By Andrew Catania
Stuart Smith is not your average guitar player. Mentored by Blackmore, he has the chops that will catch peoples attention. Heaven and Earths new album, Hard To Kill, came out on October 6th and I recently spoke with Stuart.
Tell me about your background
I was given a guitar by my Dad who was a jet fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force, which is like the Top Guns of England. He was my hero growing up. I always played guitar since I was given one of them by someone on the Royal Air Force base. I could classically play music, and I sat in the house playing guitar, but it is not something that I wanted to do all the time. I wanted to be a jet fighter pilot and went to college and took the flight physical. They told me I am colorblind. 76 percent of all males are red-green colorblind don’t even know. I worked for Texas Instruments in England. I got tired of it and decided I was going to be a professional musician and that was it.
When did you meet Richie Blackmore?
I was 14, and some friends of my parents had a spare ticket to a concert, and they said you want to go. I said I would go and get out the house and give my parents some peace.
I went, and I was pretty bored all day, and then they introduced the last band which was Deep Purple. Suddenly this guy in black comes running some right rolling onto the stage, and he was playing the neck of the guitar with this fantastic classical runs and such finesse, volume, and emotion it just it blew my mind. It turned me on to rock and roll.
When I was about 19, I met Ritchie Blackmore, and we became close friends. He mentored me throughout the business.
Did Richie tell you to move to the states?
Yes, it was about 1983, and Richie come over here with Joe Lynn Turner, and they had a hit with I Surrender and I was just complaining that England was so small if you are not playing what’s in fashion you starve. Everyone was doing dance music and Duran Duran. Moreover, there’s no rock music out there. So he told me to come to the states, there’s a big audience for what you are doing, and Rock is happening over there. So I packed my bags and went over to Long Island where Ritchie lived and started the band out there. Ritchie would come, and he was huge at the time because MTV was happening so he can play with us. So we would do a set, and then we go off and then Richie would come home and play with us. Our first gigs were one thousand seat theaters.
How did Heaven and Earth form?
I moved to Los Angeles in 1986. I formed a band called Midnight which was myself and Joe Lynn Turner. We played a show at the China Club in Chicago. We played originals and played some covers, and it went down well, and we were born. Joe was in the New Jersey of course, and we got on Kelly Hanson and Jay Sullivan from Hurricane at the time, and that was the start we had a deal, and we started recording and doing demos mainly, and that was the start of it. It was about the early 90s
Tell me about your band Aliens of Extraordinary Ability
What happened is I got offered a deal for I was playing with a band with Keith Emerson and we were going to get Sweet back together at the time. Steve Priest and it was being handled by John Colette who used to manage Deep Purple, and he was trying to get Sweet back together. We mixed a tape then Brian Connolly had died. Time went by, and I reconnected with Keith and Mick Tucker through Cozy Powell back in England. We said look, let’s put a band together because he was going to go out and tour the reunion tour with Jethro Tull. Lets put a group together and just go and have some fun which is what we did. We called it the Aliens of Extraordinary Ability because that was the actual category that we call green cards and with immigration.
We went out and played a few times and then Keith went off to do his thing, and during that we got offered a deal by Samsung, the Korean electronics giant. Moreover, we said we do not have a band or original songs. The guys from Samsung saw me jamming out at a club with this group called the Screaming Cocktail Hour. They wanted to meet me afterward, and they came back to my house for a late night drink, and I played them some of my solo stuff, and they offered me a deal. I did not have a band at the time. So, I just called up everyone I knew, and Richie Sambora who was the first call I made because he was my brother in law. I was married to Heather Locklear’s sister, Colleen.
I called Joe Lynn Turner too. Ritchie was excited because nobody ever asked him to sing before.
When you went to record Hard to Kill, did you have any particular direction you wanted to go sound wise?
SS: No, not really. We are going to get the same sort of style no matter what. I just guess we are lucky the fact that when I did the first one we had so many different genres on there which was, we did blues, classical sort of rock and hard rock. The producer at the time said you know no one is going to buy this is too diverse. When the reviews came out, everyone said we love it, it is so different. Growing up, even Zeppelin would do a reggae track.
Have you a signature guitar?
Yes, I do. I use The Aero 3 Guitar from the Aero 3 Guitar Company. I came up with the design and told them what I wanted. They use a particular kind of technology In the body that makes for superior playing. I use Peterson Strobe Tuner, An MXR Carbon Copy, an MXR Flanger that Joe Bonamassa gave me. MXR Phase 90, A Morley WAH, and Engl amps and cabinets.
What are Heaven and Earth’s plans for 2018?
The plan is to get Heaven and Earth out on tour and play in front as many people as we can!
You can order Heaven and Earth’s new record, Hard to Kill here
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