Billy Talent

Billy Talent are one of Canada’s best rock exports. Originally called Pezz, the four-piece are massive in their home country and also have a significant fan base over here – evident by their inclusion on last year’s Soundwave Festival. Now the band has been kicking around for twenty years, a greatest hits release – appropriately titled ‘Hits’ – is due out this month. In light of the collection, sat down with bassist Jon Gallant to talk about the future of Billy Talent.

Hi Jon, how are you?

Hey man, I’m doing good thanks.

Good to hear. First off, is it merely a coincidence that ‘Hits’ comes out twenty years after the band had their first release – ‘Demoluca’ – under Pezz?

Yeah, that’s just a coincidence. We actually hadn’t really thought about it like that. Those Pezz years were weird for us because we already had a few demos and tapes and a full-length under that name. So when we changed the name to Billy Talent, we decided to be a different band and move on from that.

Did you guys find it hard to pick the songs for the compilation?

Well we had all the singles from each album, so those we’re going to be the hits. We had about four on each of them so we had to cut a few out. It was a challenge, but when we [went] album by album it was easier than we thought.

So once it’s out will you guys be hitting the road later this year or early next?

No, we wanna get going on recording the next record. We’ve been writing pretty seriously since we got off the road. So we’ll just be focusing on the new album.

Well, most bands shift through two year cycles on Soundwave, and you were out hear last year for Soundwave, do you think that could be a possibility for 2015?

Well I definitely know we’ll be getting back to Australia. To do a headline tour and Soundwave would be a dream come true in my mind as it’s such a fun country to tour in. So I don’t know, we just wanna focus on having the record completed. We often get ahead of ourselves and plan things when the record isn’t finished and then we end up scrambling around. But not this time, we want the record done and then we’ll start making plans for touring.

I’m glad to hear that we’re on the list. Do you think that this new album could be slated for a release in 2015?

We hope so! We’d like to have it out in 2015, but if the timing isn’t right, we won’t mind waiting, because we just want it to be perfect.

Do you know if that release will sound more like ‘Billy Talent III’ or the first two albums, or like ‘Dead Silence’?

Well I thought ‘Dead Silence’ was a good mould between our first and second records. Based on what we’re working on now, it feels pretty punk rock. I don’t think we will do the alt-rock angle that we did on ‘III’. That was a bit of an experiment as we were working with Brendan O’Brien [producer] and he was really famous for those kinds of bands. So when we were writing songs, we’d think about how they’d best benefit the guy we were working with. Like, he did Rage Against The Machine, Pearl Jam and lot of 90’s grunge bands. So if you listen to that record it’s got a more grunge sound than the other two. And then ‘Dead Silence’ is a normal Billy Talent sounding record.

What would you say to people who are worried that this release could act as a milestone aiming towards the end of the band?

We’ve had that question a few times now. We wanted to introduce the catalogue to places that aren’t as familiar with the older songs as we were moving forward that was one of the ideas about doing this. Places like the States, where we don’t do as well as we do in Canada, Europe or Australia, so we wanted to start fresh. And this was a good way to get it going. For us, it didn’t really mark any end, it’s more like a reset button. Like, there was the first ten years, now here’s the next ten years.

Moving away from this new release, was there much more focus on the first album songs with that record hitting ten years old?

We actually did a celebration tour for that album at the end of the touring cycle where we played it front to back. We did about six or seven shows like that. Once we had toured ‘Dead Silence’ material a lot, we began bringing in the older stuff to the sets.

Do you think 10 year anniversary tours are arbitrary, or a great nostalgic time for the band and for the older fans?

I don’t know if it’s really that complicated. For us, it was like, ‘Wow…it’s been ten years. Let’s go party!’ (laughs). We thought it’d be really fun to play those songs again because when we first stated touring, we only had the one album so that’s all we played. That’s how we learned about being a professional band in this industry, through touring that record. It was a reminiscent thing for us and I don’t know if we’ll do it for the other records. For a band to make it that far and got that long, I think that the bands who do it feel pretty proud about it, and want to celebrate it.

Finally Jon, how do you personally describe the band’s sound, more rock, or more punk?

When we’re writing we don’t think about that. If Ian [D’Sa, guitar] writes a killer guitar part and he shows it to us, we like it or we don’t and we move on from there. We’d not want to repeat ourselves either, like the second single that’s coming out on ‘Hits’ is an acoustic ballad. We’ve never done  anything like that. And the single that’s out now ‘Kingdom Of Zod’, that sounds more in mind with ‘River Below’. We just want to make ourselves happy. If we write a song and it’s fun, and we like jamming it, we know we’re doing something, cause that’s how we’ve always worked. 

Yeah it’s good to have kind of mentality. Well look Jon, thanks so much for your time today. Good luck with ‘Hits’ and the rest of your year.

No worries man, and thanks for your time.

‘Hits’ is out November 7th via Warner Music Australia.

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