We take a look through Nick Helm's record collection
“I’m still learning about prog,” says the rock-loving star of hit BBC show Uncle. So where does the actor-comedian-musician get his weirder chops from?
“I grew up with vinyl; it was my mum and dad’s record collection. My dad played guitar and is into folk, opera and classical music. There was lots of Latin American music, and soundtracks such as Paint Your Wagon. I found vinyl quite scary because you think you’re gonna break it and it makes quite a violent noise if you play it wrong. But by four or five years old, me and my sister had learnt how to put on the Latin American music and we’d jump around the room to it.
Cat Stevens’ Catch Bull At Four is my mum’s – she signed it [points out the initials ‘JH’]. She must have had this at university or when she was travelling. Growing up in Finsbury Park in the 80s, we didn’t sing hymns at school – it was Beatles songs and Morning Has Broken. Cat Stevens does folk but mixes so much more in with it – the track Freezing Steel is incredible. It’s funky folk music, with a Hammond on it, bound up in this mysticism he has. This record fascinated me as there’s a bit of ghosting on it, so you can hear the music before the track starts. It’s imperfect, which I love. And playing vinyl is a physical experience, having to get up to turn it over from side A to B. It keeps you participating in it.
My dad used to play banjo and loves it. One half of this Steve Martin album, The Steve Martin Brothers, is comedy and the other half is banjo music. The banjo stuff is better than the comedy. While this music isn’t progressive as such, Steve Martin’s outlook is. He was the first comedian to do stadiums – that’s why he wore white suits, to be seen – he did alternative comedy before anyone else, he’s a playwright, a screenwriter, a comedian, a lead actor, an accomplished musician and a magician. He wasn’t just giving these things a go – he mastered them before going on to the next thing. He’s my comedy hero. As a kid I’d hunt out all his films in the video shop, to the point where, because I was young and stupid, I rented The Naked Gun, thinking Leslie Nielsen was him. And then I got into Leslie Nielsen!