Never have I been more excited to do a review on an album! The iconic Canadian band Helix is back with a new release that I have been anticipating since its announcement. Yes I know there are “other” Canadian icons but none meant more to me then Helix!
Helix are back with Old School. It’s their 18th record and produced by Daryl Gray who is also the bass and keyboard player for the band. Almost all the songs were originally co-written by Paul Hackman, the former Helix guitar player that was tragically killed in a tour bus accident in Vancouver, Canada in 1992. Tapes and demos found in “Planet Helix” were rediscovered by Brian Vollmer and with that, the idea sprung forth to create a new Helix album of Old School songs.
I took the time to speak to Mr. Brian Vollmer about the album and asked a few questions about it. Here are his answers.
Trevor: What year were the tracks written in?
The tracks were written between 1981 & 1988. However, some of the tracks had lyric tweaks or parts added. Southern Comfort was nothing but a guitar lick and I wrote the lyrics and middle 8 this spring.
Trevor: Who plays on the tracks? Are there former members like Paul Hackman actually on guitar on the album or did Kaleb or Chris replay them?
Paul played guitar on “Games Mother Never Taught You” and “Your Turn to Cry”. Brent is also playing on those tracks, although I didn’t find out that fact until last week. I didn’t think he played on them ‘cos he’d already left the band, but I was mistaken. I actually phoned him to apologize for not having him in the credits. He just laughed and said “no big deal.” Kaleb, Chris, and Daryl played the remainder of the guitar tracks. I also suspect (now looking back) that Anthony Vanderburgh might have played on “Tie Me Down”. Sam Reid (from Glass Tiger) played on “Cheers.”
Trevor: Did Paul Hackman write all the songs, or did others have co-writes as well?
Paul and I wrote 7 of the tracks together. Cheers was a co-write with Bob Halligan, who wrote a slew of hit songs over his career including Some Heads are Going to Roll and Take These Chains by Judas Priest and Don’t Close Your Eyes by Kixx. Hound Dog Howling Blues I wrote with Mike Uzelac. It used to be a big live song in our set around 1981 and was one of the songs in the set when we played the El Macombo for our live broadcast on CHUM radio, just before we were signed to Capitol/E.M.I. Tie Me Down was a co-write with Anthony Vanderburgh. Daryl was also a co-writer on “If Tears Could Talk” and “Whiskey Bent & Hell Bound”
Trevor: Where was the album made, and produced. We know Harry Hess mastered the album (I believe) did he have any contributions in the music.
3 of the songs were extracted from 2″ tape recorded in 1998 at River Studios in Fort Erie for the Back for Another Taste album. Siegfried Meier did that for me at Beach Road Studios in Goderich. Cheers was taken from a cassette tape and cleaned up by Siegfried. Daryl and Harry did a one chord edit towards the end of the song. As for the rest of the material Daryl did most of the work; He added guitar and vocals to Tie Me Down & Your Turn to Cry and then completely re-recorded the remaining 6 tracks that were only on cassette. He did this by “tracing” each individual instrument. Between Daryl’s recording and Siegfried’s mix, I’d say that the two of them were most responsible for this album turning out as good as it has, although Harry sure put the polish on it.
Trevor: What had to be redone after the tapes where baked and restored?
Once the tapes were baked and transferred to digital, Siegfried mixed them…but!…Your Turn to Cry and Tie Me Down had to go back to Daryl, ‘cos he realized that the songs had never been completely finished. That’s when he added background vocals & some guitar to the songs.
Trevor: Why did fans have to wait until now to hear these great songs?
Some of the songs never made the Back for Another Taste album because I believe at the time our manager was looking for the “big hit single.” In his defense, some of the songs weren’t really 100% finished. For instance, “Closer” needed a major lyric re-write…Southern Comfort was nothing but a guitar lick. Each song had its own reason for not making the grade at the time. Things happen for a reason; the fact they are now out and everyone is grooving on them is a GOOD thing.
Trevor: Lastly what’s your thoughts on music in Canada today not playing new songs by established bands such as Helix?
There is a real void on Canadian radio for classic rock/metal/pop bands releasing new material. Classic rock stations will not play new music by classic rock bands. This is a shame as I believe that a good songwriter is a good songwriter is a good songwriter. A lot of these stations talk the talk but NEVER walk the walk. As Brent “The Doctor” Doerner used to say, “WE DON’T MAKE THE HITS-WE JUST PLAY’EM!!!!”
Trevor: Well I’d like to say Brian, thank you for taking the time to sit, and answer some questions about the new and fantastic sounding, Old School album, due out June 14th from Amazon! Its really appreciated!
Regarding Brian‘s Answer about the last question, it was actually a YouTube video he made talking about the lack of Classic Bands on Canada’s radio stations that inspired us here at the CGCM to make the Fantasy Island episodes part One & Two!. You can check those out here (Part One / Part Two)
Also check out CGCM Podcast Ep#60-Interview with Brian Vollmer. Brian joined podcast hosts recently to discuss the album and play some of its music.
Final Psycho Thoughts
I can remember listening to Helix “Rock You” as the VERY first rock song I ever heard WAY back when I was a little tyke. I was amazed to learn that they were Canadian as well. Helix was, and is a Canadian Icon of a band to me. Bigger than all the others IMO, and I didn’t care what others thought. I’m MORE than happy to write up and present the new great album by Helix to the masses, and let’s show Brian that the support is there for him and the guys! Not just from around the world, but here at home as well! You better go grab this fantastic CD!! Get it from Planet Helix in Canada, and From Perris Records in the USA
Furthermore, check out all my reviews: Trevor’s Archives
Trevor “Psychoone” McDougall
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