Interview ~ Phoebe Pinnock of Heaven The Axe

The internet has a lot of negative aspects to it, but one of the positive things about it is that it can make the world a smaller place. It can allow a music loving metal head here in the U.S. to discover a kick-ass band all the way over in Australia called Heaven The Axe. The band was formed in 2009 when lead vocalist Phoebe Pinnock and guitarist Steve Watts merged both their musical and life adventures together. The band’s debut album Sex, Chugs and Rock ‘N’ Roll was released in 2011 and the band began kicking ass and taking names throughout their homeland. The band, which is self-distributed, also scored a #2 song on the Australia iTunes metal chart with their single “Good Things Come To Those Who Hate,” which was a pretty impressive feat.

The band has hit a few bumps in the road with personnel changes, but I think that’s all a part of the process in finding the right pieces of the puzzle to make the band the best that it can be. They’ve kept busy with numerous projects including a song for a popular Australian tv show as well as contributing a song for a movie, both of which helped gain them some major exposure. The band has been working on new material which we will be hopefully hearing in the near future. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with lead vocalist Phoebe Pinnock who is never at a loss for words and always delivers one of the most insightful interviews that I have given in quite some time.

We  last  talked  shortly  after  “Good  Things  Come  To  Those  Who  Hate”  was released.  That song hit #2 on the iTunes chart in Australia.  Were you surprised with by the response to it?

Phoebe Pinnock: Oh yes!  I  was  at  the  mall  in  my  pajamas  and  people  were  tweeting  me about  it,  I  literally dropped  my  bags  of  groceries  in  the  middle  of  the  walkway.

How  did the  band  get  hooked  up  with  the  tv  show  Bogan  Hunters?

The  producers  got  ahold  of  our  music  and  the  creator  of  the  show  became a  fan.  It  was  really  exciting and as  an  independent  musician  in  Australia the  opportunity  to  expose  our  band  to  a  huge  television  audience was  too good  to  pass  up.  You  can  imagine  I’m  never  ever  going  on  Australian  Idol, right?  The  song  Bogan Hunters  became  surprisingly  popular;  international promoters  have  even  remarked  how  much  they  love  the  song.  It  has become  a  bit  of  an underground  Aussie  anthem; crowds  at  live  shows always  sing  along  and  I  was  very  impressed  with  fitting  the  word “Procrasterbating”  into  a  rhyme  there. Personal life goal achieved?

I  saw  some  negative  comments  made  about  the  track  that  you  did for the Fat  Pizza  VS  Housos  movie  and I’m  not  sure  what  the  reaction  was  over there.  Do  you  think  some  people  didn’t  get  that  it  was  supposed  to be  fun and  irreverent?

Yes! Amazing  how someone from  our  home  town  being  a  keyboard warrior  can  make  an  international  interview,  but  that’s  social  media  isn’t it?  I  don’t  let  negative  comments  (though  rare)  get  to  me,  I’m  aware  that people  who  take  the  time  to  comment  negatively  on  a  public  forum  to people  they  don’t  know  have  a  ‘Roo  loose  in  the  top  paddock  you  know what  I’m  saying?  But  the  fact  that  they  bothered to  share  their  opinion  just  shows  they  are at  least  interested  in  what  we  do  in  some  way! In  terms of  the song, I  love  making  people  laugh  with vulgarity,  as  is  the  manner  of  being  surrounded  by  a  bunch  of  super intense,  intelligent,  hilarious,  male  metal  musicians.  You’re  always  trying to  outdo  each  other  with  being  a  dickhead.  At  the  same  time,  I’m  highly educated  and  take  action  on a lot  of  matters  of  serious  injustice, of  which I do not share publicly.  When  you  put  a  song  on  the  internet,  it’s  just  a  part of  who  you  are,  not  the  whole  entire  being  of  a  songwriter  and  what  they stand  for.  I happen to love the Fat Pizza song. I  think  it  is  one  of  the  most fucked  up  pieces  of  music  and  the  lyrics  are  utterly  ridiculous  to  match  the movie  and  the  tone  of  the  TV  Series.  I  grew  up  performing  musical  theatre and  to  me  this  song  is  a  musical  theatre fantasy.  We  composed  a  song which  was  entirely  for  a  comedy  movie  and  one  that  will  never  be  a “single”  on  its  own.  It’s  meant  to  be  fun,  ridiculous  and  just  another  look  at  what  we  do  and  relevant  to  a massive  cult  audience.  We put it out for the movie and moved on. Some friends in  huge international bands, a  number  of  bands, are  banned  from  certain  countries  due  to  the hilarity  and farcical  entertainment  value  of  their  lyrics, but  I  don’t  see  Quentin Tarantino  being  passport  blocked  for  expressing  his  artistic  freedom  and caricatures or  commercial  TV  news  journalists.  People  are  precious  about the  bands  they  engage  in  and,  thanks  to  our  kickass  fans  who  embrace  all our  sides,  we’ve  managed  to  achieve  a  lot  of  career  milestones  on  our  own and  be  really  happy  with  what  we  do. I  see  international  bands  being promoted  in  Australia  and  am  shocked  with  how  much  hate  they  get, especially  bands  with  women  in  them; it’s  just  part  of  the  job  and  if  you’re  being an  artist  true to yourself, then  none  of  these  comments  can ever  touch  you,  really  we  just  laugh  now.  We’ve  been  part  of  a  documentary series  by  Skeleton  Crew  TV  where  people  can  get  to  know  the  real  us  if they  want  to.  I used to be insecure about showing the real me, but then I went, ‘HANG ON A MOMENT!’ I  am  best  friends  with  some  of  the  most respected  and  coolest  metal  heads  in  Australian  heavy  metal  and  they love  me  for  exactly  who  I  am  so  why  wouldn’t  that  be  interesting  to  fans? Then  when  they  come  to  shows,  they’ve  had  an  experience  of  hanging  out with  us  and  know  a  bit  more  about  what’s  going  on  in  the  background.  I think  that’s  important  to  fans, plus  I  don’t  give  a  shit  what  people  I don’t  know  think  anymore.  I  care  what  we  think  and  as  long  as  we  are  happy  with what  we  do  then  that’s  what  matters and  that’s  a  really  positive  mindset  to  have when  you’re  in  the  business  of  “self­‐expression”.

I  remember  seeing  mentions  here  in  the  US  press  when  you  were  support on  shows  with  Butcher  Babies  and  Sebastian  Bach when they visited Australia.  What were those shows like for you?

We  were  very  honored  to  perform  as  a  support  band  for  those international  acts  and  put  our  heart  and  soul  into  all  aspects  of  the performance  and  both  times  we  all  walked  away  and  thought  to  ourselves “well  we  gave  that  100%”  and  really  that  personal  feeling  as  a  collective  is the  greatest  part  of  it,  knowing  you  gave  it  your  very  best.  Even  then,  you  learn  a  great  deal  about  how  to  do  things better  so it gives you a chance to improve  on  top  of  what  you  did.  Sebastian  Bach was at  The  Forum  Theatre  in  Melbourne  so  it  was  a  big  stage and  I remember  standing  side  stage  next  to  the  curtain  pulleys  and  curtains  and thinking  ‘this  is  where  I  feel  most  at  home’  having  grown  up  doing  a  lot  of theatre performance,  since  I  was  6.  I  felt  more  at  home  on  that  stage  in front  of  thousands  and  we’re  entirely  ready  for  the  next  opportunity  and hopefully  to  get  overseas  to  prove  our  worth  in  reality  rather  than  just through  social  media.  I  thought  Sebastian  Bach’s  stage  show  was  amazing  and I really  enjoyed  watching  his  performance  with  his lovely  new  wife  Suzanne.

There  have  been  some  personnel  changes  since  we  last  talked.  How tough is it on the band when that happens?  Is  it  like  starting  over  or  more  of  a big  bump  in  the  road?

Duuuuuuude, yes!  So,  essentially  the  band  has  always  been  Steve (guitarist)  and  I.  A  couple  of  years  ago,  we were  touring  flat  out  and  living together  with  two  of  our  band  members, but  both  of  these  members personal  situations  in  life  changed,  one  for  the  worse  one  for  the  better and  they  had  to  be  replaced. Steve and  I  get  very  close  to  the people  in  our  lives because of who we are and what we are like; we can’t have  inauthenticity. We  had  a couple  of  new  members  join,  who were  both  talented  musicians,  but  something  wasn’t  right.  The  roadblocks that  were  placed  in  front  of  us  at  that  time  ate  away  at  my  own  self‐belief to  push  ahead.  There  has  to  be  a  chemistry  and  trust  with  the  band  members  to create  quality  work  and  that  is  exactly  what  we  have  now.  Steve  and  I have  an  unstoppable  mindset  when  it  comes  to  overcoming  challenges and  I always ask  the  universe  for  help  and  am  supported.  That  could mean  that  a  line  up  has  to  break  down  so  we  can  truly  find  the  musicians that  are  right  for  us.  When  we  say  we’re  going  to  do  something,  we  do  it and  give  our  all  to  it.  There  is  too  much  love  and  care  from  an  extended network  of amazing  people  to  see  us  go  through  bad  situations,  to surrender  to  failure  or  be  involved  with  people  who  aren’t  the  same  as  us anymore.  Right now, having  Tommy  back  on  drums,  Tim  and  Azza  (who  are the  founding  members  of  Frankenbok,  a  cornerstone  of  Australian  heavy metal)  having  joined  our  band,  we  are  so  happy  and  getting  a  lot  done.  Everyone is  so committed  and  incredible  mates  and  the  communication  is  the  best  it’s  ever  been; I  can’t  imagine  a  band  without  these members  now.  We’ve  spent  so  much  time  touring  together  in  our previous  line  ups,  it  almost  feels  like  cheating  when  we  play  with  any other  bands  because  we  just  have  that  much  invested  in  each  other  now on  a  musical  and  personal  level.  Every  waking  moment  spare  we  just  want to  jam  and  talk  on  the  phone  about  how  to  improve.  We’re  made  of  the same  substance  and  anyone  who  has  been  in  a  metal  band  in  Australia can  understand  exactly  what  that  entails. With  us,  it’s  a  lot  of  phone  calls (Azza and  I  and  Steve  have  usually  all  had  phone  calls with  each  other before  7am  most days) and  a  lot  of  work  in  personal  time  so  when  you  show  up  to  rehearsal, you’re  ready  and  not  letting  anyone  down.

Any  news  about  when  we  can  expect  a  new  album  or  EP?  If  you’re working  on  new  material,  are  you  exploring  your  brutal  vocal  side anymore?

Sure,  we’re  currently  working  up  a  bunch  of  the  new  songs  and  now  I’m hearing  them  as  a  piece  of  music together. I’m  getting  really  excited  and am  becoming  open  to  the  new  identity  of  the  band.  I’ve  written  so many songs  and  now  we  have  such  a  professional  group  who  live  for  music  as much  as  we  do  that we’re chomping  through  them  all.  The  main  part  of  who  I am  as  an  artist  now  is  that  I  get  my  message  and  the  emotion  correct  as  a lot  of  these  songs  have  been  healing  to  me  to  release  and  define  the moments  of  life  that  sometimes  need  to  be  understood  in  order  to  move on  and  they  represent  the  whole  group. The  heavy  vocal  spectrum  allows  me  to drop  this  in  when  it’s  relevant. The  past  couple  of  years  haven’t  been  easy  for  me,  having  to  slow  down  on touring  due  to  line  up  issues  really  threw  a  spanner  in  my  works  and  I  did a  lot  of  soul  searching  around  what  it  is  that  makes  me  feel  like  I  don’t  fit into  the  world,  like  a  lot  of  people. Chemistry and trust is most important to allow the right vibration of creativity to evolve in the band and the studio with a new producer.  I  have  huge  faith that  when  we  have  conjured  up  the  exact  right message  and  the  most  attractive  way  to  deliver  it,  through  kick  ass  music, it  will  move  ahead  very  quickly. In  the  last  few  months,  magic  has  been happening  and  it’s  steamrolling, but  it  all  has  to  come  from belief  in the magic  and  in  yourself.  My  instrument  is  the  mind  and  the  heart  and  I  can’t sing  if  I’m  holding  back  on what  I  really  want  to  say.  Which,  if  you  ask  any of  my  bandmates,  is  rare! I  had  a  lot  of  self‐doubt, but my  band  mates  have been  so  encouraging  to  me  as  a  songwriter. Steve  is  the  magic  mostly, but now  the whole  band  has  brought  their  magic  to  the  songs. I must  admit  it  makes me  feel  good  to  know I’m writing these little songs and these  particular musicians that I respect  are  really  digging  them  and  putting their  lives and hearts  into  it,  turning them into brutiful beasts and something we can all be really  proud  of.

I  really  loved  the  video  that  you  did  of  the  acoustic  version  of  “Hey  Mr. Bad  News”  and  was  wondering why you  decided  to  do  that  and  if  there’s  a possibility  of  more  acoustic  stuff  from  the  band?

Like  I  said,  I’ve  written  hundreds  of  acoustic  songs, but not  all  are  appropriate for  the  full  blown band  and wouldn’t  fit  the  live  stage  energy  as  it’s  high energy! We  have  a  lot  of  people  who  love  the  music  and the  band  and maybe  just  like  who  we  are  as  people  and  want  to  come  to  a  show,  but would  never  come to a metal  show.  Steve  and  I  began  as  an  acoustic duo a  long  time  ago  and  all  the  songs  have  a  story; the acoustic  stuff  is a story  entirely  about  what  it’s  like  to  be  a  girl  who  falls  in  love with a wild metal head and wants  to  make  beautiful  music and the highs and lows along the way. We can’t help but be our idiot madly‐in‐love selves on stage so audiences at the acoustic shows get a whole other side of the story of who we are and why we do what we do and surprisingly a lot of laughs. I’m very honest in my lyrics because I pour my heart out in singing and if I can tell a story that  makes  someone  laugh  or  helps  someone  get  an  insight  into their  own  similar  situation then I feel like I’ve been of service. Sometimes, the message in the lyrics is best delivered in a beautiful acoustic song and the acoustic songs are all the story of how the band Heaven The Axe came to be. So for our fans, they really get an insight into how real and sincere this whole journey is and how we really do live by the words we sing about.

PhoebePinnockLadyOfSorrow
Photo courtesy of Michael Weinhardt.

Phoebe,  you  are  this  very  strong,  aggressive  and  dominant  figure  up  there commanding  that stage, but  I  am  sure  there  is  a  softer,  dare  I  say  frilly, side  to  you.  Is  there  a  more  delicate  side  that likes  unicorns  and  kitty  cats and  rainbows?

Hahaha, NO  I  am  not  frilly; I’m  a  doc  martens,  black  lycra  and flannelette  shirt  kind of  girl. I  am  a  woman  who  appears all  blonde, girly  and  giggly  on  the  outside,  but  when  you  get  to  know  me  you know  I am  very  direct.  I  like  to  fantasize  that I’m  kind of like  a  wizard,  with  a  long  white beard, but  when  I  hear  myself  in  radio  interviews  I  think  to  myself  ‘my god!  I  sound  like  such  a  girl’  because  in  my  head  there  is a different  voice. Yes, for  the  most  part,  my  relaxation  mind  is  thinking  and  studying  the occult  (the  laws  of  karma  and  how  to  be  free  of  them) and trusting my clairsentience which is very powerful, as many of us are, however  I  am  often afraid  of opening  up  to  those  powers  because  of  an  evil  entity  in  my  childhood home  which  terrified  me  a  great  deal  when  I  was  little.  The  clairsentience is  a  feeling  and  a  strong  intuition  usually  in  the  form  of  unmistakable goosebumps  which  I  always  get  when  you’ve  nailed  it  in  singing and songwriting.  I’ve  been  learning  in  person  with  a  world  famous  Astrologer and  she’s  been  inspiring  me  and  helping  me  to  open  up  more  to  these things  which  past  issues  like  drug  addiction  had switched  off, but  because of  those  issues  in  the  past  it  makes  me  acutely  aware  of  how  it  feels  to  be switched  on.  I  read  somewhere  that  singers  in  this  life  have  been karmically  blessed  with  this  gift  because  of  past  lives  holding  great responsibility  and  sacrifice  speaking  out  for  others.  I  take  that  idea seriously and even  in  songs  which  appear  negative on  the  outside  to  some like  “Good  Things Come  To  Those Who  Hate”; that  song  is  entirely  for  me  about  allowing  myself  to  get mad! This  is  important  as  a  woman  especially, people  in  western  civilization  are too  apathetic!  We are numbed! Antidepressants!  Alcohol!  High speed entertainment!!  We are human beings goddamit, our lives have value!!  Fuck the TV!  Fuck the government!!!  GET FUCKING MAD!!!!  IT’S FUCKED!!!!!  Take  action because  you FEEL something and  that’s  a  positive  thing  for  me,  especially women  who  are  the  epitome  of  nature  and  nurture. 

Is there a story behind the band’s name or was it something that just sounded cool?

The name originally came from a lyrical image “Heaven, The Axe and the Dirty Wings”. This is about challenging authority and validating your own truth, embracing your light and your dark sides and making an impact with your light because of the tools you learnt to use in the dark. The  image is  a  story  in  which  an  angel  is  fed  up  with  the  blinding  light  and  wants to  explore  the  dark.  She  cuts  off  her  wings  and  goes  to  see  hell where  she realizes  nothing  is  right  or  wrong and  it’s  ok  to  be  free  and  do  something different  if  it’s  your  choice  and  everything  is  just  a  story  made  of  language. I  am  not  someone  that  ever  says  ‘well  that’s  just  the  way  it  is’ because I  question everything  and  I’m  unafraid  in standing  up  for  myself.  I do not follow rules, only universal law.  I  love  researching  worldly  law,  religion,  the origins  of  language,  spirituality and  I  can’t  understand  people  who  just accept  situations  they  aren’t  happy  with.  Law,  religion,  politics all  of  it  is based  on  the  agreement  of  a  group.  It doesn’t  mean  I  have  to  believe  in  it just  because everyone  else  does.  It’s  about  not  making  yourself  wrong  for being  different  and  accepting  the  spectrums  of  life,  the  good, the  bad,  the sad,  the  happy,  the  ups  and  downs  as  what  the  universe  is, not  judging  or labelling  it.  It  just  is; t’s  about  communion  with  your  higher  self  and telling  the  worldly  authorities  to  go  and  get  fucked  (preferably  in  a  tangible  way), taking  your  heaven  and  causing  drastic  upheaval.  No  one  else  can  take away  the  truths  that  you  yourself  come  across  which  is  why  I  don’t  really enjoy  other  peoples  takes  on  spirituality  that  isn’t  based  on  actual  history or  something  that  tells  me  “this  is  right  for  me”, but I’m  constantly  learning; every day  is  a  rollercoaster  in  this  regard.    If  you  look  at  the  origins of  Astrology  and  the  Bible  you  will  be  SHOCKED  at  how  society  has  been controlled  with  an  intentional  misinterpretation.  So  fuck  religion;  I’m making  my  own  rules  because my  messages from  source  are  JUST  as  important and  if  I  had  never  embraced  my  dark  side  I  would  have  never  appreciated or  understood what the light is telling me. That’s probably the short version, in a nutshell. For our  next  album,  I’ll  be  able  to  make  this  idea  and  identity  really  obvious  in  the artwork  which  I’m  working  on  now.

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What  can  US  fans  do  to  help  you  get  your  asses  over  here  and  melt  our faces  with  your  live show?

Cut  off  the  water  supply  at  Trump  Towers  and  run  a  homemade lemonade  stand  at  extortionate  prices  out  front  on  a  hot  day  and  send us  the  proceeds. No  seriously,  we  are  so  grateful  for  anyone  who  takes  the  time to  tell  their  friends  about  us.  Thank  you  so  much  it’s  a  pleasure  hearing  from people  on  Twitter  that  are  excited  to  just  discover  us. 

Is  there  anything  that  you  want  to  add  to  the  interview  that  you  may be  working  on  or  any upcoming  plans  or  just  anything  in  general  that  you want  to  say?  You have the mic, so go!

Thank  you  so  much  to  all our  fans  that  continue  to  support  us  and  send  us love  every day; it means the world to share the journey with you.   We are supporting Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society in Melbourne at 170 Russell on Dec 1. We  also play at  The  Evelyn  Hotel,  Fitzroy  on  Saturday  Dec  12  with  our  “family” of  bands Frankenbok,  Dreadnaught,  Red  Sky  Burial,  Strict  Vincent and  Never. To  get updated  about  our  new  record  make  sure  to  subscribe  to www.heaventheaxe.com.

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