kitchener

Who do you think you are, Benjamin Franklin? (Sunday Chuckle)

Yesterday around noon, some tornado-force winds ripped through town with a healthy dose of rain.  All told, I read that 38 hydro poles went down along with numerous trees.  It took about seven hours to restore power to where I live.

Some areas still had electricity, so Jen and I went out looking for a place to get lunch.  Lots of intersections with no power to the lights.  We drove past a Tim Horton’s with no electricity.  The three employees were our in parking lot with brooms clearing debris, and had pylons blocking the drive-through.  Yet in our brief time driving past, three cars drove into the Horton’s looking for coffee.  As if Tim Horton’s have their own nuclear power generator in the basement, or like the customers could magically turn on the power for them.  The girls with the brooms just stared incredulously at the numbskulls who thought that this was the one business on the whole street with power!

#983: Gimme Another R!

RECORD STORE TALES #983: Gimme Another R!

A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 2:  Gimme An R!

There’s a certain amount of pride that one takes in being a Helix fan.  Helix the band are almost as old as I am!  They formed in 1974 and put out their first independent album Breaking Loose in 1979.  And what a debut it was!  With a handful of road-tested songs, the band plied the waters of guitar rock, with a foot in sci-fi prog and another in boogie-woogie.  Just check out their first minor hit “Billy Oxygen” if you don’t believe me.  They’ve been releasing music steadily ever since, with Capitol Records and others, with only a minor five year gap between It’s a Business Doing Pleasure (1993) and half-ALIVE (1998).

In 2022, Helix are back with a new single called “Not My Circus, Not My Clowns”.  They’re getting ready to start gigging again after two years of Covid-induced hibernation.  The current lineup consists of founder Brian Vollmer, classic members Daryl Gray and Greg “Fritz” Hinz, and guitarists Chris Julke and Mark Chichkan.  Julke has already been in the band eight years, and Chichkan had countless gigs with Helix in the mid-90s.  These veterans absolutely know how to give ’em an R.  Then we have Sean Kelly helping out in the studio to boot, adding some nitro to the mix.  In other words:  Helix are still potent.

It’s fair to say we all miss Paul Hackman.  I never met Paul though I’ve met most of the others.  He sure was a talented writer, and many of his songs like “Heavy Metal Love” are beloved classics today.  Fritz Hinz has been through hell and back, making a stunning recovery after a coma-inducing fall from a roof.  In recent years we also lost original guitarist Ron Watson, keyboardist Don Simmons, and road warrior Brian Knight.  Brian Knight was a kid from our neighborhood, who went to do road work with Helix for many years.  We lost him in 2021.  Yet Helix keep on going, and going, and going.  Even former guitarist Brent “the Doctor” Doerner has a new album coming out called The Ashtray Sonatas.

Speaking of the good Doctor, I first befriended the guitarist in 2006 at a Helix gig.  I knew a guy named Shane Schedler, who was in his new solo band, and this led to an interview with Brent at his home.  It was the first of several visits.  A few months later, with a few gigs under his belt, Brent screened some live footage of the band and had some friends over to celebrate.  It was that night that I wrote up the official bios for his band.  I remember telling Brent I wanted to write the band member bios for his website and then running around the room getting quotes from all the members.  It was a lot of fun.  Definitely a personal highlight.

So for the first time since the first time, here are the Brent Doerner’s Decibel bios that I wrote.

Thanks to everyone who’s ever been in Helix for rocking us.


BRENT DOERNER’S DECIBEL

Band Bios and Fascinating Factoids

 

BRENT DOERNER (Lead Vocals, Lead & Rhythm Guitars)

“What’s right is what’s left after you’ve done everything else wrong.”

Not just every guitar slinger out there can claim to be a part of a Canadian rock institution.  Brent Doerner can:  He spent over 15 years in Helix playing guitar, writing, singing, blowing minds and winning fans the world over.  He has the battle scars and the gold records to prove it, but that’s not the end of the story.  A new chapter has just begun with Decibel, a new rock band of good-time tunes and unique lyrics that continues his legacy with pride and vision for the future.

CHICK (Rhythm Guitars)

“If you don’t have rhythm, stay at home.”

Ralph “Chick” Schumilas has been around the block once or thrice.  He has 40 years experience as a musician.   In the beginning, he was a drummer which gives him a rhythmic edge that’s tough to beat.  Formerly, he was the co-owner of  Buzz Marshall studios, and has played and written with such luminaries as Cheryl Lescom, Rob Juneau, and Keith Gallagher among others.  He brings his immense songwriting experience to Decibel’s solid live repertoire.

HILLS WALTER (Bass, Lead & Backing Vocals)

“I’m not working for road rash.”

Hilliard Walter’s résumé is impressive in its diversity and scope.  He’s been paying his dues in the clubs across Ontario for the better part of 30 years.  Rock, however, is only one part of Hills’ musical makeup:  He’s done punk, new wave, funk, soul, and every combination and isotope of those styles that is currently known to modern science.  He’s played with Soul Circus, Sthil, Dezmanhall, Ed Bertoli, and lots more.  He saw Helix make their big break and said, “I can do that too.”  Now, Decibel is the main focus of this talented bass player with the soulful voice.  When he sings, you listen.

SHANE SCHEDLER (Lead guitars, Lead & Backing Vocals)

“They tried to bury the double lead, but we’re going to rectify that.”

Shane’s history as a recording artist goes back to the mid-90’s when he was a member of the guitar-driven trio Martyrs of Melody.  With the Martyrs, he released two independent CDs and began honing his songwriting craft.  He’s been grinding his axe for “seven point something Olympic years” (you do the math).  He now writes, sings and plays for Decibel, a band that makes him beam with pride.  Shane is also proud that he hasn’t cut his hair since grade nine.

BRIAN DOERNER (Drums, Vocals)

“Some drummers think ‘time’ is a magazine, but they don’t have a subscription!”

Brent’s twin brother Brian Doerner is legend on the skins.  His discography reads like a “who’s-who” of rock:  Helix, Saga, Brian Vollmer, Ray Lyell, Refugee, Myles Hunter, and more.  He first picked up the sticks after seeing the Beatles on TV in ’65, and it’s been a love affair with music ever since.  A respected session man and teacher, Brian has inspired the others to new levels in their playing.  Now that the twins are back together, the chemistry onstage is infectious.


 

REVIEW: Brent Doerner’s Decibel (2006)

BRENT DOERNER’S DECIBEL – Bd=I0log(P₁/P₂)=dB (2006)

The Doctor, Brent Doerner, departed Helix in 1989.  His presence was missed by long time fans.  Although he rejoined in the 90s, it was only briefly.  Through the decade, he maintained his chops and took up country music in the clubs.  This added new dimensions to his playing when he inevitably returned to rock.  After spending a decade and a half as a “guitarpenter”, Brent decided he wanted to get back into music and make a statement on his own.  “I was bound and determined, come hell or high water, to make an album,” he said.  With a new band called Decibel consisting of Shane Schedler on lead guitar, the late Ralph “Chick” Schumilas on guitar, and Dan Laurin on drums, Brent did just that.  “If you don’t write good songs, it ain’t gonna fly baby,” says Brent.  Fortunately, the guys had a bunch of them.

The band lineup included three guitar players, two of them soloists.  On this disc, the triple axe attack is joined by future Helix guitarist Kaleb Duck on a couple tracks.

Opener “The Sum of 2 People” begins with a lethal riff and a slow, determined groove.  It then detours into a psychedelic, watery sound with Doener’s clever lyric contrasting love with math.  “X and y are the fractions, multiplied by nine!  Our love exceeds the math of the sum of two people.”  Good song, excellent set of words from the Doctor, showing off his underappreciated lyrical talents.  The track itself is quite varied, with a variety of connected parts and a classic sounding guitar solo.

Brent plays bass on most of the album, but Mike Benedictine guests on the wickedly choppy “A Body For You”.  “I’d hide a body for you, baby!” goes the chorus, but the riff is the real killer.  This is a challenging song, but check out the cool dual guitar bit in the middle.  Very vintage Helix.

The highlight track is third in line:  the pure boogie of “Takin the Color Right Outta Da Blooze”.  This is an upbeat, slide-laden track made for shaking asses.  Had there been a single, this is the clear choice.  It has the taste of twang, and unforgettable hooks.  It’s pure joy set to music.  “We’re getting bull-ridin’-ready!” sings the good doctor.  This is just a song about letting loose, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to doing just that.  Awesome track.

Another killer track, “On Bended Knee” has a vibe similar to early 80s Kim Mitchell – think songs like “Miss Demeanor”.  Simply excellent mid-tempo sentimental rock.  There’s something slightly majestic about the chorus guitar hook.

Drummer brother Brian Doerner guests on “Fire in the Bedroom”, a suitably upbeat rocker.  Giddy up, says Brent.  Solid advice.  The excellent solo features some of that twang but this otherwise pure rock and roll smoke.  Just fun.  Brian on drums adds a different flavour; a little more sophisticated rhythm and brainy fills.

If you like bands with multiple lead vocalists, then you will be pleased to note that guitarist Shane Schedler takes the microphone on “Never Turn Yer Back”.  He has a higher tone to his voice, and he throws in a soulful twist.  The song itself has an early Van Halen kind of vibe.  Mike Benedictine is back on bass, but that’s not him on the impressively dexterous intro!  “I play that, says Brent.  “I play the intro and the exit on that.  That’s from me being a guitar player; it sounded cool on bass.”  He’s right!  Another album highlight.

“Breathe My Name” has a cool kick to it, and an unorthodox groove.  A lot of the tunes on this album are smarter than you’d think.  They’re not meat and potatoes rock.  They have different rhythms throughout, changing and shifting and then suddenly sounding like another genre.  “Breathe My Name” largely rocks, but not in a brick-headed way.

There are no ballads on this album, but “Stainless Steel Emotion” is the most laid back of the songs, and really emphasises a southern twang.  Again, the riff recalls early Kim Mitchell, which might be why it sounds so classic.  “Got up late, felt not so great, with alcohol blues.  She just laughed, turned on the gas and waited for the boom!”  A funny, quirky song about love gone sour.  You can’t particularly compare “Stainless Steel Emotion” to any single band.  Brent likes writing unique songs, and this one has the right fit to be second last on an album.

Hilliard Walter, who would later join the band on bass and vocals, sings lead on the unique “Dancing Frogs (The Zamboni Song)”.  The powerhouse soul-blues vocalist kicks the song up about eighteen notches with class and sass.  The vibe of the song evokes the classic image of the dancing frog from the Warner Brothers cartoon One Froggy Evening.  “You can just picture the dancing frog with the top hat and the cane,” Doerner explains.  Why “The Zamboni Song”?  Because Hills Walter drove one!  “We’ve got the best damn Zamboni operator/driver/singer/lead vocalist in the country, man!”  There’s an old automobile “ooga” horn in there too, as a final original touch.  Do Zambonis have horns?

It must be stated:  Brent Doerner did not create an “immediate” sounding album on his debut.  He didn’t set out to make simple music.  The songs have twists in them, but also great hooks that will get you in time.  You notice by second listen, the hooks have started to set in.  The running order could probably be improved by opening with something catchier like “A Body For You” instead of the menacing “The Sum of 2 People”, but your experience may vary.  If only the album had big-budget production.  Some of the songs could have had potential.

Must-haves:  “Takin the Color Right Outta Da Blooze”, “A Body For You”, “On Bended Knee”, “Never Turn Yer Back”, “Stainless Steel Emotion” and “The Zamboni Song”.

4.5/5 stars

#957: Star Wars at the Mall 1981

RECORD STORE TALES #957: Star Wars at the Mall 1981

Cast your minds back to a time before the internet.  Before DVD players.  Before we all had VCRs.  Prior to the advent of on-demand TV.  If you wanted to watch Star Wars…you couldn’t!

There isn’t much more to be said than that.  We had our records, to listen to the soundtracks, and “The Story Of…” discs.  We had novels and comic books.  We had our action figures.  If we wanted to watch Star Wars, we had to use the ol’ imagination and memories.

Given that lots of kids would love to watch Star Wars at any given moment, there was a demand.  And nature decrees that a vacuum must be filled.  I remember that there was a Star Wars play at the mall.  A few actors, maybe six or seven total, wearing budget costumes, and doing the best job they could.  I remember it being really bad, but I found a photograph that indicates it might not have been as terrible as I thought.

We can only guess who the actors were.  Students?  A travelling troupe, adventuring from mall to mall?  All to sell toys!  Kenner was king!  Kids flocked to the toy sections, begging mom for a Bossk figure.  Why not have a Star Wars play to promote it?  Perhaps kids can be the harshest critics and this play wasn’t as terrible as I recall….

We only snapped the one picture; film was expensive.  But the costumes don’t appear all that bad.  Sure, it looks like Chewbacca is wearing a sweater.  I don’t remember Princess Leia having gold trim on her gown.  Is that Old Ben Kenobi on the far left?  It’s a shame we didn’t get a picture of Luke or Han, but Vader’s helmet does not look bad, nor Chewie’s head.  At least not from this angle.  Could we have taken a worse picture?  You have to give Leia some credit for the nailing the hairstyle, and a killer pair of boots!

The wall behind looks like the barriers that go up when a store is being renovated.  You can also see some litter on the ground.  Consensus seems to be that this was Stanley Park Mall, due to the familiar flooring.  

Sunday Screening: Max the Axe – Thirsty and Miserable

As premiered on the Friday November 12 episode of the LeBrain Train, here’s the new video for “Thirsty and Miserable” by Max the Axe — a Blag Flag cover via Lemmy Kilmister. From the new EP Oktoberfest Cheer.

This Is Max the Axe, on the LeBrain Train

Max the Axe went off the rails of the LeBrain Train, and we were hanging on for the ride!

This wide ranging interview with all four Max the Axe band members included the following subjects:

  • How they got their nicknames (fan question from Jeff Taylor and Tee Bone)
  • Drinking
  • Recording on 1″ analog tape vs. digitally
  • Trying to make a record during the pandemic
  • Gigs (or lack thereof)
  • Cover tunes
  • A 40 year-old tune that sounds current today
  • New track “Iron Cross”
  • New track “Droid” (which neither Meat nor Dave heard of before tonight)
  • Remixes of “Scales of Justice” and “Randy” for a new release
  • Lyrics, storytelling and getting political
  • LeBrain’s Cinco De-Listo Top Five Max the Axe songs
  • Meat’s “retirement” & future of the band

Thank you to Harrison the Mad Metal Man who helped me helm this car crash that you just can’t look away from!


NEXT WEEK:

Harrison and Uncle Meat back to discuss key albums of the year 1981!  This is both a sequel to a show I did least year with Superdekes, and also a sister show to Scotch On the Rocks’ own special on the year 1981 featuring Deke and Muc.  I was unable to participate in that show myself, but still wanted to celebrate four decades of great albums from that year.  Join us next week!

Max the Axe brings the Oktoberfest Cheer on tonight’s LeBrain Train

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike and Harrison

Episode 87 – Max the Axe band interview

Hear ye, hear ye!  One band has consistently rocked us all since before the start of the pandemic.  That band is Max the Axe, and tonight we will have 3/4 of the group with us.

They are:

  • Mike Koutis/Max the Axe – lead guitar
  • Eric Litwiller/Uncle Meat – lead vocals
  • Dave Haslam/Dr. Dave – lead drums

This will be their first-ever interview together, and Harrison the Mad Metal Man will be with me to quiz the band on the new EP Oktoberfest Cheer.  The current crisis had a huge impact on its making and eventual release, and Max is eager to tell the story.  The EP certainly brought a lot of joy as we crawled through the second year of this pandemic.


On a serious note:  Please give this a “share” on your social media and help the guys out.  It’s no secret that views have been down, but every time we do an interview show, we sell a CD or two to a viewer.  You can help by sharing this show and maybe some of your friends will watch too.  I guarantee a great night and some great tunes!

VIDEO: Max the Axe – Oktoberfest Cheer (2021)

Today is the last day for Oktoberfest…but “Oktoberfest Cheer” goes on and on!

From the new EP Oktoberbest Cheer, written by Mike Koutis, here is the video for “Oktoberfest Cheer”.  Have a schnitzel on a bun and a frosty cold one, and get your copy at Encore Records in Kitchener, or by dropping us a line here.

  • Mike Koutis – guitar
  • Eric Litwiller – lead vocals
  • Mike Mitchell – bass
  • Dr. Dave Haslam – drums

 

  • Accordion by Catherine Thompson

 


Notes:  Since Eric deleted the only rehearsal footage of “Oktoberfest Cheer”, I was forced to use the video for “Randy” live at the Boathouse somewhat ham-fistedly.  However this works perfect with the punky off-the-rails nature of the song.  Speeding things up and slowing things down hides a multitude of sins in the edit, and the Keystone Cops flavour of the high-speed footage lends a comedic profile to the video.  Which is necessary for any song that contains lyrics like “don’t crush my smokes, don’t spill my beer.”

VIDEO: Max the Axe – “Pygmy Blowdart” – vertical video performance !

“Pygmy Blowdart” (2021 Koutis)

  • Mike Koutis – Guitar
  • Eric Litwiller – Lead Vocals
  • Mike Mitchell – Bass
  • Dr. Dave Haslam – Drums

From the brand new EP Oktoberfest Cheer.

VIDEO: Last Summer Weekend at the Lake 2021 / Max the Axe – “Pygmy Blowdart”

Now that the new Max the Axe EP, Oktoberfest Cheer, has been released, I am happy to present to you their new never-before-heard original “Pygmy Blowdart”.  Lead singer Eric Litwiller stressed to me (more than once) “I did not write the lyrics”.

Video footage was taken the last weekend of August, but held on to until I could use some fresh new Max music.  Check out “Pygmy Blowdart” and let Max and Meat know what you think of this new tune in the comments below!

 

Available at Encore Records.