The Return Of Helios Creed
By: Jacob Pierce
October 29, 2013

Helios Creed offers to serve me a hot cup of instant coffee at 4pm as I sit on the edge of the guitarist’s bed in his smoky studio apartment on Beach Hill. But Creed, who just rolled out of bed and hasn’t opened up his eyes all the way yet, won’t drink any. He prefers to wake up by dragging on cigarettes and gave up on coffee years ago, having guzzled a dozen cups a day through the 1970s and ’80s. “It burned out my pancreas. I drank too much,” he says. “That’s who I am. I overdo everything.”

Creed, lead guitarist for the legendary San Francisco underground rock band Chrome—a huge influence on bands like the Butthole Surfers, Prong and MGMT—doesn’t know how to take things at half-speed. He gave up alcohol years ago too after abusing it (although he says he still smokes cigarettes and marijuana and uses psychedelic drugs on occasion.) It’s that same obsessive, addictive nature that gives the musician, who is about to release an album and is working on another, the meticulous attention to detail he displays on each ridiculously complex song.

Creed plays me “Prophecy,” a song for an upcoming, yet-untitled Chrome album the band might also title Prophecy,after the song. The song starts quietly, and climbs steadily in pitch and volume as a man chatters in the background. Suddenly, Creed’s baritone voice comes in—his lyrics mostly indecipherable, in trademark Chrome style. In certain sections, instrumentation roars in reverse from Creed playing the tapes of the band backwards for the mix, and the song transitions easily from one blaring section to the next.

Chrome’s musical style has been called “industrial music” or, perhaps more accurately, “acid-punk.” The singer got inspiration for his sound from a Black Sabbath concert he attended on mescaline and a couple hits of Orange Sunshine LSD when he was 17 years old.

Creed stresses that he didn’t invite me here just so he could offer me coffee and talk about songs. A fascinated stargazer—there’s a reason his Chrome and solo albums have names like 3rd from the Sun and Busting Through the Van Allen Belt—he wants to know why NASA hasn’t been more forthcoming about its findings with the SOHO telescope, which launched in 1995 to study the sun. Government officials, Creed insists, know frightening things about the universe. They won’t tell us out of fear we might “freak out.”

“It’s good that I’m telling you this because any interview that I do from now on, I’m going to do this—reveal the bullshit that’s going on as much as I can,” Creed says.

Creed first joined the band Chrome in 1976 after an invitation from drummer Damon Edge. Creed and Edge became inseparable collaborators in San Francisco, working on albums like Alien Soundtracks and Half Machine Lip Moves, but the band fizzled into hiatus when Edge left for Paris in 1983 and changed forever when the drummer died in 1995.

The new Chrome album, Half Machine from the Sun, is a release of never-heard material leftover from the 1970s and ’80s that Creed and current bassist Jay Tausig mixed. It will be available at Streetlight Records in Santa Cruz and on Creed and Clark (who lives in Los Angeles) hope to release the next Chrome album in February.

On Half Machine from the Sun, old Chrome fans can expect Creed’s metal technique fused with his psychedelic vision, and Edge’s jazzy syncopated drumming style. But they should not expect Creed to break down his complex songs into boring music theory or anything clinical like that, or even discuss what’s happening in each song.

“We like to keep it as a feel,” Creed says. “Damon and I talked about it. He goes, ‘You know what it is? Rock & roll is this animal thing—the best rock isn’t thought about.’ People lose the fact that rock and roll is an animal.”

Every time Creed adds a new band member, he makes it clear they’re not going to sit down and talk about the “direction” of the band.

“We’re just going to do it,” he says. “If it sounds great, we’ll keep it. If it sucks, it’s out the window. That’s it. That’s the school of Chrome learning. It’s not sitting around and analyzing what you’re doing ’til it has no life left in it.”

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