All the band members use nicknames, and since their (nick)names vary between albums it is slightly tricky determining who exactly is who!

I’m still fleshing out the biographies here, so if anyone has any corrections or references to more information, I’d be very grateful. Hopefully there will be some more pictures for some of the members too.

(L-R) Helno, Mellino, Iza, Mich, Zé

There is a graphical display of who played on which albums.

Noël Rota


Also known as Helno, and Helno Rota de Lourcqua. Helno was born on 25th December 1963, hence the nickname Noël. He sadly died on 22nd January 1993 whilst trying to come off his drug habit (after the Famille Nombreuse album.

Helno came from a working-class family in Paris, and when he left school he became a “professional” punk. Amazingly, he avoided doing his military service (“Not many people manage it.”, according to Helno) by feigning madness. He bummed around for a couple of years working as a roadie and performing backing vocals with a few bands before starting LNV, including Bérurier Noir.

Helno composed most of the lyrics to the first two albums.

Helno’s twin brother Ritier (Thierry) is a member of “Haine et ses Amours” and sounds quite similar to Helno.

Manu Chao wrote a song “Helno est mort” as a tribute to his friend Helno.

Here is the obituary of Helno published in Libération. An obituary by Philip Sweeney in the Independent newspaper is on their website. A photo of his grave is at http://www.findagrave.com/ though to be honest even zooming in I couldn’t see any recognisable text.

A Japanese fan has been to his grave and reports that it is at division 140 by the gate to Porte des Petits Ponts on the Avenue du Géneral-LeClerc. There are some great photos of the grave at Instagram and on Twitter.

Stéfane Mellino


Or just Mellino in the credits. He plays the guitar and sings. Since Helno’s death, he and Canavese have taken on Helno’s frontman rôle. Mellino is married to Iza, and was born in Algeria though his family moved to the Camargue when he was very young. His nickname is Cheb, which is a title often given to Rai singers, for example Cheb Khaled, the king of Algerian Rai music.

He worked in his parents’ business of making fishing nets until he was 21, and then made his way to Paris. During the six years before LNV were formed, he spent his summers making fishing nets so that he could spend the rest of the year playing in bands and hanging out in Paris.

He and Iza currently perform as “Mellino”, and can be seen on their website http://www.mellino.org/.

He (and Iza, I think) played a musician/busker in the film Mr. Bean’s Holiday.

Matthias Canavase


AKA Canavese or Matias. Canavese plays the accordeon and sings. Together with Mellino, he has been the frontman since Helno’s death.

Matthias is the youngest of the band, born in Paris in 1966 to a mother who was an English teacher and a father who was a labourer prior to becoming an entertainment promoter at the age of 40. His father is now the director of the circus school.

After failing his A levels (what’s the French equivalent to this?) Matthias trained as an acrobat. He had to abandon this after an accident, after which he joined the Theatre Zingaro with his friends Paulus and Gaby.

Jean-Marie Paulus


Or just Paulus. He is nicknamed Casio Paulus in the Remixes album. Paulus plays the guitar, bass and sings. His girlfriend was Julot.

Paulus’s family ended up living in Paris - his father had very itchy feet and the family moved very frequently (about 25 times, according to Paulus).

After working as a chef in Poitiers for three years, he travelled from town to town doing odd jobs like roadsweeping. Then he joined Theatre Zingaro along with his friends Matthias and Gaby. They worked all over Europe for three years doing tricks and stunts with whips like cutting cigarettes in half. Paulus claims “It was the moment in my life when I felt the greatest freedom.”

His younger brother (from a family of seven children!) Abraham is also in LNV. Here’s Paulus’s signature, courtesy of Stephen Fyfe:

Paulus’s signature

Michel Ochowiak


Mich, or Big Mitch, or even just Ochowiak. He plays the trumpet, bugle and has sung on all the albums except Mlah.

He is apparently painfully shy, and getting a word out of him is like pulling teeth.

His real name is actually Michel Gondry. He is now an Oscar-winning film director. He made the then groundbreaking video for “Hou! Mamma Mia” (YouTube)

Twist


“Twist” is Michel Ochowiak’s brother Olivier Gondry who is also a video director. He was just on Mlah; his brother seemed to replace him on the other albums.

Iza Mellino


Or just Iza. She is married to Stéfane Mellino, and has sung and played some percussion instruments on all the albums. She came from the same village in the Camargue that Mellino and Zé came from.

After studying Fine Art at Montpellier, she went on to do a variety of art courses in Paris. She then founded an artistic group that combined cinema, music and art.

Iza took the original photos of the band, and is responsible for the record sleeves. She and Stéfane currently perform as “Mellino”, and can be seen on their website http://www.mellino.org/.

Abraham Sirinix


Also called Abraham Braham on Famille Nombreuse, he has sung and played the trumpet on Mlah and Famille Nombreuse.

Abraham is Paulus’s younger brother - his real name being Mathieu Paulus. The nickname Sirinix is derived from “Serie X” (pornographic films, apparently) as he used to work as a sound engineer in TV (but not in porn films though!) Perhaps that’s why there’s a somewhat revealing photo of him inside Famille Nombreuse...

Before joining LNV he played the bass, and not the trombone. He had always wanted a trombone though, and as the band thought a trombone was a good idea he went ahead and learnt to play one!

Jo Roz


He is listed on Mlah as l’Ami Ro and sang, played the piano and some percussion on this album. On Famille Nombreuse he also sang, played the piano and the guitar. His real name is Joël Ruffier des Aimes.

Born in the west of Paris, Jo did small jobs here and there before playing in a variety of groups, mostly jazz-rock types. Similarly to Helno, he pretended to be mad to avoid his military service, to the extent where he even feigned suicide in the military hospital he was placed in! Dedication or what?

Gaby


Only appeared on Mlah, and is listed on the Zobi single as Gaby le Magnifique. He played the bongos and drums and, like almost everyone else in LNV, played extra percussion instruments.

He gained his ironic nickname le Magnifique whilst working in the Theatre Zingaro with Paulus and Canavese, due to his shortness. Before the Theatre arrived in a new town, Canavese, Paulus and Gaby would enter together and announce the show, beating a drum and riding a mule. He met the lanky Paulus years before on a train.

Juanita


Only appeared on Mlah, and sang.

Julot


Also called Julo, she sang and played some percussion instruments on Famille Nombreuse and Mlah. She was Paulus’s girlfriend, and they met at one of the band’s first concerts - a drunken session in a street near the Bastille to launch a new record shop.

She was born in Paris in 1962 to a Malagasy father and a French mother. She studied psychology for two years, and then got fed up and went on to make jewellery and then work as a video make-up artist for French stars like “Telephone” and “Rita Mitsouko”.

Nono


Only appeared on Mlah, and sang.

Zé Verbalito


Played drums on I Love Paris (1990) and Famille Nombreuse. Listed as Ze Ze in the Red, Hot + Blue album. His real name is José Verbal.

Zé was born in the same village in the Camargue as Mellino and Iza. Like Mellino, he came from a fishing family; his mother was Spanish and his father was from an ancient Camargue family. He studied electrical engineering before going to Paris with Mellino.

Ortoli


Played percussion on Famille Nombreuse.

Begs


Plays guitar and bass in the live performances.

Guenole Biger


Played drums on Zig-Zague and Green Bus. His full name is Jean-Marie Guénolé Biger, and his website is http://www.jm-biger.com/.

Gwen Badoux


Played the trombone on Green Bus, Trabendo and Acoustic Clubbing.

Sydney Thiam


Played percussion on Zig Zague and the Green Bus.

Zaack


Mustapha


Riton


Riton was their driver (!) but also played on Green Bus.

The biographies here were largely taken from an article by Jo Shinner in Folk Roots magazine issue 74, August 1989. Many thanks to Lesley Ochowiak (no relation) for this article.