I was blown away by 7th Heaven’s USA/UK when it was released late 2008 so much so that it ended the year in my Top 15 list at #9 beating out a lot of better known bands for the spot. USA/UK is filled with 18 tracks of pop metal very reminescent of Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” era, not only do you get 18 tracks with USA/UK you also get 18 tracks in which every song could be released as a single as there is not a single filler song on the album. After a few scheduling mishaps on my part I was finally able to make contact with 7th Heaven’s producer/guitarist Richie Hofherr this past week for what turned out to be one of the best and most informative interviews we’ve had here at Hard Rock Hideout…Enjoy!
HRH: For readers that may not be familiar with 7th Heaven can you fill them in with a little history of 7th Heaven?
Richie: 7th heaven has been around since 1985. We are known to be one of the busiest band’s in the world. We play 250+ shows a year and have TONS of live experience. We have had greats highs and low lows. Our sound has been compared to a modern Def Leppard, which we are honored to be compared to. We are a AOR arena rock type of band. You can find a very detailed history of our band on our website under the “history” tab.
HRH: You released USA/UK in August of 08 what has the reaction been to the album so far?
Richie: Very good. It has already outsold our last release “Silver”, which did very well. We move most of our CD’s at our shows, and since we play so much our sales are consistent. We have placed a few songs in various media outlets. A few radio stations have picked up the CD and have us in heavy rotation, mainly ClassXRadio.com
We also have been getting great reviews on the CD, like MelodicRock.com‘s 93%
HRH: This is the band’s first album with Keith Semple singing how did the band find out about Keith and get him to join the band?
Richie: I actually was looking online for a new singer for the band and was searching for a certain type of quality that I thought would fit our band well. I also had to find someone who wanted to play a lot of shows. Keith had a myspace page and I emailed him and asked him what he was doing with music. Rather than respond to my email, he actually searched the band out and called and left me a message. Impressed with his desire, I made him the offer. After hiring Keith I then realized he won “Pop Stars” (the UK version of American Idol). Keith is a perfect fit for 7th heaven.
HRH: What led to the departure of previous singers Andrew Blake and Tony di Giulio?
Richie: The same thing that happens to all bands. Different visions or different agenda’s. 7th heaven is like a family, it always has been and always will be. Sometimes a member wants a break or wants to do their own thing. I don’t really take offense to that, in fact Tony and I still write together. 7th heaven is a very unique band. We run our business in a way that doesn’t really have a definitive path, add to that a style that isn’t the current trend, it makes for everyone to agree on business directions. In the end, we survive and hopefully the music we make is what really matters to people.
HRH: USA/UK has a very different sound compared to the last 2 7th Heaven albums, particularly “Faces Time Replace” was a conscious effort by the band or more because of the way Keith sings?
Richie: The way I like to produce is always surrounded by what I feel is the best direction of the voice. While that being said, all the singers that have been in 7th heaven have the ability to sing various styles. In terms of “Faces Time Replaces”, it was a reflection of the environments we were in at the time in terms of clubs we played. We have TONS of pop rock songs, but at the time if we played them they wouldn’t do well for us live. In fact our song “Right by your side” off “Silver” was actually a song we wrote in that “Faces..” era of writing, but it just didn’t fit. “War Machine” was from “Faces…”. Around 2002 we started getting festivals and they wouldn’t accept the heavy side of the band so we made a adjustment to the sound to keep the band busy.
HRH: USA/UK has gotten the band a lot of comparisons to “Hysteria” era Def Leppard not only as far as sound but production also is that a favorable comparison as far as the band is concerned?
Richie: I’m not sure how the band feels, but to me it’s one of the biggest honors I could ever get. I work for hours on mixes and try to polish my mixes. That’s the way I like to mix 7th heaven. But not all my mixes are that way. For example, when I produced Bill Beckett of “The Academy Is..” it was VERY different then 7th heaven. I grew up loving arena rock bands.. bands like Queen, Led Zep, Def Lep, Bon Jovi, Journey, Foreigner, AC/DC… they had a massive sound. So when I write songs and think about 7th heaven I think I want this band to sound like it belongs in a arena. The band can handle a arena stage. So I produce it that way.
HRH: There are 6 songs from Silver that were re-recorded for USA/UK with Keith is there a chance we could see some more of those songs re-recorded in the future? I would love to hear Keith’s vocals on Fall Into You, Invisible, and Everlasting Love among others.
Richie: The only reason why we recorded Keith on some of those songs was because when Keith got to America we were playing those songs (Cellophane, Gravity, etc.. ) in our set and new fans asked if they could get the song and then wanted it with Keith on it, so rather than re-record “Silver” with Keith I thought it was easier to add the tracks to a new CD, so to me that CD is a new CD os 12 songs with 6 bonus tracks.
HRH: When I compare the songs on “Silver” and “Faces Time Replace” to USA/UK. The songs on USA/UK seem like a more natural sound for the band would you agree?
Richie: Faces was for it’s time. Silver was my chance to make a record that I wanted to make and release various styles. and USA-UK is a methodical product for the band to sell in the environment we are within. The CD has a consistent sound on purpose and doesn’t sway too much away from that. We had a few very different tracks, but I wanted to work on them more and we needed a product to market ASAP. I think the CD is a good representation of where the band is today.
HRH: You guys have a reputation of being road warriors, how many shows has the band played since the release of USA/UK?
Richie: I think we are close to 500 shows with Keith. This year we should hit 260-275 shows. Our philosophy is that if a major
label or radio station won’t play us (or any rock for that matter) then we’ll bring our music to the people. I am blown away that the big wigs in the biz keep scratching their heads wondering why they are not making money in the business don’t open their eyes and see where the consumers are at. They are following ROCK acts… period. Look at the Pollstar (www.pollstar.com) and look to the right side at the top 50.. now look at the billboard (billboard.com).. see the disconnect. If I was a big wig, I would push all 50 of those artists and their products to people. The fans always dictate the success of a act. So because of this landscape, we survive by playing live shows.
HRH: Has there been any talk of the band playing any of the festivals like Rocklahoma or Rock Gone Wild this summer?
Richie: Rocklahoma would be cool, we have never been asked, mainly because the side stages are ran by indie labels and since we run our own label I’m not sure it will ever happen… Rock Gone Wild I am unaware of. All anyone has to do is ask us to play and we’ll be there. It’s not like we don’t like playing.. :)
HRH: What are the band’s summer tour plans?
Richie: We are booked for over 60 midwest festivals this summer. For June, July and August we play almost everyday, with many days with two to three shows. We have a solid summer booked.
HRH: When will the band start thinking about getting back in the studio to record the follow-up to USA/UK?
Richie: We’ll be working in the studio for various things over the next year. We have a HUGE surprise for 2010 when the band turns 25 years old. Something I don’t think that has ever been done before. Stay tuned.
HRH: 7th Heaven is also known for your 30 songs in 30 minutes medley how did that come about?
Richie: We were asked to play a family festival in 1991 and when we went there we played all originals for 90 minutes. The fest promoter said if we wanted to come back the next year we would have to play some covers so we went and made a 5 song medley. After that show we had a lot of people asking for it again. Then in 1993 I put a 80 song 120 minute long medley together to accomplish a few things; better my skills as a producer, work on arrangements and build our voices by having to learn all those different singers. We made a tape of that and it became very popular in the college markets, which then got us shows at colleges. So we cut the medley down to 25 minutes and started playing them in the clubs. We have made 11 different medleys and have played eight of them live. They make a great addition to our festival and college shows. We just created a new one that we are playing now.
HRH: Where can fans go to find out what is going on in 7th Heaven’s world?
we update our website weekly and just added a new blogger to the website that we all chime in at. There’s also a news page that updated every month and our email newsletters are the best ways to stay up to date with us.
You can sign up by clicking the “Mailing List” tab on the website.
We are shooting new video and wants YOU in it! We are shooting a music video for the song This Summer’s Gonna Last Forever and they want to use video footage of different fans from around the world showing them in their country in the background… something unique to your country (example: like standing in front of the Great Wall Of China or the Eiffel tower) they want to show the world that rock music is still alive and doing well around the world…
We want a video of you lip syncing the song and then the video footage to the band and it will be edited into the video.
– Prefer a mini DV tape or a DVD if possible and would like the video back to us by the end of April if possible.
Send it to: 7th heaven, PO Box 66473, Chicago, Il 60666.
If you want to make it a digital file and upload it to a server, that would be fine as well but it has to be uncompressed at 720 x 480. E-mail the band at: firstname.lastname@example.org for more info with the subject “music video”.
The song can be downloaded here: www.7thheavenband.com/summer/.
HRH: Is there anything you would like to tell the fans and readers before we let you go?
Richie: We really appreciate all the fans and friends who have helped support our dream of creating and performing music.We will always strive to put 110% effort in everything we do! We are very accessible to our fans so get in touch with us. Thanks for all your support!!!