I’m so grateful that I got the chance to discover Heaven and Earth. Their new album “Dig” sums up the last forty years of rock music. You can hear their influence from the seventies, but it has a very modern energy and attitude, but most importantly these guys know how to play their instruments. Singer Joe Retta's voice is a combination of Paul Rodgers and Chris Cornell Recently I got the chance to sit down with a relatively unknown guitar God in Stuart Smith. Heaven and Earth is his band, and with that band he hopes to save rock music.
Bob Zerull (BZ): Heaven and Earth has been your baby since the early 90’s, but only recently have you recognized it as a whole band, prior to that didn’t you call it more or less your side solo project?
Stuart Smith (SS): It started in ’94. Samsung offered me a solo deal. I didn’t have a band at the time so I just asked everybody that I knew to play on it. I got some great players and singers, Richie Sambora, Glenn Hughes, Joe Lynn Turner and a Kelly Hansen. It was a good album, but I’m always happier in a band situation. The second album, it wasn’t like we all recorded as a band, everybody came in and did their thing, and so it was sort of a band. With this one it was strictly a band situation, which I actually prefer than having a solo project. Everybody put their ideas in and it turned out really well.
BZ: I was going to say; everybody in the band really got a chance to shine on the album "Dig". They all have their own moments; you can definitely tell it was a band and not just you with other guys.
SS: I’m glad it comes across as that, because it’s what we were aiming for.
BZ: One of my favorite things about the album is that you guys have the balls to play music that this generation doesn’t necessarily appreciate, probably because they don’t get to hear it as much. You had Quarto Valley Records behind you big time and that’s kind of unheard of this day in age.
SS: I know. You’ve got Bruce Quarto to thank for that. When he signed us he said, ‘look, I don’t care how long it takes or how much it costs, but when you go into the studio if you think you could’ve done better go in and do it again.’ Which is a dangerous thing to say to musicians like us, because we’re never satisfied (laughs). We went into the studio and we really spent a lot of time crafting the songs. We didn’t really plan that we were going to do a retro 70’s album, it came out that way because that’s where we’re all from and that’s the music we grew up on. You’re right, record companies, even for major acts don’t really put the financial resources behind a band, certainly one at our level anyway. Bruce was putting the same sort of financial resources towards us as someone like Aerosmith would get. At the end of the day it’s sad, but it’s all down to money whether you can get somewhere or not. If you’ve got a good or even if you don’t have a good product, I mean there’s a lot of rubbish out there that shouldn’t even be on vinyl, but it’s out there because people have money behind it. The whole games changed, it’s not like it was ten or fifteen years ago. There’s the Internet, which has really put a huge dent in things and changed things around. You have to build up an audience so you can get out there touring. It’s an interesting sort of battlefield out there now.
BZ: I almost feel like it needs to go back to the way it was in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s because the record execs were also fans, they were concerned about money, but they gave bands the time to build that catalog and gain fans and that’s where the money comes from.
SS: That’s very true. You’ve got record companies in Europe, like Frontier who are fans of the genre of what they call AOR (Adult Oriented Rock) and they do a good job, but they don’t have the financial resources to go up against some one like Warner Bros or someone like that. It’s great. A lot of the young kids that are now hearing our stuff have been saying, ‘oh this is great.’ They’re getting so bored with what’s out there today on the radio or TV. They’re now listening to what their parents are listening to, like Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple and thing it’s great. It’s funny, because before this I was playing with Sweet and we’d play festivals to like 10,000 people and half of the audience was between 12 and 20, they were right down in front and they knew all the words. I’m looking forward to getting out there and seeing what the reaction is to this band.
BZ: Have you announced plans to tour or do you at least have plans to tour?
SS: Yeah we’re in rehearsal right now. We’ve got a big industry showcase on April 10th. There are some people showing interest in tours, but we’re waiting to see what comes out after this April the 10th thing. We want to get out to tour as soon as possible, that’s why we’re getting the band ready now.
BZ: The album comes out April 23rd. When you’re as proud of something as you are this, how hard is it to sit and wait for it to come out?
SS: Normally it’d be crazy, but I’m incredibly busy. I’m doing tons and tons of interviews, which is great that people like it and want to talk about it. Rehearsal is every day. Between that and my martial arts classes… At first when they gave us the date I was disappointed, because that’s a long time to wait. Generally the record company would give you about a month, but they gave us a lot of lead-time to build up and get everything right. I’m so busy I haven’t had a chance to think about it.
BZ: You released a video for “No Money No Love,” was that video concept something you came up with?
SS: No that was Glen Wexler, we’ve got two videos in the works. The second ones nearly finished and the other one is “I Don’t Know What Love Is.” For “No Money No Love” Glen had the whole concept. We thought it was a bit risqué, the one we put out is the PG version, you should see the other one (laughs).
BZ: That might get you some extra attention.
SS: Yeah it’s sad that this day in age you have to use huge amounts of sex or violence to get any attention.
BZ: I talked with a band a few months ago that had a video that featured Lindsay Lohan in it. They got a ton of press from it, but they hated it because they wanted their music to get them across and nobody cared about that, they cared about Lindsay.
SS: (Laughs) yeah, it reminds me of an old Monty Python skit Ritche Blackmore and I use to make jokes about this. He would always get asked about his image and nothing to do with his music. There was a Monty Python sketch years ago that we both loved called “Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson.” It’s about a classical composer who’s being interviewed. The guy starts off by introducing, ‘Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson who just wrote a new symphony. Just before I get into that I go to the name ‘Two Sheds.’ The whole interview is about him having sheds in his yard (laughs). It’s funny, on the Rainbow album, “Long Live Rock n Roll” Cozy Powell wrote the song “The Shed” about Ritchie because he was always complaining about not being asked about music. So I can understand the frustration of the band who had Lindsay in their video.
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Now here's a clip from the Monty Python sketch "Two Sheds"
BYLINE: Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.