BRIAN VOLLMER INTERVIEW:
February 16, 2005
The last remaining original member of Canadian icons Helix, vocalist Brian Vollmer continues to record and perform. In a business that sees rock bands come and go on a daily basis Helix has managed to stick around for over thirty years, resulting in last years Rockin’ In My Outer Space and an upcoming autobiography.
SR: This year marks Helix’s 30th anniversary, ever in your wildest dreams could you imagine the band lasting this long?
BV: Yes. Because I thought I’d never live past 40.
SR: With so many members coming and going from Helix over the last few years, do you still consider it a group or more of your solo venture?
BV: Helix is always the sum of our parts. You are only as strong as your weakest link. The line-up that people remember as being the “original Helix” (Daryl, Brent, Paul, Fritz, and myself) was really only together for 5 years in the band’s 31 year history! I tell people we have had many different members in the band but only one captain.
SR: Rockin’ In My Outer Space may be the most experimental Helix album ever, was it your intention to try and expand the Helix sound?
BV: No. Just write good songs. To me the Rockin’ CD is no different than any Helix CD. If you listen to Breaking Loose (our very first album in 1977) it is a much more experimental piece of work than anything that came after it.
SR: I see Brian Doerner is returning for a mini-tour this year, does that mean Archie Gamble is out of the band?
BV: Archie left the band with my blessing to join the group Popjoy. They are an excellent band fronted by Sara Smith. Brian is now drumming for us.
SR: What is the status of your upcoming autobiography?
BV: I’m in the midst of shopping it to various publishing companies.
SR: At the time of Paul Hackman’s death were there any thoughts of disbanding?
BV: No. We had made a pact when we formed the band in 1974 that if anything happened to any one of us whomever was left would carry on.
SR: Speaking of disbanding, I once read that you had left Helix to join a band called Strutz. Is there any truth to that?
BV: No. Brian Doerner left the band to join the band Strutz.
SR: Helix has always had massive amounts of energy onstage, is it sometimes hard to get up for a gig when only a handful of fans show up?
BV: No. We put out 110% whether people show up or not.
SR: Lots of rock bands have come and gone during your career, which ones did you think should have been huge but never made it – and which rock groups became successful and you wondered how?
BV: Can’t think of one – if you’re “making it” there’s usually a reason.
SR: Here are some fellow Canadian rockers, what are your thoughts on each:
– Lee Aaron
BV: Longtime friend. Pissed me off when she wouldn’t be in the “Look Me Straight in the Heart” video like she promised, but we made up a couple of years later. Always love when we tour together.
– Sass Jordan
BV: We used to be on the same label (Aquarius is distributed by E.M.I.). Met her initially when she played here at the old Wonderland Gardens. I went there with the president of Capitol Canada, Dean Cameron, and a couple of other suits from the company I can’t remember. My wife Lynda and Sass hit it off right away, and Sass ended up ignoring everyone to talk to my wife. Last year we opened our summer touring when we played with her and Chilliwack at an outdoor concert in Strathroy.
– Slash Puppet
BV: Not familiar with them.
– Killer Dwarfs
BV: Drummer Daryl once introduced me to this chick with an 11 out of 10 ass. She was hot. Years later, when Mike Uzilac left the band to join some weird religious cult, who should be in the program – you guessed it – the same chick! When I see Daryl I always remind him of that.
– Kick Axe
BV: Did many gigs with these guys when we were first starting off with Capitol/E.M.I. They were one of the hottest bar bands on the circuit and had a reputation of being hell-raisers. Someone told me they once smashed all the furniture in their rooms at the Beacon in Calgary and piled the kindling in one corner of the room. George and I became good friends (he’s the voice coach for Avril Lavigne now) and his parents used to come out to watch the band every time we played in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
– Queen City Kids
BV: Another Canadian band that should have gone farther.
SR: If you could pick only one song to introduce someone to Helix, which one would you choose and why?
BV: Rock You. People know that song better than they know the name of the band.
SR: What do you remember about the video shoot with Traci Lords?
BV: She did a “private screening” for someone in the band and then gave them $100 U.S. to take a cab a couple blocks back to our hotel.
SR: What is the story surrounding Its A Business Doing Pleasure? Was it originally going to be a solo album and do you think it was too far removed for most Helix fans to embrace?
BV: Initially this was supposed to be a side project. When Paul was killed we had nothing else written so we thought that perhaps this was the direction the band should take as we were getting older and gravitating towards other music besides metal. In retrospect it was a bad move, but you learn by your mistakes and move on. It’s a shame that this album was “wasted” because there are many very good songs on it. It just shouldn’t have been called “Helix” is all…
SR: There was talk of you writing with former Killer Dwarf members (who toured with you at the time), did anything become of that?
BV: First of all, we have never toured, or even played with the Killer Dwarfs. When Mike Hall was in the band we tried writing at a practice hall up in Hamilton (we called these the Tequila Sessions). As I say in my book, much got drank, little got written…
SR: How did you get involved with Cherry St?
BV: I was shopping around trying to get mail order companies to buy Helix product from me. Tom runs Perris Records out of Austin, Texas. He asked me if I was interested in singing on an album they had just written called “Buster Cherry”. Everything was written but they needed a voice. Two weeks later I flew to Austin and without any lyric sheets I sang all the tracks in two days.
SR: Have you ever thought of taking a couple other Canadian rock acts into America for a “Canada Invades America” tour?
BV: Who would that be? The only Canadian act that has really done anything in the States besides Helix is Killer Dwarfs. Unfortunately the money is not there in the bars anymore.
SR: Why do you think the media has all but turned its back on bands like Helix?
BV: Some have, some haven’t. Rudy Blair (of 680 news in Toronto – Canada’s biggest news station) has gone to bat for us several times, as has Program Director Leigh Robert of The Hawk here in London. We’ve done many TV shows out in western Canada and performed countless interviews with magazines and newspapers over the past couple of years. I’m more inclined to diss the Juno Awards and the clique that runs it. This year they won’t let the greatest Canadian rock band of all time play on it – The Guess Who.
SR: After so many years on the road, what are some of your most memorable road stories?
BV: Getting Del Shannon high on hash oil.
SR: What plans are in the future for Helix and yourself?
BV: To keep rockin’. What else?
Thanks to Brian Vollmer