Helios Creed Interview
Your Flesh #15
For nearly 8 years a band churned out one of this (and the last) decade's most mammoth, ear slicing vinyl arsenals. Their name was Chrome. The name isn't bandied about with Pere Ubu's, The Stooges, or V Undergrounds as one of America's best and groundbreaking bands, but as anyone who's spun "Half Machine Lip Moves" know, they more than rate. Now I'm not screaming rip-off, or pointing the smug finger of influences, but I'm more than sure if you dug through vinyl heaps in the houses of Thurston Moore, Albini or maybe a Gibby, I don't think you'd be hard pressed to dig up more than one of these discs I'm telling you about. What I'm gettin' at here is that despite remaining anonymous while spewing out such masterpieces as "Blood On The Moon" and "Alien Soundtracks" and having their seed germinate more than one way in alternative music's most recent offerings, is that half of Chrome mastermind is still producing the same, if not more so, fucked up, seething sonic blasts. That be one Helios Creed. A lot of those newsprint-pushing-types have been drolling for the return of one Hendrix messiah and crying wolf more than once in the past few years, while the whole time the bubba's been sitting in San Fran getting ignored. Unlike those formerly mentioned types who've been acknowledged as having their permanent stamp on raw "k" roll, Helios isn't doing scooter ads n' rancid, politically conscious lp's or bad tinkling poetry lp's or hobnobbing with losers like Bowie. The man is still racing, foot to the floor, eight cylinders (not one and a half like European models), screaming along that all incumbent "edge" a few of us will give anything for a taste of. As if you needed proof (my word is gold, peon), there's his first solo LP "X-Rated Fairy Tales," and the soon to be released "Superior Catholic Finger," both on Subterranean Records. Helios also has a cut on "Dope Guns And Fucking In The Streets Vol. II" called "The Last Laugh." It captures that "fucked-up, acid feeling" about 100 times more than any bullshit, neo-No Wave, collegiate hair monger bands that're plaguing far too much shelf space these days. Anyways, I tracked down Mr. H. on the phone and made one of my rare and questionable attempts at being a journalist, just to gab at one of my all time guitar heroes. What follows are the results. Also included with Helios is an interview in '82 which I dug up from an old press kit. I included it to flesh out the "weirded out" periods Helios makes reference to. Oh yeah, when I talk about Chrome, I'm talking about Chrome as it existed from '77 to '83, none of the miserable shit called "Chrome" (mostly after '84) that did not include Helios Creed, which is pure bullshit propagated by someone who would willingly move to France. Don't be fooled or confused.
X-Rated Fairy Tales. Were you happy with that?
Not totally. I wasn't happy with the production.
Didn't you have your hand in on that?
Yeah, I did, but I wanted to work on it more and I ran out of money. I'm happier with Superior Catholic Finger, the newest album.
Yeah, I'm hankering to hear that one. Is there much change in direction since X-Rated?
Yeah, I think it's more intense. It's different, it's a little more garage sounding, but at the same time, more produced.... Maybe not more produced, just better produced.
On X-Ray, that Lp struck me as the next step in a Chrome-like-progression. Was that your intent, or just the way it worked out?
Well, I was sort of writing that and similar stuff for Chrome projects. I just kept a lot of it around and put it on that record. I was working on that record for a few years. As far as songs go, I was using those songs, and throwing out a lot of songs. I had a lot of time to dick around with it. The new record I wrote on tour, so it's kind of a different energy.
Where've you been touring so far?
We did a cross country tour:
What was the response like?
Really good for our first tour. But it was quite a bit of time after the first LP and I was in the middle of recording Superior Catholic Finger.
What kind of response did X-Rated Fairy Tales get? Have you gotten the same cold shoulder Chrome seemed to get?
Who knows? I haven't had any bad reviews (I could find) and its been moving. It's been popular in the
Are you from the Bay Area?
No, I'm from
Was your Dad stationed at
So that's when you settled in
No. We moved to
What was going on around you and Damon in the Bay Area?
Not much. There was no punk, but there was a lot of jazz and blues around
So nothing ever moved you then?
No, and that's the reason I wanted to work with Damon. Because he was making records, he wasn't just trying to make a band to play some club. That's what I felt like doing at the time. And I didn't really think about the music I wanted to play at the time or anything - we just fell into it. The punk thing started up, and I guess that sort of influences a lot of things we were doing.
It didn't really have a reaction to us.
Has it ever, or has it yet?
It's been a cumulative thing.
Did the Chrome split hinder that at all? Any regrets? Because it didn't seem to hinder you.
No. I feel good about what I'm doing. I don't miss it, as long as I can still make records.
So you don't have to be tied to any name?
No, I feel pretty independent. I feel like it's something I grew though. The relationship I had with Damon was good for what we were doing, but now I'm doing other things that, together, we couldn't do.
What do you think of the stuff he's doing lately?
I haven't heard all that much of it, but it's not really the stuff I'm into. It's quite obvious. Some of the stuff's okay.
What's your family's reaction been? What's Helios' mom say?
She loves it! You're talking about my mom, right?
She same to our show in
Who've you got in the band now? What happened to the Stench brothers?
I don't know what they're doing now. I don't keep in touch with them. I've got Todd Preuss on drums and Mark Duran on bass.
So you went to a 3 piece?
So you dropped the synth?
Yeah, I found it to be a pain in the ass. We haven't really found the right person, who makes it sound right to us, anyways.
I heard you might be doing some recording with the Buttholes down in
Yeah. They said they wanted to do something in December. I guess they were Chrome fans when they were younger.
What else is up the recording end?
Going up to
What's the background dirt on the name, "Helios Creed"?
Actually, I used it a long time ago for a band that never really happened. Then I used it for a stage name and got stuck with it. We didn't want to use our names in Chrome. Damon's name was his wife's idea.
Is he still living in
He's living in LA. I talked with him a few weeks ago. I had just woken up- I'd partied the night before when the Buttholes were in town, so I was like, massive hangover.
Weren't there some financial problems after the split, and with him using the Chrome moniker after you weren't involved?
Yeah. I just told him, if he was selling records and not putting my name on it, to be honest and shit.. but I'll never know.
So you don't keep up on that?
No, not lately. The Chrome stuff is supposedly selling, so I've been wanting to keep in touch, but I've got a lot of faith in my newer stuff. People should like is as much as Chrome. Maybe. I don't know.
Definitely. Well, what keeps you cranking after everyone else from ten years ago has lost it?
'Cause that's what I like - that's what it takes, especially when I'm playing live. You know, I really like that raw sound.
Is there anything you listen to- past, present- that gives you the same kick?
Old Wire, it was fun seeing the Buttholes live, I got a kick out of that. Birthday Party- some live tapes of them I accumulated.
So, you still living on the bus?
Well, I have a place I can live...Oh shit!...Hello?
I guess I unplugged the light. Didn't need it. Anyhow, I don't really want to leave the bus.
I saw an interview you did with Steve of Subterranean, a few years back. You were talking about "Gehenna Lion" and writing methods at that point.
Oh yeah, I liked to think of different songs on the last album as different entities. It was a phase I was going through. "Gehenna Lion" was a specific entity in my mind at the time. You read that, huh?
I was pretty flipped out then. I guess I still am, but I'm just more observant now.
Were there "chemical aids?"
That was the feeling I always got, spinning Chrome and Helios discs. They always seemed drenched with acid. Any substance to that?
That was always one of the ideas in my mind about the stuff, was that there wasn't anybody doing that at the time - where you could drop acid and get that feeling off stuff, to get that really trashy, fucked-up, acid feeling. I don't know if it worked out, but it would be nice if somebody else got that.
I think so.
Because after we finished an album, I'd always listen to it on acid to make sure it sounded good. That was what I would call the "acid test." I still do that. I did that with X-Rated and it passed, even though it had those production problems.
So what else is going on in
Well, we got the church, our own club (691 Minna) that we do once a month. Sometimes we have an opening band. Sometimes we have opening events, like process chambers people had to go through- like the Fortune Teller chamber, then the Positive Reinforcement chamber. Then they had to go to a chamber to watch dog wrestling before the band played. Next time, we're gonna have a maze. You know, you walk into this room and we'll have The Mating Game.
Well, the contestants choose a mate to go in the back room and fuck. There's nowhere to play. When we started the church, it was just a small warehouse that my friend, Seth Guittner, rented to us as a practice space. The arrangement worked out so well, we started doing shows there, and the
The following is an interview with Helios Creed of Chrome by Steve Tupper of Subterranean Records.
You want to know how it all started, huh? Well, Damon was working with a few other guys: Mike Lowe, John Lambdin, , Gary Spain. They were working on a project, an artsy album called The Visitation, which never did anything, really. And then they all split. I hooked up with Damon and we made Alien Soundtracks on home equipment.
Those other guys were partially involved in Alien Soundtrack too, weren't they?
Yeah, they worked on it. But they quit during it. And so me and him just kept going and remain at it. We had a live thing together back then with
The others were all done on 8-track at home, basically?
Yeah, then on Blood From The Sun John and Hillary joined us and we did "Third From The Sun" and "Chronicles I and II".
The first live show you did was the one in
Yes, we did that the summer before last (1981). It went very well and then we did a show here and for some reason we just didn't do any more shows.
That was at the On Broadway.
Yeah, then everybody scattered around.
How did the ideas evolve? There's a definite evolution going on in the songs.
Yeah, right. It started out as a sort of acid punkish kind of stuff, psychedelic inspired. We were into effect, little tricks and stuff which developed further as we got into the studio, to whatever style you want to call it now, modern gothic. From basically a frenzied psychedelic era to a music headed toward the past. What I do, I'm not really conscious of, but when I write lyrics I know what it is. It's hard to describe. For example, Hendrix just wrote unconsciously, but it was a message to a lot of people and to himself. That's similar to what I feel is happening with our stuff. I'm following it into a renaissance of its own, you know what I mean? After the death of the great established mutations of burnouts. That's what I think we're doing, whether we know it or not. We seem to be in tune with the spirit of death, so we die. Sounds pretty esoteric, huh?
Damon mentioned some things about magic that you were involved in?
Well, that's sort of the same thing. What makes it white is that you're not doing it for selfish reasons. You're doing it to benefit the listener, to maybe make him aware of certain things you're aware of. Which in itself is magic, which can do a lot. Like, I don't think of it as a money making venture, you know. It's not a big time show, groupie trip. We don't have a real cutesy projection. We're a musician's band. They listen to us and get ideas from us. They see what people can waste their time doing.
The lyrics, what kind of stories are you trying to tell?
I can't speak for Damon, but he and I generally end up in the same place. we got totally sick of the industrial cold-wave bombardment that everybody else was doing and decided to make a left hand turn. So we got this gothic, ancient, modern inspiration and are dwelling in the medieval dungeons of somewhere else. That isn't really in vogue, anyway. We're telling sort of a story, as if you were going on an experience with us, dying with us. Death is just the tale of life, struggle to survive. You can feel it in the music, there's no over-indulgent rehearsal sessions. We just basically get these inspirations through stories, sort of a modern day tale as if this whole big ugly world is going to disappear and we're going to end up in the Garden of Eden. It's an old story, but it's as if life turned into that. We're projecting that. Like the end of "Gehenna Lion" right? The Gehenna Lion is the spirit of death. It identifies itself, right? You go through the identification with yourself, but you're gonna die. You go through Gehenna, which is the realm of death, the battleground, and you end up in
It sounds like you're moving in the opposite direction than everybody else, musically.
Yeah, I feel good doing that because I really see this thing happening that I really detest myself being a part of, this clonation and idealization of this standardized cold wave industrial-poppish music that was cool 3-4 years ago. But I don't see any of the people who started it still doing it. When I turn on the radio I just hear a bunch of clone copies of scattered phrases of sound that I heard 3 years ago.
I think that's basically true.
I'm not a young soul, not a young spirit. I'm ancient, I feel that in my head. We're discovering we're not young kids. Matter of fact, some of the music sound like it's been dug out of memory banks somewhere. I totally want to do the opposite of what's in, make a left turn and then backwards. But I keep a modern element.
It seems almost a futuristic element.
That's precisely what it is. The last song in the box, "Gehenna Lion" seems to wrap up the whole story. I projected the battle as won at the most bitter, darkest moment. Desolation , then all of a sudden it breaks and everything's okay, total white magic. Things don't happen unless you project it. In the last two or three years we've been working with that in mind. Being sick of what's in. To me, what's happening in the world is like what this music feels like, tensions building up, things are about ready to bust open and something's gonna happen. It's a heavy feeling, it's not, "Oh baby, I love you, everything's gonna be all right when I meet you at the club."
It's kind of dreamlike, too. It's not protest, like hardcore.
I like certain hardcore because it has that frustration. I like to keep that heaviness. I like any music that's heavy, whether it's hardcore, ancient modern gothic or just angry heavy. You become one with hell and death and you're done with it. You overcome it or become it. It's up to you. I feel Chrome has always been a little ahead of its time or behind its time, whatever, and with this stuff I felt really close to the spirit of Chrome, because I feel that certain bands have guiding spirits. This is a helpful thing to people who are thinking along the same lines as me, sort of a learning process. This record, like others, is being used to instruct people on how to act when the shit comes down. It's very serious.
So a spiritual world is trying to...
It's been happening all your life. Where's all the magic in the world? Why has it been taken away? Why can't we go to a concert and see the music float in the air like in the 60's? Why is it LSD isn't as beautiful as it used to be? Why are things so dense, dirty, ugly and frustrated? All those questions. Where is the warm peaceful place where we want to be? It's been taken away.
So it's a cleansing process?
It's a death on all levels, inside or out. If you're an artist or aware of death around you, you can die inside yourself. Everybody's gonna die in the next few years, one way or another, inside or out. If they're aware of certain things, if they don't make it inside, they have to make it outside. This whole world is going to be made into another place, it's gonna be instead of the third grade, it's gonna be instead of the 6th grade. The people that aren't afraid, they've already died, they know where to go and what to do. They waited. They died inside. They struggled to survive. Survival came first, the goodies later. That's basically where I'm at, musically. I've given up trying to be commercial. I'm not the kind of guy to be trendy. I feel this very strongly. On a bottom level I think you'll see the economy picking up before it falls apart on its last leg. The record industry is at an ebb, I'm seeing things just about ready to pop. We're going through a volcano renaissance... the pressure underneath is like the pressure inside!
Do you have a vision of what's gonna come out of the other end of it?
Well, shit no. I don't. I wish I did. I've been trying to find it. No, I don't know how it's gonna end up.
Getting back to the end of "Gehenna Lion" again...
Going through the phase of when you finally give up, it lightens up for you. It doesn't mean anything that you now own a big house and car. It doesn't mean anything that you have 2 million dollars in the bank right now. All of a sudden money becomes worthless. People aren't going to be blown up right away. The ones that are sitting on top are going to have to go through about a year of total hell and the ones that were coming out of hell that were cool are gonna know what's going on. The last first and the first last. I think it's actually happening earlier than people think. I think it's happening now. I believe it starts this summer and this fall and winter is when they're gonna fell it. When people learn to survive. I don't take it as a philosophical joke; it's the most serious thing in my life. I feel people shouldn't be doing anything else besides preparing for this. I know it's so soon that it's gonna catch everybody by surprise, except for people like myself, who have developed in such a way that they can feel it coming. It seems like I have some kind of psychic abilities because I get flashes and visions a lot, and I'm also crazy, which helps. I get SSI. I was in
And it's available for those who want to hear it.
There are believers in Chrome because the music isn't over analyzed or pretentious. It's just messages, life experiences to help people out of this trap, this maze that doesn't have anything to do with money or countries, but it has to do with survival. It's for the kind of people that we want to exist. The people that we don't want to exist are the ones that are fucking up, using money to better themselves and destroy the world. Those aren't the kind of people that are gonna make it here. This year is gonna be a demonstration that they're not gonna be ready for, that they should have been prepared for. That's what this story is about. This spirit that I communicated with wasn't happy with the way people down here were. He came to earth time and said, "Now it's time to sort out the seeds that are budding from the ones that are rotting." There's plenty of magic in the universe- why is there none here? It's been pulled away. Everything that's beautiful is being pulled away, this place is gonna turn into a hell. I already went through my hell inside, I went through a lot and I'm gonna come out and still be alive because I was aware. I've been homeless in the winter, walking around the streets, just now starting to get it together. Making my own solo record. Damon doesn't understand what I'm doing. I don't really care. I told Betsy the other day that it's the only thing worth thinking about because everything else is gonna fall away. The death process is already starting. There's something different about the death you go through, you get different ears and eyes. You hear differently and see differently in music. I see things differently than a year ago. I'm happy to be alive and living in this age. I'm awaiting every day with such wonder and enthusiasm. "What next?" Poverty does not bother me because I know it's just a part of it. I don't know how it's gonna wind up, but I'm real interested in watching. That's a real gone story.