By: Chiara DiAngelo –
A couple of hours before Edgefest headliners Billy Talent took the stage at Downsview Park, we had the opportunity to sit down with the band’s guitarist Ian D’Sa to talk about their upcoming album Dead Silence, touring, and what it’s like to be in a band with the same guys for almost 20 years.
As D’Sa was also involved in producing this, their fourth studio release, he was “very excited” for its release in September and to discuss the recording and production process undertaken. “We just spent the last week and half in LA mixing it with Chris Lord-Alge and he did such a great job. He mixed our first two records so the sound is fairly similar to those two.”
“We felt that the fans really loved those two records, the sound of them. And Chris has a certain consistency and he knows our band’s sound so it was great to work with him.”
While they worked with dream producer Brendan O’Brien (Incubus, Killswitch Engage, Pearl Jam, etc) on their last record – Billy Talent III – and were “really proud of [it] and working with Brendan was great,” they opted to self-produce this one. D’Sa, who co-produced Billy Talent II, took the helm once again. D’Sa discusses that because Billy Talent III had a bit of a darker sound, “all the songs…were suitable for a guy like Brendan, for the style of production that he does.” However, for this next record, “the songs are a little bit more upbeat so we wanted to go back to the sound that we established on the second record. And we pretty much did that. I’m pretty excited about it.”
Dead Silence has been a long time coming. “We spent a good year writing the songs and then demoing them.” After flying out to Vancouver to record the drums at The Armoury, the band came back and did the majority of the recording in Toronto. “We worked at Noble Street Studios, which is a new studio in Parkdale. And we worked at our studio as well. We have a rehearsal studio we converted into a recording studio and so we did all the vocals there.”
“The songs are a little bit more upbeat so we wanted to go back to the sound that we established on the second record.”
The title of their upcoming album – Dead Silence – is a departure from their previous tactic to number their albums Billy Talent I, II and III. There is some significance to the decision not to go with Billy Talent IV.
“I think that a lot people put a lot of emphasis on the album titles because we never named them anything. We got tired of being asked the question…’is it a trilogy?’” He says the answer is no – they “just couldn’t think of an album title.”
“Dead Silence” is the name of the last song on the album and holds further significance as according to D’Sa, “it encapsulates all the ideas of all the other songs. Because in a way [Dead Silence] is a concept record. We’ve never done anything like this before. [The record] kind of incorporates everything to do with 2012, like some people say it’s going to be the end of the world and things like that.”
Let’s hope this prediction doesn’t come true, as we’ll need to make it until next year to get a Canadian tour out of the band for Dead Silence!
“[The record] kind of incorporates everything to do with 2012, like some people say it’s going to be the end of the world and things like that.”
This current stop in Canada is but a brief one before the band heads back overseas – first to Australia and then to the UK for some more festival dates, including the legendary Leeds Festival. “Leeds is going to be such a great festival. We get to play with one of my favourite bands of all time, At The Drive In.”
He indicates that they hope to be back in Canada early next year to tour the new record, “probably January or February.” While Edgefest could be considered a “pre-show” to the album, which comes out in September, the band isn’t quite ready yet to relinquish too many new songs to the masses just yet. “We do want to play some new songs but we’re just kind of going to wait a little bit.”
Especially at festivals, they would prefer to play the hits. “We’re excited to play a lot of songs that people love to hear. A lot of stuff from the first and second record, and even the last record. Obviously we’re going to play “Viking Death March” because it’s the single right now, and we’re excited to play it.”
I comment that the video they just put out for this song features some pretty intense tour footage. D’Sa agrees. “Yeah, it turned out great. We actually just shot it last month in Germany when we played at Rock am Ring, which is one of the biggest festivals in Europe.”
Not only did they record their video during this festival, it was also quite a memorable experience to share the stage with some of their favourite bands. “Refused was right before us, and then Tenacious D was great, and Metallica was headlining. So it was pretty awesome to be on that line-up with some of our favourite bands.”
Coming back from being overseas to headline Edgefest for the first time since 2009 is a special feeling for them. “It totally feels like a hometown show. Because we haven’t played in Toronto for a long time, so we’re excited to be back and be playing in front of our hometown crowd – we have a lot of our friends and family here today.”
Having gotten together in 1993, these former Streetvillers have been a band for quite a while. D’Sa tells the story of how he met Ben Kowalewicz (vocals), Jon Gallant (bass) and Aaron Solowoniuk (drums) at a high school talent show. “The three of them played in a different band and I played in another band as well. And we funnily enough met at a high school talent show. I had this band called Dragon Flower and we used to play Tragically Hip and Soundgarden covers. And they were in a band called To Each His Own and they played Red Hot Chili Peppers covers and so we kind of met at the talent show and after that our bands started playing together. When their band broke up, they called me and asked if I wanted to started a new band with them. So I did and we called it Pezz and it’s been the same four guys since.”
“This July will be our nineteenth anniversary. Twentieth will be next year.” I joke that this is more than half his life, which makes D’Sa laugh. “Yeah, it is. I never thought of it that way, that’s so crazy. It’s amazing because we’ve come such a long way and the way the band is now, we’ve gotten over all those ups and downs most bands go through in the first five to ten years.”
“This July will be our nineteenth anniversary. Twentieth will be next year.”
He likens being in a band to being in a marriage. “It’s like a marriage right, so there’s always going to be ups and downs, and if you can make it through the rough patches then like, the last ten years we’ve been coasting on all of us getting along really well. We’re almost like brothers now so it’s great.”
Just as the band has grown together over the past 19 years, their fans have grown right along with them. “I feel like our fans have grown with us. When we play shows now, some of the same fans that came out years ago are older now and they’re coming to the shows still. Some fans are bringing their kids to shows now, it’s amazing.”
Garnering additional new fans along the way means that their shows attract a wide age range of people. D’Sa comments, “I remember we played at the ACC last album and just the demographic of people was amazing. Like there were kids as young as eight and then there’s people in their 50’s. It was pretty cool to see.”
Judging from the crowd that came out for their high-powered set at Edgefest, I’d say the band has more than a few good years left in them!
Check out their new single “Viking Death March” below and be sure to pick up Dead Silence when it drops in the Fall!