When I heard Heaven Below’s self titled EP, I knew the band would be on my list of favorites. Then, when frontman Patrick Kennison took the time to talk with us on the way to the band’s next tour stop, I started to love them even more. In between the laughs, Patrick talked about everything from the making of their latest album to his first sexual experience. He has a taste for barbeque, Jagermeister, red hot metal, and he definitely knows how to garner a few laughs. This is one hell of an interview!
TJ: So, you just kicked off the Horns and Halos Tour, what was the response from your first show?
Patrick: It was killer! We kicked it off in Dallas, Texas, in a really cool place called Trees, which is a legendary club that has been re-opened lately and it was cool to see that new music is still embraced. There were a lot of new fans, even some people I recognized from Union Underground Days. The main struggle was trying to say sober cuz’ everyone was trying to stuff drinks down our throats. One of our techs ended up MIA for awhile. All we found were his shoes by the merch booth. I dunno if he did his share of tech work that night, but we had a blast none the less, and they were spinnin the song there already, at The Edge there in Dallas. So that felt great and from there, we’re down to San Antonio tomorrow which is our hometown for me and the bass player John. It’s gonna’ sell out and it’s gonna’ be a great thing.
TJ: You said that you saw some Union Underground fans at the show; do you think you brought a lot of fans over to Heaven Below from Union Underground?
Patrick: We did, and you know I got to tell you that 2001 seems like a lifetime ago for me, but there are still people out there that care about that, and the cool thing is the first thing they say is “Oh I can’t believe you’re the singer; you sing great.” That’s so flattering and humbling to me, but just that people care about new music still is the main thing that blows us away.
TJ: Now, you guys released a ton of bonus footage on your last album, can we expect to see some footage from this tour in the future?
Patrick: Absolutely! We film every day and take pictures. We have a buddy of ours tour managing that takes care of that stuff. Grew up on the same Pantera home videos as everybody else and when we were kids, that stuff just turned us on. So, we vow to cover everything. I guess the rating just has to be less than XXX when it gets released [laughs]. But yeah, you are going to see a lot of that from this tour.
TJ: Awesome! So you said earlier that your Union Underground fans were really surprised to see you singing. What was the transition like? Going from guitarist in Union Underground to frontman of Heaven Below?
Patrick: You know musically, it’s not a stretch at all. I was already singing on the Union Underground demos and people that were close to the band were well aware that I was a singer and a songwriter. The only transition that I had to make was making sure I wasn’t the guy hiding behind the guitar that was scared to talk to the audience. But anybody that has hung out with me knows that I talk too much and I say too many jokes and I offend people [laughs]. So, it wasn’t a stretch for me. I just got up there and let it all hang out. Maybe that’s what some of the tension was in Union Underground? Maybe I felt held back as some kind of frontman? I don’t know. I would have to ask my shrink to tell me that. But I have no problems getting in front of an audience these days. I always tell people fronting a band is about 20% ability and 80% confidence. I have no problem with it. I love it.
TJ: So your next stop is San Antonio, your hometown. Why did you decide to leave San Antonio and move to L.A.?
Patrick: Union Underground had died in what was that? 2003? And I really didn’t wanna go back to San Antonio and be the hometown rock star that everybody buys drinks for at the bar and we talk about Ozzfest and hangin’ out with Marilyn Manson. F**K all that. I wanted to go somewhere where I could keep the dream alive, as cheesy as that sounds, and start something new. So, I moved somewhere where I was about .05 on the rock star level and all our real heroes lived out there. But more importantly, there was a lot of opportunity. I met people like Chad and started the band with him. I had to do it man. I don’t care about nostalgia ya’ know. People say “why don’t you play Union Underground songs?” There’s no nostalgia here. This is new music and a new band and we’re young enough to come out as a brand new band and we don’t care about all that nostalgia crap.
TJ: Now what about the name Heaven Below? If I remember correctly, you were in a band with one of the funniest names of all time: Boyzen Heat.
Patrick: [laughs] Yeah, well Boyzen Heat! God! I didnt even have a drivers license then. That was one of my first bands. I was a virgin. I think I had my first sexual experience at a Boyzen Heat show with one of the bartender girls. It probably lasted about 20 seconds [laughs]. But Heaven Below was actually a lyric for a song that I had written for the band before we even became a band. I had a song called “The Laughing Dead” and it mentions Heaven Below in there. When I write a song, I don’t even try and think about me, I just try and think what’s coming out of me. I think a couple band members were like “that’s kind of cool! What’s a heaven below?” I said it’s whatever you want t to be. It’s sexual, antichrist, Christian, it’s everything. So, sometimes people ask if we’re a Christian band or a satanic band. The truth is, we’re neither, but the fact that people wonder what a heaven below is makes us happy.
TJ: Interesting. So you guys brought Ben Moody on board to produce the track “When Daylight Dies.” What was it like working with him and how did you meet?
Patrick: Well, like I said before, when we moved to L.A. we started making friends with everybody we played on tour with from Ozzfest tours and stuff and Ben was a fan of Union Underground as I was of Evanescence, and one of our mutual friends, Marty O’Brien, introduced us. Ben is the kind of guy when you meet him you would never know he sold 10 million albums or lives in a house as big as Hugh Heffner’s. He’s a clown just like the rest of us and he’s an amazing artist. When he heard our demos of “When Daylight Dies,” he insisted that he produce it, and we thought he was joking. But then he really stayed on us and he was like man, this is the kind of song that evanescence needed to do if we had a male vocalist. Just for somebody to tell us that humbled the hell out of us. And by the time he was done, he had a 32 piece orchestra on it and he was able to pull performances that only a guy like him can do. He’s an amazing producer, not just a great songwriter.
TJ: Any chances you will work with Ben in the future?
Patrick: I hope we do. He has a band called “We Are the Fallen” that’s taking up his time and he works with big pop artists like Kelly Clarkson, but I would love to get back in with him and do more songs. If timing allows it, I’m sure it will happen.
TJ: “When Daylight Dies” seems like an obvious choice to release as a single, but what about “Heartbreaker?”
Patrick: “Heartbreaker” started out as a joke. We were ending our set with “The Ace of Spades” by Motorhead and John, our bass player, sings it because it sounds like he’s gargling razor blades [laughs]. One day when we were warming up, we decided to play “Ace of Spades” and as a joke I started singing “Heartbreaker” over “Ace of Spades” just because we screw around. By the end of it, we realized it kind of sounded bad ass. We rehearse in this L.A. giant rehearsal complex and the other bands were like “what are you all doin’? What is that Motorhead/Pat Benetar thing you guys are doing? That sounds awesome!” And then we realized we better record it because people like it.
TJ: What’s the reaction from the fans when you play that song on tour?
Patrick: They go fu*kin nuts! We just played Austin last night. Of course when you play something heavy or aggressive, people go nuts and shots start coming to the stage and fist pumps in the air. Ya know it’s not about us. It’s about the fact that people love new music. Still… thats what gives me the boner every night. People care about new band and new music. I thought that people were just nostalgic and want to hear Master of Puppets three times, but people want that and they want new music too.
TJ: You released an EP, but really there are ten tracks with four saved for bonus content. Why release an EP like that?
Patrick: Well, our management company had suggested we release an EP because we’re a new band. They said look, there are a lot of new bands and the general public has ADD. We were ok with this, but we recorded almost 50 songs already, so we thought we would be clever and release an EP but have 4 bonus tracks. That way we please the casual fan, but the die hard fans get to hear everything. That was our idea just to be clever and make it everything to all people.
TJ: Any particular reason those four tracks were bonus content?
Patrick: We did something a lot of bands dont do and let management choose the songs for us, just because they were just removed from us enough. We had
people like John Moyer from Disturbed that was managing us. I think there was even another cover of Golden Earring’s “Twilight Zone” that fans were requesting. We listen to fans and let them guide the way really. I think the general public has replaced the A&R man at record companies and thats how it should be. The general public should decide. Not some guy in a suit who makes a lot of money for doing nothing.
TJ: Were you happy with the tracks chosen for the album?
Patrick: I’m too close to the material. I’m one of those guys that says whatever the new song is, is the best one. If I had chosen the tracks, it may have been more aggressive and less radio friendly. But at some point after you have written a big body of material, you have to throw caution to the wind. If we started dissecting every song and every tempo, it would just be something that looks good on paper. So just throw caution to the wind and go with whatever people gravitate towards.
TJ: Why release an EP then, after you have written so much material?
Patrick: We felt like it was a new beginning. The band became more of a unit after we toured a few times. You always hear your favorite band say we recorded
better after touring a few times. We felt new and refreshed. Heaven Below felt like a brand new band.
TJ: Well unfortunately, that’s all the time we have for now, but is there anything you want to say to the fans?
Patrick: Just let everybody know to hit heavenbelow.com. Of course we’re on Facebook and twitter and all that crap, but we base it right off of heavenbelow.com and when people come out that are of age, they’re going to have a shot of Jager with us at our merch booth, and we’re going to make it work. We can’t wait to get in peoples faces!
TJ: Now that you mention it, where did the Jager sponsorship come from?
Patrick: Jagermeister had always supported Union Underground and they got wind of us as the “West Coast Buzz Band” or whatever music connection magazines call us. Jagermeister has always kept the pulse of new music, whether it be crazy thrash metal or mainstream stuff. Our buddy over there stays on top of stuff. And he was like, hey man, how about Jager? And askin’ me to do Jager is like asking a hooker if she wants money [Laughs].
TJ: Well Patrick, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. I look forward to seeing you guys on tour.
Patrick: Kick Ass TJ! Hope to see you up there!
We would like to thank Gihan Salem of Sony Music for setting up the Interview. For more information on Patrick and Heaven Below, please go to: http://heavenbelow.com/.