THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM: A DIGITAL Q&A WITH ACID PUNK PIONEER HELIOS CREED
Pioneers of the Acid
Punk movement Chrome emerged from San Francisco in the late-70s. Their
fusion of bad sci-fi movies, noise, UFOs, and heavy rock laid the
groundwork for a genre that would become known as Industrial music;
however their obvious influence has been obscured by the passage of
time. Upon listening to Chrome for the first time, the impact that
their sound had on future musicians is obvious. Chrome’s cut-up
techniques created a market, a market that they were admittedly too
early to corner.
In his formative
years Helios Creed set out to out-weird Hawkwind, give Psychedelia a
dark side, and force an evolutionary shift away from the status quo of
the late-60s hippie culture. Fueled by the curiosity of what would
happen if Punk did acid, Chrome went on to create the sounds that
influenced the electro-industrial movement.
experienced many shifts in its lineup since those formative years, and
has a new album out, Feel It Like A Scientist. Helios answered a few
questions for Paraphilia and shared the creative process behind the
sound that he and Damon Edge shared during their formative years, and
where Chrome is headed in the 21st century
without denigrating the rest of your output, the two albums Alien
Soundtracks and Half Machine Lip Moves were quite unique. The
Visitation displays a few hints of what was to follow, and the albums
afterwards seemed almost like an attempt to anchor something
inexplicable in more familiar territory. Where were your heads at when
you created those two albums?
HC: It was very
comfortable in Damon’s living room; he had art on the walls, and the
reel-to-reel set up in a homey environment. It wasn’t a studio
environment. It was a do-whatever-you-want kind of space, where you
felt the freedom… that anti government Psychedelic vibe. That was the
atmosphere that Alien Soundtracks and Half Machine Lip Moves were
created in. The way we worked was not rehearsed; it was off the top of
our heads. I read an interview with Shawn Phillips in the 70’s (who
wrote for Donovan) just before I started in Chrome, and he liked the
guys to be spontaneous and not over-rehearsed, and I thought that was
really cool. It really inspired me and then I met Damon and he thought
and worked the same way. It was the only way Damon could work and I
enjoyed it. Up until then, I had been more traditional; write it,
rehearse it and perform it, which is also good, but I liked the methods
that Damon had been steeped in at Cal Arts. I understood the
philosophy, like automatic writing, it’s the same thing, but I had
never come at music construction that way. However, earlier in my
teenage years I already had the goals of being weirder than Hawkwind
and, I had also wanted to be a part of the change that I knew was going
to come in Rock. I didn’t know what the change would sound like exactly
in the early 70’s, but of course Punk, Industrial Rock, Art Rock… those
became the change. I was a serious student of Rock for years before
meeting Damon. Our methods were totally different, but then we came
together our ideas kind of merged together. He started seeing things
like I did and I started seeing things like he did.
We were both
dedicated Punk Rockers and we both agreed we hated the Blues. We knew
we had to make a Punk Rock album, when you hear “Chromosome Damage” you
hear the era, and we made this whole Punk Rock set and “March of the
Chrome Police” was one of the Punk set. But we wanted to be more than a
Punk band, ‘cause everyone was doing that.
I said to Damon,
“don’t think we’re gong to just be a Rock band or just a Punk Rock
band, we’re going to be weird we’re going to be original,” and he was
totally on the same page. Punk was so much about getting drunk and
partying. I proposed what if Punk did Acid and listened to something
crazy? And what if we brought a dark side of Psychedelia to counter the
dogmas of the hippie scene? And we both just dug the idea right away.
Not that we hated hippies, but we just wanted to evolve from where
things had gotten stuck. The new young people had evolved and that
crowd wanted to listen to Devo and Pere Ubu and The Sex Pistols and
Throbbing Gristle. I could see a whole band there that was missing, and
it was Chrome.
We weren’t under any
kind of pressure whatsoever, we were just kind of painting this
picture. We didn’t know what we were doing, yet we had a vision and had
our own label and it worked. I’ve been saying in other interviews that
Damon and I were into the same things, bad B Sci-Fi movies, UFOS, weird
sounds, noise for noise sake, heavy rock, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath,
Pink Floyd, The Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop, the new Punk Rock that
was coming out at the time, the Ramones who were Punk way before anyone
else, Psychedelia… When we played we were just totally into the same
parts. We were blown away that our first collaboration together, Alien
Soundtracks, instantly worked so well. We patterned Half Machine Lip
Moves after it wanting to make a better Alien Soundtracks. I think we
succeeded, for me anyway. People really responded to those two albums.
They might like our other studio albums and they get really into them
too, but then they always come back to Alien Soundtracks and Half
Machine Lip Moves.
They are so dense and the titles are like mnemonics for entire myth systems. What was your working process like?
Damon had recorded
material he had made at the same time as Chrome’s first album, The
Visitation, which I wasn’t on. It was stuff he’d done with Gary Spain
and John Lambdin. We cut bits of those sessions into Damon’s and my new
material, and we spliced in other sound bites form Soap Operas or
movies etc. Sometimes we just screamed and banged on things then ripped
into heavy riffs, Damon on his Moog Liberation and me on guitar of
course. Other times we worked out songs in the more traditional since,
but then in the post-production we fucked it all up. Damon and I loved
to discuss our theories about music and noise, and each of our songs
for hours. We were both fascinated with each other’s creative
perspectives. It was a whole process.
While you were making them did you feel you were in a headspace nobody else could access?
Yah pretty much, yah
we talked about that how no one else sounded like us and how Alien
Soundtracks cornered the market. For any Punk Rock band we were selling
a good amount of albums. I saw us in a way like Pink Floyd, in that
they could do their thing and corner a market. They were original, they
created the market they cornered, and they’d never let anyone take
their market. Not like us. Before us there was no Acid Punk and we
wanted to corner that market, but we were too early. We fell apart
before the wave broke with the Butthole Surfers, Ministry or any of the
other bands that made Punk Rock kind of Psychedelic and allowed noise
to exist in a new way. Now there are tons of Acid-Punk style bands.
Fans would say, “I heard this band on the radio and I thought it was
you and I was so happy for you, but then I realized it was another band
called Nine Inch Nails.” I think we were just too early for the
audiences to get into our headspaces and get that big, but then again
these first two Chrome albums have lived on in big way. I appreciate
the bands that have kept the wave alive and continued to build on it. I
feel like there is another big wave now and we’re on it, me and my
current line up of Chrome. It’s the third wave for me. The other one
was in the mid-nineties when I was working as a solo artist in the
Noise Rock scene.
Half Machine From The Sun – without
asking you to explain the chronological events that led to the tape
disappearing and resurfacing physically – where does this fit into the
mythical soundscape of Chrome?
What it represents to
me is the total maturity spiritually and musically of Damon and my
collaborative efforts as Chrome. Some of the best songs that I got to
sing are on HMFTS and some of Damon’s best songs vocally are on HMFTS.
So we developed the mythological Chrome character, the guy that’s
‘looking for your door,’ the guy that ‘sometimes feels the rain’ to
full maturity. The sad part to me (I don’t know how Damon feels about
it because he’s not around to tell me), but to me it is that those
songs didn’t get released at the time they were created because I think
the maturity that is there would have taken us to another level. Damon
had a big fear of losing credibility to our sound and he wasn’t ready
for our maturity, nor a certain kind of success that I feel those songs
would have brought us. But for me those songs were the best I could do,
I did everything I could do to make the best Chrome character I could
make. I was trying to make a great band. But it’s a blessing in
disguise to have it released now.
At the time you were making those two albums – and Red Exposure
(which is only slightly less frenetic) – there were very few bands
working in territory even slightly similar; Pere Ubu, The Residents,
later on Einsturzende Neubauten and Skinny Puppy. Was there any
communication between any of you? Or did this similar cut & paste
approach occur independently to several of you?
We had communication
with The Residents and all the Ralph records artists like MX-80 and
Tuxedo Moon. We’d all hang out and share ideas. It was a part of the
Cold Wave, Gary Numan and all that. We called David Thomas once, Damon
and I, ya know the lead singer of Pere Ubu. We were very aggressive. He
was very normal guy and we got along very well. He was one of Damon’s
idols and actually very similar to Damon, and I looked up to him
myself. So we were stoked to get a hold of him on the phone. We did
reach out as a band to other bands to hang out, especially Damon he was
very social in the early days and into the dialogue. Skinny Puppy and
Einsturzende started doing their thing after Damon went to Europe and
took the name Chrome with him so I was going into a different direction
by then starting my sound as a solo artist.
You have been consistently cursed/blessed with the label of ‘influential.’ Do you yourself see any such lineage?
Oh sure I see it.
Chrome’s most current album is previously unreleased, older material; please tell us about the new album?
Well, I already
discussed how it represents our maturation. I think it’s wonderful it’s
coming out now, because it’s a time capsule back to this radical,
changing era in Rock. So its significance has more dimensions now then
if it had been released in ’79 and ‘80. I’m getting letters from
the older fans and it’s almost as if it’s the blueprint of their souls,
because now at this age, they are having the experience of hearing a
new release for the first time of music made in the time period of
their youth. It’s really cool. Then HMFTS is there also to help
develop, entertain and inspire the young people. People are digging it
like we did it yesterday. It’s amazing how fresh it is, like it belongs
in the contemporary music climate.
Some of those songs I
really didn’t remember at all. How often to you get that experience as
an artist? Never! It’s magical. It’s a gift for sure. We work so
spontaneously in Chrome we don’t always remember what we’ve recorded
and I’m having that situation now where my current backing vocalist
Monet Clark, laid down actually a lead vocal track on our new album,
that she just told me last night she can’t quite recall how it goes
because see she did it in one take on the fly. She made a masterpiece
that day… She wrote the lyrics, while the band was laying down the
bottom tracks. Then put her in the vocal booth and recorded her top
track and she just went in and nailed it in one take. That is how to do
So this new album I’m
talking about is actually Chrome’s most recent album… Feel It Like A
Scientist. It’s coming out this April 2014. I’m deep in the final
mixing stages of it now. It couldn’t have happened without each of the
members that are with me right now. I haven’t felt this kind of
chemistry with a group since Damon and I added John and Hillary to our
line up to play live. It is also magical. Tommy Grenas my keyboard
player and Aleph Omega my drummer have been with me for years. Aleph is
the best drummer you could ask for, just solid. You are only as good as
your drummer and he’s studied Damon’s unique style of playing. Tommy
like Monet is another creative genius in many aspects. He also helps in
composing the melodies for the choruses of songs etc. Keith Thompson
aka Lou Minatti is our youngest member a really talented guitar player.
Monet aka Anne Dromida is performance/video artist and she brings this
art element to the mix much like Damon’s energy, which I’m just into.
Plus she can sing! I knew her for years, but we never worked together
until she had me guest in one of her video pieces where she did vocal
work. I was blown away with her performance that day, so I invited her
to do some work with Chrome. And we have Steve Fishman on bass. He is a
seasoned pro and who he’s played with makes me awestruck. Currently he
is also with Hugh Cornwall of the Stranglers. He’s just a top-notch
bassist. He sought me out. He wanted to work with Chrome and we needed
a bass player. He is our newest member and when he landed, the group’s
alchemy was complete. We go into the studio and just write and create
on the spot and what we’ve come up with in those sessions is the
alchemical process that makes gold. I can’t tell you enough how pleased
I am with the chemistry of this band.
I had the intention
to make the best Chrome album ever with this project. We all could feel
the momentum rising and this new wave swelling. Not one of my band
members doubted the mission and everyone rose up to the challenge of
it. The process of creating it has been very special and all of us in
the Chrome camp are just really excited now at the quality of the new
a recent interview you mentioned that the government is withholding
information regarding the universe, and that you welcome the
opportunity to discuss it. Anything you would care to share with us?
We’ve all known the
government is withholding information forever about so much shit. That
isn’t new. When we are at risk for being hit by fallout like from the
winged comet Ison that recently hit the Sun, it’s just not advertised.
Well they don’t want everyone to freak out. I’m always searching the
Internet for clues. I’m fascinated by Planet X for instance, also
called Nibiru and I found this NASA photograph of space for instance
with this blank space cut out in the image. It was obviously censored.
The thought was that it was Nibiru behind that space. And the cover up
going on around Fukushima, my God, I mean it’s still melting down and
there’s no media coverage. I’m always glad to see people question the
idiots that run everything because they aren’t any smarter and aren’t
anything special and aren’t any good. So don’t bow down to their
authority. I‘m not saying everyone in the government is evil but the
entity of it is inherently evil. It’s so interesting about the American
government, how it’s this evil genius. The people that own the
government, the elite, have been ousted to some extent, but you wonder
how much more there is to out about them! So much more. I’m not against
anyone or contrary to anyone, but the government has a lot of money and
makes a lot of bad decisions. I’m not their enemy or their friend, they
are like family that has a lot of weapons, and money and power that
we’ve let them have. It worries me. And like some family I just don’t
want them over for dinner anymore!