A conversation with Page Hamilton of Helmet

Helmet recently played the SF Bay Area with stops at both Oakland's Uptown and San Jose's Blank Club -- a review of the Blank Club show can be found here.

They're continuing to crisscross the States over the next month, so be sure to check their tour schedule for details on if they'll visit your town!

We had the chance to catch up with Helmet's lead singer/guitarist, Page Hamilton, for what was expected to be a brief interview, but which turned out to be a 45 minute conversation that covered topics as diverse as the San Francisco 49ers and Mozart.

Page Hamilton (Photo credit: www.roderickangle.com)
Here's how it went down:

SFBAC: Seeing Eye Dog is the first Helmet album in 4 years. Let's talk about the writing and recording process, what went into it and why it took 4 years to release?

Page Hamilton: We got a new booking agent about 4 years ago and started doing a lot of shows and found that he was getting us into the right venues; and I just wanted to tour and kinda break the band in and I've been through a bad experience with our last record label, Warcon, after having many, many wonderful years at Interscope and Amphetamine Reptile, we've always had these good experiences. So I wanted to focus on playing and getting the band going. I had done two albums back to back, Size Matters and Monochrome, and just felt like I kinda wanted to reassess, and I'm not the kinda person who can write a new Helmet album every year. I've got all these side things, I do my Jazz thing, instructional DVDs, and work on movies and produce bands. So I thought it was good to take some time away from it and sort through the options as far as how to put the music out. And it's kinda boring stuff, but when you have your creative property taken from you by someone, it's kinda crushing. And I've never experienced anything like that before. So I became more protective of my songs and I didn't want to be involved with just anybody. And I'm really happy with the way things are working out and hope that people are able to find the record and that's all I ever hope for.

SFBAC: How's your experience with Topspin been and what's it like releasing material independently now?

Page Hamilton: I met with Ian [Rogers] and David Whitehead, my manager, god a while back, a year ago at least, and I just got a really good vibe from him and dig what they're doing. So, Dave... and to be honest, I'm not so much a business man and not so interested in it, and I trust David and I'm involved, obviously, in every decision, but all the creative things like the music, artwork, photo shoots, that stuff is the fun stuff for me. So this has been a shitload of work, like driving... you know, I'm not a rich artist with a bunch of people helping me out, so I'm driving down to 139th and Compton to pick up posters and then get back to the rehearsal space and open the box to sign them and find out they're the wrong posters... It's been a lot of that shit, you know? I'm working with the artist to get the album artwork done and to put the deluxe box together and all those things, which at the end of the whole process, which i hope is done, we just mailed off posters and stuff yesterday, it's really kind of a beautiful package and a nice option for fans of the band to have.

SFBAC: You’ve played a number of times in the Bay area over the past 20 years, what’s your most memorable experience?

Page Hamilton: Oh boy. There’s been so many amazing shows. Is it the Fillmore, that sort of big open venue where the stage is kind of that wide open- is it the Fillmore? I remember that show on the SnoCore tour being a lot of fun, even though it was a shorter set and we weren’t the headliner. But I remember having a really good time at that show. And Slim’s has always been a great place for us. The people there just treat us like kings and it’s another great stage with good sight lines to the stage and for us a good view of the audience, which is really nice. And the sound is impeccable. And we’ve played there a bunch.

Back at one point I remember we did a couple of nights there in a row with the Melvins and that was one of my favorite Bay Area shows. Melvins opened up and I think it was in ‘96 or ‘97 or something like that. And there was another show and I can’t remember the name of the venue, I think it used to the Mabuhay Gardens but they changed it. Maybe it was still Mabuhay when we played there, I’m not positive of the venue, but I saw some YouTube footage from there. I remember that show. It was around ‘94 I think because it was the Betty album, and I think Rob [Echeverria] was in the band. And I had this really cool blue guitar that I called ESP about. I said ‘What happened to that guitar?’ It was probably a loaner, and they’re like ‘We can make you another one.’ I’m like 'ah nah.' I remember them, they would send me guitars for loaners and I was like God that is a beautiful instrument.

But there have been a lot. Knock on wood, but I don’t have any memories of bad shows in the Bay Area. The Warped tour show was fun, we played at like noon right when we woke up and I think I even said in the microphone, I might have deleted a lot of the banter for the live because we released the San Francisco Warped tour show in part of the new album package. I might have deleted the banter but I remember listening to the show several times to make sure I liked it for release, and saying that usually we start drinking when we play but we were still drunk from last night. And the good news is we got done early so we had a whole day and night in San Francisco which was really great, it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. But the bad news is we were barely awake when we played.

SFBAC: Any venues you haven’t played in San Francisco that you’d like to?

Page Hamilton: We’ve played the Warfield, I believe. I think that was the one that was the really beautiful theatre with the great food that treated us well. Of course, I don’t remember the show. There was a show that I stopped because the bouncers where wailing on somebody. I don’t think it was that venue. I think I did a photo shoot there, I don’t know. I think we played- I’m not sure if we played the I-Beam, or... that’s up in Haight-Ashbury, I mean it used to be?

The Independent, that was really fun. I don’t know if there’s any place we played- I mean we’d like to play the Cow Palace. That’s what we’d like to do. But we don’t have 20,000 fans that would come out to see us so that would be awesome. I’d like to play Candlestick up there too. Apparently for the game, the Monday night [football] game, they played ‘Unsung’ before the kick off.

Some friends of mine where flipping out and texting me. We were at Applebee’s and, shit I don’t even remember, we were in Billings, Montana. So we didn’t even have any sound until the second half. I was like that’s cool, I wonder if we get royalties for that, but I’m stoked that the Niners are playing my music. I just wish they’d win a game now.

SFBAC: Of all the places besides San Francisco, what cities stand out for you? And what cities are you looking forward to on the current tour?

Page Hamilton: Well, of the shows we have booked between now and Christmas, I’m really looking forward to Chicago. That’s always been an amazing music city. And we’re playing at the place called the Double Door, which we played several times, and we love the people there and we love the room. Chicagoans are just- it’s just one of the best music towns in the country. It’s amazing. We always do well there and they’re just really appreciative, so that’s going to be fun. We’re looking forward to New York City because Helmet hasn’t played in New York City for 5 years, and at the Gramercy Theatre, which is a venue that I’m not familiar with. I know where it is, I know it used to be a movie theatre, but I don’t know- I can’t think what else specifically that I’m looking forward to. Dammit, one of my band mates is making sexual, rude, humping motions towards me. Um, sorry. We’re in the back of the bus.

We’re not playing Minneapolis on this tour which is weird and unfortunate because that was our home away from home in the Amphetamine Reptile days and one of my favorite cities. But [Tom] Hazelmyer and AmRep made an offer to us already so we’re going to catch that on the next jump.
I always liked Boston, too. It’s another really good music town. I look forward to that and then Texas. For some reason Texas hangs in there on the rock, we always do well down in Houston and Austin. We’re doing Houston, Austin and Dallas. Houston and Austin are always the best and then Dallas and we have all 3 of those on this run. I’m trying to think what else stands out.

We head to Europe in early November and my homeland of Scotland is always a blast. We end the tour in Glasgow, where the Hamilton family is originally from. So I always get drunk and make an ass of myself over there, which is fun. Because I have to drink scotch whiskey all night long, along with the amazing ales that they have over there.

And Paris will be fun. We’re playing- Hamburg, Berlin, and Stuttgart is- Stuttgart we played last winter, was a place that I lived in college for a year as an exchange student studying classical guitar over there in German. And we did more encores there than we’ve done anywhere ever in the history of the band. They just would not let us go and the gear was being packed up. And it’s happened in Hamburg before too, where the pedal boards were getting put away and lights were on and they just would not leave, so we had to come out and do more. And that makes you feel really good. I don’t like to be the obligatory encore guy so on this tour I’m kind of just hanging out, if they don’t cheer and go crazy then we’re just kind of like, ‘Yeah, yeah let’s just drink beer.’ In Germany they’re extremely enthusiastic so that’s always fun.

Italy is insane. They’re really really fun down there. Ravenna, I think we have Ravenna, Milan, on this tour. And Torino which we have not played since the very last original Helmet line up show was in Torino, December 10th ‘97 and that’s going to be fun to go back there and I hope it’s the same club so I can kind of make up for the fact that we just completely nonchalantly walked off stage and opened beers and didn’t do an encore and didn’t say goodbye to each other we just were like... have a nice life, nothing. It was a really really weird show. So I’m looking forward to that. Just kind of seeing what kind of emotions it stirs up.

Where else? We’re not doing Spain this year unfortunately. That’s one of my favorite places to play. We did Vigo, Bilbao, Madrid, and Barcelona last year. Those were fun shows. Particularly Madrid. Well, Bilbao is the biggest of the four which was insane too. But next year we’ll be down in Australia in April and that’s always amazing. I can’t believe that after all those years away, we sold out Melbourne, the Hi-Fi two years in a row. Which is a big venue. It’s really fun. They always surprise me down there. They’re just so into music and I hope that continues.

Oh, Vienna is another place that I’ve always loved. And Budapest, I forgot, we shoe-horned in a Budapest gig, these guys that we got to know last time we were in Budapest. And they came to see us in Vienna last winter. Brought me some Bela Bartok music as well as the sheet music for that which is really cool, and they were really determined to get us into Budapest so they’re picking us up in Vienna; then flying us down to Switzerland then putting us up and providing backline and everything so we can get to Budapest again. And that’s an unbelievably gorgeous city and a lot of fun. It’s funny because the first time we went there the people were, they kind of flipped out. These girls were squealing and I’m just like, calm down, I’m a 50 year old punk rocker. Don’t get all worked up there. You’re like 12. It’s pretty funny.

And Vienna is obviously the musical city in the world. And last time we were in Vienna I visited Mozart’s apartment, the Figaro House they call it now. It’s on Dome Gaza 5 right behind the dome, like a block kind of around the corner and it’s the only surviving apartment that Mozart lived in aside from his birth house in Salzburg which is also pretty moving. But that was awesome to go into there. The room there where Mozart gave a 16 year old Beethoven piano lessons and was also visited by Franz Joseph Haydn so you have these 3 biggest, most important composers in the Viennese era and arguably in the history of music were in that apartment. It’s kind of deep. I had tears in my eyes, looking out the window that Mozart looked out, it was fucking intense. It’s a really heavy thing to imagine. Can you see Mozart giving Beethoven- this would have been about 1786 I think it was, giving him a piano lesson? Jesus. Wow. That’s crazy. Between the 3 of them, you had 41 symphonies, 9 symphonies, and 103 symphonies alone. Like, yeah, that’s kind of a powerful place. Anybody that’s not moved by that doesn’t like music.

SFBAC: Well, of all the artists that you’ve worked with, who are the musicians that stand out?

Page Hamilton: Well, yeah there are two that come to mind. Obviously to get a phone call from David Bowie is pretty earth shattering and to get to play lead guitar with David Bowie on the Hours tour and do Wembley stadium in front of 80,000 people with 1 billion watching worldwide, including Mick Jagger standing 6 feet away from me on stage, you know? Probably going, ‘who the fuck is this kid?’

And that was pretty mind blowing. I love Bowie so much. And he’s just such an amazing guy and such a nice guy to be around and I learned so much from him and that’s a huge, amazing experience. And the other person that comes to mind is Elliot Goldenthal who hires me every year, year and a half or so, to play on his movie scores. And I get to work with Elliot and his producer Keith Gohl, who also happens to be a genius. It’s kind of crazy in that his guy’s like Joel and Rick Martinez are people who used to play in Blood, Sweat and Tears. He does a lot of the sample stuff. He’s just got an amazing group of people around him. And Mark Stewart, one of my guitar heroes, who was Paul Simon’s musical director, the other guitar player they hire a lot. I got to work with T-Bone Walk, the late, great bass player from Hall and Oats and Saturday Night Live, who we all did Across the Universe together.
Charlie Drayton, Mark, T-Bone, myself, T-Bone Burnett was there as well who’s amazing. It’s just stunning, all the people. Through Elliot and Keith, I did a track with Bono for a Neil Jordan movie that was really fun. It was very musical. I’m impressed by his approach. I am not the world’s greatest YouTube fan at all but I was really impressed working with him. I thought, what he did with the Sinatra song was one of the better things I’ve heard him do. It must have been my crappy guitar that inspired him. As he said, [in an english accent] ‘it’s got comedy and pain.’ And I said 'it’s mostly comedy,' he didn’t laugh.

So Elliot- I’ve learned so much from him. He’s phenomenal. The guy studied with Arron Copland. Elliot talked about there’s a direct “descendentsy” if that’s a word, a direct connection to Beethoven because Copeland, I forget... Litz studied with Beethoven, and somebody studied with Litz, and Copeland studied with somebody who studied with... I forget the lineage. But it goes back to Beethoven. And you’re like wow, okay. This is like getting knowledge, wisdom and musicality passed down from the master. And obviously, Haydn and Mozart passed on their wisdom and whatnot to Beethoven so it’s kind of cool. Not kind of cool, it’s incredibly cool. I mean Elliot loves my playing so much he calls me a poet and says I don’t sound like those car commercial guitar players and he’s very complementary and loves what I can do and if I do something- he loves that I can put on the lab coat and take chances, and sometimes I step in big piles of crap.

I will tell him if I play something and I go 'oh God that was awful,' and he’s like ‘yeah, man, don’t do that again.’ Any musician needs to be willing to accept the criticism with the praise and Elliot and I work so well together. He’s brought things out of my playing that I never- he’s partly insane and a genius and so it’s like, he makes noises with his mouth. ‘Can you get like a didgeridoo like (imitates didgeridoo noise)?’

Like 'yeah, I think I can do that.' He’s like ‘what would happen if we untuned the guitar and did this?’ And I go, ‘well that’s something like I did from the song ‘Murder’ from Strap It On. I detuned all the strings. So they’re out of tune. I came up with that wall of shit that 'Murder' is built on. So I love doing that kind of stuff and he loved it too. And it’s just great working with somebody that’s that brilliant musically and that willing to take chances and be creative. I think a lot of people have one or the other. They have technical ability and musical ability and knowledge and they’re afraid to do anything that lets the soup spill over the rim of the bowl. I’ve always been- I’ve worked very hard and I practice and I know scales and arpeggios and chord changes and harmony and all this stuff. But to me if it doesn’t sound like you’re exploding at the seams it’s not exciting. The people that love Helmet love that about the band. The band, the arrangement are very tight, and very musical, but then there’s me like spazzing out on these solos and vocals which sounds like my lungs are going to fly out my nose. That, to me, is the joy of music and Elliot really gets that.

There are many other people. All my band mates that over the years I’ve been really fortunate to play with are such great musicians. They always say they’re so honored to play with me and they love what Helmet represents to them and everybody that’s played with me has Helmet stories and why it’s important to them. And that always makes me feel good. Like I have Dan [Beeman] who’s 16 years younger than me, reminding me parts of my own songs. Like, ‘ah, no Page, actually this goes to a G here.’ ‘Oh right, right. Okay, thanks Dan.’ He was 11 when Strap It On came out, you know? He’s correcting me in my own songs.

SFBAC: I first saw you guys back in, I think it was '92, on the Meantime Tour at a small little club in Philly at the Trocadero, which was a fantastic show.

Page Hamilton: The Philly, the Troc?

SFBAC: Yup, the Troc. It’s always stuck with me, it’s always been one of my favorite shows.

Page Hamilton: Oh, God, classy venue. Is that when the Boston band opened up? The Bosstones?

SFBAC: Yeah, that was the show.

Page Hamilton: I think they did [Metalica's] 'Enter Sandman,' and I go, 'this is awesome.' They were great. They were so high energy and cool. And it wasn’t our thing, I listened to the ska kinda thing when it was the English Beat really early on. And these guys come along and they were just hilarious, man. I remember the Troc specifically, I’m not sure if this is the show. But I hate them [venues] playing music before and after a show that’s crappy rock music. Like new metal or whatever they play. So I always bring my own mixed thing with me and at that time I was really into this Sammy Davis Jr Warner archives thing and I just remember the Troc, of course, typical Philly. Somebody’s screaming from the audience while we’re setting up like, ‘fucking turn this shit off! Fuck!’ They were so bummed out. Didn’t have the same musical taste as I have I guess. It was pretty funny. Philly is an amazing music town. I don’t think we’re playing Philly on this run, oddly. That’s why I didn’t mention it’s a show I’m looking forward to, because we always look forward to playing there. It’s weird; we’re not playing Atlanta, Minneapolis or Philly which have always been kind of good music towns for us. I need to try to figure out what’s going on.

SFBAC: The other question I wanted to ask was, back about 10 years ago you worked on the Tapeworm project with Trent Reznor and Maynard James Keenan. Can you talk about what the recording process, the sessions were like?

Page Hamilton: You know, I worked with Charlie Clouser, specifically, we worked every day. I would go down for a week from New York to New Orleans and we liked it, so we got together again and 2 and 3 weeks at a time I was down there. Even longer. And Trent was just so generous, and he said 'you can stay here as long as you want. I love having you here.' And Charlie and I were writing- it was essentially music for me which became Gandhi, and later Helmet songs like 'Enemies' and 'Just Like Me' and 'Speak and Spell.' Some things are b-sides and some are on albums. And then some of the stuff that Charlie and I did ended up in that Tapeworm pile. And then Trent and I did some things a couple of days and we just kind of sat and jammed to be honest with you. I had a guitar and Charlie is a great computer guy and keyboard manipulator and so is Trent. Trent is kind of a technical genius.
He’s the only guy I think that could operate every single piece of equipment in his control room and there was a lot of it. And he had a Kurzweil keyboard and I had a guitar and we just kind of jammed some stuff up. I have no idea if anything ever got used. I know that one of his sample guys used some of my stuff for a sample CD. So Trent paid me for that stuff, I felt like Chuck Berry showing up and wanting his suitcase of cash for my work, but Trent and I, we do this kind of a mutual admiration. He was looking at my hands and saying ‘what are you doing, how are you getting that to come out of the guitar, what’s in your hands?’ And I just showed him, ‘it’s a guitar pick.’ And I was watching him and I was like, ‘what? How the fuck are you doing this?’

We have such different musical skills but we both have kind of compositional minds. Bowie and I talked about that about Trent. He thinks Trent has a really great compositional mind. Knowing what you can and can’t do, or what you’re capable of in music, as a musician. But knowing the bigger picture. Bruce Gilbert from Wire and I had a conversation like this a million years ago that, knowing how all the elements fit together but stepping back and being able to see the entire picture. And that’s kind of what I do, and I believe that’s what Trent is really good at. You kind of learn, we just learned a lot from each other. I don’t know that anything would ever come of- I know that I had an idea for the song 'Enemies' and Charlie spilled the beans to those guys and I heard a song called 'Perfect Enemy' or whatever and I was like 'thanks Charlie.' They probably sold a million copies or a gazillion people heard their song and then Size Matters we probably sold 100 copies. But those guys are great. I didn’t work with Maynard, we met one time when he was singing with Rage Against the Machine on a New Years Eve show. He was really nice and very talented singer. So I don’t know what became of any of that stuff or if it will ever be released. And I don’t even know if it is, if anything that I did got used. It’s a nice idea, certainly, to put all these people with different talents together and try to do a band but I think we’re all kind of wrapped up in our own thing. But Trent, in particular, I’m a huge fan of what he does. I try to keep up on stuff. I’m on like the Nine Inch Nails fan club mailing site or whatever. I just got a new EP... You know what I mean? I love what he does.

SFBAC: Are there any artists that you haven’t worked with that you’d love to?

Page Hamilton: Well, I wouldn’t ever put myself even close to the same category or even like- it’s like, I am not worthy is an understatement. But Wayne Shorter is still living and he’s the greatest living composer, musical genius, that I know. He’s mind blowing. He’s on another level and he’s been doing it for- since the 50’s? I think he’s my father’s age, I believe he’s 80 years old. I think he was born in 1930 in Newark, New Jersey. Yeah, I would just like to spend a couple of hours with him and just see what happens. He’s on another level though harmonically and arrangement-wise it’s just sick what he does.

Jim Hall, if I could sit in a room with him at some point and pick his brain. The great jazz guitarist. That would be kind of amazing. There’s a lot of people, I’ve met Billy Gibbons and Neil Young and had great conversations, I’ve hung out with Billy a couple of times. Both those guys I’m sure would be amazing to work with. My dear friend Danny Kortchmar who’s a great producer and guitarist, I think he just did the James Taylor / Carol King tour, he produced [Don] Henley and Billy Joel and all those people. He’s like Neil Young, he’s intense, he’s like Coltrane or something. He’s still got this intense passion and you hear it in his music, he still goes after it. He’s not half-assed and resting on his laurels.

SFBAC: Back to your stuff. I was looking at the calendar and it looks like Meantime is coming up on the 20th anniversary pretty soon? Are there any plans for a re-release or something special for the anniversary?

Page Hamilton: I hope so. It’s not really up to me. They re-released the Betty album which is cool. My manager asked me if I was into it, and I was like, of course, I’m thrilled. But I don’t know whose decision that was. I certainly can’t afford to do it. Interscope owns those masters so that’s all up to them and I know that Size Matters and Aftertaste are both out of print. So the only hope we have for another re-release would be Meantime at this point. I doubt they will re-release Strap It On. I don’t know how any of those records do, or did. I don’t know how records do period now, but I like having the music out there and available in all formats so I hope at some point I can put Aftertaste out again or whatever. We’ve played stuff from every album and it’s nice to have it available for people. It’s cool that I meet these... I met a bunch of people last night, there was one kid that had to be about 6 or 7 years old there that was with his dad and another kid was maybe 20 years old and there were people that were my age.

And to have someone come up to me and say, ‘Size Matters is my favorite album of all time’ a 20 year old who wasn’t ever- when Meantime came out, was 1 or something, or 2. It makes you feel good that you did something right and that the music’s been sticking around for all these years. We’ve never been a huge band. We have a nice little worldwide following and we can go play from Australia, Japan, and Europe and the US and Mexico and South America to our audience. And that’s all one can hope for, to do as long as it’s fun and exciting for me.

SFBAC: On a personal note, "Unsung" was one of my anthems back when I was a kid and it’s still a fantastic song. So you definitely had an effect on me as a kid and to this day.

Page Hamilton: That’s cool. I just got a thing from MSO [publicity]. She linked to a couple of previews for some of the shows and the guy or girl, I can’t remember, wrote something about "Upsung." U-p-s... I’m like, 'I don’t remember writing "Upsong."' I had actually, when we played the Youth Fest in April in Arizona, we did a signing meet and greet thing. And a kid came up to me and said, ‘Man, I heard you guys playing that Sepultura cover, and I had to come running over, I love that song!’ And I go ‘oh, was that the "In the Meantime" song?’ And he goes ‘yeah!’ ‘Um, actually, I wrote that, and it was on an album of ours called Meantime.’ And he’s like, ‘No shit?’ I’m like ‘Yeah! Yeah. Thanks though, I’m glad you like it!’ Ah, what are you going to do? And we get more requests for "Sinatra" than any song because the Deftones covered that and I’m like, I always ask them, ‘are you asking for that song because you love the Deftones or do you love Strap It On?’ They’re like, ‘Oh, we totally know Strap It On, of course we do’ - yeah right.

SFBAC: Last question I’ve got for you. Any advice for a new artist trying to break into the industry?

Page Hamilton: I’ve said all along that if you’re doing this because you love music and you want to be a musician then you’re never going to want to quit. You might be dissatisfied and you might become disheartened and disillusioned from time to time, but if you make it about the music, you’ll have something to look forward to every day. If you want to be a rock star and make it, and be in videos and do all that stuff. I don’t have any advice. I really don’t. I just know how to tell people how to practice and how to work and how to be a better musician. I can’t tell somebody how to be intense and impassioned about what they do. And I think those are personality traits that you’re born with, either that or you’re a hyper-active nut job like me and just like, I get so excited. And I've talked to so many musicians that talked to friends that said they met Page and said ‘I couldn’t believe how excited he was about music still, he’s like 50 years old, and he’s been doing it for so long.’ Because I’ve never made it about financial commercial success or popularity contests or whatever. I don’t think music is a marching band competition. I don’t watch American Idol, I don’t want to sound like that. I always- in New York, even when I was at University of Oregon, I always felt like it was important to develop your own vocabulary and your own style as a guitar player and as a musician. I encourage people to do that. Learn the elements of music and that’s everything from chords and how to build them and scales and arpeggios. Harmony, melody, rhythm, form, which is your structures, and texts, words, when you’re writing rock songs those are the things. And absorb everything you can.

Nobody knows everything. Look at Billy Gibbons, he’s out there with his camera taking pictures of Dave Sardy’s pedals, pedal board and amp set up when Barkmarket was playing. Then you hear his album Rhythmeen and he tunes way down, and comes up with the whole new sound for ZZ Top. He’s Jimmy Hendrix’s favorite guitar player, one of the best guitar players in the world and he’s still a student of music and that’s a great lesson to anyone. Nobody knows everything. If you think you know everything and you got it, you’re done. It’s over. You’re probably going to be dissatisfied. I think the Rolling Stones, they’re so rich and they’ve got so many homes and such high overhead that they’ve got to maintain a lifestyle. That’s not to say that they’re not capable of greatness because they’re one of the greatest bands ever, but when I saw them I was kind of disappointed. This seems kind of cartoonish, you know? It’s so big and so over the top and I would like to see them do one of those club shows like Toad’s Place in New Haven I heard they did one year. I’m sure they still love to rock and I think a lot of these bands of my generation or bands that were supposedly inspired by Helmet, they’re about a lifestyle and maintaining a lifestyle that they get Desmond Child to write songs with them and they got to get outfits and do videos and all that stuff, and that takes away from music. I think MTV is one of the worst things to happen to music. I can say that because it’s not like they give me any love. I don’t give a shit about videos. I make them because they’re kind of fun to make and to lip sync and make fun of your band mates and you do a cool fake background. But it’s not what I’m driven to do. I guess it can be another creative thing. I don’t watch MTV and I haven’t for 20 years. I’ve never seen- when it first came out, I had just gotten back from Germany, and my sister had it on her sorority and I was like what is this?

SFBAC: I don’t think they even play videos anymore.

Page Hamilton: Yeah, they have reality shows right?

SFBAC: Yup it’s all reality TV now.

Page Hamilton: Yeah. I don’t own a television set, I mean I own one but I gave it to this girl I was dating like 5 years ago in the Valley in the studio and she has it I guess still. I just never plugged it in since I moved to LA – 8 years and I go to watch sports at a bar so, that way I won’t sit there and watch highlights for 3 hours. It’s a social event to go watch the Niners with my friends and stuff but I’m interested in music. I don’t expect every guitar player to get into Wes Montgomery or Maurice Ravel, but I guarantee it will provide nothing but positive growth and positive energy for musicians. It’s amazing. I ask Elliot, I’m like ‘I really want to study orchestration’ – this is 6, 7 years ago before I studied with this guy Jack Molly, he’s like ‘I’ll teach orchestration.’ I’m like ‘yeah and when are you going to do that? In between winning academy awards and doing the next million dollar score or whatever?’ He said ‘I got a great exercise for you, take home the Tu Te sections by 'Rapsodie espagnole' by Ravel and leave them up a minor third and down a minor third. It presents some really interesting orchestration problems.’ I’m like ‘are you fucking kidding me? I was talking about maybe what arrangement of the obo? How does it sound when I put it with the violas? Thanks Elliot, okay.’ And that said to musicians- never be intimidated by there being so much to learn or by someone being better than you. Learn from them. You’ve always got something to learn. I wake up every day and I still am excited, I still figure out new chord voicing’s, how to get through Giant Steps, what did [Col]Trane do? What did Charlie Parker do over ‘How High the Moon’, he wrote Ornithology, it’s all- it’s exciting. Music is exciting. I love it. It’s the most amazing thing to me. And that will always- I’ve said that to every musician I’ve ever met that’s ever asked me for advice, the music business can be a big steaming turd at times and it will let you down but music will let you down ever. It will frustrate you and challenge you and that’s a good thing.

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