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Helix proves to be durable metal

IN CONCERT What: Helix with Archon Legion and Regular People When: Monday, 10 p.m. (doors at 9) Where: Sugar Tickets: $20 at www.ticketweb.


What: Helix with Archon Legion and Regular People

When: Monday, 10 p.m. (doors at 9)

Where: Sugar

Tickets: $20 at, Tom Lee Music, Lyle's Place and Ditch Records

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The amounts of chlorofluorocarbon in hairspray must have ruined quite a few pop metal bands of the 1980s. Have you ever heard C.C. Deville from Poison string some words together? No other way to explain that vapidity.

Brian Vollmer of Helix, whose band ruled the Can-metal roost in 1984, suffers no such collateral damage. Vollmer, 53, still fronts the band he formed in 1974 and teaches bel canto singing three days a week from his London, Ont., home. He also performs classical music at weddings and occasionally talks music to students at Ontario universities.

The majority of Vollmer's time is spent running the business that is Helix. It can be lucrative. With the re-emergence of the classic pop metal of yore, the touring circuit is now populated by the genre's once-forgotten stars.

Last year's Rocklahoma festival in Pryor, Okla., drew 100,000 fans over four days. Helix is feeling the love, too. In July, the group played alongside Tesla, Faster Pussycat and Dokken at the South Texas Rock Festival, whose audience topped 30,000 fans.

As he gets back in touch with some of his old friends, Vollmer has become acutely aware that he, more than most, had his wits about him back in the day.

"I had a manager who was a very, very smart person," Vollmer said. "He always taught me to look long-term versus short term and keep good business practices. Always be honest, always keep your word, now matter how tough it is. I stuck by those basic principles, and it took me a long way."

There were plenty of Helix hits, from Heavy Metal Love and Gimme Gimme Good Lovin' to Make Me Do (Anything You Want) and Rock You, but when new ones eventually stopped coming, Vollmer's chequebook-balancing saw him through.

His reputation as a solid guy also helped. Not every act has been invited back to the hair-metal party, but Vollmer said Helix has plenty of friends it can call upon at any moment. "The Helix name has a lot of respect among our peers. We've never burned bridges. When you take care of people and treat them correctly, if you do experience hard times, they help you out."

Vollmer is the only original member in the group. He had to rebuild the band in the mid-'90s, following the tragic death of co-founder Paul Hackman, who was killed when the band's tour bus crashed near Kamloops in 1992. More than 25 members have passed through all told, but Vollmer doesn't think the product is diluted.

"This lineup is as good as any of them," he said.

Helix "definitely went through our days of drugs, alcohol and loose women," Vollmer recalled. Most metal bands of the era did. But his memory during the excess years is rock solid -- enough that he could write a book about his experiences.

Gimme An R!, whose title nicks part of the chorus of Rock You, Helix's most identifiable tune, is a thrill ride of highs and lows, and memories of huge gigs in Toronto with Scorpions, Wembley Stadium with KISS, Philadelphia Spectrum with Aerosmith, Nassau Coliseum with Rush, Long Beach Arena with WASP and Krokus, and the Montreal Forum with Triumph.

The book is also notable for its journalistic accuracy, something Vollmer is truly proud of. He said has always looked at Helix with an eye for detail.

"Bands I talked to back then, their managers never let them in on anything," he said. "I remember this one band, quite a big band actually, they used to get their breakdown sheets at the end of the year -- what they made and where the money went -- and it was written on a piece of scrap paper. You have to run it like a business. If you don't have money, you can't create music."

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