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Helmet's "Betty" is almost legal drinking age

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Helmet founder Page Hamilton isn't usually one ot look backwards. But the 20th anniversary of the metal group's landmark album "Betty" (which was actually last year) was too good to pass up.

So Hamilton and the latest incarnation of Helmet have been on the road -- including a stop Tuesday, March 17, at the Magic Bag in Ferndale --playing "Betty" in its entirety. And, according to Hamilton, having "really, really a lot of fun."

"It was proposed to me by our booking agent in London, and I just didn't think there would be that much interest," says Hamilton, 54, who started Helmet during 1989 after leaving the Band of Susans. "We're kind of an underground band, really -- still, even though we had a brief time where we flirted with MTV and everybody was excited about the 'new sound.'

"But we've been fortunate to tour the world for 25 years now, and I was pleasantly surprised by the response 'Betty' has been getting. It's one of the best tours we've ever done. I'm really happy about it."

Returning to "Betty," Hamilton says, he's been reminded of a bit of "flack" Helmet took for it at the time. For starters, it veered away sonically from its predecessor, 1992's "Meantime" -- by design. "I always felt as a musician or a writer or whatever, your role is to progress musically, and that's what we did with 'Betty.' It wasn't 'Meantime, Part 2,' " he explains. And some fans didn't know what to make of the cover, a photo of a prim and proper young woman sitting in the grass, holding a basket of flowers.

"It wasn't tough enough or whatever," Hamilton recalls with a laugh. "It's an example of subversive art; obviously I did it on purpose, to keep people on their goes - myself included. But it's been gratifying to come out 20-plus years later and do all these shows and see how much people like the album. I thought it was a good album, so to get to do it was a real pleasure."

Hamilton predicts that the "Betty" tour "is going to have an influence on Helmet's next album which the group will start recording during April. And while he has "a couple of songs that are written" already, he's trying not to prepare too much in order to take advantage of what's been happening during the shows.

"I really want to have stuff feel kind of spontaneous, almost live," Hamilton explains. "We're on such a good roll live; the band sounds so good, it would be nice to capture that energy right after a tour. I want to do things that don't have orthodox song structures and interesting (chord) changes, just weird and heavy. It's hard to describe, but that's what I want to go for this time."


Tuesday, March 17. Doors open at 8 p.m.

The Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale.

Tickets are $20.

Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.

Web Site: www.themagicbag.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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