An awful lot has changed for Armand Van Helden since he first signed to Southern Fried back in 2002. In 2005, he’s scored a huge commercial hit with ‘My My My’, his biggest hit since ‘You Don’t Know Me’ hit number 1 back in ‘99. In the interim, he’s released two excellent long players, ‘Nympho’ (2004) and ‘Ghettoblaster’ (2007) while also satisfying his New York culture vulture cravings with ‘New York: A Mix Odyssey’ (2004)
With five top thirty singles under his belt, sales of the first ‘…Odyssey’ at over 50,000 and ‘My My My’ having sold well over 150,000 copies physically and digitally, it appears that Armand has found himself a new home in the new millennium.
Armand was born in Boston in 1970 to a Dutch/Indonesian father and a French-Lebanese mother, but travelled around the world as a child spending time in the Netherlands, Turkey and Italy, as his father was a member of the U.S. Air Force. He bought a drum machine when he was still a teenager and started DJing two years later. (Though that’s still a side to his career that he doesn’t feel comfortable about. If anything, he’d rather be making beats.) But the great thing about Armand is that despite an incredible 15-year career – which was really kick-started by the wild pitch drama that is ‘Witch Doktor’ on Strictly in 1994 - he doesn’t really have a musical master plan or a studied understanding of where his career path will lead next. Point out that ‘My My My’ is easily his most popular song since ‘You Don’t Know Me’ and he’ll claim to have not really noticed.
“It was an odd one. I guess the way to look at ‘My My My’ is this: at that time I was trying to produce hip-hop. I was digging in the crates, found a sample and just snapped it together.”
And that’s what makes AVH such a fascinating, if occasionally frustrating proposition. He’s the house producer who loves hip-hop, the beat master who would die happy if he could make a beat with Pharrell Wiliams or find a (female) muse for his musical meanderings. It’s this quest, this stabbing in the dark that makes his recent music so intriguing. Try and pigeonhole him into one genre and you’ll fail miserably. He’s made tribal house for Strictly, soul-flavoured garage for London/FFRR, straight-up electro-house for Southern Fried and pop-flavoured rock for himself. He’s a man on a mission, he just doesn’t quite know what. What he does know, however, is the importance of digging in the crates and digging different scenes without actually being a part of any one of them.