Guitarist Howard Leese of Heart describes his new side band, the Howard Leese Group, as "classic rock, real heavy on the guitar."

Leese said he felt like doing something different after Heart completed its recent string of live recording sessions at the Backstage, a club in Seattle, for a new album next spring."After the Backstage shows, I thought I'd do something electric," Leese said. "It gives me a chance to work out my hands and keep my skills at a certain level. Plus, it's a lot of fun."

Except for band meetings and songwriting, Heart is on break until the new album comes out. Heart's Ann Wilson is talking about doing a solo album, but nothing has been decided. "It's all up in the air," Leese said.

Leese, meanwhile, has been fine-tuning his new group. The band includes drummer Kevin Neal, who has played with Pat Travers, Leslie West and Brother Kane; bassist Jason Boyleston, who also plays with Pamela Moore's group, Sister Mary; and lead singer Freddy Krumins of Atlantis Rising.

The future of Leese's new band is open-ended. The group has been invited to play shows in Europe and Cabo San Lucas, one of Leese's favorite vacation spots, and may even consider recording some music.

"This is a selfish thing for me. It's a chance to turn my amps up and blow. It's fun. That's why I got into rock 'n' roll in the first place."

Leese owns more than 100 guitars and recently traded eight guitars for a rare 1957 Les Paul finished in bright red.

"All the stuff I use is classic, vintage stuff," he said.