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Interview with Heaven Below frontman Patrick Kennison

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The cleverly named Heaven Below is a new band fronted by Patrick Kennison formerly of The Union Underground, a popular group from the early 2000s. The band’s sound can only be described as a mishmash of some of the great bands from the ‘90s, including Alice In Chains, Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against The Machine. The group has a self-titled album coming out sometime by the end of the summer but if you want a preview of what the band sounds like you can pick up Countdown To Devil, Heaven Below’s debut record. Kennison has made quite a few friends in the music industry over the years, including Marty O’Brien from Evanescence and We Are The Fallen who played with Heaven Below for a short time as well as Ben Moody from the same two bands who produced the track “When Daylight Dies.” I recently spoke to Patrick who offered some more insight into the band and their forthcoming record and tour plans.

The band is called Heaven Below. How did this band form and end up coming together?
Patrick: I had a band back in the early 2000s called The Union Underground and we put out an album and got to tour and do a bunch of cool stuff and sold a half a million albums, started living the dream and it all came to a crash, I guess it was about 2003 the whole thing ended. The band had succumbed to a lot of the clichéd pitfalls of drugs, control and money, stuff that usually takes about ten years to get going. I moved out to California to start anew and I was tired of working with singers with all their clichéd problems and I had been singing for a long time just not as a frontman and so I put together Heaven Below with a buddy of mine from my hometown and two guys out here from Los Angeles.

What bands or artists would you say have helped you in moulding the sound of Heaven Below?
Patrick: There’s so many. Looking back at the ‘90s which is when I really started getting into music after I got out of high school I was really into people like Trent Reznor, of course Metallica, Rage Against The Machine, Alice In Chains. And though our band doesn’t sound like any one of those particular bands I kind of draw all of my influences from great artists like that.

Now you recently completed your first set of tour dates. What was it like making the adjustment to playing in a live setting after just rehearsals and playing in the studio?
Patrick: Yeah it wasn’t too much of a stretch, the only thing that really was hard was the fact that we’re aware that there’s so many new bands out here just on the west coast alone, never mind the rest of the world. So we put together a video production and a live show that we feel people can enjoy even if they’ve only heard our songs once or never or for the first time. So that was the only challenge was the technical angle of that, it’s still a rock show and it’s still an emotional performance that we try to deliver.

As a young band I’m sure you’re eager to get out and play your music. What are your upcoming tour plans like?
Patrick: We’re kind of putting them together right now, we have a real management company and real booking agents and all those things that come along with the Hollywood music scene, as cheesy as it sounds. We don’t have anything definite yet but we’ll be out there towards the end of the summer and the beginning of the fall for sure to promote ourselves. There’s a strong chance we’ll be out with big bands that people are familiar with, that’s the one great thing about living out here in Los Angeles, you’re friends with a bunch of people who do the same thing as you do on all kinds of levels. We don’t have anything definite yet but we will in the coming weeks.

Your new self-titled album is due out this summer. Now that it is just about out, how are you feeling about how the record turned out?
Patrick: I’m really excited about it. I’ll tell you, the hardest thing for the band was the fact that we have so much material ready to go but we only put out an EP and people want to know well why didn’t we release a full-length. And once again we’re aware of new music and new bands so we’re just going to put out a series of EPs initially maybe until we get to our full-length release. So that was the only compromise for us, having to put out just six songs but we feel great about it, we feel it represents us in a really good way.

How long did this record take to write and where did you record it?
Patrick: Well, gosh some of these songs date back to when I first moved out here in 2004, the song “King of Nothing” but most of them are fairly new and we recorded it in different studios here in Los Angeles. Our buddy Ben Moody produced one of the tracks and so we got to work in really killer studios and like I said, that’s the best thing about living out here, you drive to Hollywood and there’s all kinds of cool studios and people that you connect with and record with and that’s basically what we did, we recorded it at about four or five different studios out here in Los Angeles.

One of the tracks on the album “When Daylight Dies” was produced by Ben Moody of Evanescence and now We Are The Fallen. How did Ben get involved in producing this track for you?
Patrick: Well um, my friend Marty O’Brien who is also in We Are The Fallen, he played with Heaven Below for a short time, we became friends with Ben and when Ben had heard my demo of “When Daylight Dies” he said “I’d like to produce your album, but I only have time to do a track. Can I do “When Daylight Dies?” I really want to give you a cinematic song that sounds like something epic.” And of course you can’t tell a guy like that no. When he got in to the studio he was awesome, the guy’s a mad scientist.

Aside from “When Daylight Dies,” who produced the rest of the album’s songs?
Patrick: Yeah Jesse and I, the guitar player, actually did the rest of the production and we utilized the same studios like the one that Ben has recorded in and since we had such a large amount of material we were able to really choose what songs we wanted to do and how we wanted to do them. I had some experience producing my band The Union Underground, I tend to feel like it’s really great just to be able to sit back and be a producer and not be a guitar player, singer sometimes and I was able to do that with Jesse.

Do you guys have a lot of leftover tracks left?
Patrick: Yeah kind of an insane amount. We recorded almost twenty-five songs from the past session and we probably have another twenty-five more that aren’t done yet that are in process. So we have a huge catalogue of material, I pride myself on being able to write songs fairly efficiently and proficiently, that’s the one area in my life where I feel like I can really do something and contribute to the emotional states that I’m in with song writing. I’m not the best business guy or you know, the best buddy to hang out with but song writing is one thing that comes pretty natural.

This new self-titled record is actually your second CD and the follow up to Countdown To Devil. What would you say is the most significant difference between that album and the new one?
Patrick: Well it sounds like the answer you’ll get from a lot of bands but it’s simply a true one; we’ve toured a few times on our own since Countdown To Devil so when we got in the studio to do the self-titled one it was a lot easier to feel each other out and get all the parts recorded because we had been out on the road with each other, we played songs so many times... It was easier to focus in on what the songs needed because we had toured together already as opposed to four guys that get in the studio together and don’t really know each other.

Before Heaven Below, you were in quite a popular group in the late ‘90s called The Union Underground. How do you reflect back on your time in this band and the music you released?
Patrick:Hmm, that’s a good question, somebody had asked me that. I think the music was really good and it was really true to where I was at the time but I specifically remember feeling held back. Guitar solos weren’t popular when that album came out in 2000 and a lot of people were using drum machines and there was kind of that leftover Nine Inch Nails production that turned into what they called nu-metal. And I really did embrace that because I love sounds and production and all that but I remember not being satisfied that there was a lack of guitar solos, a lot of bands wouldn’t do fast double bass unless it was a straight up metal band. I feel like now here in 2010, whether it’s Disturbed or Avenged Sevenfold or Breaking Benjamin whoever, guitar solos are finally badass again which they’ve always been and now bands can do double bass, stuff like that. I feel satisfied with the music I’m making now, with The Union Underground there was something to be desired at the time because you know if you didn’t want to just hear a drum machine and a guy screaming over it the whole time...

What does Heaven Below have planned for the fall and early 2011?
Patrick: Well we want to do some touring and we love doing our club shows on our own but we have connections to some great people and great peers and heroes and friends and we plan on getting out there on the road with them and just turning more people on to the band. We pride ourselves on being a new band that’s close to its fans and we love it when you reach out to us on MySpace and the internet. We plan on being a force to be reckoned with and we’re just enjoying ourselves, we’re making music for us and it seems like people are liking it so I hope it stays that way. We’re going to get out there and we have a song “When Daylight Dies” that’s going to radio and we’re going to go support that, we’re not afraid to get out there to push our music and push ourselves. We don’t want to be the hidden Los Angeles secret.  [ END ]
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