Sunday, April 29, 2012

Brian Vollmer Interview / HELIX at the Rockpile

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Photo by Wally Norton


On Friday, April 27th, HELIX rolled into Toronto to perform in front of a packed house at The Rockpile. I was not only fortunate enough to catch the show but was honoured to be able to sit down and chat with Brian Vollmer, the band's lead vocalist for the last 38 years. I am a huge Helix fan and in fact, my third concert ever was Helix/Kick Axe at Hamilton Place on Friday, January 25, 1985. Since then I have seen them many times over the years but tonight I was going to get to see the reformed "classic" Helix lineup that toured/recorded together through the 80's heavy metal decade.

I have broken this piece into 2 parts, up first is my sit down interview with Brian, followed by a review of the show. If you have no idea who Helix is you might want to back up and check out my Hoser Heavy Metal Vol 2 blog to famliarize yourself with the band's rock and roll history.

Photo by Wally Norton
It has been a few years now but can you tell us how the "Classic Helix" lineup got back together?

Oh geesh, long story and quite unplanned. When I did the Christmas Album I was working with rental players  I guess you would say we did a western tour of Canada. After the last show at Norma Jeans in London (Ont) everybody quit. So I had to go and find some new players. Sean Kelly had been facebooking me for a while wanting to work together so Sean came in as a bass player, I asked Brent (Doerner, lead guitar) if he'd rejoin. Once I had those guys I went to Daryl (Gray, bass) and I had Ron MacEarchin working playing drums for me. He had played drums on the "Power of Rock and Roll Album" but at that point I figured it made sense to get the original guys back together. I asked Ron if he would step aside if I was able to get "Fritz" (Greg Hinz, drums) back in the fold and he said yes. At that point Brent recommended Kaleb "Duckman" Duck and here we are.

Helix have been rocking now for almost 40 years and have released many great albums. Do you have a personal favourite?

I would have to say the Vagabond Bones CD is my favourite Helix album.

Speaking of albums, I see there is a new EP on the website Can you tell me about it?

Well it seems that albums as we know it are a tough sell in the market right now. So we decided to record just 5 tracks and market them to radio individually as a way of cutting costs but still getting some new Helix music out there for the fans.

Over the years Helix has gotten to tour with many great bands, who was your favourite band to tour with.

Probably when we toured with Motorhead. We were very lucky and honoured to have toured with many great artists over the years. Kiss were great, Whitesnake, Heart, Meatloaf, WASP, and Krokus. We just did the Monsters of Rock Cruise with Cinderella, Tesla, Kix, Stryper, Y & T, UFO, Keel and that was a lot of fun.

One of my all time favourite concerts was DIO/Helix/Rough Cutt at Toronto's CNE Stadium. Do you have any memories of working with Ronnie James Dio.

We did a number of dates with Dio and he was always great to us. He would come into our dressing room before the shows and sit and talk to us like we were human beings. He was a very warm and caring guy. I remember he used to come in and play Fritz's practice kit in the dressing room. He would say how much he liked Fritz's drums "They are small, just like me"

I understand that you also teach vocal technique, not surprising as your pipes sound as good as ever. Do you have any students the Decibel Geek listeners might know?

I have students from many different musical formats but the girls in Kittie have been students of mine.

Who are some of you musical influences, what might we find in your IPOD?

Wow, so many but I love the Guess Who, David Bowie of course the Rolling Stones

In your book, I read about the independent albums you guys financed and promoted yourselves and it really shows how the music industry has changed. Do you think its easier or harder for a new band now?

Definitely much harder for new bands today.

Do you have any advice for a new band starting out?

This would be my advice to a new band starting out or anyone going out into business or whatever. First, love what you do. If you don't love it your heart wont be in it and that's not cool. Then stick with it. You never know whats around the corner, when the breaks will come so it's important to be persistent and going after your dream.

So what's on the horizon for Helix? Anything we can look forward to?

This summer we will be out on the road and we are currently working on a documentary on the history of the band. Plans are in the works to unveil the movie at next years Monsters of Rock cruise. They will have big screens set up on the deck, should be an interesting way to premiere the film.


SHOW REVIEW April 27th at the Rockpile

Photo by Wally Norton

The band stormed the stage just after 11:00pm, opening with "When the Hammer Falls" off 1984's Walkin the Razor's Edge album. The "classic" lineup was BACK and there is a definite chemistry that these guys have together that comes from playing literally thousands of shows together.The twin guitar attack of Brent "Dr. Doerner" and the new guy Kaleb "Duckman" Duck provided an intense barrage of melodic power chords reminiscent of the Scorpians' Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabbs.

Photo by Wally Norton
Rhythm section Daryl Gray (bass) and Greg "Fritz" Hinz (drums) layed down the foundation as Helix pounded through Vagabond Bones, Kids are All Shaken, Monday Morning Meltdown, Go Hard or Go Home. For 38 years now, frontman Brian Vollmer has been holding down the fort, his vocals are as strong and sharp now as they have ever been  Introducing "Heavy Metal Love" (A song written about Joan Jett) the band rocked with such intensity that it could have well been 1985.

They steamrolled through a setlist that in my opinion was incredibly strong. A two hour show that took the audience on a journey of classic Helix tunes, a large amount of newer material and a few surprising deep cuts that pleased every age of fan. Highlights included Runnin Wild in the 21st Century,Make Me Do Anything You Want, Make em Dance, Gimme Gimme Good Lovin, and Deep Cuts the Knife.

photo by Wally Norton
After Kaleb threw down a very tasteful guitar solo, giving the rest of the guys a short but well deserved break. Returning to the stage Dr. Doerner picked up the double neck Gibson as they launched into Wild in the Streets and the tunes just kept coming. The tunes off the new Skin in the Game EP went over great and fit perfectly into the set.

Photo by Wally Norton
Then came the biggest surprise of the night as they broke out Billy Oxygen from their independent album Breaking Loose. Brent Doerner sang the song like a man possessed providing me with the biggest thrill of the night. This would be like Kiss breaking out Mr. Blackwell, a true treasure for the hardcore fan.An encore of ROCK YOU! and Heavy Metal Cowboys closed out the show on a 90 mile an hour pace.

Photo by Wally Norton

When it all was said and done Helix rocked through 23 songs plus Kaleb's solo. Many years ago Helix were dubbed "Canada's Hardest Working Band" and tonight they proved it's still true.


Thanks Brian for the interview and THANKS HELIX for another great Rock and Roll Memory!






Friday, April 27, 2012

R.I.P. Joe "the Audiodog" Kulick (Bruce Kulick's dog)

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Andrew Jacobs here,

As the very proud father and caretaker of 3 rescue dogs for the past almost 5 and a half years, I know full well how strong and deep the bond is between a man and his dog, so my condolences and my heart go out to Mr. Kulick in this terrible time for him. Click here to read a message from Bruce posted today regarding this.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Episode 30 - Listener Request Show

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"We hear & we obey" - Gene Simmons

Truer words could not be said of this weeks episode. This week, we turn the controls over to you, the listener. We've received some great requests over the last few weeks and now we get to share your choices with the world. We're happy to present our first Listener Request Show.

Before we get started, Chris & Aaron give a quick update of what's been going on at the official Decibel Geek website including a number of great new articles by our most recent writing addition, Wally Gator including 3 Guitarists You Should See Before You Die, Hoser Heavy Metal, and Death of the Album. We also give a shout out to Andrew Jacobs with another great interview; this time with KISS Army founder Bill Starkey.

Now, onto the music. We received requests from all over the world from this show as well as many States. You'll hear requests today from Australia, Canada, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, New Jersey, South Carolina, Virginia, Utah, and Illinois. It's wonderful hearing from you all and we look forward to doing another listener-based episode in the future. 

We'd like to plug the projects of a few of our listeners that took the time to request songs on today's show:

Michael Brandvold of Michael Brandvold Marketing & the Dropping the Needle podcast.

RJ Hogg of the Classic Rock Bottom website

Mike Sains of the Tower of Sour podcast

Vic Baric of the Vinnie Vincent Fan Forum

Denny Smith of The Great Affairs

There's lots of diversity in the song choices and you're sure to hear something you've never checked out in this episode. We added a few things to the iPod thanks to you guys and appreciate the requests. 

Enough of our yapping, let's hear some tunes!

Direct Download

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

HHM Vol 3. Doin the "Heavy Metal Shuffle"

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Back for another round of Canadian Metal. Growing up a metal fan in Canada through the 80's was interesting. We had our own version of MTV called MuchMusic and we would see all of the great hard rock and heavy metal coming from the USA and the other "international" artists but we also got to see plenty of our own "Canadian" bands that were rocking the radio and video screens.

As a kid I was under the impression that if you were on TV you were a huge, successful and probably rich rock star. Remember this was pre-internet and we would see these bands interviewed and played alongside Motley Crue, Kiss and Ozzy. Our homegrown music industry contained many bands that we considered household names (because we saw their videos on TV all the time) never really realizing that someone in Tuscon or Miami or Nashville may have never even heard of them.

So this instalment of Hoser Heavy Metal, I bring you...KICK AXE.

KICK AXE came to be in 1976 in Regina, Saskatchewan but relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia where the music scene provided more action for up and coming bands. Kick Axe worked hard on the Vancouver club scene but had their eyes on something bigger. After singer Charles McNary left the band in 1981, the remaining members Larry Gillstrom (guitar), Victor Langen (bass), Brian Gillstrom (drums), Raymond Harvey (guitar) spent the better part of 2 years searching for the perfect replacement to take them to the next level. After an exhausting search they decided on George Criston and that's when things got rolling big time for the band.

1983 saw Kick Axe sign a major label deal with Pasha Records and enter the studio with Spencer Proffer (Spencer Proffer of Quiet Riot/WASP fame). The result became their debut album entitled VICES. Lead off single "On the Road to Rock" got heavy rotation on Much Music followed up by the classic "Heavy Metal Shuffle". Vices is a metal masterpiece with absolutely no filler. In fact Vices was picked number 12 by author Martin Popoff's "Top 100 Metal Albums of the 80's".

The day that Vices was released they played a gig in Calgary on the same night that Judas Priest happened to be playing in town. The story goes that while Rob Halford was being interviewed at a local radio station, a number of listener calls came in urging Rob to check out the up and coming band. Much to the surprise of Kick Axe he did and the Metal God must have been impressed because days later when Kick Axe rolled into Winnipeg, Judas Priest surprised them again with an offer of an opening slot on Priest's US tour. After many months of non stop touring with the likes of Accept, Whitesnake, Helix, Quiet Riot and the Scorpians they headed back into the studio.

"Welcome to the Club" was released August 22nd 1985. A solid sophomore release, WTTC featured some killer tracks "Comin After You", "Hellraisers", "Too Loud ... Too Old" and my personal favourite "You Can't Take it With You". The band invited some friends to help out with a cover version of "With a Little Help From My Friends". Lee Aaron, Rik Emmitt, Andy Curran and other Canadian Musicians joined in for a great cover of the Lennon/McCartney classic. A slicker more polished sound this time around, Kick Axe seemed to be on top of their game. The band toured the country as a headliner playing in arenas and theatres through 85 and 86. Unfortunately the radio support wasn't as strong as for the debut album and guitarist Raymond Harvey left the band in 86.

Continuing on as a four piece, Kick Axe released their third album "Rock the World" with a more stripped down back to basics sound. A solid record featuring the title track, "We Still Remember" and a KILLER COVER of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain". Unfortunately for the band and it's fans
the band soon was shut down due the actions of a rather unscrupulous manager who left the band in a legal and financial bind that literally forced them out of the game. For years they could not legally continue as Kick Axe and the band broke up.

With the legal issues apparently behind them, 2003 saw Kick Axe reunite with former member Gary Langden on vocals. A new album "IV" was released and Kick Axe now fronted by Daniel Nargang continue to play shows and festivals in Canada.

NOTE: I was lucky enough to see KICK AXE live back in 1985 while they were touring the Vices record. An amazing high energy show from some incredible musicians. Vices will forever be found proudly in my IPOD. In the words of Martin Popoff Vices is "a necessity of life...10 out of 10"



Betty Blowtorch - Tribute to Bianca at El Cid in Hollywood, CA on 5/19/12 tickets now available

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On a related note, the excellent Betty Blowtorch and Her Amazing True Life Adventures documentary is now available to watch for free on Hulu. Click here to watch.

Looking forward to meeting one or two hundred of you there!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Death of the Album?

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Being born in 1970 I have had the experience of purchasing recorded music in many different forms. As a child my Dad had boxes of vinyl LP records and as a boy I remember buying my first record it was Shaun Cassidy (cmon I was 6 years old and he was a Hardy Boy!). I remember sitting at my cousin's house listening to his KISS records, looking at the album covers, reading the liner notes and getting lost in the music.

When I was 12 years old (1982), Santa brought me a stereo for my bedroom. A double cassette deck with removable speakers I was now able to start my own musical collection. Soon all my disposable income was spent on Saturday afternoons at the record store and my METAL cassette collection grew. My Sony Walkman allowed me to carry and listen to my music anywhere.

My Uncle was one of those "early adapters" and when CD players started appear he purchased one with 2 CD's. I will never forget being at his house when he hooked it up to his really nice stereo and blasted ZZ Top's "Afterburner" album. The sound was so clear I was blown away and knew I had to start saving to join this new musical wave. It took many years and many dollars to switch my music collection over to CD's.

When the Ipod/Mp3 craze took off I was a little skeptical but after seeing the benefits and the mobility I can't imagine a day without my IPod. I have purchased "albums" (funny how we still call them albums) from Itunes but as I watch my daughter and her friends and how the new generation is buying their music, I watch with a little sadness. Let me explain...

First, they miss out on the whole "social" aspect of going to the record store. I can remember me and my buddies walking downtown and spending the better part of the day deciding on what treasure we were going to take home. In fact I can distinctly recall the day I raced to the record store when KISS had just released "Asylum". Racing home with my friends and all of us sitting in my living room as the opening drum beats to "King of the Mountain" filled our ears.

Secondly, they purchase the one or two songs they want from each artist (usually the one or two that the radio is playing to death!) and move on. To me it's  like buying a book and only reading the first three chapters?!? They never get to hear the deep cuts and it seems that because of this they rarely latch on to a "favourite" Band just a bunch of "favourite" songs that change from month to month.

I understand there is no stopping technology and I certainly love being able to carry 4000 songs with me on a device that is smaller than my watch. That said I am glad that I grew up being able to appreciate the full experience of a new "album". Saturday afternoon, eyes closed listening to an album from start to finish. Finding out that the "single" on the radio is probably one of the weaker songs. Learning to love your favourite bands for their strengths and accepting their flaws and then eagerly waiting until they release another 10 songs for you to hear next year.

Who knows what will happen down the road? If people continue to only only buy one or two songs that they hear on the radio, how much longer will the artists and the record companies continue to release complete albums. It goes to reason that if 80 percent of the album is left un purchased 80 percent of the time, than how many dollars should be spent on recording these tracks? Supply and demand, with no demand it goes to reason that supply could cease to exist.

Just my two and a half cents, that I will save up to purchase a NEW ALBUM!





Friday, April 20, 2012

Bill Starkey (KISS Army co-founder) interview

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How old were you when you first started listening to music on a regular basis and what were the first bands/artists that you listened to?

Music was always on in our house. I grew up in the '60s, when music was at it's most creative and most diverse. I was taking guitar lessons and Johnny Cash & The Ventures were what I was playing along to, believe it or not. Watching The Ed Sullivan Show every Sunday night was a family thing as well. It helped that my father worked in a warehouse shipping records for Columbia Records in Terre Haute, Indiana. At that time, most of the records in the world were pressed or made right there in Terre Haute.


What exactly were the circumstances by which you discovered KISS?

I first saw a picture of Gene in our local newpaper in the TV listings section. It said KISS would be appearing on ABC’s In Concert. I forgot about it but later ended up watching the program that night only because I wanted to see Foghat perform. I forgot about seeing Gene’s picture that morning while eating my breakfast cereal. Needless to say, KISS blew me away. Foghat, not so much.


I have a layperson's knowledge of how the KISS Army came into being but for those people reading who don't know, could you provide a more detailed account of the KISS Army formation?

I had my father bring me home the first couple of KISS albums because he was an Expeditor for Warner Brothers Records, who were shipping out Casablanca Records at the time. I loved both albums. So did my school chum Jay Evans. It was my dad who would tease me about KISS because he was on the phone daily with their shipping people - their sales sucked compared to other artists that he shipped for.

The Warner Brothers people offered my dad free tickets to see Deep Purple in Indianapolis and my dad asked me if I wanted to go. I said sure but the tickets never materialized. He then asked me if I’d “settle” for KISS and I said sure. I just wanted to see what a rock concert was like. So, on a cold December Sunday evening, we drove through the snow to Evansville, Indiana to see KISS open for Z.Z. Top. KISS blew them away. My father was impressed (even though he preferred Sinatra, he loved KISS’ enthusiasm).

Three weeks later, KISS was playing in Indianapolis and he dared my mom to go with us to see KISS again. She did. It was a 5 hour concert marathon where KISS played last as the opening act, yet went on AFTER MIDNIGHT on Sunday morning. They still kicked ass (though most of the crowd left).

I came back to school and on the bus that morning, I told Jay how great the KISS shows had been. He said that we should try to get them on our local radio station (we only had one in Terre Haute). We’d hang out in my basement and call the radio station asking for KISS. We were told that they don’t play KISS and that the program director thought KISS was "another new York fag band". Jay was on this “army kick”, so we decided to call ourselves the KISS Army when we called. Other times, we’d write letters.

Several months later, KISS was a headliner (albeit in small venues) and I convinced Jay and some of our classmates to hitch a ride to Indianapolis to see KISS with Rush. That was it. The KISS Army was born and our classmates started calling the radio station. Another guy at school printed our own KISS t-shirts and we’d wear them to school and get ridiculed because KISS wasn’t on the radio like Aerosmith or Lynyrd Skynyrd was (our competition for radio play).

We eventually started writing silly letters saying "play KISS or we’ll blow up the station". We’d cut out pictures from Circus Magazine and paste them on our letters. Since all of this was happening in my basement, Jay decided that we should have titles - I was the President and he was Field Marshall Evans.

The radio station still didn’t give in. They’d play something like “Love Theme from KISS” to piss us off or play a KISS tune and NOT tell the listeners that it was KISS. This was done to piss us off. By September, KISS' Alive! album came out and another radio station was born. They played tracks off of Alive! because their play list wasn’t as tight.

Then KISS announced that they’d be coming to Terre Haute in a couple of months. The program director of the new station got in touch with me and asked me to write my same threatening letters and he’d read them on air for two weeks until the concert. Eventually, the concert sold out. At that time, only Elvis had sold out the arena, while other acts and KISS's peers (like Aerosmith and Lynyrd Skynyrd) had not. When KISS’ people asked why, the new radio station people told them about the KISS Army and they contacted me.

Can you imagine the feeling that I got when KISS brought me onstage to give me an award during their encore in front of the very same schmucks who teased us about the band six months earlier during our senior year? What revenge. I probably felt on top of the world that night, which was pretty good for a guy with no job, no car and no future at that moment in time. Sounds like a movie, doesn’t it?


What exactly was it about KISS that made you decide to take matters into your own hands as far as demanding that your local radio station play their records?

We couldn’t believe that other acts were getting more airplay. It was almost like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing - you are angry over who is in and who isn’t. And we were crazy teenagers who thought we knew everything.


Were there any other bands/artists besides KISS that you demanded your local radio station play?  If so, who?  If not, why not?

I didn't but Jay asked for some obscure stuff to be played. The stupid thing was that the radio station usually gave in to whatever it was. It was the early '70s and FM radio was wide open. It just seemed like the program director liked dicking us around.


Who designed the KISS Army logo?

Alan Miller, who contacted me through Rock Steady Management, asked us to create a logo. Jay took on that assignment. Those early pictures you see is what he came up with. They didn’t use it and to this day, no one knows who created it. Possibly the guy who did the Destroyer cover. By that time, the fan club concept was taken out of my hands and given to a professional outfit. Boutwell Enterprises was their name and they could have designed it.


What did you personally think of the disco and pop turns that KISS took in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the Dynasty and Unmasked albums?

By the late '70s, my interest in the band waned. Mainly because we lost contact with each other. They were huge and I was no longer really involved. Early on, I would have killed for those guys, which I think they realized wasn’t a healthy thing to continue to feed. But it was great to hang out with them the few times that I was allowed and that just made me more of a diehard.

I started listening to more alternative stuff by the beginning of the '80s. I never let go of my KISS albums though and I always tried to keep up on the band. I mean I DID have an important part in the beginning and I wasn’t going to ever forget my place in KISStory.


Did you continue to listen to KISS throughout the 1980s and the 1990s?

When they took off their makeup and changed musicians, it was hard for me to accept. I didn’t give them another listen until a young kid in my factory warehouse told me to listen to Revenge. He knew about my past with the band and he was a real metal head. I loved Revenge! Loved it - still do!


Have you formed any other Armies (or Armies of sorts) since the KISS Army?  If so, please discuss.

Please - there is no other army. We had some friends knit a sweater for Rick Neilson of Cheap Trick once and he actually wore it on stage. That was cool. I never intended to meet KISS when we started our KISS Army assault - it was all about the music.


What are some of your favorite bands/artists (old or new) in 2012?

U2, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Coldplay, Beck, Moby, Tom Waits, Willie Nelson and even Emmylou Harris. There’s great music out there, you just have to find it. I don’t believe that file sharing has stopped great music from coming out. LPs still sound better than digital music as well.


Feel free to discuss any of your other endeavors (musical or otherwise) here.

Nowadays, I teach in an urban school district. Sometimes my students ask me about my KISS years. Of course I think they probably think that KISS are either WWF wrestlers or some sort of monsters. I don’t think they are aware that it’s all about the music. However, I haven’t been able to find an excuse to bring it into my curriculum.

I’ve always said that kids are a product of their environment. They only know what they’ve been exposed to. It’s quite possible that they could ALL turn into KISS fans if introduced. I truly believe that they could.

Thanks for your interest.


Black Sabbitch's debut performance at El Cid in Los Angeles, CA on 6/9/12

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Interview with new Black Sabbitch bassist Melanie Makaiwi coming soon!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

3 Guitarists You Should See B4 You Die!

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Nothing symbolizes Heavy Metal more than the 6 string electric guitar. From Ace Frehley's smoking Gibson Less Paul to Tony Iommi's road worn Gibson SG to Eddie Van Halen's Fender "Frankenstrat"  The sound of loud distorted power chords and shredding solo's are the signature and soul of the metal genre.

As a teenager in the 80's I was able to see some of the best six string slingers do their thing live. When it's good its real good, when its great its awesome, but sometimes your lucky enough to see a guitar player so good that they take you on a journey. As David Lee Roth has said "Aint nothin like it in the whole world!"

So in tribute to all the metal shredders and riffmasters out there I have composed my list of 3 Guitar Masters that should be seen LIVE. This is not a list of the most technically proficient, the fastest shredders or the classically trained guitarists but 3 guitarists that at some point plugged in their axe and "melted my face" with guitar playing that touched my soul. and rocked me to the core.

So here we go, in no particular order...



Up first, many would argue the greatest guitarist of all time Eddie Van Halen. I got into Van Halen around the 1984 album and no sooner did I become a big fan than David Lee Roth was outof the band. At the time it was hard not to choose sides in that ugly divorce, in fact Van Halen almost demanded it.

I proudly choose the DLR camp and stand by that decision as "Eat em and Smile" and "Skyscraper" were in my opinion classic fun-time DLR at his finest. Van Hagar was a great band no doubt, but to me they lacked the piss and vinegar that Diamond Dave brought to the mix.

Anyways I finally got to see Van Halen on the 2006 "reunion" tour when it rolled into Toronto and in a word WOW! I knew he was a legend but nothing prepares you for Mr. Van Halen live and how he can make that guitar talk. The songs were tight as hell yet felt loose and fun and he looked to be having a great time on stage. (It was early on the tour) His solo was so solid but most importantly so melodic and musical it was beautiful.

Next up we have The Riffmaster himself Tony Iommi. Now let me first say that I love Sabbath but unlike most metalheads I am more partial to the Dio era Sabbath when I felt Tony kicked up his game even more. So when Dio rejoined Iommi and the boys for "Heaven and Hell" I was as excited as a 12 year old at Christmas.

My incredible wife scored me great tickets to see Heaven and Hell/Alice Cooper and Queensryche in Hamilton On. I am a huge Dio fan, in fact, to me he was the greatest heavy metal singer ever and I had seen Dio perform many times over the years, but on this night I was transfixed on Mr. Iommi. Something about the sounds that he produced was almost hypnotizing. The crunchiness of his attack you could actually feel. It truly was an experience I will never forget.

Last on my list is absolutely my favorite guitar player. This choice may raise a few eyebrows and even elicit a few "Really?'s". In my opinion Traci Guns is far and away the God of Guitar.
Photo by Wally Norton

I first witnessed Traci live when LA Guns opened for AC/DC on the Blow Up Your Video tour. This was just after LA Guns had released their debut album. Opening for AC/DC can't be an easy task but I left with an LA Guns t-shirt, a Traci guitar pick that I caught  and had instantly become a lifer at the Church of Traci Guns.

The Cocked and Loaded Tour, they played a large club in Toronto. I was right up front inches from Traci's shredding fingers. The show was the most intense, raw and insane concert I have ever seen and still is to this day.

Since then I have been able to see Tracii play three more times. Once with Paul Black, once with Jizzy Pearl and I was one of the lucky few that got to see him play with Dilana. Each and every time Traci hits the stage he seems to become one with his guitar. His playing is so effortless and most importantly, he seems to be having a blast on stage.

So there it is "My 3 Guitarists to See before you Die" list. Agree? Disagree? it's a all good. Who makes your list?

Episode 29 - Top 5 Brian Johnson Era AC/DC Songs

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We're back this week to give you a Stiff Upper Lip after we Flick the Switch and Blow Up Your Video; making you feel like a Fly on the Wall who needs some Black Ice to recover from a Ballbreaker. If that doesn't give you a clue as to what we're talking about, then we'll spell it out for you....AC/DC.

While the Bon Scott era of AC/DC laid the foundation of what we have today, we wanted to take an episode to appreciate some of the highlights of the Brian Johnson era of the band.

With the tragic passing of Scott in 1980, AC/DC was left pondering the decision of whether to go on. A fan in Cleveland, Ohio forwarded a cassette tape Brian Johnson fronting the band Geordie to AC/DC manager Peter Mensch who then recommended the singer to Angus Young and company. Young remembers Bon Scott raving about seeing Geordie years before and it was decided that Johnson was a good fit for the band.

Brian Johnson, of course, burst onto the scene in his first album with the band, 1980's legendary Back in Black album. The album needs no explanation as chances are you already own it since it is the 3rd best selling album of all-time.

AC/DC has persevered since Back in Black with 10 studio albums that have flown in the face of what's trendy and stayed true to their roots.

Chris and Aaron pick out 5 of their favorite tracks from the Brian Johnson era of AC/DC and there's plenty of variety to go around. While it is a common jab by critics to say that AC/DC uses the exact same formula for all of their songs, we venture today to show you that there is variances throughout their history. When you dig deeper into the albums, which the Decibel Geek podcast specializes in, you discover hidden gems that you may have not noticed before.

It was a blast putting this episode together and we hope you'll crack open a Fosters, make a Vegemite sandwich, and crank up some solid rock from Down Under with our Top 5 favorite Brian Johnson era AC/DC tunes!

PS: Don't forget that this week is the last week to get your requests in for our upcoming Listener Request show! The deadline to get your request in will be this Sunday, April 22nd at 6:00p.m. Central time. After that, any requests will be applied to future shows. The number to call is (540) DBGEEK-1. Give us a ring and tell us what you want to hear. You just may hear yourself on the show!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hoser Heavy Metal Vol. 2 - Helix

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Hey everyone,

In Volume 2 of the Hoser Heavy Metal blog I spotlight one of the hardest working Canadian bands and truly a legend in Canadian Heavy Metal. In this volume we take a look at the career of...

Photo by Wally Norton

Helix! Give me an R-O-C-K! What you got? ROCK! Helix are an old school band hailing from Kitchener, Ontario. Brian Vollmer has held down the vocalist slot since Helix formed in 1974 and he continues to bring the rock to this day.

Starting as a cover band, they sharpened their skills playing every run down, flea infested beer bar that Canada had to offer. Travelling around Canada isn't for the feint of heart, and in the winter it's completely insane. Helix got out there and earned their fans one at a time playing LIVE (the way music is supposed to be played unlike all the sampled, lip synched garbage of today) in some of the harshest environments out there.

After releasing two independent albums 1979's "Breaking Loose" and 1981's "White Lace and Black Leather" and the constant touring schedule the band eventually had a major label deal with Capital Records. (Even though they had been turned down 3 times before from the same label)

The next five albums could be considered the "Glory Years" for the boys in Helix. The lineup stabilized and now comprised of the aforementioned Brian Vollmer on vocals, Brent "Doctor Doerner" on Guitar, Paul Hackman on Guitar, Daryl Grey on Bass and Greg "Fritz" Hinz on Drums. This lineup would remain intact for the next four albums as Helix set out touring with the likes of Kiss, Rush, Quiet Riot, Aerosmith, Whitesnake, Motorhead and others.

A brief highlight of the Glory Years include,

1983's "No Rest for the Wicked" featured the infectious single "Heavy Metal Love". A classic tune that stands the test of time and is still a live fan favourite.

1984's "Walking the Razor's Edge" album would be considered the breakthrough album. Featuring the hits "Rock You" and a cover of Foot in Cold Water's "Make Me Do Anything You Want". The band toured extensively headlining theatres in Canada and opening for the likes of Kiss, Rush, Quiet Riot. The band played at Toronto's CNE stadium on the Heavy Metal Hurricane night, The bill included the Scorpions, Quiet Riot, Helix and Kick Axe. At this point they became a theatre headlining act all through Canada.


1985's "Long Way to Heaven" album included the hits "Deep Cuts the Knife" and "The Kids Are All Shaken" (of note this album went to number one on the Swedish Charts). The band then opened for Ronnie James Dio again at Toronto's CNE stadium. They also spent time on tour with Keel and Accept throughout North America.

1987's "Wild in the Streets" included the hit title track as well as a song written by Joe Elliot of Def Leppard "She's Too Tough" which can also be found on Def Leppards "Retoractive" album. This album also contained a cover of Nazereth's "Dream On" that became a solid live fan favourite.

By 1990 Brent Doerner had left the band and they continued on as a four piece, but he did contribute with the writing of 1990's "Back for Another Taste" album. This release featured "Running Wild in the 21st Century" and "The Storm". This was their last album for Capital records and as the musical tides changed, Helix spent the 90's dealing with lineup changes, ups and downs, and personal tragedy as guitarist Paul Hackman was killed when the band's van lost control after a show in Vancouver.

Through it all Brian Vollmer has kept the Helix flame alive, releasing music playing select shows and releasing "Gimme an R", his autobiography containing great road stories from all the eras of Helix. A great read for those that like a good look into the life of a touring musician.

In 2009 Vollmer regrouped with Doerner, Grey, and "Fritz" and new guitarist Kaleb Duck to release what many would call the "reunion" album "Vegabond Bones".  The chemistry of this lineup has produced another solid Rock record. This album totally captures the Helix sound and energy of yesteryear. I thoroughly recommend checking it out! After playing Rocklahoma in July 2009 Helix have been playing shows from Coast to Coast in Canada with no stop in sight.

As we close out Vol 2 of  Hoser Heavy Metal. I decided to leave you with my personal "Essential Helix" Playlist. It includes some hits and some deep cuts, check em out and let me know what you think...

1. "Rock You" from Walkin the Razor's Edge
2. "Wild in the Streets" from Wild in the Streets
3. "Heavy Metal Love" from No Rest for the Wicked
4. "The Storm" from Back for Another Taste
5. "Dirty Dog" from No Rest for the Wicked
6. "Long Way to Heaven" from Long Way to Heaven
7. "Hung Over but Still Hangin In" from Vegabond Blues (with Russ Dwarf)
8. "Billy Oxygen" from Breakin Loose (note this one might be tough to find remember it was 1979)
9. "Make Me Do Anything You Want" from Walkin the Razor's Edge

For those in the Toronto area you can catch them Friday April 27th, 2012 at the Rockpile in Etobicoke. I will be there!






FREE DOWNLOAD! Soundgarden - "Live To Rise" single

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My favorite '90s band. Superunknown is my favorite '90s album as well. - Andrew

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hoser Heavy Metal Vol. 1 - Brighton Rock

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Hey everyone,

Greetings from the Great White North. Welcome to the first instalment of "Hoser Heavy Metal" where I will feature some of the best "metal" and "hard rock" to come from Canada.

Canada has been home to many great Metal/Hard Rock Bands some became household names(ala Rush and Triumph), some have been named as influences for other great bands (ala Anvil) and others that made successful careers simply north of the border. All in all there is a ton of great music that you may or may have never heard, from bands you may have never even known.

Each instalment I will highlight a new Canadian Band. One of the things I love about Decibel Geek is how it has gotten me to revisit some of my old cd collection and has also had me looking for some "new" additions as Chris and Aaron play some bands I never knew or never gave a chance back in the day. So, for your "dining and dancing" pleasure I present to you...

Photo by Wally Norton


Brighton Rock. This five  piece band out of Niagara Falls, Ontario was one of those bands that in my opinion "should" have been massive. They had all the right ingredients to really hit the big time.

They were signed to WEA records in Canada and released three albums between 86 and 91. An incredibly tight live act, they toured extensively in Canada and always delivered an kick ass show.

Comprised of Gerry McGhee (vocals), Greg Fraser (guitar), Stevie Skreebs (bass), Mark Cavarzan (drums) and Johnny Rogers (keyboards/guitar) they played radio friendly heavy metal that in my humble opinion could be put right alongside the Motley Crues, the Def Leppards and the  Kiss releases of the time.



Their debut release "Young Wild and Free" hit the shelves in 1986 delivered 2 single "We Came to Rock" and "Can't Wait for the Night". Brighton Rock's Vocalist Gerry McGhee really brings the band it's signature sound, his voice is unique and powerful as hell. I rank him very high in my favourite vocalist list.

Their second release "Take a Deep Breath" was commercially their most successful album. Spawning three singles it went to 22 on the Canadian album chart and was certified Gold. Check out "Power Overload" and "Shooting for Love" as standout tracks.

It was their third album when Brighton Rock really came into their own. On "Love Machine" producer Toby Wright pushed the keyboards aside and the band released a world class metal album with guitars front and center.

Lead off track "Bulletproof" is a thrashy high octane rocker that sets the tone for a heavier Brighton Rock. "Hollywood Shuffle" and the title track "Love Machine" keep the party rolling but it's track number 7 that still gives me chills. "Nightstalker" lyrically tells the story of serial killer Richard Ramirez and the song is dark, heavy and brooding. Also noteable the killer cover of Clapton's "Cocaine" was recorded in 1 take. Unfortunately the timing of it's 91 release was the same time the hair metal bands were being washed away by the Seattle movment and Brighton Rock broke up in 92.

That said the three albums they put out contain some great tunes and the band have since reunited for some select shows. I was able to check them out in 2009 at a benefit show and all these years later they still have all the chops intact, including Gerry's pipes!



Do yourself a favour and check out Brighton Rock.. If you like metal and I know the Decibel Geek fans do than I really think you'll dig them.

Kiss Konection! You may have recognized producer Toby Wright's name mentioned. He later produced Kiss's "Carnival of Souls" release.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Episode 28 - 1983 Year in Review

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Before we flash back in  time we want to remind you of our upcoming Listener Request episode! We want you to call in your hard rock/metal song request on our hotline and we'll play our favorite requests on the show! The number to call is (540) - DBGEEK-1 (or (540) 324-3351). That number will take you straight to our voice mail hotline. Don't be shy!

We had some great feedback on the recent 1975 Year in Review show so we decided to jump back into the time machine and venture to another year. This time we're going back to the days of Atari, Dr. J, and Metallica before they became sycophantic Lou Reed cohorts. We're heading back to 1983.

This Year in Review episode has got a little bit of everything from the pop culture stew of 1983. There was a lot going on in the entertainment world from M.A.S.H. ending its legendary run atop the television world to the release of the tragedy-laden movie version of The Twilight Zone movie. We touch on that stuff but we're a music show, right?

The musical landscape of 1983 was certainly varied. The top of the Billboard charts was mostly owned by Michael Jackson as this was the high point for his vaunted Thriller album. Other top pop stars of the year included The Police and a young starlet named Madonna.

The hard rock and metal world was certainly in flux in 1983 with grease painted rock legends KISS deciding to scrub off the clown white and go au naturele on MTV. A new metal band was starting to make waves in the Bay Area in 1983. Metallica released Kill 'Em All on Megaforce Records and heavy metal was never the same. 1983 was a confusing year for rock legends Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath with the left-of-center releases of DaDa and Born Again respectively.


So, break out your Wacky Wallwalkers, strap on your Swatch, and hope into the Family Truckster. It's time to hit the time travel highway to 1983!

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Episode 27 - Radio Sucks Radio Show vol.5

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Networks, KISS Reviews, and The Group Thing



We've been awfully theme-y lately and decided to spend this week doing what we do best; being unorganized and playing whatever we feel from our iPod. Before we get to the music, we've got a few news items. Cue the teletype:



We're now a part of a cult! Decibel Geek Podcast is now a proud member of the Auralgasm Podcasting Network. Don't fear, this doesn't mean that you'll be squirting from your ears in the future. It simply means that we were selected from a large group of entries to be a member of this new podcasting network for independent, high-quality shows. The majority of the shows on the network are comedy based so we're not sure if that means we are funny or unintentionally funny. Either way, we're thrilled to be part of this new and growing network. Head over to Auralgasm to see our dedicated show page with custom artwork. And while you're there, check out some of the other shows. We have and they've made us laugh. We're just sayin'.



This week Chris put up an exclusive review on the Decibel Geek facebook page of his thoughts on KISS' recent performance in New Orleans during the NCAA Men's basketball tournament. Lots of reaction was elicited from Paul Stanley's vocal performance and Chris shares his thoughts and concerns over what this may mean for a very busy 2012 in the world of KISS.

We also give a special thanks to Jeff and Jon over at the Class Rock Bottom website for recently creating a Decibel Geek podcast group on their page. These guys are some of our most dedicated fans and always give us good feedback on the episodes and we are honored that they thought enough of the show build a group page to discuss it. Go check it out!

Lastly, before we get to the tunes, we're on the prowl for more writers/contributors to the official website. We love the content that we receive from our current contributors but are thirsting for more content to share with you, the listener, while you wait for the next episode each week. If you have a passion for writing about hard rock and/or metal and want to get some good exposure to your work, contact us at decibelgeek@gmail.com and let us know that you are interested. We look forward to making you a part of the team!

Uh, Aren't We Supposed to Hear Music?

Sorry, we had to shill for a few minutes there but today's show is most definitely packed to the gills with a variety of rock and metal. You're going to hear a little bit of everything today from pop-rock to Danish metal as well as a great track from an Australian band, Chinatown Angels, who were nice enough to send us a bunch of free swag including t-shirts, cds, and posters.

We wouldn't play the music if it sucked so you can rest assured that this band is exactly the type of fresh blood that we look for in today's music.

In conclusion, we hope you enjoy the scattered musical picks that we have for you today. They are all over the place and there's definitely something for everyone. Rock on this week and we'll see you next week!

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