Born in Jamaica and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon, Fritz Helder was destined for a life in the arts. He studied dance and music from an early age and his intense passion for all things artistic brought him to Toronto in 2000, where he studied dance and theater at Ryerson University. Helder burst into the Canadian music scene in 2005 with his performance art group Fritz Helder & The Phantoms, which quickly became a local and International sensation, known for their edgy and cheeky music, amazing sense of style and DIY couture creations for their outrageous live shows and videos. Helder also spent 4 years working as choreographer and dancer for Nelly Furtado, traveling the world with Furtado, strengthening his love for performing and music. In 2008, Mrs. Furtado signed Fritz & The Phantoms to a record deal under her new label Nelstar Records.
In 2010, after 5 years with FHTP, Fritz decided to pursue new ambitions and joined the house group Azari & III as a lyricists and vocalist. Azari & III released their highly anticipated debut self-titled album in 2012, while tracks such as Hungry for the Power, Reckless (With Your Love) and Manic became chart topping hits in the UK and Germany, propelling the group into a new stratosphere amongst the electronic dance ethos. Azari & III’s success culminated with the group dominating the European festival circuit, co-headlining a US tour with DIE ANTWOORD and a JUNO Award nomination for Electronic Album of the Year, before announcing their hiatus in Jan 2014.
Fritz is now working on an exciting new solo project, which debuted on January 8th , 2016 with the first single ‘Force Of Nature’ and will followed up with the ‘Like A Jaguar’ in May. The full six track found its release for free as exclusive BitTorrent Bundle on June 1st, 2016.
Vocalstar: Who is Fritz Helder?
FH: Well hello there! I’m Fritz Helder… I make music, D.J., dress up and prance around on stage for a living! I guess you can call me a performance artist.
VS: Where are you from? Do you think your upbringing has contributed to your style as an artist?
FH: I was born in Mandeville Jamaica, was adopted and raised in northern Canada (Whitehorse Yukon) to be exact.
I think going from one geographical extreme to the other at such a young age really set the stage for my creative life. Being exposed to such contrasting cultures made it easier for me to be open and adventurous creatively
VS: Collectively, who is Fritz Helder & The Phantoms?
FH: Fritz Helder and the Phantoms was an experiment. We were a group of misfits living in Toronto Canada, from various ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations. It was at a time when there weren’t many (if any) openly gay artists to look up to. We formed in the early nineties, inspired by the electric clash movement that was happening at the time. We wanted to create a scene / space where we could express ourselves freely. At the start, we only had three tracks… we had no money and performed at dive and college campus bars with all our music on CD and on stage, we used paper cut out instruments. We were just having a laugh, but people really liked what we were proposing and quickly became a regular fixture in Toronto’s electronic music and nightlife scene.
Our big break came when we were signed to Nelly Furtado’s Record label in 2008… those were fun times, but it seemed that the world at large wasn’t quite ready for our brand of musical mischief. we were singing about purses and shoes… taking “ghb” at the club. It was messy and strange, but it was honestly who we were. We were ahead of our time. After we disbanded, artists like Lady Gaga appeared… basically doing the same thing we’d been doing for years. I guess the message seemed to make more sense coming from a straight white female perspective (eye roll).
VS: Who are Azari & III? Why did the group split?
FH: My time with Azari & III was incredible. We were four friends from Toronto’s “Queen West” scene. We would spend endless nights in the studio workshopping and incubating ideas that would later become our full album. While we always knew we wanted to create something special, there was no way to know how special it would become. Our album is somewhat of a cult classic, success from our three singles took us around the world and on stage at some of the biggest festivals at the time like: Love Box, Sonar festival, Ultra in Miami, Future Music Australia… the list goes on. We were nominated for a Juno (Canadian Grammy’s) for electronic album of the year… We were feeling ourselves… but maintaining that level was difficult. None of us were familiar with that kind of relentless touring and exposure. I believe the group split for the same reason so many young bands split… everything became too much too fast and there’s never a play book or primer provided on how to navigate this business… So you make mistakes and some poor decisions, people also change and their priorities shift. We basically all started to grow apart and unfortunately found ourselves each wanting something different.
VS: What does the future look like for Fritz Helder?
FH: The future looks pretty exciting! I’ve got some fun live shows coming up and a feature on a new “Presets” track (my favorite band).
I’m currently in Berlin finishing up the music for a new solo performance art project, as well as writing music in a new duo, We don’t even have a name yet, but it’s really satisfying to have multiple projects on the go… and so many interesting avenues to express myself.
VS: What was your favorite venue:
FH: I’d have to say the venue that sticks out the most has to be the Sydney Opera house. I was there for a festival called Vivid, it was pretty Epic.
VS: Where is your favorite travel destination, does this place inspire your music?
FH: I’m intrigued with every city I travel to, big or small. I realize how fortunate I’ve been, to be able to see the world as an artist. To see the best of a city’s culture and what it has to offer.
VS: Are you more of a singer, song-writer, or instrumentalist?
FH: I’d consider myself a vocalist rather than a traditional “singer”… and yes a songwriter… curator… alchemist… a multidisciplinary musical artist…. whatever that means.
VS: Describe the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome as an artist?
FH: The biggest obstacle is weathering the droughts in between work/releases… those times when you’re not working … and not creating when you’ve hit a wall creatively. When you start to question what you’re doing, and if anyone cares. Its not always easy to shake the inner critic and it can get depressing at times always questioning your place in this industry. I find it gets less intense the more I mature as an artist. You learn to let go of all expectations and create for myself… The rest will follow, it usually does.
VS: What inspires you musically?
FH: Everything, I know its cliché, but it true! Life itself is what inspires me…with all the good stuff and shit that comes with just living on this planet as a human.
VS: When do your ideas come to you?
FH: Whenever they damn please… It’s annoying… I could be on a train, walking down the street or drifting off to sleep when a good song idea, hook etc. pops in my head. Actually the annoying part is not being able to record the idea right away and trying to remember it before it’s released back into the zeitgeist for someone else to use.
VS: Who are your biggest musical influences?
FH: I’m usually looking to Prince, Grace Jones, Ata Kak, Cameo, Klymaxx for influence and inspiration. Although there’s plenty more, those are my familiar “go to” loves.
VS: Which artist would you love to collaborate with and why?
FH: Mother… Grace Jones. Why? Because she is everything! She’s fearless, beyond iconic and she changed my life upon discovering her.
VS: Where can we expect to see you in 5 years? What are your dreams & aspirations?
FH: I’m getting old; my bones can’t take jumping around on stage, and the relentless touring night after night much longer. In 5 years I’ll be performing more curated, special “one off” shows. Presenting a more theatrical experience… rather than doing the touring DJ late late, late night club thing. I say that now… but I’ll probably still be bouncing around everywhere… regardless. The goal is to continue making music and having a good time doing it and sharing my love with an audience… hopefully that audience continues to grow and grow.
VS: What’s your idea of success as an artist? When will you feel like you’ve made it?
FH: Success as an artist is subjective I believe, I think you’ve “made it” when you’ve fully surrendered to the concept of being an artist and all that entails… like in good times and bad, you’re still only thinking about your art and how you can be better and go further. The critical and financial success comes and goes… to me it’s not a stable measurement for success… How well you can adapt in this ever-changing industry is more important. Carving your own path or moving with the pack, holding on and never quitting is success for me.
“2018 is an exciting year for Fritz Helder! New Music Collaborations – New Live Show – New Website – New Wig !!!” -Fritz Helder
Follow Fritz Helder on IG @fritz_helder