Interview: Helmet's Page Hamilton

Two years after a tour in which they played their breakthrough album Meantime in full (backwards, starting with Role Model and working their way to explosive opener In The Meantime), long-serving alt-metal band Helmet are set to hit the road with fan-favourite album Betty to mark its 20th anniversary.

“I think because Meantime was the biggest commercial success, with MTV and stuff like that, it had a much larger audience,” says frontman Page Hamilton. “But the real fans, the superfans that want to come and watch more than the one or two songs that had videos, they love Betty because it’s was such a 180. The music was so different. It wasn’t like ‘oh, we’re going to create this new trend in music with drop tuned riffs and short hair and angry lyrics’. So Betty had a bunch of weird shit on it. Then I did the album cover and it was deliberately as un-metal as you could be, the woman with a basket of flowers. And I think Helmet fans really appreciate that.”

The tour has already started in the US, and will head for Europe in September, beginning in Prague on the 11th. It winds up at London’s Islington Academy on October 31.

“We just played a couple of shows in Chicago playing Betty and another set of material, exactly what we’re going to do in the UK,” says Hamilton. “It sold out, it was packed and crazy, there were people singing every stupid word back. I can’t even remember the words to these songs, they’re so obtuse! They were like a stream of consciousness. You’re trying to relearn those lyrics and going ‘what was I thinking when I was 29 years old? Or 32?’ So to see people singing along, that’s great, it’s really fun.”

The band’s seventh album, Seeing Eye Dog, was released in 2010, and while the frontman has been busy writing film scores recently, there are plans to work on more new Helmet material in the near future.

“I need to fit in some more Helmet songs,” he says. “I have three down that I love. There’ll be new stuff next year. I’m really happy with Seeing Eye Dog and it’s amazing that four years went by that quickly. And I want to score more movies and work on more jazz, it’s my ambition to become a world class jazz guitar player. I still feel like I’m a world away from that. So I’ll just keep practicing. It’s the greatest thing, when I wake up every day I play jazz guitar for a couple of hours every day, working on standards. There’s a magic to the music and the way the notes fit together. I feel like jazz was the punk rock before punk rock.”

Emma has been writing about music for 25 years, and is a regular contributor to Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and Louder. During that time her words have also appeared in publications including Kerrang!, Melody Maker, Select, The Blues Magazine and many more. She is also a professional pedant and grammar nerd and has worked as a copy editor on everything from film titles through to high-end property magazines. In her spare time, when not at gigs, you’ll find her at her local stables hanging out with a bunch of extremely characterful horses.