By Keith Sharp
Kitchener’s Helix are celebrating an event-filled 2016 by releasing a new record, `Rock It Science’ in the midst of a busy touring schedule which sees them on the same bill as Honeymoon Suite performing at the Timmins’ Kayak Challenge, Saturday August 27th.
For a year that kicked off with Helix performing on the All-Star Monsters Of Rock boat cruise February 22-26 which sailed from Miami to the Bahamas and back, on a lineup which included the likes of Tesla, Queensryche, Steve Via, Great White plus fellow Canadians, Anvil, Sebastian Bach and The Killer Dwarfs, the band has been extremely active.
Helix chalked up Spring gigs in Western Canadian casinos plus a full slate of summer festival dates in such diverse venues as Oromocto, New Brunswick (with Honeymoon Suite), Mattawa Ontario (with Vince Neill), Thunder Bay (with The Cult and Sass Jordan) and Timmins . They even headlined a local gig in Kitchener before 5,000 fans when original headliners Quiet Riot failed to show.
Not bad for a band originally formed in 1974 that has recorded a total of 13 studio albums, three live records and nine compilations including their latest; `Rock It Science’, a retro collection of
previous tracks, going back to their 1979 indie debut `Breaking Bones’ (“Billy Oxygen”) as well as featuring one new track “Gene Simmons Says Rock Is Dead”
“It’s an old trick (co-writer) Sean Kelly and I pulled from our writer’s tool kit where you drop a famous name into the title,” admitted lead vocalist/chief songwriter Brian Vollmer. “Simmons gave this interview where he was talking about rock being dead so we thought we had to react to his comments.”
At a time when many classic rock bands have given up recording new material, Helix continue to roll out fresh product, their last studio effort being the 2014 `Bastard Of The Blues’ release that Vollmer co-wrote with top session player Sean Kelly.
These days I view new recordings as commercials,” explained Vollmer, while vacationing at Grand Bend on Lake Huron. “We release a new song to kick off our summer’s touring activity and it gives us something to talk about with print and radio media. “When a band releases a new record, it provides a new perspective in people’s minds. They see the band as being more creative and more viable, not just some band on a continual milk run. With a new record, you have a new story to tell.”
As someone who has experienced many ups and downs within the business, Vollmer feels Helix is still viable today because they have adjusted to changes within the industry. “You have to change your modus operandi,” he notes. “Music has gone full circle back to releasing singles instead of albums. It makes more sense releasing singles because no one has the patience to listen to an entire new CD – they just want that one new track.”
The fact that Helix features at least three musicians who have been long-term fixtures in the band has helped to maintain their popularity with himself, bassist Daryl Gray and drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz survivors from their mid-eighties glory days when tracks like “Rock You”, “Heavy Metal Love” and “Gimme Gimme Some Lovin” established the band in the forefront of the world’s hard rock scene.
“Even our new guys; guitarists Kaleb (Duckman) Duck and Chris Julke have been indoctrinated by long-term player, Brent (The Doctor) Doerner,” noted Vollmer. “He’s had them over to his house to show them just how he played and to pass along valuable tips. We have instituted the band’s ethics into their performances.”
Vollmer acknowledges it is inevitable that, over a period of time, original members will be lost and that a lot of hired hands are there for the wrong reasons. “I struggled through the 90’s, trying to keep a lineup together and discovered that a lot of `rental players’ are just there for a paycheque.”
Another aspect of Helix that keeps them attractive to their audience is the ability to shake up their set lists (easily done when you can pull from 13 studio albums) and insert different tracks for different occasions.
“Yes there are some bands that just keep playing the same old set list, but not us, we love mixing things up,” notes Vollmer who says the new compilation has allowed them to dig up nuggets like “Billy Oxygen” and “Your A Woman Now” from their first album along with debuting their new track “Gene Simmons Says Rock Is Dead.
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Comparing Helix to new bands, he feels the biggest difference is that over the years, Helix has created a strong loyalty with their fan base.
“We always put on a first class show, our fans know we are going to deliver a strong performance every time,” Vollmer notes. “We’ve played every toilet and dingy nightclub in this country and our true fans recognize this. We have partied with our fans, attended barbeques and even slept with a few of them.”