Brin Vollmer and Greg “Fritz” Hinz were in the MuchMusic studios in early ’88 to show Erica Ehm how to play the drums! Enjoy this clip of an epic drum trio.
Helix drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz had an accident at home. He fell off a roof, fractured his skull and broke some vertebrae. He is in a medically induced coma. Injuries are supposed to be non-life threatening.
According to Helix singer Brian Vollmer, Fritz has a lot of rehab ahead. All our thoughts and prayers are with the Hinz family as they deal with Greg’s health.
Helix’s fifth album was an important one. They were following the “big hit” album (Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge) and there were expectations. The band collected another batch of original material and hit the studio with producer Tom Treumuth again.
1985’s Long Way to Heaven is the second album with the “classic” Helix lineup: Brian Vollmer, Brent “the Doctor” Doerner, Paul Hackman, Greg “Fritz” Hinz and Daryl Gray. All but drummer Fritz contributed songs, with Vollmer, Hackman and Doerner leading the pack.
The two singles were the opening tracks. “The Kids Are All Shakin’” is a catchy for American radio play. It has always been a damn fine song.
Down in New York City,
All the way to L.A.,
Boys and girls are gonna shake it,
Yeah, each and every day.
There’s also a reference to a fan letter from Poland that was a big deal to the band at the time. “Kids Are All Shakin’” is a great rock and roll celebration, but the single version with additional keyboards is better.
The other single was the hit acoustic/electric ballad “Deep Cuts the Knife” written by Hackman and Bob Halligan, Jr. To this day it remains one of, if not the very best ballad Helix have done. It has atmosphere and bite, and a killer vocal performance by Brian Vollmer.
There are good tracks after the first two, but nothing quite as memorable. “Ride the Rocket” (Vollmer/Halligan) is fun but silly. I’m sure you can guess what kind of rocket Brian is singing about when he says “Reach in the pocket”. Other decent songs include the title track, which has a great chorus melody, and the heavy-as-fuck “House on Fire”. There’s also another ballad called “Without You (Jasmine’s Song)” that is worthy of praise.
There is nothing wrong with any of the other tunes, and some have some pretty cool moments. “Don’t Touch the Merchandise” has a nifty a cappella section that proves what great vocalists the band are. It’s just that none of the other songs really have a lot of staying power in the brain.
Long Way to Heaven was one of those follow-ups that was good enough, but always remain in the shadow of the more successful predecessors.
It’s been love for Helix and I since…many years! Since Record Store Tales Part 2: Gimme An R, at least. As such, I may be a little biased when it comes to this band. Maybe. I truly believe their music deserves much more attention from the rock community, particularly the recent albums which are always excellent. Helix mainman Brian Vollmer maintains a reputation as the hardest working man in Canadian heavy rock. 2017 sees the release of not just a new Helix single (and a lavish one at that), but also his second solo album Get Yer Hands Dirty.
Helix today is Vollmer on vox, Daryl Gray on bass, Fritz Hinz kickin’ the drums, and newer members Kaleb “Duckman” Duck and Chris Julke. The inner sleeve is signed by all five members, which is just the kind of cool personal touch Helix are known for. Also noteworthy, all but Hinz wrote the single A-side “The Devil is Having a Party Tonight”. That makes it the first Helix song in years written solely by band members. “The Tequila Song” on the B-side is composed by mainstay collaborators Gord Pryor, Steve Georgakopoulos and Vollmer.
Great tunes, these are, both party songs. Each is a little heavier than you might usually expect from the Helix band. “Devil” is possessed by a heavy-as-a-tombstone riff, and some exotic guitar noodlings that recall the good stuff from the metallic 80s.
I think “The Tequila Song” is even better. I was known to drink tequila from time to time in my younger days, but I gotta say that Helix have written a better song about tequila than Sammy Hagar ever has. Stomp to that riff as you “lick it, bang it, suck it, tequila!” Even if you’re the designated driver, you’ll find the chorus infectious and party-ready.
Want a copy? You know where to go – Planet Helix.
If you’re from Canada, then chances are you already know how to properly respond when somebody requests of you to “Gimme an R!”
You give them a fuckin’ R!
To quote Ricky from Trailer Park Boys, “Helix was a wicked concert. Fuck I sold a lot of dope at that concert. They had good lyrics, like ‘Gimme an R, O, C, K,’ and then the crowd yells ROCK really loud. Now that’s a fuckin’ concert.”
Bob Halligan Jr. wrote it, but Helix made it legendary. In turn, “Rock You” put them on the map. It’s pure arena rock: “Don’t just sit there, come on get up and move!” With a riff, a catchy tune and a shout-along chorus, “Rock You” was custom built for 1984. The Pepsi Power Hour gave it regular play, and the boys toured relentlessly. Helix’s rep as a down n’ dirty hard rocking band was secure. The music video scared away my neighbor, David Dolph, a kid from across the street whose very Catholic parents wouldn’t let him listen to rock music or watch Dr. Who. Instant street cred!
“Rock You” opened Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge (their fourth LP) with a punch. “Young & Wreckless” followed with a kick in the ass. This chugging rocker is all about a good time. Strangely enough, this track somehow frequently ended up on Kiss bootleg CDs. Bootleggers most likely confused it with Kiss’ own “Young and Wasted” from 1983’s Lick it Up. Needless to say, if you find a Kiss bootleg claiming to have an unreleased song on it called “Young & Wreckless”, it’s not Kiss. It’s Helix. And it kicks ass.
“Animal House” is a Helix concert classic, a bar-bustin’ rocker with a sweet slide guitar licks from Brent “The Doctor” Doerner. He and gui-partner-in-crime Paul Hackman formed a formidable and underrated duo. They supplied Helix with a seemingly bottomless well of riffage and tasty guitar hooks. Meanwhile lead howler Brian Vollmer was in peak voice, driving the whole thing home. Next up is “Feel the Fire”, basically a re-write of “Heavy Metal Love” from 1983’s awesome No Rest for the Wicked LP. Though the songs are similar, both kick equal amounts of ass, so we will allow some self-plagiarism. The first side was finished off with a real sledge: “When the Hammer Falls”. It’s a real headbanger in the classic sense, fast and loud.
“Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” kicked off the second side, a Crazy Elephant cover that became one of Helix’s most notorious music videos. There was a TV version and a uncensored cut with full frontal nudity. One of the girls in the video was an underage Tracy Lords. Whoops! Meanwhile, a 13-year-old me couldn’t take my eyes off the TV! (A classmate of mine called Ian Johnson was known for his tall tales, and took credit for giving Helix the idea for the video!) “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” was one of those instantly catchy songs that seemingly everyone dug, and check out Doerner’s killer solo.
The shot with Doctor Doerner kicking the lightbulbs is possibly the coolest of all time.
Helix want to tell you what turns them on in “My Kind of Rock”, but I think it’s the biting riffs. Not a bad tune, but Helix have done better. That’s just filler before the ballad “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”, a cover of A Foot in Cold Water. Helix’s take is remarkably true to the original. It’s considerably softer than anything else on the album, but that’s the function of a ballad on a rock album. Vollmer’s performance helped make it a Helix favourite that’s still played live in concert. Another track called “Six Strings, Nine Lives” is the only tune that should have been excised. Good chorus, but without a song to go with it. One of the best Helix originals was saved for the closing position: “You Keep Me Rockin'”. Dark and edgy, it’s a heavy and memorable tune to end Helix’s best selling LP.
Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge is a good record, but as is so often the case with the “big hit” albums, it’s not their best. No Rest for the Wicked is the one to seek out for the “all killer, no filler” experience. Razor’s Edge has some essential cuts, but a couple fillers too. If you’re thinking about picking this up, the wisest purchase would be the 2009 reissue by Rock Candy. This remastered disc contains rare photos and liner notes including an interview with Brian Vollmer. It also has three must-have bonus tracks: Live versions of “Young & Wreckless”, “Rock You” and “Animal House” from the uber-rare promo EP Live at the Marquee. Since Helix were (and are) known for their blitzkrieg live shows, these tracks are well worth having on CD.
Gratuity goes to two people: Helix associate John Hockey who initially hooked me up with an mp3 rip of his copy of this Holy Grail rarity, and to Boppin for finding this original copy on vinyl! Helix’s Live at the Marquee EP is one of those releases that lots of people have heard of, but few have heard. First of all, it’s a promo, which means it was only distributed within the industry and never made available for sale to the public. Promos can be very desirable collectibles, especially when they contain exclusive music. Live at the Marquee was nothing but! In 1985, Helix had released nothing in terms of live product, not even a live single B-side. Live at the Marquee was the only one, and before the internet, few fans even knew about it.
For full disclosure, there is a rare Rock Candy reissue of 1984’s Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge, an unauthorized but valuable release that does contain three of the six Marquee tracks. That 2009 release includes “Young & Wreckless”, “Rock You”, and “Animal House” from this EP. The other three songs have yet to be reissued anywhere, so half of Live at the Marquee is still exclusive to the EP.
What you need to know about Live at the Marquee is that this is Helix at their prime. The classic lineup was in full swing: Brian Vollmer (vocals), Brent “Doctor” Doerner & Paul Hackman (guitars), Greg “Fritz” Hinz (drums), and Daryl Gray (bass). They were performing their most popular tracks from the Razor’s Edge and No Rest for the Wicked LPs. Starting with “Young & Reckless” and “Rock You”, it’s full octane in the tank and pedal to the metal. Helix were and are known as a loud band, and this EP sure sounds like it. They take a step back on the hit ballad “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”. Helix could do love songs like that without sounding wimpy.
Side two continues with the single “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” (Crazy Elephant cover) which sounds like a blast. Helix do not get recognition for the dual guitar alliance of Doerner and Hackman as perhaps they should. Check out “Animal House” for more of their stellar interplay including a bit of slide. Finally “Heavy Metal Love” closes the record, an enduring favourite today that sounds fantastic performed by the classic band.
Over the years, fans became widely aware of the existence of this release. It would be listed and pictured among official discographies, but never found in stores. Until/unless those final three recordings become available on CD, this record should be sought after by every serious Helix fan. I’m happy to have a copy signed by Fritz Hinz. Also awesome? John Hockley hooked me up with a CD copy of the Rock Candy release of Razor’s Edge, signed by all four surviving members of the classic Helix band. Thank you John, and rest in peace Paul Hackman.
These. Are. COOL.
To promote their new album Rock It Science, Helix released this set of five custom guitar picks. It is available at their site for only $10, and they feature the excellent album art (by Brent Doerner) on the front. On the back, each pick has a photo of a band member: Brian Vollmer, Daryl Gray, Greg “Fritz” Hinz, Kaleb “Duckman” Duck and Chris Julke.
Guitar picks are great to collect and here at LeBrain HQ, we can always appreciate a cool set of custom plectrums. They’re fun, they don’t take up a lot of space (I’ll be storing mine inside the CD case) and they just look cool. Feast your eyes upon these beauties and if you decide to go for a set, don’t forget to order the Rock It Science CD to go with ’em!
Helix just don’t stop! Never have, never will. They have been an ongoing property since 1974, steadily releasing albums with only minor gaps between. They keep playing live, year after year. They keep recording new music, ensuring there is always fresh product for fans to pick up at one of their unflagging shows. The latest is a new “greatest hits” CD called Rock It Science, featuring a smattering of tracks from all over their career and one new song.
Bands and record labels are often guilty of exploiting their fans for one or two new tracks and a whole bunch of stuff they already own. Helix fans generally don’t feel that way. They want to support the band (“the hardest working band in Canada”), and it’s worth noting that most past Helix “hits” CDs are out of print now, and there is very little overlap in songs. What overlap exists is usually limited to the “big hits” – songs like “Rock You” and “Heavy Metal Love”. Incidentally, the hits from the Capitol years included here are the re-recorded versions from Best Of 1983-2012. Fear not, they are very authentic remakes. You gotta do what you gotta do to get paid!
Brian Vollmer has been good about including deeper cuts on his compilations. “Billy Oxygen” and “You’re a Woman Now” from the first album are brilliant. These are two of their best songs, period, and they commence Rock It Science brilliantly. Any Helix CD that includes “Billy Oxygen” is better for it. This jazzy little rocker is one of their more complex arrangements, written and sung by the “Doctor” Brent Doerner. Speaking of Brent, he designed the artwork for the CD and directed the music video for “(Gene Simmons Says) Rock is Dead“. That’s the new track on this CD (click the link for a review of the song) and a damn fine one it is. Brian co-wrote it with his partner in crime, Sean Kelly, a brilliant musician in his own right.
A few other treasures worth mentioning are the lava-hot “Get Up!” from 2006, and the ballad “Good to the Last Drop” from 1990. This is the single remix version of the song, which tips the scales as the slightly superior (and more rare) mix. “Shock City Psycho Rock” (1998) is a pleasant surprise. This is a track written by bassist Mike Uzelac in the early 1980’s but not recorded until the 90’s. (When they recorded it, Uzelac was actually a missing person. He has since returned to the land of the living, but I can remember meeting his brother back in the Record Store days and that is when I first heard the story that Mike hadn’t been seen by family or friends in years.) Mike Uzelac was a talented writer and contributed lots of material to Helix. “Shock City” is one of the fastest and most destructive tracks in their catalogue. Finally, “Even Jesus (Wasn’t Loved in His Home Town)” is a favourite, notable for its biting lyrics and brain-searing chorus.
So go ahead and give them an R. The band is like an institution, a hard working gang of rockers that aim to please each and every time. Buy the CD direct from the band and you’ll get a signed copy with some great liner notes detailing some rare band history. Rock It Science would make a fine first Helix album for any collection.
HELIX – “(Gene Simmons Says) Rock is Dead” (2016 music video from the forthcoming album Rock It Science)
“I don’t need no god of thunder to tell me what is great.” — Brian Vollmer
Helix are back once more, with a new greatest hits album called Rock It Science.* You gotta have a new song on a new greatest hits (teased previously as “Mystery Track”), and this new song is timely and sharp. Gene Simmons does indeed say that rock is dead. In fact he’s been saying that for over 25 years. I have a M.E.A.T Magazine interview with Gene from 1990 where he professes that rock is indeed dead. And he’s still saying it now. But Brian Vollmer retorts, “Don’t believe it when Gene Simmons says rock is dead!”
Sure, lots has changed, but Helix keeps going. It’s not the 80’s anymore. Very few can sell 2,000,000 copies of an album today. It’s hard to make a living just by selling records. You have to diversify. Everything has changed — but like many things, the more they change the more they stay the same. Rock is not dead. In many respects, rock is more popular than ever. Helix are still producing great quality music, and “Gene Simmons Says) Rock is Dead” is one more gem for their rock crown. Daryl Gray and “Fritz” Hinz are still there on the rhythm section. Chris Julke and Kaleb Duck handle the axes just fine. This could have been on an album like Back for Another Taste.
As far as the video goes, Brent Doerner directed this one. The Gene impersonator is bang-on — I hope Helix don’t get sued for this! The video celebrates the old school. It’s performed at Speed City Records in London, Ontario. (Look for cool posters of bands such as Gob and VoiVod, who Gene slammed in the 1990 M.E.A.T interview.) I really dig Daryl Gray’s Helix logo bass guitar. That looks like a bitch to play. Brent captured the fun side of the band in the video. It’s not glossy, but I think it does the trick.
There’s no release date yet, but Rock It Science should be available to purchase soon. Check out the CD cover, also designed by Brent Doerner.
Rock is dead? Hardly. Gene’s been wrong before, and he’s wrong again.
*The title It’s ROCK Science, Not Rocket Science was a working title for 2009’s Vagabond Bones.
Welcome back to Canadian Rawk Week!
2009 was an exciting time to be a Helix fan. 15-odd years of rotating lineups kept the band alive and in the clubs, but it was hard to grow attached to any band members when they only stayed for a couple years and were off elsewhere. Helix main man Brian Vollmer had always maintained strong ties with former members, and guys like Brent Doerner often showed up on albums, or in the audience at local Helix shows. It was still a surprise when Doerner, drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz, and bassist Daryl Gray all returned to the Helix lineup. This completed the classic 80’s version of the band, or at least the surviving members thereof. Paul Hackman was killed in 1993 in a tragic auto accident. Replacing him in the lineup was Kaleb “Duckman” Duck, who had previously worked with Brent.
Vollmer was working on a new album (originally called It’s Rock Science, NOT Rocket Science!), writing with his partners Sean Kelly and Moe Berg (The Pursuit of Happiness). The final product entitled Vagabond Bones has a variety of different players on it. Former Helix members Brent “Ned” Niemi and Rob MacEachern play drums, and guitar maestro Kelly (also briefly a Helix member) contributed to guitar and bass. Also on the CD is Steve Georgakopoulos who played on a few past Helix albums. You’d think it would be a case of “too many cooks” in the kitchen. That’s not the case; Vollmer and Co. brewed a potent mixture of songs, with all the attitude and quality that you have come to expect from this band.
Immediately you’re hit over the head by the slick production work by Vollmer, Kelly and Aaron Murray. “The Animal Inside (Won’t Be Denied)” has the stamps of both Helix and Sean Kelly all over it, from the absurdly catchy chorus to the shredding solos. Vollmer sings powerfully, but his voice has so much depth character from years of training and road work. Very few singers from the 70’s still sound the same, but Brian Vollmer is damn close! “Go Hard or Go Home” has another powerful chorus, plus great catchy riff, and fun lyrics. “Go hard, or go home, take your little whiny candy ass and go.” Considering all that Helix has been through, Vollmer surely knows only the strong survive. “No short cuts, no sweet deals,” he sings and he knows it! The title track “Vagabond Bones” makes it three great songs in a row. It’s an instantly likeable good time hard rock boogie.
Helix really developed a knack for melody as they grew. One of the most pop moments is “Monday Morning Meltdown”, a song that Brian compared to Cheap Trick in terms of style. You can hear it in the choruses, but it’s just a great pop rock song with another great Sean Kelly riff holding down the fort. Very different for Helix, and very good.
Onto a fast vintage Van Halen style shuffle, “When The Bitter’s Got The Better Of You” is the fifth straight up great song in a row. It too is very different for Helix. It continues a theme of “down on your luck” songs, but always with a message to keep on givin’ ‘er. That holds true on “Hung Over But Still Hanging In”, a sleeze rock duet with Russ Dwarf of Killer Dwarfs. If you need a hard rocking party song, then this is what you want. It has the groove, the fun, and the lyrics so just hoist them wobbly-pops and rock on!
My personal favourite song has always been “Best Mistake I Never Made”. It has a classic 70’s rock aura, an acoustic guitar, and if I had to compare it to something else it would be Helix’s excellent 1992 single “That Day Is Gonna Come”. That’s a trip down memory lane that I don’t mind taking. “Make ‘Em Dance” is a fast stomper with a beat that strikes me as almost Disco. It just rages though, I wouldn’t try dancing to it until you want to break your neck!
Ending the album on a funky rock vibe is “Jack it Up”. This is a really interesting song, because I used to hate it. You may have to let it grow on you because, like much of this album, it’s forging new territory for Helix. It’s still great party rock, but just a little laid back.
With sharp production, Vagabond Bones was certainly the best sounding Helix album, and the best overall in many a year. And that’s saying something, because 2007’s The Power Of Rock And Roll was very, very strong. Hearing this album for the first time, I just smiled. I had to. Helix were back and pretty much better than ever.