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HARD ROCK LEGACY What does Helmet main man Page Hamilton want the riff-hungry hard rock outfit’s legacy to be? For one, that fellow musicians stop mistaking their originals for covers, he tells Brendan Crabb.


espite being courted by major labels during their early years (eventually reportedly signing to Interscope for a cool million-plus dollars), but not attaining the commercial clout afforded the legions they unintentionally inspired, Helmet’s impact is widespread. The likes of 1992’s Meantime and 1994’s Betty were rooted in memorably staccato, impenetrable riffage, as well as Page Hamilton’s jazz pedigree, barked, militaristic vocals and ex-drummer John Stanier’s distinctive approach. The Americans spawned waves of alternative and nu-metal bands. When quizzed about how he hopes the hard rockers – currently working on a follow-up to 2010’s Seeing Eye Dog – will be remembered, vocalist/guitarist and sole remaining original member Hamilton is forthright. “I would like people just to, I guess just recognise that Helmet was unique and created a vocabulary that’s been useful to the rock, pop world. That’s all. We had a band opening up for us, and they said something about us doing a cover of a Sepultura song when we were playing In The Meantime. My other guitar player was like, ‘actually, Page wrote that song, that’s a Helmet song’. They were like, ‘no, no, you guys are covering that’, saying that’s a Sepultura or Soulfly song, whoever it was that covered it. “You don’t want to be forgotten. My ego is relatively in check, but you think, fuck, you write these songs, you turn musicians on and you want people to know that. I feel thrilled that we can still tour and go play shows, and I’ll keep doing it as long as there’s an audience and I’m physically and emotionally capable of putting it out there every night. ‘Cause it’s not music that you can just go up and kinda half-heartedly strum your way through. There’s no relaxing point in the set; ‘here’s where we sit down with acoustic guitars and light candles’.”

Despite this perceived lack of recognition, Hamilton is determined to continue making music, both within the rock and jazz worlds. A new Helmet song will surface on a split 7” with sludge kings Melvins, their soon-to-be Australian touring partners. Ahead of the deafening, room-levelling double bill, he elaborates on their as-yet-untitled contribution. 38 • THE MUSIC • 11TH DECEMBER 2013

“It addresses a specific relationship I had that failed a couple of years ago that was extremely difficult,” Hamilton explains with a slight chuckle. “So difficult that it took me a couple of years to actually see the comedy in the whole thing. I need to see comedy in something

worn classics. “[They] understand that it’s necessary to progress as a band, and as a writer. I can look back and there’s songs that I’m not particularly fond of, so it’s not like everything we write… I can go back to The Rolling Stones. You can pick out all their great songs from their albums, and there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t like. ‘Man, this is kind of a weak, blues-rock record, but it’s got Under My Thumb on it’… With Helmet, I look back and there are songs on every record where I’m like, ‘yeah, that’s not my favourite’. It’s got some really cool things on it, but I think in retrospect you look back and think you could have done better.

“WE’RE NOT WHITE BOY SOUL MUSIC THAT EVERYBODY SEEMS TO LIKE IN THE MAINSTREAM.” before I can write the song. It was another failed relationship; with an actress – go figure. It’s heavy, kind of has groove, sounds like Helmet and there’s two guitar solos which I enjoyed doing… I need to have a song with three guitar solos, because I don’t think I’ve done that yet.” The frontman believes the majority of Helmet fans are open-minded, even if they may compare new material unfavourably to well

“We had the benefit of those major label dollars so we could record back then. But when I look back, we were the only ones that really, we weren’t making money,” he laughs again. “All those big budgets went to studios, engineers and mixers. It’s just kind of stupid, so we spend our lives trying to recoup on those records where the masters are owned by this label. A guy earlier asked me about doing a re-release of Betty. I said I’d do it in a heartbeat, but we’re not on The Voice, we’re not white boy soul music that everybody seems to like in the mainstream or shitty pop/country. So people are not clamouring for our music on TV, for Dancing with the Stars or whatever. I just don’t want the music to get lost.” WHEN & WHERE: 11 Dec, Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle; 12 Dec, ANU Bar, Canberra; 15 Dec, The Hi-Fi

The Music (Sydney) Issue #18  

The Music is a free, weekly gloss magazine of newsstand quality. It features a diverse range of content including arts, culture, fashion, li...

The Music (Sydney) Issue #18  

The Music is a free, weekly gloss magazine of newsstand quality. It features a diverse range of content including arts, culture, fashion, li...