Features

Page Hamilton: The Interview

by Cory Galliher

Helmet's most recent album, Monochrome, was released in July; the 11 tracks are described as a return to roots for the band. The alternative metal group also is going to be included on the soundtrack for the film Saw III, and recently I was able to talk with Helmet frontman Page Hamilton about the soundtrack, the album, the band, video games and Bach, among other things.


Daily Vault: So, I've heard that the title track from your new album Monochrome is going to be on the Saw 3 soundtrack. What can you tell me about that?

Page Hamilton: They asked me about it several times and while I objected to a video being done, I'm all for anything that's not too objectionable as far as keeping the Helmet name out there and letting people know that this band exists, and that there are new songs and a new album. I think that Saw, from what I'm told, is relatively clever and interesting as far as the style and genre and filmmaking, so my record label got us involved and I'm happy about that.


Are you planning on seeing Saw III?

Y'know, I don't really know. Everyone tells me I should see Saw so I can understand what the hell's going on. It might be better to see Saw III first and go backwards...I don't know but I'll see them eventually. My friend Charlie Clouser did the music for them, so I've always been kinda curious; I know he made a lot of money off the movies and bought a house like last month, or that's what I've been told. So I know they're a successful franchise. I wonder if they'll do as many as the Nightmare On Elm Street, y'know, Saw XII.


It's looking that way. 

Yeah. [*laughs*]


Have you listened to any of the other music on the soundtrack?

Yeah, I got the soundtrack a couple days ago and listened to a bunch of stuff. The CD was screwing up because I've got a crappy CD player, but I listened to Slayer, Avenged Sevenfold and Eighteen Visions, because I do love those bands; Ministry because I know them; Mastadon, who I love; Meshuggah; and Charlie Clouser's "Shithole Theme."


So, we haven't really talked to a lot of hardcore bands on the Daily Vault. Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired you to play this kind of music in particular?

I grew up on Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Ted Nugent, so when I moved to New York to go to grad school and study jazz guitar I eventually got turned on to Killing Joke, Wire and Gang Of Four. I joined a band called Band Of Susans, and I also discovered bands like Flint Black, Butthole Surfers and Sonic Youth. It ended up kind of translating into what it is -- I didn't consciously set out to make this hardcore, heavy metal, post-hardcore, industrial, indie rock, alterni-metal, "thinking man's metal" or the various things that we've been called over the years. I never really thought about what I wanted to be as a musician, just that I wanted to be a musician. I like music that has feel, that's honest. I like rock, jazz, classical, reggae, you know what I mean? So I just kind of formed this band, and the "vocabulary" [of the music] started to reveal itself to me over the course of the first year of having the band together. Part of it's dumb luck, and part of it's working hard and having knowledge and passion for what I do.


So you play what sounds right to you?

I spent yesterday working on an orchestral piece that I'm writing, and I did a two-part loop thing on setting perfect fortes in consonant and dissonant settings, then I wrote a scale transformation... what else? Today I played a few Donna Lee and Charlie Parker songs. So all these things are important to me, and they're all fun. I'm not trying to incorporate anything into anything, I'm not trying to make some eclectic blend of music; I like playing rock, and I think it's pure, and great, and I'm not going to throw punk rock or classical into it. Everything you do as a musician influences everything else you do as a musician; I'm a better musician because I have Helmet and I have Helmet because I studied jazz, y'know what I mean? I need them all to be happy with myself and to feel like my life is valid. Playing Helmet and being able to play live shows and playing rock guitar makes me a better guitar player, and playing jazz makes me a better author of orchestral music, y'know what I mean? It's all just one person's musical personality. As a musician, I'm not really that interested in genres or categories or what people think, other than "Do they like what I do?" and "Will they buy a record so I can go make more records?," but if I become a better jazz guitar player then I'll try to make jazz records -- I don't feel I'm as good a jazz guitar player, since I spend the majority of my life on Helmet. That's what I'm best at, and I discovered that partially with a purpose and partially by accident. I just feel like any musician that limits themselves is going to be limited, even if you adhere to one sort of "style" primarily, you need to be open to a lot of different kinds of music. I would think as a person that writes about music, or as a person that plays music, or as a person that puts out records, you're only going to benefit from more knowledge and more awareness. You know what I mean?


Page Hamilton and Helmet


Yeah, it's important to have an open mind.

Absolutely, yeah! Read books, watch movies, play guitar, listen to Bob Marley, listen to Helmet, listen to Bach. It's all good. I'm not really trying to impress anybody with knowledge, but this is what I genuinely love doing, and I feel blessed that I get to wake up and do it. Helmet is the main thing that people know me for, and it's afforded me the luxury of sitting here indulging in my attempts at jazz guitar and classical orchestration.


Yeah, I understand that. Going off somewhere completely different -- you had a song on the video game Guitar Hero if I recall correctly.

Uh huh.


What was the experience like with that? Did you have much interaction with Red Octane and Harmonix in making the video game?

I didn't; I met this guy and the game was already made and done. I think it's really cool, and they gave me the game, which I will give to my nephew who plays video games like he breathes oxygen. I've never been a video game guy myself, but I tried to play it... I'm really bad at video games, but it's cool as shit.


From what I've heard a lot of people have gotten to know Helmet thanks to that video game, so that must be good for the exposure, huh? 

Yeah, I'm into that, that's cool.

 

[Many thanks to Page Hamilton for his time and the Stephanie at IE Marketing for her assistance in arranging this interview.  Visit Page Hamilton and Helmet at www.helmetmusic.com]



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