Helios Creed
By: Larry Kay
July 1994

Phone interviews are almost always weird. When your call has to bounce off a satellite because of the distance between you and your subject, strange little delays creep in and a simple conversation can become a journey through the space-time continuum. Such is the case with Helios Creed, who sits six hours away in Hawaii. “You move your clocks ahead, we don’t do that here-here and Arizona,” he offers as his voice seems to click in and out like a telegraph key being tapped.

Is Helios Creed an acceptable answer?

Hell Yeah, in fact, he might be the only possible solution. Creed, one of the guitar kings of interstellar space whose seventh solo album, Busting Through The Van Allan Belt, has just been released on Cleopatra (along with a 1993 live recording for the “Your Choice Live” series on the European Label Semaphore), is a musical channeler of sorts. His records and live performances generate phase-shifted universes of delayed, controlled and manipulated sounds that swing from the visceral and guttural to the ethereal and haunting without much room for a break in between.

Given the reports of UFO activity over Hawaii and the island chain’s unique mysticism, maybe this is the right place for Creed to call home. Hawaii is among the most isolated land masses on the planet, a fact that gives it an aura of sorts that occurs nowhere else. “If you look at a globe, it’s really strange that it’s right in the middle of major continents and surrounded by the ring of fire,” Creed explains. “A lot of mysterious things about Hawaii kind of attract me too. Haleakala crater and stuff.”

He moved to the mainland a year ago, but his island roots run fairly deep. “I sorta grew up here during my pre-high school and high school years,” he says. “And I cut out of high school and went to the mainland, and-until I moved back-have been there ever since.”

Creed’s purpose in returning was twofold. First he just plain likes it-and if you’ve ever been to Hawaii you know that’s not hard. Second, and more importantly, says Creed, “I’m building my own studio. It seems like there’s nothing I can’t do anywhere that I can’t do here.”

Simultaneously recording an album and building a studio is an interesting way to spur the creative process, and the two factors interrelate more often than not. “It’s all kind of going together I guess, and I keep adding on to it,” he says. “I’m pretty much in there every day fiddling around, writing stuff, messing around with tones.” Creed has already completed 10 tracks for his next album in the eight track (but soon to expand) room.

But before we get to the next record let’s talk about the Van Allen Belt, a part of the earth’s upper atmosphere that contains, according to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, “intense ionizing radiation.” Simply put, ionized particles are electrically charged, and because of the charged state, radio wave signals can be sent through the Van Allen Belt into deep space-I think the charging amplifies the signal, but I’m no physicist. It’s one of the ways the government thinks will eventually be used to communicate with intelligent life on other worlds.

Busting Through The Van Allen Belt can also be regarded in some ways as space communication. The first four tracks-all recorded in his new studio and featuring Creed on vocals, guitar, samples and percussion and his longtime companion/collaborator Z Sylver on synthesizer (she’s played synth on the last few Creed tours as well)-are among the most alien sounding he’s created. They almost recall Chrome, the legendary experimental band of which Creed was one half. These four ventures into alien worlds of sound are followed by various live tracks: one with the Creed/Nik Turner version of Hawkwind that recorded the albums Sphynx and Prophets of Time (both listed as Turner records though Creed handles most of the guitar duties on both in addition to sharing some songwriting credits); two with Creed’s regular band from his past two albums (Z, Paul Della Pelle on drums and Chris McKay on bass); and two tracks recorded live-in-studio (in San Francisco) with bassist Andrew Weiss and his brother Jon on drums.

The minimal liner notes on Busting Through explain the album’s diversity: “You will notice that this album is off the beaten track, with a magnitude of players and guests…” Time constraints also contributed to the album’s slightly peculiar nature. “It was supposed to be like the way it is at the beginning all the way through,” Creed says, “but Brian (from Cleopatra) wanted a record out sooner, so we put some live stuff on it and made it a different kind of record… There was a theme about space I was going for.”

Space. A cohesive theme for at least the beginning of Busting Through, if not all of Creed’s recorded output. Is the mystical reputation of Hawaii a factor as well? “Maybe,” he says. “I’m thinking about spacey things more.” Are those first four tracks an indication of what’s to come next, in terms of musical direction? “In a way, but better… the tracks I’m making, we’ve got like ten tracks and I’m doing all kinds of industrial drum type stuff.”

Aside from recording while constructing a studio, being 2,400 miles and half an ocean away from the rest of your band is bound to give a record an unusual vibe. “We’re just doing different things,” Creed says. “Sometimes they send me the tapes and I record over them, sometimes I record with them. So every song has a different sound. But they’re all produced kind of the same.”

As for touring, Creed hopes to have the next album completed and released before a projected September tour. Pretty ambitious, but Cleopatra is apparently gung ho for another album. Although his four previous records had been released through Amphetamine Reptile, Creed hasn’t exactly abandoned the “noise” label.

“I’ve known those guys at Cleopatra before they were a bigger label, they’re friends. But I signed to Tom Hazelmyer’s label for a few albums, then I just took a year or two off from AmRep and did a record for Brian. I might do another album with Tom… AmRep sent me a little bit of money to make record, and that was quite a while ago. You know, I just make records for whoever sends me some money,” Creed laughs as the phone cuts out for the third time.

 According to the fine people at AmRep, the next Helios Creed album will be coming out on the Minneapolis label in August or September. Bring enough oxygen, space is deep. 


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