2000 - Running Wild

Coming into the year 2000 we were riding a wave of momentum that had been building throughout 1999...

The previous year we had released, for the first time on CD, Breaking Loose, White Lace & Black Leather, No Rest for the Wicked, Long Way to Heaven, B-Sides, When Pigs Fly (my solo CD) and Deep Cuts. The web site I had set up in 1998 had connected me to the legions of faithful Helix followers that still existed world-wide. I was also getting these CDs out to the public through mail order companies in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. The magazine Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles was keeping us alive press-wise in Canada and I was doing many interviews world-wide with journalists who had found me through our web site.

We had switched booking agencies in the new year and our new agent, Bernie Aubin, immediately put together a three act combination for a 12 day tour across western Canada. The three acts were Helix, Prism and The Headpins. The tour would signal the first time guitarist Mike Hall would play for the band.

Mike was previously the guitar player for The Killer Dwarfs as was Gerry Finn, who was by this time one of our regular guitarists. Rounding out the band was Glen "Archie" Gamble, Daryl Gray and my self. It would prove to be a great combination of people. Not only was everyone a competent musician, everyone was an entertainer as well. Mike and Gerry were veterans of the road as was Archie, having toured Canada with The Buffalo Brothers.

We kicked off the tour in Calgary at the Palace Theatre to an audience of 1,500 people and then proceeded to rock our way across the prairies to sold out audiences. We played twelve days straight, and every night was a party onstage. When we arrived at the 12th day, we didn't want to go home!

The weekend after returning home we played The Warehouse in Toronto with Teenage Head for the Goddo Anniversary Concert. Gary Borden played this gig as Mike had previous commitments. The band was still hot from out west and put on a great show. After the show we all went backstage and partied with Ronnie Hawkins, The Partland Brothers, Bob Segarini and Andy Kuran. The gig did so well that the promoter ran the same show at The Lyric Theatre in Kitchener. This show also was a great success, drawing over 1,000 people.

It was around this time period that we made a pact between ourselves that we would get together every two weeks and jam. Out of these "jams" we would write the next CD. It would be the first Helix studio CD since the early 1990s. We rented a rehearsal hall in Hamilton and began getting together for what we laughingly referred to as "The Tequilla Sessions." Tequilla was an inside joke with the band because on the Western Canada Tour in February, it had become a ritual for all of us to have a shot of tequilla together before we went onstage.

By the time I got back from western Canada I barely had time to catch my breath when I'm a Live Frankenstein, the first single from my solo CD When Pigs Fly was released to Canadian radio. During the western tour Daryl had done a fantastic job of setting up press and radio interviews, and at each city along the way we were into the station for an interview no matter how tired we were from that days drive. I met a lot of great people at the stations, had a chance to shake their hands, and also make them aware that my CD would be landing on their desks in the next couple of weeks. The timing worked out very well for me and in the end I received airplay on twelve stations across Canada. People in the industry knew we were out there and still serious about making music.

Gerry Finn (guitar) & Brian Vollmer in Vanderhoof, BC
Mike Hall - Guitar
On the Set of I'm A Live Frankenstein'
One of the things that had been on my "wish" list for the past couple of years (the Helix biography video) led me to talk to Ray Lyell, an old friend. For those of you not in the know, Ray is a vetern musician, song writer, (he has had several Canadian radio hits), and voice teacher. It was around April that I approached Ray about helping me put together this video when suddenly he says, "I want to make a video for your new CD! In fact, I WANT TO MAKE TWO!!"

We put our heads together and came up with a script for I'm a Live Frankenstein, which parodied the original movie with Boris Karloff. Only whereas the monster in the original movie wreaks havoc on the local villagers, in my video the monster becomes the singer in a rock n' roll band called Franky and the Zombies playing at a bar called The Dead End. I set about phoning all my friends to be in the shoot, and Lynda asked people at the restaurant where she worked to be in it. After two weeks we had our cast of zombies, one mad doctor, one Igor, and one zombie bartender.

My cousin's husband, Dean McFadden, suggested that we rent the Conestoga Dam for the creepy bar scenes. So, five floors down inside the dam we filmed the Dead End Bar scene with Archie acting as the zombie bartender and the zombie band with myself as Franky, lead singer of Franky and the Zombies, playing to the zombie audience. We started at 6A.M. and worked until 9 in the evening. Everyone was great!

Once we had shot the bar scenes we still had shooting to do at other locations as well as Ray's studio, but there was no rush. We were both more concerned with quality than meeting any deadline. Another two months passed before we finally finished it. It was worth the wait. The video was EXACTLY what I wanted. We sent it to Much Music and it was rejected due to "extreme violence." I think that's just great because people will always pay to have something that someone says they can't have.

August, in Canada , is the month for many classic rock festivals across the country. Once again we were booked out west, only this time we kicked everything off in Vanderhoof, just outside Prince George in the British Columbia interior. The first night we played with Steppenwolfe of whom I had been a huge fan of since I first started listening to rock. We flew out the next morning for Calgary, Alberta and played that night with Harlequin. By the time we made it back to our rooms after the show we only had time to catch an hour's worth of sleep before we were up and out the door for our next gig in Minnendosa, just outside of Brandon, Manitoba . It would be our third gig and fourth province in four days. It turned out to be a picturesque summer afternoon and we played to about 7,000 people by the time our set came to an end.

The very next weekend we played at Howellstock in Howell, Michigan . It was our first U.S. date in eight years. A month later we were approached by Pooch Entertainment, who was putting together a U.S. tour for us. Metal was on the upswing again due to the success of summer tours by Motley Crue, Poison, Cinderella and Slaughter.

So what does the future hold for Helix and my self? Well, some people tell me I'm crazy to be doing this. After all, my kind of music, our kind of music just isn't the "in" thing anymore. Why do I do it? I guess for the same inexplicable reason that I used to air guitar with a hockey stick to Monster by Steppenwolfe in my parent's basement when I was 16. It's in my blood and there is no life like it. It's a rush for me to be on stage, to write songs, to release CDs, and to entertain. I've lived this life now for 26 years. Some of those years were good, some were bad. I hope to be around for another 26 years too. I don't know which of those years will turn out good and which ones not so good, but one thing I do know, you can't win the lottery if you don't by the ticket. Life is kinda like that too...
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