Page Hamilton, the prolific guitarist behind the thunderous hardcore outfit Helmet, is just going to assume that most of the kids attending this summer’s Warped Tour don’t know who the hell he is — or that his band’s back catalog influenced perhaps half of the bands on this year’s bill. But that’s fine by him.
For Hamilton, playing Warped — something Helmet have never done before, although they’ve been asked several times since the tour’s inception a dozen years ago — is all about challenging the audience (see “Warped Tour Kicking Off A Day Early — Dates And Venues Revealed” ).
“We did the SnoCore tour last year, and you could see 15-year-old girls who were horrified,” he said. “If Helmet goes over their heads, or is too frightening for them, I can’t really worry about it. Would I like them to like it? Yes. Do I think they would benefit from it? Yes.
“Being challenged is a positive thing,” he continued. “There’s some meat on [Helmet’s] bones, musically, and I don’t expect that you’re going to hear any odd time signatures in straight-ahead punk rock these days. I don’t know many of the bands on the [Warped] bill.”
Hamilton — who has been rehearsing in New York this week in preparation for his band’s headlining stint on Warped, which kicks off June 15 in Columbia, Maryland, and features Motion City Soundtrack, Thursday, Rise Against and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts — is in his late 40s, and just couldn’t care less about appeasing today’s punk and hardcore fans.
“I hear so many bands that, to me, I can’t distinguish between them,” he said, talking about the current scene. “It’s sort of like, ’Insert four guys with tattoos here.’ And it’s pseudo-hardcore or pseudo-punk rock or emo. It just seems like you get your ’Rock Star 101′ manual and fill in the blanks. This music just doesn’t interest me at this point in my life.”
Perhaps this irreverent attitude played a role in the band’s formal divorce from longtime label Interscope Records late last year; Helmet’s forthcoming sixth album, Monochrome, the follow-up to 2004’s Size Matters, will be released by Warcon Enterprises, the label co-owned by Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman and the founder and CEO of Concrete Marketing, Bob Chiappardi, on July 18.
“It’s always that sort of nebulous ground of ’Do they not want you around anymore?’ or ’Do you want out?’ ” Hamilton said. “[For major labels,] it’s about hits,” he said.
“I write and sing and play all the songs in Helmet, and there’s no team of songwriters behind me. I mean, Beyoncé must have a thousand people involved in every album. It’s just a different world. Sure, you feel the pressure occasionally of, ’You should think about your image,’ or ’You should write a radio-friendly song.’ That’s not why I do it. Helmet will be what I’m known for, and at this point, it doesn’t make sense to fit in with what’s going on in order to have some sort of commercial success.”
In addition to working on his own material with Helmet — which is now Hamilton, guitarist Chris Traynor, drummer Mike Jost and bassist Jeremy Chatelain — and his Warped plans for this summer, Hamilton continues to produce albums for other bands, despite the fact that he’s “not a hitmaker.” Last year, he produced Distort Yourself, the debut by former Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale’s new band, Institute. On April 11, Orange County neo-punks Bullets and Octane released In the Mouth of the Young, another Hamilton production.
In recent months, Hamilton has also worked with Northern Californian hard rockers Totimoshi and Australian outfit the Exploders, and has been approached about producing New England metallers Shadows Falls’ Atlantic Records debut. He has been brainstorming with Blestenation, a New York-based rap collective who he says “will freak people out,” and has met with pianist Guyora Katz, as well.
“I won’t guarantee you’ll have a multi-platinum record, but I’ll make it sound better,” he said of his production work. “I have heard some albums I didn’t get the gig for, and it’s like, ’Wow, that is not what I envisioned that becoming at all.’ ”
One such record was Avenged Sevenfold’s most recent album, City of Evil, which “I was very disappointed in,” Hamilton said. “I wanted to do it because I heard this Iron Maiden thing they had going. Bullets and Octane are friends with them and told me they can play, but you wouldn’t know it from the record. The approach they took was completely wrong.
“We all make mistakes,” he concluded. “I have made plenty, although I am not embarrassed by anything we’ve done.”