Helmet's Page Hamilton: "David Bowie may have saved my life"

David Bowie and Page Hamilton in Los Angeles on April 22, 2004
Bowie and Hamilton in Los Angeles on April 22, 2004 (Image credit: L. Cohen\/Wireimage)

When David Bowie parted company with legendary long-standing guitarist Reeves Gabrels in 1999, he picked up the phone to recruit Page Hamilton for the Hours tour which took them across the USA, Europe and to The Astoria and Wembley Stadium in in London.

Hamilton practiced for 16 hours a day, learning 30 songs including Cracked Actor, Rebel Rebel and Changes. But the call meant more to Hamilton than Bowie could possibly have known.

“Reeves, who’s been a friend of mine for many many years, was going through a very difficult time in his life and he and Bowie parted ways after 13 years,” recalls Hamilton. “Bowie knew Helmet – we had met two years earlier at a festival in Germany – I met him and he was like “Helmet? I love Helmet!” And I start laughing, like “Yeah… right. Right!” And he says, “We go way back.”

“He was just a really gracious human being. Just so nice for a guy that has changed so many people’s lives and influenced so many musicians. In Germany, I tried to get him to talk about Ziggy Stardust when he jumped off speakers and broke his leg. He was wearing just his underwear as he was in the middle of a costume change, and I’m like, ‘So what happened? What happened?’ And he smiled and said, ‘Oh God… I don’t remember much from back then.’

“He liked me, and when he later called I had just left my wife. It was one of the worst times in my life. I was crashing on my manager’s couch and I had got back to the apartment at four in the afternoon. I’d met some chick, been to an after-hours Budweiser pool hall… it was pathetic. I was a pathetic mess.”

“And I’ve said this before, but he pulled me out of a real shitty time,” he continues. “He might have saved my life. Because I would have continued – I’d gone out with my buddy Erik Sanko from Skeleton Key and Lounge Lizards who said, “We’ve been out for 38 nights in a row.” And I was saying, “Alright! Let’s make it 39!” And I’m talking until after sunrise. So it’s amazing that in that state of mind I could have learned 30 David Bowie songs and gone out and played them.

“He didn’t know how I was living before I got the call, he didn’t know that I was going through a divorce. But Coco, the super-great lady who was with David said to me: ‘You know, David’s been very happy since he’s been sober.’ At the time he’d been sober for 12 years. I was like, ‘Yeah… but I’m of Scottish, Irish, Welsh descent with German and Native American in me. I have all the drinking genes. It’s probably not happening for me.’ But my tribute to David Bowie would be to say: He’s not like you and me.”

Helmet release Dead To The World on October 28.