At their core, UK hard rockers Heaven’s Basement are about evolution, growth and reaching new heights. Defiance, risk taking and self-challenge are the bands hallmark, not to mention having an arsenal of ass-kicking jams! Having toured across Europe playing hundreds upon hundreds of shows alongside bands such as Papa Roach, Shinedown, Buckcherry, Black Stone Cherry and appearing at festivals such as Sonisphere and Download; they are a band who’ve built their reputation on a setting Britain’s underground on fire and then harnessing the momentum to conqueror the biggest stages across Europe. With rock ‘n’ roll coursing through their veins, their dedication has lead them to the doorstep of superstardom. On February 5th, they will launch their full-blown assault on American music fans with the release of ‘Filthy Empire’. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon reccently caught up with drummer Chris Rivers to discuss his passion for music, the making of ‘Filthy Empire’ and what the band has in store for us in the months to come!
What are your first memories of music?
My dad was a drummer in an ‘80s style metal band as I was growing up so that’s my earliest memory of music is seeing drums around the house and, later, figuring out that they make noise. I remember discovering my parents’ record collection as well, bands like Alice Cooper, Led Zep, Aerosmith and every other band from the ‘70s/80s. I remember a feeling of “who the hell are these guys and what planet do they come from” with bands like Alice Cooper and AC/DC! An album cover like “If you want blood” can have a big affect on a 5-year-old!
What made you pursue music as a career?
There was never a point I sat down and said to myself, “OK, I’m going to be in a band.” It’s just always been my love and the only thing on this world I feel most comfortable doing. Everyone can relate to that, no matter what you do for a living. Everyone has one main love no matter how small or big. The sad thing is the people who never discover it but then that can become an issue of drive. Meeting guys like Sid, Aaron and Rob makes it a whole lot easier, when you’ve got four people who share the same goals and ambition it’s a powerful thing.
Who would you cite as your biggest influence as an artist?
As a drummer, guys like Cozy Powell, John Bonham, Phil Rudd, Joey Kramer and Kenny Aronoff. Also, my father of course who got me into playing drums in the first place!
As a band, Heaven’s Basement’s sound as a band is not dictated by one genre or era of music, we see ourselves as a new take on old school rock ‘n’ roll. It’s obvious that our main love is all great old school rock bands, especially the british bands of the ‘60s/’70s, the likes of Zep, Sabbath, Who, Stones but each one of us has other genres of music we love and bring that to the table. It’s important for a band not to be restricted by one style. We appreciate a good song no matter what genre. Apart from cheesy pop stuff, I’m pretty sure 19 of 20 people on the street could name a band or song that at least one member of Heaven’s Basement will like.
For those who may not be familiar with the band, how did Heaven’s Basement form?
Heaven’s Basement started in 2008. Myself and Sid have known eachother since 2006 through different bands. Basically it was a case of everything coming together in the right way in 2008 that allowed Heaven’s Basement to be born. We spent the first two years of the band playing shows everywhere we possibly could, starting out at pubs and bars in some of the most remote places in the UK that no other bands would go to, as getting gigs in the cities was more challenging to begin with. With having such a constant run of shows, it soon became clear which members were here to stay, we had a lineup change in 2009/2010. First we brought in Rob, who we actually first met the previous year when we played a show with the band he was in at the time, then we met Aaron and brought him in on vocals in early 2011.
The dynamic of a band between its members is the most important thing because that’s the creative spark. It works in a weird and wonderful way. It’s not much different than being in a relationship, it either works or doesn’t work and, aside from the obvious mutual love of music, there are a million reasons why it’ll either work or it won’t. Luckily for us guys, we’re all on the same wave length and know exactly what we want. All four of us guys come from different places in the UK, a city like Manchester for example where I’m from becomes a very small place when you’re on the look out for like minded musicians, so each one of us individually had to look elsewhere around the UK to find people who share the same vision with what type of band we wanted to be in.
How did the name of the band originate?
We were jamming the first batch of Heaven’s Basement songs at our first singers flat in Brighton. Sid actually came up with the name whilst trying to name a room in the basement in the flat where we would jam! We have people thinking all sorts of meanings about the name, the obvious one is some kind of Heaven/Hell thing but it’s really not that! A funny one the other night here in Canada was a guy on the Buckcherry crew thought it meant a woman’s vagina! [laughs] To clear up what the actual name means, it stands for that dark, seedy place that any establishment in the known and unknown universe has, it’s where the dirty deals are done. It could be behind the bike shed at your school, it could be an office in a workplace where the boss fucks the receptionist, it could be a part of heaven where God himself goes to buy pot! You get the idea! [laughs]
Your debut album is called “Filthy Empire.” How did you arrive at this title and what does it mean to you?
It was just a case of spitballing ideas between us for a few weeks. We all had a rough idea of the vibe we wanted, something edgy, dirty and thought provoking. We had filthy and empire on two separate names but we put them together and that was it, simple as that. To us, the main meaning behind it is a bit of a fuck you to certain issues we have towards things in the world today, the way crap pop music is churned out like a machine on lame TV shows we have in the UK. Like most things with Heaven’s Basement, we like people to use their own imagery and relate to what we do in your own individual way.
What can you tell us about the writing process for this album?
When we arrived in LA to begin the album we already had a chunk of material. One of the best things about taking three years or so to record our debut album was it gave us a lot of time and experiences to write songs! We don’t have any strict method with how we write songs, it can come from anywhere. Usually, it’ll happen with a riff from Sid or Rob, or maybe a melody from Aaron. We’ve had other times that we’ve started a song with a subject we want to write about or a set of lyrics. We wrote some songs in the studio with John as well, which was really good fun. He’s a great dude to bounce ideas off. We’d literally record everything so we’d always jam ideas live and see each idea to the end.
What can fans expect sonically from your debut?
You can expect 12 songs that each show a side of Heaven’s Basement! We enjoy having dynamics in our music, so hopefully people will pick up on that. We never want to be a one dimensional band. This album has the heaviest of Heaven’s Basement to the lightest. Most of our fav bands have dynamics across the course of their career. The song subjects range from the saddest of moments such as dealing with a family death to good time songs such as “Jump Back,” which is about sex in a London taxi. We like people to be able to either dance, headbang, sing along or have sex to our music! If anyone can do all four of those things make sure you send us a video!
For the album, you worked with producer John Feldmann. What did he bring to the table?
John was awesome to work with, he’s one of the most talented dudes I’ve ever met. He brought even more energy to the table as well as creativity. Heaven’s Basement has a energy and creativity in abundance as it was very intense! There was a chemistry that just clicked with him. John was not the obvious choice for a band like us as he comes from more a pop punk background with bands like Good Charlotte and The Used, but he has a strong love for punk and English rock, which is a big part of Heaven’s Basement. We’re a very hands on band with every aspect of the sound. There were times when we’d clash heads with John on things but the push-pull relationship we had with him produced a great on-the-edge style energy that worked.
The actual recording of the album was done in around 10 days as we had to get back to England to play at Download festival. It was almost a 24-hour process. In terms of the recording, we’re never a band that is all about perfection. We like things to be on the edge. Energy and vibe are the main things we look for within our performances. John shared this mentality with us.
You released an EP titled “Unbreakable.” How did the band evolve from that release to the new album?
We want every record we do to evolve, we want our second album to be another step up from Filthy Empire. You always have to have an eye on improving and evolving without over thinking things. The “Unbreakable” EP and our first self-titled EP served the purpose of giving people something to go home with at shows and giving us enough money to buy food and fuel to the next show! We evolved and grew in a lot of ways though, especially our song writing skills and figuring out what the Heaven’s Basement sound and style is in its essence.
As an artist, what was the biggest challenge you encountered during the making of “Filthy Empire?”
Honestly, I don’t think we felt a challenge in any negative way. We’ve always had a vision to write and record the strongest debut album we could. We didn’t really ever sit down and try to write singles, we just wrote the music that gets us off. One of the biggest challenges was actually choosing the songs that couldn’t make the album! Twelve tracks was the absolute most we wanted on the album, some of our fav albums of all time have 7-9 tracks on them, all the great ‘70s bands. Being in America with an American producer maybe give us a natural sense of keeping away from any pitfalls that could come with recording an album in LA.
What is the biggest thing you learned about yourself along the way?
So many things, being in a band really opens up your eyes to a lot of things both on a personal and professional level. I guess the main thing I’ve learned is that this is what I’m meant to do, as are the rest of the guys! As cheesy as that sounds, that’s how I feel. One of the most important things to me is keeping your eyes on what’s reality and what’s not. A lot of musicians lose sight of this and I think that ultimately leads to personal and band downfalls. Being in a band for me is a drug, it’s a drug I feel like I’m in control of but, like any drug, if you abuse that drug it’ll kill you. All us guys have a blast. Touring is a party. We’re lucky as fuck to be able to travel around the world, playing our music to people in different cities every night. Every night on tour is a Friday or Saturday night for us but the reason I got into this was my primitive urge to drum and make music with like minded people, every night on stage I feel that and it’s what we’re here for, nothing else.
Heaven’s Basement is a tight circle, we’re very careful about who comes into that circle. One of my best experiences was working with a manager in my previous band who turned out to be not the type of guy I wanted to be associated with. I learned the things not to do which is just as important as learning the things you should do.
The album is being released via Red Bull Records. How has the experience of working with the label been for you so far?
Amazing, I can honestly say hand on heart I don’t believe there is a better team of people in the music business than Red Bull Records. The music business is a minefield of an industry, a lot of bands hate the labels they’re on. For us it’s the total opposite. We’re proud to be a part of Red Bull Records. The whole company’s attitude and ambition matches Heaven’s Basement. There isn’t one person at the label who we’re hesitant to allow influence our career. One of the coolest things for us about the label is they welcome any ideas. No matter how crazy it is, you can suggest anything to them and the answer will be “We’ll look into it.” A key reason we signed to Red Bull Records was the fact that they stuck by us through thick and thin. At one point in the summer of 2010, the band was down to a 3-piece after being a 5-piece firing on all cylinders touring with bands like Papa Roach across Europe just five months earlier. At that time, the team at Red Bull still spent the time to talk to us and encourage us, that meant a lot to us as 99% of other labels would have fucked off.
You guys opened for some huge names in the rock industry. What has the experience of touring done for the band?
We’ve been on some awesome tours over the past few years. Every single tour has a whole load of stories from it. The best thing about touring as support to other bands is going on stage with the challenge of impressing that band’s fan base every night. It’ always been our bread and butter, we have to impress to sell enough merch for fuel to the next show! That’ll always be our attitude no matter how big this band gets. Touring and playing live is the most important thing in our eyes, that’s the mentality we were brought up on as individuals. The stage is the place where people get a true reflection of the band. Anyone can make an album sound fantastic these days, you don’t need to know how to play an instrument! That’s wrong in our eyes, our bar is the highest, it’s our dream for Heaven’s Basement to be regarded along the best, not as individuals, as a band.
What do you hope people come away with after seeing your live show?
A copy of our debut album “Filthy Empire!” [laughs] In all seriousness, I hope they’ll come away feeling fired up after seeing four guys on stage give their absolute all. We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band. Coming to a Heaven’s Basement show should give you energy and make you feel happy. Our shows are parties. Maybe some of our songs will inspire you to do something slightly different that night or the following day, no matter how small. We just want people to enjoy our show and music, simple as that and we’d love to have a beer with you afterwards.
You have done a few videos already. What can we expect next in that realm?
Yes, we’ve released videos for “Fire Fire” and “Nothing Left to Lose.” We’ve also recently shot videos for “I am Electric” and “Lights out in London” that will be released in the future. We’re shooting another music video next week as well for what will end up the fifth single.
It seems like almost everybody has one. Have you ever had a “Spinal Tap Moment” on stage where something totally unexpected happened?
Oh yes, many haha! I can start with just three shows ago on the Buckcherry tour in Toronto. Aaron was sick as a dog all day leading up to the show but he pushed through even though it involved him being sick all over the stage at one point! There was another show in Wolverhampton a while ago where we got lost on the way to the stage, that was a funny moment. Every show we do is different, a lot of stuff breaks, always expect the unexpected at a Heaven’s Basement show!
What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to someone who wants to pursue a career in music?
Enjoy it. At the end of the day people like to be around positive people who bring energy into the circle, that’s the experience I’ve had anyway. Also, make sure from the start that the dudes or girls in your band want the same things, no matter how short or long term that might be! Decide if you want to be the biggest band in your town or the biggest band in the world, then go make it happen! Bands split up and band members leave when these kind of things aren’t addressed from the start. I know people change as they grow but get as clear an idea as you can. Also, don’t be afraid of knock backs, every band needs to have them so you have things to write songs about.
In your opinion, what does the future hold for Heaven’s Basement? Both long term and short?
For the short term, we’ll be touring all of 2013 and most of 2014 around the world. After that we’ll get stuck in with our second album. We come from a love of bands that have been around for 20-40 years, we’re not here to be a flash in the pan, that’s all I can really say about it. No matter what the future holds I can promise you we’ll have a blast along the way!
Anything you want to tell your fans before I let you go?
Yes, you’re all fucking awesome. Seriously, there’s a lot of you that have been there since day one for Heaven’s Basement. Our shows wouldn’t be fun without you all there. Thanks to everyone who’s always supported us and welcome to all our new friends we’re meeting each night in a new town. “Filthy Empire” is for all of you, it’s yours with love from Heaven’s Basement.