HELIX singer BRIAN VOLLMER!
Brian Vollmer is back for another taste! The one and only singer of Helix first did 20 Questions with Metal Sludge on February 18, 2003, and over 2 years later, he’s back to talk to us again! Perhaps we didn’t insult him badly enough the first time.
Actually, since we first talked to Brian, Helix has released a new CD called "Rockin’ In My Outer Space" and has kept touring throughout Canada and other desolate parts of the globe. But most importantly, coming Sunday (5/22/05) at 9 PM ET / 6 PM PT, Brian will be the special guest host on our very own Metal Sludge Radio show on XM Satellite Radio channel 41 – The Boneyard! So be sure to tune in to hear what Brian talks about and what songs he picked out to play.
Alright, enough chit-chat. Let’s get going with Brian Vollmer’s long-awaited Rewind! whoooooooooooooooo!
1. What are you currently up to? This is your one and only chance to plug your shit.
Presently working on our summer dates. The main focus is Sweden Rock Festival, which sees us return to Europe for the first time since 1990. Even though were only doing the one date, in many ways it’s just as much work as doing a two week tour.
2. This coming Sunday (May 22), you’ll be the special guest host for the Metal Sludge show on XM Satellite Radio channel 41 – The Boneyard. What kind of stuff will you be playing, what can people expect to hear you talk about, and how excited are you to be hosting our show in the first place?
I was very flattered to be asked to do the show. I’m playing songs by bands that I’ve had a connection with over our 31 years of touring and telling stories related either to the song or the group.
3. You wrote a book that offers an inside scoop on the band since its creation. When will it be published and why should people buy it?
I’m probably going to release the book myself. I’ve been doing my own CDs for years now, so putting together a book isn’t too different. You have to check into printing costs and then figure out what your break even point is. People should buy it if they want to know the story of Helix (obviously) and secondly because it describes a time in rock that we’re not likely to see again. Helix did some great tours, played with some great people, and the book illustrates how many times life on the road does take on a "Spinal-Tap" atmosphere.
Helix circa 1980-something
4. What exactly do you do all day?
I get up around 5:30 A.M., shit, shower, and shave. By 6 A.M. I’m at Tim Horton’s reading my Toronto Sun. By 7:15 I’m home and on my computer checking my email. By 8.A.M. I’m at the gym, finishing off my work-out at 10:30. From there until I teach in the afternoon I make my phone calls, do my running around, and generally take care of business. My teaching day ends around 8 P.M. I have supper and it’s back on the computer until bed-time. On the days that I don’t teach I’m also involved in other parts of my business-I sing with both the London, Ontario and Kitchener, Ontario orchestras. I also sell architectural antiques.
5. Rate the following singers on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being someone who has no business behind a microphone, and 10 being the ultimate rock vocalist.
Vince Neil =
Paul Stanley = 9
Joe Elliot =
Ozzy Osbourne =
Ronnie James Dio = 10
Alice Cooper =
David Coverdale =
Bret Michaels =
Jani Lane =
Can’t do the rest ? sorry. Whoever ended up being No. 1 would kill me when we next met.
6. In your opinion, who’s the most overrated band today?
7. Name the 3 highest points and the 3 lowest points of your career to date.
The Kiss Tour 1983, The Quiot Riot/Whitesnake tour 1985, hanging out with the Trailor Park Boys 2003.
Lowest Points: The death of Paul Hackman, Brent Doerner leaving the band, the years between 1994-2001.
8. Of the following, which do you prefer and why:
Narwhals or belugas = Belugas. Don’t know why. Just a quirk of mine.
Star Wars or Lord of the Rings = Star Wars. Wookies remind me of Chris Holmes.
Medicine Hat or Moncton = Medicine Hat. I love Alberta and played in Medicine Hat many times.
Dan Fawcett or Shaun Saunders = Shaun Sanders. Dan couldn’t sing.
No Rest For The Wicked or Wild In The Streets = No Rest for the Wicked. The songs were written in the bars and have that grass-roots feel to them.
Glass Tiger or Men Without Hats = Glass Tiger. Their keyboard player played keys for us on Dream On.
Gerry Finn or Mike Hall = Gerry Finn. He’s a great guy who’s always in a good mood.
Frosted Flakes or Froot Loops = Frosted Flakes. Froot Loops taste like shit.
Tea Party or Kittie = Kittie. I teach Morgan and Mercedes. Tea Party always sounded like a cheap version of The Doors to me. And I fuckin’ hate the Doors.
9. Give us your fondest memory about touring or being in the following cities:
Boston = Great big dog sized rats in the alley beside the one club we played at.
Winnipeg = Got laid silly here. Beautiful women, great parties. Colin James used to come up the fire escape at the Osbourn Village Inn and smoke black hash with us. He was underage and couldn’t get in the club.
Cleveland = Playing the Agora Ballroom live on the air during a noon hour set on the No Rest for the Wicked Tour.
Dallas = Doing an interview on Z Rock with the original DJ cast. Playing a 20,000 seat venue there on the Quiot Riot/Whitesnake tour.
San Francisco = Playing there as the back up band for Michael Bolton. We became good friends and once were bowling partners at The Hollywood Bowl (a bowling ally in Hollywood) to help raise money for charity. Mickey Thomas from Jefferson Starship was in the next lane.
Miami = Went down to visit our old drummer in Clearwater and we took a drive down to Key Largo. On the way back the rent a car I had got a flat during rush hour on the Miami freeway. The rental company didn’t include the key to get the hub cap off the tire so Fritz fixed the problem by ripping it right off.
Indianapolis = Went down to visit our old soundman Ken Heague, who had landed the job as "special assistant to the Indianapolis Colts." Ken took me on the owner’s private jet (the guys’s mother was just getting off with the wife of the former govenor) and gave me a bottle of $200/bottle wine which I drank several months later during the first and second period of a Leaf’s game. I also had tickets to the game against Miami the next day. I also had a pass which allowed me to go down to the sidellines before the game, which I did. As I was standing at center field watching the Indie cheerleaders go over some drill, Chuck Magione walked up to me, French horn in hand, and asked if it was alright to stand there. "Stand anyplace you want Chuck," I told him….
Montreal = Playing the forum with Triumph in 1984. Went jogging around the upper level in the afternoon. Ironically, we used to play right next door at The Moustache Club owned by Norm Silverstone, who looked exactly like Allistor Syms. Bikers would drink quart bottles of beer and smoke hash openly right at the tables.
Las Vegas = On the Wild in the Streets tour the band wasn’t doing too well in the States and we ended up touring some of the worst clubs imaginable. We were booked into a hunting lodge on top of a mountain outside of Vegas. When we got there and realized that our P.A. was 2 little speakers about a foot high we cancelled the gig. One of the waitresses had a glass eye and was suggesting heavily that she wanted to blow me so we headed to the cabins out back for a little dirty work. Unnoticed by ourselves was that most of the band and road crew were following us. Suddenly in the middle of my blow job we were surrounded by about 6 other dicks hanging out. The waitress paused momemtarily, looked up with her one good eye and said, "Look, I’m not getting paid to do this you know!"
Berlin = Played the last date of our Ian Gillan tour here and drank Jaegermeister for the first time, courtesy of Ian Gillan.
Helix at some point in the mid 80s
10. We heard a story about you taking a bunch of bottles of Crown Royal from a club and hiding them in your luggage, only to have them explode all over your belongings. What exactly happened, and did any of those bottles actually survive the trip?
Sorry. Don’t know what you’re talking about here. First off, I’ve never stole anything from a club in my life. There were times however, when we had to sneak booze out of the club (that was on the ryder) because the club wasn’t allowed to let it leave there. But I don’t ever remember them exploding. I did go to Cuba and buy 4 bottles of rum that blew up on me coming home however.
11. What do you remember most about writing or recording the following songs:
Women, Whiskey and Sin = I stole the hook line from the Styx song "Born for Adventure".
Heavy Metal Love = Wrote this one about Joan Jett at The Queen’s Hotel in Seaforth, Ontario.
Rock You = Played this song for the first time at the El Rosa Villa, where the guy from Pantera was murdered.
Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’ = The video was done in Hollywood at Francis Ford Coppola’s old studio. One of the girls in the video was Tracy Lords, whom all the other girls referred to as "The Slut". Tracy took one of my band guys out to the trailer and did him good. The astonishing thing was she gave him $100 U.S. to take a cab a couple of blocks back to the band’s hotel.
Deep Cuts The Knife = Written by Paul and Bob Halligan in N.Y.C. Aldo Nova wanted us to leave it off the album and replace it with one of his songs called Heart of Stone.
Dream On = Sent to us by some publisher. Had never heard the song before and didn’t know who did it, but loved it from the first time I heard it.
Running Wild in the 21st Century = Took 6 months to write. Smoked a joint one night and wrote all the lyrics in 5 minutes.
That Day Is Gonna Come = Inspired by a club in Tonawanda that we played. We were laughing at all the old band 8X10’s on the wall and wondering where they all went and what happened to them. Essentially a story of Paul’s and my life.
I’m A Live Frankenstein = The song is about having a hangover and having to "pull it all together".
The Ballad of Sam & Mary = I’ve always thought it strange that seemingly normal people turn out having some of the most bizarre sex lives.
12. Your onstage somersaults became a trademark of the band and you’ve even been injured while doing them. How did this come about, and have you ever considered getting the whole band to play ring around the rosie or duck-duck-goose instead?
Fun-n-ny! Actually I did my first "flip" out of boredom way back in the 70’s. We were playing the Waterloo Motor Inn and hardly anyone showed up to see us. We had these giant wedge-shaped monitors and they worked just perfect for it. Speaking of "goose" however-we once mooned 3,000 university students in Boca Raton. It was during the Nightranger tour, right in the middle of Sister Christine. Does that count? I also did a flip from the P.A. in Germany on the "Christmas Metal Meeting Tour" with Motorhead, Mercyful Fate, and Girlschool. Lemmy was watching me at the side of the stage. I went right through the stage into the scaffolding underneath but somehow jumped back out of my hole before I missed a word.
13. Time for a Metal Sludge walk down memory lane! What do you remember most about the following years:
1974 = band formed. Originally called "The Helix Field Band"
1977 = We release our first album Breaking Loose
1980 = Touring western Canada. Was in the middle of the first oil boom and a happening place to play.
1983 = Sign with Capitol/E.M.I. and release "No Rest for the Wicked’
1986 = Long Way to Heaven becomes a Number One album in Sweden. We tour there, even inside the Arctic Circle.
1989 = We record Back for Another Taste-our first album without Brent.
1991 = I buy my house and dub it "Planet Helix."
1995 = My teaching practise takes off.
1999 = Brent, Fritz, Daryl, and myself record 3 tracks for "B-Sides" CD. This would be the last time the three of us would ever record together.
2003 = Travel to the set of the Trailor Park Boys and do a skit with them which appears on the end of year DVD.
What is this, the members of a Blue Oyster Cult tribute band on break at their day job? Fuck no, it’s Helix in the mid 70s!
14. Yes or no, has Brian Vollmer ever:
Piloted a dogsled = NO
Pissed on the North Pole = NO
Picked up a hitchhiker = YES
Been challenged to a duel = NO
Jacked off with a jelly donut = NO
Spent the night in a snow cave = NO
Gone over Niagara Falls in a barrel = NO
Gotten aroused during a prostate exam = NO
Shit in a hot tub = NO
Shoplifted = NO
15. You’re from Canada, so this is right up your alley! Rank the following Canadian chicks on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being a bucket of moose piss, and 10 being a goddess of the Great White North.
Pamela Anderson = 10
Neve Cambell = 6
Alanis Morrissette = 7
Aimee Mann = 5
Shania Twain = 9
Sass Jordan = 4
Lee Aaron = 8
Avril Lavigne = 3
Celine Dion = 1
Anne Murray = 2
16. Helix has been around for over 25 years, and including yourself, there have been over 25 members in the band. According to our own bastard boy floyd’s calculations, this equals at least 1 new member for each year. Can’t you find qualified help in Canada, or are you simply that difficult to work with?
We’ve been together for 31 years and have probably had more than 25 members. In the beginning of the band people left because they had never been on the road and couldn’t handle it. The core of the band was always Paul, Brent, and myself. The three of us were together from 1975 until 1989, some 14 years. Once Brent left in ’89 and Paul died in 1990, it was up to me to hire the musicians as I own/am the band. I tell people that there have been many different crews but only one captain. I’m only as strong as my crew so I try to pick musicians that are "low maintenance", good players and performers, and who have a good attitude. Occasinally I have to change people but I always explain to them why I am changing them and usually give them a chance to change their ways. I figure if I’m paying the freight, then I call the shots. The line-up I have now are a great bunch of people with great attitudes. The feedback on our last western Canadian tour was nothing but positive.
17. Name one good thing about:
Girls = I’m married to the best one.
Drugs = Cheaper than booze nowadays.
Cucumbers = A great substiute for dildo challenged gay people
Igloos = Eskimos fuck in them
Hockey = There was none this year so I didn’t have to go through 90% of the season thinking the Leafs were actually going to win something.
The British = I married the best one.
Submarines = I don’t live in one
Kitchener = Octoberfest
Modern dentistry = Without which I would have no teeth
Donuts = Inspiration for Headpin’s hit song, "Donuts make you feel like Dancing?"
18. Pending that you’re still alive, where do you see yourself in 10 years, and what do you think you’ll be doing?
Still playing and doing the same thing.
19. What exactly is a helix?
A part of the D.N.A. chromosome.
The reason Helix got dropped from their deal with Capitol
20. The Last of Brian Vollmer:
Last book you read = The Last Juror (no kidding)
Last sporting event you attended = Listowel Junior B Cyclones
Last new vehicle you purchased = 2005 Jetta Diesal
Last thing you bought with Canadian Tire money = condoms
Last time you talked to Chris Holmes = Maple Leaf Gardens in the late 80’s. Blackie and he had just banged two chicks in the dressing room and were on their way to the stage.
Last time you talked to Keith Zurbrigg = A couple of months ago.
Last time you saw Daryl Gray naked = Can’t remember. Definetly don’t want to.
Last time you performed in the USA = Chicago. Two years ago. The club ripped us off. So did Impulse Records down the street.
Last time you got blind drunk = During the end of my first marriage.
Last time you barfed = The same night.
21. Time for Metal Sludge’s Word Association! We mention a name, and you give us your thoughts.
Chris Jericho = who’s that?
Larry Gillstrom = Kickaxe. Great guys. Good to hear they’re back together.
Punky Mendoza = ?
Gino Scarpelli = Old friend
Geezer Butler = Wasn’t in Sabbath when we played with them. (I don’t think)
Glenn "Archie" Gamble = Like a son to me.
Nikki Sixx = Great showman. Once did "rate a record" and gave glowing comments on the song "Rock You".
Sebastian Bach = Showed me a column in his wallet that I wrote for Canadian Musician on singing. Told me he had carried it around for years. Last time I saw him was at the closing of The Gasworks.
Paul Rogers = prissy
Rob Halford = amazing voice
Now that’s how a Metal Sludge Rewind is done! Brian talked a bit of smack, told some good stories, and he let everyone know that he’s not much of a Sum 41 fan. We’ll have to ask him more about that whenever we do a 3-Wind with him.
Want to know more about the life and times of Brian Vollmer and Helix? Sure, why not! Head on over to the official Helix Web site at www.planethelix.com.
And don’t forget to check out Brian when he hosts the Metal Sludge Radio Show on XM 41 – The Boneyard this coming Sunday night, 5/22/05 at 9 PM ET / 6 PM West. Tune in or you suck!