We last saw Canadian rockers Billy Talent at Soundwave Festival in 2013 and now 3 years later, they return for a headlining tour in support of their new album “Afraid Of Heights”. We talk to guitarist Ian D’sa about the tour and the new songs as well as the health issues with drummer Aaron Solowoniuk who is currently on hiatus.
Ian: How’s it going?
Andrew: Good thanks! Hows things with the band at the moment?
Ian: Just great! Had a rehearsal today and going to rehearse again tomorrow and we’re going to open for Guns N’ Roses on Saturday night which I never thought in a million years that would happen!
Andrew: [laughs] Yeah that’s an interesting one! What’s your take on the whole reunion thing at the moment?
Ian: It’s great! “Appetite For Destruction” was one of the first records I bought on vinyl, I remember going to the store when I was in grade 8 and listened to that record constantly so it’s pretty cool to see at lease 3 quarters of the original lineup back up on the stage. It’s going to be awesome!
Andrew: Yeah it is unfortunate that Izzy Stradlin’ is missing but it’s still cool to see Slash and Axl getting back together after so many years apart.
Ian: Yeah absolutely, and Duff and maybe Steven Adler.
Andrew: Yeah I heard Steve Adler came out for a couple of shows recently for 1 or 2 songs.
Ian: Yeah the last 2 apparently. I’m hoping he’s going to be there too, that would be really cool. But I’m a big Izzy Stradlin’ fan too but it will be great nonethless.
Andrew: Yeah definitely. Well you are coming down to Australia in August which is great to see, what can the fans expect?
Ian: Well we haven’t been to Oz in quite a while, I think it’s been maybe 2 years or something. We were there for Soundwave Festival in 2013 I believe so that was the last time we have been down there and we haven’t put out a record since “Dead Silence” which was 4 years ago so we’re super excited to come back down there and start playing our own headlining shows.
Andrew: Obviously you will be playing some new songs off your latest album “Afraid Of Heights”?
Andrew: How many songs are you looking to play? The album hasn’t come out yet until the end of the month so are you looking to play a lot of the songs?
Ian: Yeah the record comes out July 29th and we’ll be playing all the songs the fans want to hear but we’ll probably be playing a lot of new songs as well from “Afraid Of Heights”. This will be the first tour I guess that we’ll be playing a bulk of the new album so we’re super stoked and excited, we’ve been rehearsing them for the last week and they sound killer.
Andrew: How are they fitting with some of the older material? Is it a good match?
Ian: Yeah it’s been great! Songs like “Big Red Gun” and “Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats” and even “Afraid Of Heights” all seem to sound really well with our older material. There’s a lot of other songs on the record that we tried new things that we haven’t really done before like “Rabbit Down the Hole” and “The Crutch” are a little bit more classic rock influenced so we’re excited to play those live as well.
Andrew: Tell me a little about the process for the album. Obviously it’s the first album that Aaron (Solowoniuk, drummer) is not on it so how has it been getting around those issues?
Ian: Well we had rehearsed the album all year last year, most of those songs were finished by December and Aaron was ready to go and everything was great and then we had a few festivals to play last summer and Aaron started noticing that he was in a lot of pain when he was drumming, especially by the time August came around. And then after that he had a big back problem and he went to the hospital to have it looked at and it was more complicated than that, it looked like he had another relapse with multiple sclerosis which he’s had for over 15 years now. So at that point we cancelled the studio and pushed it back a bit to try and figure out what was going to happen, he hasn’t had a relapse this bad since probably the early 2000’s and with this kind of thing you can’t tell if it’s going to be 3 weeks to recover or 3 months or even a year and at that point it was such a hard decision that all of us kinda talked about and have to navigate through and figure out. So Aaron wanted us to press on [with] another drummer and Jordan (Hastings) who is a really good friend of the band and who used to play in Alexisonfire, came down one day and the 5 of us all chatted and it was amazing because he’s such a great guy and super sensitive to the situation and he is now filling in for Aaron on the drums.
Andrew: Right so that’s worked out in that direction but have you thought about the future? I mean how is Aaron doing at the moment? Have you thought about his progress and what you think might affect the band for the future?
Ian: He’s doing good, he’s taking it day by day. He hasn’t played drums since last August and he wants to make sure his body is 100 percent in full health and shape before he gets back on the drumkit, so he’s seeing therapists every day and doing his best but there’s no definitive time frame for when something like this gets better. Or maybe it doesn’t get better, maybe it doesn’t go away. We’ve all been best friends since high school so when he was diagnosed with this in the late 90’s, I think we all had over the years, become prepared for something like this to happen. So we’re just keeping our fingers crossed that in the next couple of months, things get better and if it doesn’t by the end of the year or next year or when it does, then he’ll be back one day and we’re looking forward to that and keeping our fingers crossed. Hope it happens sooner than later!
Andrew: Yeah hopefully everything will work out with him and see him back in the band real soon. The new album “Afraid Of Heights” touches on the struggles of society and also personal stuff which fits with what Aaron is going through, what was the inspiration for the concept of the album?
Ian: The first song written was “Afraid Of Heights” and it’s kind of a love story and a metaphor for one person not being committed enough in the relationship. That theme of being afraid to take things to the next level and doing the right thing kind of transferred to the rest of the songs and the rest of the songs became based around that idea. I think it all really worked well because a lot of times we’ve written about what’s going on in the world today and it seems like we’re living in a fear based society, more now than we have before so a lot of the songs are written about that. So “Afraid Of Heights” as a title and as metaphor works extremely well for a lot of these songs.
Andrew: Yeah it’s an interesting time to be living in our world at the moment, a lot going on in a global scale. I guess it makes for interesting lyrics and inspires people to get creative and have their thoughts on the whole thing.
Ian: Yeah as people we just have to understand each other more and I don’t know how we got to this point over the last decade, but it seems like the whole world is divided much more than it was even 10 years ago and I think we need to start understanding each other again.
Andrew: Yeah absolutely, I definitely agree with that. What about you, what inspired you to even become part of a band?
Ian: Well back when I was a kid, I loved music and I loved playing piano and my Mom got me into playing piano and singing. But it wasn’t until high school where you develop a real close bond with your first friends and you have a group and a little bit of kind of gang and you all sit together at lunch and at cafeteria and that kind of team bond is something that the 4 of us were all attracted to. We had a group of friends that did everything together and hung out on the weekends together and so the band kind of came out of that and carried on for this long, now 23 years later. It’s just a great feeling to be part of a team like this.
Andrew: Yeah time sure has gone by quickly when you have 23 years under the belt like that!
Ian: Yeah it feels like it’s flown by. I still remember how we met 23 years ago and I remember all the friends in high school and we’re still friends with most of them.
Andrew: Yeah very cool to hear and we are glad to see you coming back to Australia for what seems to be a cool headlining tour. Congratulations on the new album as well, we look forward to hearing these new songs so thanks for your time today, it’s really appreciated.
Ian: Thanks so much, anytime! We look forward to coming back and playing for you guys.
BILLY TALENT AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES:
Thursday, 11th August – Max Watts, Brisbane
Saturday, 13th August – The Metro, Sydney (All Ages)
Sunday, 14th August – 170 Russell, Melbourne
Tuesday, 16th August – Fowlers Live, Adelaide (All Ages)
Wednesday 17th August – Capitol, Perth
Tickets and tour details can be found at Destroy All Lines.