UNDER HEAVEN are new to me (again). For that reason alone I wanted to know more about them and an interview seemed the appropriate forum for it. Anders Ekdahl ©2013
90% of the fun in doing this is to get to discover new bands. UNDER HEAVEN are new to me and I need an introduction to the band. Could you please enlighten us in the dark?
-Certainly. Under Heaven is a Symphonic Goth Project that started in the summer of 2006. I was looking to capture a wide variety of genres of music that have influenced me over the years – Metal, Classical, Celtic, even a bit of New Age and Industrial – and combine them together into something that I felt captured the essence of what I see as Gothic. I had a very good idea of the type of singer I was looking for, but I had thought the auditioning was going to be long and arduous. Then I was introduced to Tammy Everett through a friend who had suggested I try her out, and I knew immediately she caught the spirit of what I was looking for in the vocals – not to mention being a fantastic singer! I had already been coming up with songs for the first album, “What Lies Between”, before I met Tammy, but soon after I found I was writing the songs to take advantage of her style and range. Also, I originally had not intended this project to create more than one album, but Tammy and I connected so well musically that neither one of us could walk away from what we had created. So we knew there were going to be more albums in the works. At the end of 2007, we released our first album. While we received a lot of positive feedback from reviews and fan, we found it difficult to gain the attention of record labels and distributors. It started to seem like Under Heaven would be limited to only one album, but I still kept writing more songs for a second one. Then, in the end of 2012 (a whole 5 years having elapsed from trying to gain attention!) I discovered that Dave Smith of Ravenheart Records had found our project on Facebook and had liked us. I decided to reach out to him and he said he would be interested in working with us. Thus, Under Heaven finally had a home in Ravenheart.
We all live under heaven no matter what religion or non religion we are a part of. What made you chose these words as your band name?
-Well, first it’s important to note that the name Under Heaven was not picked out of religious beliefs – we are not a Christian/religious band. Having said that, the band name is a metaphor for two things: First, the concept of light versus dark. What lies under heaven, besides Earth? Hell does. So there is that metaphor to play with, as I enjoy mixing both light and dark aspects throughout my music. The second metaphor is the idea that all things lie under heaven, including musical styles, and I like the idea that the name can also represent incorporating many different styles and genres of music together to try to create something unique. So the name is also a metaphor for being wide and varied in the styles of music we try to encapsulate.
Would you say it is hard work being a band and being in a band? How much time do you spend on the band?
-We both spend a fair amount of time working on this project. It is hard work because you have to be committed to doing this first and foremost for the love of the music. There’s often very little payoff for a lot of bands when they first start out, so you have to sustain your commitment through your passion and dedication. Having said that, both Tammy and I are dedicated musicians, so even though Under Heaven is a major part of our musical lives it’s not the only thing we focus on musically. We enjoy working in many mediums.
When you have an album out are you taken more serious as a band? Do people look upon the band differently when they can hold a physical product in their hands?
-Having had the first album out for 5 years before getting signed, I can honestly say I believe having an album out does not necessarily get you taken more seriously as a band. I have, however, noticed that getting signed to a label does get you taken more seriously. I think what really gets people to take notice of you is just how dedicated you are to your band or music project. A persons’ passion comes through in whatever kind of art they do, so if enough people can see how passionate you are about something you love that is what will get others to consider you as a serious artist.
Or can a band also be validated by playing live? What is the live scene like today when people can sit in front of a computer screen and pretty much access everything by a click or two?
-I think, more than ever, live performance is what validates a band. The days of when bands could make an album and then sit back and let the sales and royalties come in are long gone. Nowadays, performance is the best way for a band to connect with an audience. Piracy and free downloading on the internet has turned the act of listening to music into a much more disposable medium, so for fans to really connect with a group they need to get out to the venues and see them perform so they can have a lasting experience that they cannot get from sitting in front of their computer.
As a band how much contact have you had with people in other countries? Does their interpretation of the band differ from the way you see the band?
-Most of the contact we’ve had from fans in other countries has been through the use of social media like MySpace, Facebook and, just recently, Twitter. We haven’t been afforded the opportunity to tour, but that is hopefully changing as we are looking to play some shows in the UK and, if sales should pick up through distribution, other countries in Europe. Having said that, the response from fans around the world has been very positive and it really seems to be the same type of interest, regardless of what country they are from. When someone from Germany, the U.S. or South America tells us how much they like our music, it’s usually been described using very similar words in all instances. So we seem to get fans who understand what Under Heaven is about right from the start.
What kind of feelings did you get when you realized that there are people in far away countries listening to you music?
-That’s one thing for which the internet has been a positive force: Reaching out globally. 20 years ago, this kind of fan reach as an independent artist would not have been possible. We both are always amazed when we see someone in Japan or Europe has bought our music. It’s just a great feeling knowing the world really is at your fingertips now to make these kinds of connections.
When you record how much time and effort goes into the track order? How important is the placing of the songs to the whole feeling of the record?
-The placement of tracks is so important to me because I think a band’s album is not just a collection of their songs. I feel there should also be an overall arc to the album, like telling a story from beginning to end. For me, a poorly placed song can disrupt the flow of listening to an album from start to finish. So when I’m writing, I’m actually making a conscious effort to hear where I think the song will be placed in sequence. I want the order of the songs to have an organic flow, a natural progression from one track to the next.
When you write songs do you do so with the intention of them fitting together as a unit or is each individual song more important than the whole?
-I strive to attain both concepts. An album is a complete unit to me because it’s kind of a snapshot of where a musician was at that particular point in their lives. So I like the whole album to have a certain cohesiveness to it. But I also like each song to stand on its own and be enjoyable by itself, as one song can often resonate deeper with someone than another track.
What will 2013 bring to UNDER HEAVEN?
– Well, after the re-launch of our first album “What Lies Between”, happening on February 11th, we’ll be wrapping up the completion of our second album “Nocturnes for the Divine & the Damned”, which will be released sometime in the Spring of 2013. We are hoping to play a lot of shows, starting in the UK and branching out from there. We want to try to reach as many fans as possible this year. And we already have the concept for the third album underway, even though that will be a couple of years from now. So all in all, a very busy, productive and exciting year for us!