Chrome Wicked Spins Radio Interview
Chrome Wicked Spins Radio Interviewby Phlis
WSR – Thank you for giving Wicked Spins Radio this interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourselves?
Chrome – Well Chrome is weird, acid drenched and in your face and back with a vengeance… That’s my bass player’s line. He just wrote it in our bio for the European tour starting in May.
WSR – Helios you originally joined Chrome in 1976, what was your ambition as a musician then and what were the early days like?
Chrome – I wanted to play great rock that wasn’t phony. I wanted to make a Rock band that didn’t have anything to do with hippies or the Blues, and that was a problem back then, because everyone was doing it. It was all this latent hippy dippy Cat Steven’zie’ or Blues’zie’ stuff that was pretty bad. Then there was Air Supply and Boston, and those 70’s sounds. I met Damon and he felt the same way. I wanted to be weirder than Hawkwind, heavy like Black Sabbath and I loved Psychedelia, but I wanted to expand on its dark side not just be all flowers and rainbows. Punk shows started happening at the Mabuhay Gardens in the same neighborhood that I had been doing gigs in and I was totally into it! I thought it was really cool. I was into that fact that something fresh had hit. Do you know how many hippie musicians there were back then saying ‘hey you want to jam on the Blues’ and I’d be like ‘ah no, I really don’t’. Suddenly music was changing like I felt it would and the Punk scene in the early days was experimental, because it was so new. Then it got its own rigidity with rules like any scene. With Chrome we always wanted to just be as weird as we wanted, a Rock band without rules.
WSR – Did you ever set out to be such a big inspiration?
Chrome – Well no. I just set out to be as a good a guitar as I could be, and I didn’t know where it was going to wind up or how it was going to be. I did feel music had to change. It couldn’t stay the way it was. It’s a generational thing. Each generation wants their own music, so it was inevitable the shift was going to happen from where it had been
WSR – A lot of bands quote you as influencing them, but what bands you know are influenced by you surprises you that they are?
Chrome – Well MGMT surprised me. I was surprised to find out they were listening to Pigmies in Zee Park. They asked us to open a few shows for them. Obviously they’re more Pop Modern Psychedelia and we’re more Punkish and Acidic. They’ve said Chrome gave them the strength to be as weird as they wanted. So people need to just not be afraid, and experiment and go for it.
WSR – Chrome’s sound seems to span genres and also generations, what do you feel it is about your music that makes it have such a wide appeal?
Chrome – Its universal I guess. I really don’t know. Monet, my current background vocalist says people keep coming back to the work because of its freedom. I’m always really just trying to make a song that I like.
WSR – At what point in the life of Chrome do you feel that the band found its feet and created that signature Chrome sound?
Chrome – The most amazing thing about Damon’s and my meeting was that we found our footing right away. I mean when I auditioned we just knew it was a fit. When I heard his first Chrome album, The Visitation, I felt like they needed me. It wasn’t exactly my style, but it was the production that attracted me the most. I researched who was playing what…and the production, that was Damon. I could hear how I could fit in. I liked the guys in the band especially Gary Spain, but I was glad everyone quit when I joined and it ended up just Damon and I, so we could make the records we made. We got right to work and we both were just blown away that our concepts actually translated sonically and that our first album together, Alien Soundtracks, worked.
WSR – Helios you originally left Chrome in 1982, what were your reasons for leaving?
Chrome – I never left Chrome. Damon went to Europe and began to record as Chrome on his own. I was very bitter at the time about the whole thing, but I just went back to work to develop my sound as a solo artist. It was rough at first because I was used to a certain respect from my peers and the fans from Chrome, and suddenly I wasn’t shit. I remember at one of my first gigs at the Night Break on Haight St., I was using a megaphone and a heckler said “You’re just ripping off the Butthole Surfers” and of course Gibby was a huge Chrome fan and had gotten that idea from Chrome! But the audience didn’t know who I was, because Damon hadn’t been into playing live. I kept at it though and found my own footing as a solo artist and hit a stride in the late 80’s and in the 90’s on the Amphetamine Reptile label in the Noise Rock scene. I got to tour and share stages with so many great indie acts in those years. So in the end I’m glad that I got to do my solo work, because it was a direction I was supposed to go in at the time I guess. It made me grow creatively in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise
WSR – After Edge’s death in 1995 you returned Helios, why did you return and what did Edge’s death have on the band but also you personally?
Chrome – Dave Brock didn’t stop doing Hawkwind when Nik Turner and Del Dentmore stopped. Why should I stop doing Chrome just because Damon died. See Chrome left me and I got it back about 20 years ago. Damon did his version without me and I’ve been doing my version without him, although I’m still inspired by what he did and what the merging of our individual approaches created in music when we first met. I got my dose of what Damon can do longer than anyone else, and we grew together building this structure of working, these methods we call Chrome, and I’m continuing on. I put a lot into Chrome in the early days and since.
WSR – What do you feel is Edge’s legacy?
Chrome – He was a true artist, that wanted to bring art to sound. There wasn’t much art in sound before our work in Chrome. Thats what I loved about him.
WSR – How do you feel you have honored Edge through the music of Chrome?
Chrome – Just by going on with the work.
WSR – Of all Chrome’s songs, which carries your fondest memories of Edge?
Chrome – Animal the way he sings it, and Pahraoh Chromium. Those two songs make me think of Damon.
WSR – If it was possible to speak to Edge one final time what would you say to him?
Chrome – How are the sounds over there?
WSR – You used Pledge Music to buy back the lost Chrome tapes that you released this year, how has Pledge Music helped you and how do you think it has and can changed the music industry?
Chrome – Well like Facebook, and MySpace in the old days, it puts you right in touch with the fans, and you find out who your family is. You get to know the ones that really understand and love what you do, which is really cool. Its a one on one with your fans even more than a live situation, which is a benefit for the fans cause they get in on the process. It was cool to see all these people supporting the effort to release these Lost Tracks. Then they were so enthusiastic when they finally got to hear them and then we got to drop the new 2014 single Prophecy on them too. And the feedback was great. Doing all the work yourself though is hard, but in the end worth it to own your music.
WSR – How did you find out about the lost tapes?
Chrome – My former label owner told me about them. He’d been approached about buying them, from another former label owner. They’d shopped them to people that I didn’t want to have them. I had to get them back so we went the Pledge route ‘cause no one had the money. And I’m glad I did, cause I think it’s a very important Chrome album that fans should have.
WSR – What were the memories brought back to you when you first heard the lost tapes?
Chrome – Yah it was a gusher of memories. It was really neat, cause I didn’t recognize a lot of it at first and I kept asking ‘why didn’t we use this?” And then I started remembering the discussions and debates that Damon and I had had regarding each of the pieces. For one thing we had way too much material, but also we didn’t think some of them went with our image back then ironically because they were too pop. However, now is a perfect time for these tracks to have reemerged.
WSR – Is there anything you wish you had done different in the life of Chrome?
Chrome – In a way I wish we’d released some of the Lost Chrome Tracks back when we made them. They represent a certain maturation of song writing many of them, and I think they would have taken us to another level.
WSR – Thank you so much for giving Wicked Spins Radio this interview, is there anything you would like to add?
Chrome – Well you should know that my current line up of Chrome is just finishing up our new album FEEL IT LIKE A SCIENTIST. I’m actually in LA right now doing the final mixing. As an artist I’ve tried to keep stretching the methodologies for creating music that Damon and I developed within the context of Chrome: spontaneity, scary/funny, heavy, weird, dark, Punk, Psychedelic, Rock, cut and paste, sound bites, bizerker effects, deconstruction, noise for noise sake, any kind of noise, no rules, Acidic… The Chrome approach is alive. We often all create unrehearsed on the spot, the same way that Damon and I worked, like automatic writing. And sometimes I write out songs, like I did with Prophecy our single. I asked the band to all write lines in the lyrics. Damon and I both admired The White Album where the Beatles just freak out and do whatever they want. Later, I’ve read that they were inspired by John Cage during that period, same as Damon. Anyway, I was like ‘wow these guys are just doing what they want, no more baby I wanna hold your hand anymore’. Anyway FEEL IT LIKE A SCIENTIST has got it. Its got my veteran members Tommy Grenas on keys and Aleph Omega on drums. Both have been with me 16 years, so they’ve been “Chromed” a long time. We have newer members working with us Monet Clark the performance artist (aka Anne Dromida) who sings and is great at composing and brings this conceptual energy to the mix much like Damon. Keith Thompson is this really talented young guitarist. Our newest member Steve Fishman has played with so many luminaries and I can understand why, because he’s just a great bass player. The album is coming out in April and its how I’ve always wanted Chrome to sound! Its what I always imagined Chrome could be post Damon, ya know. I’ve been able to take it to the next level.