Tuesday 26 July 2011

Ann Wilson : Heart Archive Interview June 2004

Interview with Ann Wilson, Heart,
15th June 2004

Heart burst onto the music scene straight out of Seattle in 1976 with their debut album Dreamboat Annie. Through the seventies the band built on that initial burst of success and released many critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums.

It was in the mid eighties however that the band really caught on worldwide with albums such as Heart and Bad Animals and hit singles like These Dreams and Alone. Following the Desire Walks On album in 1993 the band decided to take a hiatus and the individual members embarked on solo projects or joined other bands.

Ann and Nancy formed the Lovemongers and released solo records and aside from the live acoustic album The Long Road Home which was produced by Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones it wouldn't be until 2001 that Heart decided to gear up and set off on the road again. The album Jupiter's Darling was released in June 2004 and Heart paid their first visit to the UK for a good many years. John Kirkman spoke to Ann Wilson following the last gig of the UK tour to promote Jupiter's Darling and caught up with what has been going on in the Heart camp for the last ten years.

Jon Kirkman Have you just finished the UK tour?

Ann Wilson Yeah, we finished last night. We played at the Old Corn Exchange in Cambridge.

JK I am really upset that you didn’t come and play in Liverpool.

AW I know, and we were right up by there too. We did Manchester.

JK You could have come and played the Cavern you know, where the Beatles played.

AW Does that still exist?

JK Paul McCartney plays there regularly. He recorded a DVD there about four years ago and I went to see him last year when he played to 60,000 people in the Queen’s Dock but the two nights before he took his band in there to rehearse. It holds about three hundred people.

AW Oh that would have been fun.

JK It would have been great for you because I know you are Beatles fans.

AW They are like a cultural phenomenon weren’t they? We’re just a band.

JK They are very special. I grew up with them; I was five years old when I was shaking my head and singing She Loves You.

AW That is pretty cute.

JK That is what got me into music – the Beatles. I guess it is the same for lots of other people.

AW A little dude from Liverpool shaking his head when he was five. I love that story, that’s cool.

JK Let’s talk about the album, it is a great album. It’s your first studio album in ten years. There was the live album but the last studio album was Desire Walks On. When you recorded that album was it decided that you would take a definite break?

AW I think that Desire Walks On was us putting a cap on an era you know. We felt that the whole video and MTV thing was really not us. We were really not having that much fun although we loved the Desire Walks On album because we got to write more songs for that album than we had for the three or four albums previously. We felt we wanted to do something else for a while. We thought let’s put the Heart car up on blocks in the back yard, let’s just look at it and figure out a new way to present it later.

JK Did you envisage the break being as long as it was?

AW We didn’t envisage any length of time for it. We're not that calculating, we just kind of went, this is not happening, let’s do something else now and clear out our brains. If we come back to it, we come back to it and then we did! Nancy went through doing all the score writing with her husband Cameron Crowe and I did some solo stuff and I did a couple of theatre things. We both had children and we did some things that we didn’t get the chance to do before because of Heart. When the time was right to come back again to Heart, we did three years ago. We started touring and we started writing songs again magically like they were just coming down from somewhere. It took us a while to get the songs for Jupiter’s Darling but when we did then we felt, well the time is now.

JK The line up of Heart now is completely different. There is yourself and Nancy of course and this is really the third big change in line up from the original band. There was the ‘80s MTV version of Heart and now another line up. Was that something that just happened?

AW Well Nancy and I were just a change of line up as well. Heart was together before Nancy or I were ever in it. Some other people started Heart in the late 60’s. At one point they were looking for a new singer and I answered a newspaper ad. They hired me and then as it went along it has been a continuously evolving thing in terms of line up. I think that this line up, especially with our drummer Ben Smith (he has been with us for ten years now either with the Lovemongers or with Heart or me) is a pretty solid line up. At least just as solid as any of the others have been.

JK I wouldn’t dream of saying it isn’t a great line up. You’ve got some great musicians but then again I’ve always thought that Heart is kind of like a school for excellence. The band has always delivered particularly live as well.

AW Well that is where I think we come to life the most. Our challenge has always been to recreate in the studio what we do live. I tend to get red light fever in the studio and sound a little bit tense and a little bit less out there than I sound live.

JK The sound of the album is really interesting as well because I can see reference points from Dreamboat Annie, Little Queen, Dog and Butterfly. I guess some of the people who came to you in the 80’s might think that this is a really big departure. But listening to the album I wouldn’t say that is the case at all. I think there are very definite reference points from the entire career.

AW I totally agree. That is to a degree because Nancy produced the record and it is the first time in Heart’s history that anyone who was not a professional producer has produced Heart. There’s Nancy who has been there since day one not taking any orders from anyone in fact the only orders were the ones that she gave.

JK Having been in the band, you people as musicians know what you want but in terms of what is right for Heart, surely you must know what is right for the band anyway?

AW Absolutely and that is why Nancy producing was the perfect thing for us. I can’t think of anybody else at this moment who could produce Heart as well as Nancy.

JK Let’s look at some of the tracks, the opening track Make Me could have been a track on Dreamboat Annie or maybe Little Queen. There are some really good reference points for your influences; I think Vainglorious is a tip of the hat to Led Zeppelin. Would you agree with that?

AW Vain Glorious is funny. We have only played it ten times now because this is the first leg of our tour and people have been commenting on that song that they think they have heard it before. They don’t know where they have heard it before; they think it is on Passion Works or something maybe an old Heart song on an album they have missed. It is a tip of the hat to Zeppelin as much as it is a riff, the band plays all together. It is just like a twisty, turny riff.

JK Some of your tracks have been compared quite favourably to Led Zeppelin.

AW Of course but we are a band of the generation that loved Zeppelin and they were our year 101. We don’t ever try consciously to copy them but I can see what you mean that there are some points of intersection definitely.

JK How much of the album has made it into the live set? A lot of it would transfer very well live. Has there been a fair amount of material in there?

AW In our normal live set night, not at a festival where we have to shorten our set, it is a little over two hours long and we do about eight of the new songs. It is really pretty ballsy because a lot of the time people say, “Oh here’s a new song time to go and buy a beer or a t-shirt!”

JK I can’t see anybody walking out on any of these songs. These are really good solid rock songs. The performance on the album is incredible. I suppose you may stretch it out a little bit live and it is not like it is a bare minimum, it is quite a lot off the album. There are eighteen tracks on it.

AW We tried to cut it down to the traditional twelve or thirteen tracks but we just couldn’t. We tried and tried and eventually said, “Fuck it, let’s put them all on there. “ If people want to switch ahead on their CD players, let them. We couldn’t see which ones to leave out.

JK I know you may not be too keen to look back at the MTV thing but I guess it is a valid promotional tool if you like.

AW Oh yeah definitely when it first came out and the first maybe ten years of it. Now they don’t show that many videos, it is more like game shows and reality shows at least it is in the States.

JK Over here we have a thing called VH1 and VH2, which is a little more what MTV was like in the 80’s, but maybe Perfect Goodbye would make a good single track off the album.

AW In fact that is the one that is doing really well in the States right now.

JK In my review of Jupiter's Darling I have said that I can see this getting heavy rotation on MTV if the band decides to make a video for it. The radio could do worse than pick up on this track. I guess I was probably right on that.

AW You were, and the other one is The Oldest Story in the World.

JK The new album has re-established Heart certainly not in the live arena because you have been doing gigs for the last three years but in the case of recording it has brought the name back. Where do you go from here, from this particular album?

AW Well you know what we’re thinking right now is that for this tour and maybe next year we are going to tour this record and ride this album because there are so many songs on it to develop and there is so much new stuff that we can play. Now new songs are coming to us again so this year and next year we are just going to keep touring and keep writing and then make another record.

JK If it is anything like this I can’t wait. I have had the promo CD for a while and I have never stopped playing it. The good thing about this for long-term fans is it makes you dig out the older albums and think how good they are. Barracuda has been one of my favourite rock tracks for the last twenty-five/twenty-six years.

AW I think that one still retains its original rage.

JK It still cuts, it is quite a sharp song that one. You have finished the UK tour. Where are you going next?

AW Tomorrow night we are going home to the States and then we are going to start the American leg of the tour, which lasts until the end of September. This was just the first part of our tour so all these new songs we are playing for the first dozen times. It is really fun because we are watching people’s faces as they react to them and it is just the coolest.

JK It is great to have you back in the UK and I am glad you came here. It has been great to speak to you. Best of luck with the rest of the tour.

AW Thanks a lot.

© Jon Kirkman 2004 and 2011

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