Interview with Heaven Below’s Jesse Billson

'Our sound encompasses the best parts of our influences,' explains Heaven Below singer/guitarist Patrick Kennison.

“We love the vocal harmonies of classic bands like Alice in Chains, or the angst of legends like Trent Reznor, but our riffs and song ideas tend to be spawn from guitar driven bands like Metallica, or even Rage Against the Machine. Once we put the vocals on, we immediately feel that our music takes on it's own sound.” Joined by members Jesse Billson on guitar, John Younger on bass, and Chad Clark on drums, Heaven Below has just unleashed their latest release, a self-titled affair, that brings together metal sounds both new and old. Mr. Billson recently talked shop with Guitarsite.

Jesse Billson

When/how did you get started playing guitar?

Well, I originally wanted to be a drummer but my family was just not having it. So seeing as how I had interest in music they bought me a guitar instead, and I never looked back. I was 17 years old and it was a Christmas gift.

Who were your early influences?

I remember my dad hooking me up with some pretty sick metal when I was a kid! Hearing Judas Priest's ‘Painkiller,’ Mercyful Fate's ‘Melissa,’ and Motley Crue's ‘Theater of Pain’ pretty much sealed the deal for me…then I heard Yngwie and it was all over.

Please discuss band's latest release + touring plans.

We must have worked through almost 30 songs during the last recording sessions and it's a 6 song EP, so there was major work put in, and I feel like the best material definitely made it to this album. We're planning on a U.S. tour this summer with some of our favorite bands. Keep checking for updates on that.

What type of guitars, amps, and effects do you use?

I'm playing some really nice new B.C. Rich guitars right now through my ever faithful Fryette 100 watt Pittbull head and matching cabinet. All of my effects come from a TC Electronics G-Major that switches via a Rocktron Midimate, except for the Dunlop Crybaby wah.

Do you follow a specific guitar practice routine? If so, what do you do?

Well, I used to get really deep on scales and modes but I don't much anymore. I always play to a click because my timing always needs work, and for the last couple years I've been trying to get better at economy picking.

Who are some of your favorite modern day guitarists and why?

Jeff Loomis makes me go nuts! He's a monster player and he's got some sick riffs to go along with some of the craziest lead work ever! Guthrie Govan, because he can play anything and he sounds unbelievable while doing it! Nuno Bettencourt, he's playing with Rhianna right now! Did you know that?!? He's always seriously badass! 

What advice would you give to other guitarists?

Keep trying new things and ALWAYS keep an open mind! The only way you'll get better is to practice and the internet is an unbelievable resource for this generation of players, so utilize it!

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