“Hellblinki has emerged out of the bohemian mountain enclave of Asheville, NC, from which Andrew Benjamin (vocals, guitar, drums, accordion), Valerie Meiss (vocals, accordion, toy piano, ukelele, saw), & JonPaul Hess (bass, keyboard, organ pedals) deliver their signature blend of American folk, European cabaret, punk, and noise rock experimentation. Hellblinki creates a world from found sound, pirate songs, and dirty south blues. The lyrics are philosophical, the tunes are odd and catchy, and Hellblinki ushers the audience into a grinningly sinister world, not quite like our own. The band has opened for Gogol Bordello, Unknown Hinson, and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and has toured the country with Voltaire. They have entertained festival-goers & revelers at Dragon*Con, Green Man Festival, and Brooklyn’s Hallowmass and Dances of Vice.”
The trio hit Pittsburgh tomorrow night at GarfArt on a bill with Illusion of Joy and Patricia Wake. My thanks to multi-instrumentalist Andrew Benjamin for participating in this edition of First/Last.
The first album you ever bought?
I’m not sure, maybe The Police’s “Synchronicity”? I know the first single I bought was ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ on 45” when I was 10 or so. My parents listened to classical, folk, and opera. The only rock and roll I was exposed to before then was the ‘Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby’ 45”. I had a Fisher-Price record player that had trippy fake Space Invaders printed on it. I listened to Eleanor Rigby when I wanted to get creeped out.
Your last album bought?
I bought 3 copies of Megan Jean and the KFB’s CD “Dead Woman Walkin’” to put on my Weirdhead store. I’m slowly putting other albums on there that are made by friends, that I think are top-notch, and that I listen to all the time.
Favorite album of all time?
Ohhhh, that’s hard, I don’t do favorites. It always changes. I REALLY got into Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” when I was 16 or so. I love the original Broadway cast recording of “Three Penny Opera”. I had a cassette of Louis Armstrong “Singin’ and Playing” that a guy gave me on the street in Savannah, that I listened to over and over and over. I was big into Crass’ “Feeding of the 5000” for a bit and the Subhuman’s “The Day the Country Died”. Tom Wait’s “Rain Dogs” kind of tied up a lot of influences for me. The Residents “Duck Stab” album was big, “Eskimo” too. The Alan Lomax Folkways Woody Guthrie/Leadbelly record. I could go on and on.
Least favorite/most disappointing album?
I’m going to cheat a little on this one. I helped arrange an independent record store once when I was a teenager, because my friends and I shopped there and we wanted to be able to find stuff better. I got to pick out a couple of records as payment. One record I chose had a really odd cover. It had a skinhead looking guy on the back with a greenish shirt that had a gymnastics logo on it with a bright orange background. The front was the same dude wearing a fancy dress jacket, boots and jeans standing with a kid in front of shop that advertised “New Boots and Panties”. It was “Ian Dury and the Blockheads”. I got it home and listened to it and hated it. I listened again, it started to grow on me, and before long became one of my all-time favorites. Great record.
First concert attended?
It was either Quiet Riot with WASP, or Rush with Blue Oyster Cult. My first Punk Rock show was a band called Bedlam Hour and Beyond Possession.
JonPaul (our bassist) and I played on the LaZoom Comedy Tour Bus here in Asheville a couple of days ago, the bus shows are a blast!
Favorite concert ever?
Tom Waits at the Orpheum in Boston, ‘Mule Variations’ tour. My girlfriend and I went as a vacation and had a grand time. Sat next to a guy who had seen The Doors there. He said it was the best show he’d ever seen even though the audience had to wait and wait while Jim Morrison was tracked down and sobered up, and even then the band only played for 20 minutes.
Least favorite concert?
I used to run an Illegal, underground, all-ages venue and sometimes we would have these Emocore shows with 5 or more bands that were all essentially identical. Those were tough, just because there seemed to be so little originality. Yawn.
Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh has this really cool post-industrial wasteland vibe that I love. I bet it’s fun to explore abandoned places there. The people we know there are really cool, not pretentious, friendly and real. I love Pittsburgh. The traffic sucks though, especially when some of the bridges are closed.
Thanks, Andrew. Believe me, I love Pittsburgh but sometimes the traffic here really does suck!