Sunday, March 22, 2009


Originally published in: Chord Magazine
Album: Size Matters (Interscope)

Random thoughts: If there was ever a time when I was nervous for an interview, this was one of those times. I mean, it was Page Hamilton of fucking Helmet. One of my all-time favorite bands. I quickly realized, however, that Hamilton had a lot of dirt to spill and seemed quite full of himself. Still, one of my all-time favorite interviews and stories. I just absolutely love the part where he starts singing a Helmet riff. Watch for it.

Page Hamilton thickens his skin, again

By Jason Schreurs

For every Helmet fan teeming with ecstasy at the news of Page Hamilton’s groundbreaking riff-rock band making their return, handfuls more are complaining about the band’s new incarnation. Message boards are littered with diatribes about the new album being too wimpy (it rocks!), Hamilton not including the original members (they declined!), and even some shots at the recycled material on Size Matters, the product of a six-year Helmet hiatus.
In 1991, the then New York-based Helmet revolutionized heavy music with their jaw-dropping debut, Strap It On, and have since been met with constant criticism, their albums only being heralded years later. Just as everyone was disappointed in 1992’s Meantime (and Betty in ’94, and Aftertaste in ’96…), the new album is currently taking a lot of heat. So as the band’s founder, principal songwriter, and only remaining original member, what is Hamilton doing to deflect all of this negative energy?
“You just wake up and sort of naively write your songs and play the guitar and do what you love to do,” says Hamilton from his home in Los Angeles. “So you have to kind of take it with a grain of salt. If I sat around and thought about what everyone else thought about all of the albums, I would never make albums. It’s not why I do music.”
His almost round-the-clock topic of defense is the band’s new lineup, which includes Hamilton and mid-era Helmet guitarist Chris Traynor, as well as ex-Anthrax bassist Frank Bello and skin-basher John Tempesta (White Zombie, Testament), but none of the other original members. Ex-Helmet drummer John Stanier (Tomahawk, Battles) and bassist Henry Bogdan were approached to make the record but declined. Hamilton was then forced to borrow money from Interscope to buy rights to the Helmet name. Despite the new-look lineup, Size Matters is undeniably Helmet.
“Helmet is arrangement-based music. Meaning I’m not going in with a G and C chord and a melody and saying, ‘Here guys, I got this song. Let’s arrange it.’ It was arranged when I came in,” insists Hamilton about the early years. “Obviously, you know, [singing] ba-da, ba-da, ba-da, ba-da, ba-da-da, ba-da-da, ba-da. We didn’t jam that! I came in with it. So it’s my prerogative. No one’s going to tell me whether or not I can have my band.”
Another little tidbit that has Helmet fans in a tizzy is some songs on Size Matters were recorded in Hamilton’s former project, Gandhi, a gathering of New York buddies that, according to him, was never a serious band.
“Gandhi was a group of four dear friends of mine and they’re great musicians. So I was like, ‘Let’s go play some shows.’ We recorded a couple of songs together. We didn’t have a band,” he says incredulously. “I just knew I was putting an album together. I didn’t know if it was going to be Helmet or what it was going to be. I feel like I should be able to play any song I write at any time.”
Luckily, Hamilton is used to criticism and takes it in stride. Like all groundbreaking musicians, he has learned to ignore outside influences and focus on writing good songs. Judging by Size Matters, he’s not forgetting the importance of concentration.
“To be a writer of music you have to be kind of thick-skinned. It’s something I’ve been through from day one. We had been underground New York darlings for two years, we could do no wrong. We signed to a major label and then we kind of opened ourselves up to a wider audience and greater criticism. So if everyone thinks you’re wonderful, they’re just waiting for an opportunity to break your kneecaps.”

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