INTERVIEW WITH HEAVENS EDGE FRONTMAN MARK EVANS
Date: May 1, 2022
Interviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato
Heavens Edge broke out of the thriving Philadelphia music scene in 1990 on the strength of radio-friendly singles “Skin To Skin” and “Find Another Way”, culled from their self-titled debut album on Columbia Records. They were quickly gaining traction, in part, due to a steady recurrence of airtime on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball and those tracks performing very well at rock radio markets across the country. Much like their east coast counterparts Britny Fox and Tangier, they came out of the gate strong only to encounter some career turbulence as the media focus at the time shifted from melodic, guitar-driven hard rock to Seattle grunge. Looking back, it’s as if a proclamation was ordered that good-time, straightforward rock n’ roll was over and any band that represented that era was dead in the water.
Like countless others, Heavens Edge became a victim of changes and the members moved on to other projects before the release of their second album. Fortunately, their debut album resonated with a devout, core audience so strongly that even after years had passed, the original members were able to resurrect the name and reform the band to begin playing sporadic shows once again. I caught up with lead vocalist Mark Evans just as the band was preparing to appear at the 2022 edition of the M3 Rock Festival.
Sleaze Roxx: Heavens Edge got their start in the Philadelphia area in the late ’80s. At that time, a lot of well-known bands had come out of [and are still arising] from that scene. What was the music scene like in Philly back then?
Mark Evans: It was pretty amazing back then. The cover band circuit was thriving in the area and the original scene — especially after Cinderella — took off and just exploded. So many great bands and so many great clubs back then. I feel bad for anyone young that’s trying to make it in this business, because the scene is not even close to what it used to be.
Sleaze Roxx: At the time of the band’s early inception, you were singing for Network and Reggie was still a member of White Fox. Was it the songwriting / musical chemistry that made you know that you were onto something special and wanted to pursue the project?
Mark Evans: Back then, I was playing bass and doing some singing for Network, which at the time was one of the top cover bands in the area. We were doing well enough that we could actually play a full set of originals each night but for me it wasn’t enough. I think for Reggie and White Fox, it was kind of the same. Neither him or I in those bands were a big part of the creative process. Once Reggie and I sat down together and started writing together, we knew there was some type of special connection there that we had to pursue.
Sleaze Roxx: You also play bass guitar. Did you ever consider singing and playing bass prior to the other members joining and the line-up finalizing?
Mark Evans: When Reggie and I started writing, I actually thought that I would be the bass player in the band. In fact, [for] our initial auditions, we didn’t audition any bass players. We started as a four piece, in rehearsals anyway. After a few rehearsals, we decided to add a bass player and have me just front the band. That’s when we brought in George [“G.G.” Guidotti] and hearing the band with him now in it made everything fall into place.
Sleaze Roxx: Being so close to Baltimore, did the band ever have the opportunity to play at the legendary Hammerjacks? If so, do you have any memories that you can share with us?
Mark Evans: Yes, we were fortunate enough to play there a number of times. What I do remember about playing at Hammerjacks is the venue was amazing. It didn’t feel like just a club. You felt like you were playing at a concert hall. It was huge. They treated you great and the crowds were amazing. Plus, some of the amazing line-ups they would have when you look at the calendar and just see that all of these are the great bands [that] were either just there or going to be there in the next few nights. It was something special.
Sleaze Roxx: Despite coming from that same scene, Heavens Edge had a unique sound in that you weren’t a carbon copy of the other successful bands [Tangier, Britny Fox, Cinderella] that were coming out of Philly. Was there ever pressure from the label to mold the band sonically or stylistically to ride the wave?
Mark Evans: We were lucky that the label really didn’t dictate our style, or the songs that made it on that first record were already written before we got signed. The other bands like Cinderella, Britny [Fox] and Tangier were definitely a lot more blues-based than we were. Reggie and I pretty much just wrote music that we enjoyed first and then hope that everyone else would feel the same. Our background wasn’t as much based in blues rock but more influenced by the bands that we loved growing up like Van Halen, Thin Lizzy, etc. I would say in the end, we ended up being kind of a melodic rock band with an edge.
Sleaze Roxx: When your debut album was released back in May of 1990, you had CBS behind you and “Skin To Skin” and “Find Another Way” both did very well at rock radio. The band seemed as though it had solid momentum going. This was also around the time that the musical climate was beginning to shift drastically. How do you feel that impacted the trajectory of the band?
Mark Evans: Absolutely impacted it directly. Our career pretty much ended when the president of Columbia Records signed Alice In Chains and we were pretty much told “This is the future, and you guys are the past”.
Heavens Edge‘s “Skin To Skin” video:
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve worked with producer Neil Kernon, who has been involved [to varying degrees] with projects from Queen, David Bowie, Thin Lizzy and Elton John. That couldn’thave hurt. How did he shape the band in the studio?
Mark Evans: Neil was amazing obviously. His résumé was as exciting to us as it was intimidating, but in the end, he absolutely brought out the best in us. We learned so much from him about what we were capable of. For us, that was the first time working with a producer that had creative input and, though he didn’t change a lot in the songs on the album, the small subtle changes that he did make made a world of difference and took the songs to another level.
Sleaze Roxx: One aspect of the band’s sound that I’ve always loved is that, while the music is very melodic, a lot of the material has a heavier edge and tempo to it. An example would be “Can’t Catch Me”, which almost sounds as if Dave is playing the double bass. Do you think that non-conformity helped or hindered your commercial success?
Mark Evans: I believe it helped because we weren’t just a carbon copy of what was successful in our area. We made our own way musically and like I said, Reggie and I wrote to create songs that we enjoyed first in hopes that when we play them for other people, they would feel the same.
Sleaze Roxx: Your second album ‘Some Other Place, Some Other Time’ finally surfaced in 1998 when the band signed with Pony Canyon (Japan) and MTM (Europe) overseas. Perris Records distributed it domestically. With the album having been shelved for several years, was there temptation to go back and revisit/tweak any nuances to the recording before ultimately putting it out there?
Mark Evans: At the time, we weren’t even really a band. At that point, we were just able to put together those songs from demos and pre-production recordings for what we were hoping was going to be the second record when we are still together. But we are very happy that those songs finally got out there.
Sleaze Roxx: The U.S. release of ‘Some Other Place, Some Other Time’ had an alternate cover and included six extra songs that weren’t included on the overseas versions, making it something of a collector’s item. What was the reasoning behind that?
Mark Evans: When Rock Candy Records contacted us about re-releasing that record, one of the stipulations was that they wanted some additional tracks to make it more special. So, I think we pretty much gave them the last few decent recordings we had.
Sleaze Roxx: Why did the band hold off on releasing that second album for so long?
Mark Evans: We really didn’t hold off. We had just pretty much broken up and at that point had no expectation of those songs ever seeing the light of day, so we were very pleasantly surprised that there were still interest all those years later.
Sleaze Roxx: The band’s return to M3 has been a long time coming, with your previous appearances dating back to 2014 and 2016, respectively. You were originally scheduled to appear in 2020 [which didn’t happen for obvious reasons] and then you had to unfortunately postpone from 2021. How does it feel to be returning and playing big festivals/events?
Mark Evans: It’s hard to put into words what an amazing feeling it is playing these different festivals that we’ve been so fortunate to be a part of for the past, I guess, close to ten years. If someone had asked any one of us 11 years ago “Do you think you guys will ever play together again?”, I’m sure the answer would’ve been “No”. We literally had no idea that anyone still gave a shit. So, for us, every time we play, we feel like the luckiest band on earth and the fans have been absolutely incredible. It’s also a lot more fun now, because there’s no pressure since it’s no longer a career. It’s kind of like a really cool hobby I guess you’d say. We all have regular jobs and homes to go to and a few times of year, we get to go out and relive our younger years which is an incredible gift.
Sleaze Roxx: The use of backing tracks in live performances has really been at the forefront of conversation and under the microscope lately, but it’s been going on to some degree for as long as I can remember. Perhaps not so much in the rock world as in other genres but it was always there to some extent. Can you give us your thoughts on the matter?
Mark Evans: My thoughts on backing tracks are pretty simple. When you go to see a band live, you should also hear them live. And if you’re doing something on the record you know you can’t do live, then either don’t do it or accept the fact that live the song might be just a little different than it is on the record.
Sleaze Roxx: Prior to the shutdown in 2020, Heavens Edge managed to get one last gig in on the Monsters of Rock Cruise. What did the collective band members do to stay busy during that downtime?
Mark Evans: Besides being bored like everyone else, Reggie and I did our best to start writing new material that we’re actually really excited about. And because of that, if all goes well, we will have a new record out by the end of the year.
Sleaze Roxx: You also appeared at the inaugural Monsters On The Mountain bill in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee [USA] last year. With it being the first year for that event, what was your take on the event?
Mark Evans: Monsters On The Mountain was a blast. It was run by the same group of people that do the Monsters of Rock Cruise and trust me, when I tell you, they know how to put on a festival. We look forward to hopefully being back there again.
Heavens Edge performing “Play Dirty” live at Monsters On The Mountain on October 15, 2021 (video from Memnoch’s Broken Record‘s YouTube page):
Sleaze Roxx: The band has been hard at work on long-awaited new music. Can you share any details on the progress of that?
Mark Evans: Well, I kind of answered that earlier so I guess the cat’s out of the bag. But we actually started pre-production on the new record a couple of weeks ago, and now were even more excited about the new material.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there a projected time frame for release of the new album?
Mark Evans: If everything goes as planned, it should be out before the end of the year.
Sleaze Roxx: With such a span of time in between albums, do you find it challenging as a songwriter to compose new music that is lyrically relevant today but still within the frame of what fans would identify with the band’s sound?
Mark Evans: It’s definitely challenging being the one that writes the lyrics. It’s very tough to balance writing rock ‘n roll-type lyrics that can connect with the fans from back then. But at the same time, being 60 years old writing about partying and sex and such just seems a little silly so you have to find a balance.
Sleaze Roxx: Does the album have a working title, or would you prefer not to say at this point?
Mark Evans: So far, no working title. We have a few ideas but don’t want to put them out there as of yet.
Sleaze Roxx: At this point in the band’s career, is a new album a vehicle to perform live or is it the other way around? Is playing live just a means of supporting a new album from a business standpoint?
Mark Evans: To be honest, we are just doing it for our own enjoyment and hopefully the enjoyment of the fans. If it turns into a few more shows a year, then that would be great. We’re just hoping everyone enjoys it.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there a new label in place to release the album or is it still too early to say?
Mark Evans: There is a new label, and that announcement will be coming in the near future.
[Editor’s note: Heavens Edge announced at the M3 Rock Festival earlier this month that they will be releasing their new album via the Italian record label Frontiers Music Srl.]
Sleaze Roxx: Are there plans to jump on a national tour once the new record is out or do you anticipate that Heavens Edge will continue to play larger scale one-offs?
Mark Evans: All of us have day jobs, so no national tour for us. Pretty much all we have time for is the one-offs, which typically make for a great weekend a few times a year.
Sleaze Roxx: Once again, appreciate you doing the interview Mark. What does the rest of 2022 have in store for Heavens Edge? Is there anything you’d like to mention that we haven’t covered?
Mark Evans: I think we have everything covered. If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know. Thank you again.