HELIX: An Interview with Brian Vollmer.
Wire MEGAzine fans, I am delighted to have chatted with the forefather & pioneer of Canadian heavy metal, internationally acclaimed voice of HELIX, songwriter, author, and actor, London, Ontario’s Brian Vollmer, and this is what he had to share.
Deb: I am super excited to share that it’s Helix Week which kicked off on August 6th pre-Toronto Maple Leafs game, https://www.facebook.com/Studio73.rocks/videos/71427037263833 which was fitting as Brian is a huge fan of The Leafs, this kick-off was sponsored by Digital Creative Arts Centre, Rockpapermerch.com, Anderson Craft Ales, and 519 Magazine. Friday Night Live and Helix brings fans a 9-day affair running through to the 14th of August, hosted by both Studio 73, and Music Association of Canada. Helix fans can tune in each day to get infused with Canada’s purveyors of metal with their videos, music and your chance to grab your slice of rock history – Helix merchandise and stay tuned for the world premiere of the band’s new music video Eat, Sleep, Rock on the 14th at 9 pm. Also, available, the new Helix Coronavirus Merch bundle, so tune In for details which include a Helix face mask, Helix Coronavirus t-shirt, an EAT SLEEP ROCK CD signed by the band, a Helix beer koozie, and the whole package will sell for $69.69. It’ll make a great Christmas present! https://www.facebook.com/Studio73.rocks
1. Deb: Helix was originally formed in 1974 as The Helix Field Band, for a battle of the band’s contest in Kitchener, Ontario. How did you come up with this name? And why the change? Brian: “It was from a science textbook, as most of us were still in school. Our manager got us to shorten the name.”
2. Deb: Brian, there were many hurdles you had to face at the beginning of your career, what made you continue the journey down this uncertain musical path? Was it for the love of music and for your adoring legions of fans? Brian: “The love of music. Also, I loved the life of being on the road.“
3. Deb: Early in your career you were diagnosed with vocal nodes, (I too suffer from a similar issue, Larnyx Edema Dysphonia). At this stage is where you met and trained under world-renowned voice coach, Ed Johnson. Can you elaborate on this special Bel Canto technique that you have used daily for 33+ years as a student and now, as an instructor, as well, if you can share with your fans, any familiar names that you may have taught or still teach? https://brianvollmer.com Brian: “Bel Canto is known as “the maximum effect for the minimal amount of energy”. It is the only way to sing without tension on the vocal cords. I’ve taught many people in the music biz including the girls from KITTIE, Tim Hicks, and Sarah Smith.”
4. Deb: What was it like to be 1 of the first recognizable artists during the inaugural launches of both MTV and Much Music with your hits Heavy Metal Love, your Rock Anthem – Rock You & your famous cover rendition of A Foot in Coldwater’s (Make Me Do) Anything You Want.
Brian: “At the time things were happening so fast we didn’t have time to digest them. Looking back it was a special time in Canadian rock. Now, Much Music doesn’t even play rock videos anymore.“
5. Deb: Performing with well over 200 national recording acts like KISS, Rush, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper, Ronnie James Dio, Whitesnake, Night Ranger, Heart, Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P., and Motorhead to name only a few, What would you say is your favorite tour memory? As well, is there an artist you would love to perform or record with? Brian: “My favorite tour was either the several we did with MOTORHEAD or the 1984 Whitesnake/Quiet Riot tour. I’d like to perform with many artists but no one in particular.“
6. Deb: Do you have a favorite venue or stage that you had the pleasure of performing upon? Brian: “ROCK BARCELONA.“
7. Deb: Is there a location you have never been to or would love to tour to? Brian: “South America.”
8. Deb: The world lost an extremely gifted musician when Paul Hackman passed away on July 5th in 1992. He made an impact as an integral member of Helix’s legacy. How had the band dealt with the loss of such a phenomenal talent? Brian: “You get on with it. One day at a time.”
9. Deb: Did you ever imagine back in 1974, that Helix’s career would unfold the way it has, and did you ever dream that Helix would have impacted the world as it has, after all, your sound is an essential part of musical history? Brian: “No. I just wanted to make music, tour, and see the world.“
10. Deb: Brian, what has been your most satisfying accomplishment as a musician to date? Brian: “Being able to survive and make a living at this after all these years.”
11. Deb: Tell your fans what your songs aim to say? Many artists would consider this a loaded question. The purpose of this question, however, is to assess how aware you are of what audiences see in your work and what it provokes, and why you make music. Brian: “I make music. Interpret them any way you want.” As Lemmy used to say when he introduced MOTORHEAD: “We’re just a rock and roll band. I’m not trying to be U2 here.”
12. Deb: Who would you say has influenced you the most Brian, both then and now? Brian: “Johnny Cash. Burton Cummings. John Kay. Nowadays it’s whoever writes the best song.“
13. Deb: Contrary to popular belief, making it in the art of music isn’t merely a game of luck. It requires talent, strategy, and determined effort all based on your vision, and goals, etc. If you can share with your fans information about your creative writing process, studio work, and about any accolades you have received. Brian: “Developing a “skill” is a lifetime goal. Don’t try to achieve success in two weeks.“
14. Deb: Celebrating an in-depth career spanning close to 5 decades, after 46 years creating and performing, what does success mean to you? Brian: “Happiness.“
15. Deb: You are currently the only original Helix member remaining, you’ve never been idle since 1974 and you show no signs of slowing down. Your career has allowed you to constantly create, record, teach and pre COVID-19, tour, all the while sporting 32 albums that feature 14 studio, 3 Live, 2 EPs, & 11 compilations for Helix, which includes your current 2020 release of Eat Sleep Rock. Helix in-depth catalog maintains a status of 5 Gold & 2 Platinum-selling records and you can’t forget to add your 2 stellar solo albums as well. Now that is mighty impressive. What do you believe is your secret to longevity? Brian: “I love creating and performing music. Not any more complicated than that. If I would have been in any other business I would have gotten rich much faster. Even as it is, I made most of my money in real estate, not music. Longevity is simply not giving up.“
16. Deb: Some artists seem reluctant to speak of just how frustrating and baffling the whole experience of navigating the general music realm is let alone add in COVID-19, or how hard they try to still be ambitious about getting their artwork seen or sold. Have you seen or felt a major shift or change in music pre-COVID-19 or current, compared to the early 70s when your career 1st rocketed forward? Explain how you are further engaging your fans whether it’s within the top echelon of international art circles or based on your involvement with your local community despite the limitations or challenges musicians are facing, as they try to bring their art to the new formatted audiences, thanks to the Corona Virus? Brian: ” I don’t worry about viruses, atomic bombs, or world wars. I make music and adapt to whatever is happening around me. For instance, when the Coronavirus hit, I simply switched gears and scheduled more time to prep for the release of EAT SLEEP ROCK. The video was filmed with all of us doing our parts separately on green screen, which inadvertently added to the look. We’re not playing live (although that may change as of Monday-we might have a date at a drive-in out in western Canada) so we focused on writing the next HELIX full-length studio album. As of now, we’re about four songs deep.“
17. Deb: So thrilled to hear that your long tie drummer extraordinaire Greg ‘Fritz’ Hinz, has healed and since rejoined your shows as of last June 2019, after he sustained massive injuries back in November 2018 due to a nasty fall. what a miracle!
18. Congrats Brian to your current lineup consisting of bassist Daryl Gray, drummer Greg ‘Fritz’ Hinz, guitarists Chris
Brian: “The new album is primarily the best of HELIX since leaving Capitol/E.M.I. in 1990. There are two new tracks: The Story of HELIX and EAT SLEEP ROCK, a song I wrote with Sean Kelly a couple of years ago. The artwork was done by Brent “The Doctor” Doerner, as was the video. Daryl Gray (Helix’s bass player) recorded the new tracks, Siegfried Meir mixed, and Harry Hess mastered the album.“
19. Deb: Let your fans know where they can purchase your book Gimme An R, which follows your life story from birth to the mid-‘00s and about how you discovered music.
Brian: “We originally pressed 2,000 copies of this book. They’re nearly all gone. Get ’em while they last. Time to write another one!“
20. Deb: A little birdy tells me that we share a mutual musical friend in common from Kitchener, by the name of Joel Wideman. Back in the day, he was brought on the road by his brother Deric, your then sound tech, where Joel loaded equipment for Helix and was then asked by your past manager Bill Seip if he played, and Joel was asked if he would consider bringing his gear on the road, and playoff stage behind the PA for an extra $25 a week. He was with the crew 1 year, where he did a bit of effect on the Breaking Loose album, and then, he acted as a stage manager and set up gear, set up stages, and drove your band’s tour truck across the country, what a small world. Joel asked me to say hello to you Brian. My final inquiry is simple, how do you feel about the inclusion of keyboards in heavy metal? Brian: ” Sure. Why not. And let’s not forget the
As well, Helix fans, don’t forget to tune in daily to Studio 73’s Friday Night Live Special Presentation from Aug. 6th to the World Premiere release of HELIX NEW VIDEO ‘EAT SLEEP ROCK” on Friday, August 14th. https://www.facebook.com/Studio73.rocks
Eat Sleep Rock is Helix 15th compilation album and here is the song list for this record:
01. The Story of Helix (unreleased)
02. Eat Sleep Rock (unreleased)
03. Shock City Psycho Rock: From Half-Alive 1996
04. Wrecking Ball: From Half-Alive 1995
05. I’m A Live Frankenstein from my solo album When Pigs Fly 2000
01. Even Jesus (Wasn’t Loved In His Home Town): From Bastard of The Blues 2014
02. Cyberspace Girl: From The Power of Rock And Roll 2006
03. When The Bitters Got The Better Of You: From Vagabond Bones 2008
04. The Tequila Song: from the EP The Devil Is Having A Party Tonight (limited red vinyl copies sold:300)
05. (Gene Simmons Says) Rock Is Dead: From the Universal album ICON, released 2017.
06. The Devil Is Having A Party Tonight: from the EP of the same name. (limited red vinyl copies sold:300)
The CD is being released by Tom Mathers and Perris Records for all territories except Canada. “As for the vinyl, I am going to be releasing it myself on Helix Records. There’s a 10-week delay on pressing so the earliest we can have it in our hands is the middle of September,” states Brian Vollmer.
It was a true pleasure, thank you so much for your time, Brian. Cheers, Deb.
Big Congrats on a DRIVE-IN SHOW on August 29th/Saskatoon With Prism. Stay tuned for more details. This one just came down. It’ll be the first gig with new guitarist Gary Borden, who played with Helix in the’90s and again a couple of years ago when Kaleb Duck‘s wife Jesse was having Liam. Gary played for many years with Sass Jordan is an excellent guitarist/vocalist. Stay tuned to https://www.facebook.com/helixtheband or https://www.planethelix.com for full details.