Reggie Wu of Heavens Edge
Interview by Andrew Daly
Despite immense songsmith, soaring musicianship, and hooks for days, Heavens Edge’s 1990 self-titled debut didn’t hit.
Be it a shifting scene, poor promotion, or bad timing, the reality for one of the East Coast’s fiercest bands was as stark and unsettling as it comes. And while the record was loaded with memorable tunes like “Play Dirty,” “Skin to Skin,” and “Can’t Catch Me,” sadly, for all its promise, Heavens Edge was no more.
It was a sad turn of events for one of the genre’s hardest-working bands. Even more frustrating is that labels such as “hard luck” and “shoulda been” have been perpetually hung across the shoulders of Heavens Edge.
Of course, the boys in Heavens Edge—still led primarily by vox/guitar duo Mark Evans and Reggie Wu—are ever resilient. The band rallied in 1998 for a second record, Some Other Place, Some Other Time, which was admittedly more about fulfilling contractual obligations than anything else, before falling silent again in 2002.
But thankfully, Heavens Edge had one more rally in their bones, coming together in an on-again, off-again way beginning around 2013. In the ensuing years, Evans and Wu, who continued to be flanked by Dave Rath (drums), Steve Parry (guitars), and George “G.G.” Guidotti (bass), soldiered on, coming together for various festivals and one-offs.
Things continued that way until 2019 when Guidotti sadly passed due to lung cancer in August of that same year. And for a minute there… the ride for Heavens Edge seemed to be over. But for one of rock music’s most resilient bands, giving up was never an option.
Not long after, hardworking four-stringer Jaron Gulino of Tantric entered the picture, injecting a massive jolt of energy into the veteran band. And before long, Evans and Wu—who had remained feverishly creative—began milling away at what would become Heavens Edge’s long-awaited—and true—sequel to their debut, the aptly named Get it Right (2023).
To say that Get it Right is a triumph would be an understatement. In the face of the industry leaving them for dead, Guidotti’s death, and Wu’s persistent arthritis that affects his playing, somehow, Heavens Edge has come out strong than ever imagined. Moreover, they’re not only still intensely hard-hitting and hellishly catchy, but they’re also more cohesive, heavier, and craftier.
During a break from the action, six-stringer Reggie Wu dialed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to dig into the writing and recording of Get it Right, overcoming the odds, gear choices, and what it means to have a second chance that he never saw coming.
How did Heavens Edge go from nearly inactive to where it is today?
Even before George [G.G. Guidotti] passed a few years ago—and even before then—I figure that was just about it in terms of new music. At that point, we were doing a lot of Monsters of Rock and low-pressure type things. And for the most part, it was just for fun. We were doing maybe a couple of gigs a year, and there wasn’t much talk beyond that. But after George passed, Jaron [Gulino] joined the band, and he’s one of the hardest-working kids in rock ‘n’ roll. He’s so dedicated and grew up a huge Heavens Edge fan, so once we had him in the band, we said, “Let’s keep going.”
And how did Get It Right come together?
Well, Mark [Evans] and I never stopped writing. We’d often write stuff for fun, but only after George passed and Jaron joined did the idea of doing something in his honor and making a go of it. So, we really buckled down, got writing, and came up with the stuff on the record after we came to that point. It came together quickly because Mark and I demoed everything, and then we had Dave [Rath], Steve [Parry], and Jaron come down and do what they needed. It really did feel very seamless and easy.
Tell me about the first single, “Had Enough.”
This song is an excellent example of the chemistry that never left us. We could literally not see each other for an entire year, and the second we get back together in a room, it’s like five brothers, and everything falls into place. The old stuff is stuff that we’ve been playing for 30 years so that we can play that in our sleep, but I will say, with a song like “Had Enough,” it was cool to have something like that come together so quickly, and capture that classic Heavens Edge sound, you know?
Were you in the same room for the entire session?
That’s one of the great things about our chemistry—we don’t necessarily have to be in the same room all the time. If anything, our chemistry is even stronger today than when we were younger. Everyone was able to learn all 11 of the new songs quickly, and it was just like that for “Had Enough.” Jaron did his stuff from the road, Mark took care of his vocals, Dave handled his drums, and Steve and I were on the guitars. We had to do some things by sending files back and forth, but we’re very happy with the result. It was a beautiful thing.
You mentioned being able to harness the classic Heavens Edge sound. Beyond that, in what ways do you feel the band’s sound has evolved?
Good question. For starters, Jaron plays differently than George, but he locked right in with Dave as far as the rhythm section is concerned. They’re tighter than ever. And with Mark out front, the band will always sound like Heavens Edge; he’s still got the chops and is still great at delivering the big hooks. He’s great at writing and delivering things with that stamp on them. And like I said before, Mark and I have a chemistry that never dies because we’ve been riding together for so long.
But I think we may have a sound that’s a bit heavier, as I’m always trying to inject exciting sounds into the mix. I love bands like Alter Bridge and Dream Theater; they inspire me to add exciting bits, mess with key changes, etc. But we’ll always search for big hooks; that will never leave us. Oh, and one other thing that’s different about this record is that Steve has more solos. He really laid his claim on this record.
Tell me about your relationship with Steve. Early in your career, you were deemed a “shredder,” but in recent years, you’ve dealt with arthritis. Are you leaning on Steve more because of that?
Absolutely. In fact, we went into this saying, “Steve, you can have as many solos as you want.” It’s been a bit of a struggle with my hands, which kind of sucked because I can’t really play like I used to. But then again, I go back to some of the old stuff—like the solo for “Play Dirty”—and I can’t even listen to it because there’s not an ounce of soul there. So, I might not be able to play as fast as I once could, but that’s not a bad thing. That brought out other things I love more than shredding.
So, you’re a smarter player now, then?
I think so. Back then, I’d try and play as fast as I could, but now things are more thought out. I’m not out to do as many whammy bar tricks as I can anymore [laughs]. And with Steve, he’s a more bluesy player, so that really informed a lot of the guitar tracks. We worked together to determine which songs made sense for each of us and went from there.
But I am more than happy to let Steve play solos and focus on my rhythm playing. When I was younger, I never imagined that would be the case, but it is [laughs]. I look at it like Brad Whitford and Joe Perry, that incredible back-and-forth they had between lead and rhythm. We’re not at that level, but the idea of two people doing different things and alternating is a huge inspiration.
One song that caught my attention immediately is “What Could’ve Been.” Is that autobiographical?
That’s actually my favorite song on the record. But it’s not about what could have been had we become rock stars and rich and famous, though I can see why people would think that. It’s more about the idea that if that had happened, who knows if we would have had our families. If we had become huge stars, all the good things in our lives now might not exist. I look back at that time; man, me and wife were on the rocks. I was always on a plane flying to a gig, and she was at home raising our baby alone.
And it was the same thing for Mark. The odds are that if Heavens Edge had been a full-on success back then, we wouldn’t have our families today. So, the message is backward from what you’d think. I have no regrets when I look back on my life. I’m so grateful that things happened the way they did because I love my family and wouldn’t give them up for any level of success in music.
Is there one guitar that did most of your heavy lifting on this record?
I’ve got my black Strat that I’ve had forever. I still have the original neck, but I wore it out and had to replace it. I’ve always been a big Joe Perry fan, and I love the look of his Strat, so in some ways, it’s inspired by that in terms of the headstock orientation. It was cool to use that guitar because it’s been with me for a very long time and played a big role in Heavens Edge back in the day.
Do you use the same gear live as in the studio?
I love tube amps, but for a lot of the dates we’re doing now, I’m using a modeling system. I’ve tried them all, but I’m currently using a Quad Cortex by Neural DSP. But I’d use any of them; they’re all good. But it doesn’t replace a good tube amp, you know? There’s just something about plugging into a Marshall where I’m like, “Ahhhh, this sounds great.” I’m only using the Quad Cortex because we’ve got gigs in Germany, and it’s a lot easier to use a modeler than drag around a tube amp. But it does take time to really dial in, and it’s definitely not a replacement for a real amp. Not for me, anyway.
Do you still have any original amps from the early Heavens Edge days?
For so many years, I kept it simple. In the early Heavens Edge years, it was always a Marshall JCM800; I never deviated from that. But when we went belly up, I actually sold my JCM800 to one of my students in, I think, ’93. And then, a couple of years later, I went to buy another, and they were so much more money than when I bought my first one. It was even more money than what I’d sold it to my student for. But the good news is that my student wasn’t using it anymore, and he said, “Hey, do you want to buy it back?” And I was like, “Absolutely,” and bought it back from him. So, I still have the same amp I used back then.
Any new additions to your signal chain?
I still use my Boss Super Overdrive [SD-1] and Ibanez Tubescreamer [TS9]. I’ve never been a huge pedal guy; that can get too complicated. I believe that if you’ve got a good guitar plugged into a great amp, you’re gonna do well. I mainly use the pedals for solos when I need some extra drive, but not much more beyond that. But one new thing I have added is something that I think Angus Young uses, and that’s the Solodallas Schaffer Replica. I can bump up the gain, and the Replica gives you more oomph. The JCM800 doesn’t have a ton of gain, and with my arthritis, I really need as much gain as possible to cover up my deficiencies.
While you have no regrets, having a second chance like this must be sweet, right?
This record does mean a lot to us because we didn’t think it would happen. And I really hope that people enjoy it. But there are no expectations; we’re just doing what we love. We’re doing this now because we love each other. We love being in a band with each other. There are no expectations beyond that.
It doesn’t matter if we only sell ten copies; I wouldn’t care because I’m very proud of this band and what we’ve done. But for all these years, people have told us, “We want new material; where’s the new music?” So, here it is. I really hope they like it and want more because it’s a three-album deal we’ve signed with Frontiers. So, there will be more coming. I just hope I have another two records in me [laughs].
Reggie Wu of Heavens Edge: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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