Interview With Billy Talent - 28th May 2012
Photo Of Billy TalentBilly Talent headed to London for a day of press so Ben Connell got on the phone to Ben Kowalewicz from Billy Talent to see what this year has in store for the band with their forthcoming forth studio album and high placed festival apperances just around the corner.

Hi Ben, how are you?
Ben Kowalewicz (Vocals): I’m great thank you, we’re really excited to be over here and really excited to get going. We’ve been off the road for about a year and a half now, so it’s going to be nice to get out there and play some shows.

How are you enjoying our unusual English heat wave?
Ben: I think it’s the best! I’m a bit of a weather freak, so when I was looking online at what the weather was going to be like over here I was like, “Oh my god! It’s going to be like a real summer!” I think that a little sunshine and warmth goes a long way for people, everyone seems to have more of a jump in their step, everyone seems a bit more relaxed, y’know?

As you’ve just mentioned, you’ve had some time away from touring to write and record the new record, are you eager to get back to playing shows?
Ben: We’ve been working so hard and so diligently on our record and I honestly could not be happier with it. It’s something really magical, it’s really quite special. We’re really looking forward to coming out and reconnecting with a lot of people. We’re excited to be back over here, we’re doing a couple of festivals this year which is great, but I think we’re going to come back and do our headline tour too. It’s nice to reconnect and we’re looking forward to playing the new stuff.

With being a band which pretty much constantly tours, did it feel strange to step away and take that time off?
Ben: It’s a weird thing, like you say we tour, tour, tour and when we came home we were pretty burned out to be honest. Ian (D’sa, guitar) began writing and writing and we suddenly had all of these amazing songs. We were really focused on this record, we just decided to take our time and be very methodical with the process. We really enjoyed the process of creating and hanging out and being with out families. I got married last year and Aaron (Solowoniuk, drums) had some health issues that needed to be sorted out. In many ways it’s been a cathartic thing, I could talk to you about it for hours, but at the end of the day we’re just very fortunate for the opportunity and we’ve worked really hard. As you get older you really appreciate what you do.

How did you find the processes of writing and recording this album, after so many years as a band, does it still come as naturally to you as it used to?
Ben: That’s a good question, I suppose Ian is the main guy for song writing within the band. When you’re first starting out, there’s not really any point of reference, but as you get older you don’t want to repeat yourself, you don’t want to make the same point, but just in a different way. You’ve got to challenge yourself and that’s what’s amazing. Musically, I think we’ve all stepped up our game on this record and lyrically, Ian and I have tackled some pretty cool things. We’re really, really proud of how it’s coming along, I have two or three more songs to finish when we get home and then it’s done. It’s really exciting.

Whenever you hear a Billy Talent song, you immediately know it’s Billy Talent, do you feel like you need to conform to this to keep fans happy?
Ben: I think we try to mix things up a bit, but you don’t want to go too far to the left of centre. I think with the last record there was a bit of a disconnection with some fans, we love the record, but I think a lot of people thought that it was a bit strange. I suppose with this record we’re kind of bridging the gap, y’know? I think a record tracks you as you progress as a human being, records are recorded in moments of time. It feels strange to say it, but I think we’re back.

So would you say that the new record is going to be more of a hark back to Billy Talent and Billy Talent II?
Ben: Yeah, I would definitely say that there are a lot of similar elements to Billy Talent II. One thing that’s really cool is that there’s a lot of hard stuff on the record, but we’ve also experimented with some other tempos, layering and instrumentation. I think that if you’re a fan you’ll really like it and if you’re not, then hopefully you will be afterwards!

I saw a picture on Twitter of you in the studio with a classical musician, have you really pushed the boundaries on this album?
Ben: That was such a cool experience. We have this one kind of intro song that we were working on, it’s beautiful. It’s just Ian and an acoustic guitar, we’d been talking for ages about the rich sound of it and just in this weird turn of events we ended up getting a guy named Jeff from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the studio. His bass was a three hundred year old bass that was worth an astronomical amount! He came in and he was super cool, we sat around for a couple of hours and we couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. We’re not releasing a classical record or anything, don’t worry, but that was the one song that seemed to lend itself to something a bit different.

You released the first single Viking Death March the other day; what kind of feedback have you had from fans about the song?
Ben: I can’t believe how positive it is, it’s really, really cool. It’s a badass, big old mean song! We just wanted to release it to kind of get people back on the map. The reaction thus far has been overwhelming, we couldn’t be more happy.

With album number four just around the corner, how is everyone feeling about the release – are you at all trepidatious, or just excited?
Ben: At this point we’re really thrilled, we’re really hoping that people are going to enjoy it.

Do you have any solid release dates/names yet, or is it all still up in the air?
Ben: I think at this point now, it’s going to be released during the first week of September, I don’t have an exact date, but that’s the week we’re shooting for.

I read that you’re straying from the numerical album title, why is this?
Ben: When we first started doing it we thought it was funny and then we got to three, and like any good trilogy, it should end at three! We thought that this was a good opportunity to start afresh and have a new perspective.

You’ve got some big festival shows coming up, including Download here in the UK, do you enjoy the festival experience?
Ben: I do, we’re such music fans first and foremost and you just get to see so many good bands. We get to see Refused play, we’ve been huge fans of theirs for a very long time. I know at Reading and Leeds we get to play with At The Drive-In and that’s a dream come true, they’re one of our favourite bands. It’s just a really nice experience, we get to see our friends Rise Against, The Offspring and the Cancer Bats, it’s cool.

Reading and Leeds seems to be a bit of a staple in your touring calendar, why is this?
Ben: They’ve always been really, really kind to us. Some of my favourite shows in the UK have been at Reading and Leeds, whether it’s on the Lock Up or having the opportunity to play on the main stage, it’s just a wonderful experience. It’s legendary and worldwide, it’s a really nice opportunity and one that we don’t take for granted, we’re very appreciative.

You’ve got quite a high slot at Download, do you still get nervous playing shows of that magnitude?
Ben: Too right! Anyone who says otherwise is lying! Download is a wicked festival too, everyone likes to get down and dirty and people like to have a great time. Hopefully we’ll be able to connect with that, that’s really what’s so magical about playing festivals. I don’t care what anyone says, there’s something really cosmic about it, you have all these different bands from all over the planet and for whatever reason they’re all there on that day and it seems to work. We always have a great time, being a part of those moments is really special.

Do you have any plans to play any more shows in the UK when you return for Reading and Leeds later this year?
Ben: Not then unfortunately, but we’re looking at a headline tour around the October/November time.

Looking back to the beginning of Billy Talent, and maybe so far back as Pezz, did you ever think that you’d still be here today making music and touring the world?
Ben: No, fuck no! Not this August, but the following one will be our twenty year anniversary as a band. That in itself just blows me away. We still feel like we’re these young kids, we still give so much, that’s never left us. We never have those days where this isn’t what we want to do anymore, this is literally all we know how to do. There have been lots of highs, but there has also been lots of fucking lows, but we’ve always managed to stay together and it’s a really exhilarating and wonderful thing to be a part of. I think it’s a testament to the band that if you persevere, keep going and follow your heart then anything is possible.

Do you have anything special planned for your twentieth anniversary?
Ben: There is something that we’ve talked about that we’d like to do; whether or not it all comes true is a different story! We’re definitely going to do something and I would imagine that we would bring that something over here too.

Finally, other than the new record, what does the rest of 2012 hold in store for Billy Talent?
Ben: To be honest with you, it’s just going to be a lot of touring. Tomorrow is our very first show of this record I guess, and we’re really nervous! We’re really looking forward to the fall, that’s when our record will be out and we’ll be out doing headline tours and they’re always a lot of fun. At this point we’re just trying to finish up the record, then we intend to play in front of as many people as we can and have as much fun as we can!

Interview by Ben Connell
 Band Members

Benjamin Kowalewicz
Ian D'Sa
Jon Gallant
Aaron Solowoniuk
 Latest Releases
Billy Talent - Viking Death March
Release Date - Summer 2012

1. Viking Death March
 Band Related Links
Billy Talent Facebook