Last year was certainly great for Heart. The band found themselves enjoying a well-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the latest accolade in a series of awards and honors for the Seattle-based group in recent years (they also received their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame). For as much recognition as they’ve gotten, they probably deserved double the amount in the decades that led up to their current resurgence of popularity. Nevertheless, they’re certainly getting their just due now.
It comes as a result of a lot of hard work. As Nancy Wilson told us in a 2012 conversation regarding the career-spanning box set ‘Strange Euphoria,’ “We were never in step with what was going on musically, mainly more-so even in the ’80s. We were doing weird stuff that was just off the beaten track. The ’80s was an interesting, confining time for songwriters, so we were just sort of riffing in our own language, off to the side.”
In that same interview, Ann Wilson elaborated further on some of the roadblocks the group had faced, saying that “There was a different kind of philosophic thing going on for Heart during the times that those songs were written. Other people had other ideas that overruled ours. Which is hard to believe when I just say it now, because we wouldn’t let that happen now.” Through it all, she says, they forged ahead.”We never stopped writing. We just were diligent; we just kept it up and kept it up and just kept piling them up.”
Thankfully, they’re still piling them up. In the years since they reformed in 2002 after a brief hiatus, they’ve released three studio albums. The past few years have been especially productive with the albums ‘Red Velvet Car’ and ‘Fanatic’ arriving only a couple of years apart. Heart has been in a really strong creative zone and that is especially evident on ‘Fanatic,’ an album which delivered a set of material that seemed tailor-made to be played live.
Recorded in hotel rooms and various studios during a time when the band was still on tour, the album bottled up 10 of the songs sourced from the new material that kept working its way to the surface and as Ann Wilson explained to us, they made a conscious decision to answer the creative call and continue to produce, even though they weren’t at the traditional place in the artistic cycle where they could stop down and do that.
“It was so much fun to do ‘Red Velvet Car’ and we had such a great experience [that] we couldn’t stop. We were still on tour, but the songs were still coming. We had honed our songwriting skills a little bit with that one, so with ‘Fanatic,’ we made a decision just to go ahead and be opinionated. You know, if you felt strongly about something, like ‘Dear Old America,’ just go ahead and let’s make the songs on this album have contours and speak out and be participants.”
‘Fanatic Live From Caesars Colosseum’ illustrates that after more than four decades on the road, Heart remains a powerful live act. It captures a memorable show in Windsor, Ontario, Canada early in the tour supporting ‘Fanatic’ and includes a healthy amount of material from the album. Released Feb. 25 on CD, DVD/Blu-ray and digital download, the new live set is an essential acquisition for Heart fans that showcases nicely where they are at artistically in the present in addition to a heaping selection of the expected fan favorites.
We caught up with Ann Wilson a couple of days prior to the release to discuss the new live album and also talk about the possibility of new music from the group.
This show is interesting, because it was captured early on in the tour before the album was even out. Having seen the show Heart played the night before this one in Columbus, Ohio, I thought that it was cool that you guys had the opportunity to really introduce a good amount of material that fans hadn’t heard yet. Sometimes, bands and artists get nervous about doing that.
Yeah, they do get nervous about it and they’re under an awful lot of pressure not to ever include any new stuff if they have a bunch of hits. Bands are always told, “Nobody wants to hear your new stuff — just stick with the meat and potatoes — that’s what people come for.” That’s only half-true. I know if I went to see U2, I would be thrilled if they did ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,’ but I’m equally as thrilled to hear their new stuff.
So I think that’s how people in the deep Heart fanbase are. The first couple of times we played ‘Mashallah,’ the biggest fans are in the first 10 rows, right? They heard that and you should have seen their eyes, a couple of them were mouthing “Thank you!” Because it was something new and also because it was something big and crunchy. Obviously, we were in love with doing it, so they loved to see us love it.
‘Fanatic‘ is a powder keg of a song too, I think it fits in well with the Heart playbook. I think with any band, you have less trouble fitting new material in with the set if it fits and it’s not out of place.
Yeah, that’s right. That’s one thing that Ben Mink as a producer has brought to us on the two albums that we made with him. He knows what Heart is — he’s listened to Heart all of these years. So when we went to work with him, we’d have all these big wild ideas, you know, go way out to the left and way out to the right and he’d go there with us and then when it didn’t sound right, he’d go “Okay, let’s try it this way.” Then it would be the more Heart/Nancy and Ann way and it would work. You know what it’s like to be an artist, you really always want to stretch and change but the best thing is to relax into who you are.
It seems like in the past that you perhaps made some compromises as a band that weren’t really fair ones and it seems like these days you’re able to call your shots to a point without going off the rails.
Yeah, I think that we at some point made a decision that it was more important to us to be ourselves then to not be ourselves and get bucket loads of money. Because you can make that devil’s bargain and they can back the dumptrucks of money up to your house and it can be really unhappy behind it. So we decided we didn’t want to go there and we’ve been okay.
In that regard, I was just thinking about the fact that it’s been 10 years since Heart put out the ‘Jupiter’s Darling’ album and it seems like you guys have done really well over those 10 years doing things on your own terms.
Yeah, that’s the only way it’s going to work for us. When we don’t do things on our own terms, we both get really unhappy and that’s all there is to it. [Laughs] You’ve just gotta do things your own way.
‘Fanatic’ was not only the title track and album opener, but it also ended up opening the setlist for these shows. When you’re putting together an album like that, do the songs with good live potential that you feel will be well-received by the fans often reveal themselves pretty naturally?
Yeah. After the album is made and you listen to it all together and it’s a bunch of songs living together on a record, it’s pretty obvious from years of experience which ones are going to rise to the surface in the live setting. For instance, a song like ‘Pennsylvania’ that is so much a studio song, I mean, it’s a piece of studio craft, really. It would be very hard to recreate live except if you wanted to strip it down and do it just with a couple of acoustics or something. Some of them are just way far away from the live situation as they stand on the record. Others like ‘Mashallah’ and ‘Fanatic’ and ‘’59 Crunch,’ were really great live. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…