Interview: Billy Talent

[ROCK] Canadian-bred band Billy Talent have been playing together for just over two decades, and have known each other for even longer. The band, comprised of Benjamin Kowalewicz (lead vocalist), Ian D’Sa (guitar), Jon Gallant (bassist) and Aaron Solowoniuk (drummer), just released their fifth studio album, Afraid of Heights on July 29. They will be making their way to the Rapid Theatre in Niagara Falls on Friday, September 9 to give us a taste of some of their new music and a show that’s sure to have plenty of sweaty and exhilarating mosh pits and crowdsurfing. Gallant recently spoke with The Public about the band’s new album and current tour.

I read the original name of the band was Pezz, but you were forced to change it due to legal trouble. Were you pissed when you had to change the name?
No, at that point we had been in that band for seven years and we had struggled. We were kind of going in a different type of direction with music. We were excited to change the name. Pezz was a cheesy name.

How would you say the band has evolved over the years?
We’ve been together for 23 years, so we’ve grown up together. We went from being high school students to men. A couple of us have families. Like anybody, you grow up and all your life experiences affect you one way or another. After that’s happened, our songs have kind of evolved, we’ve matured and we’re a little bit more direct instead of vague, which we were in the past. I think we have more confidence in ourselves. It’s like anything. When you grow up, you get wiser.

When did you start writing the Afraid of Heights?
We came off the road in 2012 and started working on the album and writing songs during the end of our last touring cycle of our last record. It probably took about three to three and half years to get everything done.

Where did you guys record this record?
This is the first time we recorded a whole record in Toronto. We’ve been building a studio for the last six years so this is the first time we ever really got to use it professionally. It was a lot of fun to be able to do things on our own time and not have to worry about studio hours.

Can you tell me a little bit about filming the video for the album’s first single, the title track, “Afraid of Heights”?
Yeah, it was cool. Alon Isocianu, the director, came up with the concept. Originally he just wanted it to be just to be a story with no performance, but we kind of always feel strongly about having a little bit of performance in there. It was his idea and it turned out great and is kind of a good example of what the song is about. It was done in the greater surrounding areas of Toronto as well.

Will your next videos be a continuation of this video?
It does kind of leave you hanging. We actually thought about that and that’s a strong possibility. It’s going to be a surprise.

What are your favorite songs to play off this new record?
Right now we’ve kind of started introducing the new songs. We’re playing four of them live right now: ‘The Crutch,” “Big Red Gun,” “Louder Than the DJ” and “Afraid of Heights.” Out of those four I really love playing ‘The Crutch.” Some of the other songs we’re ready to start introducing to the set, so we’re going to start to do that. I’m looking forward to playing all the new material.”

Do you have any interesting tour stories to tell?
This last tour was pretty crazy. We were just in Australia then Japan, so we were flying quite a lot. It was like 10 flights in like 14 days or something like that. The shows were absolutely wild. Tokyo and Osaka, it was like 110 degrees and we had to step onstage. It was a really entertaining tour.



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