Vocalist Brian Vollmer
Interviewed by Celtic Bob
VAGABOND BONES has been out on the market since last fall, how has it been doing sales-wise and general fan response? Has it met or exceeded your expectations?
This CD met my expectations when I heard the final master. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever had a hand in. As for how it’s performed in the marketplace, let me just say that wherever it gets exposure people love it. That’s the biggest problem for us – exposure. The songs have all lived up to their expectations – it’s the support of Canadian radio that’s fallen short of what I had hoped. However, this lack of support was to be expected.
Will the next album be similar in style or will you go slightly heavier?
We never approach writing that way. When we sit down to put the songs together we try to write good songs. Period. We’re a rock band with rock sensibilities, so logically most of the stuff we write should come out sounding "rock". In the case of "Best Mistake" from Vagabond Bones, which has a distinct country feel to it, we chose that style because the title sounded like a county title. My roots are country, so this isn’t so far off the mark. Usually, though, the matter of "heavy" or "light" never enters into the equation.
On VAGABOND BONES the original band is credited, as well as guests Sean Kelly and Rob MacEachern. What input did Sean and Rob have on the recording of the album?
Sean is all over the last CD. He helped produce and also co-wrote all the songs. He’s a gifted guitarist and writer and a hellva nice guy to boot. As for Rob, I’ve always admired his drumming. He’s a solid heavy hitter, which is just what the doctor ordered. Rob played drums on the Power of Rock and Roll CD and began Vagabond Bones with us as well. Half way through the band reformed and Rob was gracious enough to step aside to let Fritz slide back in. Whenever Fritz can’t play a live date Rob sits in for him on the kit. We have a couple of dates like that this summer.
What specific tracks did they play on?
I don’t get into that. If fans can’t tell who’s playing what by listening to the tracks, then why is it important?
Why didn’t you list inside the booklet who plays what on each track?
For the same reason.
Former drummer Brent ‘Ned’ Niemi is listed as using Pearl Drums. Did Ned play on the disc as well?
Yes. Ned played on "Make ’em Dance".
Do you feel you are gaining many new fans nowadays or are a lot of older fans re-discovering the band?
A lot of fans are now bringing their kids to the shows. The kids have been listening to Helix through their parents as they grew up.
With your recent stance (in SCENE and on Planet Helix) against local Rock Radio and their lack of support for local artists, has it been a benefit or helped out in anyway?
A benefit as far as I’m concerned. I’ve gotten press right across the country because of it. People are sympathetic to my cause because a lot of them are middle aged and can identify with what I’m going through. They weren’t giving me airplay anyway, so what did I have to lose. On the positive side of things, when I bring up this sore point with radio I also try to mention the stations that have supported us-most notably KOOL FM in Kitchener, K-Rock in Kingston, Q104 in Halifax, Rock 108 in Toronto, etc.
Have you gotten alot of feedback because of the article in the SCENE paper?
Al Beeber of the Lethbridge Herald did a full page article which was syndicated through many major newspapers right across the county. As well, Joel Rubinoff of the K-W Record did an article on the same topic. Brave Words and Bloody Knucles has also been running with the story.
Is it primarily just the local London, Ont stations or is it a Country wide issue?
County wide, although most stations will have me in if we’re doing a date in the city and they’re hooked up with the promoter. London pisses me off because even though the club does major advertising on the station, even though we’re from town, even though we’re on HEAVY rotation just down the road in Kitchener, even though we’ve sold out the last SIX times in the city, even though Dee Snider and Bruce Dickenson have played us on their shows, for some reason we’re not cool enough to get played on the local station. They won’t even give the song a shot by featuring it. WTF?
Do you see radio as a viable source to get the music heard nowadays?
Yes, if you do it properly. It’s getting harder all the time however and I have to fight for every inch.
You just released “Best Mistake” to Country Radio. How is that being accepted?
That was an experiment that I’ll have to wait a little bit to find out about. It’s hard getting on country because country fans traditionally don’t like rock artists trying to cross over. I think it’s seen by country fans as "opportunistic".
That is a first for Helix. Could it be a sign of things to come?
The ‘Schedule’ on Planet Helix looks pretty full full for 2010. How have the live shows been with Brent, Daryl and Fritz back?
Has this helped get the band a few extra bookings?
Yes. The word has been spreading about the lineup.
How is Kaleb fitting into the band?
Like a "duck" to water, er…Helix I mean.
Has he added a new perspective on things?
It’s always good to have a young perspective on things. Kaleb is wise beyond his years.
Is he giving you guys a Kick In The Ass with youthful energy?
No, we’re kicking his with ours.
Do you foresee this line-up sticking together for awhile?
Have you considered a ‘Live’ product that would capture this line-up?
Not right now. The next project will be the acoustic CD.
How is writing with Sean Kelly (Crash Kelly) going for the next album?
Hectic, but good.
Can we expect that in the spring?
The acoustic CD should be out by fall and we’ll work it into the next year.
Any other projects we can expect to see in the future?
Yes. An episode on the Fishing Musician show (no shit), a 10 minute short film with Michael Schult (who directed us for MTV CRIBS), the acoustic CD, and a new studio disc.
Anything you’d like to say to the readers of Metal-Rules and the fans out there?
Yes. Make sure to check out the Monday Morning video by going to Helixrockband on Youtube. Please spread the word about the new disc and GIVE RADIO BACK TO THE JOCKS!
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Brian and see you soon.