Reader Profile: Helena Linder

Published: 06 February, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 208, February, 2012

Helena Linder. You may recognise her as being one of the lovely faces of Glorious Nightmare. Alternatively, you might know her as one of your Thursday evening buddies at dog-training club. If you’re really close, you might even know her better as the beau of Justin from The Darkness. If you don’t know her at all, you will shortly. We couldn’t shut her up…

I was born in Umeå and grew up in Arvidsjaur, which is a town in central Lapland. I feel very lucky to have been brought up in that part of the world – safe, beautiful and unspoilt. You wouldn’t find a McDonald’s there. Not many people know that Lapland is also in Sweden – it is an area that includes the northern part of Sweden, Norway and Finland. It’s good that the majority of the world are unaware that there’s a Swedish part of Lapland too, as I’d hate to see it invaded with tourists.

I am very proud to be Swedish. It’s a country full of undiscovered, unique talent and good food. In a selfish way, I think it's nice that some of our culture never makes it outside of Sweden – it’s gutting to see Hollywood remaking Let the Right One In – a film that was already perfect in every way. Now the Stieg Larsson movies are being remade. I compare it to drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa – totally unnecessary.

I grew up in a sporty environment, rather than artistic, but I was drawn to the world of music from an early age. My parents were supportive and bought me instruments and took me to music classes. I was competing in both running and skiing so I think they were a little bit disappointed that I didn't pursue that. Although I was always the wild child (Dad’s genes), I still think they were a bit shocked when I got my first tattoo aged 18.

I had very little exposure to tattoos as a child, which might be why I became so fascinated with them later on in life. Same goes with getting involved in the music industry and moving to London – that was exciting; a totally different world to what I was used to.

I grew up on ABBA, The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Queen – my parents have pretty good taste in music. When I was five, I remember cycling up and down the road we lived on, singing ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ by Twisted Sister at the top of my lungs. My first ever gig was Electric Boys. I was very young and my Mum insisted on coming with me, which of course, was embarrassing! When I was 12, I discovered Guns ‘n’ Roses – my all-time favourite band. I also loved Metallica and Poison, and longed for an exciting rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle outside of my safe bubble in Sweden.

So when I finished high school, I booked a one-way ticket to London. The day I arrived, The Exploited played at Camden Underworld, which is where I got my first job – handing out flyers in exchange for a couple of pounds and free entrance to the shows. I was hanging out with punks in Camden and ended up moving in with Charlie Harper of UK Subs. I shared a house in Crouch Hill, Finsbury Park, with my best friend Kajsa, Charlie Harper, Eddie from The Vibrators, and John Ellis from The Stranglers. Then I went on to work for PRS, Ministry of Sound, Chrysalis and as a UK artist rep for Sabian Cymbals.
As far as my tattoos go, they aren’t really related to music – they are more influenced by life experiences and things I love, although some of my tattoos are purely artwork with no personal meaning behind them. I have a caricature of my first cat Jameson, on my foot, in the style of a Japanese maneki neko. On the back of my neck, I have three crowns and my surname underneath. ‘Tre Kronor’ (three crowns) is the symbol of Sweden. Another important tattoo is a pin-up of myself, with my little tail-less rescue cat, Smell Bear. I had it done at a point in my life when I felt I had lost pretty much everything I had, apart from him. It represented the two of us against the world. I am a huge animal lover and put a lot of my feelings and emotions into my relationship with my pets. I prefer the company of my animals to that of human company, any day. And yes, I do think that makes me slightly weird…

I got my first tattoo on my 18th birthday. It's a stereotypical tribal band around my arm. I don’t regret it, but I wouldn’t have chosen it today either. Laying in the tattoo chair for the first time ever was a great buzz – we listened to Thin Lizzy and I felt important and grown up! I had asked for a tattoo for my birthday, but Mum and Dad refused. So when they asked me if I wanted anything instead, I said I wanted money. So I paid for the tattoo with my birthday money and probably pissed them off a little because of it.

I was introduced to Steve A at The Shooting Gallery in Bournemouth and he ended up finishing my sleeve. He is more than a tattoo artist – he is a real, true artist. My sleeve had already been started by someone else, but I wasn’t happy with it. Steve really listened to my concerns, came up with suggestions and in the end turned my sleeve into a beautiful piece of art; he is very passionate and serious about his art.

Steve also became a good friend of mine, which makes everything a lot more special. I would be reluctant using anyone else now. Having said that, two of my favourite tattoos ever (crowns on the back of my neck and the cat on my foot) were done by Luci Lou at Diamond Jacks in London. She is also a great artist – very good at feminine and delicate work – I would happily book in with her again; I think she works in Brighton now. I am open to discovering new tattoo artists though and if I went abroad, I’d be happy to try a new artist for the occasion, but at the same time I think that when you’ve found ‘the one’, you should stick with them! I am planning another full sleeve. Just need the time and money.

As far as getting my face around the world goes, Craig Pearce, the creator of Glorious Nightmare, contacted me via ModelMayhem. A lot of clothing labels (especially new ones) expect models to work in exchange for clothing, but Craig never assumed this and offered to pay me straight away. I had a look at his website, and the fact that he used Arabella Drummond for his launch shoot said a lot about his company.

We shot on a beach in Lowestoft with photographer Sam Gee. Everyone had a great time and we have all stayed in touch since. I have plans to shoot for Glorious Nightmare again and I have already had anther shoot with Sam. A professional approach goes a long way! If someone would assume I’d work in any other way just because I’m covered in tattoos it wouldn’t be worth working with them in the first place. I really have no time for discriminating behaviour. Basically, don’t be a dick.

I’m not a model though – I just love posing for the camera. Getting paid for it is a plus! I’m an exhibitionist at heart and I love dressing up and having my picture taken, but I don’t pursue modelling as a career. The way I see it is if a company wants a pretty Swedish girl with natural blonde hair, a larger-than-average chest, covered in tattoos to represent their stuff, then I’m their girl. If they don’t, I won’t be crying myself to sleep over it.

I have worked for great companies, such as What Katie Did, Torture Garden Clothing, Ugly Kids Club, Mint Siren, etc. and used to be one of the corset models for Morgana Femme Couture, so I’ve done well so far. Personally, I prefer looking at tattooed models to those without tattoos. Tattoos are so exciting – they tell a story about you whether that’s your intention or not.

Justin and I are both huge animal lovers and really struggle not to get new pets every week. We have two dogs; a long-coated Chihuahua named Buddy, and a rough-coated Griffon Bruxellois named Bonnie. We also have two cats; a glitter coated Bengal named Cully, and a tail-less rescue moggy named Smell Bear.

The dogs haven’t been on tour with Justin yet, but they go to the recording studio all the time, and love it. I am actually getting their little suitcases ready as they’re off to the studio in Wales tomorrow.

Buddy, Bonnie and their good chum, Kenny, (owned by producer Nick Brine) are all part of a notorious canine crew called The Gravy Bone Gang, and they all hang out at the studio together, getting up to all sorts of mischief. They will be going on tour at some point, probably much to the rest of the band’s dismay. Bonnie loves barking, and loves bullying people, especially Ed (the drummer). She spends ages just standing there barking at him. If he tells her off, she’ll bark even louder. If he ignores her, she’ll attack his leg and scratch it really hard.

It’s always total chaos at home; the dogs are very loud. When we have guests round it’s hard to have a normal conversation as Bonnie will be standing in the middle, yapping her head off. You often find Smell Bear sitting in the kitchen sink, licking the taps, and Buddy loves pissing on the pinball machine legs. Cully and Bonnie are the drama queens of the house; when they’re not sleeping they’ll be strutting around, yelling and moaning at everything and they are only ever happy when they gets things their way.

According to Justin, they’re just typical females. I have no idea what he means with that – and don’t even get me started on all the organising when we’re going away…


Text: Sion Smith