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Helmet’s Page Hamilton on Touring With David Bowie

Work Song

While Helmet were on hiatus between 1999 and 2003, one of Page Hamilton’s many hired-gun stints included touring with David Bowie on the ‘Hours…’ tour. Hamilton recently spoke to Noisecreep about his experiences playing guitar with one of his musical heroes, which left a lasting impression on his future work with Helmet.

“It was a huge confidence boost to play with one of my idols,” he said. “One of the guys who is considered one of the Big Three, or Big Four — including The Kinks, The Beatles, The Stones and Bowie. They influenced everybody.”

While many people would never imagine Hamilton’s guitar style working within Bowie’s eclectic sound, Bowie and Hamilton found a way to make it work.

“It was great to have him compliment me on my playing, compared to the bands of that era of Roxy Music that sounds haphazard [compared] to what I’m doing, but you could hear that it’s very thought out and worked out.”

“I just listened. He called me his Quiet One, because I didn’t talk a lot. I just listened. I wanted to learn what he had to say about songwriting. One day, he would turn to me at rehearsal and said, ‘Advice for budding young songwriters — I make half my songs from Danny Kaye’s ‘Inchworm.’ Danny Kaye’s ‘Inchworm’? Uh, OK. He talked about Roy Orbison influencing ‘Ashes to Ashes,’ trying to do that falsetto high melody thing.

“I liked to be around him. He’s confident but approachable and humble. When you’re good at what you do, you don’t need to be an a-hole. He’s really proved that. Everybody that I admire who is alive has been just like that. It’s been pleasures meeting or spending a little bit of time with, from Neil Young to Billy Gibbons. They’ve all been really cool and generous. It’s been a great experience. I had to learn a lot of music. I had to learn how to make guitar sounds for songs that covered 35 years. It was pretty difficult.”

Watch a video of David Bowie & Page Hamilton playing ‘Ashes to Ashes’ live in 1999

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