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.
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.
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.