A Conversation with Sons of Apollo's Billy Sheehan

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Canadian Musician*‘s Jason Raso connected with legendary bassist Billy Sheehan ahead of a pair of Canadian dates with Sons of Apollo, his new progressive metal project featuring some other monster players. The band hits Montreal on Thursday, April 19th and Toronto on Friday, April 20th.*

Sons of Apollo finds Sheehan joining forces with former Dream Theater members Mike Portnoy (drums) and Derek Sherinian (keyboards), guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses), and vocalist Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey, ex-Rising Force). Their debut album, Psychotic Symphony, dropped in the Fall of 2017 via InsideOutMusic/Sony Music.

Sheehan tells us how the band came together, his experiences playing with different drum icons, and more.

JR: How is the tour going?

BS: Really well. It’s a lot of complicated songs and it takes a lot of work to play them. Nothing that’s out of my range – just having to remember all of the parts is probably more difficult than playing them.

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JR: How did you come to be involved in this project?

BS: Mike [Portnoy] and I are in the Winery Dogs and we decided to take a little break because so many times you do a record then tour, then do another record and another tour, and another record and another tour. It’s hard to keep that fresh thing going when you’re just stamping it out. The reason that so many people’s first records are so good is they spend months, sometimes years, before they actually record their first records. They’ve got all these stories to tell and stuff to play. Then they have six months to make the second record. We got lucky with the Winery Dogs that Hot Streak was as well or even better received than the first record, so we thought, let’s not press our luck; let’s go off and live our lives for a while and come back when we’re ready to make an album properly. I was working mostly with Mr. Big, but we couldn’t play too much prior to Pat Torpey’s passing. He was already limited in how much time he could spend out on the road. I had a lot of free time so Mike said, “Why don’t we do this other thing with Derek [Sherinian]?” So I said, “Yeah!” They wanted to do it with some vocals, Jeff Scott Soto, and Bumblefoot on guitar. We did the whole record and nobody knew about it. It was completely undercover. It worked out really well. The response to the record has been great.

JR: You’ve played with some amazing drummers like Pat Torpey, Dennis Chambers, Mike Portnoy, and Gregg Bissonette. How much does your playing change depending on the drummer?

BS: I don’t know if I could come with an amount, but I do adjust, sometimes subconsciously. I’m more into what’s happening in the moment than trying to check out what I’m actually doing. Every drummer treats time a little bit differently. Playing with Dennis Chambers was like getting a PhD in time. He is the grand master. My whole life I played with straight up, four-four rock drummers, occasional progressive things. A drummer back in Buffalo named Mark Miller, I played with in one of the versions of Talas, was quite an amazing player. Virgil Donati and some other great progressive drummers. But Dennis really changed my perception of time and how it’s treated. I’m forever grateful to him for that. Playing live with him is an absolute riot. I consider him the best musician I know on any instrument

JR: I’m really looking forward to the show in Toronto at the Opera House on April 20th.

BS: I’m so glad Toronto booked us. Toronto was kind of a second home to Talas for a quite a long time. We played all the Yonge Street bars – Larry’s Hideaway, Gasworks, Piccadilly Tube, and all those places.

For more information on the band or to find tickets for the upcoming Canadian dates, visit:

*Jason Raso is a professional bassist from Guelph, ON. His latest album, Live At The Jazz Room, is available at Jason proudly endorses Fodera basses, Aguilar amplification, and D’Addario strings. *

Photos by Hristo Shindov

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Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician and Canadian Music Trade magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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