Helios decides to initiate our interview by severely challenging our notions of cool: "I've been hearing a lot of Jethro Tull cover versions lately," he says while examining the ceiling intimately. "You know when a band is so out, they're in again. They're just about to do that."
Er, so is that a big influence? We meekly enquire. "Was a big influence, when I was a kid. Tull, Hendrix, this was when I was very young. Which brings us to;-
spent his formative years in
So far, so ordinary, when did the vertical hold slip, making things get weird?
"Damon and I developed weird and fucked up. Because Punk came into view. We sorta' wanted to be a punk band, but it was too late. The Sex Pistols were big, there were the Dead Kennedys, Negative Trend, Crime, there were already a bunch of punk bands in the city. We wanted to be one but it was too late. So we decided to be an acid punk band, which didn't exist. If we were gonna' do anything it would have to be not happening to do it. So we took a chance, and it was what we wanted to do anyway. We already had this punk set, and Damon played me these weird tapes he'd made, I go, `man, I like that better than our set, why don't we do something like that.' Then we talked about it for hours, all of a sudden we cut up our set with this weird shit next thing you know we made Alien Soundtracks.
"Damon was really into modern day co-chrome art work, that's where the name comes from. I was into weird guitar and effects. We were both into effects, the more effects the better really, next to a really stark garage punk sound.
"When [Alien Soundtracks] finally came out, I went `man this record, no-ones going to like it, it's too trashy sounding'. Nobody was doing anything that fucked up, that raw. I was really surprised when people started liking it a lot. Punks weren't liking it, it was too psychedelic for them. Intellectuals who were into punk, but were into other things as well, they started buying the record like crazy. People that couldn't get enough of Jimi Hendrix they started buying it. There was a whole psychedelic scene getting ignored, and we sort of fulfilled some of their wants. Then a couple of years later punk started getting into it, started doing acid, then we started selling records".
Helios pauses for a moment to take a sage-like puff from his pipe, before launching into a monologue on all things psychedelic:-
"Psychedelia is ancient, hippies don't have any claim on psychedelia, just because the hippy thing exploited it so big. Indians, tribes, psychedelics have been around as long as man. We've been doing it and using music; only now we have all this technology. "To me psychedelic is something that sounds good under the influence of psychedelics, to your head, to your mind. Anybody could call anything psychedelic; they call Acid House psychedelic, they call the Happy Mondays psychedelic. If I listened to that on acid I think I'd have a bum trip, y'know what I mean? "We never said that we were psychedelic, we said we were New Wave, or Acid Punk; because as soon as people say the word psychedelic automatically a lot of people will flashback `oh, psychedelic; hippy; peace; bell bottoms; phoney attitudes;' you know. So they made this list of bands and called it `Acid Punk'. There was Devo, Pere Ubu, Chrome, and some other bands I never heard off. There was about ten of them, the top ten of Acid Punk, they didn't want to call it psychedelia, it was New Wave psychedelia. "Punk changed music, changed music for me, changed it in a psychedelic way. I thought it was a good ingredient for psychedelia".
Helios' lyrics often (on those rare occasions when they're comprehensible) seems fascinated with Alien life forms; what's the attraction?
"Just the mere possibility, and doing psychedelics; thinking about people from other planets, thinking we're connected more than we can see, and that we're connected musically. As a matter of fact I want to be the first band to have interplanetary distribution.”
"I think a lot of people are contacted by aliens and don't even know it. It could be in a different dimension, or in another space, and we don't even know it. But I couldn't prove it.”
"That's what I'm into, the strangest phenomena, alien phenomena, unexplained phenomena, natural phenomena, and musical weirdness. I'm into all that. And music seems really close even though it's not connected. It's sort of connected in a psychic way to me, and I think it hasn't been explored fully by humans. To us music is just somebody playing an instrument, there's a lot of things that are connected with your psyche, and the crowd (that we don't even know) that we could explore."
"I think psychedelics help some people, the consciousness of music needs to be raised on some level to make it work. A lot of times you just can't drink a few beers and get into it. The consciousness needs to be a lot higher than just being drunk". So do you use psychedelics when your writing material? "Oh yeah, I've written songs tripping, I've written songs on mushrooms, not as much any more. Sometimes in the studio I might take a little acid to keep awake, because I don't drink coffee, but I won't do speed.”
"So yeah, I have done acid and written songs, it can work, but you had better make sure they sound good straight. I like to make something as cool as I can straight and then listen to it on acid. I think psychedelics should be more accepted than pot. I don't think acid should be a Class A drug. Sure someone could take acid and jump out a window, but it doesn't happen very often. You can get drunk and have a car accident easier than you can take acid and jump out a window. They should quit restricting us to bad drugs, and help us learn about the possibilities. That's what the song `XL-35` is about, they're keeping us from exploring our own minds, by keeping us with the lame drugs.”
"I think a lot of artists feel the need to use psychedelics, it's an intelligent universe, and they want to reach out into it with their minds and bring back some sort of high statement, to experience it themselves, and to have other people experience it, and sometimes they feel the need to use drugs to do that."radient for psychedelia".
As well as doing his own album, Helios found time to put down some guitar on the new Butthole Surfers record. So here comes the inevitable John Paul Jones story: "He told us this story about the Live Aid concert Led Zeppelin reformed for, he goes: (cue appalling accent) `Yeah we were at Live Aid, and Dave Gilmore, he had his guitars set up, didn't want anybody near them. He had all these pedals, all around. Anybody gets near them he gets all uptight. So he sits in the corner so he can watch his stuff, he's all concerned. He turns his back for a second to have a drink or talk to somebody . All of a sudden there's all this racket (JPJ said it sounded a lot like me). So he looks over and Roger Daltrey is jumping up and down on his stuff playing the guitar, jumping up and down on the pedals, turning it all up. And Dave's freaking out, ha, ha.
"It was really neat meeting JPJ. I was honoured. When I was a kid I worshipped bands like Led Zeppelin. But you know I never told him I thought their live show sucked. I don't know what was wrong. The only time I thought they were any good they were too drunk to play."
Current rumours have it that Helios has quit the music business entirely, perhaps he's off touring the horsehead nebula at this very moment, going where no aging stoner has gone before!