INTERVIEW WITH PAGE HAMILTON
INTERVIEW AND INTRODUCTION BY DAN LEVY
Precision power and melodic tyranny made Helmet stand out in the early years. And that was only the beginning. Page Hamilton has added many chapters to his musical repetoire including being tapped to play on a tour with Bowie and establishing himself as a veritable powerhouse in the movie soundtrack world. From symphonies and orchestras to a new generation of supersonic Helmet, Page storms into the unknown. His disdain for the ordinary drives him to constantly one-up himself. With a blast from the past blended perfectly with anticipation for the future, Hamilton is leaving his indelible mark on ears all over the galaxy with Helmet’s latest CD “Size Matters”. Here’s what he has to say about it.
“It was really fun. It was a lot of work. I had to learn a lot of songs. With Bowie, you had to use a lot of different sounds. There were so many people in the band that played the lead guitar role. It added color and made the changes more interesting. He could have sat with an acoustic guitar or a piano to play those songs. It was an interesting gig. There was quite a bit of freedom. He was like, “Do what you want within the spirit of the music.”
How’s it going, Dan?
Are you ready?
I’m relatively alert. I saw my friend Angela McClusky last night and stayed out late. I drank way more than I thought I would. It was kind of fantastic. I’m taking it easy today. I’m going to play guitar, then go hang out with my amp guy and listen to speakers. It’s a mellow day.
Do you live here in Los Angeles?
I live here most of the time. I have a hard time committing to living anywhere. I don’t really know where the ideal place is to live. I love New York, though. I still have my East Village apartment in New York. I stay there when I’m in New York.
Didn’t you used to practice in Brooklyn?
Yeah, back in ’85. Helmet rehearsed in the music building on 8th Avenue. That was our first place. Cool Runnings was where we auditioned bass players. That space in the Music Building is where it all really got going. Our other main space was on Mott Street.
I’m from New York.
And you live here?
Yeah. I have the same kind of feeling. I want to live in both places.
It’s a good place to live and work in LA, but you miss things about New York.
It’s better for skateboarding out here, but New York is New York.
There’s no place like it. It’s the best city on earth.
How was it touring with David Bowie?
It was really fun. It was a lot of work. I had to learn a lot of songs. With Bowie, you had to use a lot of different sounds. There were so many people in the band that played the lead guitar role. It added color and made the changes more interesting. He could have sat with an acoustic guitar or a piano to play those songs. It was an interesting gig. There was quite a bit of freedom. He was like, “Do what you want within the spirit of the music.” Obviously, you have to stay pretty true when you’re playing “Rebel, Rebel.” Nobody wants to hear you strum two chords. You want to really nail that guitar part. I learned a lot. Bowie is awesome. I’ve never been around a more brilliant human being. He’s so knowledgeable about so many different things. He’s a high school drop-out. It’s just amazing. It was really cool, because I saw him later at the Greek Theater. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years. It was great. He came in the room and saw my friend Gavin Rossdale. He said, “Where’s Page?” Gavin pointed over to me, and Bowie came over and gave me a big hug. The room was jammed full of people that wanted some of his time. It was always like that with him. I always stayed in the background a little and let him do his thing. He’s so gracious. He talks to everybody. I saw CoCo. We hung out with her. They were really exhausted. They had been on the road for eight months at that point.
That had to be pretty interesting for you as you’re also in the role of a lead singer for Helmet.
It was an honor to play with Bowie. I wasn’t looking for any limelight. For me, I couldn’t have asked for a better gig.