STEVIL HELMER – A MAN WITH A MISSION

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I have been getting to know Stevil recently. I have found him to be a very interesting and kind person. We are in tune to a lot of the same things. I would like you to get to know him as well. Let’s see what he has to say:

As a child music was always an important part of my life and a constant friend, tell us a little about how music entered your life.

 Stevil: My Dad got a 58 Kay Acoustic for a wedding present in 1965, he really wanted to play guitar but finding the time was hard since he was always working. In 1971 when I was five years old he taught me “I Walk the Line” from Johnny Cash. I think it wasnt just that song but the profound lyrics in that song really meant a lot to me. Here I am 41 years later still playing the guitar ! That many years of pickin’ and a grinnin’ would be a novel. There isn’t much I havent played in all those years. I’m known for playing metal because I’ve been playing metal since 1982 live but I’ve jammed in a lot of different types of bands from rock to reggae to outlaw country to blues to metal. Cover bands included. It’s all influenced me. Listening to a lot of music is important to I think. I love bootleg live recordings and the more raw the better ! Both of my little brothers jam and my mom plays hand bells in the church handbell choir. It’s safe to say I knew I wanted be a musician since I was five years old.

My mom was always exposing me to new artists as a child shoe I would cite her as my biggest musical inspiration as a child, who was your biggest musical inspiration in your youth?

 Stevil: JC is always be on that list but Roy Clarke really has a place in my youth for sure. He was so fast ! I always loved his banjo playing too. Hee Haw was a regular thing in our house growing up in Sun Prairie WI. I basically grew up in a corn field. Hendrix really played a large part. The Beatles Complete was one of my first music books. Sabbath turned it all metal for me. Master of Reality in particular. I liked raunchy bands. Areosmith and ZZ Top. I grew up in the 70s so all of those bands from that time.

Most people never get beyond the dream of being a musician phase, why did you choose to start playing music?

 Stevil: Oh I definitely started playing music because all the girls loved musicians hhaha…um Music was the escape. A form a meditation for me really. I used to spend a lot of time in music books but now I mostly play a lot of blues when im just sitting around the house.I’ve always believed “feeling” the music was really important. There are two kinds of musicians I think. One kind reads a lot of books. The other kind is trying to write their own book in their own words. I’m the second kind for sure. Writing songs every day is important to me. I’m always trying to out do myself and play every style of music I can. I love hybrid picking. Steve Morse is a master of that.
Some people never get the chance to have music lessons, did you have any formal musical training?

   Stevil: Betty Scrivner was my 7th grade guitar teacher, studied with Richard Farber in WI who is a classical guitarist, Timothy Ball in Ventura CA from the Tempo Cats is a big influence too. He plays latin jazz and blues. I’ve jammed with anyone who would LET me jam and in always jamming with a ton of other players I learned a lot !. Troy Stetina books are cool. Mel Bay. There are so many great players out there no one ever heard of but they have great skills and insight into songwriting that can be learned just by watching them and listening carefully. I love go to really small bars and watch local bands play. Some great players are found playing to 10 people every Saturday night. It’s a lesson in itself every time to see any live show really.Watching fingers and listening carefully. Somewhere along the way I became more concerned with the song than the guitar solo. I love the solo for “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Stones but the song is awesome too. A great solo wont save a poorly crafted song ever..so writing the riffs was more important. The goal is always to serve the song, not myself.

The path of being a musician is full of lessons. What are some you have learned in your early bands?

 Stevil: I don’t drink booze at all anymore. The greatest lesson I learned was drinking way too much at rehearsals was a party and not a rehearsal at all. I don’t have anything against people who drink but I know focus on music can’t be obtained very well after consuming a fifth of Jack Daniels. Safe to say I partied hard back in the day haha…now I just practice hard ! I also learned playing in as many bands at one time is good too. Things fall through, people change and give up. I always want to play music so I have several bands going on at once to make damn sure I’m always jamming ! The best lesson for me is to always practice 4-6 hours a day like religion. I’m convinced no-one becomes a better musician just by talking about it but rather just doing it !

If you could write/perform with any musician from history who would that be?

 Stevil: this is an easy one. Kirk Windstein for sure. Kirk has written some of the most bad ass riffs of all time in my opinion. It’s not just the riffs either, it’s the content of his lyrics that have carried me through some very tough times in my life. He writes about strength to over come the pain life throws at us all and the courage to carry on no matter what curves come our way. It a very positive thing. 20 years ago when I first started listening to him that’s when I started tuning my guitars way down too. I tune to B now on a six string….it all began with listening to very old Crowbar records.
     I know you are a producer, if you could produce for anyone who would you love to work with?
     Stevil: Randy Cooper is a favorite guitarist Id like to work with. Aside from working with him I really like to work with bands no one ever heard of. They will send me mp3s of horrible recordings BUT I can hear they write great songs ! A bad recording of great song ? is still a great song !!!!! I spend a lot of time answering email questions from unknown bands and do that for free. It’s a “pay it forward” sort of thing for me. I wish i had me 20 years ago so helping up and coming and struggling bands to get a little further down the road is always my goal. I’ve never been sorry I got an engineering degree from MMI. I’m not the worlds greatest engineer but I’ve been playing music forever and ever so I think that helps to find taste in sounds and production. I’m very fond of rockin’ raw recordings that aren’t too over produced. The first Down record sets a standard for me. It’s an awesome and very real recording of what the band actually sounds like ! It still got a little modern feel to the mix though in contrast to old Sabbath recordings.

I have been listening to a lot of new bands, are there any  who have caught your ears?

Stevil: I’m a big Crowned By Fire fan. Justin Manning is the guitarist and has some serious skills. I’m digging All Hail the Yeti,Double Wide out of Ireland, Jon Joe rocks !. Doomdogs in Sweden, Christer has been a friend for years, and the new Klank record is super creative too. Klank has a guest appearance on his new release from Dug Pinnick from Kings X by the way. All these bands are friends except I don’t really know All Hail the Yeti at all….im just really digging what they are doin’ ! It’s a pet peeve of mine when musicians wont acknowledge the greatness of other players. I’m anxious to hear the solo records from Tony Vaughn and the project my buddy Kurt Arft is doing too. I’m sure they will both shine ! I am in awe of these bands mentioned and have great respect for their abilities ! Haters are really just the village idiots…ya know ?

I f you were hired to give a lecture to young musicians trying to break in to the business, what advice would you give them?

   Stevil: Invest your OWN money. Invest your OWN time and keep both eyes on the money at all times. Always be cost-effective and never waste money if you don’t have to. best advice ever. Once a band loses control of its assets ? they lose control of the profit too. Just my opinion but I live by it these days. Income for a business is directly related to advertising. Bands can buy their own advertising ! there ya go ! pretty simple ! The minute you let someone else put their hands in the cookie jar ? more often than not they take the cookies and the whole damn jar for themselves ! So protect your shit at all costs. The other thing is ASK ! No band has anything to lose just by ASKING for interviews, reviews,shows, and publicity. Be nice and ask nice. Most of all have genuine appreciation for your fans. I spend hours every day just talking to fans…some of the greatest people on earth ! the fans make the band famous. for sure ! No label ever made a band. THE FANS did ! best advice: love your fans like they are family.

Do you listen to music that would seem “outside” of your genre?

     Stevil: I’ve listened to every thing under the sun. Ive tried to play it all too. I wont say im a master of any genre but being a swiss army knife never hurts. im not a big rap guy. everything else is listenable to me though as far as genres go. I may listen to Norah Jones on Sunday morning and Slayer on Friday night. I’m not always pissed off ya know ? sometimes im happy. I love the Presidents of the United States. good happy jams ! Monster Magnet..you get the idea. I started re visiting all the old country I listened to when I was a kid because of him and his killer banjo playing. It’s not outside my genre though. Its my roots ! I even recorded a version of “I’m so Lonesome I could Cry” from Hank Sr. Its on the Hillbilly and Helmer Project. Some of my best guitar playin’ I think. All instrumental version..Old country is something most folks can’t really see me playin’ but I did it for ten solid years of my life BEFORE I played metal. It’s all a part of who I am.
The floor is open, discuss what ever you want:

     Stevil: In our third year of doing a huge metal show for animal rescue for Villalobos and Texas. This show takes at least fifty people who all work together to make it happen. Dallas Texas bands donate their time and music to play this show. It truly means the whole world to me. It all began with me and my dog Ace who is a pit bull. Now thousands know about the show. So please take a moment to go support this page. A very special thanks to my great friends Lindsey Thompson and Starla Biage at Turning Key Productions ! The show would never ever be what it is today with out those two ! IN THE PIT FOR THE PIT III HERE: https://www.facebook.com/events/371403499594386/

I really want THANK YOU for doing this interview and for supporting music in general ! Id like to add that its awesome that you have two rescued Pit Bulls of your own ! Your support of the show is very greatly appreciated too!

Thanks for the kind words and giving us some insight into your world. Keep your ears open for Stevil and his multitude of projects.

 

the Hellion

 

 

 

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