The Helm had been getting very active by around 2008-2009. They toured pretty frequently, put out their debut full length, “Grim Harvest” (after the 7” I had done for them), and became a staple within the Seattle/Tacoma scenes. However, all that activity had led to some personnel changes when a member dropped out in the midst of a tour and another member faced more adult commitments they had to attend to. So at this point new bassist Jared Shealey entered the picture, along with new drummer Jeffrey Poso. It took some time to work them in and put them through the grinder in order to return to the musical killing machine they were.
And with this updated lineup they began writing a lot. The band holed themselves away to work on album number two and for whatever reason they had me in mind to release it. I remember getting a call from my good buddy Bob Swift asking if I wanted to do it and I thought it would be a good idea. It tied in to that particular year being really busy with a lot of releases planned for the label’s 10th anniversary (hmmm… a similar plan seems to be forming for this anniversary… weird), extending a high five to West Coast friends while still focusing on the local/regional pride I had cultivated for much of the label’s output. “Home” ended up becoming this big thing, with big plans. It was an ultra dark record, with some heavy themes, and a brooding cover image.
I should also add that, personally, at this time I was unemployed, living off of basically being a scoundrel, and somehow managing to release 5 or 6 records that year. I definitely racked up some credit card debt making records that year, that’s for sure. Much of the time there was a lingering stress over ‘how am I going to make this happen?’ hanging over my head. Somehow it happened.
The Helm did a West Coast tour in support of the record once it was out that went well. A few months later, right after Christmas, the band flew out to the East Coast for a Northeast tour to further support the record. For this run they teamed up with labelmates Oak and Bone, who supplied the gear. I was driving a fairly spacious car at the time and I drove them to and from the shows. Yup, myself and four stinky punks riding around the Northeast at around the shittiest time of year, in one of the coldest areas of the country for over a week. I picked the guys up in NYC where the first show was. Oak and Bone were really late getting to the show and The Helm had to borrow gear from one of the other bands playing instead in this tiny-ass space in a warehouse that had been converted into multiple living quarters (side note: this space was lived in, and the show somewhat organized, by Ben Tate, who ended up being the primary guitarist for End Of a Year as they transitioned into being Self Defense Family). My car got broken into that night, but thankfully there was nothing in it for anyone to steal, so no real damage done (except for the slim jim that was probably used to bend my door frame in order to open the lock). Another show was in Burlington, VT, which may have been one of the coldest shows I had ever been at. Both bands played the annual New Years Day show in Syracuse that I had a hand in setting up, which was filled with lots of very moshy hardcore bands whom The Helm didn’t fit in with all that well. We all celebrated New Years Eve at a house party that got very out of control, and also played an illegal warehouse space in Boston that got shut down a few weeks after the show happened. Lastly, there was a show in Baltimore that we all almost didn’t get to because there was a blizzard that we drove five hours through that sucked, and Oak and Bone canceled, but there was luckily gear awaiting the band once again, and I sang a Bloodlet cover with them, which made it all worthwhile. So it was a fun time. After that run The Helm kind of began to slow down. Bob got married, Timm had a kid, Jared got his tattoo business up and running, and life kind of got in the way of the band.
To this day The Helm survives. They are far less active than they used to be and are playing as a three-piece. They have managed a few short tours, and even released a record on their own since “Home”. But that second full length was a big moment for them and I wanted to get perspectives from guitarist Timm Trust, who was in the band from the get-go, as well as drummer Jeffrey Poso, who was the new guy at the time of that record happening. Plus, we all live in the same region now so it makes it a little easier to keep in touch with them, which is great because I love them. So I talked with them both, separately, and then combined the interviews into one long thing, so here it is.
T: (discussing “Home”) It’s an acceptable 24 minutes of your life. If you’re going to spend 24 minutes of your life doing something I don’t think you’re going to say, ‘I want my money back’, or ‘I want my time back.’ Which, at the end of the day, isn’t that the best you can do? I don’t regret those 24 minutes!
OK, first off- The Helm: Seattle or Tacoma band?
T: Ooooh, loaded question. I would say that at the heart of The Helm is the Northwest. There are the best elements of being around Seattle for nearly two decades and the old ghosts of the city find themselves in The Helm. And the things that make Tacoma what it is- and there are some common themes there. People can say what they want to say about Seattle currently, but it has been the genesis of so much incredible music that spoke to a lot of people. And the Tacoma aspect of the band- myself and Tony Wolfe (current bassist)- are heavy influences. The Pacific Northwest is where we’re from. I’m biased because Tacoma drives me.
Are you a Tacoma native?
T: No, my father was in the military so we moved around quite a bit. But we got stationed at McCord before it was joined with Fort Lewis in 1994 or 1995, I think. So I was in the 7th grade. So being in the Northwest around 1994… Kurt Cobain had just passed, grunge was big, “Superunknown” had just come out, Alice In Chains was big. Being ushered into that time in the Northwest was incredibly impactful.
So you’re from Tacoma for the part of your life that matters.
So going into “Home” the new lineup with Jeffry and Jared (Shealey, bassist) entered into the band. How was that?
T: We like to play as many of the songs as we can, that still speak to the time, and from the 7” to the second LP, many of them still do. Jared already had a lot of experience on bass. He’s an incredible bass player. And Jeffrey had seen us play with Ryan Murphy (previous drummer) at a show at the Unitarian Church of Orange (CA). That was the first time I met him. Before he even moved up here I met him. I didn’t know if he had any plans of moving up to Seattle, but we really hit it off. And then lo and behold, he moves up here, gets a hold of me, and it was a perfect fit. His style of drumming, the songs we were writing were quite a departure from the first record, and it fit. So both Jeffrey and Jared were already real pros and they added quite a bit to the record.
J: Well, I’d seen The Helm, as well as Owen Hart- Timm’s other band- in Southern California. And then I moved up (to Seattle) and saw Timm at a show. I think it was a Planes Mistaken For Stars show. It must have been about 12 years ago. Him and I were just talking and he told me Murph (Ryan Murphy) was quitting, and I said, ‘oh, I just moved up here and I played drums!’ I was actually just starting to play music with Billy ( ,bassist for Post/Boredom, Jeffry’s current other band), we were just fucking around. And Billy told Timm that he ought to try me out. So Timm ended up giving me a call and then asked if I wanted to try out. And it was more appealing because right from the get-go they said they wanted to do a full U.S. tour and I was into that.
Did Jared and Jeff come in at the same time?
T: Joe (Hellsing, previous bassist) had quit the band on tour in Pensacola, Florida. So we were in search as we came back kind of wounded. Jeff had just started playing with the band. So this was his first tour of the U.S. He had just started with the band right before we went on that tour. It was a very quick turnaround of joining the band, learning the songs, and then bam, on tour where our bass player ends up quitting. So that was kind of a hard hit, but we came back, and Bob and I were pretty dejected from the experience. But Jeffrey kind of took charge. He said, ‘we’re going to do this, and do this’, and we got hooked up with Jared Shealey and I really love his influences, and he was writing really cool stuff, and a lot of that is on the record. We co-wrote a whole bunch of really cool music, which was a departure from the first record. That was a lot of Ben Colton (original bass player), a lot of Joe Hellsing, and so there were a lot of different influences on “Grim Harvest” (the first Helm LP) than there were on “Home”, which really colored the record.
J: I learned those “Grim Harvest” songs and then went on tour over the summer and that’s when we first met. That was the first tour. It was a weirdly routed tour, but it was really fun.
I do remember seeing you play for the first time and thinking, ‘this guy needs some work’. But I didn’t realize that you had just joined and had to learn all that back catalog right away.
J: Playing somebody else’s songs, and a style of music I wasn’t as used to, and also fight against the amount of volume they were putting out.
Timm is rather uncompromising with his volume, no question there.
J: That’s always sort of been the case with that band. I’m not fighting to be heard, but if it gets so loud that you can’t even hear yourself play then it affects your performance. I’ve told Timm that volume is cool, and melting people’s ears is cool, but there’s some people who might just hear white noise swimming through one ear and out the other and you can’t hear the song. I’m all down for amp worship and tone worship and all that, but you gotta find a happy medium. It gets to the point where you’re either in the business of bumming people out, and you’re enjoying that, or you’re going on stage just to make noise and not letting the parts between the notes be heard.
When you joined things moved pretty quick, but was any of “Home” written at that point, or were you involved in the entire writing process of that record?
J: We wrote that after the tour we did. We wrote that whole record when Jared joined, which was after that tour. I joined and then Joe quit on our way back from that tour. So when we got back we were looking for a bassist, found Jared, and then wrote that record.
Was The Helm the first band that you toured with?
J: I was in another band when I was around 20 and we would play out of state in Nevada, and around Southern California. But this is the first band I went on tour with, like a real U.S. tour. And I had a van, so that made it easier.
That’s why they let you in. ‘This guy has a van, we need him!’
J: ‘He’s a drummer, he’s OK at it, but he has a van that runs.’
It blows my mind to this day that you guys, with all that gear, and all that stuff, and you’re all fairly tall dudes, packed into that little, tiny van, the Silver Potato.
J: It’s pretty great. It’s currently sitting dead in front of Timm’s house.
That’s crazy that it’s still out there somewhere.
J: Yup. It’s in Pierce County, Washington.
Unincorporated Pierce County.
J: That’s right. Unincorporated Pierce.
The silver potato
Was the writing always collaborative, or was it someone took charge of the writing?
T: Our first LP I had a lot of songs pre-written that I was mulling over. I wrote a lot of stuff for the first LP, Joe Hellsing had some individual songs, one song from Ben Colton was in there. But “Home” was the most collaborative effort from all of us to date. We really shaped those songs together. Maybe I brought a lot of riffs, and Jared brought a lot of riffs, but we sort of merged them with how they fit the emotion, or the lyrics, of the song.
Also, you got to remember, 2009 was insane. It was the worst economic period I can ever remember in my life, having been working predominantly in the manufacturing world and warehousing, such a high percentage of people lost their jobs. It was really scary just trying to make ends meet. And the record is called “Home”! A lot of the content on it is about that turmoil. A year removed, thousands of people in Tacoma are being evicted from their houses, to say Tacoma changed drastically, and a lot of the people we knew, they were renting a house and the landlord was underwater and lost it to the bank, and those people had to move. So it wasn’t just homeowners. It was renters. It was a really big deal. So I think calling it “Home” was because we all really felt disjointed by what was happening. It was the largest hit any of us had witnessed. Jared’s in the tattoo industry, and people were getting less tattoos because they less expendable cash, manufacturing was total shit. It was a big hassle. So I think that really affected how we were writing, as well as the tone and tenor of the songs. It wasn’t an upbeat time. We were downtrodden and there was a lot of emotion swirling about. And I thought we captured that with this record, and at that time.
So you’re obviously more comfortable playing the songs from “Home”, but was it a tough transition to playing the drum parts on “Grim Harvest”? Was that not your drumming style?
J: I joined the band knowing they were more of a hardcore band, but with a more dark, crusty vibe. But that style of beats is more of an early 90’s, more traditional fast hardcore kind of playing that I didn’t want to do so much of. But I knew this band was different enough with the way Timm writes so I felt like it was a happy medium. So when I joined I don’t think I wanted to be in a fast hardcore band, but this band was unique enough, and had enough different sounds and flavors that I like to hear, mixed with a more traditional style because of Murph being from more of a straightforward hardcore background.
From l to r: Jared Shealey, Bob Swift, some label dork, Jeffrey Poso, Timm Trust, 2009
What kind of stuff had you been playing before you moved to Seattle?
J: I had been in a couple of other bands in California. One was my friend John and I and we were really into stuff like The Swarm. We would be that band that played fast hardcore, but in like C tuning that would be very cynical, and had a dark sense of humor about things that people didn’t really get. And then that band broke up and then some friends and I started a band where we wanted to be a sort of noisy Deadguy style. That was fun. All those guys I played music with in the past were always down to meet up and play music, and write, but they weren’t really hungry to get on the road and that was frustrating.
And at the point you joined The Helm they were pretty active and touring pretty often.
J: Yeah. I liked that they wanted to tour a lot. I remember getting together and mapping out how we would do that U.S. tour and within a week I had Denver booked and thought, ‘yeah, this is going to happen!’
So that point when the record comes out, and you’re touring, what are things like for you. Were you thinking that this is what you wanted to do? What were things like within that timeframe?
J: I was living kind of wild at that time. I was in my mid-20s. I worked at a homeless shelter, I rode bikes, I was partying quite a bit, and I was also getting established in a cit that I hadn’t lived in for that long. And I think when we began to hunker down to finish writing “Home” is when I started getting involved in volunteering at Black Lodge (long running Seattle DIY venue). I was just extremely busy all the time.
It kind of seems like you still are. You’re like the only guy from that lineup of The Helm who is still active all the time with music, playing out, booking shows, and other stuff. It’s not that the other guys gave up, they just have adult stuff to do.
J: Yeah, when you take away the factors of not having a family, or a mortgage, or owning a business that definitely gives me more free time to put energy into that type of shit.
So when The Helm decided to slow down and not play out as much how did that affect you?
T: I think that’s sort of a weird question. I think what had happened is that we had been a band since around 2004. We had put out a 7” and a couple full lengths and toured quite a bit. We also had a lot of member changes. And as much as I feel that having different members didn’t change the sound of the band that much, or who we were, somewhere in my mind I’m thinking, ‘wow, we’ve had a lot of people in the band, what’s wrong? Why not quit and just start a new thing? Why keep the same name, or going the same way?’
But in 2009 I got married and that changed things somewhat. And around that time Jared Shealey had many hardships in his life- his house flooded, his dog passed away, he had some financial hardships as well that caused him to have to step away from the band. So I think that was sort of the natural slow down. I felt bad for Jared, and understood his dilemma. I think also around this time Bob had started coaching cross-country, and honestly, I think that took up a great deal of his time around certain times of the year, and he’s super adept at that and he loves doing it so I didn’t want get in his way. I didn’t want to put him in a position where he had to make some choices. He didn’t want to hold back The Helm, but he also loved coaching and that’s what he loves to do. So there were quite a few things that, simultaneously, stopped us from going on tour constantly. It maybe stopped us from going over to Europe, which is what our next step wanted to be, and still really is.
J: Well, I was still in other bands. I think for the past 10 years I’ve always functioned in at least three bands. It’s kind of weird because we had a little lull before we put out the second record, and then we flew out to the East Coast for that short Winter tour, and then we came back and Jared quit. I thought things were really going to slow down then because we were getting older, and then we did one more West Coast tour with Bob (Swift, vocalist) before he left because he started a family. But then we decided to keep the band going- me and Timm- and we’ve done about four Western U.S. tours since then. It definitely slowed down pretty drastically, but if the opportunity came up we would tour again. It’s a little harder because Timm has a kid too, but I think we would if the opportunity was good.
One of the best shows ever, by the way
So what’s to keep you all from starting over and doing something new? Why continue as The Helm since you have gone through a lot of changes over the years?
T: I think for me having been such a large driving force as the rhythm of The Helm, and the guitar parts, and having a collaborative effort with all these different people, I felt like I wanted to keep that because it still speaks my viewpoint. I don’t want to be like, ‘I am The Helm!’ But, Jeffrey has been in the band for a decade, and Tony Wolfe filled in when Jared couldn’t play, and he also did a tour with us when Bob was still singing for us. So he spent some time in the band while Bob was still in the group. When Bob stepped away all the people left in the band were still writing music. We were still creating stuff. Basically, the one-sided LP we did after “Home”- “Symptoms Come To Light”- all those songs were written while Bob was still in the band. He had so many pressing things keeping him away, but we were still writing music, even though he was unable to attend practices or whatever. So we were still the band- me, Jeffrey, and Tony. So when Bob finally said, ‘I don’t want to hold you back, I got to step away’ we just felt like we could keep going on. Plus, we sort of changed the name a little to Das Helm. Jeffrey thought of that- changing it just a little bit because we were still the same nucleus, but a different version of it. I can appreciate that because we still get to keep it. It’s ours. It’s a new version of the same old thing.
What’s the photo on the cover of “Home” from?
T: The cover is a photo that Jared Shealey took. He was walking late at night in Ballard, where he lives in Seattle, out at the Ballard docks, and there was a really heavy fog rolling in. And he was just really struck, and moved, by this thing in a place he called home, and having the fog roll in with that weird light was a powerful image. So he took that picture and we discussed it because it really moved us and we decided that that would be the cover. And the inside cover- the photo of the crow sitting on top of the old brick chimney- that is picture Jared also took at a time when he was living abroad for a bit. I think he took that in Italy. So he did all that art for that record, as well as a few other designs for shirts and stickers.
What’s your favorite thing about being in The Helm and what’s the worst thing about being in The Helm?
J: The thing I like the most is that we function as a group of buds. I’ve never once butted heads with Timm and we’ve always been pretty transparent with each other from the get-go. As of right now we just function as buds. I wouldn’t say we use it as a vehicle to continue seeing each other, but it does seem that way as we slowly write songs. We still play shows. We will occasionally play out, but real life responsibilities are more important than playing in a punk band. But that’s my favorite part- just the camaraderie. It feels like three friends who hang out and play music together, who get along great, are very transparent with each other, and have a great cohesion.
I think the worst part… that’s hard. I think for a person like me, trying to disassociate myself from the hardcore scene, is not as easy when you play that sort of music. When you’re in a part of that community there’s some people who think that they’re really bigger than they actually are, which is just people who play in bands, and that always bothered me. That doesn’t really have anything to do with The Helm, but it’s sort of a by-product of shows we would play sometimes. But that’s not big, I don’t have big complaints. The camaraderie trumps my disdain for music scenes.
T: The best thing about The Helm is the best thing about what music allows me to do personally, which is to express thoughts, emotions, feelings, perspective, and everything that is harder to explain or speak about, and I can channel it through this emotional outlet. I get to experience that, and collaborate with, the people who I love. My best friends in the world. That’s what music has allowed me to do, and what The Helm continues to allow me to do. This is very pivotal to my sanity and my life on this planet.
The worst part about The Helm is, personally, not allowing expectation, or opinions, about my creative output to affect me personally. It’s hard not to because it’s something that’s so vulnerable and emotional to me. I know I write music for people to digest, but it’s not necessarily for them. It’s for me. I love that we can have this moment where we come together- we’re playing, we’re singing, we’re dancing, it’s a communal experience. But this is my thing. So, yeah, I try not to get too worked up about what has been people’s general malaise about my music for the last 15 years. That’s it.
HERE. You say you want the CD instead? $4. Cheap. Over HERE. You just want those digital jams? $4. Take it or leave it via THIS. I'm in a giving mood folks.
HERE. You say you want the CD instead? $4. Cheap. Over HERE. You just want those digital jams? $4. Take it or leave it via THIS. I'm in a giving mood folks.