By the mid-1990s, singer-guitarist Helios Creed hadn't played in the band Chrome in over a decade. Band founder Damon Edge had called him more than once to suggest that they work on new material, but Creed always refused.
"He sounded terrible, kinda drunk and drugged out," Creed said in a 2017 interview with Mojo. "I knew he was overweight, eating to excess. He was like, 'We should make a Chrome record,' but he didn't want me to see him. I said I didn't wanna do a mail record. Then, three months later, he died."
After Edge's death from heart failure in 1995, Creed restarted Chrome with fellow ex-members John and Hilary Stench.
"I wasn't planning on it," Creed told Boise Weekly, "but all these people just started using the Chrome name—or trying to use the Chrome name—and it just got to the point where, 'Wow, I gotta once again try to protect the Chrome name.'"
Now performing with a five-person lineup, the Creed-led Chrome continues the legacy of what San Francisco NPR radio station KQED once dubbed "The Most Influential Band You've Never Heard." The group will kick off a month-long US tour with a show at Neurolux on Friday, May 18. Local rock groups Casual Worship and Evils will open.
For the 64-year-old Creed, rock and roll has been a lifelong passion.
"I remember Elvis [Presley] when he was brand new," he said. "I was four years old. ... Before Elvis, the radio, I thought, was very boring. I used to think to myself, 'Why would anybody want to make music?'"
Seeing acts like The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Black Sabbath as a teenager had an even greater impact. A well-known piece of Chrome folklore involves a Sabbath show that Creed attended while tripping on LSD.
"I got so scared that I ran out of the place, thinking that the devil was after me," he said in a 2014 interview with the UK-based fanzine Fear and Loathing. "I went on a devil trip with Black Sabbath, right? I was screaming, 'He's gonna send me to hell!' I was looking for my friends and my brother, but some guy said he'd take me to my seat instead. Then Black Sabbath came on and started playing the best songs."
The sounds Creed heard that night inspired his fiery, effects-heavy guitar style, a style which helped transform Chrome's sound when Creed joined the band in 1977. He worked closely with Edge on the group's sophomore LP Alien Soundtracks (Siren Records, 1977), which combined sci-fi-themed lyrics and primitive, Stooges-inspired rock with eerie synthesizer noises and bizarre sound collages.
Alien Soundtracks was far more abrasive and avant-garde than the spacey punk and New Wave of Chrome's debut, The Visitation (Siren Records, 1976). According to Creed, the change in sound arose more out of instinct than a deliberate plan.
"We made a total left turn and just totally got [away] from normality," he told BW. "It seemed to work out better. Because when punk was a new thing, we were gonna make a punk band, [but] we decided we wouldn't even be noticed, you know? It was after The Visitation—we made Alien Soundtracks instead of what we were gonna do. I think it was the right decision."
Musicians that followed in Chrome's wake seemed to agree. Albums like Alien Soundtracks and its follow-up, Half Machine Lip Moves (Siren Records, 1979), are now considered landmarks of the industrial rock genre. The band's music has influenced several groups, including Butthole Surfers, Ministry and Nine Inch Nails.
Although Creed is the only member of Chrome from the band's early days, his current bandmates are more than ringers or hired hands. In fact, he has performed with most of them for longer than he played with Edge.
"It's not easy once you get somebody 'Chromed' and accustomed to playing it and used to playing it and all that stuff to replace him with somebody [else]," Creed said. "Even if they're a fan, it still takes a while."
The care that Creed takes in recruiting band members has paid off. AllMusic's Mark Deming declared that the recent Chrome album, Feel It Like a Scientist (King of Spades Records, 2014), "not only simulates the approach of the classic Creed/Edge era with impressive accuracy, it generates a palpable excitement that's a powerful reminder that, in an increasingly eccentric world, Chrome is still as bracingly weird as ever."
Creed hopes to unleash more weirdness soon. He's thinking about working on some solo material as well as another Chrome album following Techromancy (Cleopatra Records, 2017).
"Music keeps changing, so fortunately, we're still in a certain kind of demand," he said. "So as long as that's going on, I guess we might as well go with it, you know?"