When interviewing a band described by other writers as a band who “sounds like a hot chick driving a Mack truck”, or “Australia’s toughest female fronted hard rock band”, it would be easy to slip into robot mode. The stereotyped cliché of such a band doesn’t inspire much thought or excitement, but thirty seconds into speaking to Heaven the Axe vocalist Phoebe Pinnock and that stereotype is obliterated completely, replaced by an intriguing female who just happens to sing in a band she describes as “the best Aussie rock band that you’ve never heard.”
Since their first show in 2009, Heaven the Axe have made steady progress through the ranks of Australian metal, known for their uncompromising attitude to music and a self belief that can only be described as infectious. Their music ranges from out and out brutal (Heaven Comes to Those Who Hate) to the softer side of rock (Unconditional Love) but balances out as a hard rocking unit with a determination to leave their mark on the Australian rock landscape.
“It’s really hard sometimes when it comes to writing songs,” Phoebe laughed. “Because Steve (guitarist and husband) and I are the primary songwriters and Steve comes from a background of extreme metal music and I love pop! I listen to Hip Hop and I get inspired by really honest lyrics and catchy hooks and rock anthems whereas Steve listens to metal so often we don’t even listen to the same music. He likes his style which annoys me a lot of the time and with my music he’ll be like ‘turn that fucken shit off’ so when we come together as a songwriting team it comes from two different chemistries of the universe and somehow forms into something people like.”
“We love to be diverse with our music. We always say that heavy metal and rock is about breaking rules and I really hate how when you’re in a band you have to pigeon hole yourself in some genre and stick to all these marketing rules and all this other bullshit. I’m not interested in any of that. We are who we are and we love to share our message and ourselves and our stories and meet people. Music is one place where you shouldn’t have rules.”
Perhaps the best way to get a handle on the band and the style of music they play is through the story behind the band name.
“It’s short for another title which is Heaven the Axe and Dirty Wings.” Phoebe explained. “And that was the story of an angel who was fed up with being good and nice and decided that she wanted to explore the darker realms so she hacked off her wings and then she learnt that there’s no right and wrong in the universe. There’s no good or bad, there just is, and it’s really symbolic. Steve is such an amazing guitarist and the guys in the band are so heavy and brutal that I guess the Heaven in the title relates to the music being more popified. It still has metal elements but there are also pop and rock elements that soften the blow.”
Or maybe another two words could tell the same story of where you may have heard their music before. Bogan Hunter, a recent ratings winner who’s theme song was sung by Heaven the Axe.
“This year has been really different for us a band,” Phoebe said. “We had to write the Bogan Hunters theme and that was pretty much one of the biggest rating shows ever on 7Mate and they also used our music throughout that show, Houso’s and the Houso’s movie and then we had to write stuff for the Fat Pizza soundtrack. It’s a lot of work doing something like that but we love those guys and they’re so funny and they’re really pushing us out there. They love our music and it’s just been really fun to not go on tour and just stay home and write songs.”
Being a female vocalist in a male dominated world would surely present its challenges, especially when that world is heavy metal, but Phoebe says it’s not as bad as you might think.
“It’s piss easy!” she laughed. “These guys are my family. I was an orphan and a homeless and really lost child and through music I’ve really been able to establish a family with people that I love, trust and respect. They are everyday my inspiration and it gives me a sense of belonging and it can be hard because as a lead singer you are expected to look a certain way or act a certain way and I’m a really soft and sensitive and intuitive and creative person but I guess in the metal scene people expect you to be on drugs or fucked up or brutal but I just want to work on being somebody for somebody rather than saying ‘hey, rock and roll has to be all about excess and bullshit.’ In order to be in a band you need to have a great deal of love and respect and connection to the universe to forge ahead because it’s such a magical, mystical thing being in a creative group of people who work really hard for no reward and no money most of the time.”
With a vocal range that goes from brutally heavy to almost innocent in certain songs, Phoebe says the trick to igniting passion and sincerity in your music comes from within.
“’Good Things Come to Those Who Hate’ is a song that we’ve been sitting on for a long time,” she said. “For a long time I just didn’t get the lyrics because in order to sing something it’s not just about singing, it’s about getting the emotion of the song inside me first then letting it rip. Without that emotion the song doesn’t work, it’s pointless. It’s just going through the motions, like meaningless sex with someone you don’t really care about. You’ve got to be able to express the emotion.”
“It’s really fun singing that song, I love it. I’m normally very happy and nice and people are shocked when they meet me after hearing my music. They’re like ‘I can’t believe you’re that girl singing that song!’ but in order to sing that I really have to store up something that pisses me off and carry it away in a little spiritual bag and when that song starts I have to turn it on inside me to sing it.”
Heaven the Axes’ upcoming Cairns show will be the bands first since the Summernats in January, and Phoebe says the whole band is excited about coming up.
“This will be my first time with this line up,” she gushed, “of feeling the vibe on stage. I can’t wait! (new guitarist) Shreddie and Steve are both going to try and outdo each other on stage because Steve’s like the ultimate riff, mosh, headbanging man. He’s a scary motherfucker and Shreddie was the original guitarist in King Parrot and he is a total genius but he’s also a psycho. He’s actually fucken crazy! I can’t wait to see him on stage because he’s such a nice, normal looking guy and then you play this phat riff to him and start jamming and his face changes, it’s like he becomes possessed.”
Heaven the Axe play at the Kuranda Motorcycle Show on October 4th and 5th
To listen to their music via free download go to https://www.dropbox.com/sh/85e8fp5tgvaupv5/AACRFOD95GqhWHSHvxv-7QwGa?dl=0