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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews


Interviewed by Greg Olma
Interview with Ben Sotto of Heavenly from 2007
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at

Previously, you were with Noise Records but Virus is released on Locomotive Records. How did the label change come about?
At the end of 2005, Noise Record activities were declining and the label broke their deals with a lot of bands, and Heavenly was one of these. So we had to find another record company. At this moment, we recorded a demo of three new songs and sent it to a lot of labels. We got several positive returns from labels but AFM records for Europe and Locomotive for USA did the best proposal. So this is something very new for us, it is our first album with those labels. We are glad to deal with them and we totally trust in them and we're not disappointed and I hope we'll never be. We'll work together as long as both will be satisfied of our works..
MSJ: Your sound changed a little on the new record with less fast paced drumming on the whole CD. Was there a concerted effort to change or is this just a natural evolution for your music?
With this new album, we tried to make a "good mix" between power and melody. On one hand, all the rhythm guitars and bass guitar give a powerful dimension to the music and on the other hand, all vocals and lead guitars bring the melody. In that way, we tried to keep these two aspects in our music. And this is probably the main difference with [the] Dust to Dust album which sounds a bit symphonic with too many orchestrations and Virus is more direct. So it wasn’t a concerted effort but a natural evolution.
MSJ: Your lyrics cover a lot of different subject matters. What do you use for inspiration to write either the lyrics or music?
Heavenly’s songs deal with different themes of every day’s life. And lyrics and music came from nowhere, you know there isn’t a sole way of inspiration, or please tell me the solution. Concerning [the] Virus album, [it] is not a concept album like Dust to Dust; it is a compilation of nine individual tracks which deal with different themes. The first song “The Dark Memories” tells the story of a man who try to get out from a nervous breakdown. "Spill Blood On Fire" talks about all wounds that human beings accumulated through the ages, on and on …war, poverty, terrorism, racism, pollutions…and the strange things is that we didn’t learn our past lessons. "Virus" is the story of a spy as I've said just before. "The Power & Fury” is just a crisis of conscience that time is running out day after day …so don’t forget to “cling to your dream as long as you have time …”. "Wasted Time" is a story of a prisoner which reflects a lot of his own past life, just alone with himself in the dark. He feels that the time goes by so fast but without knowing happiness moment. "Bravery In The Field" deals with civil war and those warriors very proud and full of courage in the battle field, this is something that you see a lot in movies actually. "Liberty,” one more time, this song is talking about war and all people died to live in liberty since the beginning of human being area. This is the story of many countries. And the last one, "Prince Of The World" is a very beautiful song, the theme is a guy which has to say goodbye to his little life, all his childhood friends and family to go to a new destination…and reach the glory and dethrone the king of the kings ….
MSJ: On Virus, many of the songs contain different parts to give it a bit of a progressive feel. What influences helped shape the sound of the new record?
Of course, Virus is a bit different of Dust to Dust. For Heavenly, the best album is a mix of big rhythm guitar, very loud and strong and also a lot of melody with different ways of emotion. So we tried to do this with Dust to Dust but it was really hard because of the concept story and also sounded too much symphonic. This new album is simply heavy metal, we try to go directly to the essential and forget the unnecessary part! We are all very proud of our work and it’s the most important today to take pleasure.

About inspiration, I still like heavy metal music like Manowar, Iron Maiden, Gamma Ray, Angra, Helloween, Running Wild, Metallica, Megadeth, Judas Priest, Nightwish, Spinal Tap, Iced Earth, Dio and else... But other styles with bands like Queen, The Doors, Muse, Dire Straits, Jerry Lee Lewis, Springsteen, Murray Head, John Miles, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Jermaine and Michael Jackson, and many others….
MSJ: The new CD has such a “dark” cover compared to Dust To Dust and Coming From The Sky. How do you go about deciding on the theme of the artwork?
We wanted to call the album “Virus.” It was necessary for the cover to be in relation with the concept of the song "Virus" which is the story of a spy which only wants to destroy everything and so it was impossible to put a "Heaven" cover with beautiful angels or something like that, for example like the first album Coming From The Sky. As you said, the cover is not typical for this kind of music but it represents very well this virus described into the song. And more, the style of Heavenly is more aggressive and powerful than before so the cover also reflects this aspect of the music.
MSJ: How do you decide which track will be the “bonus” track on the Japanese release?
In Japan, an album has, for contractual reason, to be out before the other countries, and for the same reason it needs bonus tracks. That's why, on all Heavenly's albums there are bonus tracks. On this record, we've got two bonus tracks, a song called "The Joker" written and sung by Charley and a second one, the Japanese version of "Spill Blood On Fire.” Those two tracks were chosen, for “The Joker” because Charley wrote it and it sounds a bit different from Heavenly’s songs and for “Spill Blood On Fire” Japan version, because it was a song specially recorded for a Japanese bonus track.
MSJ: What was the last CD you purchased?
The last one was Revolver from The Beatles. [The] more I listen to this album; [the] more I think that those guys created a natural and a timeless music.
MSJ: Do you feel that the power metal scene is still going strong and growing in Europe?
Metal scene is very vast and develops everyday. There are different styles like hard rock, heavy metal, black metal, trash metal and else... there is a real expansion because bands combine all these kinds of music with other styles like classical music, jazz, Celtic or traditional music... Well this is very rich for the music. Now the place of Metal into the other music style, Metal progress step by step, for example in France, the most popular music styles are Hip-Hop, pop-rock or French traditional music but Metal in general is not very broadcasted. Only few metal bands success to export their music. But we've got an "underground" metalhead community which supports metal bands. Thanks to these people, metal is still alive in France. I think is the same in other countries in Europe. Lordi won the Eurovision contest; this shows that metal enter slowly in our culture... Anyway, all over the world, there are still a lot of loyal metal fans and just for them and thanks to them, metal will survive..."and the light will shine forever..."
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended as a fan?
The last concert I have seen was Deep Purple in Bordeaux, last March. Very great show. I hope I’ll be on stage like them when I’ll be older doing such performances as good as theirs.
MSJ: What are your touring plans for Virus other than the support slot on the Scorpions tour?
Actually, aside Scorpions tour, a French tour is scheduled on June 2007 as headliner and a French festival “Hellfest” with Slayer, Korn, Megadeth and many others. We hope we'll play in Europe soon too for a tour or summer festivals. We're discussing it at this time, so hope we could visit you soon to play in your country and to be honest, we want to play everywhere we could. So in USA, why not, and with pleasure.
MSJ: What is your favorite “Spinal Tap” moment from your touring career?
Well, I think our favorite “Spinal Tap” moment happened at the first show of Virus tour in Paris. It was a good moment because the audience was very good, but at the end of the show, it was time for us to go back in backstage but the door was locked and we needed a code to get in, so we were in front of the audience on the stage… anyway, a true Spinal Tap scene. Everybody laugh!
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