Gandhi (American band)

Helmet (band)

Helmet is an American post-hardcore/alternative metal band formed in New York City by Page Hamilton (vocals/guitar) with Henry Bogdan (bass), Peter Mengede (guitar) and John Stanier (drums) in 1989. In the 19 years since its inception, Helmet has had numerous lineup changes, and Hamilton has been the only constant member.

Helmet has released six studio albums and two compilations. The band found mainstream success with their 1992 major label debut Meantime, which debuted at number 68 on the Billboard 200 and spawned the hits "Unsung" and "In the Meantime". After releasing two more albums, Betty and Aftertaste, Helmet broke up in 1998, but reformed in 2004. The band released their first post-reunion album, Size Matters, later that year and it was their last release on their longtime label Interscope Records. They are now signed to Warcon Records, who released their latest album, Monochrome, on July 18, 2006.

History

Early years (1989-1991)

Helmet appeared on the New York underground scene in 1989 after Hamilton had left Band of Susans. They were spotted by Tom Hazelmyer and signed to his Amphetamine Reptile Records label, releasing their debut 7 inch single, Born Annoying, later that year. AmRep released their first album, Strap It On, in 1990.

Helmet was acclaimed as a "Thinking person's heavy metal band." Eschewing the traditional heavy metal image of long hair and black clothing, the band stood out with their preference for simple t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers, along with short haircuts. Their music is characterized by repetitive, syncopated, staccato guitar riffs, often in odd time signatures, and almost always in a minor key with drop-D or drop-C tuning. The guitar sound is heavily distorted and dissonant, with choruses that often involve guitar feedback waves.

Before Hamilton had settled on a name for the group, Peter Mengede's then-girlfriend suggested the name "Helmut". Opting for the Anglicized spelling, Hamilton thought Helmet "sounded like a cool name for a band.". Other names considered were "Cry Ruth" and "Poly Orchids", along with the more esoteric "Tuna Lorenzo" and "Froth Albumen".

Mainstream success (1992-1998)

The group rose to international stardom in 1992 after signing to Interscope Records. With the record industry hot to pick up burgeoning metal acts, Helmet was courted by a number of major labels. It is rumored that the members received in excess of $1 million at signing, along with an unprecedented amount of control over their work. Their first Interscope release, 1992's Meantime, was produced entirely by the band and was certified gold in the U.S. by 1994. The album has sold over 1 million copies worldwide and remains Helmet's top-selling album.

Helmet toured the U.S., Europe, and Asia relentlessly, generally with other AmRep recording artists. Internal tensions rose high at times. In early 1993, guitarist Peter Mengede left on bad terms and was replaced by Rob Echeverria. His debut with the band, Betty, was released in 1994. Despite managing the band's highest-ever chart position on the Billboard 200 at number 45, the album failed to sell as much as Meantime. Total U.S. sales of Betty are just over 275,000 as of April 2006. After recording and touring in support of Betty, Echeverria left to join Biohazard; however, his departure was much more amicable than Mengede's.

The band elected to push on and record 1997's Aftertaste as a three-piece. After recording was complete, guitarist Chris Traynor (formerly of Orange 9mm) was recruited for the supporting tour. Although "Exactly What You Wanted" became a moderate radio hit, the album spent only a few weeks on the Billboard 200 and has sold 135,000 copies as of April 2006. The Aftertaste tour in 1997–98 would prove to be the band's last. Amid long-standing private disputes, the members decided to call it quits. Asked about the break up, Hamilton replied, "9 years, 1600 shows, 5 albums, and we found it hard to look at each other anymore"

Aftermath and reformation (1999-2005)

Hamilton relocated from New York to Los Angeles and became involved in many different projects, from playing guitar for David Bowie to doing sessions for film scores. He periodically returned to New York to work with his band Gandhi, which is where several of the songs appearing on Size Matters began. Bogdan returned home to Oregon and began playing steel guitar for the Midnight Serenaders. Stanier took a break from drumming for over a year, but returned to play drums for Tomahawk, The Mark of Cain and Battles.

After moving to Los Angeles, Hamilton began working with drummer John Tempesta (formerly of Testament and White Zombie) and was searching for a record label and a name for the project. By 2003, he had acquiesced to Jimmy Iovine's urging that he release music through Interscope under the established Helmet moniker, to which Interscope held the rights. Hamilton had resisted for some time under the belief that without Stanier and Bogdan it couldn't rightly be called Helmet. He had always wanted to revive Helmet, but his relationships with Bogdan and Stanier had not improved since 1998 and his offer to reunite was rebuffed and/or ignored. Fed up with the situation, and with Interscope's offer as a major catalyst, Hamilton became convinced that he was justified in moving on and putting out more music as Helmet without them. Chris Traynor, still on good terms with Hamilton, soon came on board to cover bass and guitar parts. With Tempesta on drums and Hamilton covering vocals and guitar, the three recorded Size Matters in early 2004. Frank Bello was later recruited to play bass on the supporting tour; however, he left before its conclusion to reunite with his old band, Anthrax. Jeremy Chatelain replaced Bello for the duration of the tour. John Tempesta left in early 2006 to join The Cult.

In late 2005, Helmet parted ways with Interscope. Helmet then signed with Warcon Enterprises and announced that a new album was in the works for an early summer release. Helmet performed at the 2006 South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, with a temporary lineup consisting of Charlie Walker on drums, Chris Traynor on bass, and Anthony Truglio (formerly of Gandhi) on guitar. The new album, Monochrome, was recorded and co-produced by Wharton Tiers, who recorded Helmet's first two albums, Strap It On and Meantime. For the album, Hamilton and Traynor returned to the studio with newly recruited drummer, Mike Jost (formerly of Adair). Helmet headlined the 2006 Warped Tour in support of Monochrome, with Jeremy Chatelain reprising his role from the 2005 Size Matters tour.

New developments (2006-present)

In September 2006, shortly after the conclusion of the Warped Tour, Chris Traynor announced that he had left the band after nearly a decade of working with Page Hamilton. A few days later, Mike Jost also left the band to attend to his duties as a new father. Jeremy Chatelain also made other commitments. Hamilton announced in early October 2006 that the new drummer is Kyle Stevenson and the bass player is Jon Fuller, both from Milwaukee. Due to changes in the line up, Hamilton was forced to cancel many shows scheduled for late 2006 in the Northeastern US and Europe. Helmet opened up for Guns N' Roses for the remaining dates of their tour in December 2006. The band is touring Australia in April/May 2008, playing shows throughout the eastern and southern coasts. In a recent interview in Reverb magazine, Hamilton confirmed that during their Australian dates the band will attempt to perform their influential 1992 record, Meantime, from start to finish. Hamilton later explains with a laugh that he's chosen Meantime to perform in its entirety because there's only ten songs and it "...is the easiest to play. Betty and Size Matters are both really hard," Laughs Hamilton. "Monochrome is also really tough."

When asked in an interview if there has been any progress when it comes to putting down ideas for the next Helmet album, Hamilton replied: "No. I've been busy working on jazz tunes. I've written four songs since the last tour ended but they're for this movie I'm working on. It has been nice though as I like to clear out the old palette and do other things. Helmet put two albums out in 18 months, Size Matters and Monochrome, so I think the next album has got to wait. I'm planning to sit down and write a couple songs in March but that is assuming I can get on a roll before we head out to Australia. But we probably won't get an album out until the end of the year. In that interview, Hamilton was hoping that he could "do two more albums and that there is also interest on the touring front. But as long as we can go play shows and people come out to them and I feel good about what we're doing, then we'll do it. Realistically, I'm thinking of two more albums after Monochrome as in two years I'll be fifty years old. So I'm thinking will I be capable? It is very physically demanding and people kind of under estimate the energy you have to put out to play this music. And I don't to go out and do a half-assed job. So as long as I can maintain that high level and still feel great, I'll think about doing it."

Helmet in popular culutre

Helmet's "Ironhead" appeared in the 1992 film Guncrazy. In early 1994, before Betty was released, an alternate version of "Milquetoast" (named "Milktoast") appeared on the motion picture soundtrack of The Crow. In 1995, they contributed a cover version of the Gigantor theme to the tribute album Saturday Morning. In the same year, Helmet bailed out The Jerky Boys movie with a 'live' performance of Black Sabbath's "Symptom of the Universe". In 2004, "Unsung" appeared on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas soundtrack, playing on fictional alternative radio station Radio X. "Crashing Foreign Cars" appeared in 2004 on the Need For Speed: Underground 2 soundtrack. In 2005, "Unsung" was used in the PlayStation 2 game Guitar Hero. The videos for "Unsung" and "Wilma's Rainbow" have been featured on the 1990s MTV series Beavis and Butt-Head

Page appears on Norma Jean's latests album "The Anti Mother" and is credited with song writing on the song - Opposite of Left and Wrong.

Discography

See also

References

External links

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