Interview conducted Late June, 1997
Mary Timony claims that she’s never been truly fascinated by Dungeons & Dragons, Unicorns or Fairies, but Helium’s recent No Guitars EP suggests otherwise.We felt that Helium fans and Pitchfork readers alike should know the truth. Here’s what we uncovered:
”The EP was something we decided to do after half the songs on the new album were written. And we wanted them to be two separate things. A couple of them are new, but some are older.”Pitchfork: The songs on No Guitars, as you’re probably well aware, are pretty fantasy-based. What inspired you to make this kind of record?
Mary: It’s all about imaginary scenarios and stuff. I mean… I can get into making up reasons why but really it just… was cool. [laughs]
Pitchfork: Have you always been into fantasy stuff?
Mary: When I was a little kid, I really was. Lately, I’ve decided that I want to be, I guess. I think I’ve gotten away from this whole anger thing. A lot of the lyrics used to be about anger. And in order to get away from the anger, I’ve just started dwelling in this imaginary world.
Pitchfork: You strike me as the kind of gal that might have grown up with Winnie the Pooh books.
Mary: Yeah, of course!
Pitchfork: Hey, which Pooh character did you most connect with?
Mary: Probably Winnie the Pooh.
Pitchfork: Really? Winnie! I wasn’t a very sad kid but I did like Eeyore.
Mary: Oh, yeah!
Pitchfork: Everything sucked for him. He’s the reason everyone’s on Prozac now.
Mary: [laughs] He was kind of a weird character to put in a children’s book.
Pitchfork: [sarcastically] What do you think Pooh says about society? No. Did you ever get into the old Role-Playing Game phase?
Mary: Like Dungeons & Dragons? No. I don’t know anything about that. If I did, I probably wouldn’t think it was interesting to be on the fantasy tip at all. Being a girl, I never got into it.
Pitchfork: I don’t know if it’s a gender thing. I know a lot of girls are way more into that stuff than any guys I know. They’re weird about it. They’re all in costume and stuff.
Mary: Really? Are they in that Anachronism Society or…?
Pitchfork: [hateful] Oh, you mean the Society for Creative Anachronism? No, those people are like their own culture. You’d never know what was going on unless you were in the middle of it. They’re the same people who are fluent in Klingon.
Mary: Are these people at some school you went to or do you just know them?
Pitchfork: Oh, it’s complicated. It involves this science fiction convention in Minneapolis that’s really pretty embarrassing. I’d rather not talk about it.
Mary: I worship those people!
Pitchfork: Well, they’re so into it. I just can’t bear it. It’s cool for like a minute.
Mary: They’re in their own world. There’s something really funny about it. I was taking this medieval literature class and there was this little guy that looked like a troll. He was the president of the games club. [laughing] I thought he was really cool.
Pitchfork: [laughing] I’m feeling lucky that I’m not quite that uncool. What’s the greatest fantasy movie of all time?
Mary: [still laughing] I’m not an expert on this!
Pitchfork: Not like I think you are! Like you sit with this big book and a candle learning spells or something. This is your opinion. You’re a rock star not a fantasy historian.
Mary: The greatest fantasy movie of all time?
Pitchfork: Don’t you remember them all? God, I can list like a hundred of them!
Pitchfork: Okay. Let’s see. Willow, The Princess Bride, Conan The Barbarian, Red Sonja, Krull, Yor: Hunter From the Future, Beastmaster, Dragonslayer, The Beastmaster, Mazes and Monsters. Come on!
Mary: I have my own fantasy world. That’s always been my deal. I have a really difficult time connecting with “the fantasy world.” [realizing what she’s just said, laughing] I have my own fantasy world. Yeah. I don’t study fantasy. I go into my own [world]. That’s why I like fantasy. I get away from other stuff. I liked The Hobbit and stuff.
Pitchfork: I know, but didn’t you like those movies?
Mary: I liked The Dark Crystal.
Pitchfork: Oh, that’s the best one!
Mary: I love that movie.
Pitchfork: I forgot about that one. What was the main character’s name? He had a weird name.
Mary: Oh, the little, weird… kid thing?
Pitchfork: Was it… was it Jen?
Mary: Oh, yeah.
Pitchfork: You know, The Secret of NIMH was really good, too. With Nicodemus.
Mary: That one about the mice?
Mary: I love that movie. I remember seeing that at a birthday party in second grade.
Pitchfork: I would have been six. I was in first grade, probably. Saw it in the theater. I cried. Besides Winnie the Pooh, what were your other childhood fascinations?
Mary: I had a friend and we… [laughs] God, this is stupid. We had this project and we spent all of third grade working on this house for these two stuffed animals we had. We’d make new things for them, like tennis rackets, beds, glasses, pictures… We just developed this entire house for these two stuffed animals. We made lots of little tiny stuff.
Pitchfork: God, it sounds intricate.
Mary: It was in her cabinets in her bedroom. [still laughing]
Pitchfork: Well, you’re embarrased now, but that’s what kids do! You were a healthy kid.
Mary: Yeah, at that point I was. I wish I could keep doing stuff like that.
Pitchfork: Yeah, it’s like, “That was really fun! Now… I have a job… and stuff…” I bet you liked the girlie shows on TV. Like Little House on the Prairie.
Mary: I liked Little House on the Prairie.
Pitchfork: I think Nellie was played by Courtney Love or something. God, they’re just alike.
Mary: I didn’t get to watch a lot of television when I was little. My mom didn’t really let us. I watched Mr. Rogers and Electric Company and stuff like that.
Pitchfork: Oh, you had the bad parents. The anti-television parents. That must have sucked.
Mary: My mom wasn’t into letting us watch TV.
Pitchfork: All my parents ever do is watch TV, so I grew up having no idea what I would do if there was no TV.
Mary: I’m always a little out of it when people start talking about old television shows from the ’70s and ’80s ’cause I didn’t watch that much of it.
Pitchfork: Man, TV has become an intregal part of growing up. You have to watch TV to be with it. Where are the kids with the bad parents gonna be 20 years from now when they’re on a game show and Wink Martindale throws out a question aboutHomeboys in Outer Space? Shit outta luck!
Mary: They are.
Pitchfork: I would watch movies… I saw this terrible movie called Electric Dreams more than 20 times in one month on HBO and I loved it. It’s about this guy who falls in love with this girl except he has a computer that comes to life and also falls in love with the girl.
Pitchfork: I bought the soundtrack on vinyl recently. It’s got Jeff Lynne, Heaven 17, The Culture Club… and all the music’s done by that big ’80s synth producer, Giorgio Moroder. He’s great.
Mary: That sounds great.
Pitchfork: It is, but it’s very hard to find. It available on CD, but only on import. Hey, how’s the recording process for the upcoming Helium record going?
Mary: It’s done. We finished it up last week.
Pitchfork: When were the songs written?
Mary: Most of them are older than the EP. The EP was something we decided to do after half the songs on the new album were written. And we wanted them to be two separate things. A couple of them are new, but some are older. It’s coming out the first week in September.