An Interview with Reggie Wu of Heavens Edge

Even before joining forces with Mark Evans to form Heavens Edge in 1987, guitarist Reggie Wu had already established himself as a noted member of the New Jersey and Philadelphia music scenes.

Wu, a renowned axe-slinger whose technical prowess is intertwined with an innate sense of melody, honed his chops in different bands prior to joining Whitefoxx, an all-original rock band based in New Jersey.

Emerging as one of the more prominent rock bands amid a crowded scene, Whitefoxx played some the circuit’s most prestigious venues.

Despite Whitefoxx’s success, however, Wu’s career path changed on a night the band opened for a widely acclaimed band called Network at Enchante in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Wu watched the headliner intently after his set and was awestruck by Evans’ charismatic stage presence. In that moment, the virtuoso guitarist felt compelled to inquire about a potential collaboration.

After establishing an early connection, Wu and Evans left their respective bands to form Heavens Edge, with guitarist Steven Parry, drummer David Rath, and late-bassist George “G.G.” Guidotti rounding out the lineup.

Following the footsteps of Cinderella and Britny Fox, Heavens Edge seemingly had the necessary ingredients to become Philadelphia’s latest success story. Heavens Edge’s innate musicianship, songwriting, determination, and a healthy dose of east coast flair make them one of the most underexposed bands in its genre.

In our recent interview, Reggie talked with me about Heavens Edge’s captivating journey from club headliner to gracing the stage of the illustrious Spectrum in Philadelphia, and everything in-between.

Andrew:
I’m glad we were able to finally connect, Reggie. You have a fascinating musical backstory so, to start, tell us about your earliest introduction to music.

Reggie:
Well, I come from a Classical family. My mom is a Classical pianist, so it was the law; when you turned three, you started practicing the piano. They laid it down pretty heavy. So, the Classical piano was my first instrument. Then, I guess somewhere along the line, second or third grade, they wanted you to take a second instrument. I took up violin and hated it. I would always play the violin like a guitar, so I guess they finally said, “Let’s get him a guitar and see what he does.” And that became my passion. So, it became piano and guitar all through my life. It’s funny, in seventh grade, I knew I wanted to be a musician, and I was just like, “Okay! I’m gonna be a musician.” My parents were like, “No, you’re not allowed to. You have to be a doctor.” I’m like, “What do you mean? You just hammered me my whole life about playing music, and now I’m following through.” Because, you know, in that Chinese culture — my brother and sister are both doctors — and I’m like, “I’m gonna be a musician.” My parents, being how strict they were, it was like do it our way or you’re out. So, when I was sixteen, I moved out. Those are the years I did not have a piano. So, sixteen all the way through my thirties, I did not have a piano. But those are the years I really went crazy with the guitar.

I got a piano at thirty-four, and now I’m back on the piano again. Every day, I’m down there for forty-five minutes just trying to decipher Chopin, because it blows my mind that these guys wrote these songs by candlelight. I’m just obsessed with the piano again. I truly love it.

Andrew:
Wow. So, you were out on your own at sixteen years old?

Reggie:
Sixteen years old. Now that I’m a parent, I cannot imagine sending my kids out there! I rented a little, one-bedroom apartment in Marlton [New Jersey] from my boss at Cut-N-Clip Landscaping. I’d go to school, and after school, I would cut lawns to pay my rent. Then, we’d go play in a band all night; that was my life. And I’d do it all over in a second because I thought I was a Rock ‘N’ Roller back then.

I got expelled from high school my senior year at Cherry Hill East. I guess, Cherry Hill had a lot of problems back then, and I was the least of ‘em. But I never went to classes; I checked into homeroom, and facing Cherry East, to the right, was all woods, and me and a bunch of friends would grab our guitars go out there, and jam all day. I think they finally caught up to me the second week of my senior year. They expelled me and sent me to Camden County Alternative, where the kids were a little rougher and tougher. I was scared out of my mind. But I did graduate high school, and that’s when the journey began in trying to get the record deal. And boy, it’s been quite the journey.

Andrew:
If you had to narrow it down, who were some of the guitarists that had the most profound influence on you?

Reggie:
Well, coming right out, when I was a little kid, all through high school, Richie Blackmore. Obsessed with Richie Blackmore. Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and [Led] Zeppelin were my bands. But really, Deep Purple. What I loved about Richie is he threw in some of the Classical influences. If you listen to “Highway Star” and “Burn,” there are definitely some Classical influences in there. Then, from Richie Blackmore, of course, the greatest guitar player in the world to me, Eddie Van Halen. We went to see Sabbath one night, and they’re like, “Oh, you should try to get there early. There’s supposed to be this opening band that has a really good guitar player.” We got there, and they just blew everybody’s mind. That was it for me. I knew right there that’s what I wanted to do, seeing Eddie Van Halen play that night. That was a life-changer.

Then, from there, I gravitated towards Yngwie Malmsteen, just because I loved his Classical approach to guitar. But after a while, that kind of wore out; there’s only so many times you can listen to a billion notes in one song. Randy Rhodes; loved Randy Rhodes. And I guess the two most recent — Nuno Bettencourt is really just on another level, and Mark Tremonti. Mark Tremonti is an incredible solo guitarist. I love Mark Tremonti just because of how prolific he is. I mean, my God, the guy just churns it out; like five solos records; seven Alter Bridge records; all the Creed records. The guy is just a machine and everything’s quality. They’re not like a hit machine, they’re more like a Zeppelin, where every song is more epic. I’m a big Alter Bridge fan.

Andrew:
If memory serves, before cutting your teeth on the Philadelphia/New Jersey club scene, you actually went out to California to try your luck there first. What was the experience like for you at such a young age?

Reggie:
Yeah, because you had to go to England — like Barry Benedetta and Ronny Kayfield to join Waysted — or you go to California. I went out there and just failed miserably. I joined a band with Pete Preston, the band was called Mansfield; I replaced Doug Aldrich, who’s one of my favorite guitar players now. One day, I’ll dig up that demo tape. I was like, “Who is this guitar player!?” I was like eighteen or nineteen, and I guess Doug was right around the same age. I’m like, “Who the hell is this guitar player? His tone is amazing.” He was unbelievable back then. So, I was in a band with Pete, and Doug had left to go start a band called Lion.

So, I joined Mansfield out there. They had this whole pay-to-play, you know? To book a club, you had to buy $1,500 worth of tickets, then, to make your money back, you had to sell it on your own! I didn’t know anybody out there. It was a failure. I came back with my tail between my legs, and joined a band called Buff The Musket; I always hated the name, but they were so talented. It was actually the guys in the band called Ivory Tower, another Galaxy band; they were a little later down the line. Such talented guys.

From there, I joined Whitefoxx, always along my way keeping my eye out for talent. That’s when Network was hitting it big; that was Mark’s band. They were the top cover band in this area, who also did the most amazing originals, as well. Mark Eskey and Larry Baud wrote these amazing originals. I was just like, “Look at that bass player, he’s freakin’ awesome! The way he moves…” He just had star written all over him. I was like, “I need that bass player in my band.” But I’m like, “He would never leave Network. He’s probably raking it in with the band!”

I knew [Mark’s] now-wife, and I gave her a demo tape of a song I had written, and I said, “Could you pass this to Mark?” Mark got it, and we hit it off right away. On his off-days, he would drive like an hour-and-a-half down to my house — he was living like up by New Hope — and he’d come down and we would write. I think we wrote like seventeen songs right out of the bag, and those seventeen were like, “Find Another Way” and “Skin To Skin.” So, we had the chemistry right out of the chute there. That’s when he made the decision, he was gonna leave Network. I’m like, “Oh my God!” Then he came to me and said, “What would you think if I sang instead of being a bass player?” I’m like, “That would be great,” because, at that point, he was doing all the singing on all the demos. I’m like, “I would love it,” but we didn’t want him singing and playing bass, doing the Kip Winger thing. So, that’s when I said, “I know this guy George; he’s phenomenal; he looks great. Total Rock Star.” And we just asked George to join and he joined, and held auditions for Steve and Dave, and that’s how the band got put together. It was so fun right out of the box because I was coming from Whitefoxx, which kind of had a name, but Mark was coming from Network, which really had a name. So, right out of the box, our shows were selling out … “Reggie and Mark put this new band together, Heavens Edge.” The way up was fun; the way down was not as fun.

Andrew:
Whitefoxx, based out of New Jersey, was a revered local act that honed its chops around some of the area’s most desirable venues. What were the origins of that band?

Reggie:
It was a guy named Mike Regina, and the singer’s name was Mark Chasen. Both were awesome musicians. Then they had Rik Anthony on drums. And I think Jeff LaBar was the guitar player. I think Barry Benedetta had been in the band for a little bit. So, they were one of the big guns in the local area. When Jeff had left, I guess for Cinderella, I know me and Jeff both auditioned for Cinderella — obviously, Jeff got the gig, and rightfully so, he just fit the band a thousand times better than me — and I think that’s maybe when I was playing with Whitefoxx. Whitefoxx, I always thought, was a very talented band; I really liked them. The only thing I hated was that they made me wear white. That was part of the rules; you had to wear white on stage. [Laughs].

Andrew:
Now, did Whitefoxx play all originals, Reggie?

Reggie:
Yup. All originals. And I did not write any of the songs in the band because Mark and Rugg [Mike Regina] were the primary songwriters. They really wrote some great stuff. Then, a guitar player named Dave Lord replaced me, who is just phenomenal. He’s gone on to do some good local stuff. He comes from Reading, from the Richie Kotzen camp.

Andrew:
You mentioned the Cinderella audition. Obviously, Jeff [LaBar] landed the gig, but what are your memories from the audition? As it turned out, that’s a pretty significant moment in Philadelphia music lore.

Reggie:
I just remember learning the songs, and unfortunately, I was in my Yngwie phase at that point. There was a club in Baltimore called Hammer Jack’s, and that was the club to play for all of us back in the day. It got knocked down for the Ravens’ stadium, and they reopened it somewhere else. Some guy came here to interview me about Hammer Jack’s because we were one of the bands that always used to play there. That guy also interviewed Jeff, so when Jeff passed last year, that gentleman sent me and Jeff’s interview separately, and we were both talking about our audition. So, I just remember going in and playing “Nobody’s Fool” as fast as I could, which is awful, because that’s not what the song called for. I was in that phase, like, “Oh my God. Play as fast as you can!” Jeff got the gig and he totally deserved it. Super, super happy for him, and they went on to have super success. Everything’s for a reason — I obviously was really sad — but we still get to play with Tom on all these M3’s and cruises. So, at least we get to hang out with him, and still see him. And he’s still doing solo albums. He’s such a talented musician; so happy that he’s out there representing Philly, and still kickin’ ass.

Andrew:
Was the audition itself held at Hammer Jacks?

Reggie:
No. That was upstairs at The Galaxy, if I remember. The Galaxy was the club that we all played, this local dive. It was such a cruddy little club, but Bill Haigh — God rest his soul — he would let us play originals. Nobody would allow you to play originals in this area. The thinking in this area is when people come out to see bands, they want to dance to songs they know. So, that’s why we never had our Sunset Strip. Back in the day, the big thing was to play Wildwood Crest. You had to be a cover band to get down there. I’d go down there, and see these clubs with hundreds or thousands of people just going crazy for these cover bands, and we’d be around the corner at these local dives, playing for fifty people. But in the long run, I’m happy that we went that route, and played all originals.

So, the audition was upstairs. Jeff talks about how Tom’s like, “Well, who wants to go first?” And Jeff’s like, “Well, I’m going! I’m not going after Reggie!” So, Jeff gets up there and Jeff said I took a chair and sat right in front of him to put some fear in him. I’m like, “I would never do that!” That’s the last thing I would ever do. [Laughs]. But I guess that’s the way Jeff felt. I did have equipment problems; all of a sudden, my guitar was feeding back. I just sucked that day. It was all good. It’s all for a reason.

You know what? Cinderella broke the doors open for all of us. Then it was like, “Oh my God! You can get a record deal from Philadelphia!” Britny [Fox] followed right after that; Tangier; us. So, Cinderella is the one that opened the door. When Bon Jovi started coming to The Galaxy — he wasn’t big at the time, but he was still kind of famous — so we were all still like, “Oh my God, that Bon Jovi guy from North Jersey is here.” He really loved Cinderella. And thank God for him; he opened the door for them.

Andrew:
Do you recall the first gig you guys did as Heavens Edge?

Reggie:
I do, I think it was The Empire Rock Club, and it was sold out. I think our first three shows — was The Empire, Bonnies, maybe, and The Galaxy — but the first three shows I just remember were all sold out. We’re like, “Oh my God, look at all these people here! They’re here to see us!” Like I said, there was a good buzz on the band because of Mark, and my little Whitefoxx recognition. But right out of the box, we were selling out shows. So, that was at The Empire Rock Room. Right away, there was no looking back; we knew we had five guys all committed to the same exact thing with the same work ethic. Which I never had in my life; there is always some kind of drama in a band that makes it not work. But here, we had five guys that all wanted to do the same thing, we all had the same vision, we all worked our asses off.

I remember I worked at RCA, and RCA was probably about a 4,500-employee company at the time, and I was in charge of putting out the weekly newsletter. So, they would print out 5,000 copies of the newsletter and I’d put ‘em all over RCA. But I became friends with the print room down there, and I’d be like, “Yo! KISS is coming to town. Do you think you could print me out 10,000 flyers?” And they would print me out like boxes of Heavens Edge flyers, and I’d bring ‘em back to the van, and we would go down to The Spectrum and paper every car; spend three or four hours papering the cars. Even if you got back to your car and you looked at it and were like, “Heavens Edge? Who the hell are they?” And just throw it on the ground, we just figured our name would be there. We used to go down to The Spectrum every concert, and just paper the cars. It was our version of the Sunset Strip. It was pretty awesome.

To this day, that’s one of the things of most proud of; we’re still family. We still love each other like brothers. We do a lot of these festivals, and up ‘til last year, when George sadly passed, we were one of the few bands with all five members. With all these other bands, it’s not the same members anymore. But with us, it was the same five guys from day one, which is very cool. Unfortunately, we lost George, and Mark suggested this guy come in, Jaron [Gulino], and Jaron came in and freakin’ just blew our minds. Knew every song to the tee; was a fan of the band, and more than ever, he’s just the nicest guy. When George passed, it was like, “I don’t even know if I want to ever do this again.” Somebody was like, “You gotta keep doing it because then you’re gonna keep George’s name alive.” So, every gig, I bring a picture of George and Tim — Tim was our drum tech who passed as well — and they’re there with us.

Andrew:
Mark and I discussed this in our conversation, but I want to take a moment to talk about The Galaxy Night Club, the premier venue where bands such as Heavens Edge, Cinderella, and Britny Fox honed their chops before securing record deals.

Reggie:
It was the club to be at. Like I said, it was the dive of dives. You’d go to the bathroom, and you’d come back with your feet wet because the urinals would be spilling over with urine. I mean, it was small; it probably held about two hundred people. And it was like a family; that’s the way I can explain it. From the bartenders; to the soundmen; Bob Leese; Ken MacKenzie, the doorman, who now runs the MacKenzie Karate Schools. It was like a family. I consider myself lucky that I got to see Cinderella every Saturday night there, for a year or two. How great is that to see Cinderella every night hone their chops? … “We got a new one for ya. This one’s called ‘Shake Me.’” And we’d be like, “This is a great song!” And you’re like, “Wow, ‘Shake Me’ is now a hit!”

It was a little, divey stage; the stage was very small. This number is in my head; we did seventy-six straight Friday’s there. And that’s where we really learned what songs worked; what songs didn’t work; how to work an audience. That’s where we honed our chops, and God bless Bill Haigh for letting us do that. Forever grateful that he allowed us to learn how to be a band. Definitely good times there.

Andrew:
What would you consider to be the turning point for Heavens Edge, where the band began garnering interest from record labels?

Reggie:
We were like, “Okay, we’ve taken it as far as we can,” and we signed with Golden Guru Management. And at that time, they were the big booking agents in the area. Their pitch to us was, “You sign with us, you’re gonna get the cherry gigs.” Cherry gig meaning, we’ll be headlining The Trocadero. And we were like, “That sounds good! Let’s do the cherry gigs!” So, we signed with Golden Guru, and that’s when the momentum really started picking up. They took over shopping us to labels, and there was an industry magazine called The Hard Report, based out of here in South Jersey. Bill Hard was the writer for it, and he wrote something about Heavens Edge being, “The next Bon Jovi out of this area.” Right away, the records companies started calling.

We started doing record company showcases, and the pivotal night was when we were at The Troc. We invited seven labels, and our management was like, “Guys, don’t get your hopes up. We’re lucky if the secretary from one of them comes.” Right before we’re about to go on stage, our manager knocks on the door and says, “All seven labels are here.” And we’re like, “Holy cow!” We went out there and had a killer show, and backstage that night was like a dream come true for any musician. We got verbal offers from all seven. They all know each other, and they were all teasing each other, “We got this band!”“No, they’re comin’ with us!” They’re all busting each other’s chops. Out of the seven labels, we chose Columbia, and boy, did we make the wrong choice. [Laughs].

Andrew:
When Mark shared the story of choosing “Just Another Fire” for the encore, it made the hair stand up on my arms. What an unbelievable moment.

Reggie:
Oh my God; it was spectacular. So, we had written a new song called, “Just Another Fire,” and Mark’s just like, “For the encore, let’s go do ‘Just Another Fire.’” And I’m like, “But we’ve never done it before! That’s insane!” We went out — and it’s just an acoustic song, which is odd for an encore song — and it just bowls over the crowd and the record companies, I guess. It was a magical, magical night that I’ll never forget; it was almost a blur. I just remember being backstage in the little dressing room, and these major people from record companies ganging up on us because they all wanted us on their label. Spectacular.

Andrew:
Do you remember the other labels courting the band?

Reggie:
Columbia, Epic, Polygram, Atlantic, Capitol, and there were two others; I can’t think of who they were. But those were five of them, and there were definitely two others, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head. And like I said, we chose the wrong one. We went with Columbia.

Andrew:
With a plethora of labels to choose from, Heavens Edge opted to go with Columbia. What was the driving force behind that decision?

Reggie:
They were like, “We’re getting our asses kicked by all these other labels.” Atlantic, I think at that point had Ratt; Polygram had [Def] Leppard, Cinderella, and Bon Jovi. [Columbia’s] pitch to us was like, “We want you to be our Bon Jovi. We need you to be our big thing.” So, they signed us and Warrant. At that time, I think all that Columbia had was Judas Priest, and they were legends in their own world. So, that was their pitch to us, and it sounded great. We went in, and after we got our record deal, that’s when George got shot.

We were doing a nightclub — The Empire Rock Room up in Northeast Philly — and some lunatic guy was drunk and got kicked out of the nightclub. The bouncer was like, “Get out of here!” And he was like, “I’m comin’ back and killing everybody!” This is back in the days when shootings weren’t common; so sad that shootings are common these days. Me and my wife had literally left at two o’clock in the morning, right before George. Two minutes later, George came to the door, and this guy was firing off rounds into Roosevelt Boulevard with this sawed-off shotgun. George walked through the door and took 150 pellets through his body. Apparently, sawed-off means it sprays you; it’s not a bullet that makes a giant hole in you, so maybe that was a blessing. I remember getting home that night and getting a call from Mark, and he’s like, “Reg, George got shot.” And I’m like, “Oh, no. Are we still gonna be able to do the show tomorrow night?” He’s like, “Reg, George might die.” And I’m like, “What!?” That’s when we got back to George, and he was in bad shape. The record company and our manager wERE like, “Well, we gotta find another bass player.” We were like, “Hell no. This is our family. We’re gonna wait for him.” Well, in that time that we waited, Grunge came in, and that was the end of our career.

I remember Columbia Records giving us the demo of “Man In The Box.” It was just [Alice in Chains’] demo, and I was just like, “This is terrible! What is this!?” And it’s funny because now, they’re one of my favorite bands. After we joined Columbia, not only did that set us back with George, but we lost John Mrvos, our A&R guy; the gentleman who signed us. Your A&R guy is the guy who’s barking up the tree, and making sure everything is done right for us. So, we lost John, and then also the presidency changed. The president left the label, and Donnie Ienner came over from Arista and pretty much wanted to clean house. He knew what bands — and he summoned in Alice in Chains — and at the time, I was like, “This guy is the devil! He ended my career!” But now, looking back at it, he was spot-on; he knew what it took. Alice In Chains, to this day, is still relevant. He knew what he was doing.

Andrew:
How did you guys announce the record deal?

Reggie:
We went on MMR, the local station, with Ray Koob. Ray Koob and Jacky BamBam, those guys have been such supporters of the band. We went on MMR at night, and I think we played a song or two, acoustically, live on the air. Then, we were like, “We have an announcement to make!” And I remember Mark saying, “We are now Columbia recording artists!” And Mark was like, “That felt so good. The word Colombia rolled off my tongue.” Somewhere, there’s footage of it. But it was such a fun night.

Andrew:
You guys went with Neil Kernon to produce the record, who had just produced Britny Fox’s Boys In Heat album a year earlier. What is the selection process like for something like that?

Reggie:
Columbia comes to you with a list of producers you think you might want to work with. I was a big Dokken fan; George Lynch has killer guitar tones. So, that’s why Neil’s name was in the hat. I [also] think Michael Wagener, Beau Hill — but to get to a Beau Hill or a Michael Waegner, there was a long waiting list to get to them; our album would be [done] in a year-and-a-half. Whereas Neil was finishing Britny Fox, and we heard good things from Britny Fox. He came in, and we hit it off with Neil right away. I spoke to Neil recently; he’s a great guy. Not only is he an excellent producer/engineer, but a very talented engineer, as well. He just sent me the keyboard stuff that he’s writing; it’s like John Williams; amazing stuff.

The thing that scared us is we had heard with Cinderella — Andy Johns was producing the band — and back then, the big thing was if the producer didn’t like you, you might not get to play on the record. They bring the session guys in. Our big thing to Neil was, “We have to be the musicians on this record.” That’s important to us. I didn’t practice my craft my whole life for a session guy to come in and do my tracks. And Neil was like, “Absolutely,” so I know that was a big selling point, that we would all be able to cut our own tracks. Isn’t that horrible that that’s like the thing? But I’m happy to say that we played on our own stuff.

So, that’s how we got started with Neil. I think Neil did such a great job. Sonically, if you listen to the album today, thirty-one years later, it still sounds pretty good. He, sonically, did a good job on the record, so he’s obviously super, super talented. And that’s when we were recording to a two-inch tape; there were no Pro-Tools back then. So, everything had to be done the real way; we had to play all our parts; we had to punch in all our parts. I think the world of Neil. I think he’s a mega-talented producer.

Andrew:
What was Neil like to work with in the studio, specifically in your case, presiding over the guitar sound?

Reggie:
He was so inspirational, and he never made you feel bad. He just knew the right words to say and how to get the best out of you, and I think that’s the sign of a good producer. I don’t have one bad memory of that whole session, other than — we have a song on the record called “Hold On” — and at the end of my solo, he’s, “Sorry, flat”“Sorry, sharp.” And after like twenty times, he’d be like, “Perfect. Could you add some vibrato?” And I’m like, “Oh my God. This guy’s got the golden ear. He can pick out things.” I’d be like, I have a really good ear. That is not flat.” We’d put it on a tune, and I’d be flat. I’d be like, “Holy cow. Your ear blows my ear away.” Actually, there’s somewhere on the album — I think “Can’t Catch Me” — where all of a sudden you hear him go, “Sorry, out of tune.” But not a bad day. Some people don’t like the studio; what’s not to like about the studio? You’re playing with the greatest guitar tone that you can get, and you’re listening to your music through the greatest speakers in the world! It’s such a great experience. I really enjoyed recording the record.

Andrew:
The solo on “Skin To Skin is probably the most recognizable from the album. Do you remember how you laid that down?

Reggie:
You know, it just starts with the modulation. We’re in F-sharp, so the solo keeps modulating through the whole thing. It’s funny, my good friend, Louie Borella, said I completely bailed on the second modulation, when it goes to A. So, I’m just soloing through it in F-sharp, and when it goes to A, I just start doing this whammy bar thing. And he’s like, “You bailed! You just did this cheesy, little whammy bar thing.” It turns out that a lot of people love that little, cheesy thing. Louie busts my chops, he’s just like, “You bailed. You couldn’t come up with anything, so you just did the [whammy] thing.” Then it goes to B. I think I had always done the same solos; I’ll have to dig up the demos. And that’s where I just tried to get some speed going there because it was all about speed and flash back then. Then, when it goes to the C-sharp, I kind of did some noodling just to get out of it. So, not a lot went into it. But it’s obviously one of the more popular solos because it was one of our more popular songs.

I think the way I approach every guitar solo — we played so much and if we weren’t playing, we were practicing — so, you start to do things and certain things stick; certain things don’t. And all the things that stuck, I remember going into the studio, and I played, and Neil would be like, “Hey, I think we can make this section better.” It’s funny because now I listen to [“Play Dirty”], I listen to that solo and cringe. I’m like, “There’s not one ounce of soul or heart in it.” It’s just, “Play as fast as you can.” I can’t even listen to the solo these days because it’s just speed, you know? I’m just like, “Oh my God, what the hell was I thinking back then?” But at least in “Skin To Skin” it breaks it up a little bit more.

Andrew:
Oddly enough, my favorite solo on the record is one I wish would have been longer, in “Find Another Way.”

Reggie:
It’s funny, if you listen to the original demo, there was no solo on it. That was one of the things Neil added to the band. That’s the other thing with Neil — Neil did not try to change anything; he just embellished. Except for the one thing he did ask us to do was add a solo section to “Find Another Way.” And that’s the middle solo section; that was not there in the original demos. We never had a solo section; we’d come right out of the bridge and back into the song again. And I always got to solo on the way out.

It’s funny, I tabbed that song out for a lot of my students, and they’re like, “Why is it so low at the end just as you start to get going?” I’m like, “I don’t know. That’s how Neil saw it.” But I do that solo for a lot of my students.

Andrew:
Now, was that solo mapped out, or did you play that off the cuff?

Reggie:
It just came out. Those first couple of songs, we didn’t even try; they just came out. That’s why me and Mark knew we had nice chemistry. Again, my friend Louie Borella was busting my chops, he said to me, “You’ll never write a song as good as “Find Another Way.” He said that to me like twenty-five years ago, and I’m like, “Damn, he’s right!” [Laughs].

It’s funny when things just come to you, and you don’t even have to try. Me and Mark have always been into key changes; not just staying in the same key. We always tried to do something our way. So, in a song like “Find Another Way,” I think the main riffs are in F-sharp; then it goes to C-sharp minor for the chorus; then E-minor for the bridge. So, I’m proud that we were able to change keys throughout the song, yet it feels pretty intact. None of the key changes were real abrupt.

Andrew:
It’s certainly among the more memorable tracks on the record. I’ve always said, if you can hum the solo, which I find myself doing when I listen to it, there’s something to be said for that.

Reggie:
Thank you so much. It’s funny, you know, we’re getting ready to do another record, and I have arthritis now. My body’s breaking down I’m like, “Oh my God.” I’ll be lucky if I play like — not that it’s bad — but I’m gonna sound like Neil Young!

Andrew:
What was the backstory behind the “Skin To Skin” video, as there were two versions if I’m not mistaken?

Reggie:
So, the first version, Columbia Records came back to us and said, “Sex and girls sell.” And we’re like, “That makes sense.” So, in the first video, it was just girls dispersed throughout the whole video. It comes up to my guitar solo, and a girl is doing my solo! I was just crushed. I’m like, “Oh my God. This girl’s doing the solo and not me!” We begged Columbia — because obviously, back then, everything was money, money, money — and we’re like, “Please will you let us just be us in the video?” So, they said we would shoot a shoot at The Trocadero, I think it was, and they took all that live footage — I think we did it like six times in a row — and they took all that live footage, and replaced the girls. Which is really good.

Andrew:
Obviously, in hindsight, “Find Another Way” would have steadily climbed the charts if it had a video to accompany it. Why was a video never released for that one?

Reggie:
Well, we went to shoot it, and we shot half the video. The concept was we’d have a big 40 x 40 screen behind us, mimicking everything that we were doing on stage. So, we shot all the footage for the screen, and our managers went to meet with Donnie. Back then, they did everything ass-backward, so they hadn’t gotten approval for the song yet. Yet we had already spent, $75,000 cutting it. Halfway through the song, [Donnie] turns around, shuts off the cassette, and is just like, “This song is the biggest piece of shit I’ve ever heard in my life.” Not in those exact words, but that’s what he meant. Our managers were like, “But we’ve already shot half the video.” And he’s like, “Well that’s more the reason to shut it down now.” And that was it; the video got pulled; we got pulled, and that was the end of our tenure with Columbia Records.

Andrew:
The story of Heavens Edge never quite breaking is puzzling to me, because of the innate musicianship, image, and work ethic. Other bands of similar fabric did make it despite the shift in the musical landscape, so why do you think Columbia wouldn’t get behind the band?

Reggie:
Donnie did not like us. And it’s funny because after we got dropped from Columbia, “Find Another Way” started taking off on the radio out in LA on its own. It just started taking off on its own, which to me, shows that it was at least a half-decent song; it wasn’t as bad as Donnie thought it was. But he just did not like us. He came to see us at The Cat Club in New York, and we had a terrible gig. It was just one of those gigs; things weren’t meant to be. It just didn’t work out that night, unfortunately.

We have a song coming out on the new record called, “What Could Have Been.” Everybody thinks the words are about what could have been … like, “What could have been if we became stars,” but it’s actually backward; Had we become stars, we would not have the family that we all have now. I wouldn’t have all my kids, and Mark wouldn’t have all his kids. So, it’s like backward. Had we got to the stardom that we wanted, we wouldn’t have what we have now — which is the most important thing in our lives right now, our family. So, I loved that concept. Everything’s for a reason.

My drummer [Dave Rath] is a big record executive; he was a VP for Roadrunner for years. He heard we were auditioning through Jeff LaBar’s girlfriend, Gaile. Gaile’s like, “You should go audition for this band, Heavens Edge. They’re looking for a drummer.” I think Gaile and Dave were at Villanova together. Dave came in and just blew our socks off. So, Dave, from Villanova, he’s got that degree in finance, and then he’s also got the Rock ‘N’ Roll in him because he was with us for all the years. That’s why he succeeds in the music business so much. But Dave said to us, “We are so lucky that we’re still pretty much intact. We don’t have drug problems; we all have families. We got a little peek behind the window to see what it’s like, and that little peak still allows us to do these fun gigs. We get to still be in it without really having to be in it.”

When we played Firefest back in 2013 in London, I was talking to the Babylon A.D.’s and all those bands, and they’re like, “You guys should come out here and tour! Europe is so fun to tour.” And I’m like, “I don’t wanna tour.” I’m happy being home; going from town-to-town does not sound fun when you’re nearing sixty years old.

Andrew:
The tour supporting the album was all-too-brief, but Heavens Edge did get to play The Spectrum. I asked Mark this, too, but with it being the quintessential hometown show, what do you remember from the experience?

Reggie:
It was a dream come true. We could have gone on stage that night, and been the worst band in the world, and it would have been the most successful night of our lives. The fans were just awesome. In fact, we started out the first two songs, and we sounded horrible; because you know, being the opener, opener band, they’re compressing you. I remember walking in there, looking up, and seeing hundreds — if not thousands — of lights above me. I’m like, “Wow, look at this light show! This light show is incredible!” I remember being on stage, and I looked up, and there were like four white lights on us. [Laughs]. Like, “Okay, I guess we don’t get the light show!” But they squashed us out front, so we really sounded terrible; they just compressed us. Our managers went to Dio’s managers and said, “Hey guys, this is their big gig. They’re a hometown band. Can you open it up a little bit for them?” And they released the compressors, and we sounded much better after that. They try to squash you a little bit, because that way, the headlining band just sounds, and looks a thousand times better.

It was a blur. I remember walking backstage, it might have been Stephen Starr — I don’t know, it was the big promotor at the time — walking through the hallways, getting ready to hit the stage and the guy says to us, “Imagine those who walked before you; [Jimi] Hendrix; [Led] Zeppelin; this same journey to the stage.” That gave me chills. And just as we’re about to hit the stage, he’s like, “Welcome to the other side of the barrier, boys.” I was like, “Oh my God. This is frickin’ awesome!” It’s funny, because we got there early, obviously, and the stage is ginormous. By the time Yngwie and his twenty-seven Mashall stacks, and Dio with his dragons and everything, we literally had five feet of stage to work with. But it’s all good.

Andrew:
Once the band was pulled off the road, did you guys go right back into the studio to begin working on the second album?

Reggie:
We had signed a ten-album deal with [Columbia]. Meaning, every two records — if we did album No. 1, we had to do No. 2, and then they could drop us. But then, if we did three, we had to do No. 4. So, right as soon as our first record came out, they were like, “We need you to start on album No. 2.” So, we knew right then and there we were done with them; they were just trying to fulfill their end of the agreement. So, we asked for our release, we got released, and we went to Capitol Records, and auditioned for Bruce Lundvall. Obviously, it was just a trainwreck; we did not get the Capitol deal. Remember when I said to you that it was so fun going up? That’s when it was bad going down. All these rooms we were packing, that had 1,500-2,500 people, now there were 500 people. Then we’d come back again the next time, and there’s 250 people. It’s a lot harder going down than it is on the way up. But you take all that, and you learn from all that, right?

Andrew:
How would you say the album promotion was overall?

Reggie:
It was wonderful. Metal Edge was wonderful; I think we even did a little Circus [Magazine] there. MTV, Mark, and George went up and did the Headbangers Ball. It’s funny, most bands, when you think of the band, it’s always the singer and the lead guitarist. But not in our band; it was the singer and the bass player. Mark and George had the great image, and I’m like the dork in the band. I’m like, “I can’t believe you get to go, George!” [Laughs]. Concrete Marketing did all our marketing. Like I was telling you, I have a whole box in the basement just filled with magazines. Columbia would have us up in their offices once a week to do photo-ops; we’d just spend the whole day shooting with photographer after photographer. Because if they landed their pictures in the magazines, it was like free press for us, so Columbia had us do as many of them as we could. Then we would just sit in a room, and do interview after interview. So, like Japanese magazines — I don’t even know who any of the people were who were doing it — but we did a ton of interviews. It was a lot of fun because it would be the five of us around a speakerphone just having a ball all day. I did not like the photoshoots; the photoshoots were grueling. I hate just standing there, and back then it was all about primping after every picture. I’m just like, “Just take the picture! Who cares what we look like!” [Laughs].

Andrew:
The eventual follow-up album, Some Other Place, Some Other Time, surfaced eight years later, but were there any demos recorded before the band petered out in the early 1990s?

Reggie:
Yes. So, we started recording these demos, and these demos — along with two leftover songs from the record — eventually became our second record. I got a call from Magnus Soderqvist from Sweden, and I was teaching. My wife said, “Hey, some guy from Sweden is calling you. Do you wanna take it?” I’m like, “Absolutely, because I don’t wanna have to call him back.” That was in the days when you get charged for phone calls. He’s just like, “Do you have any demos or leftover songs.” I’m like, “Absolutely.” Me and Mark probably wrote close to two-hundred songs for the two records. Some of it we demoed; a lot of it is just like 4-track or 8-track demos here at our house. But the ones that we felt better about, we actually went into the studio to demo, and those eventually became our second record. Not the greatest quality, obviously, because we’re talking about doing it in a local studio versus doing it in a professional studio.

Image credit: Mid-Atlantic Reviews

Andrew:
Given the fact that you and Mark wrote so many songs together, how was it determined which made it onto the record?

Reggie:
Columbia determined that. We submitted everything to our A&R rep, and they circulated everything. I remember them even saying that we were short. I’m like, “How could we be short?” I think at that point, we had like eighty songs. They just couldn’t come to a consensus on eleven that they all liked. But eventually, they did, so I think they had us record thirteen and I guess eleven made the record, and two got leftover, and that’s what we put on the second record; “Just Another Fire” and “Rock Steady.” Then, it’s crazy, because we released the second record, then out of nowhere I get a call from Sony Publishing saying, “You owe us money for putting those on the record.” I’m like, “We do?” It’s nuts. What, do they got some guy going through every album that comes out to see? So, we had to get a lawyer and figure all that out so they could get their money for that.

Andrew:
In the subsequent years, after Heavens Edge, I know you continued with the band American Pie, which was essentially an extension of Heavens Edge with a different singer. But did you ever have any auditions or offers to join other bands?

Reggie:
Well, coming out of Heavens Edge, through Ibanez — I was endorsing Ibanez guitars at the time — and he said, “Hey, Paul Taylor just left Winger and they are looking for a keyboard/guitar player. Are you interested?” And Heavens Edge was petering out, and I said, “Of course! Let’s do it.” So, I demoed “Seventeen,” “Madeline,” and “Headed For A Heartbreak.” I did all the instruments, I programmed all the drums, and I sent it in. The next day, Doug Taylor of their management team called me up, and he said, “The band’s interested in you coming in and auditioning. You did a great job on these three songs.” I was like, “Cool.” So, I talked to Reb and I talked to Kip. Doug specifically explained to me I was just going to be a sideman; I’m not part of the band. Sometimes, I may not even be on stage; just supporting. That was kind of a bummer, but at that point, I wanted to keep going musically. All the talks went through, and then I never got to audition, because they decided to just go three-piece, I think, for that one record. I just ran into Reb on one of these Monsters Of Rock Cruises, we did our meet and greet, I was telling him the story and he said, “Oh my God, I remember you! I remember talking to you about possibly coming in.”

Kip did not remember me at all. I remember Kip called at midnight one night, and I think I was rehearsing with American Pie. He woke up my wife and said, “Is Reggie there?” And she’s like, “No, he’s at practice.” He’s like, “Practice? Baseball practice?” She’s like, “Band practice, you idiot!” I’m like, “You just yelled at Kip Winger? There goes my shot, hun!” [Laughs], She was like, really rude to him because he woke her up.

Image credit: James Pappaconstantine

Andrew:
I’d be remiss if I neglected to ask about your guitar teaching. What led you down that path?

Reggie:
My mom, I told you, was a Classical piano teacher. She is the big teacher here in South Jersey. For sixty-two years, she taught hundreds of kids. When I was about fourteen, she started having me teach. She would show me how to teach, so I always taught. Nothing real major, like what I’m doing now. Life moves on, and I stop teaching, but when Heavens Edge got dropped by the label — like I said, I was the only guy in the band with a family — it was panicsville. I’m selling all my custom Ibanez guitars for groceries; it was nuts. There was a little auto magazine called The Trade Times, and in the back, they had musical instruments, people looking for band members, and stuff like that. I wrote, “Reggie from Heavens Edge looking to give guitar lessons.” And I got my first seventeen students. That was back in ’93, so this is my twenty-eighth-year teaching. That’s nuts. It’s truly been wonderful; at least I get to stay home, and I have a guitar in my hand all day. It’s wonderful watching the next generation come up and trying to help them with their bands. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s not what I thought I was gonna be in life — I thought I was gonna be the next Rock Star thing — but it didn’t happen that way. But it’s all good.

Andrew:
I appreciate you being so gracious with your time, Reggie. Before I let you go, I wanted to circle back to something you said earlier in our conversation, where you mentioned that you’re dealing with arthritis. What are some of the things you have to do to compensate for that?

Reggie:
It’s actually my right hand, where I hold the pick. It’s bone against bone, right behind my thumb, so nothing can really be done with that. So, what I did was, I’ve been playing a lot of legato. Meaning that you’re doing a lot of left-hand work with minimal picking, and now my left hand is starting to bother me. I’m like, “Oh my God, this sucks! This sucks getting old.” But I mean, I’m still able to play. I just can’t play like I used to. I just kind of have to work around it. It’s like an athlete; when you get older, you can’t run like you used to. Like I was telling you, I hated my “Play Dirty” solo, so hopefully, I’ll come up with some more soulful solos, rather than the flash, and the speed.

Interested in learning more about Heavens Edge? Check out the link below:

Dig this article? Check out the full archives of Shredful Compositions, by Andrew DiCecco, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/shredful-compositions-archives/

About Post Author

Andrew DiCecco

Predominantly known for his NFL coverage, Andrew DiCecco is a Pennsylvania-based journalist with a profound passion for Rock music and its illustrious history. What initially began as a childhood hobby collecting CDs eventually evolved into a full-blown absorption into the world of Rock and Roll. An aspiring rock historian, Andrew seeks out every autobiography and documentary on Rock artists imaginable to further his knowledge to go along with a growing collection of vintage albums and magazines. Andrew’s musical preferences include, but are not limited to, Def Leppard, Van Halen, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Foreigner, and Journey. An innate appreciation for guitar heroes, Andrew cites Vito Bratta, Eddie Van Halen, John Sykes, George Lynch, Dave Meniketti, and Neal Schon as some of his personal favorite players. Andrew is also a regular listener to SiriusXM’s <i>Trunk Nation</i> with Eddie Trunk, his primary source of inspiration.
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4 thoughts on “An Interview with Reggie Wu of Heavens Edge

  1. Reggie’s story is so interesting. I love that he grew up classically trained, but hard to believe he was on his own at 16. He clearly made some right moves. Thanks for the great interview, Andrew.

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