Guitarist Stuart Smith worked with a lot of premier musicians while putting together a solo project called Heaven and Earth. He released a few albums using fellow guest musicians before putting together a touring band and a band album Dig. Stuart added longtime road vets Joe Retta on vocals, Chuck Wright on bass, Richie Onori on drums, and Arian Schierbaum on keys. The goal of the band is to extend classic rock to another level. Stuart and Richie evolved into working with Keith Emerson, and Richie, Stuart, and Joe with the reincarnation of the band Sweet. I talked to Stuart and Chuck about the about the band and the new album.[youtube TJW97xM5LnY]
RE- Describe your background as a guitarist and your longtime project Heaven and Earth.
SS- I had Heaven and Earth together for quite a few years. When I eventually moved to L.A. I got involved with Steve Priest and Sweet. It was always on and off. That ended right before I started Heaven and Earth and brought out the first album, Heaven and Earth Featuring Stuart Smith. I didn’t sing, so I had all these guest singers like Richie Sambora, Bobby Kimball, Glen Hughes, Joe Lynn Turner, and Kelly Hanson. Then we brought out the second album called Windows to the World with Kelly Keeling singing. We actually went out and toured on that one with Kelly Hansen, but we were just about to break it there when Kelly got the offer from Foreigner, which he took. At the time then, I got together with Steve Priest and the reformed Sweet, in 2008, and I’ve been playing with Sweet ever since. Then I got together with Bruce Quarto and Quarto Valley Records and we decided to have a third album. We started 14 months ago and just finished it, the new album Dig. RE- It’s definitely a cool cover design. SS- Yeah, we got together with Glen Wexler, he’s done covers for Michael Jackson, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, and many others. He’s one of the best in the business. RE- Do you have any tours planned? SS- Yeah. We start rehearsals in about a week, and we’ll do a showcase for agents. In the meantime, we are talking about touring when the album comes out in the next couple of months.
“No Money, No Love” SoundCloud stream:
RE- Describe the album. SS- We started by using all vintage instruments, using tape and a real Hammond organ. RE- What was your first influence to play guitar? SS- Well, I was classically trained. When I went to a Deep Purple concert, it turned me on to rock and roll. Years later I met Ritchie Blackmore and we became good friends, and he taught me a lot. That was my biggest influence I suppose, along with Zeppelin, Cream, Jeff Beck, and Pink Floyd. RE- What kind of guitar is your main axe? SS- I play Stratocasters. I love Strat’s, all 70’s models. I take the middle pickup out. On this album I use a Les Paul as well to double the track and beef up the sound. RE- What amps are you playing now? SS- An Albion, a Marshall, and a Vox AC30. RE- How about pedals? SS- Generally I just use an echo unit, a wah-wah, and assorted overdrive pedals to kick it in for solos.
RE- Being a bass player, who is your personal favorite bass player? CW- They all start with the letter “J”. John Entwistle, Jack Bruce, Jaco Pastorius, Jeff Berlin, my #1 favorite is John Paul Jones, and then there’s Paul McCartney who’s name starts with a “P”, but his actual name is James Paul McCartney! When I grew up, that’s what it was all about! RE- Favorite guitar player? CW- Jeff Beck, hands down! RE- If you could take the stage with any guitar player living or dead, who would you pick? CW- Anybody, I’d pick Jeff Beck. I already said Jeff Beck was my favorite, so it guess it would be Jeff! RE- I said living or dead. That expands the possibilities! CW- (Laughs) Does that include Jimi Hendrix? RE- Yeah. CW- In that case, Jimi Hendrix too! RE- Are you playing with Quiet Riot? CW- Yes I am. I’ve been playing with them since off and on since 1981. RE- Are you more into touring or the studio work? CW- I love being on the stage. I can’t wait to play this music in front of people, because I think it’s going to blow their minds. It’s pretty awesome. We have a killer band, and the best singer. The album sounds like a record that would have been release in 77 or 78. We recorded it that way, and tried to use our influences from those days and just kept it real rock and roll! RE- I’m looking forward to seeing you guys when you come to Cleveland. SS- I’ve been to Cleveland many times. The Richfield Coliseum, the little club called Peabody’s back in the 80’s, and I played right by the river, the Tower City Amphitheatre with Alice Cooper. RE- Where did you grow up? CW- I grew up in the L.A. area, and sort of fell into the whole music scene in the late 70’s. Actually, Richie and I had a band together for about six years called Satyr, which was a progressive rock band back then, and we actually drew more people at the time than Van Halen! RE- You recorded the entire album using tape? CW- Well, not the whole thing. We used a device called The Clasp (Closed Loop Analog Signal Processor) that allows you to hit the tape machine so you can saturate the tape and get that sound, and it goes direct without latency, directly to the computer. We still used the modern age, friendly tools, but it makes it a lot easier than editing tape. We’re trying to bring back the classic sound. That’s the essence of what rock and roll is. You can’t turn on the radio anymore without hearing Justin Bieber, or a classic rock station and hearing Hotel California every hour. Don’t get me wrong, I love that song, but come on! RE- I can’t agree more! I’m looking forward to hearing the CD and seeing the tour!
Their new CD Dig is being re-mastered for release on April 23rd. Also watch for tour info.
By R.M. Engelman