Helmet, founded by singer, songwriter and lead guitarist, Page Hamilton, has been going strong since the release of their first album Strap It On in 1990 to the release of their eighth album, “Dead To The World” in 2016.
Before his show at The Civic Music Hall in Toledo, Ohio on June 30, 2018, I was able to sit down with him to ask him a few questions as we watched the Yankees vs. The Redsox game.
Helmet just finished up a run with Prong and have a long history together. When asked how fun was it? Page responded: Great. I was really happy with it. The tour leg was pretty jam-packed.
We saw them in Detroit and Cleveland on some of the last few dates, but those guys were all still enjoying themselves and playing strong.
PH – Yeah, we always do that. I love touring. I love being on the road. I would tour more if I could, actually. I don’t need to go home for anything.
Helmet has had several line-ups over the years. What makes this current group stand out and how did you all come together? (Hamilton auditioned guys from different bands and these guys all stepped up.)
PH – I love this line up. With Kyle Stevenson on drums, Dan Beeman on guitar and Dave Case on bass, they have all been playing together for over 10 years now.
How did you choose, ‘Green Shirt’ for the Dead To The World album?”
PH – That’s an Elvis Costello cover. It’s from his Armed Forces album. I just love the song. I thought it fit thematically with the material we did on our album. We produced five cover songs and that was the one that ended up on the album.
I read today that you were involved in the soundtrack for the movie Heat. It’s one of my favorite movies and I’ve listened to the soundtrack over and over and I had no idea you were involved. What was your role in it?
PH –Warner Bros. put the soundtrack out. They had tried to sign Helmet. They were like the last label. It was down to them and Interscope. Even after (We chose Interscope) they were supportive of my guitar playing and of me. They introduced me to Elliot Goldenthal. He was looking to do a guitar orchestral sort of thing. They hired me and it turned out really good.
Compared to previous releases I felt like Dead To The World featured more melodic vocal lines driving the song, even over the riffs which are typically the signature aspect of a Helmet song. Was this a conscious decision or a natural progression in your songwriting?
PH –Nothing is ever calculated. I just write what I feel like.
The recording industry is constantly evolving. What advice do you give to new bands trying to find their way into the business?
PH – I just got a text today from a guy in Nashville. He said, ‘I’m in a band and we’re going on tour opening for (some band)’ and he asked me for advice. I said just do your thing. There’s not much you can say. Be honest. That’s what I say. Bands that are overly concerned with response or with the market or with likes or dislikes or whatever, I’m not down with that. Make music you believe in and be honest about it.
How much of the song, “Just Another Victim” was written prior to Helmet being approached to appear on the Judgment Night Soundtrack and how much happened in the studio with Everlast?
PH – We wrote it in the session. I had the riff though already. I had that cool riff. The guys in House of Pain and my band, we went into a studio that I had done a lot of work in, in New York. They asked, ‘What’re we going to do?’ I said, write a song. A lot of that fell on me. I said ‘I’ve got a really badass riff. We’ll use this.’”
What’s next for Helmet?
PH – We’re going to finish this tour and then we go to Europe for some festivals and headlining shows intermingled. September we have off before going to South America in October. November and December we’re looking at west coast dates, hopefully more dates with Prong. We’re looking at Europe in the spring. We’re looking at packaging us and Prong again for over there. And we’ll probably record sometime between now and then. I’ve been writing and working on other stuff.
The band Helmet has always been consistent over the years. It doesn’t matter what they play live, from punk rock to metal or anything else in between. They just try to have faith in their music, try to be original and an inspiration to others. They still have a diehard following and their fans are moved by them.
– Essay and photos by Crissy Dansak and interview by Doug Esper.