‘Helix’ to play here tomorrow

Gimme an R (R!)
E (E!)
T (T!)
R (R!)
O (O!)
Whatcha got? (Retro!)
And whatcha gonna do?
. . . Get up and party like it’s 1984, that’s what.
Whether you grew up during the ’80s and listened to the heavy rock and roll bands that surfaced starting as early as the late ’70s and hung on into the ’90s or not, everyone seems to be enjoying their retro sounds here in the 21st century.
A heavy metal/rock and roll resurgence has gripped the continent over the last few years—either out of nostalgia or the fact there is less quality music to be found out there.
Of course, all those “youth gone wild” who were fans in the ’70s and ’80s are now rich enough that they can afford to buy the music they banged to a couple decades ago. And by doing so, they can cling to their youthful memories.
For one Canadian retro rock group, this can only mean that after nearly 30 years in the business, this year will be one of their better ones.
Brian Vollmer, lead singer and founding member of “Helix,” is thrilled with the resurgence of the genre and the newfound interest in their group.
“This type of music is making a big resurgence,” he said. “I think it’s going to get bigger next year.”^This weekend alone, the veteran rock group has three shows on back-to-back nights, though that has as much to do with the costs of travelling these days—therefore booking as many shows as possible— as it does with the popularity of the genre, he admitted.
One of those shows is at the Rainy Lake Hotel here Friday night.
“It’s come back, ’70s and ’80s music,” said Larry Syrovy of the Rainy Lake Hotel. “It will probably draw a crowd that was in their teens in the late ’70s and ’80s.”^“Helix” will take to the stage after opening act and Battle of the Bands champs “Hearsay.” Doors open at 7:30 p.m., with tickets costing $10 in advance and $15 at the door.
Vollmer explained that for “Helix,” the next year will be much bigger for the group. They have a new album in the works—of which a few of the songs will be played at the upcoming local gig, though they will play mostly the old wellknown songs like “Rock You” and “Gimme, Gimme Good Lovin’.”^The band has begun an aggressive schedule to promoting themselves more.
In September, Vollmer plans to do a “walk-on” to an East Coastproduced television show called “The Trailer Park Boys” that plays on Showcase. He explained one of the characters on the show is a big “Helix” fan.
Vollmer plans on using the appearance as a chance to showcase a new single from the new album, called “Sunshine.”^He also has been asked to reappear on shows like “Open Mike with Mike Bullard” on CTV and the Comedy Network and “Off the Record” with Michael Landsberg on TSN.
(It turns out the VP of programming at The Sports Network is a big fan of the band and invited him to appear).
“There are a lot of bands from our era I could criticize,” Vollmer said of their ability to promote themselves. “We’ve always taken great care that people at newspapers and especially our fans are taken care of.
“Maybe it’s not as ‘bad boy’ as other bands of the era,” he added, noting that sometimes that “bad boy” persona turned people off, especially media, only shooting themselves in the foot—especially when things got difficult.
“It’s all about attitude,” he stressed.
The album is due out in the fall and Vollmer hopes the resurgence in the genre, as well as the television performances and the 30-year anniversary, will entice a record label to pick it up.
“I’m under the auspice that if you keep going, it’s going to come back around,” Vollmer said. “If you can survive the rough times, it will come back.”^Now in his 29th year with the band, who can really argue with him? Vollmer explained that by the early ’90s, there was less interest in heavy rock and roll music—and that things got tough. Add that to the death of long-time band member Paul Hackman and things really hit rock bottom.
“When the smoke cleared in 1997, I was pretty much the only one standing,” he said of the rough times.
Today, Vollmer has diversified his interests. “Helix” is still a big part of his life, but he also plays on weekends in a cover band in the London area and teaches singing.
“I’m just as busy as I was in the ’80’s, but I’ve kinda diversified, like the big corporations,” he said.
“I can do it [play as ‘Helix’] on a much smaller scale now and make more money,” he said of producing his own music.
Vollmer noted that these days with digital technology and CDs, an album only costs about $15,000 to make. And rather than earning between one and two dollars from a label, he can earn $8- $12 on each record.
So, he explained, that even if an album only goes halfway to gold, or about 25,000 copies, he can make a living.
“As long as you can break even and if one goes big, all that back product is a gold mine,” he said.
“[But] it only works if you’re putting our quality material.”^And he should know about selling back product. One of the biggest promotional tools the band has used to ride the retro wave has been the development of a Web site: www.planethelix.com.
“It’s been everything for ‘Helix,’” Vollmer said of being on the Internet.
“I made a conscious effort to do that,” he said of building the Web site. “I didn’t know anything about computers when I started.”^He explained his nephew showed him how to create a Web site and that after some frustrating times, it went up in crude fashion in 1997. Shortly after that, an old friend of his who was more proficient with the medium offered to help and after six months of development, the new planet Helix went online.
“We won 12 awards,” he said of the Web site design. “That’s practically unheard of for rock band sites.”^The site is a comprehensive history, archive, photo gallery, and online store for the band and its music. “Helix has an incredible history,” Vollmer said.
To further promote the band, Vollmer uses e-Bay by putting box sets of his albums up for bid. He explained that by doing so, people who are interested in the band and its music find out that the band is still going.
“We’ve reconnected with lots of old ‘Helix’ fans that didn’t know we were still going,” he said.