Heart not stuck in the ’80s

09/12/2012 4:49 PM

09/12/2012 4:49 PM

Heart singer Ann Wilson considers Ben Mink, the producer of the forthcoming Heart CD, “Fanatic,” a genius when it comes to capturing sound on record.

And with “Fanatic,” set for release Oct. 2, Wilson and her sister, guitarist/singer Nancy Wilson — who take the Kansas State Fair’s Grandstand stage Friday night — tested Mink in some unusual situations.

“It’s just amazing some of the different techniques that were used to record this record because it was recorded in lots of little different places, on a tour bus, in a parking lot, in a hotel room, actually in a studio, just everywhere,” Ann Wilson said in an early August phone interview.

Recording in such unconventional locations was necessary because, to get “Fanatic” done on time, recording had to get done while Heart was on tour.

“And you know, as it turns out, I’m really glad we did, because I think we caught something on ‘Fanatic’ that is quite a spark,” Wilson said. “And we didn’t sit in the studio and just overthink and overthink and overthink. We were on the move the whole time.”

The new CD has a genuine energy, some of which comes from the performances. Then there are the songs. “Fanatic” is one of Heart’s hardest-rocking albums, and songs like “Dear Old America,” “59 Crunch,” “Mashallah” and the title track are crisp, highly melodic and full of surprising and entertaining twists and turns.

And as for Mink’s talents for capturing unique sonics, that’s amply demonstrated on “Fanatic.” The title song, for instance, uses some attention-grabbing buzzing tones, while the electronic tones that greet the listener on “Skin and Bones” give the song a bit of a futuristic accent. Then there are the techno-funk touches that flavor “Million Miles.”

“He (Mink) knows good and well what Heart used to sound like in the ’70s and in the ’80s and the ’90s,” Wilson said. “But he’s a guy who is really dead set in the present. So he’s going to pay respect to us and who we are, but he’s always going to push us. And he really has a great sonic imagination and ability to come up with crazy ideas that really refer to us in an honest way.”

“Fanatic” is a big piece in a year shaping up to be a landmark one in a career for Heart that began in 1973, when the sisters formed the group. During the course of its career, the band has enjoyed two periods of huge success: a five-album run that introduced Heart to the world from 1976 to 1980, and again during the second half of the 1980s. In all, the band has sold more than 35 million records and landed 21 top-40 hits.

Another project — besides touring — is an autobiography. The sisters wrote “Kicking and Dreaming” with Charles R. Cross, who wrote the acclaimed biography of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, “Heavier Than Heaven.”

Wilson said she and her sister didn’t hold back in telling their story.

“We decided pretty early on there was really no point in doing it if we were just going to do a big covered-up whitewash,” she said. “You might as well just stay silent if you’re going to keep everything secret. So we told our story as openly and honestly as we can.”

“Kicking and Dreaming” is due in stores Tuesday, by which time Heart will be in the middle of a fall tour.

In its show, Wilson said, the band is playing plenty of hits, but also several new songs, showing that Heart remains a creatively active band and is not resting on its catalog.

“It’s a very hard thing for artists who had big success in other decades because, you know, if you continue to create and go forward, you have to figure out a way, just like you did in the very beginning, to keep people interested in it,” Wilson said. “I know that a lot of people finally just give up and just go out and relive the ’80s or relive the ’70s or whatever because they know that people want to come and relive those things. And that can be sort of like the death knell of an artist right there. Suddenly it almost doesn’t even matter if it’s you or not. That’s always been really something that Nance and I bounce away from. We really shy away from that. Just going out and doing the songs from the ’80s, it just makes us really unhappy to be stuck inside that box.”

Contributing: Eagle staff

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