Nearly a week ago, I found myself in the right place at the right time. I attended a show at the RadioActive Bar and Concert Venue in Vienna, WV. It was here that I had the pleasure to meet Heidi Helser, who I soon learned was the drummer for Columbus, Ohio, based band Roxy Mae. Heidi tamed the skins with band mates Matt Starr Bores and Spïder Lane for a non-stop, high-energy setlist that was well received by those in attendance. I’ve said it several times before. The drummer is the heart of the band and furthermore overlooked and underestimated in many instances. My inner dialog was saying, “a female drummer that rocks…yes…yes…YES!” It’s always a pleasant surprise and for some a shock when a woman sits down behind the set. I get excited. I get very excited because there are so few women drummers out there and when I’m fortunate enough to find one, it’s like striking gold! Heidi did not disappoint in the least as her technique is clean and her attitude fierce!
Q: Heidi, how long have you been with Roxy Mae? For what other bands have you played?
A: I’ve been with Roxy Mae since February 2014. I had a great friend hook me up with Matt and I really liked the music and his playing style. I was on board for sure! Now, with Spïder in the band, we have three generations of rockers! We’re definitely on the same page musically and all of our ideas seem to mesh well. I love making music with these guys! Other bands I’ve played with include Corsair (one of my first), Street Foxx, Tongue-N-Groove, Liquid Backbone, The Godz, and Hagathas Bluff. I’ve also filled in with a lot of different bands on many occasions.
Q: How long have you played drums?
A: I started playing drums thirty-four years ago. As far back as I can remember I wanted to play. It started with my mom buying me KISS Destroyer.
Q: Roxy Mae has several show dates this summer in and around the Columbus, Ohio, area. Any chances of more dates being added?
A: We do have a lot of dates set this summer. There is always room to add more if it’s worthy!
Q: Heidi, Roxy Mae played a small venue when I saw you perform. How do you adjust to small places such as bars or pubs in order to keep the sound balanced?
A: Being a three piece [band], it’s not extremely hard to balance out sound between big and small venues. It’s all about keeping a decent stage volume and letter the P.A. work. I’m the one who has to back off from time to time.
Q: You guys did a fantastic cover of Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” and I personally thought it suited the three of you well.
A: I’m stoked we do “Heartbreaker”, especially with Spïder on vocals. I do sing lead here and there. When we rip into this one, I think everyone expects me to sing it. I do get a pretty good harmony though!
Q: There are so few women behind the set, and I think it’s wonderful that you represent the demographic! What’s it like for you to be in the minority?
A: I’ve never really felt like a minority. I’m just one of the guys or maybe they are just one of the girls, haha! I’ve gotten loads of respect from the majority of my fellow musicians. There’s always that idiot who has to throw out the, “you’re pretty good for a girl” crap. Whatever, move along…
Q: What equipment do you prefer?
A: I have two kits that I use. When live, I play a Mapex Pro M with Sabian cymbals. I have an older Ludwig rocker kit with Paiste cymbals that I keep at home for practice.
Q: Who are some drummers who have influenced your style?
A: Peter Criss was for sure my first influence. In growing up in the 70’s, I got to cut my teeth on a lot of great music; Led Zeppelin and John Bonham are my favorite. Other influences I have are Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience), Stewart Copeland (The Police), Mike Derosier (Heart), Myron Grombacher (Pat Benatar), Gil Moore (Triumph), Clem burke (Blondie), and Clive Burr (Iron Maiden).
Q: Tell me about an album that inspires you?
A: My top three albums [from the 1970s] that really grabbed me were KISS Destroyer, Pat Benatar Crimes of Passion, and Queen Live Killers. A standout album to me now is Army of Anyone (self titled album). The musicianship in this band is fantastic and I always go back to it. I would definitely need it if I were stranded on an island.
Q: Best drummer you’ve seen live?
A: I have way too many favorite drummers I’ve seen live but the one that really stood out was Mike Mangini (currently with Dream Theater). He was with Steve Vai at the Odeon in Cleveland. Mike did a kick ass solo one handed while eating a Twinkie with the other. It was amazing and I’ll never forget it!
Upcoming shows for Roxy Mae
7/2 Kostas – Mansfield, OH
7/9 Rex Fest – New London, OH
7/16 Ink in the Clink Fest – Mansfield, OH
7/27 Veteran’s Pavillon – Norwolk, OH
7/30- 4th Street Bar – Mansfield, OH
8/6 Dillinger’s – Bucyrus, OH
8/13 Belcher’s – Mansfield, OH
9/7 Dillinger’s – Bucyrus, OH
10/15 Kostas – Mansfield, OH
Header photo credit: Christopher Stets
Writer: Amanda Knight