear - it was 10 years ago and whatever vitriol I was feeling
at the time has dissipated now. I think that I felt betrayed
- mainly because I had no idea what had been written about
me in the book nor indeed when it was due to be published.
I remember the day the excerpts were published in the UK
press I was in New York making a film. My sister faxed the
copy through to me and I felt that my new life would crumble
around me - not least because the UK serialization was all
about George and I taking an alarming cocktail of narcotics
at my gaff, There was I being taken seriously as a film maker
with all the massive responsibility and integrity the job
requires and the bombshell landed - questions were indeed
asked by the commissioning editor.
I do still wonder how on earth George remembered what went
on - I certainly don't and I have an elephant's memory
When Culture Club did the VH1 concert in 1997, Alison Hay
wrote in the Times that she felt there had been a family reunion
and she hadn't been invited. Were You ever invited to this
"family reunion"? .... were You ever asked?)
No I was not invited - but then why should they invite a middle
aged film maker to a show in New York - I was probably busy
anyway - I certainly had no idea what was going on. As for
Alison what can I say, and why was she writing in the Times
- what an alarming prospect, surely the Times can do better
You choose not to work with the band again. How do you
feel now about not being involved in the reformed Culture
Club? Do you regret missing the opportunity to revisit those
songs you made your own?
Ohh no, not in the least - I'm sure I would sound like a wheezy
old banger anyway - I smoke far too much. The songs are out
there, they don't belong to me, let someone else have a crack
"It's hard to follow a singer as Helen Terry...."
George stated at the VH1 reunion when he introduced Zee and
Zee Asha has commented to a friend of mine about how honoured
she is to be singing classic pop songs, singing your arrangements.
How do you feel about her performance of your arrangements?
I have to say that I have not heard any of the reunion
stuff - I do hear from those who saw the show that Zee was
excellent - I'm sure George would not have chosen a duff singer
as he feeds off the interplay massively on-stage - he'd also
need someone he could hang out with as I believe the 'family
reunion' was, perhaps inevitably, far from happy.
Thank You Helen for letting me spend
Your precious time on this interview. Fans will appreciate
it! Good luck with Your perfect garden, Your present and future
projects. Keep up the good job!