Interview With Level-Zero's Jesse Bilson
Los Angeles, California's LEVEL-ZERO is one of those unique metal bands in the underground that truly thrives off being in the underground, where political moves at big corporate labels can't mess with them. From my vantage point, they are clearly one of the most respected and talked about acts in the country, even up against bands that have record deals and big money to back them. That is a true testimony to the hard work that the band and its loyal fans put in on a continual basis to keep these guys rocking hard.
I got some Q&A in with their drummer, Jesse Bilson. And it's one that I'm sure you'll enjoy.
Rocket: When did you start playing drums? And were you one of those young kids that used to just bang the shit out of your mother's pots and pans? Ha! My youngest brother did that! Though he turned out to be a guitar player. Go figure.
Jesse: Whoa! That's totally weird. I did bang on my mom's pots and pans.
Rocket: No shit? Haha!
Jesse: But it wasn't until I was in about 7th grade when I saw my friend play the drums that I decided that I had to do that too! Of course, I didn't get a drumkit for about another 10 years!
Rocket: So did did you take formal drum lessons?
Jesse: Formal what? Haha.
Rocket: Goddamn, bro. That's the best joke I never told apparently! Haha!
Jesse: Well, okay. No, I never took formal drum lessons, but I did work at a couple music stores and that kinda opened up a lot of new ways of playing drums. I kinda figured out how to use less energy to play, although from watching us live, I'm sure you'd never think that. I basically just mindlessly hit things. Haha!
Rocket: Well, bro, whatever it is you're doing, it works! Tell me who are some of your biggest playing influences? past or present.
Jesse: Oh, man! I started out listening to only metal. Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Slayer, you know... all the ones you hear about all the time. Rush was always a big influence of mine too though I guess that's because it was something a little bit more easy to listen to.
Rocket: Yeah, man. I grew up on that one tune they did called 'Working Man'! My big brother got an early Flying V copy, right before Randy Rhoads died... and I swear to shit, that was the only song he could play! Haha!
Jesse: These days I'm into very simple stuff, although I still enjoy a good brutal death metal CD... nothing hits me like a good solid drum beat... nothing!
Rocket: Give me the specs on your drum kit.
Jesse: Haha, awww do I have to?
Rocket: Yes, damn you. Answer the question! Haha!
Jesse: Okay. Well, I'm kinda secretive as to what the hell it is, even my band members don't know. hahaha! But it's basically a kit I refinished.
Rocket: See now, that is cool shit!
Jesse: The shells are kinda vintage actually, and they were made of mahogany by Yamaha for another large drum company that built drums out of Fullerton, California right before going under. I'm not telling who though. Hahaha!
Rocket: No worries. Man, this is kick ass story though, bro. There are so many kids out there who think it is to hard to get a drumkit, you know? And you're just a living example of some kid who really made it happen for himself in a big way. And that's truly inspiring!
Jesse: Yeah, so right now all of the shells are Yamaha. I've switched over to a 14 inch stage custom snare drum cause it's got a better crack than the other steel one I have. I hate large sets these days so if you ever see me using something besides a 12 inch rack tom, a 16 inch floor tom and a 22 inch bass drum, then I'm probably not using my set. My cymbals are a mix and match of Paiste, Zildjian and Sabian. Actually no, I'm still trying to get the Sabian crash back.
Rocket: That is so awesome. So how did you initially join up with Level-Zero?
Jesse: Well, Mike hit me up when their old drummer couldn't go on tour with them. I had given up playing drums in bands, but they were looking for a temp and I agreed. It all seemed to click really well and everyone was really nice to me so I've just kinda stuck with it. I'm happy in Level-Zero, and that's weird... cause I'm not happy with anything!
Rocket: Well, there's plenty to be happy about being the drummer in one of the top underground metal bands around, bro. So are you guys working on new material? Roughly when can we expect the next album from this band?
Jesse: We're going into the studio in the next couple weeks or so... so expect it by 07'. It's going to be self produced, so Level-Zero fans won't be let down!
Rocket: What's the funniest thing that's ever happened to you while performing?
Jesse: Aww, pretty much any night when Mike finds something witty to say to the crowd. He's great at that! He's had people rush to the bar to buy us drinks, get attention from people wayyyyyy in the back of the room... he's the best!
Rocket: Mike is a way killer person. So what's up with your fascination with video game music, brother? Ha! I understand you can't get enough of the old school Ninetendo tunage. Please elaborate!
Jesse: Oh, man! Old school nintendo stuff is the greatest! Those composers did so much with so little, it's incredible! all of those guys had to have such a great sense and understanding of harmony and melody! Really listen to the mario brothers songs and tell me that those weren't brilliant! Or final fantasy, or dragon warrior, or megaman!!! I could go on and on!
Rocket: Man, there's been a ton of cool metal albums released this year. What's been your personal favorite?
Jesse: 2006? I don't think I've heard any new metal stuff. I was pretty impressed by the 30 seconds to mars cd though. Good singer!
Rocket: What are some of the upcoming Level-Zero shows we need to be aware of?
Jesse: Haha! I dunno! ...still don't know!
Rocket: Jesse, thanks so much for your time on this, dude. Give a shout out to your biggest supporters.
Jesse: It's tough cause there are so many people that make this band what it is!
But Laurie our band manager is a huge part! She's come through for me so many times!
Just anyone who comes to the shows to support us. We've got a lot of great street teamers out there... thank you! and of course... my family for supporting my loser ass while I perfect my art. Hahaha!
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