Members of the band during this time period:
Lead vocals: Brian Vollmer: 1974 to present
Drums: “Archie” Gamble: 1996-2004, Brian Doerner: 2005, Brent Neimi (The “Mayor”): 2005-2008, Gregory Hinz: 2008 to present.
Guitar: Shawn Sanders & Dan Faucett: 2000-2002, Jim Lawson 2002-2009, Rainer Weichman: 2002-2005, Rick Van Dyk: 2006-2008, Brent Doerner: 2008-2012
Bass: Jeff Fountain: 2000-2005, Paul Fonsenca: 2015-2008, Sean Kelly: 2009, Daryl Gray: 2009 to present
The 90s nearly destroyed Helix, but out of the ashes rose a stronger band better equipped to deal with the new musical landscape of the computer age. The old model of shopping your music to the record companies in an attempt to get signed were over. Vollmer decided to do it the opposite way and record his own albums with his own money and then look for licensing. If that failed he simply sold them himself through mail order companies, at live gigs, or through the Helix website. Sales didn’t set the world on fire but they did pay the bills, enough to keep the band going.
The live band struggled along. The band, which for the past decade had been a concert act, was suddenly forced by economics back into the bars. It looked like the band was down and out. Dates were starting to disappear and the band was now playing venues with poor lighting, poor sound systems, and terrible sight lines. Brent had left the band by 1988 and from the time he left the band the succession of players to come and go seemed to be endless…By the time Helix reached the year 2000, Brian Vollmer was the only original member of the band left.
Still, Vollmer refused to pack it in. The 2000’s began with which was essentially the guys which had been in the London band Nasty Klass. Archie Gamble, who had been in the band since the time Fritz left around 1996, was in that band, and so, when Mike Hall and Daryl Gray left at the end of one particularly heated recording session, Vollmer ended up hiring Dan Faucett and Shawn Sanders to play guitar, and Jeff Fountain to play bass. Eventually I had to let Dan go, at which point Shawn also quit. I had been working at Mole Studios with Rainer Weichmann, so it only seemed natural to ask him to play guitar for me. Archie suggested I look into Jim Lawson to fill the other guitar position. Lawson had played for a band on the Bill Seip management roster called Cherry Smash. I also enlisted Cindy Rainer to sing background vocals-the first time a female had been in the band.
This line-up lasted about two years. Around this time Archie left the band and was replaced by Brian Doerner, who was eventually replaced by Ned Niemi, who was replaced by Fritz when the band reformed. Three notable live gigs we had during this time were Sweden Rock Festival (with Brian Doerner on drums), the Alice Cooper Tour (with Brent Neimi on drums) and The 30th anniversary concert. Generally we were touring in support of the Rockin’ In My Outer Space CD during this time.
Eventually Brian Doerner joined Saga to be replaced (as I’ve said above) by Brent Neimi. I had to let Rainer and Cindy go for economic and direction reasons and replaced Rainer with Rick Van Dyk. Jeff Fountain left to join Bobnoxious to be replaced by Paul Fonsenca. This was the line-up that toured on the POWER OF ROCK AND ROLL CD and eventually played on THE HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS CD.
ON THE RECORDING SCENE:
In 2005 Vollmer re-kindled an old relationship with friends Gord Prior and Steve Georgakopoulos. Together they first wrote the EP “Get Up”. They thought it so good they wrote some more songs and changed the name of the now full length CD to The Power of Rock and Roll. The CD was recorded partly at Rainer Weichmann’s Mole Studios, partially at The A Room, and partially at EMAC studios. All these studios were in London, Ontario. It was produced by Gord Prior.
This time when the band shopped the songs to the record companies for distribution they got a huge bite. It was from Sanctuary Records in England. Not only did they license Power of Rock and Roll for Europe and pay a sizeable advance, but they also licensed many of the indie CDs that Vollmer had been putting out over the past decade. In the U.S. the band ended up being licensed to Perris Records and in Canada to Capitol/E.M.I.
Oddly enough, Helix followed up The Power of Rock and Roll with A Heavy Mental Christmas. The players on the CD were Steve Georgakopoulos (who had played guitar on Power) plus Vollmer’s rental players for Helix at the time: Rick Van Dyk/guitar, Paul Fonsenca/bass, Ned Niemi/drums. The CD was produced by Gord Prior and Aaron Murray at The A Room in London, Ontario. It was released to Walmart stores all across Canada and sold extremely well for the band.
After the western Canadian tour in support of A Heavy Mental Christmas there was once again trouble in Helix land. The live players decided at the end of the tour to quit. To add insult to injury, after Vollmer had just started to write the next CD with Prior and Georgakopoulos, they decided to part ways as well.
Vollmer’s first priority was to put together a new live band. He went back to ex-Helix guitarist Brent Doerner and begged him to come back. Brent agreed to try it for a year. Jim Lawson had been the only member of the former band to not quit, so that meant Vollmer had his guitar players, but what about the bass? There had been another guitarist who had approached Vollmer several years before. His name was Sean Kelly. Brian needed a bass player and asked Sean if he would consider playing bass instead of guitar. Sean agreed. Now the only member missing was the drummer…As if by synchronicity, Fritz had recently just moved back from Florida, and Voila! –suddenly Vollmer had his drummer.
This line-up only played a couple of gigs before Sean was offered the guitar playing job for Nelly Furtado, who was currently riding a hit album and numerous Juno Awards. Sean was worried Vollmer would be upset that he was leaving but Vollmer realized this was a great opportunity for Kelly, and besides, being upset about him leaving wasn’t going to make him stay. The important thing was that in the short time that Kelly was in the band that he and Vollmer had developed a writing relationship. Needing a bass player Vollmer went to Daryl Gray, original 80’s member of the band. Their relationship over the past several years had been strained but they both decided to bury the hatchet, forgive and forget, and get on with being a band once again. So that they did…
Jim Lawson was also replaced during this period by Kaleb Duck, who remains in the band to this day. Kaleb was hand picked and taught/trained by Brent himself.
Meanwhile Sean Kelly and Vollmer had written Vagabond Bones, the follow-up to The Power of Rock and Roll. This produced the Canadian radio hit “Make ‘em Dance” which hit the Top 30 on Canadian rock radio, not bad for what was basically now an indie band again. In the U.S. and Europe the band remained on Perris Records.
During this period of time the band played primarily across Canada in bars and on festivals. However they did play the U.S. on several occasions: Rocklahoma, The MOR boat cruise (although technically not in the U.S), The South Texas Rock Festival, and the Mohegan Sun. Helix also returned to Europe to play the Sweden Rock Boat Cruise from Stockholm to Turku, Finland with ANVIL and the Legends of Rock festival in Oolu, Finland with T.N.T.