Michael Brody | Pamme | John Vanselow
click on image to visit artist's website
with stunning female vocals
Originally introduced to Musical Discoveries editors in the pages of Classic Rock Society's Wondrous Stories, Haven's debut album and recent re-issue on Italy's Frontiers Records have been in heavy rotation with our correspondents. Haven is the first female-fronted act to be signed to the label in five years and is only the third in total on the label, following Jaime Kyle and Dante Fox. This article includes a review of the album, an extensive interview with the band's vocalist, Pamme, and concludes with further information.
While it may sound like record company hype, every word is true: "Haven are the latest female-fronted melodic rock sensation!" Pamme's vocals are characterised as angelic, yet tough. "The music she plays is the one thing you can't escape from. She's searching just like you. Skillfully crafted songs range from power rock ballads to up-tempo hard rock, with sultry acoustic and piano ballads mixed in. Killer vocal / guitar melodies and inspiring lyrics" fill the twelve track album. The self-released (Slice Of Reality Records (USA) 7 93033 10372, 2000) and re-issue The Road (Frontiers Records (Italy) FR CD 089, 2001) are identical apart from the artwork. Both album covers are illustrated here.
Haven are Pamme (vocals, lyrics), Michael brody (bass, keyboards) and John Vanselow (guitar). A star lineup of guests contributed to the album Matt Sorum (drums--Guns n'Roses, The Cult), Robin McAuley (backing vocals--MSG) and Jimmy Hotz (Yes, Fleetwood Mac, Dave Mason, Gary Wright).
One can't help but get hooked on the 12-track masterwork right from the first listen. Vocals are perfectly balanced with arrangements and the blend of styles included on the album is certain to delight the broadest of audiences. Pamme's vocal prowess is captivating in every respect and her power is perfectly complimented by tremendous and standout guitar playing. Keyboards and harmony vocal layers contribute to the incredible production quality of the album.
Material is evocatively sung throughout with just the right level of vibrato in the lead and effective harmony vocal layering. We were especially delighted with the vocal mix--Pamme is never overwhelmed by the instrumentals; however, the instrumental bridges clearly demonstrate the John Vaneslow's guitar virtuousity and Michael brody's tremendous keyboard skill. Melodic rock is by its very nature highly accessible; Haven are a radio-friendly band likely to draw tremendous exposure. And they must be great to see on stage.
Pamme's vocals have been favourably compared to Ann Wilson of Heart which likely draws comparisons to Lana Lane (review) from Musical Discoveries readers. At times Pamme sounds like other well-known vocalists including Stevie Nicks (review) and even Rachel Jones (Karnataka, review). Vaneslow's guitar work is immediately reminscent of the extremely talented Paul Davies (Karnataka, concert review).
Full of contrasts, The Road opens with a blistering rock track entitled "The Curtain." Other examples of the band's rockier sound include the vocally intense "Strange Premonition," highly accessible radio-friendly "Hold On." The album closes with a hard driving guitar track entitled "Forgiveness."
The album's melodic rockers are lushly and symphonically arranged. Pamme's soaring lead is supported by layers of harmonies and keyboard while instrumental bridges feature vast guitar excursions. Highlights include "Can You Hear Us," the wonderfully arranged "Be The One," and most notable for its vocals, the uptempo "Show Them."
Heartfelt ballads feature soaring solo vocal passages with light keyboard foundations supplemented by additional layers as the songs unfold. "All I Ever Need," the even gentler acoustic guitar-laden "Halway Home" and evocatively sung piano-based "Face The Day" are stunning examples. The standout ballads are most certainly the sensually performed vocally-layererd title track and the symphonic "Someday Soon." Choruses are supported by thicker, guitar-based arrangements.
Both versions of Haven's debut album are wonderful and listeners are certain to find either one them difficult to remove from their CD players. Delighting our editors since first play, the album is certainly a must listen! Ordering information follows our interview with Pamme.
Please tell me a little bit about your backgrounds prior to Haven and between your last projects and the latest album. We are hoping to have a thoughtful version of your biography in your own words.
John and Michael had a group in Agoura, California, that was looking for a new singer. At the time I was living in Mission Viejo, California, which was a pretty good commute and a fairly easy argument against even going out for the audition. Even so, I felt compelled on some level to check them out. From the moment we all met, there was just this immediate and intense chemistry that demanded to be pursued further. So rather than kicking myself all the way home I instead found myself thinking, "somebody pinch me"! Previously, we had all cut our musical teeth performing in various cover bands. For me though, this was the first all original band that allowed me to explore and contribute any songwriting ideas and input I had.
Who are your favourite artists/bands? Who else do you find yourself listening to all the time?
For me, Kansas is my all time favorite band! Hearing their music can actually alter my state of consciousness to the point where I can actually feel the energy shift in the room. I find myself listening to warm up CD's that include not only Kansas but my other ever-present inspirations, such as Journey, Heart, Deep Purple, Tommy Shaw, MSG, Joe Lynn Turner and my newest addition Jason Becker, a truly amazing and life-giving soul.
Pamme, how did you develop your vocal styles? Can you elaborate on your musical 'training/education'?
Singing is such an emotional thing. Having never had any "professional" vocal training, looking back I realize that I've subliminally learned at the foot of some of rock's masters…singers I continually find myself drawn to. My singing has evolved through the myriad of inspirations these teachers have taught me. Teachers with whom I remain forever grateful, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
The album is extremely rich and well produced. Who do you feel has influenced this sound? Please explain how as well.
When bands inspire authentic emotions they forever live on. On some level they constantly remind us of just how powerful and healing music can be. All the bands we love have undoubtedly influenced how we record and produce our music.
Michael and John really enjoy the recording and production process. They love to experiment with layering parts and sounds to the songs. I know they are really looking forward to recording the next CD because all the equipment has been upgraded. The last CD was recorded on 16bit ADATs and an old mixing board. But they did a great job with the sound on that CD but definitely pushed the gear to its limits!
Please explain the various sequences you go through when writing your music and tell me a bit about the studios that you use in different stages. Tell me a little bit about the folks that work with you in the recording process please.
The first stage in the process begins with John and Michael. They get together and bounce ideas back and forth that they have been working on individually. Sometimes they just get together and play and ideas for songs come from that. If they both think something has some magic in it they will take it further and start to create a song. Once they get the basic structure of the songs, they record some scratch tracks and pass the ideas on to me on Adat. I wait to have the Mic on and the tape rolling before even hearing the song ideas for the first time, preferring to just wing it and improvise to whatever is on the tape.
If I feel there is something there, then we all get together and collectively choose the songs that we felt captured the most magic. Once we decide on which songs we want to finish, we take it to the next level. John and Michael lay down all of the basic music tracks. Then we have a drummer come in and do the drum tracks. Once the drums are done, I get the songs on Adat, and work out all my parts in a studio I have at the house. Some of those tracks we use for the final vocal takes. Lately I've been using the studio at home to just work out the vocal parts and then we do the real takes at Michael's studio. Once the vocals are done we then add all the little parts and production that will make up the final mix.
On our debut CD almost all the vocals were recorded in my studio and John did most of his guitars at his own studio. Everything else we did at Michael's studio. We also mixed and mastered it at Michael's.
We have just recently upgraded the studio at Michael's so we will most likely record everything there for our next CD. As far as the people that work with us in the studio, it's just us and any other musicians we might use on the songs!
Would you elaborate on your careers outside music?
There is a lot of truth in the fact that if you want to know what is important to you take a look at who and what are in your life. My entire life has been permeated by my intense and passionate love of our innocent and beloved animal kingdom. It remains my relentless and vital desire to make a difference in their lives. Animals are so pure in soul that when I'm able to do that, all is right with the world.
Where did you find the inspiration for the lyrics of the songs you've written? Does your location influence either your sound or the lyrical content of your material?
I've found that by being an observer, we can allow ourselves to vicariously experience emotions and events that otherwise remain untouched and unknown. There is an enormous power to be found in empathy and in acknowledging that we all walk in what we know. The lyrics I have written that have been based on personal experiences came about when grief finally arrived at my door, truly shattering my false sense of security.
It catapulted me into such such depths of heartache and loss it thoroughly rendered me helpless. Having "faded into black", my overwhelming vulnerability found me calling on the untapped strength that patiently awaits us all. With it came the realization that not getting through it was simply not an option. While realizing that there are certain things in life we may never know the answers or the reasons why, having had the music to channel these emotions into has "indeed" been my saving grace.
Pamme, please tell me what you think about your live performances and the audience's reaction to your on stage persona. How widely do you tour?
I love playing live! There is such an intangible energy that exists when performing in front of a live audience. I have always hoped that whoever is present be it in the front row or the nosebleed section, that they are aware of the mutual and simultaneous connection that we strive to convey within every performance.
Our time in the studio has left us chomping at the musical bit to get out and promote this record. Right now we have to start writing and recording our next CD for our European label so we won't be doing any touring soon but there has been talk about doing some touring after the next CD is released. We are currently recording a song that our label Frontiers will be releasing to benefit the victims and loved ones of the September 11th tragedy that will be featuring some well-known musicians. As for a video, we don't have one yet, but we have been discussing that with our label and also some independent video producers.
How has the Internet influenced your musical career and the promotion of your music. Do you think that your website will bring you many new fans?
The Internet enables us to interact with an audience that allows us the freedom of "real time" feedback. It's really awesome to talk to fans about certain songs and our website from an email they send. When we start getting songs recorded for the next record, we can post clips or demos and get some instant feedback about the songs. And yes, I think our website will bring us more fans. We are already experiencing this!
As for promotion of our music the Internet has allowed us to reach so many people that we would never be able to reach without it. We got signed because we decided to put up a few songs on mp3.com. It allows us to find a website all the way across the world and say "listen to our music and tell us what you think!" From that alone we have had lots of reviews. And from that people contacted us about doing interviews!
The thing I find most exciting is that people can hear new bands that they would never hear on the radio. It's a very fair playing field. People can decide who they like without having to choose from just the selections the radio stations play.
As always, thanks for allowing us into your heads and hopefully your hearts!
On with the adventure!
Love and Laughter,
"Tell The Truth". Pamme's vocals are also featured on the song "Tell the Truth" originally written by David Lee Roth for the just released Jason Becker Tribute CD. We are advised that the profits go to Jason and his family to help with his disease, ALS. Jason was David Lee Roth’s guitarist for a couple of albums until his disease forced him to put down the guitar. For a list of everyone involved and all about the tribute, click on the link above.
Although we haven't heard the entire album, we understand that it has had some great reviews, including one in Billboard magazine. We've heard two versions of the track and can understand—on the strength and power of Pamme's vocals alone—why the R&B-oriented rock tune Pamme sang with Robin McAuley and Johnny Lima has been singled out as one of the standouts. Pamme's characteristically evocative and sensually sung lead vocal provides a stunning contrast to the other singers; the guitar playing is pretty good too! Her style suits the material well and the recording has been extremely well produced.
Haven's official website has plenty of additional photographs and full biographical information. A tour schedule, soundbites and links to other sites of interest can also be found there. The band also have a site at mp3.com that is worth a visit. Haven are already working on the follow up to The Road and plan to begin recording before the end of 2001.
Visitors will find soundbites and further information and American audiences can order the band's independent release at CD Baby here. The band's CDs may also be purchased at their mp3.com website. Be sure to read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the Frontiers Records version of album from amazon.com here (note an error on the page says they an Italian band--they are not, but are on an Italian label!). Certainly worth a trans-Atlantic journey in every respect, this melodic rocking album features absolutely stunning female vocals. A must listen!
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