DATE OF INTERVIEW:
12th March 2014
METAL DISCOVERY: Hey there, how you doing?
JIMMY: Yeah, I’m doing fine. How about you?
(Jimmy Jay on progressing the melodic hard rock genre)
"...we’re obviously not playing a genre that is new in any way, but we kind of like to see ourselves as, or trying to be, the new leaders of this genre, and we’re trying to take it to places where it hasn’t been before."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official H.E.A.T. Website:
Formed in Upplands Väsby back in 2007, Sweden's H.E.A.T. are fast establishing themselves as one of the melodic hard rock genre's hegemonists. With their fourth album, 'Tearing Down the Walls', due for an April 2014 release, they've once again succeeded in crafting a filler-free, melodically epic work with an infectiously hard rocking impetus that's up there with the best from both their peers and idols. Metal Discovery spoke to bassist Jimmy Jay from this most talented Scandinavian quintet about the new record, their motivation, and signing bananas...
H.E.A.T. - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2013 Gustaf Sandholm Andersson
Official H.E.A.T. Facebook:
Thanks to Peter Noble & Guido Schindlbeck for arranging the interview.
Freedom Rock (2010)
Address the Nation (2012)
Tearing Down the Walls (2014)
MD: Yeah, great, thanks. The new album is pretty stunning – every track’s fantastic. I mean, there’s no filler on there at all. Is that everything you wrote and recorded or do you generally try to write a bit more so you can pick the best?
JIMMY: Well, ever since ‘Address the Nation, it’s become kind of habit to just write shitloads of music. For ‘Address the Nation’, we had between, probably about, 30 and 40 ready songs that we picked the ten best out of on this one. I think we had even more stuff that didn’t make it to the ‘Address the Nation’ album and redid some of that. I think we were up to 60 songs, almost, that we had to choose from. But, obviously, some of them are familiar from before but we always like to have a lot of stuff to choose from.
MD: So is there always a unanimous decision amongst band members? Do you always agree on the best tracks, or is there a bit of arguing there?
JIMMY: Oh, we never agree!
JIMMY: Of course, it’s always a discussion but we usually get some beers, and we sit and discuss, and we actually make up this voting system. So we have an election and give points to different songs, and stuff like that. Then, once that’s done, we have to see where this album is going and maybe we need some more slow songs; maybe we need some heavier stuff… and just try to tweak it to make it a very well-balanced album.
MD: All the songs are fantastic, like I said, but ‘Mannequin Show’ seems to have stuck in my head, the melodies from that track. What songs on the album are you most proud of at the moment?
JIMMY: Personally, I really love the song ‘Emergency’. It has a really feel-good thing to it. And, as a musician, it’s quite a demanding song to play as well so it’s fun and challenging and, yeah, it’s really taking the old stuff but putting a fresh label on it.
MD: It’s been described in all the press blurb as your “long awaited” new album but it’s only been two years since ‘Address the Nation’ and you always seem to have two year gaps between releases. Does that seem like a long time to you?
JIMMY: Not at all. I feel that it’s quite a nice gap, of two years, between albums. It gives people a lot of time to have a chance to see us live and experience the album. And, as you know, we come out with little surprises on YouTube, like acoustic versions in-between, just to keep the fans interested.
MD: H.E.A.T. strike me as a band who like to have a lot of fun, but how’s your work ethic in the studio? Do you try to have as much fun recording as possible, or do you adopt a more serious working mode?
JIMMY: Oh, I would say it’s a total kindergarten, but with alcohol! No, it’s very much fun. We love playing music so I shouldn’t take any seriousness away… everyone lives and breathes music in the studio. We also decided that we’d live in the studio for the entire recording time, every band member. We were six weeks this time, just the recording process, where we all just slept on foldout beds and sofas in the same big room. So we lived very close to each other during that process, so we’re a really tight group and we have plenty of fun.
MD: And lots of beer?
JIMMY: Yeah, it tends to get that way!
MD: The album’s title is ‘Tearing Down the Walls’, so what walls do you see yourselves tearing down as a band?
JIMMY: Well, of course, the musical challenge that is today that, you know, so many things are already written and we’re obviously not playing a genre that is new in any way, but we kind of like to see ourselves as, or trying to be, the new leaders of this genre, and we’re trying to take it to places where it hasn’t been before. Those are the walls that we’re always struggling with tearing down.
MD: So, trying to be original in a genre that is inescapably retro, I guess?
JIMMY: Yeah, exactly.
MD: One of the strengths of your music is the super-catchy melodies; every song is full of ‘em. Do you usually start with the melodies and write songs around those, or do the melodies come later in the songwriting process?
JIMMY: I think you’re gonna get a different answer from every band member because everyone writes and they write in their own way. But I think the majority of the band starts with the hook where you’re doing something totally different, like cleaning or exercising, and then you just get a hook stuck to your brain for whatever reason. And then you just try to remember that and record it on your phone, maybe just a little outline, and then you start working around that hook. So it’s based on the catchy melodies.
MD: There are so many of them too. Every song has new, great melodies in so, it’s like how can a band write so many good melodies?! It’s fantastic.
JIMMY: Yeah, I think the key is that everybody in the band is a very talented songwriter. You know, in most bands, you have one or two people writing but we have the combined forces of so many, and we end up with so many songs, and they’re all great.
MD: During the past decade or so, there’s been a resurgence of classic rock and old school metal, so do you regard H.E.A.T. as part of that renaissance or do you not think of yourselves so much as a retro band?
JIMMY: We don’t consider ourselves a retro band at all, actually. We consider ourselves… we like to label ourselves as just a rock band and we let other people do the labelling. But, I mean, when we first started the band, then it was some kind of sleaze wave going on and then, all of a sudden, we were somehow a melodic part of that, people were labelling it as. So I think that our label will just change to whatever people feel like… [laughs] Whatever renaissance is going on right now, we’re gonna keep on doing this for at least 40 or 50 more years so we’re gonna be labelled as…
MD: …many different things!
JIMMY: [laughs] Yeah, exactly!
MD: Labels are a load of old nonsense anyway, it’s just good music.
JIMMY: The only real function it has is when you try to recommend music to somebody where you’re trying to describe music with words, when it really just should be heard.
MD: But I guess musicians have notes and journalists have words, so it becomes a difficult thing to try and put into words, sometimes. And it’s quite lazy journalism as well when people compare bands to particular genres and particular other bands.
JIMMY: Yeah, exactly, and there’s so much that gets lost in the translation, between music and words.
MD: There’s a rich heritage of melodic rock in Sweden and you’ve ended up being label mates with one of the biggest – Europe. Does that give you a sense of pride to be associated with such a pioneering act in that way?
JIMMY: Yes and no. Of course, we have always loved Europe and loved their stuff and just, coincidentally, happen to be from the same little suburb of Stockholm as them but, of course, we want to be viewed as our own band and not Europe’s little brother. But we’re honoured to be even compared to them, quality-wise. And there’s no denying, of course, that maybe our music would’ve sounded a lot different if they wouldn’t have made all the legendary albums which they have.
MD: Talking of classic acts, you opened for Scorpions in Madrid a few days back, so how was that show?
JIMMY: It was an amazing experience, of course. I love Scorpions, they’re a great band and still going strong. And, of course, it’s an amazing feeling to play in front of 15,000 totally insane Spanish people. Spain is actually one of our strongest territories so, yeah, it was really nice. Personally, for me though, I had a forty degrees fever so I just tried to time my pills and stuff to take down the fever, so my mood would peak just as we entered the stage. I saw the videos and I don’t think anyone could tell! But I missed the party, though.
MD: So what would be your dream support slot, hypothetically, if you could choose anyone?
JIMMY: That’s a tough one. We have done so many but, personally, I’m a huge fan of Foreigner… but I would love to go on tour with KISS. That would be awesome.
MD: Yeah, that’d be the ultimate!
JIMMY: Yeah! [laughs]
MD: You’re back over in the UK, later this year, to headline Firefest in Nottingham. Has the UK been an important market for you so far?
JIMMY: Well, it feels like a second home. Ever since we released our first album, the UK was actually one of the few places, except for Sweden, that we actually could tour in. The UK has always been very welcoming and really appreciated our music.
MD: Will you also be aiming to do some club shows over here, around that time?
JIMMY: Definitely. I mean, our last tour in the UK was very successful where we sold out almost every place we played at. So we have plans to come back to the UK… maybe sooner than you know! But everything is still in planning so I’m not gonna name any dates yet.
MD: I caught some of your set at the Rockweekend festival in Kilafors over in Sweden back in 2009 and you struck me as a band who really gives it their all on stage, with a lot of energy. Is the live performance what you live for as a band, where you really get to connect with an audience?
JIMMY: Definitely. I would say that that’s our strongest card as a band, the live shows. Obviously, a lot has changed since you saw us last time. It was a lot of energy back then but now it’s like a massive overload of energy. Most of the festivals where we’ve played, in reviews it says we’re one of the highlights so it’s something that I’m very proud of, that we are considered a very good live band.
MD: And how is your audience in general? Do you generally see as many guys as girls at one of your shows?
JIMMY: It’s quite a good mix but, from what I heard from other bands we have toured with, they’re surprised at how many hot females there are in the crowd! [laughs] I remember when we toured with Sabaton back in the day and they were like: “This is the first time a chick has ever come to see our show! You guys are the best!”
MD: There’s a quote in the press blurb from Classic Rock Magazine which says, “If you don’t like these energetic Swedes you must be dead inside…” Have you ever played to a crowd where people do look dead inside or are audiences generally as energetic as the band?
JIMMY: I’ve played places where they start off looking dead inside but it takes us, maybe, two or three songs to turn those people around. Nobody leaves a H.E.A.T. show without a smile!
MD: Have you ever had any crazy encounters with any of your fans? Any strange gifts, for example?
JIMMY: When we tour in Asia, it’s always a lot of gifts. We toured in China last Fall and, at one of the shows, Erik, our singer, received a big picture, maybe like one metre by a half metre… so it’s not very big. But, the thing is, that tour was domestic flights and trains and, actually, bringing our gear as well so we had a lot to carry. Of course, we were very grateful for that beautiful picture which was a portrait of Erik, but he thought that it was a little bit of a pain in the ass to carry around. But he actually did bring it around on the entire tour and it ended up on his wall at home.
MD: And what’s the most random thing someone’s ever asked you to sign?
JIMMY: I have signed fruit. A banana, I signed!
MD: A banana?!
JIMMY: Yeah, that’s quite random!
MD: The final thing I wanted to ask is if you had to sum up the new album in three words, what would they be?
JIMMY: Three words… that’s not enough for an album, man! [laughs] I would say fresh, high energy and quite epic.
MD: I would agree. And there’s a review right there! There’s no point in writing all these long reviews, that’s a decent enough review!
JIMMY: [laughs] Yeah, perfect!
MD: Okay, thank you so much for your time, it’s been nice speaking to you.
JIMMY: Thank you, yeah, it’s been a pleasure.