EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Brian Vollmer of HELIX!

September 7, 2012:  Once again, things are getting exciting on Planet Helix.  If the new single / video “All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup” wasn’t enough, there’s also the new anthology, Best Of 1983-2012.

Lead vocalist and founding member of Helix, Brian Vollmer talked to us about these releases, some special upcoming dates, and a lot more.

The new single seems to be off to a good start, according to the song’s co-writer, Sean Kelly.  Brian filled us in.

“Sean’s from North Bay [Ontario], and he told me we’re getting airplay up in North Bay on that song.”  The video is also doing well:  “We’re up over 5000 hits now, and we’re hoping that the video goes viral.  It’s early in the season…there might not even be an NHL season this year!”

Oh Brian, don’t get me started on Gary Bettman!

The collector in me was excited about the vinyl release of the single.  It’s also going to be on the anthology CD, but the vinyl is designed for collectors in mind.

“I had initially wanted to do vinyl on the Christmas album [A Heavy Mental Christmas], but when we wrote this song, I thought that we’d do vinyl because it’s a collector’s item.  It’s kind of a novelty type of thing, and I think that it’ll appeal to not only Helix fans but also Toronto Maple Leafs fans.  They might like the vinyl just to have in the rec room up in the bar.  We sell it for $19.99 so it makes a great stocking stuffer for people.

“We did it on green vinyl too, to fit in with the season somewhat, and when we go through that pressing we’ll probably change colours.”  Just FYI Brian:  my wife, Mrs. LeBrain, is really hoping for blue!

“We’ve been trying to write a Leafs song for a couple years,” adds Brian.  “We had the working title of ‘I’m Bleeding Blue & White Tonight’.  And we never quite got the song together.  And then we did a radio session, where we were finishing off [new song]  ‘Axe to Grind’, which is also on the anthology album.”  Brian was then supposed to meet up with Travis Wood, of the band Whosarmy (from the TV show Cover Me Canada, which Brian also guested on incidentally).

“I didn’t want to go too early, and just sit around at the restaraunt.  So we started fooling around and all of a sudden, within a couple of minutes we wrote ‘All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup’.  The song was recorded within two weeks.”  The hilarious video was done right after that.  I forgot to ask Brian if any Habs fans are offended!


All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup

You can buy the single on the green vinyl in a bundle with a T-shirt and the new CD, Best Of 1983-2012.  “The Best Of album I just put out has a lot of tracks that you wouldn’t normally hear [on other best of albums] by Helix.  Stuff like ‘Animal Inside’ off the Vagabond Bones  album.  ‘Get Up’ and ‘Fill Your Head With Rock’ from The Power of Rock and Roll album.”

Coinciding with these releases is the forthcoming Heavy Mental Christmas tour.

“Yes, we just added another date in Cornwall.  We have seven dates, mostly through Masonic temples, legions, moose halls, through southern Ontario.  It’s a multi-media show.  We’re taking out screens, so there’s some video segues between songs, other times there’s still pictures with Christmas themes…some of the cameras that are places strategically around stage are broadcasting whatever member might be doing a solo during the song.”

You may want to consider getting your tickets now, as these shows are special indeed, and feature a new lineup.  Not only will you meet the new Helix guitarist, John Claus, but “also Sarah Smith.  Sarah Smith is a great London [Ontario] artist, she’s got two CDs out now under her belt, she’s a great addition to the show.  Just a smiling, very talented person.  She’s on with us instead of Kaleb [“Duckman” Duck, guitars].  Kaleb really didn’t want to do Christmas songs!  Initially, we were going to go with one guitar player, and then I thought of Sarah.”

This turned out to be a good decision, according to Brian:

“I always walk out of our Christmas practices with a big smile on my face.  I love playing the material, and it’s really fun with this group of people, to do these songs.  I wouldn’t want somebody to do any of my projects that wasn’t totally into it.

“It’s a labour of love.  We’ve been working on this show over a year now.”

Really?

“Setting up the website, and the tickets, and the halls, and putting together the show, learning the show, and getting the multi-media involved.”  But it is truly a labour of love, and you can tell by the amount of work that Brian and the band has put in so far.

I mentioned new guitar player John Claus.  As previously reported, longtime axeman Brent Doerner will be leaving Helix at the end of September 2012.  Brian helps shed some light on this lineup change, and what bringing in a new member does for the band.

“We have two more dates with Brent at the end of this month.  One’s at the Rockpile in Toronto, the other’s at the Masonic Temple in Stratford.  That’s a multi-media show as well.  Tickets are going fast for that one, I think a lot of people want to come and see Brent before he goes.

“Brent’s been in the band since about 1975.  No hard feelings with him leaving at all.  He just wants to pursue video production, and in fact, Brent will still be involved on a creative level  with the band, helping us do our videos.

“I tell everyone that Brent, when he initially came back to the fold, he was only going to be here for six months, and he ended up staying three and a half years!  He definitely was better than his word, and stayed for a long time.  So I’m really grateful to him for that.”

On John Claus, who will replace Brent:

“He plays piano and guitar.  He sings, so he’s a great addition to the band.  Nice guy, great personlity.  Whenever we hire new people in the band, we don’t want any ego trips.  So, to get someone who has a nice personality and just a good human being is a nice thing to have.”  John will join the band completed by longtime members Daryl Gray and Greg “Fritz” Hinz, on bass and drums respectively.

The piano aspect will come into play for future shows.  Brian reveals that he and John will probably perform “Dream On”, the Nazareth cover, from Helix’s Wild in the Streets album, as a duo during upcoming Helix concerts.  “And the Christmas shows, we’re doing ‘Hallelujah'” says Brian of another piano-based cover to look forward to!

It’s great to see Helix continue forward through the years.  Brian has worked hard, starting in the 1970’s as an indi artist, and now today continuing down that path.  Once again the band is behind their own music releases, selling it themselves.  Brian has nothing but praise for the team he’s surrounded himself with in recent years.

“I write with Sean [Kelly] nowadays, he’s a great writer, nice person to work with.  Aaron Murray is my producer, he studied from Danny Broadback, who won a Juno for Engineering.  And Danny studied with Jack Richardson, who as you know produced Alice Cooper and the Guess Who, and all sorts of people.”  Brian adds, “Moe Berg [The Pursuit of Happiness] sometimes comes in to write with us, Sean and I.”

Thanks to Brian Vollmer for updating us on all the new happenings on Planet Helix!  Try to get out to see the Heavy Mental Christmas tour, and get tickets while you can!

Upcoming dates:

http://www.planethelix.com/Schedule.htm

Buy the new Helix single, album, and other stuff:

http://www.planethelix.com/Store/StoreMain.htm

Audio of our chat below!

 SOUNDCLOUD

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5 comments

  1. Any chance of having the interview posted so we can read it? Would probably take a while to transcribe, but would be a nice addition to this post.

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  2. Props to Brian for keeping Helix going,growing up in Thunder Bay in the 80s lots of bands skipped T Bay but you could count on them showing up to play our gardens ( capacity 3500 or so) and putting on a arena sized spectacle.
    I still remember Triumph was supposed to play the gardens in early 85 on the Thunder 7 tour with Helix as support and for some reason the Gardens was double booked with I think hockey so Triumph passed thru Helix stopped at the university here and played and well that earned tons of respect from us,even after all these yrs we try and get out to the shows when Helix comes around….
    Gotta,give them respect…

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  3. That’s an awesome story man. I hope Brian reads that. I know for a fact that Brian cares about his fans. He’s just that kind of guy. The first time I ever met him was at a gig in 2006 at a bar here in Kitchener. I walked in, it was a cold night, and my glasses were fogged up. I could barely see but I could see that Brian Vollmer was standing right in front of me when I walked in. He walked over, shook my hand and said, “Good to see you, it’s going to be a great night. I have a lot of people I have to say hello to but thanks for coming out.” I thought that was really cool of him. He didn’t know me but he made a point of saying hi to everybody at the show.

    There were lots of ex-members there that night. Brent Doerner was there, and so was Bruce Arnold the original drummer before Brian Doerner. Also the original bassist Keith Zurbirgg was there. It was a real coming home kind of gig. I made contact with Brent that gig, and I did a lot of writing for his website when he did his first two albums.

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