A Night In Cairo With Helm's Luke Younger

Ahead of his first Australian tour, the London musician talks about The Orb and the challenges of playing three countries in as many days.

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Jan 19 2017, 11:33pm

In October 2015, Helm (Luke Younger) performed in three countries - Egypt, Austria, Canada - in as many days. The Cairo performance, Younger's first in Egypt, was recently released as a live album and captures the exploratory nature of the London musician's work and a musical palette that draws from a range of electronic and experimental music.

Recorded at the Townhouse Rawabet Theatre in the nation's capital, the sold out show had Younger playing material from his recently released Olympic Mess album that was re-imagined, expanded and performed alongside new and "other" material.

In addition to Helm, Younger plays in hardcore punk band Lowest Form, hosts a radio show, and operates Alter, a label that has released music from Richard Youngs, Damien Dubrovnik, Uniform, Pheromoans and Croatian Amor. 

Croation Amor, aka Loke Rahbek, who also operates cult Copenahagen label Posh Isolation, will be joining Younger on an upcoming  Helm/Croatian Amor Australian and Japan tour. 

Noisey: What are the physical challenges of performing three countries in three days?Luke Younger: Well for a start you don't sleep much...to be honest, it wasn't too bad. When you put yourself in a situation like that the only thing you can do is just get on with it and take it for what it is. It was just one of those things where everything aligned perfectly and it was too crazy to say no to. The travel from Austria to Canada was a little rough...I literally went from the stage to the airport in Vienna which was three hours away and the madness started to seep in when I had to take a connecting flight at Frankfurt. By the time I got to Toronto I was fried but relieved. The gig was great, I played with Marie Davidson who was awesome and then the night ended at one of the Ascetic House Threshold parties round the corner. 

Do you find the Egyptian audience to be much different to an Austrian or Canadian audience?
It is different in the sense that they don't get many musicians over there playing abstract electronic music, so I would say probably 60% of the audience has no frame of reference for what you're doing. People were generally more curious and the atmosphere was fairly relaxed.

Image: Luke Younger

What was the show and night like? 
The venue was a 300 capacity theatre with a great PA and a super professional team of organisers, right in the heart of Cairo's downtown and very close to the Tahrir Square. I have to give a lot of credit to Khyam Allami who organised the whole thing and took quite a bit of flack from people on the day who couldn't get in after they announced it as sold out. As I arrived the night before I got to drive around quite a bit and see different parts of the city - enough to get a feel of it I would say, but still nothing too substantial. Cairo is so densely populated that the traffic becomes an issue past midday meaning that it becomes impossible to get anywhere, so you're really just trapped in the area you are for the rest of the day. I went to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities which was interesting but also missing a lot due to Britain's colonial past. I ate the best falafel I've ever had in my life.

Image: Luke Younger

At the gig I met a lot of random people from just standing outside and drinking - it very much reminded me of punk gigs at home in that respect. A lot of local musicians who played everything from prog rock to hip -op and spoke a lot about the difficulties of having their music heard outside of Egypt. The after show was held at the old French Consulate building by a group of local promoters called Vent who organise parties more along the lines of contemporary electronic dance music. The after party was packed too. They like a good rave in Egypt as they do anywhere else in the world.

I enjoyed your recent Facebook Top 10 Teenage Albums list that included Pet Shop Boys' Very, What's the Story Morning Glory?, Mansun and the Uniform Choice discography. Do you still listen to any of those albums? 
I will crack one of these records out every now and again yeah, normally it's triggered by a memory or something that results in a pang for nostalgia. Not Uniform Choice though, there's a lot of other American hardcore bands I'd rather listen to these days if I'm to go down that road. 

Did you really send a letter to the Orb's record label telling them how shit you thought UFOrb was? 
I did. I saved up for three weeks to buy that album after reading about its legendary status in magazines and had never been so disappointed by a piece of music in my life. I felt cheated so my mum suggested I write a letter...I have to say even if they just threw it in the bin at the other end, it felt incredibly cathartic to do such a thing. The irony is that a year later that album became one of my favourites. I guess I just wasn't mature enough.

What musical ambitions do you have moving forward?If budget/time was unlimited what concept/ideas would you like to develop?
Aside from making a new album I'd love to make music for a large scale theatre production. I'd also like to make audio for television idents and computer operating systems - like when you boot up your laptop and it sings at you momentarily. Also I'd like to make a sound for a shop that would play every time a person walked through the door, a bit like 7-Eleven does or Family Mart in Japan. I think these kind of things would be way more interesting and challenging than a film soundtrack for example. But honestly if time and budget was no option, you'd probably never hear from me ever again. I'd never finish anything.

Helm and Croatian Amor Japan/Australia 2017:
Feb 13 - Tokyo at Astro Hall
Feb 17 - Melbourne at the Tote
Feb 18 - Adelaide at Ancient World
Feb 24 - Sydney at Marrickville Bowls

Lead image: Robin Christian