- Mon, 2009-06-22 14:47
Since the release of their self-titled album in 2003, Billy Talent have become one of Canada’s biggest rock bands and constant touring and incendiary live shows have taken the Toronto-based band to the upper echelon of the Rock World. 2006 saw the release of the band’s second album, Billy Talent II, it debuted at number one in Canada and Germany and went Silver in the UK – selling over 60,000 copies.
Now the Canadian four-piece return with their third studio album - Billy Talent III. Produced by Brendan O'Brien (Rage Against The Machine, AC/DC, Mastodon) I Like Music caught up with guitarist Ian D'sa and drummer Aaron Solowoniuk to chat about the new record, working with Brendan O'Brien, how to put together the perfect tour set and music.
"I Like Music because… otherwise my life would be boring.” Ian D'Sa, Billy Talent
"I Like Music because… it's the soundtrack to my life.” Aaron Solowoniuk, Billy Talent
ILM: How would you describe the vibe of Billy Talent III?
Ian: It's a bigger sounding record than our previous two. More of a heavy rock record. It was produced by Brendan O'Brien. We were really excited that we got to work with him. It's amazing, sounds awesome. It's our favourite record so far!
Aaron: It's really great to work with someone who has made some of my favourite sounding drum records! And then to learn how he gets those sounds and actually work with him to get those. It was a really cool experience. Now I have this amazing sounding record.
Ian: Yeah. Aaron's drums sound better than they ever have.
ILM: What was it that you learnt from him in terms of drums?
Erin: Just the way it was recorded. The looseness of it. The vibe of playing with Ian and John at the same time. The way he miked things was different to anything I've ever seen. It was a really cool experience. Lots to take in and learn from him.
ILM: Can you describe the Billy Talent process of making music?
Ian: It's always been the same kind of process. I usually come up with music on the guitar first. I'll spend a few months ironing out the parts and then I'll put together a loose version of a song then jam about with Aaron and John. Then, once we get a finished piece of music Ben and I will get together and work on lyrics. When we have both, we go record it! It's kind of just like that!
ILM: In September 2008 you released the track Turn Your Back, with all the proceeds going to the Red Cross. You stated at the time that it was a call to action for people to take more responsibility of their actions, socially and environmentally. How did that release come about?
Aaron: We demoed that song when we played Give It A Name Festival last year with Anti-Flag We showed it to them and when they heard it we kind of put two and two together. You know, this song would be really great if they sang some of the lyrics. It was really up their alley. We approached them with it and they just said yes. We sent the tracks in and got them to do their vocal stuff. It sounds awesome.
Ian: It was great to do a collaboration with a band like that. Like you were saying, the song is about social and environmental responsibility. I couldn't think of a more socially responsible band than Anti-Flag.
ILM: Talking of other bands, you have a tour coming up with Rise Against and Rancid. You must be looking forward to that?
Aaron: Yeah! It's just going to be fun! When you're opening their is not really that much responsibility. You just try to kill it as much as you can and hope that people go off. Then you can enjoy the rest of the show. It's cool to be playing in front of their fans. It'll be a lot of fun.
Ian: We toured with the Rise Against guys before. Amazing bunch of guys. And Rancid! We grew up listening to Rancid! So it's going to be a really great tour for us!
ILM: You have a number of UK festival dates this summer. What do you enjoy about playing festivals?
Aaron: Just the plethora of bands. Playing Reading and Leeds is cool because there's Alexisonfire then Anti-Flag. We've done so many tours with both of those bands, so it's going to feel like home!
Ian: It's going to feel like a big family show for us!
ILM: Out of all the gigs you've played, which moments will you never forget?
Aaron: Rock Am Ring.
Ian: Yeah. Rock Am Ring in Germany was just the pinnacle of getting up on stage and we hadn't rehearsed really for a month. So our first show in Europe ended up being Rock Am Ring.
Aaron: We had six weeks of festivals planned and that was the first one we rolled into.
Ian: We didn't realise it but it ended up being about 100,000 people! It was incredible!
ILM: You've been together for a long time. What would be your advice to anyone looking to get involved in the music industry?
Ian: Make sure the guys you're playing with are all into it for the same goals. You know, they want to do it for a career. Some people aren't into it for that. Some people just want to play in a band for a hobby. Something fun to do. Some people take it really seriously. We were lucky that we all wanted to do this for a living. That's what helped us keep working hard and perservering, even though it's taken a really long time. That's probably the first thing. The second thing is really try to hone your craft of writing songs. Good songs. At the end of the day all it comes down to is good songs.
Aaron: Yup. Find the right people. Write some good songs. That's it.
ILM: You make it sound so easy...
Aaron: It's not!
Ian: Haha! It's the hardest thing in the world.
ILM: When you look back over your career so far, which moments stand out for you?
Ian: Winning a Juno in our home country, Canada. I mean, for us it's the equivalent of winning a Grammy. The first time we won our first Juno was just mind boggling.
Aaron: We've won a few but when we won Album of The Year. It was just so silly!
Ian: We were up against huge artists like Shania Twain and Celine Dion and when we won that award it was ridiculous for us.
Aaron: I think you can see on the footage, Ben's talking and I'm just stood there shaking my head in disbelief!
ILM: What are your future plans?
Ian: We're getting ready to start touring extensively. The next two years will probably see a lot of heavy touring.
Aaron: We're looking forward to just getting back on the road and putting together a really great live show. You can't really do that until you get about twenty shows in. Once we've toured for about three or four months, it's just going to be looking straight ahead. We'll have got it down.
ILM: So what's the process of getting that live show together? How come it takes around twenty shows?
Aaron: You've got to read how the crowd reacts to songs. And the lighting. And parts of the songs. How it's all going to come together. What the stage actually looks like. What is going to go on it.
Ian: Everything is pretty much trial and error. Everything. We'll put together a set and you can read from the crowd whether it's a good set or not because of the way they are reacting. So eventually, a couple of months in you do find the perfect set. The perfect way the stage should be lit. The backdrops.
ILM: And you can really feel it when you get it right?
Aaron: Yeah. You need the perfect first song. The one after that and after that. The perfect end song. It's like a movie!
ILM: Peaks and troughs?
Ian: Haha! Yeah.
ILM: Who do you count as your musical inspirations?
Aaron: I like Red Hot Chilli Pepper's story. How they've gone through so much and they're still together. Musically Rage Against The Machine are my biggest influence.
Ian: Yeah. We really draw influence from those bands. They're all similar kind of bands. You know, four members, very stripped down.
ILM: Tight structures?
Ian: Yeah. Yeah. Soundgarden as well. Their one of my biggest influences too. Not only the music but that same kind of formula. Four guys. All those bands.
Aaron: For live shows it's Greenday. One of the best live performances I have ever seen. They always kill it.
ILM: What music are you listening to at the moment?
Ian: I've been listening to Mastodon's Crack The Skye almost non-stop. It's pretty amazing. Brendan O'Brien produced that too. It sounds great.
Aaron: I just listened to Hexus. Great band. And also Silversun Pickups. I just picked up their single, it reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins.
ILM: You mentioned Greenday, any other live gigs you've seen that you'll never forget?
Ian: Actually last week, just before we left on tour, I saw Mastodon at the Opera House. The Opera House is this really old venue in Toronto and the lighting and everything, I mean, everything to do with the show was just amazing. The perfect compliment to the music they play.
Aaron: Muse. Muse are the best three piece live. Ever. Unbelievable.
Ian: Yeah Muse! Great production.