Brian Vollmer of Helix Interview

INTERVIEWING WITH HELIX FOUNDER AND FRONTMAN BRIAN VOLLMER
Date: February 9, 2017
Interviewer: Olivier

BACK IN MID-2016, PERRIS RECORDS REISSUED FIVE HELIX ALBUMS AND THE FIRST SOLO ALBUM FROM HELIX’S FRONTMAN AND BAND LEADER BRIAN VOLLMER THAT COVER THE PERIOD FROM 1990 TO 2004. THIS TIME PERIOD COINCIDES WITH ARGUABLY THE MOST TUMULTUOUS TIME OF HELIX’S HISTORY. BRIAN WAS KIND ENOUGH TO CANDIDLY DISCUSS THE STATE OF THE BAND DURING THAT FOURTEEN YEAR PERIOD, WHICH SAW THE SINGER GO THROUGH SOME VERY DIFFICULT TIMES INCLUDING BEING HOMELESS, LOSING A LONG-TIME BANDMATE, WORKING MINIMUM WAGE JOBS TO MAKE ENDS MEET AND STRUGGLING TO FIND PEOPLE TO WRITE WITH. BRIAN ALSO TALKS ABOUT WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT FOR HIMSELF AND THE BAND INCLUDING A NEW SOLO ALBUM, SOME NEW HELIX SONGS AND THE MAKING OF A HELIX MOVIE.  

Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations! Helix are playing the Sweden Rock Festival again [on June 7, 2017]. What does it mean to you to be playing festivals 43 years after the band started?

Brian Vollmer: Well, it’s a good feeling just coming back to Sweden Rock period. The first time around, I had a different line-up. It was during that period of the band’s history where basically I was hiring rental players and in the case of the first time being there, it really wasn’t a band. It was more a collection of people that I hired. This time around, I got three original members, myself included [along with bassist Daryl Gray and drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz], and Kaleb [Duck] has been with us since 2008 and Chris [Julke] has been with us for three years I think or four years so a pretty solid line-up and everybody is going the same direction. It feels real good when we are up there. I think we got Sweden Rock because when we played Rocklasiker live in Stockholm [Sweden] in December [2016], I think that we did really well at that show. So people saw for themselves how good the band is now. 

Sleaze Roxx: That’s awesome. Do you have any other shows lined up for 2017?

Brian Vollmer: Yeah. We actually have three festival shows in Canada in August already. We are going to start our acoustic show back up. In Canada, we don’t play bars anymore so there’s kind of a vacuum there for bar owners that still want the band. So the acoustic show, we can actually go in for less money and it’s actually a better environment for that show anyway because it’s toned down, not as loud and it’s not as crucial that you have this great big monster PA and lights system. It’s more intimate. There’s questions between the audience and the band so that’s something that I hope to get back on the road through clubs this year. We just had somebody come up to us two weeks ago about a short American tour. We also have more Canadian dates coming in for the summer. It’s going to be a busy year for us. We’ve been offered dates from [the Canadian eastern province of] Newfoundland right up to [the Canadian western province of] British Columbia. The dates that we have already — we’re playing with Honeymoon Suite in Kelowna [British Columbia on August 13, 2017]. I don’t know if you know these names or not.

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, yeah. Of course I do!

Brian Vollmer: …[with] Carole Pope of Rough Trade. And the next weekend, we are with Randy Bachman from The Guess Who out in North Vancouver [British Columbia on August 19, 2017]. Again with Honeymoon Suite and the next day, we are in Saskatoon [Saskatchewan on August 20, 2017], which is in the middle of the country and that is with Kenny Shields And Streetheart. Even with Sweden Rock, we hope to maybe get into Finland the week before. We are not allowed to play in Sweden but outside the country is fine so maybe [we’ll] do a couple of dates in Finland before we get to Sweden and then I’m trying to get a couple of dates in Spain for the weekend after. So, we’ll see how that turns out. You know what? Everyday that I spend here, I’m kind of fishing around for dates. Ninety percent of the time, it does not happen but occasionally, dates come in and that’s enough to keep us going all year long. We have lots of other projects going on so…

Sleaze Roxx: I just want to touch on one thing. How come Helix are not playing the bar scene in Canada anymore because I did see you guys play [at The Legendary Red Rooster] in Burlington [Ontario] in 2011. It was a good show so I was wondering how come?

Brian Vollmer: Well, for years we did play bars against the advice of my agent. He said, “You should play less dates for more money.” It’s because bars are only capable of spending so much money. It’s a matter of how many people walk through the door and how much you can charge them. Casinos, festivals — they don’t really have those restrictions. Especially casinos where not only do they get the door and the bar but there just trying to get people in there to get on the gambling floor. So it’s a different situation and I could see the end of bars coming for bands like us but I continued to play bars for a couple of reasons. I realized that a working band is a happy band. If you have months where you are not playing, people go off in all sorts of directions, they lose focus, they get into other projects. But I stayed in bars because unlike a lot of other bands from our era, we were continually putting out new material, new albums, and so that was my venue to sell the new CDs and get that music out there. Eventually what happened is that the bar scene just kind of dwindled down to the point where basically we just got forced out of the bars because nobody could pay the money and the biggest problems with bars is that a lot of these places — because they are living from week to week to week — you go in there and the PA sucks, the lights suck. There are low ceilings. Once you get people up there, you can’t see the band. There just not good places to see a band like us. Helix really belongs on the concert stage. That’s when we put on the best show. We’re used to it. Although we have spent many years in both situations — the bars and concerts [venues] — I think a concert [venue] is just better for a good sound and good sight lines. And then once we started getting into casinos, the price went up dramatically for the band, and festivals, and there was no need to go back into smaller venues.

Sleaze Roxx: I’ve seen Helix in both the small bars and bigger stages, and I do agree that you are a big stage band. I understand that you have a new album called ‘Rock It Science’ but that’s really an album of re-recorded hits with one new track. Why did you end up doing that?

Brian Vollmer: Well, the music industry has really changed dramatically over the last couple of years. I was putting out a lot of CDs with ten songs on them and I just felt that nobody was listening past the first song or the single in other words. We decided that rather than do that, we would focus on one track at a time and put my money into that. Make sure that it was recorded very very well and that we had a little video to it, and that when I worked on it with radio in Canada, now in the States too, you release a sing through DMDS, which is the digital company that releases that song to radio in North America. How it works is that you pay DMDS, you send them the MP3 for the song or whatever it is, and a bio and perhaps a video link, and then they send it out to program directors and radio stations all across wherever the locations that you pick — whatever regions. So I have done that. I look at songs more like a commercial. So last year for instance, when we released “(Gene Simmons Says) Rock Is Dead”, we released it in the spring and it was a good rollout for all our summer touring. We were quite busy last summer. We played the Monsters of Rock boat cruise. And we played two casino dates which were sold out with Kick Axe in April. And then in June, we played our only club date up in Ottawa ’cause my daughter lives there. 

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Brian Vollmer: And then we started the festivals. We were out in New Brunswick with Honeymoon Suite and we played with The Cult and Nikki Thomas up in Thunder Bay. Then we were with Quiet Riot in Kitchener, Vince Neil the next day in Mattawa, and that’s the way our summer went. Anyway, what we are going to do now is release one song at a time. And then once we get to maybe seven songs, then we’ll record three and maybe put out an album. I think that you are going to get a higher quality too because when we recorded albums, we tended to record everything we had. I always thought that most really really successful bands wrote 50 songs and they released 10.

Another thing that’s changed too is that I am writing with Gord [Prior] and Steve [Georgakopoulos] who wrote ‘The Power Of Rock And Roll’ album, I am writing with Sean [Kelly] and the band is also writing as a unit for the first time too. The next song is actually going to be a song that I wrote with the band which is called “The Devil Is Having A Party Tonight” and so, I think that by getting the band involved, this guys want to write and it gives them a sense of pride and a feeling that they’re involved in the project more so than just the live aspect. But also, there’s competition with the other guys that have a proven track record which is ‘The Power Of Rock And Roll’ writers and Sean [Kelly] who I primarily write with nowadays. We have three songs — one by the band ready to go, one almost done with Gordie and Steve, and I have another one with Sean — and then in the spring, I am also doing a solo album but it’s mostly going to be cover songs with a couple of new tracks. That’s going to be with a different producer and it’s going to be a more rhythm and blues type of theme. It’s something that I have wanted to do for a couple of years and Sean and I have talked about it extensively. It’s actually the first time that I am telling anybody about it.

Sleaze Roxx: Cool!

Brian Vollmer: It’s going to be with Gavin Brown producing and as you know is probably one of the top producers in Canada. He’s produced The Trews, Barenaked Ladies, Tragically Hip, Econoline Crush, Big Sugar… The list goes on.

Sleaze Roxx: In terms of your new solo album, can you give a hint on which ones will be the cover songs?

Brian Vollmer: Well, there not going to be the most obvious ones, that’s for sure. They are going to be… I have always been under the auspice that if you’re going to do a cover song, you’ve got to do it better or at least as good as the people that originally did it. I also like the idea of picking songs that weren’t necessarily real obvious tracks to cover. I am probably going to do Long John Baldry’s “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll.” Another song that I am looking at is “Super Lungs” by Terry Reid.

Sleaze Roxx: Cool! And in terms of the three new songs from Helix, when can we expect those to be released?

Brian Vollmer: Here’s a thing I learned from [the release of the song] “(Gene Simmons Says) [Rock Is Dead].” Once you release the digital track to CD Baby or something like that, it actually takes about three months for that song to work its way out into the system. And so, I can’t of missed the boat on that song. We had the song out and it was getting lots of hits on Facebook and YouTube, but people did not know where to buy the song. By the time that the song was out there, people had moved on. So this time around, we’re probably going to release the song digitally to those companies but we’re not actually going to release the video until the spring when I get back from Florida where I am now.

Sleaze Roxx: That makes sense. And obviously, Helix have always had a sense of humour and you definitely display that with the latest song “(Gene Simmons Says) Rock Is Dead.” 

Brian Vollmer: Thank you.

Helix‘s “(Gene Simmons Says) Rock Is Dead” video — buy the single at CD Baby:

(Gene Simmons says) Rock is Dead

from the Rock It Science CD – release June 2016

Sleaze Roxx: What prompted that video and what is your opinion on the state of rock n’ roll?

Brian Vollmer: Well, first when we approached that song, I had a title and I had gotten it from Gene Simmons’ interview that he did where he commented rock being dead and there was a big controversy. As writers, Sean [Kelly] and I are always talking about different songs and the approach to take. There was a song by — I can’t remember her name from LA — about Steve McQueen. And so we have been discussing using a famous person’s name in the title of the song and that was just the title that we came up with. And then we went from there and Sean actually wrote most of the song and then he sent it to me by e-mail and then I started tweaking the lyrics. We to to the last verse and we changed the melody somewhat. Whenever Sean and I write, it’s a real process. It starts off as an idea and then kind of evolves through the whole process. We get it to the point where we can’t work on it any further and then we’ll being in Aaron Murray and he’ll, you know — I have always felt that Aaron Murray whose done the last couple of Helix albums is right on the cusp of becoming a huge producer. Getting back to that song, it grew through the whole process and so did “Even Jesus [(Wasn’t Love In His Hometown)]” and the other songs that Sean and I have written. For the state of rock n’ roll, that’s a big question that is multi-faceted. You have two hours?

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] How about you condense it a little bit?

Brian Vollmer: The biggest thing that I think is going to affect rock is, aside from the fact that people don’t buy records anymore, is the death of the bar circuit. That was the training ground for bands, especially meat and potato bands like Helix, that thrived in live situations. Now that the bar scene is essentially dead in North America, where do bands develop their craft? There is a difference between playing three to five sets, six nights a week, and traveling across Canada and various geographical points than there is sitting in your hometown playing once a month. I could list the reasons. The biggest one though is that you are practicing your craft every night, you’re going across the country, you’re getting a wider perspective on the world, which is going to reflect in your songwriting. If you just stay in — let’s say Toronto or just London, Ontario — it becomes very myopic and you tend to see the world with blinders on. You need to get out there and experience life and just experience what it’s like just traveling across the country. In Helix, when we first started as a band, I think of the first year, year and a half, we lost everybody in the band except me! 

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Brian Vollmer: They couldn’t survive out there so you’ve got these people, they are going from 0 to 60 in a relatively short time. Not only are they not allowed to mature musically from a songwriting standpoint, they’re not allowed to mature as individuals. They go from Justin Bieber playing a guitar on the corner of the street to literally making billions of dollars and everybody is fawning over you and wiping your ass and telling you how great you are and flying in planes. I can understand the kid’s head exploding. That’s a lot to handle. Even us, we took many years to develop to that stage and we got nowhere near that fame or amount of money involved. You know, it really does a number on your head. So all that stuff has been eliminated by the bar scene going away and I really don’t know where these bands are going to learn their craft learning how to play their instruments but we’ll see. You know, maybe it will come back. Who knows?

Sleaze Roxx: Around mid-2016, Perris Records reissued six Helix albums [including one solo album from Brian Vollmer]. Why the decision to reissue those six albums?

Brian Vollmer: Well, I’ve had a relationship with Tom [Mathers of Perris Records] going back I think 15 years or so and I believe in Tom Mathers because Tom was in a band himself which was Cherry Street and I have always found him to be a solid person and a hard worker. I’ll never forget. We played a South Texas rock festival back I think in 2002 and we were doing a meet and greet after the show. We were selling records and t-shirts and stuff. During our show, I looked out and there was Tom. He had rushed out to a stationery store, got  great big piece of bristol board and wrote “Helix band signing autographs. Meet and greet after the show.” he’s walking through the audience [laughs]…

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Brian Vollmer: … holding this piece of bristol board over his head. I thought, you know — he sold me right there because he was willing to do anything to make it work. Those are the people you need. People like that that have enthusiasm and that believe in you. I think that Tom believes in this band and thats why I have stuck with him. As for re-releasing the songs, I am always looking to keep the music out there. Even though I distribute it myself, it’s better when Tom is doing it. He’s got avenues through the Sam Phillips family of Sun Records (Elvis, Johnny Cash) of Memphis, Tennessee, and he sends those records out all over the world. As far as I concerned, you don’t want to hide your music under a bushel basket, you want it out there. The real money for Helix nowadays comes from playing live so if the music is not out there and people can’t know about it, then it kind of cuts off the playing live lifeline. 

Sleaze Roxx: That’s understandable. One of the albums that you have reissued is ‘Back For Another Taste’ [1990] which is my all-time favourite Helix album. 

Brian Vollmer: Thank you.

Sleaze Roxx: What’s your recollection of that album and where the band was at at that time?

Brian Vollmer: Well, it was a very tough album for us because that was the album in which Brent [“Doctor” Doener] left the band. Brent had been a staple in Helix since I think 1976 and it hurt when he left. I remember when he ended up finally quitting and down at the Ox, we were all sitting and I cried. We were like brothers. And then the only money that we had saved after all those years of not making money — I think Paul [Hackman] and I who owned the band by that point had something like $35,000. That was it. Our manager sat us down and said, “You got a decision to make. You need to take this money, split it up and call it a day or you can take that money and record another album.”

We decided to record another album and it was pretty difficult. We lost our deal with Capitol Records. We ended up getting a licensing deal with Capitol in Canada but in the States, we went with Grudge Records. I think they ended up burning us for about $40,000. Over in Europe, we were with GWR [Records] which was Doug Smith’s label — Doug Smith from Motörhead. We toured with Ian Gillan. That was a lot of fun touring Europe but you could feel things starting to shrink back. That’s never a good thing with the band because it’s a matter of money. You know, when you have money, you can do a lot of things. You can do videos. You can tour. You can pay people decently and on it goes. And suddenly, the money wasn’t there so you know, into the ’90s, we started to lose people. The music was changing. It was a very very difficult time for the band but in retrospect, any band with longevity, they go through periods of that in their career and some bands survive, and some bands don’t, and some bands break up and try to get back together. We didn’t do any of that. We lost members and then they came back you know 15 years later [laughs] but we survived and that’s why nowadays, I run things. 

Helix‘s “The Storm” video:

The Storm Helix

available on the 30th anniversary concert dvd

Helix‘s “Good To The Last Drop” video:

Helix – Good To The Last Drop

Awesome song from awesome canadian band HELIX.

Sleaze Roxx: Another album that has been reissued is ‘It’s A Business Doing Pleasure” [1993] and that would have also probably been a difficult album due to Paul Hackman’s death. What do you remember about that album and the state of the band?

Brian Vollmer: Well, that album was never meant to be a Helix album. It was meant to be a solo album. I had developed a relationship with Marc Ribler down in Brooklyn. New York and we had written “Good To The Last Drop” from ‘Back For Another Taste’ plus “Midnight Express” was another song. After ‘Back For Another Taste’, and you know, things were so unsettled in the band. Brent left. Like I said, things were pretty tight. I was writing with Paul but we weren’t coming up with anything. I’d go out there and we’d started to get writers’ block. It was a very tense situation. I was essentially living in the street. I had gone through a divorce. I had all my possessions in a friggin’ lunchbox. I was couch surfing from this friend to that friend. Meanwhile, Paul had a house and he was fairly well established in his marriage and with his family. He wasn’t hurting as much as I was, let’s just put it that way!

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Brian Vollmer: I was going crazy because I thought, “You know, We’re not getting anything done.” I was working — believe it or not — for Manpower [employment agency] at minimum wage. I was going out. I had no car. I remember in the winter standing at the bus stop like at 5:30 in the morning and just freezing my ass off going to these shit jobs where people… You know, once they found out who you are, then some of them would treat you even worse! I ended up getting a job in a variety store and I had a guy come in and lay a beating on me one night. I ended up in emergency and got patched up. it was a terrible time in my life. I went to my manager and I said, “Look it. This is fucked!” I said, “I’ve got to do something here. I can’t go on this way. If I get sick, then I really am fucked.” Because I said, “I’m living week to week.”

So my manager said, “Look. I’ll make you a deal. Why don’t you do a solo album. I’ll pay for it to send you down right now to New York to write with Marc. So I went down and wrote with Marc Ribler and we just literally shit songs. I go down there and we write five songs in like four days. We start to put together a solo album. And our influences — like at that time, I am going through a divorce. I am listening to different types of music like Don Henley and Johnny Cougar and things like that, which once again, I think long-term writers, I don’t think that they just stick to one kind of music. They explore different types of music. Let’s be honest. And Marc Ribler wasn’t into the metal scene to being with so the stuff that we were churning out… But it was OK because once again [laughs], it was never meant to be Helix material. It was supposed to be like the side project that I was doing. Then we went out west and Paul was killed in the van accident.

[Interviewer’s note: Wikipedia describes Paul Hackman’s death as follows: “On July 5 [1992], following a concert in Vancouver, the group’s van veered off and rolled down a 40-foot embankment and Paul Hackman, asleep in a seat behind the driver, was thrown from the vehicle and died upon being taken to a hospital in the nearby city of Kamloops.”]

Helix band members revisit Paul Hackman crash site:

Paul Hackman R.I.P. – Crash Site

On July 5/ 1992 one of the Helix vehicles crashed in the mountains in British Columbia, Canada, after the last performance of the tour in Vancouver. The guys crashed about 3 hours after our gig that night after falling asleep at the wheel. No booze or drugs were involved and no charges were ever laid.

Brian Vollmer: Our manager said, “Well, maybe this is where music is going.” I am going, “Geez, I don’t know about that.” But finally in the end analysis, I agreed to it but in retrospect, that was probably a big mistake. I think that I alienated a lot of fans and I can understand why. I would have probably been pissed off if I was a fan too but you know, from a writer’s standpoint, my songs are like my children and I was just upset because I thought there were some very good songs on the album. “That Day Is Gonna Come” [and] “Tug O’ War” were, I thought, stand up songs and they kind of got lost in the shuffle. But once again looking back over the band’s career, I think you know, bands that have longevity, that have been together for 20 years plus as we have — actually, it’s 40 years for us — you’re going to go down those side roads sometimes. That’s just part of being an artist. If you didn’t try to explore new avenues, you wouldn’t really be an artist. 

Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough.

Helix‘s “That Day Is Gonna Come” video:

That Day Gonna Come – Helix

available on the 30th anniversary concert dvd

Brian Vollmer: If you look at Neil Young for instance, holy cow! There’s the perfect example right? He went from like the flamingos to folk artist to grunge — all in one year! 

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] That’s true.

Brian Vollmer: Even AC/DC had their little albums like ‘Sink The Pink’ where they kind of veered off course a little bit. The Rolling Stones — I am not saying that I am those bands ’cause you know, that would be pretty pompous on my part but you know, that’s what happened. I started exploring different types of music and everything is meant to happen for a reason. I look at it like that too so God has a plan for me and that was part of it.

Sleaze Roxx: It took a long time for the next Helix album to be released. It was half-ALIVE [1998] and that one has been reissued as well. What do you remember about that time in the band?

Brian Vollmer: Well, I ended up firing Bill Seip who was our long-time manager. I kind of laid the blame on him which probably wasn’t fair but that’s what happened. And once Bill left, it was basically just Daryl [Gray] and I. So once again, we went looking and we found DeRock Records out of Montreal [Quebec, Canada]. We had some live stuff recorded and we had a few partial live tracks. I think one we did right off the floor, we wrote there which was “Wrecking Ball.” We put that album together and we put that out. 

Sleaze Roxx: So the next one after that is your solo album ‘When Pigs Fly’ [1999]. So finally you release that solo album and that one was reissued as well. What do you remember about that one?

Brian Vollmer: ‘When Pigs Fly’ — to make some money because I was in a situation where I had just bought a house and my wife and parents had to lend me money. I couldn’t get a job! Nobody would hire me because for the last 25 years, all I had been was in a band right? I was probably around my ‘4os by that point. So on weekends, I would go out and play in a cover band for $100 a night. Anyways, I started writing with these guys in my weekend band. They had really never written a song in their life. It’s started off as a joke more than anything else and then some of the songs started sounding not bad so I decided to go record an album ’cause my first love has always been writing songs. I ended up getting Danny Brodbeck involved, which was a good move because Danny is a great producer and I brought in Brian Doerner who played drums. And we ended up doing that album which “[I’m A] Live Frankestein” is obviously a great song. “King Of The Hill” was another really good song off that album. The reason why I did not put it out as a Helix album is because at that point, Daryl and I were going through a little “thing” — as all families do — ad basically, I did not want him to have a piece of it. I kind of went that route. And then we went through that whole decade where Daryl wasn’t in the band, then he came back later on, and now we’re best of friends [laughs]. 

Brian Vollmer‘s “I’m A Live Frankestein” video:

I’m a live Frankenstein – Helix

available on the 30th anniversary concert dvd

Sleaze Roxx: That’s cool! Another reissued album is ‘Live! In Buffalo’ [2001] which actually was recorded back in ’83. So why did the band decide to release that live album at that time?

Brian Vollmer: Basically just to get music out there. I was trying to just keep the profile of the band up. It seemed like an easy thing to do because it was all recorded so I just really released it. There’s no overdubs or nothing on that record, and it sounded pretty good [laughs] so i just repackaged it and put it out. I must confess that part of it was just that I did not have to put any money into that disc. You know what I mean? It was done. I just had to do the album cover basically, which is pretty cheap and the pressing. Pay the mechanicals.

Sleaze Roxx: Last but not least, the last of the reissued albums is ‘Rockin’ In My Outer Space’ [2004]. What do you remember about that album?

Brian Vollmer: Well, once again, I was forging on making my own albums. It started off being recorded at Mole Studios [in London, Ontario, Canada]. It’s where we did that with Rainer Wiechmann. That’s actually how Rainer and his wife Cindy got in the band there and they ended up playing in the first rock festival because I needed background vocals and I couldn’t find someone who could pay guitar and actually sing at the same time, believe or not. Once again, that album was written with Tony Paleschi, Bill Gadd and Rob Long in my weekend band because… Here’s another thing, I couldn’t get people to write with me. It was you know in that period of time where heavy metal was looked at as a joke and I literally could not get people fro write with me. so I was like you know… It’s kind of like love the one you’re with!

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Fair enough. Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?

Brian Vollmer: Well, maybe just my two new players, Kaleb Duck and Chris [Julke]. They’ve become — it’s ironic because Kaleb was handpicked by Brent to join the band and Brent was not easy on him [laughs]. When Kaleb joined the band believe or not, he was like a thrash metal player. He didn’t even know what a boogie beat was. “A boogie? What’s a boogie?” But Brent sat him down and Brent said, “You know, look it, you’re not fucking playing that right. This is the way it’s played.” And he grilled Kaleb, like grilled him for a couple of years there until Kaleb… Kaleb now is like a bedrock in the band. Chris joined a couple of years ago and you know, we always seemed to have one guy of the band… We’d always get one player — we’re going this way and that player is going that way. It drove me nuts. Finally, we got Chris in the band and he’s just such an easy going guy. Everybody loves the guy. Even in his hometown of Cambridge, he’s got his own fan club. He’s just the sweetest guy. Great player. He bends over backwards to do anything that I ask him to do. All my guys are in this together, you know? I try to pay my guys well. So when we get something offered to us, or maybe the money isn’t the greatest but it would be a great profile gig for the band to play. They’re all there! 

I’ll give you an example. We played Sweden in December. We had these beautiful hotel rooms. Everybody was really happy. It was great. On the way back, we had to stop in Iceland for a day and you know, I am booking rooms over Expedia and I got rooms at a “guest hotel” which I found out meant “guest hotel” means hostel.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Brian Vollmer: So we get in like at Midnight, we go down… It’s like a 45 minute drive on a shuttle to a terminal and then another half hour drive to our hotel. We got there and there were smelly small dirty friggin’ rooms with radiators going at a 110 degrees. All the windows were fogged up. They were basically shit holes. I never heard one complaint from my guys. My guys looked in and said, “Ah, oh, it is what it is.” And that was it. That’s the type of people you need because I tell you, it’s so hard out there without the bullshit. As soon as you get into ego-trips and bullshit, with people trying to act like stars, then it starts becoming a real friggin’ chore. And the guys that I have now, all you have to do is take a look at the videoclips that I throw up on Facebook, every minute out there is just a laugh. And everybody has a great time. That’s the way it should be. We are doing what we love doing and we are so lucky to be able to do it at this stage of the game. Look for new stuff coming up. We’re putting together a Helix movie starting this summer. 

Sleaze Roxx: You have to tell me about this Helix movie before I let you go. 

Brian Vollmer: A couple of years ago, we had a guy involved with the band that was supposed to do this. I don’t know what happened to the guy. I’ve been taking film since almost the very beginning of the band. At first, it was with my movie camera and sound. Later on, I switched to a Sony disc camera and now I have a Sony camera that’s a digital camera. But just literally tons and tons, and hours and hours, of footage. Everything from the Ian Gillan tour in 1989 to playing at Stages. The whole show during the Goddo reunion way back in the day. I have Alice Cooper on film, Robin Williams, just everybody right?

And so, Rob Raiford approached me. He’s worked with people in CBC, CTV, so he’s got a track record there. He said, “This is my idea. I want to go through the films, take the best clips out and then we are going to invite people to Planet Helix where we are living in London, Ontario and essentially, we are going to have questions ready to go, and everybody is going to get together and they are going to be showing the film clip and then ask questions on the film clip or ask related stories on the film clip. That’s going to be filmed and then they are going to take that footage and edit it down into a movie. So it’s quite the project. It’s huge to be quite frank but we just keep nibbling away at it. It’s taken me a year and a half just to go through the films and get them somewhat sorted. I think we’ll have to do it in stages. We’ll probably take the people that were in the band from 1974 in its inception to about 1989 when Brent left and we’ll have one day where everybody comes. So I’ll just take the film from that era that I got and we’ll have everybody over and have a couple of drinks and couple of tokes, and then do the interview, you know?

You can purchase the five reissued Helix albums and one reissued Brian Vollmer solo album via Perris Records.