sex as a foreign language

awkward aural adventures

Billy Talent – Ian D’Sa

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“…So what I am trying to say is that this here is the real shit, this is the real deal.” Ben Kowalewicz is soaked to the skin and grinning from ear to ear. Looking out over the bowels of Camden’s Underworld surveying a devotional sea of faces rammed to the venues rafters that has spent the last hour screaming back every syllable of the bands back catalogue and even, via the onslaught of internet fan frenzy, songs from their latest record, Billy Talent III, which is still over a month from release.

“It’s actually Billy Talent the third,” states guitarist and signature coiffured man mountain Ian D’Sa. “We’re going to have to rethink that now though, you can’t really have a Billy Talent IV. The best rock record in history is a IV you can’t go head to head with that!” Speaking at Atlantic Records London head office D’Sa and drummer Aaron Solowoniuk are discussing the build up to the new album and the effect that the success of Billy Talent I and II has had on the band. Coming 6 years after the release of their debut album as Billy Talent ‘III’ is their most complex and complete work so far, taking the introspective self analysis of the first album and fusing it with the superior song structure of their sophomore record. Billy Talent have never shied from difficult subjects, making intelligent, issue based songs over a soundtrack that melds punk and more dirty ‘Appetite For Destruction’ era rock, but with ‘III’ they have merged their most intensely personal songs as well as flexing previously unworked musical muscles.

“I think this record we felt more liberated, the second record was much more stressful, but I think that’s natural. You’re second record, especially if following up a successful first record, we definitely felt pressure on that one. This record was much more laid back in the sense that we felt we could experiment with whatever styles we wanted, “ explains D’Sa when considering how the band felt when coming to begin a new record on the back of two incredibly successful discs. “You kind of have to learn to let go of a record when you get back off of tour you have to leave those songs there and wipe the slate clean so that you can get into the space of writing new ones.” Adds Aaron.

There is a definite evolution to the sound on ‘III’. the songs are less immediate than the likes of ‘River Below’, ‘Try Honesty’ or ‘Red Flag’, but after a few weeks ‘III’ is a record all the richer for the darker tempos. One song that stands out and acts almost as a fulcrum to the entire record is ‘White Sparrows’. A song that details the tragic loss of a loved one. It is a literal translation for Kowalewicz who went through a very personal loss as the record was being made. It’s a distinctively personal record, “Yeah, Ben lost someone very close to him about a year and a half back and I just came out of a four year relationship,” notes D’Sa “so a lot of these songs are reflections on things that have happened to us in the last one or two years. It’s definitely more personal than the last record.” In terms of putting ‘III’ together though it seems to have been a much easier experience than might be expected.
“I had maybe 6 song ideas that I was working on on the last tour. Generally on the road I’ll bring a little m-box, pro tools thing,” says D’Sa, “so when we got back we spent 3 months combing through those and they translated to the first demos. The first demo’s we did were ‘Devil On My Sholder’, ‘Turn Your Back’,‘Pocketful Of Dreams and ‘Tears Into Wine’.”

“The first half of the record we jammed out a lot more and that’s really about getting back into the process of actually writing a record. It’s really hard to jump into, “OK I’m going to sit down and write a song now” and then on the second half of the record some songs came really fast, like ‘Rusted From The Rain’, which is our first single took maybe a week and a half to finish. Which is really quick for us.” One thing that fans will notice is that the band have really stripped back the guitar sound to a much rawer, almost grunge like tone. “Yea with this record we’ve gone back a lot more to our original grunge and early 90s influences as we were actually listening to that a lot on tour, bands like Soundgarden, Rage Against The Machine, early Chili’s stuff, and I think you can really hear that coming through.”

The Underworld show is a secret warm up for the bands appearance at the Download festival, but it’s also something of a thank you to their London fans, like a family reunion.
It’s an intense baptism that highlights just how powerful the bond is between this band and their fans. It’s a relationship that has seen the band rise from tiny clubs to headline slots at Reading and Leeds on the Lock Up stage later this year and appearances at Download.
“Playing in front of 650 people who love every word is the best, but then so is playing to 20,000 people in the afternoon, or in a tent. I mean that Lock Up stage is going to be insane.” Says Aaron with palpable glee. “One of the great things about playing festivals is that you get to see a lot of bands that you know from touring etc, and we get to share a stage with a lot of great bands we like and know like Anti-Flag and Alexisonfire so it always make for a fun day and then to get to play outside is amazing”, adds D’Sa.

One thing that is certain is that the band approach every show with the same attitude of trying to give the crowd the greatest show that they can. “There’s definitely a headspace that you have to get into before you play”, says D’Sa before Aaron adds “It’s the same with every show it’s just when you get out there what happens directly infront of you dictates how intense or not you are going to be. When you do your stretches backstage and you go out and kids are losing their shit you just react to that, but then we played Coachella at 1 o’clock in the afternoon and there was maybe 5% of the festival watching, but we still tried to rock it, it’s just all about the energy you get off the crowd. We try our absolute hardest to kill every show but there’s that little extra that you get from the crowd”

With their most mature record to date in the bag, Reading and Leeds tents to headline, and as Ben announces from the stage of the Underworld a full autumn UK tour to look forward too it seems certain that the band will be getting that little extra energy shot in bucket loads for the rest of the year.

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