Brian Vollmer of
Interviewed By Celtic Bob
Brian Vollmer of the Canadian Rock and Roll band HELIX takes a few moments to discuss his new album, the future and everything and anything in the world of Planet Helix.
The new CD sounds amazing. Very much along the same lines as NO REST and RAZOR’s EDGE. Was this intentional?
Yes, I think it was to an extent. Lyrically I wanted the CD to be a
crusin’ rock n’ roll party CD in the tradition of what fans expect Helix to
be. The other stuff just fell together naturally. Steve is heavily
influenced by guitarists like Ace Freley, Joe Perry, & Angus Young and the riffs on Get Up! reflect that. Helix was greatly influenced by all 3
bands, especially Paul. When Paul was killed in 92 a large part of our
sound died with him. I spent most of the 90’s trying to find people to
write with, with not much luck. Writing with Gord and Steve intinially came about as a total fluke.
Who worked with you on writing this project?
Gord Prior and Steve Georgakopoulos. Gord has been fronting bands most of his adult life, has a great voice, and writes great songs but unfortunately success has been allusive for him. The nearest he came to real success is when his band Blu Bones was signed to A&M. Steve Georgapoulous has also been in numerous bands over his long career. lronically, both Gord and Steve have been huge Helix fans for years and we’ve also known each other and been friends for just about as long. Our tastes in music are very similiar and the very first writing session we had produced Get Up! Boomerang Lover, and Cyberspace Girl. We recorded the tracks at Mole Studios in London using Rainer Wiechmann to engineer the tracks. Steve played guitar, Rob MacEacern played drums, and Jeff Fountain playued bass. Gord produced. From Mole Studios we took the tracks to EMAC Studios to be mixed. We used Danny Broadbeck on the board with Gord once again calling the shots. Danny actually works on retainer for Clive Davis and has worked with several world class bands at the studio including Paul McCartney’s band. The CD was also mastered at EMAC. The album artwork was put together by Spiro Papadatos, who creates all the designs for the KISS merchandise and who has also designed several KISS albums.
How did you come to write with these guys?
When my autobiography “Gimme an R!” came out, Gord helped me with several publicity things to help get exposure. I suggested we get together and write and when we did it was magic. It’s been magic ever since.
Did they play on the disc?
Steve did. Gord sang back-ups on some of the songs.
Any reason why you never used the live band in the studio?
My live band and my recording band haven’t been the same band for many years. Jeff is the only member of my live band to also play in the studio. It really doesn’t make any sense to me for Steve to write the guitar licks and then teach them to Jim or Rick. As for Rob drumming instead of Ned, it was more a matter of Rob being there before Ned was even in the band. We call MacEachern “one take Rob”. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Who is in the live band?
I have a great live band. They are all exceptional players & performers.
Most of all they have a good attitude and are ready to rock at any moment. On bass is Jeff Fountain, guitars are Rick Van Dyke & Jim Lawson. My drummer is Ned Niemi, a guy known to love pounding the drums.
What’s the story behind the departure of Cindy and Rainer?
Cindy originally joined the band after the departure of Shaun Sanders to fill the gap on vocals left when Shaun quit the band. Both Cindy and Rainer were excellent additions to the band and did everything I asked them to do. The problem was the added expense of having an extra person in the band-more wages and flights-so I had to let Cindy go. At that point I also had to let Rainer go as well as he doesn’t have a strong voice.
Do you see yourself working with either of them again in the future?
Any plans to record a full live cd on this tour?
What can fans expect to see and hear live this time around? Any older and lesser played songs going to be added into the set?
We always try to change things up when we go out to play. We try to stick fairly close to playing the hits because that’s what people expect to hear when they come see us but at the same time try to add some songs that we maybe didn’t play the tour before and also new stuff.
Is it looking like the tour will be bigger this year with more dates?
We’ve been playing more dates every year since 1996. In November we’ll be in Ohio for our first U.S. date in many years and in February we’re looking at playing 3 dates in Florida. In Europe I’m presently talking to Michael Ivarrson of Sweden Rock Festival about coming back this year plus another two weeks of dates across the continent.
Any plans to come out east (especially The Rock)?
We love playing Newfoundland and if the money makes sense we’ll be back. Last year we were in Halifax and St. John on the Alice Cooper tour. We were supposed to play St. Johns but there was a disagreement between myself and the promoter over who was paying for our flights to get there so in the end we had to pull out of the show. I heard through the grapevine that they kept advertising us right up until the gig. Fans should blame the promoter for that, not us-we told them a month before that we weren’t doing that show.
Any artists you would like to take out on tour with you?
If we had the luxury of having an opening act I would try and choose an up and coming band that’s going to sell tickets wherever we play.
Why release an EP instead of a full fledged album?
We don’t consider this an EP. EPs are 4 song discs. This one is 7. Same as Still of the Night, I believe, and it’s never referred to as an “EP”. We’ll be going back into the studio very shortly to record 5 more tracks.
Will we see the full CD in 2007?
Any plans to make the next one even heavier?
I never think of stuff like that when I write.
What prompted you to re-record “Heavy Metal Love”?
It’s on the Trailer Park Boy’s movie, but not on the soundtrack CD. E.M.I. (Every Mistake Imaginable) decided to withhold the song from the soundtrack disc when they discovered that Universal was distributing the disc. Even though they would have made money….Stupid. The newly recorded version sounds so close to the original that you can hardly tell the difference.
Do you still have a good working relationship with EMI?
Do you own the rights to the entire Helix catalog now?
No. E.M.I. owns the masters for all the years we were with them.
Is there any older material left in the archives that may surface down the road?
Much Music recently released a few concert DVD’s of stuff they recorded years ago. Has there been any talks of releasing the concert they did of Helix in Edmonton on the LONGWAY tour?
E.M.I. mentioned they were going to talk to Much about that but once again never followed up.
Planet Helix was recently featured on MTV Cribs. Has this helped out the band with more exposure?
We’ve been getting tons of exposure from all sorts of different places this year. MTV CRIBS was one of them and helped raise the band’s profile (and Planet Helix’s) to a new level.
The whole segment was only about 7 minutes long. Do you have the outtakes? Are you allowed to put some of it out on a future dvd release?
The show took from 9:30 in the morning until 7:30 at night and required a 5 man film crew-all for 7 minutes of film. I never saw the outtakes, but I’m sure there is some. To get any of this film to release myself I would have to approach MTV about the rights. It isn’t a priority on my list right now as I’m sure people will be able to check it out if they want. MTV will also allow me to put a link on my site to that particular episode.
You have done an outstanding job on Planet Helix. It really is unique. Have you ever considered writing an article or column on antiques or house preservation?
Yes, but once again I have more projects than time.
Allot of the features of your home are not common such as the gingerbread and the corbels this day in age. Do you feel the appreciation for the older style is lost?
Not only lost, but in Southern Ontario they seem to be in a rush to either burn or bury our heritage. In St. Thomas they bull-dozed the home of Colonel Talbot without alerting the public until it was destroyed. If this had been the U.S. there would have been a national outrage.
What reactions do you generally get from people once they see your home close up?
Everyone loves the house that comes into it. It’s not just the furnishings but the whole atmosphere of coming and visiting Planet Helix. Lynda throws the best parties and the friends we invite through our doors always have a good time.
Has Planet Helix inspired others to restore theirs to its original state?
I’ve seen other houses in the neighborhood suddenly receive a coat of new paint on their gingerbreading. I gotta think part of that is driving by Planet Helix and getting inspiration.
Is there much left you’d like to do to the house?
We’re just finishing off the basement and my “Wall of Shame”. (LOL) I have all sorts of memorabelia I’ve collected over the years that I’ve always wanted to put on display. This is the last of it however. By next year the entire house will be done.
Is it just time restraints?
No, leg restraints.
Time permitting are you still going to go ahead with the covers disc?
Eventually, but as long as Steve, Gord, and I are on a roll we don’t want to take our focus off our own music.
Does it still feel like “Helix” or more like the Brian Vollmer solo
I think this particular album feels more like a Helix album sound-wise
moreso than previous discs. Helix is Brian Vollmer is Helix, so whether
the sound is “Vollmer” or “Helix” has more to do with whom I’m writing
Last year you put out an Xmas disc of traditional music with you singing Bel Canto. Any other projects like this in the works?
Yes. The next one will be classical wedding songs. These discs are to raise money for my church, Mary Immaculate.
What about a Helix Heavy Metal Xmas EP?
I’ve thought about it. It’s more a matter of time to put it together.
What is next that you want to accomplish?
Tour Europe next summer. Make more inroads into returning to the U.S. Both these objectives are in the works.
Thanks for taking the time in talking to us.