A Fistful Of Questions With Stuart Gray From Black Helium

Vocalist.  Clean freak.  Love Child!?  This edition of Fistful of Questions goes to Black Helium frontman Stuart Gray.


What is your full name?


Stuart Charles Gray.


Do you have any aliases?


Stu, Stupot, Stupid... standard fare Stuart nicknames.


What bands are you actively involved with?


Just Black Helium at the moment. I can’t really imagine playing with another rhythm section.


What was the first instrument that you played?


Guitar. My parents were teens in the 70s, so they went to see Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd in their prime. My mum even saw Jimi Hendrix support the Walker Brother in Tooting? So, rock music was in my life from the start. My uncle was, and still is an incredible guitarist, so he taught me a few chords and tricks.


Tell me about one of your first musical memories?


Me as an infant in a Smokey smoke filled room listening to the creepy part in Pink Floyd’s Echoes. Spooky vibes. My parents had a great record collection so I’d play them a lot. Electric Ladyland with the nude ladies. That was an awakening!


What was the name of the first band you were in?


Dr Butcher. We were a death metal band that did a couple of demos in the late 80s, early 90’s. Our first gig was at the Croydon Cartoon club supporting Decomposed. They were a great band… doomy death metal. I think one of the members is now in Orange Goblin. The demo scene was amazing. You could just record demos on a tape recorder and send them out. It allowed people to participate regardless of age, race, sex. I remember Metal Forces giving our 2nd demo 3/5. Blew my mind.


Tell me about the genesis of Black Helium. 


Well, me and Beck have been doing this since 2015, with various drummers posting music on Myspace. It got a bit too Spinal Tap with the drummer situation so we stopped for a few years. But we got back together in 2016 and miraculously people started taking an interest. We literally used to play to zero people in the early days. Kinda soul destroying, but a valuable lesson.


What inspired the name Black Helium?

Beck misheard her friend in a club. Her friend, Linda told her we should be called Berkelium, which is some weird element. Beck just said, yeah Black Helium sounds great. A name born from a misunderstanding.


How long did it take you to write and record UM?


Not long at all. We wrote Keys to Red Skeleton’s House in one rehearsal. It just flowed out easy. I’m kinda glad we never did any lockdown projects. We had all this pent-up creativity and energy that was thrown into this album. Black helium could never write an album over a Zoom meeting. No way.


If you could insert yourself into any one band what band would it be and why?


The Fall. Obviously, it would only be for a year or two; and it would probably be an awful experience. But my biggest regret is never being in The Fall.


Have you ever heard a song and immediately wished you had written it?  If so… What was the song and artist?


I like listening to music that is way above my level in terms of creativity and playing. Bitches Brew still perplexes me… John McLaughlin, and Herbie Hancock… they’re top of the pyramid.


Who are some of your musical inspirations?


Black Sabbath, Amon Duul II, Hawkwind, The MC5, The Groundhogs, Spacemen 3, Trouble, The Stooges, King Crimson, Miles Davies, Captain Beyond, The Fall, Sonic Youth, Sleep, The Beach Boys, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Herbie Hancock, Can, Lee Scratch Perry there’s literally thousands. I’m just obsessed with music.


What’s a pop song that you'd like to do a cover of?


Robert Holmes - Escape (Pina Colada Song)


What band have you played with that has really impressed you with their live show?

Utopia Strong at Kozfest. Genuinely enchanting. It’s hard to pull off enchantment. They put their spell on us.


Do you have a favorite venue to play at?


The King Arthur in Glastonbury. It’s starting to feel like our spiritual home. We’re playing there again this May. Can’t wait.


Do you have a pre-show ritual?


Nah, leave that to Metallica.


What is your favorite thing about touring?


Being dislocated from reality. Living in a bubble.  Purely existing to play the music you love. 


What is your least favorite thing about touring?


Processed food and public toilets


Is there a city that you love to hit while on tour?


Anywhere up north is always great. Northerners just seem to have more fun. I’m from south London, so it’s not a biased opinion. We played a gig in Huddersfield once and it was definitely in the top 5 for me.


What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had on the road?


Nothing worth writing about. We’re no Motley Crue, thank fuck.

The year is 2000.  Where are you at and what are you listening to? 


I was living in Tooting Bec listening to The Flaming Lips - A Soft Bulletin and Grandaddy-  Sophtware Slump.


What advice would you give young musicians that are just starting out in the music business?


Don’t think of it as a business.


What is an absolute band killer?




Have you ever recorded a song that you really didn’t like, but somebody else in the band really liked?


Not really. There are moments I wish we’d done better, but once it’s out there it doesn’t matter.  I’m more obsessed with the next thing.

If you were to start your own music festival what would be the name of that festival and who would be the three headlining bands?


Erm… The Acid Fest… No, that's rubbish. Anyway,  my three headliners would be;


Black Sabbath

Jimi Hendrix

Miles Davies


What’s the longest time you’ve gone without bathing?


I’m a person who takes personal hygiene very seriously.

What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?


I once went to a Dream Theater gig. Don’t worry, I walked out halfway through.


Is the Fistful of DOOM show in the top 10 of your favorite music podcasts?


It is now.


Do unicorns sleep standing up?


I like to think they sleep hanging upside down like bats.


Give me three albums that I should listen to immediately, if not sooner.


The first Captain Beyond album. Definitely an influence for UM.


Comus - First Utterance.


Flaming Lips - Embryonic.


You’re driving cross-country and you can only listen to one album the whole time.  What album will it be?


Some weird cheap compilation tape. An Hour of the Kinks would be great.  Or Aphex Twin Selected Ambient Works 85–92. They would work with country roads.


You are writing a book about your life thus far.  What is the title of that book?


The Idiots Guide to Being an Idiot.


What is your favorite song by Taylor Swift?

I’ll have to phone a friend for that one…  oh it’s Blank Space.


Slipknot or Rammstein (if you had to choose)?


Slipknot I guess. Rammstein I find a bit creepy. Cirque du Soleil with angle grinders.


Doobies or Boobies (if you had to pick one)?


Always the Doobie Brothers.


Waffles or Pancakes (if you had to pick one)?


Waffles. Pancake day is the most shittest day on the year in the UK.


Star Wars or Star Trek (if you had to choose)?




Favorite band t-shirt you own?


I have a really early Electric Wizard one. It’s falling to bits and fading. That’s a special occasion only tee. Actually it would probably be worth saving for my funeral.


Favorite meal?


Curry and chips.


Favorite book?


I love CHAOS: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties.  It's pretty mind blowing.  The author, Tom O'Neill,  went down a wormhole.


Favorite movie?

Spinal Tap. It’s a perfect film.


Favorite album?


That’s an impossible question.  Today it’s probably Love - Forever Changes.


Favorite video game?



Favorite Professional Wrestler?


Rick Flair. A true gent.



     Massive thank you to Stuart for taking the time to answer my questions.  By the time you are reading this Black Helium’s latest album will be available for your listening pleasure courtesy of Riot Season Records.  Regardless of whether or not you are familiar with the greatness that is the Black Helium’s, you absolutely must give this album a spin.  And, while you’re at it, you might as well give the other albums a spin as well.


~El Pedo Caliente (aka Uncle Jameson host of the Fistful of DOOM show)