Chris Helme (born Christopher Alan Helme, 22 July 1971 in York) is an English singer-songwriter. He briefly shot to fame as the frontman of The Seahorses , the band formed by former Stone Roses guitarist John Squire.
Prior to joining The Seahorses, Helme played in numerous unsigned York bands, including Daisy Space and folk/jazz band Chutzpah (active between roughly 1993 and 1995) and regularly performing around York at Fibbers - where Helme used to work behind the bar and at The White Swan pub. In 1995 the band busked across rural France before splitting up. The band reformed in 2007 for a one-off gig at The White Swan. Helme played his first ever solo gig at Fibbers on 6 December 1994, supporting Nazareth.
A friend of Squire’s long-time guitar technician discovered Helme busking outside Woolworths department store in York’s Coney Street. Impressed by Helme’s version of the The Rolling Stones song, “No Expectations”, he requested a demo tape and passed it on to Squire. Squire then went to see Helme perform at Fibbers on 26 May and 16 June 1996. Another gig was then arranged at the Roadhouse venue in Manchester, where Squire eventually invited Helme to join his new band, for which he had already recruited bassist Stuart Fletcher.
Geffen Records , to whom Squire was still under contract following his departure from The Stone Roses, signed the band. The Seahorses released their debut album Do It Yourself in 1997. The album was produced by Tony Visconti and spawned three hit singles. “Love is the Law” reached no. 2 in the UK Singles Chart; “Blinded by the Sun” got to no. 7 and “Love Me and Leave Me” at no. 15. The follow up single “You Can Talk to Me” also peaked at no. 15.
In January 1999, after two years of intensive touring, including support slots to The Rolling Stones, U2 and Oasis, a press release sent to the NME announced that the split of the Seahorses “due to John Squire’s and lead singer Chris Helme’s irreconcilable differences over the musical direction the band should take”. Helme later claimed that “there was a personality clash during rehearsals. When he [Squire] came up with new stuff for the follow-up to 1997’s Do It Yourself, I didn’t like his lyrics or tunes. I could have gone with it and made quite a lot of money, but I wasn’t interested.” Paradoxically, a spokesman for the band informed the NME that Squire had become increasingly dissatisfied with the material being produced by Helme until it reached a point where their partnership was no longer possible”. Squire would also later comment on his reasons for ending the band that “I thought, ‘This sounds shit, we don’t deserve to be in this place.’ The band sounded complacent. I don’t suppose it was anyone’s fault. Maybe it got far too much attention for very little effort in the early stages, because of what I’d done in the past.”
Following The Seahorses’ demise, Helme undertook a short solo tour across England, backed by a newly-formed band featuring members of York band, ‘The Lo Beams’, Fraser Smith of Shed Seven and fellow ex-Seahorse, Stuart Fletcher performing material written whilst in The Seahorses. The gigs were confirmed 11 days after the Seahorses’ split was announced.
Following these initial gigs, which the NME described as “fairly unambitious rock music”,Helme abandoned the band format and performed sporadic low-key solo acoustic shows in his native York. Helme then put together a backing band of session musicians, which at one point featured drummer Toby Drummond, who temporarily replaced Andy Watts in The Seahorses. The band played mostly showcase gigs in London plus a big headlining gig at the Theatre Royal in York in May 2000.
In 2001 a new backing band was assembled, featuring Stuart Fletcher on bass again. With new management and PR, an official website was launched and a 3 track demo CD was serviced to the media. With the new band, Helme performed numerous London showcase gigs at Ritz and undertook a short UK tour in November of that year.
Unable to secure a record deal as a solo artist, Helme formed The Yards from the ashes of his solo backing band. Briefly called Superzero, the band initially featured former Shed Seven guitarist Paul Banks who appeared on the bands debut EP. The Yards released their debut album in 2005 and their second album Imperial Measures in March 2009, via their own label. Following long periods of inactivity, the band split in November 2009 with a farewell gig at the York venue The Duchess.
Helme re-established himself as a solo artist with the self released debut album, Ashes in May 2008 and is currently writing a follow up, set to be issued through his own record label Little Num Num Music . He is now almost constantly on the road and now performs The Seahorses hits such as Love Is The Law and Blinded By The Sun .