Anti Fade: Chrome’s Helios Creed Marches On
By: Tim Shea
Stomp and Stammer Magazine
Helios Creed was, along with Damon Edge, for all intents and purposes, Chrome. The first album on which guitarist Creed joined Edge (drums, synthesizer) was actually the San Francisco-based band's second release, Alien Soundtracks, from late 1977. The duo, periodically and sturdily assisted by various other players, went on to do another five albums and an EP together before Creed left in 1983 to pursue a solo career, debuting with his first album on his own – X-Rated Fairy Tales – in 1985. By '89 he was backed by the Amphetamine Reptile label for his third album, The Last Laugh, and became a major part of the burgeoning noise-rock scene of the late '80s/early '90s. After Edge's death from heart failure in 1995, Creed began using the Chrome name again alongside his own (Edge himself had worked under the Chrome banner for a number of underwhelming post-Creed albums in the '80s and '90s). Today, 55-year-old Helios Creed – whether operating solo, with a revamped Chrome or under the more electronic-oriented Dark Matter cloak – continues to make albums true-to his original vision, never straying too far from the original esthetic laid down by Chrome in the late '70s.
Chrome were one of those bands that added so much to the vocabulary and syntax of pop music that it's hard not to overestimate it. Still, their name is largely unknown beyond underground circles. They added electronic experimentation to metal and punk, creating an abrasive mixture between the acidic space-rock approach of bands like Hawkwind and the rawer sounds of the spiky ripped-shirt underground music of the time, pre-dating the Industrial (Music) Revolution while becoming one of its earliest sculptors. Like only a small handful of bands, they offered an utterly original vision, inspiring a significant thrall of cyberpunks and clatter-heads in the years to follow. Without their sound to draw from, countless sub-genres – never mind bands – would have sounded very different.
You grew up in Hawaii right?
My family moved to Hawaii when I was in the 9th grade and I lived there until I was 20. Before that we lived in different places in CA. My father was an electronic technician in the Navy . . . working on nukes [laughs]
What music did you listen to growing up?
As a little kid we had a radio in our living room. The first music that I remember liking was Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog." My brother and I would run and jump around the house to it when I was around 3-5 years old [laughs] The artist that I was a really big fan of was Jimi Hendrix. The first time I heard him was on the car radio on the way to a dentist appointment that my mom was driving me to. I would go to see more of the psychedelic bands of the time like Iron Butterfly, Pink Floyd. Then, of course when the punk scene happened I liked a lot of that . . . the Sex Pistols, the Ramones.
How did you come to start playing with Damon Edge?
I was trying to get a band together for a long time, playing really out there psychedelic stuff, but I could only find all these boring hippies who wanted to play the blues. How boring! I moved to San Francisco and had basically a solo project with Gary Spain playing violin. He was telling me about this band that he was in called Chrome who he played bass in that had just recorded an album [Chrome's debut, The Visitation, 1977]. When if was released I listened to it and there were a couple of songs I liked but not many. Everyone in the band quit because the album didn't sell at all. I asked Gary who it was in the band that was playing the drum tracks backwards and adding some of the more strange elements and he told me it was Damon so I said "Alright – that's who I gotta work with," and convinced him he needed me on guitar! [laughs]. He. played me some of the tapes he had and we compiled pieces of them along with new songs and released it as Alien Soundtracks in late 1977.
Didn't Alien Soundtracks come out in 1978?
No, it was late '77. We self released it and it didn't start picking up notice until early '78, but I was driving them to be mailed in late '77.
What was the band then?
Gary Spain played bass on a few tracks, but other than that it was Damon and I. Gary left the band shortly after and Damon and I carried on just the two of us. We hired the Stench brothers [John and Hillary] to play rhythm section to try to make a more filled out sound.
What was the distribution like for Alien Soundtracks?
Before we signed to Beggar's Banquet [for Red Exposure, 1980] we self released everything. We distributed all over the world. I would make weekly trips to the airport in a station wagon and ship them myself.
There seemed like quite a shift in sound for Red Exposure.
Yeah, we were working in a more expensive studio and wanted to experiment with cleaning up the sound while still keeping things very psychedelic.
It reminds me of Cabaret Voltaire's first album. Were you listening to them?
Sure, I was listening to a lot of those bands.
You have one of the most unique and immediately recognizable guitar styles. What were the main influences on your guitar style, apart from Hendrix, who you've already mentioned?
A bunch of different punk rock guitarists. Snakefinger, Tom Herman (from Pere Ubu), Jeff Beck. There's really a thousand guitar players . . . I can't think of them all.
I think of Chrome and Pere Ubu as probably the too most out there and influential bands of the immediate post-punk era. What did you think of Ubu's music?
Oh, I loved it! I used to listen to them all the time. I got kicked out of the apartment I had at the time for blasting The Modern Dance at three in the morning! [laughs]
Why did you and Damon split?
Damon didn't want to tour and I did. I think he was sort of insecure about not being perceived as the front man in the band. I was singing and playing guitar and he was playing synth. It was an ego thing with him, which was too bad. So I decided to go solo.
Chrome only played two live shows right?
Yeah, we played a festival in Italy in '82 in front of a few thousand people and then the Beyond Broadway club in San Francisco in front of about 600 people about a month later.
Was it hard starting out solo, getting recognition?
Yeah, it was! Nobody knew who Helios Creed was even though my name was on all the Chrome albums. Everyone knew who Chrome was but not Helios Creed. When I played my first solo show at the same place where just a couple of years before there were lines around the block for Chrome I had exactly one person in the audience for me! [laughs] My solo career didn't start to take off until the early '90s really.
When you were on Amphetamine Reptile?
How did label owner Tom Hazelmeyer treat you?
He paid for the recordings, which was great because some of those recordings were expensive to make. Not by industry standards, but for an
underground artist they were. We were his biggest selling artist on the label before the Cows got bigger, so it worked out.
Are you still in contact with anyone from all those bands from back then?
Not many, actually. I really wonder what happened to a lot of those guys. I mean, all those bands . . . I wonder what they're all doing now.
Yeah, a lot of the noise-rock bands seemed to have all folded in '95 – '96.
Things changed. After Nirvana got big, instead of ushering in all this interest in the whole [noise rock] scene it wiped out the whole scene. I remember talking with Kurt [Cobain] and he wanted to get weird, like the [Butthole] Surfers were doing. We were too weird [to be a part of the major label band grab of the era] anyway! [laughs]
Have you considered collaborating with anyone? Jim Thirlwell, say, for instance?
We were going to at one point. I was going to do the bottom tracks for one of his albums, but it was a bad time for me so it just fell apart. I've asked to tour with a lot of those guys, just to give me more exposure, but none have taken me up on it. Which kind of makes sense from their perspective [laughs].
Since Chrome never toured, how much exposure did you have among the bands – say from England – that were doing similar music as Chrome in the early '80s?
I was a little shy, but I would walk backstage and introduce myself to a lot of the bands that came to San Francisco touring. They had never heard of me, but once I said "Chrome" they were like. "Oh yeah – Chrome!" [laughs]
Everyone I've spoken with from that time, like Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke and John Halvorsen of Bailter Space, for instance, have told me they thought very highly of Chrome.
I used to love Killing Joke. Those early albums were great!
Apart from the Star Bar show you did in 2003, have you ever played Atlanta before?
We played that place that has several rooms like "Purgatory," "Hell," I can't remember the name . . .
Yeah! The Masquerade. We played there about four times, years ago.
Will you be releasing a new album anytime soon?
I have one about half finished but this year has been tough, a lot on my mind . . . I've been under some stress this past year as my parents both died. They were getting up in years and both died of natural causes . . . It's been rough.
All the material on this site has been compiled from other sources. Brent Marley has a site dedicated to chrome & helios creed (www.helioschrome
.com)he should be commended for painstakingly typing the interviews by hand and scanning alot of the pictures and photo's as well. The videos came from (www.youtube.com/user/HeliosChrome) a great you tube channel dedicated to the music of chrome and helios creed.In addition there is also a website (www.staticwhitesound.com) where you can purchase and/or learn more about the history of chrome and their music, another site alot of the information on here is culled from .Helios Creed also has a site on the internet I would advise everyone to look into ( www.helios-creed.com.). .