Helios Creed
By: Laurel Bowman
Carbon 14 #6

In while digging through the bins at the used record shop you should happen upon an album by Chrome, you may safely assume that its previous owner died. Chrome albums are hoarded like dirty secrets. Created in 1976 and disbanded in the early ‘80’s, Chrome was part of the influential troika of industrial trip bands which also included Neu and Can. Overlooked and largely forgotten, the distorted psychedelic wash of Chrome has become part of the source DNA of bands like Spiritualized, Flying Saucer Attack, Stereolab and the Dandy Warhols- a legacy that has evolved into an instinctual urge to reach for effects. There are many bands today that sound just like Chrome but even ex-members of the group will be the first to note that the homage is likely unintentional. There just aren’t that many people who can actually remember hearing a Chrome album. But chances are, they did. Somewhere. Out in front of Chrome was guitarist Helios Creed. Droning. Layering. Phasing Out. Everyone thought he was a freak. But in a good way. Chrome went away, (some members more than others.) Helios went on with his Helios Creed solo project; continuing the experiment on albums like Superior Catholic Finger, Boxing The Clown, Kiss To The Brain, The Last Laugh, and Planet X. His new effort, Cosmic Assault (on Cleopatra Records) is the latest, and he expects a new disc with members of the Butthole Surfers and Ministry out on Amphetamine Reptile in Spring of ’96. I called up Helios in Hawaii to find out who he is, where he’s been, what he’s up to, and why he’s living in Hawaii anyway.

Carbon 14: Why are you living in Hawaii anyway?

Helios Creed: Three years ago we moved from San Francisco. We discussed it for two years and it came down to wanting to build a studio here and when we weren’t recording, we wanted to do beach stuff. It was a health thing too, I wanted to get a little bit healthier before we go out and tour again. You know, it’s a nice place to come back to.

C14: A lot of folks think you’re from Mars and shit…

HC: No! I grew up here so moving back was not something I did out of the blue, I knew what I was getting myself into. Now it’s kinda getting commercialized. Where I live, on the North Shore it’s nice and rural. But the development is coming, the Japanese are coming in and building condos and golf courses.

C14: They would like you in Japan. Have you toured there?

HC: We kept connecting with alternative labels in Japan but they kept fading out on us. My friends went over there. But they’re heavy pot smokers so they were very disappointed.

C14: Is it true you took up surfing?

HC: Yeah, well, I surfed a little when I was a kid but I was never really that good, so I started doing it again about a couple of years ago, and it’s really happened for me. It’s like a drug, except you don’t really have to get burned out, just tired. I surfed yesterday at this place where it was just me. I was alone thinking, ‘hey this is the place where a guy got eaten by a shark a few years ago,’ and it was kind of creepy but then some people showed up and I go, ‘oh here are some more targets,’ so then I felt better. I like the whole scene. There’s this guy living down here on the beach who is a big surfer from the 60’s he has a lot of stories. He’s a beachcomber and occasional drunk living in a bus- kinda like me when we first started touring. Musically speaking though, surfing has not influenced me in a corny surfing way. I like the ancient Hawaiian music though, before the ukulele. I’m probably going to incorporate some of the ancient percussive stuff on a future project, filtering it though some effects.

C14: What were you listening to growing up?

HC: Jimi Hendrix. Noisy guitar players, Jeff Beck. As I got older it was Robert Fripp, Snakefinger. By age eighteen I had a case of island fever, so I moved to San Francisco thinking there would be all these cool bands and when I got there all I could find was old hippie blues bands and jazz.

C14: When did you become interested in making noise yourself?

HC: I’ve played guitar since I was 12. The Ventures inspired me.

C14: So you were influenced by corny surf music after all?

HC: Maybe mind surfing! You know, The Ventures were one of the first bands to use effects. I had a lot of Snakefinger records too, weird shit. I miss records terribly. You have the record spinning on the turntable, and you’d have the record cover in your hand, with its beautiful artwork shaping your imagination and now I can’t stand it. But we can sit here and talk about how bad kids have it today but we were just as big assholes. Did we know all the cool music and stuff that was going on in the ‘30’s, the ‘40’s the ‘50’s? It just goes on.

C14: Did your move to a more isolated environment have much impact on your music?

HC: Well, it was strange because I didn’t really have a studio in San Francisco, we just went into Cleopatra Records and they asked me if I wanted my own studio. Of course I said yes, I did; so for an album advance they financed the thing. Now I consider myself a blossoming, or a virgining engineer.

C14: What is your creative day or week like, given that your studio is right in your home now?

HC: It’s weird. Whenever I get bored I just sort of go in there and start messing around, sometimes I don’t think I’m gonna do anything, and things start to happen and the next thing I know I’ve got a whole song almost finished. I’ve done it a lot of different ways.

C14: You recorded Cosmic Assault yourself between July and October of 1994?

HC: I finished that right before we went on last year’s tour of the States and Europe. It’s not that expensive getting people out here from San Francisco, it’s more like an expensive bus ride. The band would just come down and we’d put it together. Planet X was done around the same time. But they’re totally different sounding records.

C14: And you already have a new project in the works..

HC: I’m looking forward to working with Jeff (Pinkus, bass player with The Butthole Surfers) and Rey (Washam, drummer from Ministry and Scratch Acid.) Rey used to play in my old band. You can hear him on Boxing The Clown. He’s been my drummer for a while. We’re going to record the new project in Texas, maybe we’ll get Gibby and Paul to help out if they’re around. And if we can find them. There’s no telling what it’s going to sound like. But I do know that I’ll do an ambient project on Cleopatra as well. Plus I’m looking to do some new touring. New touring ideas too, like what if a band traveled around and instead of playing clubs, pitched a circus tent or rented warehouses. I’d like to make it more church-like. And have side shows. With freaks. We used to do this thing called the Psychedelic Church. Dog wrestling, fortune telling, all these things you’d have to go through before you would hear the band. So there’s not an opening band but more like opening acts. Definitely more church-like. I’m just so sick of clubs.

C14: A few years ago you released an album under the name Helios Meat. What was that all about?

HC: It was a record company fuck up. The album name is Kiss To The Brain and they credited us as Helios Meat. We thought it was funny so we left it like that. Helios Meat. On the cover it actually says Helios Creed, but on the side, it says Helios Meat. Then some radio stations put labels on it and called it Helios Meat and it got filed that way. It’s pretty funny.

C14: Do you look back fondly on the Chrome days? Or is it something you’d rather forget?

HC: Well, let’s see… I look back both ways. There are some bitter memories and some really good things. They were pretty stoney days.

C14: But you don’t have any contact with Damon Edge (co-founder of Chrome)?

HC: No, not anymore. We almost did a project a few years ago but he didn’t want to work in the studio, actually he didn’t want to work in the same studio. He didn’t want me to see him. He wanted me in my studio and he wanted to work in his studio and he wanted us to mail stuff back and forth. He’s got agoraphobia. He doesn’t want to go out. I understand that it’s a condition that usually develops in people in their later years.

C14: Was Damon’s agoraphobia something you noticed back in the Chrome days?

HC: He probably had it back then. Yeah, afraid of wide open spaces.

C14: You can have a band like Stereolab that is a direct descendant of Can or Neu or Chrome and folks think that it’s this brilliant new music.

HC: I guess that’s just what happens… on the other side of that, I’m not listening to anyone now. I don’t think there’s any band or artist that’s doing anything very cool so… but I’m living out on Hawaii so there probably is something going on, I just don’t know about it. Around here you don’t get a lot of alternative music. Our work was overlooked, but it wasn’t like we had a hit or anything for people to remember so…. Uh, that’s why I’m not on a big label anyway. All I have to do is make the records and tour. We’re not trying to make it big or make it at all really, just trying to make records and go out and play. No hustling of deals. We have a loyal following that likes what we do. That’s enough. This year has been our best. Last year too. We’ve been able to go nearly a whole year surviving on what we make from the music. We’re building a new studio. I’m trying to help along this industrial band from the island called Lost Souls. I helped them get their deal on Cleopatra.

C14: Not many people care to note that the new music they’re listening to isn’t very new at all…

HC: There was this guy who was reviewing one of our shows recently. For the first half of the show he thought we were ripping off the Butthole Surfers. Then somebody told him what they were listening to when they were kids. He had a realization.

Images appearing in this interview: