On Wings of Hope:
An Interview With Pierre-Emmanuel Pélisson

Interviewed by EvilG
(Sept. 2001)

Heavenly are relative newcomers to the power metal scene. The band were immediately put into the spotlight with their first album COMING FROM THE SKY (2000) thanks in no small part to the guest appearance of Kai (God) Hansen and the production skills of Piet Sielck (Iron Savior). Some people thought they couldn't stand alone...well their new album, SIGN OF THE WINNER (2001) proves any doubters wrong as it has surpassed the quality of their first album. With an upcoming European tour with Edguy, more and more people will see the sign of the winner. What follows is a conversation with Heavenly's bassist, Pierre-Emmanuel Pelisson.


 

Pierre-Emmanuel Pélisson - bassIf you don't mind I'd like to start out talking a little bit about some historical type of questions related to the band.

Ya sure.

OK, first of all, I was wondering about the actual band name Heavenly; how you chose it and what the significance has for you or towards your music.

Well actually, the band started in '94 '95. Ben is the singer and Max is the drummer; formed the band and at the beginning it was not called Heavenly, but actually they found the name pretty quick. And they chose the name because first of all it sounded good you know?. And actually Heavenly has a pretty positive meaning. Regarding our music, we think it means…it's really positive and we have very positive songs as well. So I think the name is quite related to our songs. We are not like a "dark" band with a dark theme. Our songs are always optimistic and full of hope. I think the name Heavenly reflects all that.

 

Has anyone ever assumed that the band was like a Christian metal band because of the name Heavenly?

Well we had allot of questions like that in previous interviews, especially on the first album. But also on the second album I find these questions, like only like yesterday. But there is no Christian relation to the name Heavenly. We have Christian background and everything, but we are not a white metal band.

 

Your band got it's record deal thanks to the "be your own label boss" thing that Noise Records had running on their web site. I was wondering how did the band get included? Did you send your demo to Noise and just decided to run this little competition on their site?

Well yes actually the band sent the demo to allot of record companies and a few of them were really interested. Noise Records was really interested, so I think, but I'm not sure, that they started the be your own label boss at that time when Heavenly sent the demo. They put the demo on the web site and it seemed that allot of people had really good reactions to Heavenly, so that's why they decided to sign the band. I mean I think they already had the idea of signing the band but this contest was like a test to see if the people liked it. People liked it, so they had no doubt whether to sign the band.

Cool. So how many albums did the record company sign Heavenly for?

Ahh...5.

 

Here is a question I'm sure the band has answered allot. How originally did you guys hook up with Kai Hansen and Piet Sielck with the recording of the first album (COMING FROM THE SKY)? Was it a connection that the label set up for you or did the band have some kind of connection with these guys before that?

Well actually it was through the record company because of course Piet is very related to Noise Records. His band Iron Savior is signed to Noise Records. So actually I think it was the first production that he did on his own because he worked with Blind Guardian like a second engineer or something. But it was the first time he was actually producing a band. So Noise Records asked Piet if he wanted to do it and Piet was like 'ok' and the band was like 'of course ok'. And for Kai, actually it happened during the recording because when Ben wrote the song "Time Machine" he was already thinking about Kai Hansen singing the vocals. So when he was in the studio, actually Kai Hansen is the best friend of Piet. Actually Ben asked Piet if he could ask Kai if he was interested in doing the vocals for "Time Machine. So Piet gave a phone call to Kai Hansen and he was 'ok' so it happened that way.

 

So I guess this kinda lent a helping hand to get allot of people to say 'Hey let's check out Heavenly'. We've got Kai Hansen and Piet here on the album or helping with the album. Heavenly must feel a great degree of gratitude for their help in the beginning stages of the band.

Yes, of course. I also have to mention that the band asked Kai Hansen to sing on "Time Machine" not for promotion reasons really. When it happened it was just to fulfill a dream basically. To have Kai Hansen on your album it's really great. [Awesome yeah!] But then after of course he helped allot for the promotion because maybe at the time you could say "produced by Piet Sielck and guest appearance by Kai Hansen" and everything. So yes I think he helped allot so people would take Heavenly seriously. I think allot of people listened to the first album only because Kai Hansen was on it. It was like a mark of quality, so yeah I think it helps allot. But also on the other hand it was a ummm.…a bad thing for the press because the press thought actually we could do nothing without Piet and Kai.

Well you proved that wrong with the new album obviously!

Yeah that's what I was going to say. That's why this time around we decided to not work with Piet once again. And not to have Kai Hansen, again to prove that we could do a good second album by ourselves.

Yeah, I agree definitely. Can you tell me a little about line-up changes that happened in the band between your first album and now SIGN OF THE WINNER?

In November of last year, just one month before the tour with Stratovarius, the band had some problems with the former bass player so actually he left the band and I joined the band because I knew the guitar player really well because he was living in my city. We knew each other and so I joined the band. And what happened with the bass player was like a generation problem because he was 35 yrs old and the rest of the band was more like 20 and 21. He didn't really like this kind of music so there were musical and relationship problems so he left the band. In the end of November, just 2 days before the first show with Symphony X, we were joined by Fred on the keyboard and so we did a tour with Fred on the keyboard. Then we came home and in the end of February just one week before we started to record the new album, Chris the guitar player left the band. So immediately we thought about Fred because we knew he was actually a guitar player and we knew he was really great. We knew we would have no relationship problems with him because we had the time to know him during the first tour. So when Chris left the band, like I said only one week before the beginning of the recording, Fred joined the band on the guitar immediately.

 

Are you planning to replace the position he left at the keyboards or are you planning to leave the position to him for recording?

Actually for the recording, Ben the singer, did all the keyboard spots as on the first album, but for the last shows we won't have any keyboard player we'll use samples like Rhapsody or Angra. But we'll have a second guitar player on stage for a more powerful sound. On the first tour we only have one guitar player and the songs weren't as powerful sometimes. So we thought we needed a second guitar player for this one.

 

I guess you've already been rehearsing with your guitar player for the up coming tour?

Yes yes, we have already. It's going real well with two guitar players because there is two guitar parts. And to work with samples is really cool also because we can give all the orchestration on the album to them on-stage. So now on the second tour we are going to play the songs as they are on the album. Which was not the case on the first tour.

 

One thing that I read in your bio that was sent; it said that the band met in '94 and it mentioned that the band didn't begin out as metal but metal was only discovered later in that year. I found that kind of surprising that a band as good as Heavenly who only really got into metal recently….so I was wondering how that kinda happened and have you listened back to metal that came out before '94, or do you mainly focus on newer bands? For yourself it was probably different than it was for Max and Ben in a way I guess.

For me it's different but for Ben and Max. They started to listen to metal in 94-95. You have to know also that at that time in '94 they were only 14 or 15. I was that age too but I already knew about heavy metal. But anyways, they discovered heavy metal and they immediately loved it and they started to get into it but, I would say that Ben and Max are more focused on 90's heavy metal with bands like Gamma Ray, Helloween, etc. But for me and Fred it's different because I mean we are the same age but we've known heavy metal for a longer time than Ben and Max. So we listened to older stuff as well.

 

Well I guess that Heavenly, in general, are newcomers to metal. What bands from the history of metal would you pick that you listened to or has influenced your own playing?

For me I'd have to say also that I covered bands like Helloween and Gamma Ray. So those are my favorites. So all the bands related to it like Angra, Rhapsody, Stratovarius, EdGuy all those bands. But I like also bands from the eighties like Iron Maiden, Judas priest, Dio, Rainbow you know all that stuff. But my favorite bands are Helloween and Gamma Ray.

Do you prefer the Michael Kiske Helloween or all Helloween?

Yeah...actually for me Helloween stopped after "Pink Bubbles Go Ape" album. After that is not really Helloween for me.

Heavy metal hamsters eh?? (laughter)

Ha ha. Actually "Pink Bubbles Go Ape" is the favorite album of Helloween of Ben and Max.

Really?? wow!!

That's funny?

Yeah that is funny. But hey...everybody likes something different I guess. Ok a few questions obviously related to the new album. The title is SIGN OF THE WINNER. What did you mean by that?

Well allot of people ask that. 'Is it because we truly believe in ourselves'? or whatever. But it's not that at all. The name "Sign Of The Winner" is related to the song with the same name. The cover of the album is also related to that song. In this song it talks about a sailor who is lost at sea and is searching for land like Christopher Columbus or something. It's got the sea and the storm and everything and he asks an unknown force to guide him so he asks for a sign to discover his land. So he receives the sign of the winner to show him land. So it's all related to the song…it doesn't have any meaning like "we are the best. It's not related to the band, we're not Manowar.

 

There's nothing wrong with Manowar....If you like that stuff. I noticed in the writing credits that Ben is credited for all the songs and yet he is the vocalist. You don't always see that. So does he write all the songs by himself or does he write all the songs on guitar and bring it to the band? I'd like to get an idea of how the writing process in your band works.

Well actually he's the singer but he knows how to play guitar as well and he knows how to play keyboards so when he composes, he's using the computer to compose. He composes all the guitar riffs, all the vocal lines. He always begins composing by finding vocal lines, so that's why there's a strong emphasis on melodies because he always starts with the vocal lines. And then he finds guitar riffs and he knows which orchestration he's going to have. When Ben composes he's doing everything. Then he presents this to us and then we work together to arrange the song, so basically everything is done when he composes.

 

And does he write all the lyrics or do other members help with the lyrics?

No, he writes all the lyrics. But I have to mention also for the Japanese a bonus track was composed by Fred. It's an instrumental song and he did that one. It's a Japanese version, but I don't think you have that.

No I don't have that version.

Too bad, it's a cool song and it's quite different because it's entirely instrumental. There's no drums there's no bass. It's really orchestral with guitars.

It's not acoustic guitars is it?

No, electric guitars. In the vein of Symphony X.

 I guess allot of people outside of Japan will be looking for the MP3 online I would assume? :-)

Probably.

 

How did the idea for the albums cover art come about? I know it's based, like you said, on the song, but did the band just give the lyrics to the artist or did you have the concept for what the cover will be ahead of time?

We had the concept. We thought about the concept and actually we explained it to the guy who did it. A good thing about that was that the guy who did it is French so he had no problems understanding what we were meaning. He also did the new Gamma Ray album cover.

Yeah, I noticed, that was really cool.

He has allot of talent and it was very cool to work with him. We had the concept and we explained to him what we wanted, and he proposed to us different things and we said 'yes ok' we would do it...and he did it.

 

I know you have an upcoming tour with EdGuy and I was just wondering what your thoughts were on touring with one of the more popular bands right now in the melodic/power metal scene.

Well I have to say that we are quite lucky because it's our second tour and the first tour we did with Stratovarius. Who are also very popular, so I guess we are very lucky for our second to go with EdGuy; also very popular. The good thing about this is that we'll play mostly everywhere in Western Europe. It's a good opportunity to meet crowds in ten or eleven countries. So yes, it's going to be really cool. And especially because EdGuy are really young and we are really young as well, so I think we are going to get along really fine and have allot of fun.

 

When the band first toured with Stratovarius, did very many people know who Heavenly were or had allot of people already checked out the album or was your music very well known throughout Europe at that time?

Well we played in France, Germany, Chek Republic, Belgium and Holland. I would have to say that we were quite surprised because we started by France so we knew people were going to know us and know about who we were and what our music was like. But we were really surprised when we came abroad to the other countries and saw that allot of people knew our music really well. Especially in Germany there were allot of people singing our lyrics in the clubs and allot of people buying our T-shirts. We were really surprised that allot of people knew about us. A nice surprise it was.

 

One thing I guess allot of people ask you about is, and this is the fact that not many of us, (especially over here in North America) don't know allot about heavy metal bands that exist within France. So what kind of a metal scene do you guys have over there and how does Heavenly do within France in terms of the numbers of people who show up to see you when you play or your album sales within your country?

For the metal scene there's quite allot of bands and more and more bands everyday. But the problem is that you don't know about them because they don't have the opportunity to sign contracts with a big record company. So they are on small record companies with poor distribution and poor production and poor promotion, so you don't know about them. In France the problem is organization with heavy metal because you see for example in Germany you have all the big record companies, and you have allot of clubs where it's possible to play heavy metal. In France you don't have allot of clubs where you can play heavy metal. If French bands had the opportunity to sign with big record companies in France, you would hear more French bands. And for us I would have to say that most of French heavy metal bands know about Heavenly. But actually our sales are not that high because for example, the first album we sold 4 times more CD's in Germany than we did in France. In terms of sales we are not the number one seller in France for a heavy metal band. But we are quite famous because we are basically the first band who can play outside of France. We are quite popular for that.

 

So there is a scene there obviously. Do you guys do many shows there in France with other local bands?

Actually no because what happened was that last year we released our first album and then we went on tour with Stratovarius. We didn't really have the opportunity to play other shows in France because when we finished the tour in the middle of December we had to actually finish the songs for the new album and go directly to the studio. And went in there at the beginning of March so we didn't really have time to do other shows in France. Then we finished the new album in the beginning of July. So we took a little time off to relax a little bit and in August we started to rehearse. Now we're in September so we didn't have time to do any shows. But we're going to play one show in Paris in the beginning of October on the 7th. It's our first headliner show. It's going to be like a release party or something. We're doing this European tour with EdGuy but maybe after that we will do more shows in France.

 

If the type of metal you play is like the speedy/melodic power metal kind of stuff; is that the preferred type of metal in France (for metal fans)? It seems to be very popular in Germany. So do the people go for that type of metal in your country?

Well I have to say that only three or four years ago there were not too many people listening to that type of metal. Actually there were quite a few and you could see that all the bands like Gamma Ray or Helloween, Stratovarius, when they were touring Europe they were not playing in France they were playing in Germany of course, Italy, Spain, Belgium, all around France, but they would not play in France. But this is changed in the past 2 or 3 years, now there is more and more power metal bands who come to France and play shows. It's starting to get better and better and allot more people are starting to get into this. I think nowadays within the metal scene in general, this kind of metal is the most popular type of metal in France now. But of course you consider bands like Slipknot or Korn are allot bigger than Stratovarius or blah blah blah. In general this kind of metal is more popular than the other.

So those bands that you just mentioned the UN-METAL bands I call them, the Slipknot type bands are actually popular over there? [Yeah] Too bad (laughs).

For example the Slipknot album I think it went in the top ten in France. [Wow :-(]

Yeah so you see??

So does Heavenly place anywhere in the charts in France itself?

We did not for the first album, but maybe for the second album. Maybe yes maybe no...but I don't think so. We'll see.

 

Regarding your web site and I know you have a very good web site and you also have a very large section like most bands do on the Sanctuary / Noise Records whatever web page. Do you guys keep up on reading what people are saying about your band or questions they ask? Are you actively involved in that side of the bands promotion?

Yes we do actually. Mostly everyday we visit out own web site or Noise Records to see for example the guest book on our web site and the feedback on the Noise Records site because they put all the songs form the album online and opened a guest book for people to give their opinion. So we read them both everyday to see what people are saying. Of course when people are sending us e-mails because our e-mail address is right on the web site; sometimes they write to us and of course we answer all the time. We are quite involved in that. We are very interested in the feedback we get.

 

I noticed allot of the comments; I was looking at them earlier in the week and it seems that everybody is very pleased with the new album and they think that it's a step up from the first one. Is that mostly the reaction you've been hearing as well?

Yes, and it was really good to see that this time around the press with all the people they talked to and all the interviews I did, they were saying that the new album was quite good. They liked it better than the first one because, I don't know if you know about that, but for the first album the press didn't really like it. they were saying that we were copying Helloween and Gamma Ray so...they didn't really like it. But this time they say that it's quite good and a more personal sound. We were really pleased of course by the reactions of the fans and also with the press. The fans reaction since the first album was really good and now the press starts to get really positive about our music.

Well I consider myself a fan before I consider myself anything press oriented. And I liked the first album; I gave it a very good review.

Yeah, I know I read it.

So I hope I'm not being lumped in with the people who slagged the first album. (laughter) But I do like the new one better. There are some new sounds on there. There's more orchestration and more of the lead guitar up front obviously on the new album. Was that a conscious decision for the new album to include these elements, to have more lead melody lines happening throughout your songs?

Yes for the orchestrations, this idea of having allot of orchestrations was there since the first album actually but when the band was working with Piet actually is a great producer but he has very strong views about how a heavy metal album should sound. And he was not really pleased with all the orchestration. So there was not allot of it on the first album. But this time like I said we worked by ourselves so we were free to do what we wanted. So we wanted to add allot of orchestration because we like it. Also for the guitar, because as I said Ben writes the composition because he knows how to play guitar, but Fred gives allot of ideas for additional guitar lines and everything, so they did a really good job on the guitars for the second album. Of course he did really great solos.

 

Yeah definitely. That's one of the things I notice about the album that definitely the guitar playing on this is more like the reigns have been let loose on the guitar player more so. It's more layered and more orchestrated for sure.

So basically that's all the comments I have and all the questions. Is there any other news that you have that I can pass along to the people?

Mmmmmm well you can ask them to visit our web site because it's really cool. Do you have the address?

Well I put the address in the review. I'll put it with the interview for sure. (here it is: www.heavenly.fr.st).

 

So yeah as I said if there is any French visitors on your web site, you can tell them to come and see us on October 7th in Paris because like I said we are doing our first headlining show. Actually it's a free concert so everybody can come.

Allot of people will come!

Yes, that would be great and the European fans we hope to see everywhere in Europe!

Well good luck with your release party and your upcoming tour.

Thank you.

 

Hopefully more people will be checking you out and thank you for your time and for the great album!

Thank you for the interview and your interest.


Official Heavenly Website
www.heavenly.fr.st

Heavenly Reviews
Coming From The Sky (2000)
 Sign of the Winner (2001)

Thanks to Ronnie for the transcription of this interview! YOU RULE!

As always, thanks to Noise/Sanctuary Records for their support and setting up the interview.


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Saturday, November 17, 2001