Billy Talent Interview – Issue 3

March 10, 2009 | By:

Billy Talent interview – Brixton Academy – 17th February 2007

It’s a pretty cold day in London but outside Brixton Academy the hordes are already gathering en masse, and it’s barely lunchtime!! Inside it’s decidedly quieter as we’re shown into a smallish room with a comfy looking leather sofa complete with 2 members of Canadian rockers Billy Talent who are looking decidely relaxed.

Can you introduce yourselves please?

Hi Im Ian, and I play Guitar.

My name is Aaron, and I play the drum set.

Looking forward to playing tonight?

Aaron: Yes, we’re very excited.

When was the last time you were in the UK?

Aaron: It was in October. We played the Hammersmith Palais…this is the first time in Brixton.

Have you got any pre-show rituals? Any superstitious rituals you have to go through?

Aaron: Warming up, playing guitar, maybe having a beer.

Ian: Umm no, stretching is all. If Ben were here he’d give you a better answer. We’re not a very superstitious band.

Do you watch your support acts?

Aaron: Ah yeah, all the time. We’re looking forward to seeing Enter Shikari, and we have The Sounds opening up which I’m really excited about….they’re amazing. We toured with them on the Warped Tour

last year and they’re a great band, great people, so we’re looking forward to playing with them too.

What’s your favourite country to tour?

Aaron: Canada is fun just ‘cus we’re from Canada. Other than Canada…umm…I like playing in Germany and England. Canada’s great but being able to play a place like this and then going to Germany and being able to play a big venue there…it’s really amazing being in a foreign country. We enjoy playing those places because those are where we’re really starting to pick up as a band, and play bigger places like this. And what’s most exciting about being in the UK this time is that we’ve played big venues in places like Canada and Germany but this will be the biggest venue we’ve played in the UK so far.

You played a few festivals last year, like Download. Got any festivals planned in the UK for this year?

Aaron: We played in the Snickers Tent yeah. And we played Give It A Name as well. We’re doing Download this year too, and some European ones. It’s rumoured we’re playing early on the mainstage… though that hasn’t been 100% confirmed yet though.

What are the 3 essential items to take on tour?

Ian: Blackberry definitely. Hairspray, cellphone and hair dyer. haha.

Aaron: Laptop, i-pod, cell phone. That keeps me connected to my family – just being able to not feel disconnected.

What are you going to be doing in 2007? You have a lot of tour dates lined up for Europe and the US. What about the rest of the year?

A lot of summer festivals, and Japan for the first time. A lot of festivals for the rest of the summer.

Your album was out in September…any plans for a new release yet? Been writing any new material at all?

We’re recording tonight’s show and releasing it on dvd. Tonight and another show. Backstage stuff etc. And then we’re going to start writing after that. The last 3 months of this year we’ll be concentrating on writing new material.

What’s the most embarassing cd you own?

Ian: I think I would have recycled it if I didn’t like it. I’m not embarassed by any of my cds. I have the Sound of Music on cd.

Do you listen to it though?

Ian: I do listen to it. It’s great songwriting, great lyric writing. It’s really good inspiration for writing.

Aaron: I listen to Madonna and Jamiroquai…people don’t believe that I like those guys. Jamiroquai is awesome.

Is that old skool Madonna?

I only have 3 songs off the new album.

What’s the best tour prank you’ve played on anybody?

Aaron: I’d like to play a prank on John, but I don’t think he has a sense of humour, he wouldn’t find it funny.

Ian: I’d just love to prank him but I know that I’d physically get hurt.

You’re never tempted to shave his eyebrows off or anything?

Aaron: Oh my god no!

Ian: If we ever did that we’d wake up with a broken arm.

Aaron: Or a completely shaved head…

He’d get his revenge would he?

Ian: Yeah he’d take whatever prank you played on him and times it by 100, and that’s what you’d get back.

Aaron: I wish I could play some pranks on him but I wouldn’t even dare go there. He’s a great man, he just doesn’t take jokes too well.

Ian: I remember I did prank him once and he called my phone like 10 times.

Aaron: Ok listen to this story. John loves salt and vinegar chips. He loves them. This was the night that we stopped pulling pranks on John. We were in New York….me, our friend Misha and Ben came back early to watch a movie and we got our own bag of chips and ate them all. We saw John’s chips in his bag so we thought ok we’ll hide his full bag, put the half empty bag on the ground, scattered chips all around it, and he came in the room and went nuts! He kicked the door down. He went berserk. And then he left and was crank calling the room. He called like 5 times and kept hanging up. He was trying to wake us up. He was acting like we did something horrible to his family. We showed him his full bag, and he couldn’t apologise enough. No more pranks on John.

What do you think is the best undiscovered talent at the moment?

Aaron: I have to say Reuben. We took them on tour…we brought them to Europe with us. They are amazing.

Ian: It’s only the Uk who know about them. The people in North America loved them!

If you were a dog who would you shit on?

Ian: John.

Aaron: haha John.

Ian: He’d never hurt an animal.

Aaron: That’s the best part you could just keep shitting on him. He’d never hit a dog.

What are your top 5 tips?

Aaron: Trust noone, everyone’s a crook. Make sure you know what’s happening with everything with your band. Take care of your artwork, take care of your pictures, take care of your fashion, take care of your sound. Do it all yourself. Learn as much as you can and meet people who are in the industry. Talk to a drummer about where he got where he is. Most people are very approachable. Taht’s we always used to do…try to meet as many bands as we could and talked to them about how they got there.

Ian: Don’t worry about your clothes or your hair. Play live as much as you can…at the end of the day that’s the most important thing.

Marianne Harris

Billy Talent live @ Brixton Academy – 17th February 2007

Ok, imagine 400 kids at a rave in a small disused warehouse all quite obviously high on life and glowing like a small nuclear reactor courtesy of an arsenal of brandished glo-sticks and various flashing accessories, jumping up and down in unison to the belting hypnotic strains washing over them. Now multiply that by 10 and transport them to the impressive settings of Brixton Academy, because that is what is welcoming award winning newcomers Enter Shikari as they arrive on stage. It’s quite frankly nuts!! As far as the eye can see up the slope of the venue there is a multitude of grinning faces, and flashes of fluorescent colours zip past heads as glo-stick tubes descent onto the stage. The show is fast, loud and frenetic – carefully pieced anthemic dancecore synths lie perfectly alongside crunching drum pieces and heavy rock guitar riffage. You have to ask yourself just how, on paper, this combination can possibly work, but it does. Wearing flashing specs to match the bands’ flashing rings frontman Rou is backed up vocally by bassist Rory who provides the more harmonic lines to Rou’s visceral voice. None of the band stays in one spot for more than a few seconds, trying to fill the massive stage as they run through their set. Even drum meister Rob wants in on the action, periodically standing on his stool, his sticks emphatically saluting the air. It’s all well received but despite this there is something acutely amiss. As anyone who has seen them before will no doubt testify an Enter Shikari show is equal parts rock, rave and lights, and the latter is distinctly absent. Where we were expecting an impressive lightshow we get dimmed stage lighting, a decision I’m sure not of the band’s choosing. The audience doesn’t seem to mind too much though judging by the appreciative noise they’re making. Thank goodness for an upcoming headlining tour where we’ve been promised all the stops, lighting wise, will be out. (4)

By the time Billy Talent (5) are due to hit the stage the venue is packed to the rafters. The anticipation as the lights go down to reveal the shadowed forms of the band behind the material draped from ceiling to stage is tangible, and as it drops the roar of noise is at roof-lifting levels. This one-off show is a sell out and every person trying to squeeze past me in the audience is soaked to the bone with sweat. Lucky for me I get to stand in the press pit for 3 songs of the set and from this vantage point I can clearly see every wonderful hand gesture and face the ever charismatic vocalist Ben makes as he totally commands the stage as well as every eager pair of ears in the building. To many people it might seem like this band have come a very long way in a short period of time, but they’ve been together for 13 years! And you can tell – every second of their set is precisely tuned and delivered, technically perfect, and the sound coming from the stage is exquisite. They pull no punches whatsoever, with Ben characteristically leaning over his prostrate mic stand throughout the best part of the show, his eyes wide as he serenades the audience like a man possessed. All those years worth of ardent experiences come pouring out, and I for one am amazed at just how many of their songs I know, considering I thought I knew relatively little about their material. Catchy-as-fuck rock tune after anthemic rock tune is belted out across a packed auditorium – Devil In a Midnight Mass, Red Flag, Fallen Leaves and the glorious Try Honest – they’re all present and correct. By the end of the set everyone is buzzing and there are grinning satisfied faces all around. I think we can mark that one down as another awesome Brixton show. And another notch in the wall for Billy Talent. Roll on Download 2007.

Marianne Harris