As told to Kelly Fitzharris Coody
Sick Lit Magazine: How did you and your band get started?
Brian Vollmer: Originally I was in a little high school band in my hometown of Listowel, Ontario called Homegrown. The band entered themselves in the Battle of the Bands at the Central Ontario Exhibition (C.O.E.) We didn’t even come close to winning, but through being at the contest I met some Kitchener musicians: Bruce Arnold, Ron Watson, & Rick Trembley. Eventually we formed the first version of Helix that also included Don Simmons and Keith Zurbrigg. After about 6 months we acquired a manager and lost a member. The lost member was Rick Trembly and the new manager was William Seip. William or “Bill” Seip would be our manager until around 1996 and instrumental in the direction and success of the band. Once Bill became our manager we went “on the road”-first on the northern Ontario circuit, then out to eastern Canada, and eventually to western Canada. We also played across the border in New York State and in Michigan. The band was formed in 1974 and eventually was signed to Capitol/E.M.I. U.S. in 1983. From beginning to signing we went through several members and released two indie albums: Breaking Loose (1979) and White Lace & Black Leather (1981). The line-up when we signed with Capitol in 1983 was Mike Uzilac (soon to be replaced by Daryl Gray: bass), Brent Doerner (guitar), Paul Hackman (guitar), and Greg “Fritz” Hinz on drums. This line-up would be together from 1983 until Brent left in 1989.
SLM: What influences you as a musician? What artists would you say shaped your musical style–how has that changed over the years?
BV: My first influences were whiskey throated r&b, rock, and pop singers, i.e. Burton Cummings of the Guess Who, Joe Cocker, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, Steve Marriot of Humble Pie, and John Kay of Steppenwolf.
SLM: If you could give some advice to start-up musicians who are struggling, what would it be?
BV: Follow your gut, it’s God talking to you…Stay focused, practice, and do it for the love of your “craft”. If you do this you will be successful and money will follow.
SLM: What are YOU listening to right now?
BV: ROCK OR BUST
SLM: What are some misconceptions out there about the music industry that you’d like to clear up? Or, conversely, what is one thing you can’t stand seeing right now that’s popular within the music industry? I, myself, have always been disillusioned with “pop;” that’s not to say that there aren’t some talented pop musicians out there. I have an issue with artists who don’t play their own instruments or sing live; I don’t get it. I remember when MTV took a nosedive down the reality TV path and it broke my heart. Before that, MTV had been my link to the world of alternative and rock music, especially 120 minutes with Matt Pinfield.
BV: The music industry will only feed the public what they are gullible enough to swallow.