Helix: Hard Rocking It Old School Style
Helix: Hard Rocking It Old School Style
Helix has just released Old School via Perris Records, a rediscovery of older material dedicated to the memory of band member Paul Hackman. These raging tracks have been stored in a basement for years, and are now available for the entire world to rock out to. Highwire Daze recently chatted with lead vocalist and founding member Brian Vollmer to find out the current happenings taking placing within the Helix rock and roll compound and beyond…
The Old School album is dedicated to the memory of Paul Hackman. What did Paul Hackman do on this release and how surprised were you to find you had tracks with Paul on them?
Paul co-wrote 7 of the 10 tracks and played on at least two of them. I knew these tracks were stored in my basement. There’s more where those came from.
Select two songs from Old School and what inspired the lyrics.
I have a process when I write lyrics. Once the chorus and the melody in the verses is established I try to find lyrics that fit into the melody. In the case of Coming Back With Bigger Guns, it was at a moment in the history of the band where we felt people had counted us out, so the lyrics are a defiant “f**k you” to that attitude. Cheers was written by myself and Bob Halligan somewhere in the Bronx. Halligan was at his lowest; living in a flop house overlooking a busy street and sleeping on a mattress on the floor. That song exemplified our “never give up” attitude.
Harry Hess from Harem Scarem mastered the recording. How did he become involved with the mastering process?
The mastering was done by Harry Hess of Harem Scarem. I used Harry on GET YER HANDS DIRTY on the advice of Gavin Brown, the producer on that album. Harry is considered one of the best mastering guys in Canada now. I have a long history with Harry, so once again I felt very confident in his abilities.
Any even newer music on the horizon?
We’ve already written a couple of songs. I’d like to do the next album with the present line up. They’re hungry and then deserve it.
Any plans for Helix to tour here in the States?
No, not really. The work permits have become too expensive with no guarantees that we’ll get in. There’s also a 30% withholding tax. Too much work, too much risk, and no guarantee on the result. I’m hoping that maybe the Monsters of Rock Boat Cruise will book us next year. That’s in International Waters so there’s no need for a work permit and there’s lots of American fans from all over the U.S. Having said all this, if the right date shows up for the right money I will go through whatever bullshit it takes to play it.
What could one expect from a Helix 2019 show?
We always play the hits with 1 or 2 songs thrown in from the new disc and a couple from the past that we don’t normally play. We also try to re-arrange the deck chairs with crowd participation, solos, etc. Mixing it up from year to year is a good idea so the players onstage don’t become robots.
Any plans to release solo material in the future and when you look back on your solo album, what do you think of it now?
I’m toying with the idea of re-releasing “It’s a Business Doing Pleasure” as a solo album and re-naming it “It’s A Pleasure Doing Business”. That’s what it was supposed to be a solo album in the first place. If I did that I’d probably go for some re-mixes, drop a couple of songs and add a few that were never released. There’s also a couple of songs that ended up on Helix albums that could possibly be on something like this:
Angelina (from the EP “SKIN IN THE GAME”) and “Best Mistake I Never Made” from VAGABOND BONES.
Among the bands you toured with was the almighty Motorhead. What were your impressions of Lemmy and do you have any Lemmy stories you could share with us?
I loved Lemmy. He was a kind, intelligent, and funny guy. What you saw was what you got. Story: We both were sent to do a radio interview while on tour. The DJ told us the station wanted us to do an anti-drug commercial once the interview was done. I thought to myself, “What the hell is Lemmy going to say? He does an inordinate amount of crystal meth every day and drinks a bottle of vodka.” Well, Lemmy didn’t miss a beat! He pulled the microphone up to him, and in his usual gravelly Lemmy voice growled, “Hey kids-don’t do drugs! All my friends who done drugs are either dead or they’re going to die, so don’t do drugs!”
What do you think has kept you so passionate about Helix and music since 1973?
It was the only thing that I could do half ass well.
What’s up next for Helix?
More touring & writing. I’ve downsized from Planet Helix to a smaller house to give myself time to work on my films. I have tons of footage of the band from the last 40 years. I also want to do a series of films on what I teach- Bel Canto – the oldest method of singing in the world, invented by Leonardo Di Vinci.
Any messages for long time Helix fans as well as new converts?
If you like the new album, please spread the word. It’s tough for bands like us to get noticed nowadays, so we depend on our fans to keep our name out there.
(Interview by Ken Morton)