While it's not his bag or anything even close to it for that matter, head Helmet Page Hamilton said he can appreciate an electronica band such as Prodigy. Still, he' not about to turn in his guitar just yet.
Helmet's about hard-hittin', guitar-based, in-your-face rock 'n' roll. That's the way the fans like it. And that's the way he likes it.
For now, at least.
"A lot of people say alternative music, or guitar rock, is dying, but I don't get that when we play shows at all," Hamilton said by phone from a tour stop in North Carolina. "I feel like people are still excited to see loud guitar music. And that's what we do."
Helmet recently finished up a series of U.S. gigs with grunge pioneers the Melvins. Come fall, the band will head for Japan, Australia and Europe.
While Aftertaste (Interscope), Helmet's latest album, has been
hailed by many as a return to form after 1994's experimental Betty,
Hamilton said that each of his band's albums has its own unique flavor,
which Helmet's fiercely loyal fan base appreciates.
"I think those people will always be dedicated to what we do as long as we
don't try to be something we're not," the guitarist said. "As long as
we're true to our initial goals of Helmet. That doesn't mean we can't
expand musically, but within the confines that we set out."
Just because Hamilton remains faithful to Helmet's muscular guitar vision, that doesn't mean he's unaware or unappreciative of the trends around him.
"I've heard [Prodigy's] 'Firestarter' and a lot of the new album [The Fat Of The Land] because John [Stanier, Helmet drummer] and Chris [Traynor, guitar] play that stuff a lot. I saw them live a couple of times because we did some festivals with them in Europe. I didn't hear it and say 'Oh, my God. I have to
study this and inject this into my blood stream and make it part of me.'
The things I've been obsessed with the past couple of years prohibit me
from being able to do that."
Hamilton said his bandmates are schooling him on electronica's cutting
edge. "John and Chris played me some great stuff last night. Photek and
what was that other group? It was like techno Weather Report?
Squarepusher. I checked out Underworld. I think that stuff's more musical
because it's more song oriented in a way. It's not hard, but it's song
oriented. Structurally it's a lot different from what I'm interested in
writing. I'm always looking for that lyrical and structural sort of form
But, Hamilton added, just because something doesn't knock him off his feet right now, that doesn't mean it won't in time. "I'm not in a hurry to jump on a bandwagon," he said. "I think after a band has a body of material, to me it's more satisfying to be able to get into a part of that material, and then turn the stone over and find more. People like Elvis Costello that have been doing it for 20 years -- there are all these great albums to get into. It's a larger body of work to get into."
The head Helmet said he's been consumed by Costello over the past two
years, along with Scary Monsters-era David Bowie and to a lesser
extent Pink Floyd. "I might get into one song from somebody for a week or
two weeks, but ultimately the whole experience has to be there for me to
become obsessed with something," he said. "Elvis Costello made so many fucking great
records, as did Bowie, that it could never be a waste of time."
Between his own tour and sonic obsession with others, Hamilton has
found time for the occasional side project. Listen for several Hamilton
score segments to turn up in a future movie called Hellcab. The
guitarist is also planning to retool a track for the upcoming Skeleton Key
remix album. "They're a really great band," Hamilton said. "I hope I can
do it justice."