Vinyl Culture: Nick Helderman
What do you find special about vinyl?
For me personally it’s a good way to engage with music. I put a record on and everything around me just stops for a moment. Vinyl makes me listen to music consciously and I hear the whole story the musician wants to tell.
How did you start collecting vinyl?
I started collecting CD’s when I was young. I always had that collector drift, if I liked a band I needed to have the whole collection. At my local record store, I was allowed to go through the boxes they had in their attic. I discovered bands who nobody thought were cool, but I liked it. When I was 21 I became friends with a photographer from New York and he took me to a record fair with all these indie labels and traders in African music. At that time I didn’t collect vinyl, but I saw what vinyl meant to these people and how vinyl served as a way to connect over music and the culture. That was 13 years ago and now I have a collection of over 1300 records.
How did your record collection develop throughout the years?
Everywhere I go I try to find record stores. My collection is like a souvenir scrapbook of my life. When I started collecting vinyl I really loved alternative indie labels and bought records from Deerhunter, War on Drugs, and Animal Collective. But my knowledge and taste developed throughout the years. Partly because vinyl opened my ears to music that involves some deeper listening, like ambient and free jazz music. It's a great thing that collecting records got me into listening to a lot of African music for instance.
What are your favorite records in your collection?
1. It is an original 7” from Ethiopia (pressed in India) from musicians Teshome Meteku and Mulatu Astatke from 1969. Unfortunately, the cover is missing, otherwise, it would be worth €300. I bought it when I was in Ethiopia with artist Louis Reith. We went to all kinds of cassette stores and were hoping to find vinyl. One day we were walking down the street and someone approached us and took us to a shed where the LPs were stacked high (all without their cover). All holy grails from the 1960s were just laying there. I bought this one to keep as a souvenir from the trip.2.The second album is the Mighty Hot Snakes' Suicide Invoice. Rick Froberg (one ofthe founders) is a great songwriter and illustrator. He designed the first covers of their records and I think his style really compliments the riffs and texture of theirsound. 3.The third LP I immediately thought of was Tauhid from Pharoah Sanders. Until I was25 I thought that Jazz was a bit boring and elitist. Until I started to listen to MilesDavis, John Coltrane, and Pharoah Sanders, and finally I understood that jazz was meant as a mindset and the musicians were visionaries en super fresh. When Pharoah Sanders performed at the Le Guess Who festival where I worked as a videographer I did something I hadn’t done since I was 16. I asked him if he would sign my copy of Tauhid, and he did.
Design & Photography
What was your first record cover collaboration?
The first time an image of mine was used as an album cover, it felt like the circle was complete. I photographed the band The Ex when they were on tour and they used an image for their live dvd at the time. I also shot album artwork for Jacco Gardner, Tangarine and Mozes and the Firstborn. The process of designing a record The first thing I do is when I’m asked to make the artwork is to sit down with the artist and to hear what kind of ideas they have and make a moodboard. I also listen to their music before I create an idea for the artwork. As a photographer you don’t see your work as a print so often, let alone as an object like a vinyl cover. Seeing your image printed as an album cover that can make the image much more powerful. You see every detail on the print and connect more with the choices the musician and designer made for this album.
Amber Arcades - European Heartbreak
Annelotte who is the singer-songwriter behind Amber Arcades went to America in 2017 to record her album. This was our chance to make images in America, so we took it. She had one week off and we planned a roadtrip to create the cover image. All the spots we visited were really touristy, but the thing was, so were we. That’s when we decided to incorporate the tourist in the images. When we went to Death Valley and were ready to go back, we saw a group of teenagers with their selfie sticks walking down the hill and they had so much fun. So we shot Annelotte with the teenagers in the background. When the kids saw the images, they loved it and thought it was cool that they were going to be on a record cover.
Back in the Netherlands Annelotte and I designed the typography and the cover.
Brooke Bentham - Everyday Nothing
Another good example is the artwork for Brook Bentham’s album. I had won a pitch to make her artwork and we found a bungalow that worked perfectly for the concept. We wanted to photograph in the dark and had the bungalow for one evening and we needed to leave at midnight. I flew to London, and in 4 hours I built four sets in the bungalow and shot the images for the album and the singles. No budget for an assistant! To know how crazy that night was and to see it as a cover after is a really cool thing.
You’re now more often found in Paris, have you already found some nice record stores there?
My girlfriend lives here. When we started dating she had to work there so I stayed in Paris and checked out the city. I marked all kinds of record stores in Google Maps and every day when I had time I checked out a new record store. The one record store you can find me the most is Superfly Records. They have a cool mix of old African, HipHop and new & old Jazz records. I expanded my record collection with a lot of African music via Super fly.