Interviews : Pete Helmkamp
With Pete Helmkamp
From his early work with cult band Order From Chaos, to war metal overlords Angelcorpse, and now onto noise fiends Terror Organ, Pete Helmkamp has always been one to make his presence felt. Whether it be through a camouflaged bass guitar or lyrics unparalleled in both delivery and content, Helmkamp has always rose above and beyond the call of metal, and also found the time to pen two written works, "The Conqueror Manifesto" and "Controlled Burn". In the literary field, Helmkamp proves his mettle by having what is the basis for his lyrics inform and move the reader, all without the benefit of musical accompaniment. The Boston native melds his academic background in history with the occult and his own personal wisdom to offer the world a doctrine dubbed "Heretic Supremacy", a practical yet esoteric code for self-ascension. But enough of my analysis: onto the words of the man himself!
You've said before that it was bands like Sodom, Kreator and Possessed that influenced you musically early on. What or who was it that inspired your brilliant lyrics?
I would say that my lyrics come from a combination of many of the books I've read over time and also on my powers of observation. I can definitely say that I write about what I see and hear around me. My lyrics could be viewed as a reaction against the elements in society that I feel are detrimental to the survival of the whole. And also as an answer, or a new way that can be embraced - a new way that I feel can provide solutions to the problems that we face. Unlike my music, I don't think that the lyrics from too many bands had any effect on me, except maybe stylistically, but certainly not topically: all that was derived from books. Of course, there will always be lyrics that are not dealing with this core subject, but even then, in songs such as "Perversion Enthroned" (about Emperor Caligula), "As Predator to Prey" (about Genghis Khan), or in such tracks as "Black Solstice" and "Smoldering in Exile", I utilize imagery and subject matter that is much more akin to written materials or film than other band's lyrics.
Briefly recount the demise of both Order From Chaos and Angelcorpse, a band which seemed to have dissolved at its peak, plus the forming of Terror Organ.
OFC split for a number of reasons, but the main one is that all three of us were heading in very different directions at the time of OFC's demise. I for one wanted to continue with music, while Chuck and Mike had pretty much decided to give it up. I guess things changed for them, as they did go on to produce some rather mediocre and obscure music, but more power to them, they can do what they wish. It was only a matter of weeks after the official demise of OFC that Gene moved down to Kansas City and we started writing material for what would become Angelcorpse. My feet hit the ground running so to speak. It is unfortunate that things got so ugly between myself and the other members of OFC, but I think jealousy and pride had a lot to do with it. We are still not on speaking terms and no doubt never will be. Small loss. Completely different was the split of Angelcorpse. We are still all good friends, and are all quite content in what we are doing: Tony is playing drums in Nile, Bill is session guitars in Immolation, Gene has a small label called Evil Vengeance, and I of course have Terror Organ (and will be participating in a pure cult metal band shortly - we are awaiting the press release to be made public). Needless to say, Angelcorpse did split in its prime, but that was mainly my fault: I found that I wasn't as committed as I knew I should be (for various reasons), and I also felt that the direction of the band had changed somewhat from the original incarnation, and I wasn't pleased with that change. I think in retrospect we did the right thing (which explains why we are all still comrades) - we did not drag the name or integrity of the band through ruin and rot (as do nearly all other bands in the second half of their career), and although we did leave our fans wondering what and why, ultimately history will show that we did what very few other bands have achieved: stayed true to ourselves and to the purity of our music. And that was and is the only thing I strive for in my musical creativity, so I have no regrets whatsoever.
Your writings are grouped under the ominous title of "HereticSupremacy". Explain their purpose.
To keep it simple: heresy from the original Greek means 'free thinking' and supremacy I interpret as the maximum exercising of both strength and wisdom in conjunction. Thus Heretic Supremacy. My purpose is to educate, to offer people another way of thinking, and not necessarily that they may agree, but that at least that they may second guess that which surrounds us. Most things in modern society take exactly the opposite approach, insisting that their path is the only path. Heretic Supremacy refutes that completely: forge your own path, make your own decisions, be your own god. Will over hope, action over stasis, power over weakness.
How have your lyrics changed with Terror Organ, a band I can only describe as the sonic equivalent of nuclear fallout.
The lyrics with Terror Organ haven't really changed at all: I still speak of topics / subject matter pertaining to Heretic Supremacy. Obviously not as many songs have lyrics, but the ones that do don't deviate from this path. Particularly in "Krakatoa", or on the new song "Strength is Beauty", these lyrics could have appeared in either OFC or Angelcorpse with no problem at all. Lyrics to me are a reflection of my own self, so therefore I am unable to change in a manner of speaking. "Cauldron of the Moon" contains a poem that I wrote about my devotion and bond to Lea (my wife), this certainly wouldn't have manifested itself in any of my earlier bands, but it is quite appropriate here.
Tell us what it's like to work with your significant other in Terror Organ.
Working with Lea is amazing. She has an incredible creative side that meshes very well with my own ideas. Two opposites (in a manner of speaking) that complement each other perfectly. It is especially apparent when we are working on a song together - we each fill in the gaps that the other creates in their own creative process. Likewise, it is very gratifying to have my wife at my side and involved on the same level in the energies of creativity and musical performance.
One would never have guessed that you had the music of Terror Organ in you based on your previous bands. What brought it about?
I've always listened to other types of music besides metal, although metal was (up until now) the dominant sound that defined what I wrote and performed. Its as if I was a painter that used one color for 10 years, only to re-discover an entire range of colors. And that's the beauty of it: I'm not writing / creating music that's any less harsh, aggressive, or powerful, I'm just coming at it from a totally different angle. With Terror Organ, we are redefining what can be done with sound, rhythm and instrumentation. Lea creates melodies on her drum machine that are often mistaken for guitar, for example. Many of our sounds are not as they seem - but I think that's what pioneers like Hendrix or Penderecki did as well - they took conventional instruments and ideas and totally dismantled or reworked their usages into something entirely different and new.
Are you out of the metal loop now, so to speak, and if so, does it bother you?
The irony of that question is that I was never truly in the metal loop. As a musical purist, I dismissed offhand most metal music past and present - as utterly pointless and fleeting. I've always been on the outside looking in at the 'scene' so to speak, but that has never bothered me. I've always been interested in creating the music that I want to create, nothing more, nothing less. Certainly now I am out of the loop even more, but as I stated before, its never been a real concern of mine whether I was in or out...
As a man holding a BA in history, what do you think the single most important event in the course of it all is?
I think that the events leading up to and encompassing the First World War are the watershed moment for modern times. European superiority was dashed against the rocks by the huge civil war it inflicted upon itself in those 4 years. The quest for empire and colonization / civilization of the remainder of the world went into decline as Europe licked its wounds and the 3rd world noted their flaws.... The seeds for WWII were sown, as well as the problems we encounter today in the Middle East. Bolshevism found a home in Russia, and further kept that nation from advancing forward for another 70 years. I could go on at length concerning the series of events that were derived from the Great War.....
Are modern history sources reliable? If not, what are?
All historical sources must be view skeptically. Find as many perspectives as you can, and then draw your own conclusions. For example, I am reading a study on German defense doctrine on the Russian front from 1941 to 43 at the moment. It is smashing so many myths that are predominant in other books on the subject. That is reliable history: information gathered from primary sources, from interviews, from diaries, and then compared and contrasted so that the true story can be distilled and disseminated.
What were your goals with your previous projects, and what are they now?
To create harsh, original, powerful songs that uphold these facets not only in the music but in the lyrics as well. I am not content to have one without the other: music and lyrics should go hand in hand, anyone who forsakes one or the other is doing a disservice to themselves and everyone else. And I think that this fact puts the bands that I've been a part of above most others for that very reason, because I care enough to devote the effort to both of these elements that make up the whole.
Are you living by your words and planning to start a family soon?
Certainly - we are saving for a house, and once that has been purchased, we will start a family. Lea and I are both strong believers in the stay at home mother, so we feel that we should have the permanency of our own residence before we embark on that next stage of our lives.
If there was one book you could ensure all people would read, what would it be and why?
I can't boil it down to one book, so I'll list five that have been extremely important to me: "The Antichrist" - Friedrich Nietzsche ; "The Prince" - Nicolo Machiavelli ; "The Redneck Manifesto" - Jim Goad ; "The Art of War" - Sun Tzu ; "Might Is Right" - Ragnar Redbeard (Jack London?). I also highly recommend the fiction of Ernest Hemmingway, Roald Dahl, Jack London, Kurt Vonnegut and "Letters From Earth" by Mark Twain.
What is your opinion on resurrection/reincarnation?
I don't believe in either resurrection or reincarnation. I do feel that there really isn't any way to categorically deny or confirm eschatological dilemmas such as these, so I simply don't concern myself with them at all. I am here, I am now and what will be, so I plan and think in accordance with those realities in mind. I personally think that the preoccupation with 'life after death' or 'past lives' is a waste of valuable time and energy. I believe that this weakness - the fact that certain elements of humanity need some sort of answer to the unanswerable - is an evolutionary flaw that eventually we will evolve away from. It is certainly a trait that limits the human potential. Obviously we are still evolving, as are all things, so it stands to reason that an intellectual evolution that frees us once and for all from these metaphysical crutches would be a positive and empowering step.
If there was one person that you could free from prison, who would it be and why?
I propose that we free all sex offenders, rapists, and pedophiles - not so that they be free, but so we can have them dig their own graves and then put bullets into the backs of their heads! These types of individuals are affected with anti-societal urges that simply don't belong within the parameters of civilization. There is no cure, no re-educating an animal that doesn't even know that what it is doing is wrong. Is it a surprise that most of these people are repeat offenders? Line them up - I'll be happy to do the dirty work if no one else is. We remove cavities from our teeth and cancers from our bodies, but not those same corrupt and parasitic elements from our society. Strange indeed.
Any new writing projects on the horizon?
Nothing at the moment. I have been working intermittently on a final revision of "The Conqueror Manifesto": it will have a much better use of unified terminology, footnotes instead of endnotes, and a better flow of text for the reader. Essentially it will be the same, but I think it will be an easier read, and therefore a better tract for educating folks. I'll either place the entire work on the Internet, or print it up in pamphlet form similar to "Controlled Burn". I'm waiting until the first edition is entirely sold out, which should be within the year.