Brian Vollmer Interview
Canada continues to export some of the best rock around today. Their latest contribution to the world of rock is "Helix." Signed to Capitol Records, Helix has been touring the world with such acts as "Kiss," "Heart." Ronnie James Dio, Motorhead, Quarterflash, and Meatloaf.
We caught up with "Helix" recently, at the Palace Theatre in Albany, NY. where they opened for "Black Sabbath."
Lead singer Brian Vollmer did the talking.
Q. Brian, why do you think this year's Grammy Awards did not recognize the contribution of "heavy metal" to the music business?
A. I think it's probably just because they want to make it a family type of show, right, and that doesn't necessarily include heavy metal music. It's a simple fact. It's just a marketing technique.
Q. To some people, the rock 'n roll acts of today seem a lot stranger than before. Do you have to look like Boy George or Annie Lennox (The Evrythmics) in order to get a record deal?
A. I think rock 'n roll has always been, to an extent, shock. It's always been something your parents don't particularly like, or something out of the norm; Elvis Presley shaking his hips. Back then it was looked at as a very sexual thing. Rock 'n roll is a form of rebellion.
Q. In the nine years "Helix" has been together, you have never been out of work. How is that possible?
A. It's a much healthier bar scene in Canada. There’s a lot of bars and they usually run 6-7 days a week, whereas bars here seem to run 1-2 days a week from my experience. You tend to travel more; at least we did, in Canada. If you stay in one city too long, you eventually burn yourself out. You can only play the same songs, to the same people, so many times.
Q. "Helix" has done what quite a few groups have done you put out your own record. Why put out your own record over submitting demo tape to a record company?
A. We did that, but we got turned down by the record companies, so we just went ahead and put out our own albums. The first two albums didn't sell that many units, maybe 10-15,000 each. But, the important fact was, the record industry started to take us seriously. So did the agents and the people in particular. Now that money is very tight, a record company is not only looking at good songs, they're looking at how long a band has been together. There's been so many bands a record company signs up. and the very next album the band is changing members. It's not only the top execs, and record companies you have to deal with, it's the representatives who have to go out and work the stores and the stations. They don't want to be working with someone they're not sure of, that they don't think is serious about what they're doing?
Q. You say, "We tried to make our appearances rare enough that our gigs are always considered an event." How do you pull that off if you're working six nights a week?
A. In Canada, it wasn't that hard. We could play the Ontario circuit for a couple of months, and then we'd go to Western Canada for four months. By the time we got back, people wanted to hear the band again. So we ended up playing those markets once or twice a year, at the most then we'd go to Eastern Canada. Right now we're doing intermittent touring The record company is helping us to live. We're still only making $160 a week (per band member). When we can get a tour like Black Sabbath or Heart, it sort of supplements our income.
Q. Today you pretty much steer clear of club dates. Why?
A. We shy away from clubs. It's just a matter of common sense. Why go see a band in concert and pay $12 a ticket, when you can see them in a club for $6 and drink as well. You need large concerts for exposure for your album. And there's also the mental aspect of it. People tend to regard hotel bands as just that. They never look at them as concert bands; A lot of bands get locked in the circuit and can never get out. They're doomed.
Q. Some people say all hard rock music sounds the same. How would you describe the difference in hard rock bands, to those people?
A. Well, first, I don't like to class things into heavy rock, and heavy metal. You have to take each group on their own. As far as trying to pigeonhole a band, I can't see how you can do it. You can't say that "Def Leppard" who are considered heavy metal is the same as "Motorhead." They're at the opposite ends of the spectrum. "Scorpions" are not like "Motorhead." "Scorpions" are not like "Def Leppard." So, basically the people who try to class heavy metal as heavy metal and say they can't see a difference, basically don't like heavy metal, the way I see it.
Official Website: PlanetHelix.com
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