Helios Creed: Riding A Soundwave Through Time
By: Cynthia Fox
Whoopsy Magazine #12
For many, no introduction to the man or his work are necessary. Helios Creed’s original, innovative and progressive style of music, defined by his sustained, distorted and sometimes downright disturbing guitar effects have made their mark on three solid decades of music. Helios Creed’s proto-industrial/punk/grunge sound arrived way ahead of its time and never left. Having recorded or been a part of well over seventy five albums, 7” records and CD’s since 1976, Helios Creed’s music has directly influenced bands such as Ministry, The Jesus Lizard, Butthole Surfers, Prong, Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails. The far-reaching influences and uses of Helios Creed’s techniques and style seem to be nearly endless. How far-reaching is anybody’s guess, but just for instance, try listening to Superior Catholic Finger from 1985 and compare it with Marilyn Manson’s “Minute of Decay” on Anti Christ Superstar released in 1996. There are amazing similarities between those two songs alone. If Marilyn Manson has not been influenced by Helios Creed’s music it would come as quite a surprise and coincidence. Just last year, rapper Saul Williams who happens to have performed at SXSW 2005, sampled one of Helios Creed’s tunes from the Chrome days.
The man behind the music is a tall, commanding figure whose presence fills a room. Helios Creed (few know his real name) has been called a “musical genius” by many a fellow musician. Fans claim that his music has “transformed,” “saved” and “inspired” them. The stepson of a military career-man, Helios Creed moved often. His stepfather bought him a Japanese electric guitar at age 12 “to help me adjust and make friends,” says Helios. “I taught myself how to play,” he quipped. “During my high school years, I lived in Hawaii- it was a great place to live back then. There was a great music scene, too- it was the place to be in the late 60’s. After high school, my family and I moved again to Northern California, where I’ve spent most of my life- around the San Francisco Bay Area, where Chrome was formed.”
When asked about his musical influences, Helios Creed had a story to tell. “When I was a kid, seventeen years old, I went to see Black Sabbath for the first time. I did two hits of orange sunshine and had a grab bag of mescaline- the psychedelics of the day. I was freakin’ out, walking around the HIC Dome in Honolulu, Hawaii that held 10,000 people. I was tripping too heavily to go inside, so I was just walking around. The next thing I knew, I was floating over my body looking down on myself walking. That really freaked me out. I don’t know how I got back into my body, but I did and I just happened to sit down next to this guy, hoping he would say something to bring me down to earth. I asked how he was doing and he told me he was freakin’ out on acid. Then his girlfriend grabbed him by the hand and took him away. That didn’t help me at all. So I started walking again, looking for anybody I knew to help ground me when I ran into my high school buddy, John Fackrell- we used to call him ‘Fuckwell.’ I was so happy to find him I said ‘John, you gotta help me’ He said ‘let’s just go inside and watch the concert.’ The opening band was called Sweat Hog and they sounded incredible. When I sat down I noticed there was a 250-300 lb. man on drums I recognized him from his days playing drums with Lee Michael. This band was totally psychedelic and using effects like I had never heard before. When they stopped, it seemed like only a few minutes later when Black Sabbath came on stage- it was their first US tour, and in those days tours usually ended in Hawaii. They played all of their old hits from Paranoid to Sweet Leaf – you name it”
Creed’s story continues, “This was the era before that cheesy heavy metal came out. You see the heavy metal genre was totally new back in the 60’s. As I was watching Black Sabbath play onstage, it seemed like the whole stage was rising up in the air and instead of looking down at the stage from the balcony where I was sitting, I was looking up at the stage. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, I guess because I was on psychedelics,” he says. “The next day I went to school and ran into some friends who had been at the show. I told them about the stage rising and they said, ‘you saw that too?’ My three friends had been tripping on the same psychedelics- orange sunshine, the best you could get at the time- and we all saw the same thing,” stated Helios, as a matter of fact.
“I went to the same place and saw Jimi Hendrix play three months before he died and that was the best show I’ve seen to this day. Jimi Hendrix was probably my biggest influence, even more than the Black Sabbath show,” says Creed, getting around to the answer. “It was the first time I’d ever seen a pit and everybody rushing the stage. I was on the same psychedelics as the Black Sabbath show. I must tell you, those were the days,” he recalls, in an almost melancholy voice. Helios goes on to explain, “Everybody at this show, all 10,000 it seemed, were on the same psychedelics I was when Jimi came on… people were even jumping over the balcony, dropping over to the bottom level, rushing the stage. I was being shuffled to the front of the stage whether I wanted to go or not, because the whole crowd was going in that direction. It seemed like everyone was moving uncontrollably to the music- I’ve never again experienced anything like those two shows.” Helios went on as if to complete his thought, saying “I was very young and impressionable- those were the shows that influenced me and my music the most to this day. Now that I’m older and more ‘sensible’ and looking back, it all seemed nonsensical, but I’m glad about the inspiration it gave me. I was also influenced by The Sex Pistols and early punk.”
Helios Creed has collaborated and played with Nik Turner on tour and his Sphynx, Space Ritual, and Prophets of Time albums, Butthole Surfers’ Independent Worm Saloon CD on the Annoying Song and Clean It Up, Jack Endino’s Skin Yard on the song Gentle Collapse off their Fist Size Chunks album, Genesis P. Orridge on Bill Laswell’s Hashisheen: The End of Law album, Pigenonhead’s Full Sentence as well as projects with Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and Steve Fisk. Since 1987, Helios has had songs included on at least forty compilation and tribute albums like Dope, Guns & Fucking In The Streets, Smells Like Smoked Sausage, A Saucer of Pink and Magnet Music Sampler Vol. 35, including bands such as Nirvana, Green Day, Helmet and Helios Creed tribute to Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Brian Eno.
Another chapter of Helios Creed’s work is with his band Chrome, which is legendary in itself. Chrome was formed in 1976 by Damon Edge and Gary Spain in San Francisco. Together with Mike Low and John Lambdin, Chrome released its first album The Visitation in 1976 on Siren Records. Helios became a member of Chrome later on that year, originally as a replacement for Mike Low on vocals.
“I showed up for the Chrome audition in an all-black renaissance-like/pirate costume- sort of early Goth,” Creed recalls. ”The band didn’t know what to make of me.” Both John Lambdin and Gary Spain left the band after he joined. It’s been said many times that Damon Edge was convinced he had found the right man, so “I ended up with the gig” says Helios, and “the rest is history.”
Comprised of only Damon Edge and Helios Creed, Chrome went on to record their second album Alien Soundtracks, in 1976, which was released in 1977. With the addition of Helios Creed, Chrome’s music was given a consistent, new dimension by incorporating FX pedals, tape loops and more that became the famous Chrome “sound.” Throughout the years, he has used various recording techniques, created “instruments” out of household items “to get just the right sound” he says, and used the megaphone and telephone handset in ways that had never before been imagined. “I’ve done things that label execs and recording engineers told me were impossible,” declares Helios. “When it comes to the music, you can’t tell me something can’t be done, because I’ll find a way to do it.”
It was this “sound” that set them apart from other bands for years to come. Helios Creed and Chrome went on to record seventeen more CDs before Helios and Damon had a falling out. “Damon wanted to live in Europe and I didn’t want to. That’s really what separated us,” says Creed. The two parted ways shortly after their appearance at the Bologna Festival in Italy, which had been recorded and can be found on Cleopatra’s Chrome Box set.
Helios went on to record seven more Chrome albums after Damon’s untimely death in 1995. The last Chrome effort was Ghost Machine, which came out in November of 2002 on Dossier Records. Angel Of The Clouds, released in 2000, incorporated music from tapes that Damon Edge had recorded prior to his death. Damon and Helios had been talking about putting out another joint Chrome effort. Angel of The Clouds was intended as Helios Creed’s tribute to the memory of Damon Edge. In 2005, Cleopatra Records put out a Chrome compilation entitled Anthology. Also in 2005, a Chrome cover tribute You’ve Been Duplicated was released, featuring bands such as Sowbelly, Subzone, ST-37 and Sub Primitive among many others.
Forging Onward Alone…
After the split from Damon in the mid ‘80s, Helios says he “immediately went to work on solo projects.” His first album X-Rated Fairy Tales came out in 1985 and was welcomed with open arms by most Chrome fans. However, he says “the split between me and Damon didn’t end with just us”- it created a rift dividing many of their individual fans. That did nothing to dampen Helios Creed’s spirit or his driving desire to make music. Helios was indeed up to the challenge of going out on his own. He found a groove that distinctly separated his solo work from the Chrome sound he had perfected and followed up his first solo effort a few years later with the release of Superior Catholic Finger, which was quickly followed by the release of The Last Laugh. Both albums were released in 1989 and were well received by his fans. Over the next seventeen years, Helios recorded a total of fifteen more full-length solo albums- almost one per year. In 1994 and again in 1998 Helios released two albums in the same year.
Helios Creed’s latest effort Deep Blue Love Vacuum is the 18th Helios Creed album to be recorded and it is due to be released on Noiseville Records out of New York sometime in early March. Up-to-date release information can be found at www.noiseville.com Most of Deep Blue Love Vacuum was recorded last year in Austin, Texas at the Bubble Studio. Long-time Chrome member Fabienne Shine (wife of the late Damon Edge) and Helios Creed’s long-time drummer Paul Della Pelle joined Helios last year with Austinites’ Jerry Page (Crust, Central Services) bassist Jeff Pinkus (Honky, Butthole Surfers) and theremin player Blair Bovbjerg (Halo Rings Her Head, HUG) to record the new CD. “Deep Blue Love Vacuum has an essence of Chrome’s industro-space/acid punk sound,” said Helios. “It was a tough decision whether to call it a Helios Creed or a Chrome CD,” but after recording five additional songs by himself at Half Machine Studio, “it became clear that it should be called a Helios Creed CD” Creed says.
CD release party for Deep Blue Love Vacuum will coincide with Helios Creed’s performance at Room 710, on March 16th. The band line up will be Helios Creed on guitar and vocals, Paul Della Pelle on drums, Jerry Page on 2nd guitar, Moog Liberation and electric door spring, along with Domokos from Rusted Shut, on bass. Fabienne Shine will also be on hand to do vocals on a couple of her songs off the new CD. A Deep Blue Love Vacuum Tour of the Western U.S. and west coast follows the band’s performance at SXSW. The tour ends with a show on April 14th, back in Austin at Room 710.
Deep Blue Love Vacuum offers die-hard Helios Creed and Chrome fans the traditional noise-filled industrial grunge they love so dearly on Got To Have Someone, Help Me Bitch and Harry J. Krishna to name a few. Slight departures from what a typical fan might expect are the anti war song His Murder Machine, alone with a “danceable” tune entitled Cowboy. Both of those songs have fun elements to them and are sure to be immensely enjoyed! Fans with a bit more simpler taste and/or who prefer a more melodic rock and roll sound will like Fields Of Green, Another Dimension, and The Things They Showed Me, as well as the three tunes sung by Fabienne Shine on the new CD. Fabienne’s fabulous cover of All Tomorrow’s Parties by Velvet Underground was recorded as a tribute to the late Nico. Nico had been a dear friend and former roommate of Ms. Shine. Fabienne’s performance of Sandbox Jungle (she also wrote the lyrics) is reminiscent of her days as lead singer of French rock and roll band Shakin’ Street, a very popular band in both Europe and the US. In the 80’s. Fabienne Shine will make appearances on the tour at most of the Texas and California shows.
In addition to the western U.S./west coast tour set the begin March 16th, Helios Creed and band are planning an eastern US/east coast tour later this year. Several smaller tours are planned in-between the two extensive tours. “A European tour isn’t entirely out of the question,” says Creed. One thing is for certain: Helios upcoming shows and new CD, Deep Blue Love Vacuum, will please new and old Helios Creed and Chrome fans alike!
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.). .