It was a bit quiet after the release of Dust To Dust, coz some members left the band and so they couldn't support the album live. Now they are back with a new album called Virus - time to talk and find out what happened....
Before talking about the new album I want to go back in time a bit. Please tell us what happened in spring 2004. I guess it was a shock that 3 band members left... Or did you expect this?
In reality we had differences of music opinion since the beginning of the recording... They loved more aggressive and extreme metal and get bored with our melody style, this, of course Charley and I understood, but we also keep respect to our fans because I am not sure that Heavenly's listeners would love this music style changes... Then we get differences on music business... So we decided to stop working all together, of course we keep the name Heavenly because of our music style... heavy metal!!! It was hard when this happened but now I can say that it was a good thing because this departure was justified and carry on in that way would have probably been a bad thing... And the atmosphere in the band is now excellent.
Was it tough to find new people? Did you do auditions?
We began to search for new musicians in March 2004... Immediately we received a video of Olivier Lapauze who played sometimes with Fairyland... Charley and I were very impressed by his technical, we said this guy play like Kiko Loureiro or Michael Romeo... Then Olivier introduced Thomas Das Neves which one play a lot progressive metal and have also a high technical... For Matthieu Plana it was different this is Charley which talk with him in a music school at Nancy (MAI), they discussed together and decided to try with him, and it's working! Olivier and Thomas knew Heavenly with Sign Of The Winner album whereas Matthieu it was a discovery... Hopefully he likes to be in the band!
Please tell us a bit about the background of the new ones!
Olivier studied music and learnt guitar alone a long time before entered at ATLA music school (Paris); heplayed with different amateur metal bands, then he had to be additional guitar player for a Fairyland, he also play Jazz music beside for fun. He ever play too many times with Thomas (as I've said, he introduced Thomas to Heavenly). Thomas studied drums at M.A.I. Music school (Nancy), he played in different metal bands: Alchimie, Chameleon, Southern Crown, Evangelism, Death Stop. And Matthieu also studied music and bass guitar at M.A.I. Music school, he played in different Punk and speed metal bands.
Did the new line-up changed your way of writing songs? Or how much been the new members involved?
I'm still the main writter in Heavenly, but I always listen to the opinion of the other guys. The writing process is really simple, I bring a demo of a song and everyone can touch and do modifications to create the best. Charley and Olivier rearranged guitar parts if it's necessary and Thomas and Matthieu do the same. So in that way, each member is important in the writing process.
It seems that the new album Virus is darker... heavier... Was that intentionally? Or did it just happen due to the experiences you just made?
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. So Virus is probably the strongest Heavenly album, it's simple Heavy Metal. The atmosphere of this album is mainly dark too, that's right, but the inspiration came like that, we don't have a motto to write in that way.
Dust To Dust was a concept album. Virus is no concept album, but it seems that there is a red fathom through the album - well, beside the cover version. Are the songs kinda linked?
Virus album is not a concept album like Dust To Dust, this is an album with several independent songs, the themes mentioned in Virus are vast... war, nervous breakdown, farewell... Anyway, there is not a main idea which has been developed through the album.
Why did you choose Virus as the album title? Just because of the song? Or has it a deeper meaning?
We dicided to call this album Virus because during the recording session, our computer got a real virus and it contaminated all of our system, we had to record again some parts, so we wasted a lot of time, and patience too (lol). Then, we broke a hard disk just before the mix of the album, so we lost and wasted time once again because of this. That's why when it was time to find a name for this fourth album, Virus was an obvious choice.
Please tell us a bit about the songs... And what inspired you?
Virus contains nine indivudual tracks which deal with different themes. The first song The Dark Memories tell 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 which want only destroy and pain, to reign terrors everywhere. The thing very interesting is that I wrote these songs with the imagination and the vision of a spy call virus. 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 movie 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 have 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.
I'm inspired by the everyday's life, good and bad moments, happyness and sadness... Well, I let the inspiration doing the talking! lol
You have some guests at Virus. Please tell us how they got involved?
It was such lucky coincidences, I mean Olivier and I went to see Sonata Arctica in concert at Montpellier in France, and after the show we talked with Tony Kakko and we had a good time together... And I asked him to sing with me just for fun and he told me OK, where ever you want me... lol ...For Kevin it was in a special night in the south of France with many French heavy metal bands, I talk with Kevin and said that we never did a keyboard solo in Heavenly. And it was a real shame... He told me "I can try, if you want to..." My answer of course was "It's a deal !! Let's try!" A good result, don't you think? For Tanya it's another story, we did with Edguy the European tour in 2001 and we had a lot of fun during 6 weeks of touring. Great memories. We still kept in touch since that days. When we decided to play the cover of Jermaine Jackson we were searching for female vocals and immediately we thought of Tanya. She accepted and her voice is perfect with song and in harmonie with my voice! Thanks to all this fantastic guests!!!
To cover you chose an 80's pop tune of Jermaine Jackson and Pia Zadora. Why When The Rain Begins To Fall?
We are really fan of this kind of music, there're beautiful melodies and riffs. This song, When The Rain Begins To Fall, has been covered in different ways like techno versions or dance ones. And so we decided to make our version, a Heavenly version. In my opinion, if you want do cover, I think is better to do something a bit different from our own music style, and we thought that a disco song was really interresting. On the original song, there's a duo between Jermaine Jackson and Pia Zadorra, and we wanted to keep this on our version. So we called Tanya and she did a great job.
As usual the Japanese release has some bonus tracks. Why did The Joker was only released on the Japanese version?
In Japan, an album has, for contractual reason, to 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 track, a song called The Joker written and sung by Charley and a second one, the Japanese version of Spill Blood On Fire.
And who had the idea to do Spill Blood On Fire in Japanese? Wasn't it a challenge to sing in Japanese?
We did the Japan version of the song Dust To Dust on the previous album and we had a lot of good responses from Japan and this was really important for the band. For this one at the beginning we decided to do only one track and it was the song The Joker, but during the recording we decided to try one more time a Japan versionů So I said "Let me try Spill Blood On Fire", cause the tempo was not too fast... Hope that the response will be as positive as it was for Dust To Dust... Something important is that I take a lot of pleasure to sing it!
The artwork is also much darker. Who did the cover artwork?
The artwork has been done by a French guy, JP Fournier, who has ever worked with several metal bands like Edguy for Mandrake... As 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 much darker, 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 reflect this apsect of the music.
Talking about art.... You did a video clip for Spill Blood On Fire, please tell us a bit about it. Who directed it? Where do you shot it?
We wanted to make a video clip, and we thought that Spill Blood On Fire was the best song to do it, because this one is very easy to listen, a very catchy song. For a first experience, we're really proud of it and I hope this won't be the last one (lol)!!! The video clip has been directed by a French women called Lise Fischer, she did a very good job because she has worked in a short delay and she did it very well... Thanx a lot one more time for this. We made this video in an unused barrack, we set there and played the song too many hours lol...
And talking about video clips... Does it really make sense these days as there aren't many TV stations showing metal vids?
I'm agree with you, there aren't many TV stations which broadcast metal video clips, but I think metal vids aren't only for promotion. I mean it's also a gift for metal fans. I admit that music doesn't need images to talk, but it's a good present to give to our fan a video because for a lot of people, metal bands are only guys printed on a booklet or guys who play live only one time a year, so making and showing metal vids is important for the metalheads who are too many times forgotten by the media, even if those vids are only broadcasted on the web lol...
Talking about visual stuff... Many bands release DVDs these days, some think there are too many releases, others want more. Anyway, with the 4th album it wasn't too soon to do a DVD. Are there any plans? Are there any recordings from the former line-up? For example from the Wacken show?
I don't think it's time for us to record a Live DVD at this moment. I think it would be better to wait the next album to give to our fans a real contain, five albums is the good number according to me and a DVD has to recall a whole discography. So maybe with the next album... But as you've said Wacken show may be an interesting idea... If we got the opportunity to do that, it will be a real pleasure.
For Dust To Dust you couldn't really tour - due to the departure of the former members. Are there any plans to tour this time? Can you tell anything yet?
Actually, a French tour is scheduled as headliner. We hope we'll play in Europe soon too for a tour or summer festivals, we're discussing it at this time, so we want to play everywhere we could (lol). Maybe we'll know something more in these upcoming days...
Now that we come to the end, some more general questions.... Heavenly is one of a handful French bands. Is the French scene really that small? Or does it only look that way from the outside?
In reality the French scene in not as small as it seems, but it's really hard to export our music style.... I mean we got approx 10 really good bands in heavy metal which could be compared to others in the heavy metal universe!!! Unfortunately it's not the case because of label problems today.... You know now it's hard to find a good label ready to invest in a band, and particularly when you are French ..
And even if its a bit quite about Trust, they are still alive and kicking. Do you think there is any other French rock / metal bad which can be as influential as Trust been in their early days?
Wow .... You know, Trust is really really big here in France, you can't imagine a second band as famous as they are.... It's a different music style than we play, it sounds more like 80's heavy metal with lyrics political engagement. In speed metal we got Adagio, it's more progressive, but very interesting music. I know that they work a lot in Japan... It's clear that due to Noise Records in Europe we are the speed metal band from France, and to be honest with you we are very proud of this!
Any French bands you can recommend? Or from anywhere else? Some unknown ones?
Too many bands are recommended (lol)... Well, in France, I would say Manigance or Adagio and outside.. Germany, there aren't too many good bands... Blind Guardian, Finland... Stratovarius or Sonata Arctica... South America... Angra.... I think there are too many bands to mentioned (lol)
Anything else you want to tell?
First, Heavenly and I would like to thank everyone for supporting the band. I hope our new album Virus can please all of you guys. And maybe we could meet on our next Tour. All the best.
Again thank you for answering my questions. And I hope to see you on tour somewhere... So far, good luck and all the best for Virus!