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Helmet Brought Film Scoring Tricks to ‘Seeing Eye Dog’

Tom Hoppa

Helmet‘s last effort, 2006’s ‘Monochrome,’ didn’t exactly hold its weight against the band’s hefty catalog. In fact, the most disappointed person by far was Helmet frontman Page Hamilton. “I thought it would be cool on our last record to go back to New York, and it just wasn’t,” he told Noisecreep. “You can’t really go back.”

At one point during the interview, he confessed that he’s taking serious considerations to re-record the entire album. “There are so many cools songs on there that I’m really proud of.”

The album was plagued bye obtrusive interference from the record label while Hamilton faced a looming deadline and was fighting an illness that strained his vocal ability in the studio. He recalled the whole experience as a “nightmare.”

‘Seeing Eye Dog’ bears no resemblence to its predecessor; the multi-layering of the tracks and pure tension building around melodies harken back to ‘Betty.’ Hamilton credited the newest offering to the fact that he took a year off from Helmet, choosing to focus on his jazz-related projects.

“Personally I need to take time away writing songs for my lifetime love, which is Helmet,” Hamilton explained. Coming back to the band he felt focused and excited. “The songs just poured out.”

Feeling free to experiment, Hamilton brought in the process that he calls sonic textures — a multi-guitar layering that he’s done on his movie scoring work, which has included films like ‘Heat’ and ‘Collateral.’ “I started by improvising the guitar parts,” he said, explaining the first step in creating the track ‘Morphing.’

“Because I have a strange approach to things, I started orchestrating these feedback things. You had to go in and handpick through the notes and find sounds.” The final product is a staggering track one would never imagine hearing on a Helmet record.

Another result from the stress-free recording session was getting a chance to record ‘And Your Bird Can Sing,’ the Beatles classic. “Those harmonies always attracted me,” Hamilton admitted. The band first took to playing the song live in the winter of ’09 while in Europe. “I would try to be a bit too pinchy on the vocals. [John Lennon] had such a unique voice … there’s that little turn that he does. He’ll use an ‘H’ consonance to get the note to go down. Little things like that attract me to try and sing the song.

“There’s another take where the beat is more straightforward with the Beatles beat and everything, which I did do a vocal take.” The song came off feeing like it was forced. “It didn’t sound natural. I love that challenge of making it sound Helmet, but it’s definitely a tribute at the same time.”

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