Metal Machine Music: Industrial rock progenitor brings his music to Kansas
By: J. Scott Bowman

On the edge of his couch, Helios Creed hunches over the coffee table while he concentrates on rolling a cigarette. In his trailer park home near Manhattan, he makes no sound as he folds the tobacco-filled paper, lifts the cigarette to his tongue and licks it.

He looks more like a content construction worker, near retirement, relaxing on his weekend. However, to his most avid fans, he sounds like a genius when it comes to making music.

Creed has been a musician for most of his life. He has made music all over the world, including over 30 albums, and he has a horde of hardcore fans that will fly hundreds of miles just to see him play.

Helios Creed was one of the first to venture into the genre of industrial rock. The freedom of his expression has led fans to try and pin his music to different genres from industrial rock to acid punk to space rock. But he just laughs at the suggestion of being restrained by the name of a genre as he leans back and takes a drag from his cigarette.

The Past

Helios Creed grew up on the sandy beaches of Southern and Northern California and Hawaii. The son of a Navy man, Creed admits he wasn't a very popular kid in school.

It wasn't until the age of 12, when his parents bought him an electric guitar and he grew out his hair, that he discovered the joy of playing music. Soon after, he discovered that people started to notice him.

"Growing up, I pretty much was a tall, lanky, dorky and unpopular kid," Creed said. "I grew my hair out at 12. I always liked the idea of playing guitar but never took the time.

"When my parents bought my first one, within a week or two I was playing better than most of my friends. Back then everyone was making bands and having fun."

After teaching himself to play the guitar, Creed said he realized that music was his main passion. In high school, he knew that he was going to play music for the rest of his life after playing in a few high school bands, he said. Shortly after that he said he decided he had little use for school and dropped out in the 11th grade.

"Pretty much, when I knew I was in music, I knew I wasn't going to be using most of the things they were teaching me," Creed said. "So I pretty much got disinterested in school.”

"My last few days in high school I was living in Hawaii, so it was a lot more fun to cut out and go to the beach or go surfing."

In 1976 Creed met up with Damon Edge, and they started the groundbreaking band Chrome. They didn't tour much, but shared the passion of making music, and made 20 records together. He said they wanted to create something new and different.

"We were into punk music from back in '76," Creed said. "We liked the energy of it. But what we wanted to do was make it more psychedelic or avant-garde. We wanted to be more than just a punk band."

They created music for seven years and turned several heads to the unique style of music that they made. Chrome eventually broke up due to several reasons, the main one being that they needed change, Creed said. That's when Creed went on to pursue a solo career, while occasionally playing with Chrome.

Many things separate Helios Creed from other musicians, and one of those is the way that he makes different noises for the music, Joe Dupre, fan of Chrome, said. Dupre, of Petaluna, Calif., said that he's flown hundreds of miles to see Creed play. He said he eventually met Creed and helped to mix records for him.

"He's definitely in my top 10 of greatest guitarists," Dupre said. "What he does is unique, everything from funny recording techniques to using a telephone for a microphone. He told me he once used a toilet paper tube because it was the only way he could get the vocals he wanted."

It's the distinctive and original sounds of Chrome that makes the band loved and admired by so many, Dupre said. The incredible experience that comes from going to a Chrome concert is what drove him to be such a fan, he said. He has taken it upon himself to be the self-appointed archivist for Chrome, collecting Chrome memorabilia and music.

"It's such an experience just to hear the noise and the level of noises on stage," Dupre said. "Listening to the records is not even comparable to what it's like in person. It's really hard to capture even with the technology we have. It's just hard to capture the shear volume level of it all."

The Present

Creed moved to Manhattan two years ago because his parents live in the area -- Kansas is the home state of his father. So, with 30 years of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle under his belt, why did he come to Kansas?

"I had no intention of ever moving out here, but I got sick and I had to go through treatment," he said. "The easiest way for me to do that was in this trailer, which I kind of inherited from my brother when he died.”

"I got sick with hepatitis C, and had to go through a treatment. It was a pegIntron treatment where you give yourself a shot once a week for about a year, and I got done with it about four or five months ago."

The sickness, however, hasn't interfered with his ability to make music.

Creed will leave Aug. 7 for a nationwide tour that starts in Lawrence. He and his band will have one more pre-tour concert on July 26 at the Brick in Kansas City.

Creed said he will keep creating music for as long as he can, and after this tour he sees the possibility of a future Chrome tour.

"It's not as easy for Chrome to tour," Creed said. "There are more guys, more equipment and more vehicles. I'll have to go out and create interest for a Chrome tour. Then I can go start booking places."

The camaraderie that occurs at the concerts normally ends up in friendships, Creed said. He said that along with the traveling, the fans are what make touring so much fun.

"I think that traveling is a sobering situation," he said. "You drive each day, play a show each day. Then you get to meet a lot of cool people. A lot of my fans actually end up being friends of mine."

In some cases, as of recently, his fans get an opportunity to work with him. Noel Harris, drummer for Helios Creed is originally from Ireland, but flew over to see one of Creed's shows, Harris said. He said that they got a chance to talk and eventually became friends and started playing.

Harris has been living in Kansas for the past 14 months, playing and recording with Helios Creed.

"I was a fan of his music a long time ago," Harris said. "He's a free spirit, not a huge rock star but supports himself and is very approachable and is a good friend.

"The reason we hit it off is because we are devotees of Jimi Hendrix. We're huge fans, and we both have made similar sacrifices for music."

Roddy Hugunin, bassist for Helios Creed, said that it is very apparent that Creed is a Hendrix fan by his playing style. He said he got the opportunity to call Creed when he found out he was in town, but at first, he was apprehensive.

"He's just like Hendrix, he plays what he feels, and when he's on, he's on," Hugunin said. "It's great and fun, and really loud.

"But, when I first got his number, I was hesitant to call him because I figured, like most rock stars, he'd cop an attitude. But he's a great guy and fun to hang out with."

Creed said that he enjoys his fans and has found that through music people can connect. He said that is part of what music is all about.

"A lot of the people that listen to our music relate to where we're coming from," Creed said. "And we are able to relate to where they're coming from. It's like a club in a way, but not really."

Creed said that he doesn't like to be limited to one specific genre of music, though it's been called many things.

"People have labeled my music a number of different ways," Creed said. "There's been all sorts of terms like acid punk, industrial, space rock, industrial space rock, as well as punk to twisted metal. After hearing all of that I throw in some folk music to throw it all off.”

"I like to think that I can do anything musically without being restricted, so I can cover as much ground as I can and not be categorized. But the industry needs to categorize everything to sell music."

Creed said he just wants to be seen as a credible musician who does it for the love of the medium, and is able to inspire people through music.

"I want people to see me as somebody doing something cool with some credibility and as someone who will endure," Creed said. "You've got to like what you're making, and when I make music, I make something that I want to hear."

Harris calls Creed's brilliance unbelievable in how he uses an array of effects to get the specific sounds he's looking for.

"He's a burning guitarist," Harris said. "He's so experienced. He'll just go off on a tangent when we're playing. Jamming, that's what it's all about.”

"Then on stage he has so much going on. Helios was the first to mess with vocals the way he does. On stage he'll sing with two mics. He creates a wall of sound that is amazing to work with."

Even though Creed has been a major influence on several bands, such as the Butthole Surfers and Nine Inch Nails, he still is creating great music, Harris said. The fact that he has had so many years of experience with such a complex sound is hard to believe, Dupre said.

"He still bangs it out, and he remembers it all," Dupre said. "It's amazing that he's able to remember all of the little knobs to get just the right sounds.”

"He might forget someone's phone number the next day, but he'll remember exactly how to tune his guitar to get the sounds from a song he wrote 25 years ago."


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