Helmet’s Page Hamilton talks about the 20th anniversary of “Betty” and scoring films

Page Hamilton Guitar Photo
Page Hamilton Music (www.pagehamiltonmusic.com)

Page Hamilton is the lead singer and guitarist for the band Helmet. The band is currently celebrating their 20th anniversary of hit album “Betty”. Page has also collaborated on numerous film scores like “Heat” and also recently created an original score for the film “Sons of Liberty”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Page about music, movies and Helmet’s anniversary tour.

Mike Gencarelli: How is it going from playing with Helmet to collaborating on film scores like “Heat” and “Titus” with Elliot Goldenthall?
Page Hamilton: Playing our music live is physically demanding, there’s no coasting with backing tracks or candlelit, acoustic-sit-down sections in the set, and with a 70+ song repertoire remembering lyrics and certain guitar parts can be challenging. Working with Elliott is a whole different kind of challenge. Sometimes he has concrete ideas and colors he describes or sings to me, sometimes there are written parts and other times he wants me to ad-lib. Elliott works with very talented people, there is a lot of trust in the room; it feels like a brilliant family that adopted me to come in and mess up Elliott’s beautiful music. Teese, Joel, Rick, Lawrence etc. are all amazing people to work with. Also Julie Taymor (Elliott’s wife and director extraordinaire) has been there for the movies of hers I’ve worked on: “Titus”, “The Tempest” and “Across the Universe”. I love working with them.

MG: Tell us about what we can expect from your upcoming compilation album of your own film scores?
PH: I chose to do new mixes of about 40 cues from the 1st 3 movies I scored for Mudbrick media in Mobile, Alabama. When we’re doing music for a scene obviously the director has ideas regarding what works and what doesn’t for each scene but he gives me a lot of freedom to experiment. We disagree from time to time so I wanted mixes for my compilation that I dug compositionally, i.e. remove the visual imagery & dialog and make sure the music is still interesting. In many cases I put back parts I had removed for him and even added a few things. I wrote, recorded, programmed & mixed everything so it’s pretty, low-tech and raw with a fair amount of my guitar mess spilling over the rim.s_84691d1d2ebc77ba13fe87ebf2688a71_Page_Hamilton_MMv1_Cover

MG: How do did you approach your original score for the film “Sons of Liberty” and how did it compare to your other scores?
PH: I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with Patrick Kirst for several years, we wrote the “Sons of Liberty” score together, though it was mostly a dropbox collaboration between Hollywood (my place) & Venice (his place). He brings a lot of film scoring experience so I bounce music bits off his stubborn German brain & classical music ears and then create sounds that annoy him, sonically, melodically and harmonically. That’s what they get for hiring a noise-metal guitarist.

MG: This year is the 20th anniversary of “Betty”, which was (and still is) a sick album; how can you reflect on this album?
PH: We’re 20 shows into our European “Betty” tour, it’s not an easy album to pull off live but it’s been really fun to perform. I had to work on a variety of guitar and vocal sounds to get the vibe we had on the recording. I remember everyone having an idea about what we should do after the success of “Meantime”, they wanted “Meantime” part ll but it’s not in my nature to rewrite songs. Fortunately my bandmates were on board and contributed in a big way. Either that or they were just humoring me.

MG: Looking back on 1994 in general, why do you think it was such an epic and important year for music?
PH: I’m not sure though part of it has to do with the strong indie rock scene from the previous 10 + years. Labels like Am Rep, Discord, SST, Blast First and Touch & Go had a lot of good bands that could develop without industry interference. When the demand grew, major labels saw money to be made so a bunch of us signed deals to get paid & quit our bartending jobs. We didn’t know any better so we (more or less) continued as if we were still on Am Rep. Maybe this was the case with other indie bands as well? Melvins and The Pixies come to mind.

MG: How did you get involved working with Linkin Park on their new song “All for Nothing”, from their latest album The Hunting Party?Helmet-Betty
PH: They contacted my manager in NY and asked if I’d do some guest vocal & guitar bits on their new album. I met with the guys and liked them a lot. They played me a bunch of new songs including “All for Nothing”; I couldn’t get that chorus out of my head. I really enjoyed their recording process and had a great time.

MG: You are currently on tour with Helmet across Europe; tell us what we can expect from the tour and any plans for US dates?
PH: We’re playing the “Betty” album beginning to end followed by a second set of material including songs from “Strap it On”, “Meantime”, “Aftertaste”, “Size Matters”, “Monochrome” and “Seeing Eye Dog”. I’ve always wanted to tour without any opening bands so this is it; 30-35 songs a night. We have some east coast US “Betty” dates booked for December.

MG: What else do you have planned for the rest of the year and in store for 2015?
PH: I’ll be in the south of France producing a French band between the Europe & US “Betty” dates. We have a movie lined up for early next year and I plan to finish writing and recording a new Helmet album. I’ll continue to flounder around with my Jazz Wannabes group back east and my good NYC pals M’Lumbo have asked me to sit in for some recording and a few live gigs.

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