Our New Year’s resolution at BS was to act more grown-up. Unfortunately, at hearing the opportunity of an exclusive interview with one of our idols, we collectively lost it and peed our pants.
For almost forty years, Helios Creed has been pushing the boundaries of self-proclaimed “acid-punk” to a breaking point, most notably as a member of Chrome. Languished through years of merciless releases spawning hundreds of copycats and an army of admirers, Chrome’s legacy was solidified from influential, late 70’s albums Alien Soundtracks and Half Machine Lip Moves. Helios began his solo career in the early 1980’s, with his first solo release in 1985 after Damon and Helios Creed stopped collaborating as Chrome in 1983. After Damon’s untimely passing in 1995, Creed again took up the helm of Chrome and released albums both as Chrome as well as albums likeLactating Purple, showing the strength of his solo output.
Many thanks to the writer Monet Clark who conducted the interview for Bad Sounds. The first of her two part series, is published below.
The History of Rock and Roll
Through the Eyes of an Underground Rock Legend, Part 1
An Interview with Helios Creed
by Monet Clark
“Please check out pledgemusic.com/chrome to find out more about Chrome’s current project: Half Machine from the Sun, The Lost Chrome Tracks from ’79-’80. These are previously unreleased Damon Edge/Helios Creed Chrome tracks from their classic era. Pledge Music is a musician founded site to assist bands to release albums without a record company middle men, who often take so much and provide so little. The Lost Chrome Tracks need studio time for editing, mixing & mastering, and money to press into vinyl & CDs. Creed is also seeking to launch a re-release of all of his past catalog of 36+ albums. Fans who pledge get access to exclusive content while the project is up, photographs, videos, stories and Mp3’s, rare radio interviews from the 80’s and more.
Chrome currently has their new single recorded in 2012, “Prophecy” on the site as a thank-you to pledgers. It’s an epic Sgt Peppers meets Punk Rock track likened to classic Chrome, but with bigger production. The new album will be released early in 2013. To hear those tracks, visit: pledgemusic.com/chrome.”
MC: When did you first become aware of Rock and Roll?
Helios Creed: On the radio with Elvis Presley. You know “You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog” and all those old Elvis songs, and also with Bo Diddley. I was 3 and 4 and we were in Southern California. You could feel the fun. Music wasn’t very fun on the radio until then. These guys would come on the radio and my brother and I would get so excited we’d run around and around in circles in our underwear in the living room. Just that rocking sound made us want to move.
MC: What was your next major memory of Rock and Roll?
Helios Creed: I saw the original Ed Sullivan show with the Beatles in 1963. My 3 siblings and my Mom and Step Dad were all gathered in the living room to watch it, and we were amazed that their hair came down to their ears, ’cause that was long in those days! They were a mind blower and it just swept the country like fire. The music was kind of bubble gummy, but I knew they were changing things, and that excitement was contagious. It was an explosion of culture, and the power they had over their followers… you just had to be there to witness how it began to change things.
Then the Beatles went from bubble gum…’Baby I want to hold your hand’…into this psychedelic space. It was amazing to see the progression of that as they became this incredible band and these sort of Druid, spiritual teachers. I was there for the whole history of the advent of rock and roll and I’m very honored to be a part of it.
MC: When did you start playing music?
Helios Creed: My Step Dad got me my first electric guitar when I was 12. It was Guya Tone. I just loved that guitar. It was a two pick or could have been 3, with a sunburst body and it even had a whammy bar. It was a fucking great little guitar. I wish I still had it, it was beautiful. He got it for $25 dollars.
MC: So your first guitar was electric?
Helios Creed: Oh yeah I had been asking my parents for a guitar for about a year and I told them I wanted it to be electric. It was my 12th birthday, and my parents were acting in a way that I knew something special was about to happen. I was so excited when they gave it to me. My step Dad built me a little 5 watt amplifier. Nobody had a 5 watt amplifier, you couldn’t even hear it. I wanted to be in this band with this one guy Stuart Birddick, but my amp wasn’t loud enough. He had a Silvertone 50 watt amp by Sears and I wanted one so bad so I could be in his band, but that didn’t happen. All my friends were forming bands including this guy we called Crater Face. I wanted to be in one too. It was obvious to me that being in a band was the way to go. I started practicing anyway everyday, like 12 hours a day. I couldn’t wait ’till school got out each day, so I could come home and start practicing. It was wonderful. I was very disciplined. In a week I was better than Crater Face who’d been playing for a year. I knew then I had the knack for it.
MC: So when did you get your first amp, that was actually loud enough?
Helios Creed: I saved money for a year working as the head maintenance engineer at the airport, to buy a Univox stack. It didn’t have overdrive or anything but it was good. All my amps now are made to play loud.
MC: Who really impressed you musically then?
Helios Creed: There were songs on the radio like “Talk Talk” by The Music Machine which was hip and that song “Love That Dirty Water”, but it was Jimi Hendrix that really inspired me. When I’d hear him on the radio his modus operandi pushed me to become a great guitar player.
The directions the Beatles were going in got really cool too. My mind was molded by the psychedelic greats of the day. I had the best inspiring me. Then there was Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin. Music just got better and better. I was addicted to music. I went to see everyone who came through Hawaii (we had moved there a few years before). I saw shows every week. I saw Issac Hayes and I was like one of 5 white people in the audience and got in free and the black people all treated me really cool, and it was such a cool show. It was really inspiring because black people’s approach to music was different to the rock I had been listening too.
MC: You saw Jimi Hendrix live in Hawaii?
Helios Creed: Yeah I was about 18, and I went with my girlfriend Jessie. I’ll never forget it. Jimi comes out to the mic and you could have heard a pin drop it was so quiet even with 10,000 people there.
And Jimi says “Its going to be loud, if you don’t like it loud you better leave.” And then he starts out with Voodoo Child really quietly, and when the drum and bass kicked in he leaped like a Gazelle and landed right on the one, and it got really loud! Everyone in my high school the next day said that they felt possessed by his guitar playing and they thought he was Jesus. He had some kind of power over everybody. Straight Chinese and straight Japanese people who were
usually very conservative were jumping down from the balcony to rush the stage, it was the most powerful thing I had ever seen and heard.
It was unbelievable and it effected me in a very big way. The only show that came close to that was Black Sabbath and that was a totally different style.
MC: When did you see Black Sabbath?
Helios Creed: A little bit later, I did two hits of Orange Sunshine and a ton of Mescaline and I think I did too much, and Black Sabbath is a heavy band and the darkness of their music kind of freaked me out. My friends took me to a beach called Mokapuu on the east side, after the show to get me back, but we had stayed and watched their entire performance first. It was the most amazing show for me. The best musicians act like channels and amazing spiritual energy comes through them; something intense was coming through Black Sabbath. They inspired me and definitely showed me a version of what I wanted to do which was to be heavy; rock; compelling; and intense…and the loudness! I wanted to be loud! And there was something magnetic and attractive in their darkness too, but I didn’t get enveloped in that although it has influenced me. Still I wanted to be psychedelic.
MC: How old were you when you left Hawaii for San Francisco?
Helios Creed: I was 19. I went to make a band. Everyone told me to go to L.A., because that was where everyone went to make it, and where the music business was. But San Francisco was to me, the seat of psychedelia, and I felt guided to go there. So I did.
MC: What was the music scene in San Francisco in 1972 like?
Helios Creed: It was very disappointing. San Francisco’s scene put me in space where I’d had it with Hippies, and I’d had it with the Blues. I started playing my original songs in small clubs in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco for money and I met this violin player and we started gigging together. His name was Gary Spain. I became aware of Iggy Pop and the Stooges and Hawkwind. I was still learning. But the live Blues scene in North Beach it was a drag, I couldn’t stand it. Why did every white guy feel like they had to be a black blues musician? I couldn’t get into it. On the radio, rock had gotten this burned out, mellow Doobie Brothers sound; it had lost its edge, that’s why Punk happened.
In 1976 my violinist who was also a bass player told me he had a record coming out. I was excited… Someone I knew was making an album! When he brought me his band Chrome’s album, The Visitation, I listened and I liked it. They definitely knew how to trip out! Nobody else was doing what Chrome was doing at the time. Damon had an art background and I liked that. It was weird in a good way and stoney and it didn’t seem like there were any other stoney bands around the Bay Area at the time. The Visitation wasn’t exactly my style, but I loved the way it was produced and I knew I had to meet the producer. I could tell what he wanted to do. In a kind of a psychic sense I knew this was “the” band and “the” guy and I knew they needed me. They needed a solid rock guitarist and vocalist and I knew exactly what to do with what they had started.
MC: Tell us about how you became a part of Chrome?
Helios Creed: Gary arranged a meeting between Damon and myself, and Damon came into Gary’s place with this gravely voice, and I told him “You guys really need me!” I had to grab it, because that was just the way it was supposed to be. There are certain things you just know. So they auditioned me and we all just knew. Within 6 months or so we had made Alien Soundtracks and it was an instant hit. With Half Machine Lip Moves it was mostly just Damon and I. We had both tried to play with many other people and never had it been so compatible.
MC: How did feel about the early days of punk? Was punk influential to your music?
Helios Creed: Punk shows started being put on at the Mabuhay Gardens in 1976, which was also right there in North Beach also where I had been living and giggling. The Mabuhay Gardens was right at the end of the Broadway strip. Punk was the most fun era of my life. The Punk scene has an incredible energy and fire and edge! I saw shows all the time. Then The Sex Pistols came out with Never Mind the Bullocks in 1977 and the whole Punk thing exploded. We released Alien Soundtracks that same year and Half Machine Lip Moves in 1979 and these albums took over in the Punk world even though we weren’t really a traditional Punk band. We were more of a Psychedelic band, but a Punk version of Psychedelia, Acid-Punk. Nobody else sounded like Chrome, but we had the energy and edge of Punk. We like to play hard.
Punk influenced me because it was hard and it was solid, but it wasn’t Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal fell into a really predictable, stupid and very boring thing, whereas Punk’s guitar was fucked up an freer. Heavy Metal was formula. With Punk it was much more experimental and I could keep developing my sound and my approach to guitar from that place. It was a much better scene to be experimental and free in, but still hard.
MC: How did it feel in 1977 to have Alien Soundtracks, and then in 1979 Half Machine Lip Moves, be so respected in the underground scenes you were in at the time?
Helios Creed: Pretty cool. Our record covers filled the windows of record stores and I was in awe. Damon’s and my meeting had become a catalyst for the birth of a whole new sound.
MC: How did your sound “happen”?
Helios Creed: Good question. Well were a Punk band, but we were bored with straight punk and Damon and I both loved psychedelia. Damon had his art background and ideologies and I had my heavy rock background and concepts. We had all of that in the mix and we both were into expanding the possibilities. We fed off of each in our experimentation and as we created there was a synchronicity in what we both liked. There was this thing that Damon and I called ‘the Chill Factor’ where if its really good you get goose bumps, and we used to get the ‘Chill Factor’ at the same time. We shared concepts about how to approach music.
We were into making 3 dimensional songs that have depth and created a picture in one’s mind vs a flat 2 dimensional song that says very little or nothing. We figured Punk was already a thing and we wanted to be our own thing and to be free and not be told what we had to sound like. That is why we thought we needed a name for our music, because it wasn’t really Punk. I thought up the term Acid-Punk which I still use to this day.
But we were also joking around one day and decided our music was ‘Industrial Strength Toilet Bowl Cleaner Music’…so heavy it cleaned the toilet. We told our joke to a radio DJ in an interview and then we also shortened it to Industrial Strength Music. When the DJ signed off he said…“Well there you have it folks, Industrial Music from the band Chrome!”
I’ve heard other stories about the birth of Industrial Music coming from the theories of Jean Baudrillard & so forth, who knows who said it first, but we hadn’t heard of the genre when we made up that joke in 1976. There are phenomenons where in the collective unconscious art forms come into being in different places simultaneously.
Chrome doesn’t really epitomize what Industrial music has come to sound like though, just like Chrome didn’t epitomize Punk. I guess that is why we are often referred to as ‘proto-Industrial’ or the Godfathers of the genre. We just did our own thing.
To be continued…