Helix Rock On


Although their tour schedule is considerably more relaxed these days than it was in decades past, Canadian rockers Helix have plenty of gas left in the tank.

The group, best known for original hits “Rock You,” “Deep Cuts The Knife” and “Wild In The Streets” will take the stage of Casino New Brunswick this Saturday night alongside fellow Canadian favourites Honeymoon Suite.

While some legacy bands are content to play live shows with little regard for writing new material, Helix is taking the opposite approach. In the time since the turn of the century, the band has released an impressive four studio records, one live record as well as a number of compilations.

Helix vocalist Brian Vollmer tells the Times & Transcript that he doesn’t quite understand the reasons why classic rock groups would not want to continue writing and recording new music.

“I could probably find another job and make ten times the money,” he says. “Music is something we do out of love. The fact is, I have never gotten a charge out of anything the way that I have with writing music.”

Asked what motivates Helix to maintain a semi-regular album release schedule and the live shows to go with it, Brian says it is a staunch refusal to simply roll over and die, as though their best days are behind them.

Unlike many other bands that choose to let others dictate their destiny for better or for worse, Helix chose to take matters into their own hands.

“I have never understood why older artists aren’t interested in writing new music. It is almost as though they are signalling the end of their band by refusing to dive into writing new material,” Brian says.

“But I feel that another mistake many middle-aged artists make is that they become so accustomed to letting other people steer the ship that they don’t want to do it themselves. These days, musicians have to be the writers, the booking agents and the publicists. You end up wearing multiple hats to keep the ball rolling. You have to take the initiative to develop relationships with people in different areas of the business.

“Who could have ever predicted that one of the Trailer Park Boys would reveal their favourite band was Helix? The most important thing for any band to do these days is to just keep digging.”

As idealistic as Brian may come across as, he acknowledges that the music business has undergone radical changes over the last decade. Although Helix is fortunate to have had a solid string of hits behind them, the challenges that they face are virtually the same as many up and coming band.

“In terms of radio, there is not a significant number of outlets for new music,” he says. “Regardless of Helix’s track record of past hits, programmers have told me right across the country that no matter how good one of our new songs might be, radio will not play it.

“It’s quite a shame too because at one point in history, radio would get behind a great song because it was a great song. Those days are gone. Frankly, though, it is not going to discourage us from putting out new material.”

Brian shares that later this month, the group will begin recording its next studio effort, tentatively titled Bastard of the Blues. While a release date has not yet been firmed up, he says that he hopes to have physical copies in hand in time for the group’s tour of Spain this coming May.

Outside of Helix, Brian keeps busy giving vocal lessons. For the past 20-plus years, he has been teaching vocalists on the Bel Canto style of singing, the origins of which date back a number of centuries. According to Brian, the technique has helped strengthen his own voice, ensuring its longevity for many years to come.

“The biggest limitation that any vocalist can put on their voice is tension, and so the only proper way to sing without putting an immense amount of tension on your vocal chords is the Bel Canto style of singing. It helps build the voice as well as (helping) build character. When you see guys singing and looking as though a vein is going to pop out of their neck, they are not using the Bel Canto technique.”

What: Helix with Honeymoon Suite
When: Saturday, Jan. 11, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 
 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $19.99 (plus taxes and service charges). Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca

Article published in the January 9, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript