Los Angeles metal/hard rockers Heaven Below have been touring the East Coast and Canada in support of their August release, "Heaven Below" (Heaven Below). The band was formed in 2007 by vocalist and guitarist Patrick Kennison (Union Underground), who enlisted the help of bassist Marty O'Brien (Disturbed, We Are the Fallen) and sessions drummer Chad Clark to film a video for his song, "The Laughing Dead." In 2008 guitarist Dave Comer was added to the group, but replaced by Whittier guitarist Jesse Billson by the end of the year. The lineup also switched O'Brien for John Younger (DJ Ashba) near the same time.
Billson was in between jobs when he found Heaven Below's ad for a guitar player on Craigslist. He jammed with the band and the chemistry clicked. He credits Kennison as the most prolific songwriter of the group, but each of the members bring in ideas.
"Sometimes it happens in the practice studio, sometimes it happens in one of our home studios, so it happens a whole bunch of different ways. Then we'll jam in on something and get it tighter, then record it all and get post-production in. It's a long process, actually it's a lot of work, but I think it's worth it in the end," Billson said.
Billson is pleased with the band's new self-titled album.
"I love the new album. Management wanted us to do a six-song EP, so what we're doing is we're doing a six-song EP for the price of a six-song EP, but it's got four extra bonus songs and five videos on it," Billson said. "I really like that it's a deal and I feel pretty strong about the songs too."
Sound-wise Heaven Below has not changed from its 2009 effort, "Countdown to Devil," but this time around they were more hands-on in the studio.
"I had a little more input and when I get my fingers in on something it gets a little bit more precise. To listen, it really wasn't much different, but to me, it involved the process and doing different recording techniques, which really made it different. When you're in the process you're in a different mindset. I like the real technical geeky stuff, I'm a total gearhead," Billson said.
Billson moved to Whittier when he was 4. Growing up, he wanted to be a drummer and annoyed his family by banging on pots, pans and anything else that would make noise.
At 17, he received a guitar for Christmas and "obsessed over it." Today, he plays both drums and guitar, but his main focus is on the strings.
"If you want to get good at one thing then double back, you can make that double bad by trying to get good at two things," Billson said.
Billson has made the rounds at Cypress, Fullerton and
Mt. San Antonio colleges, studying piano, music reading and theory and recording, priming himself for his career. But before coming to Heaven Below, he was an orderly at
BHC Alhambra, a psychiatric hospital. Billson has found his training there also works in the music world.
"These guys are real good and we don't have fights, but sometimes we disagree with artwork or songs and stuff
happens, and it's fun to see how I can apply different things I've seen in psych hospitals to stuff that works in the band too," Billson said.
When he's not playing music, Billson enjoys mountain biking and trail riding. You may even spot him cycling on the local roads.
"I like Turnbull Canyon Road in Whittier. If you're coming down fast enough, you don't get any cars coming at you, but you have to be going at a pretty good rate," Billson said.
Heaven Below is still perusing its tour opportunities for the coming year. They keep writing and have a back catalog of more than 100 songs, so there's plenty of album fodder. They sometimes post some of their unreleased music on their Web Site, www.heavenbelow.net. The band also likes to
correspond with its fans through MySpace and Facebook.
"That's something that's real important to us, we want to have a connection to the fans. I feel like that's something that gets lost. I remember meeting some of my favorite
guitar players and when they were real cool to me and would engage in conversation, it meant a lot more to me. I want to be that guy too, engaging in conversation with people that are into the band," Billson said.
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