Paul Hackman memorial
The earliest version of the band was born in 1974 and featured Brian Vollmer’s pipes, and guitarists Brent Doerner and Ron Watson, rounded out by Keith Zurbrigg on bass, drummer Bruce Arnold and Don Simmons on keyboards . Despite the early use of guitar melodies and keyboards, they quickly developed a “rip yer face off” approach to metal and found themselves touring smaller venues in mid Canada and north-eastern States for the next few years, building the base for a die-hard following enjoyed by few others.
By the time they’d begun recording their first independant record in 1980, they’d already gone through some personnel changes. Watson was now replaced by Paul Hackman and Mike Uzelac was the new bassist, while Doerner’s younger brother Brian was brought in as the new drummer. BREAKING LOOSE was released that summer, and tracks like “Don’t Hide Your Love” showcased their raw approach. The follow-up, WHITE LACE AND BLACK LEATHER was released in early ’82. “Women Whiskey And Sin” became an overnight hit in England, and the lp a #1 import. Songs such as “It’s Too Late” and “Breaking Loose” gave the group more exposure and would help form the sophisticated yet raw approach synonomous in later years with the name ‘Helix’.
They were signed to Capitol Records in ’82 and cut NO REST FOR THE WICKED in ’83. A new lineup featured Greg Hinz on drums and bassist Daryl Gray. The smash single “Heavy Metal Love” and Eddie Schwartz‘s (“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” fame, also Canadian) “Does A Fool Ever Learn?” became instant radio staples. Other noteable tracks included the absolutely fantastic “Dirty Dog” and a remake of “White Lace and Black Leather”. The airplay earned them gigs opening for the likes of Motorhead, Heart, Molly Hatchet and Streetheart on this side of the ocean,while their European tour with Kiss saw them in 13 countries in a month and a half. One of Canada’s greatest rock legends was under way.
’84 saw the release of WALKING THE RAZOR’S EDGE and the hit single “Rock You”. For awhile Helix all but owned the market, with the follow-up “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin” making it two straight gold records. The record also contained some of Hackman‘s best fret-work, including a classic killer remake of A Foot In Coldwater‘s “Make Me Do (Anything You Want)” . Again the band toured the four corners of the planet, on the road for the better part of a year, opening for Quiet Riot, Girlschool and Whitesnake.
LONG WAY TO HEAVEN hit the stores in ’85 and “The Kids Are All Shakin’ (In The USA)” quickly went gold. The album showed a distinct maturity. “Deep Cuts The Knife” and “Without You” proved they were capable of the power ballad, while “This House Is On Fire” stayed true to their grab you by the nuts roots. The album also showcased the band’s first North American tours as headliners.
WILD IN THE STREETS hit the shelves nearly two years later. Leaning more towards their heavy roots and backed by the title track, “What Ya Bringin’ To The Party?” and the remake of Nazareth’s “Dream On”made it 4 straight gold albums. Capitol released a compilation in their “Over Sixty Minutes” series in ’89 that spanned the group’s NO REST, RAZOR’S EDGE and LONG WAY records, as well as the previously unreleased “Everybody Pays The Price” and “Jasmine’s Song”.
BACK FOR ANOTHER TASTE was cut in 1990 and was their heaviest, but most mature record yet, with veteran producer Tony Bongiovi behind the controls. Raw bar-room guitars were replaced with a slick combination of overdubs mixed with Vollmer’s trademark “in your face” style, most noteable in “The Storm”, “Running Wild In The 21st Century” and “Heavy Metal Cowboys”.
GOOD TO THE LAST DROP was released in late ’91 and although still holding true to what brought them to the dance, disaster struck in July of ’92. While in the middle of a cross country tour, the band’s van crashed in BC. Paul Hackman was dead – and the music world joined in Helix’s loss of one of Canada’s most gifted musicians.
The band carried on with new axemen Greg Frazer and Rick Mead and released IT’S A BUSINESS DOING PLEASURE in ’93 for new label Aquarius Records. The first single, “That Day Is Gonna Come”, was a tribute to Hackman with video footage from the guitarist’s own home movies shot on the road over the years. Also on the record was a guest appearance by Kim Mitchell on “Sleeping In The Doghouse Again” and a duet with Lee Aaron called “Look Me Straight In The Heart”.
Vollmer took some time off for the next few years, though Helix did play sporatically with various people in the band. In ’94 the two independant releases were repackaged as THE EARLY YEARS, followed by DEEP CUTS in ’95 – a greatest hits record which nicely sums up the group’s biggest hits over the last 20 years, including a re-released version of “The Kids Are All Shakin”, complete with a keyboards arrangement.
’98 saw the release of HALF ALIVE. Coincidentally, one side of the tape was live … one wasn’t …Taken from various shows over the years, one side showcases the raw power of one of heavy metal’s most energetic live groups, with killer versions of “Dirty Dog”, “Heavy Metal Love”, “Wild In The Streets” and “Rock You” among others. The other was 5 new tracks, including “Wrecking Ball”, the first inception of which was the first song Helix ever recorded.
1999 saw Vollmer release his first solo project outside of Helix. WHEN PIGS FLY was released on his own label and contained the hit “Live Frankenstein”. Also on the record were “Life Of The Party” “X Ray Eyes” and the title track. By the beginning of ’99 the band finalized arguably their strongest lineup ever, when Vollmer hit the road with drummer Gray, Gamble and new guitarists Gerry Finn and Mike Hall. Both axe-slingers had previously worked with The Killer Dwarfs and had built reputations for being among the best in the business and fit into the mix like the proverbial glove.
More personnel changes followed for Helix, with Vollmer putting the band on ‘part time’ status, teaching vocal classes at a university. Former drummer Brent Doerner resurfaced in 2005, when he joined Saga.