Heaven's Basement interview

"Hey, Heaven's Basement, don't turn into dicks"

07/02/2014 @ 12:08
One of last year's breakthrough acts, Heaven's Basement, have had quite a ride so far. With their first LP impressing everyone and their mother, and hundreds of gig under their belt, they are way on the path to pure rock and roll glory. We caught them on the road in Glasgow,sat down for a chat with Sid and Chris and talked about the band, their first full length release, touring and life lessons. Enjoy!

Heaven's BasementIs this the first time you’re talking to the Greek media?
In Scotland? Yes! (laughs) Actually, we sent some of our old EP’s to Greece to be reviewed two or three years ago...

Well, congratulations on your first LP are in order. Everyone here at Rocking.gr loved it. What has the general reception been?
(Chris) Amazing! It has been really good. The singles have been getting a lot of airplay. The main thing for us though is that our fanbase really likes it and it has spread out further. It is an album that we were proud of when we made it. Then, when you release it to the world, the number one thing you want is for the fans to like and thats what happened.

How come it took so long to release it? You guys have been around for quite some time...
(Chris) We never wanted to rush it really. There was a time in 2010  when we were still getting the band lineup finalized and stuff like that. We released an EP or two to keep us on the road, as there wasn’t a plan really to make an album as soon as we started the band. It was more like getting the opportunity to tour for a few years, build-up a fanbase, write songs and go into the studio when we felt ready, which was last year.

Heaven's Basement - Filthy EmpireSo what was it about Red Bull Records that made you feel 'ready'?
(Sid) They had seen us live a lot, so that’s why they liked us and they liked the fact that we were a real live rock band. They believed in us and they were cool with the fact that we were not necessarily ready to sign a deal and do an album, cause, you know, there were slight line-up changes. They were like, 'Cool, sort yourselves out, and when you guys feel happy we will be here waiting for your'. So, they stayed there for a few years, which felt strange from a record company. It showed that they did believe in the band, they had a passion for it and it wasn’t just about 'here is the flavour of the month, we can sell a few records'. They really believed in us.

They are a massive brand, but their record label is relatively new...
(Sid) Yeah, it’s an indie label!

(Chris) It was exciting for us to go with a label that was new and was full of people that were excited, fresh and willing to take risks. There were only a few bands on the label at the time which means that there was a really good and direct relationship between us and the label. Big labels manage three million bands that sound the same and represent the same genre, whereas Red Bull is nothing like that.

Heaven's BasementWere you looking into any other options at the time?
(Sid) There was a couple of things that weren’t that inspiring, cause we were thinking 'Yeah, but we can do that ourselves'. With Red Bull, we were in a place that made us feel good about it, they were in a place where they felt good about it, so we said 'Fuck it!' and just went with it.

Our editor that reviewed your LP made a direct comparison to "Appetite For Destruction", as he struggled to find a similar debut album that had the same impact on him. When setting out to write your first LP were you like, 'Okay, let's write our own...'
(Sid) "Appetite For Destruction"!

(Chris) That is probably the best debut album from a rock band ever!

(Sid) When people say stuff like that I take it as a massive compliment, its not that our album sounds like “Appetite” but is has more to do with the effect it has. When we were writing it we looked at things like "Appetite For Destruction", Rage Against The Machine’s debut, Oasis’ "Definitely Maybe", which are all fucking strong first albums. We wanted to do a first album that we could headline big sets with, and just play the whole album, which is ambitious. If we achieved it or not isn’t the point, what matters was that we didn’t anything in there to feel like a filler. Even though there are songs on the album that are definitely not single-type songs or radio-type songs, they are still good music and works live!

Heaven's BasementWell you kindah answered my next questions which was which bands you looked up to or were inspired from when writing this album, cause I do get some Slash influences here and there...
(Sid) Yeah, but stuff like that is very spontaneous. I never went out with 'Okay, lets do a Slash thing here'. A lot of the stuff on the album is completely improvised, cause we recorded it in 8 days. We did everything very fast, just to get things done. Play well, get the tape, cause you can’t go back and fix it. All the guitar solos were pretty much improvised, except maybe for older songs like "Can't Let Go" or "Executioner's Day" which were improvised way back in the start and kindah stuck through until now. Aaron (Buchanan, vocals) would be in the booth and I would be outside with Feldman (producer) working on stuff, scribbling notes. A lot of it was on the fly. There is no pretentiousness in what we wrote. We wrote things that we enjoy. There was no fake 'ah, lets do this cause we think it’ll be successful'. Fuck that, I don’t care. Let’s write a bar rock song. Let’s put "Jump Back" back in, which is essentially and old-school punk-rock track about having sex in a taxi.  It might not be commercial but it is fun and it is different and I  think people can simply relate to that.

You guys seem to do nothing but tour. Hasn’t that put a strain on you over the years?
(Chris) When you’re in a band you get two types of people. You get those that love touring and get off with it, who want to play shows every night, and people who think they do, and when they start doing it they see that it is not for them and leave the band, you know. Luckily for us, we are all guys who love touring and we’ve always been a live band, learning our craft.

(Sid) We didn’t get into a band to be famous or rich, cause that doesn’t really exist anymore. We got into it cause there is an unquenchable thirst to play music live. That’s what we do and that is all we want to do. This was just our way of being able to play music live, everywhere. Recording an album was just to allow us to tour.

Heaven's BasementSo you guys have toured with A LOT of bands. Which would you say was the most fun band to tour with?
(Sid) We’ve been really lucky, we’ve been on some great tours man. We’ve made a lot of good friends, and even if we’re not touring, if we bump into each other in  festivals, we still have a good time.

(Chris) So far, honestly, we haven’t had a bad experience.

(Sid) We got on really well with Papa Roach when we toured with them, every time we see those guys its a great party. Black Stone Cherry guys are great fun, Halestorm... We had a pretty good time with the Pretty Reckless.

(Chris) Even with bands we haven’t toured with, bands that we have just played festivals alongside, like Asking Alexandria or just Head from Korn! He was watching our show from the side of the stage once and we were like 'Wow, that’s the guy from Korn!'. We’ve gotten to know a lot of people!

(Sid) Being invited to Vinnie Paul’s (Pantera, Hell Yeah) house and just have a party there. That was...like... 'Fuck!'.

(Chris) Vinnie Paul coming to our gig and saying that he hadn’t heard of us before and really enjoyed the show.

(Sid) Yeah, he was like 'Wasn’t sure what you would be like cause most young bands are like screamo or whatever'. He was nothing but complimentary! After the gig he was like, 'come back to my club' and got us absolutely hammered!.

(Chris) Duff McKagan is apparently really into "I'm Electric" which is a really big deal for us. These people, we grew up listening to, with their posters on our walls! They discovered us on their own.

(Sid) We’ve never forced anything on anyone. You know, when you play and tour all over the place, it is quite a small world, especially when you start doing festivals what not, you get to know people. You get fucking Korn on the side of the stage!

Heaven's BasementWho would you say 'taught' you the most. I mean, yeah, you’ve been touring for ages, so you’ve built your own guidelines...
(Sid) Well, its hard to say. Touring with Papa Roach, they were a very different band live to the Pretty Reckless. They were equally as good, but in different ways. It is interesting to me to see how different bands get the same reaction by doing different things.

(Chris) Papa Roach are really energetic, full-on, run around the place, getting everyone worked up. The Pretty Reckless are a bit cooler, grungier, more laid back, playing on their sexiness and that type of attitude.

(Sid) It’s a whole different approach but works in the same way!

(Chris) I remember playing with the Pretty Reckless and Taylor (Momsen, vocals) had a problem with her knees and was literally limping between shows, she came on stage and gave it all.

(Sid) She shouldn’t be doing power slides on her knees! We were backstage and afterwards I was like 'Why the fuck were you doing that for?' and she replied 'What can I say, it was for the show'! Once the adrenaline is going, you got to put on a show.      

(Chris) You can definitely get inspiration from things like that

Heaven's BasementWell for example, you have opened for Bon Jovi, where there any times they were like 'Listen up guys, uuhm, you shouldn’t really be doing that'?
(Sid) Well, that was a strange gig, it didn’t really count. We somehow managed to charm our way into that situation... It was amazing, everyone was really cool with us, but it is not that we toured with Bon Jovi...

(Chris) The best advice we have ever gotten is, hands down, was a Korn setlist with a note saying 'Hey, Heaven’s Basement, don’t turn into dicks'. We turned up to Grasspop and they had left us a signed setlist with that message on it.

(Sid) I mean, that’s just good advice. Don’t forget what you are there to do. You are there because you are a musician that loves music. Doesn’t matter how many albums you sell, doesn’t matter how many people are there to see you, you are no fucking Jesus. You are not different to the people in the crowd. They are music fans, we are music fans. So whatever you do, don’t turn into a dick, cause it ruins everything for everyone.

Being a UK band that recently toured the US, what do you find to be the main difference between audiences?
(Sid) I find there to be a bigger difference between the UK and Europe rather than the UK and America. When you go to places like Spain, Italy or Portugal, there is an intense passion and energy in the room. Same like South America.

You can then tell slight differences between German crows, Dutch crowds, and French crowds. I mean, they are all good, but you can definitely tell where you are.  Whereas, in America, it kind of  felt the same wherever you went. Everyone was out for a good time. We’ve had the opportunity to play in front of very different crowds. The Pretty Reckless crowd is really different to others.

(Chris) You just figure it out through time and after a while you get to know and figure things out. Different people have different ways of showing enjoyment at a show. A guy might be just bobbing his head, a girl might be screaming and having the time of her life, another guy might be smashing around like crazy, but at the end, they all seem to have a blast.

(Sid) Everyone was really welcoming in the States. Canada was great too. Montreal, Quebec. Every crowd is different. Even if you play the same town on a different day it will be different.

Heaven's Basement"Filthy Empire" was produced by John Feldman who has built up quite a name for himself in the modern music scene. How was it working with him and what was his biggest contribution to the record?
(Sid) It was a curveball, cause we didn’t really know much about Feldman before. We had just met him and there was a spark! We come from very different backgrounds musically, we are more rock and roll and he has all that pop-punk and screamo things going on. He is a very talented guy and his best feature is the passion he shows, which is something we feed off, cause those are the short of people we like. He was up trying anything, which is always good. He wasn’t like 'You are THIS type of band, you should do THIS' he was more like 'Yeah, fuck it, let’s try this'. We would come with very different ideas and would smash them around with him, and what we were left with, was the album.  He is a singer, so he is great with working with singers. He has a good idea for what 'fits' in a song. He could take your idea, and twist it a bit to make it really good. I suppose that’s what any good producer should do, but he is great. His passion for wanting to do our band’s album was what sealed the deal.

Oh! I thought he was sort of 'assigned' to you by the label...
(Both) No, no, no!

(Sid) We were planning to meet a whole bunch of different people  and then we met him first and instantly clicked. We jammed "Nothing Left To Lose" on the first day, finished that, and he said that he would love to do things like that, he was very proactive and making it clear that he really wanted to do the album. People were nervous at first, because of his background, but it doesn’t really matter what it sounds like on paper. We knew that there was some kind of chemistry there. Also, part of it, we clicked with Brandon (Paddock), his engineer, straight away.  He hadn’t really worked with many bands like us before, so he was too very excited. I knew that we would get along straight away. I didn’t really record much with Feldman, cause we were working so fast, living a 24 hour day. He would work in the day with Chris (drums) and Aaron (vocals), get the drums and vocals bits sorted and then Rob and myself would go in during the night time, do guitars and bass. That’s how we hammered out the album. Each morning we would see what the others had done and then tweak around with it. It was cool.

Heaven's BasementWhat's the story behind the artwork of the album?
(Sid) Well there was the issue of we were going to represent "Filthy Empire". We didn’t want to be too specific. The reason we liked the name is because it spoke to people in different ways, it conjured up different images. The match with the city burning in the embers kindah referenced the title without being too specific. We didn't wanting anything to say 'Oh! This is about Government' or 'This is about Politics'.

We wanted something simple and classic. It is also something that you could also miss what it is. Is it a cigarette? Is it a match? But when you look at it 'Oh! Fuck'...

Jason Tsimplakos