Under the Influence: Helmet's Page Hamilton
A staggering influence on both the nascent North American post-hardcore movement of the early 90s and the wider alternative rock world as we now know it, Helmet's mainstay unearths nine albums that guided his hand
1. Led Zeppelin – IV (1971)
This was the first Zep album I got; I picked it because of the cover, exchanging my christmas gift copy of A Night on the Town by Rod Stewart when I was 15. Black Dog is the reason I started playing guitar.
2. AC/DC – Highway To Hell (1979)
I was with a friend pretending to have the means to buy a stereo in 1979, he wanted me to hear this song. Big speakers in a small room at the shop. Bon Scott, scary good.
3. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (1959)
An interview question I hear frequently is whether I think jazz influenced Helmet. I've listened to Kind of Blue too many times to count, transcribed solo bits and still play All Blues, Blue in Green and So What. This album is a modal music landmark, the music of Helmet is primarily modal. The use of space is also noteworthy as well as contrasting solo styles, especially between Miles and John Coltrane.
4. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (1964)
A band that played with intensity in every recording I have, studio and live. They took the modal thing further and cemented the sound of chords stacked in 4ths in my brain. The upper guitar chord overdub/color parts in Helmet as well as the chords without 3rds in most of our arrangements have been influenced by this band.
5. Wire – Pink Flag (1977)
As a member of Band of Susans in 1988 I became acquainted/obsessed with Wire, we were direct support on their US tour; 26 years later we are still friends and they are still heroes of mine. I'm very fortunate to have played on Object 47 (another great album). They asked me to replace Bruce several years ago but I couldn't figure a way to maintain Helmet and be in Wire between the US and Europe. I was able to sit in for several songs in LA a few years ago and as we suspected the musical chemistry was fucking incredible. They still rule.
6. Killing Joke – Killing Joke (1980)
Helmet has recorded covers of Requiem and Primitive. 34 years later this album still sounds fresh, exciting and intense. This is one of the albums that got me back into rock after missing a bunch of the 80s pop and rock music while studying jazz and classical guitar at University of Oregon and Manhattan School of Music between 1979-1987.
7. Caspar Brötzmann Massaker – The Tribe (1987)
Caspar's playing has been a major influence on my playing, in particular noise improvisation and getting more out of the instrument from creating feedback loops between the pickups and power transformer in my amp to the hellish and angelic sounds of playing the tremolo springs like piano strings.
8. Band of Susans – Hope Against Hope (1988)
This is the album BOS made prior to me joining in 1988, it completely changed my approach to guitar sound and eventually lit a fire under my ass to form Helmet in 1989. Robert Poss showed me how he constructed his songs with a four-track and drum machine; he is one of my biggest influences as a guitarist. It was like going to the Poss school of distortion, feedback and noise manipulation.
9. Glenn Branca – Symphony No. 6 (Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven) (1989)
I played on the recording of this amazing piece. The rhythmic super-imposition in Glenn's music is one of the most basic elements in the music of Helmet (drums in 4/4, guitars in 6/4, for example). Clear, strong rhythmic figures = clear, strong riff... See Beethoven's 5th, John Williams' Star Wars. Glenn is one of the most intense musicians I've ever worked with, this is how you write and perform music.
Page Hamilton on 20 years of Betty
THE SKINNY AT 10: A DECADE UNDER THE INFLUENCE