Helix having too much fun to stop

With more than 30 years of writing, performing and hard rocking already behind them, Ontario band Helix will make a return visit to Metro Moncton with a show at the Rockin’ Rodeo on Thursday.

When the group last played Metro in November 2009, a sold-out crowd greeted them at the Rockin’ Rodeo.

Helix lead vocalist Brian Vollmer is hopeful their upcoming show at the Rodeo will allow them to repeat that feat.

To help quench their fans’ seemingly insatiable appetite for music, Helix intended to release two records this coming fall. The first record will be a hits compilation covering the group’s material from the years 2000 through 2010 while the second record will feature the group giving some of their biggest hits the acoustic treatment.

In addition to those upcoming projects, Helix is still actively promoting its most recent studio record Vagabond Bones. Released independently last year, Vollmer is proud of the fact that the group has already broken even on the cost of making the record, which is no small feat in today’s market.

“I think it is a huge accomplishment, not just for us but for any band in today’s marketplace,” Vollmer says from his London, Ontario home.

Vollmer says that while the band has national distribution to get the record in stores, the bulk of its CD sales take place at their live shows. Rather than spending the money to hire a radio and publicity person, Vollmer does the work himself, allowing him to get to know radio program directors and media personnel right across the country.

Vollmer will be the first to tell you that while classic rock radio have no qualms about diving into Helix’s storied catalogue for music to play, stations are a little hesitant to get behind the group’s new material, no matter how solid it is.

“I’m lucky in that I have pockets of people rooting for me,” he says. “In the Atlantic region, Anna Zee at Q104 in Halifax has been great, as has Sean Crawford (Crawdaddy) at C103 in Moncton. These guys are willing to give our new stuff a shot.”

Crawdaddy has zero qualms about admitting that he is a child of the ’80s and a lover of bands from the same era. He says he has enjoyed the last couple of Helix discs and is glad to be able to do his part to support the band.

“Vagabond Bones had a great lead off single (“Make ‘Em Dance”) and the opening song ‘The Animal Inside’ was strong as well,” he says. “If I was 16 years old again, learning to play guitar and these records came out, I would be cranking them 24/7 like I did with Helix’s “Walking The Razor’s Edge” back in the early ’83 or ’84.”

Vollmer is more than appreciative of the support shown to the band by guys like Crawdaddy and believes that the fundamental fault at many radio stations is the fact that they rely too heavily upon consultants who advise the station what they should or shouldn’t be playing.

“I say that radio stations need to put radio back in the hands of the disc jockeys; people who are in touch with the music,” he says. “You’ve got bands like Helix and Honeymoon Suite continuing to write new music but all of us are encountering the same challenge in getting new material played on radio: It isn’t happening for the most part.

“But I am ultimately in the music business for the sake of writing songs. I believe that if you do something for the love of it, everything else will work out in the end.”

Helix has maintained a consistent tour schedule for the year to date, playing a total of 27 shows in major urban centres like Edmonton, Ottawa, Calgary and Toronto.

But included with many of those major city concerts are shows in smaller, out-of-the-way places that might not typically see bands pass through. After all, not a whole lot of bands make a point of playing places like Bathurst or Chester, Nova Scotia.

For a band of Helix’s stature, it just makes good business sense to include some smaller Canadian cities that have seemingly and perhaps surprisingly occupied the bulk of their schedule this year.

“We have had a great summer playing shows right across this country. For many of the dates we play, we often end up flying in to play an anchor date and will often have shows in the surrounding areas to help make the most of our time. Logistically, it just makes sense,” Vollmer says.

With the “classic” line-up of the band in tow, Vollmer insists things are terrific in the world of Helix. With the exception of newest Helix member Kaleb Duck, the other three Helix members (guitarist Brent Doerner, bassist Daryl Gray and drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz) were with the band through what many would consider their commercial heyday, when Muchmusic actually played music videos. It wasn’t atypical to see “Rock You,” “Wild In The Streets” and “Make Me Do Anything You Want” in the run of your day on the nation’s former music station.

“I feel really good about the classic Helix lineup we have playing now,” Vollmer says. “The musicianship is great and we are able to pull off vocal harmonies between us; it’s great to have that support on vocals.”

Again, with the exception of Duck, the members of Helix aren’t exactly spring chickens anymore. But Vollmer doesn’t see tossing in the towel on the band anytime soon.

“Frankly, I don’t know how long it will last. I would love to think it could last forever but I don’t dwell upon it much either way. I am enjoying the ride too much to think about stopping now.”

Article published in September 7, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript