Helmet's Page Hamilton: On Tonight's Show at Slidebar, a New Helmet Album, Collaborating with Bad Plus and What He Thinks of Battles
Andrew Youssef/OC Weekly
Tonight he's playing at Slidebar in Fullerton, then at the Viper Room tomorrow as part of (the unfortunately canceled) Sunset Junction Festival. We caught up with him a few days ago to talk about why he decided to revive Helmet, music he's preoccupied with now, John Stanier's new band and what he knows of Kelly Thomas.
On why he revived Helmet: "I put so much into that band that when we broke up I was left holding the proverbial towel...[there was no reason to] abandon your heart, soul, blood and guts." Today Helmet's songwriting process is Hamilton writing lyrics and arrangements--"but I don't write drum fills and bass fills. [The way Helmet works] obviously you can't be in this band if you can't play, the space of the music ...and the way rhythms lock together."
On ex-Helmet members' new music (specifically John Stanier's Battles): "I've heard a little bit of it, my cousin played me snippets...there was some singing and some lyrics. It seemed very '80s, pop sounding; I thought it would be more art rock, but it sounded pretty cool. I think everybody should do what they want to do, but I prefer the [harder] music that I'm doing."
- On when a new Helmet album is coming out: "I've come up with a guitar vocabulary that works...it's the parametr of Helmet for Helmet. What I write still sounds like Helmet regardless of who's playing, it's very distinctive. But a new record, I don't know yet. I still have a lot of [other music] I want to work on."
- What's this other music? "I have all this stuff that I've been working on. (Hamilton is a trained jazz musician.) There's an orchestral piece with a German concert pianist who teaches at USC, some jazz tunes that I'd written with a jazz singer. These jazz tunes have been floundering for about 30 years that I finally want to pay attention to."
- And a possible collaboration with jazz/jam band Bad Plus "I've been talking to Dave King of the Bad Plus and we're trying to get a collaboration going. Apparently they're all big Helmet fans. The biggest thing is our schedule so hopefully that will all jive."
- On working on movie soundtracks: "I like [working on soundtracks] but I kind of like being a hired gun for movies more because I see what composers go through in Hollywood. There's a saying here that everyone in Hollywood has two jobs; their job and music, because everyone thinks they know about music, and it's disheartening sometimes. It's a lot of long hours, and as fun as it could be, I don't want it to be a job. I've been spoiled because of Helmet that I don't have to play music to maintain a lifestyle...I don't have four houses, I don't have a high overhead! (laughs.).
- On moving to LA (no, it was not to do movie soundtracks): "I got divorced and I was floundering in New York because even though I was playing with David Bowie and that was a fun gig, it didn't slow down my partying. 9/11 was kind of a sign for me to try something else. In New York I was just really doing not enough creatively...I'd write two songs a year, maybe, something ridiculous like that. LA is much more accessible, and it's [easy to be creative].
- Did he know about the Slidebar controversy and Kelly Thomas? "No, I hadn't heard anything about it...I'd just got back from Brazil and Australia unfortunately. But what's his name?" (Then asks me to spell Thomas' name so he could look it up.)
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