INTERVIEW: Billy Talent

Though it almost feels like yesterday when recordings like “This It How It Goes” and “Line & Sinker” blended so effortlessly with the sound of a kickflip, it’s almost been ten years since BILLY TALENT traced out their name in the Canadian music scene. Since then, they’ve checked off accolade after accolade but their next grind has them back at the starting line: striving to redefine. Jumping head-first into a busy summer with a slot at Edgefest, we sat down with vocalist Ben Kowalewicz and drummer Aaron Solowoniuk as they discussed their recent revival with their new record Dead Silence, where they fit in the local community and how their attention to detail adds to their integrity. 

Looking at Edgefest 2012 – you guys are like veterans here.

BEN KOWALEWICZ: I guess so (laughs). We’ve done a couple. God, I think we’ve done four in our history.

Is there now a typical routine when you approach a festival like Edgefest?

BEN: You know what, I’m really excited to see Silversun and Death From Above, obviously because they’re really good friends of ours and it’s been awhile since we’ve actually gotten to see them. Hometown shows do require a little bit more attention than a regular gig though because you’re like, “Where’s my mom? Is she going to get in okay? Where’s my aunt? Oh yeah, my brother! My niece!”

And spouses…

BEN: Yeah my wife too. I don’t even know where my wife is… I got out of the car and she was gone.

She’s probably crowd surfing.

BEN: Yeah, she’s with the Death From Above guys (laughs). But yeah, the festival obviously has a focus on that aspect – just worrying about your friends and family making sure they’re in okay. Besides that it’s the best because we get to play.

And you can hang out and enjoy the actual festival.

BEN: Yeah! It’s nice that we get to go home afterward as opposed to getting on like a weird bus or something. I get to actually go home to my dogs and wife.

AARON SOLOWONIUK: Most of the time the food is really great too so you just fill up on a big meal and that’s that.

In this case, the festival is sort of a stepping stone for you as you have an album coming out in a few weeks. Has the process for this one been more difficult?

AARON: It was supposed to come out in June/July earlier this year but we just had to bump it a couple of months just because we we’re tweaking it.

BEN: Yeah, tweaking, figuring it out. I think once you start falling into like “label quarter pressures” to release a product, you have some difficulty but we don’t adhere to that. If we’re not done or we feel like it’s not the best that it can possibly be, then we just tell everyone to wait. In this case, we kind of just said wait.

I respect that. A lot of artists don’t and they give into the pressure.

BEN: I mean, we’re old fucking geezers now and we can get crusty if we want to be (laughs). No, actually it’s not even that. The people we work with are pretty cool and they respect us but I think good food takes a long time to cook, you know what I mean? It’s our lives and the only ones that really suffer in the end are us and our fans. Labels and people like that know they’re going to have a hundred other bands that can release albums for them. For us, we roll as a family and we’re not going to ever do anything to compromise that integrity.

Not to call you guys geezers, but you guys have been doing this a long time…

BEN: A long time my dear (laughs).

Since you’re not a new band with a small audience, how  have you approached writing an album that’s original?

AARON: We just spend a lot of time together; six hours a day, every day, just creating these songs. Ian is unbelievable and during the recent process, he would come to the table with all these great guitar riffs and melodies which we kind of just painted over top of them over during the months it took us to write. Then we went into the studio and spent months, and months, and months just recording everything and now we’re finally done. To us, it’s a great accomplishment!

BEN: Yesterday was a really nice day. We’ve been so meticulous and methodical and I’ve had this nagging pressure on me but when I came home, I cooked dinner, had a glass of wine and sat in my backyard and just said to myself “I’m done!”. I actually slept with a clear conscious for the first time in months and I was excited for today. You actually caught us on a really good day!

AARON: I think with keeping things fresh and original, we’re just doing that to impress ourselves and we don’t know if people are going to dig it. We don’t even know if it’s fresh or new or amazing, but we love it!

BEN: If it gives you goosebumps then that’s kind of alright.

It’s been an interesting couple of years for Toronto’s local music scene as a lot of the bands that you use to tour with aren’t even bands anymore. Does that affect you in any way?

BEN: The thought of leaving or stopping never comes into play. It’s not even a topic; it’s not even possible. I think it’s because we all love what we do and love doing it together, and fuck… we don’t know how to do anything else.

Well one of the struggles of a veteran band is not only keep your existing fans but get new listeners as well.

AARON: It’s hard.

BEN: You lose some along the way and you pick up others… it’s just kind of this thing. All we can do is put it out there and if people want to gravitate towards it, that’s all we can hope for. We work really hard to have people enjoy it, that’s why we write music…but if they don’t enjoy it, that’s okay too!

AARON: Yeah, it’s true. We’re going to keep doing this no matter what.

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