Heaven and Earth Singled Out Week: Victorious

07/15/2013
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Heaven and Earth recently released their new studio album, "Dig" and to celebrate we are asking the band's leader Stuart Smith to tell us about some of his favorite tracks. Today he tells us about the song "Victorious":

The Writing Process: This song originally started with just the opening eastern riff that I'd had for a few years. Again, this was one of those riffs that I didn't want to do anything with until I had the right music to go with it. I presented the idea to the band and we all started jamming on the basic motif. The rough steps to the verse I sort of had but then everyone helped refine the timing on the guitar, bass and keyboard stabs. Chuck Wright came up with the following riff. This is one of Chuck's many strong points. When I throw a riff at him he instinctively knows what part to come up with that will fit very well. Everyone joined in and put their input in and it started to come together. When we were in the writing sessions for "Dig" Joe, (Retta), would record them on his 8 track with a couple of room mikes and send everyone MP3's of the songs when he got home. That way when we went back in to continue writing everyone would be familiar with what we'd already done and have ideas on how to improve on it.

Recording: When we were satisfied with the crafting of the song we went into Ocean Studios in Burbank to cut the backing tracks. We were using the CLASP Recording System which allowed us to cut to 24 track 2 inch tape but also utilizing the convenience of Pro Tools. Using this method gave us the tape saturation and warmth with the ability to drop the whole band in on the fly. The backing tracks done, we returned to our own Wine Cellar Studios to record the overdubs, again using the CLASP System and tape.

Lyrics: This is a song that had Joe stumped a bit as far as inspiration for the lyrics went until one night he saw me watching "Lawrence of Arabia" on television. That gave him the impetus to write lyrics for the song, which was going to be called "Arabia". He went in and sang it and did an amazing job but at the end of the day we wanted to keep this album very "real" and all felt that no-one could connect with "Arabia". As a country the name doesn't even exist anymore. We both have an interest in martial arts and Joe watches a lot of MMA fights so when he was watching this one night I suggested that he make the song about fighting which I felt he could better connect with and "Victorious" is the result.

Guitar Solos: When I record a guitar solo I'll warm up at home before I go to the studio, which is only 5 minutes from my house. When I get there I generally do about 6 passes and go with a comp of all six but nine times out of ten the first solo pass being the first thing out of my head, is the best and if there's nothing interesting on the other five takes to add to it our producer Dave Jenkins will have me just fix certain parts of it. With this solo what you hear is actually my first pass. I was very lucky in this instance, as I couldn't duplicate it again if I tried. It took me ages to work out what I'd done to play it live.

What did take quite a while to get is the guitar intro piece to "Victorious." The Wine Cellar Studio is in our drummer Richie Onori's house and the noise room, which is where the speakers are miked up, is in the basement and is heavily soundproofed. I have my amps in the control room so we can adjust the sound without going all the way into the studio and I was using my 200 watt Marshall Major in conjunction with my 50 watt "Lee Jackson" mod Marshall. To get the right sound to make this intro happen I had to have the amps cranked and bordering on the edge of feedback and the only way to do this was for me to be in the noise room next to the speakers. We tried this for all of 5 minutes but it was physically too painful to stand anymore than that so we set up a small speaker in the corridor just outside the control room and plugged it into the 50 watt and I stood next to that so it was kind of bearable. It was still incredibly loud and this was late at night. Poor Richie and his wife were trying to sleep and the neighbors were freaking out but he was a trooper and didn't shut me down for the night as he thought what I was doing was inspired.

Ancillary Instruments: On this track we wanted an original, organic eastern sound so we brought in a guy called Max Sadeghi with a Santur which is an eastern instrument like a Zither Harp that is hit with mallets. Dave Jenkins added the monks voices and heavy synth underneath the intro and our keyboard player Arlan Schierbaum, who has an amazing collection of vintage instruments, used a Clavioline and a Mellotron during the verse and choruses.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!

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