HEAVEN AND EARTH

I knew very little about HEAVEN AND EARTH so I had to interview them to get to know more about them. Anders Ekdahl ©2014

Is the name important in establishing what kind of metal it is that you play?
-I think so. I don’t think it would exactly work if you’re playing really hard rock and the band is called something like “Hearts & Flowers” but that being said, people tend to identify whatever name you give the band with the sort of music you play.

Just so we know what we are dealing with could you please give us a short introduction to the band?
-The first Heaven & Earth album, back in 1998, was originally a solo project. As I didn’t have a band at the time I got the record deal I just called up all my friends to play on it. On that album I had Richie Sambora, Joe Lynn Turner, Glenn Hughes, Kelly Hansen and Bobby Kimbal singing so it sort of became a cult classic, which established my name as a guitarist. The second album “Windows to the World” had one singer, Kelly Keeling on and I removed my name from the title of the band, as I’ve always preferred a band situation. After that we started touring in the States as Heaven & Earth with Kelly Hansen as singer but then he got the offer to join Foreigner and I couldn’t find anyone at the time good enough to replace him so I put the band on hiatus and joined up with Steve Priest to reform Sweet. I did that for a few years, then in 2011 got the offer from Quarto Valley Records to record another Heaven & Earth album so I quit Sweet, got together with Joe Retta, Richie Onori, Chuck Wright and Arlan Schierbaum and started working on our new album “Dig” which was released in April last year.

How do you find your sound? Do you take a whole bunch of influences and mix them together to make it your brew?
-Pretty much. I will generally start off with a guitar riff and play it to the band then everyone joins in and adds their ideas and that gets us the basic structure of the song. With the deal with Quarto Valley Records we had the luxury of having a record company that believed in us 100% so we could take as long as we wanted to really craft the songs. Joe Retta would record the rehearsal/writing sessions and then send us all MP3’s so we’d all come into the next session with new ideas for that particular song. We would keep reworking songs anything up to 50 times and wouldn’t go into the recording studio till we felt every song was ready. This way we could feel there were no fillers on the album.

Is art work and lay out still as important when more and more people download legally music to their phones or ipads/computers?
-Probably not but Quarto Valley Records wanted to do everything first class so they hired Glen Wexler to put the package together including the incredible cover. We also brought the album out on 12” vinyl which looks incredible.

What are your feelings on this development of digital replacing physical?
-Mixed. In one way I think it’s good because it makes music more accessible but on the other hand it makes it a lot easier for people to share the music illegally and it’s got so commonplace that people don’t even think about how it hurts the artist financially when they forward MP3’s to friends.

Do you agree that digital is killing the music scene as we know it now?
-Totally. If we’d have released “Dig” 15 years ago, judging by the reviews we’ve had, it would have gone multi platinum but now a CD is reduced to nothing more than a calling card. It’s also made it a lot easier for anybody to produce and distribute music which in most cases is not a good thing as there’s so much crap out there muddying the waters it makes it harder to find quality music

How important is playing live today? Is there still a live scene to talk about? Do people still go to shows? To me it seems that it is all big tour packages or festivals that are left.
-Playing live is really the only way left to make a living nowadays but that in itself is a double-edged sword. Radio stations do not play anything by new artists in the rock genre, in fact they don’t even play anything new by established artists and to be picked up for a major tour the promoters feel they have to add only bands to the bill that will draw a large attendance. This, to my mind, is a big mistake. It’s not seeding for the future. For instance, in the States, Live Nation will put the same old packages together, ie Journey, Heart,and Styx or Foreigner, Styx and Night Ranger etc, and at the end of the day that third act on the bill is only going to bring in another 75 or so fans because the fans of the first 2 bands are already fans of the third band. A healthy alternative would be for them to put on a new relatively unknown band that would fit the bill so that they get exposure and after a couple of years would be able to move up the bill and eventually tour on their own. A newer band would also do a lot of self-promotion that an established band wouldn’t and would probably bring in a lot more new fans to the event.

How has the Internet changed the feeling of community in being a local band playing local shows? Does it still feel that you are a product of your surrounding area?
-Not so much. This is one of the real positive aspects of the Internet. It makes it a lot easier for bands to get the word out and develop their fan bases.

I guess that most bands go through one or two lineup changes. How do you as a band contain your sound when one member leaves and a new one arrive?
-Generally there’s always one person or a couple of people in each band that are the main writers and they dictate the sound so one person leaving will not effect the overall sound too much unless it’s the singer and you replace them with someone with a completely different style. Also any new members brought in would be picked for their ability to recreate the sound of the band.

What would you like to see the future bring with it?
-I would like to see the world’s governments taking a lot more of an active stance against illegal file sharing. The day after “Dig was released it was available for free from a ton of pirate sites throughout the world which cost us a fortune and this can be stopped. Starting with the States, they should pass laws that require Internet servers to be very heavily fined if they host sites that offer free downloads. Believe me, artists would report them in a heartbeat and if the server didn’t cut off the site within 24 hours then they get hit with a huge fine. Then, if that works, have delegations go to other countries and persuade their governments to do the same as it’s hurting their musicians too. If this kind of problem was affecting the oil or drug companies this would have already been stopped. I think what it’s going to take is for someone is to get enough big names in the music industry together to make enough noise to make the politicians get off their backsides and do something to earn their paychecks.

Maybe I’ll make a few phone calls next year.

Stuart Smith.
www.heavenandearthband.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/officialheavenandearth

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