Kevin Winter, Getty Images T.I. and Lil Wayne are teaming up once again, only this…
- Posted on Jul 9th 2009 11:05AM by Joshua Ostroff
"It was a beautiful time to be a teenager," says Billy Talent's lead singer Ben Kowalewicz. "To look at all the bands -- Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Green Day -- that's pretty insane to think about. Those are still the bands that everyone turns to now. They set the precedent."
For their third major release, Billy Talent (which includes guitarist Ian D'Sa, bassist Jon Gallant and drummer Aaron Solowoniuk) didn't just pay lip service to their past. They actually hired legendary producer Brendan O'Brien, the man behind the boards for countless alt-era classics by bands like Rage, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
"That era of music for us was when we were in high school, and to have Lollapalooza roll through town and to have all these bands start breaking -- and Tool on the side stage -- that was the best time ever," Kowalewicz gushes. "That can't be re-created, but with this new record, finding out we could work with Brendan O'Brien and be involved with that whole movement of music blew us away. This record went back to our grunge-sounding influences than more of the screaming stuff that's been happening over the past five or six years."
But Billy Talent, named after the guitarist in 1996's cult Can-punk film 'Hard Core Logo,' embodies the alt-rock era in more than just sound. It also shines through in their dedication to themselves as a proper band. "We're very proud of that," says Kowalewicz. "We remained the four of us. It's not just me and Ian doing interviews and on the cover of magazines. We're a band, and without any one of us we wouldn't be the same."
Billy Talent have sometimes been dismissed by critics because of their mainstream success and major label status. But the band's been together for the past 15 years and was initially ignored by every indie label it courted for nearly a decade until Warner came along to put out its debut record. Says Kowalewicz, "What are we going to say -- no? We're just going to hang out in our friend's basement and write songs forever and die."
Besides, Billy Talent and their like-minded buddies in Alexisonfire brought a new aggression to Canadian rock music that has won over so many young music fans that radio and TV were basically forced to start playing them.
As Kowalewicz puts it, "We were the brats that kicked the door down," bursting out of the Toronto suburbs with 2003's unexpected smash single 'Try Honesty.' Their next album debuted at No. 1 and they went on to sell out Toronto's 20,000-seat Air Canada Center, an unprecedented feat for a local hard rock band.
"We weren't really thinking that the first record was going to do well at all. Except for a handful of people in the city, nobody knew who we were at all," Kowalewicz says. "So to be on television and on the radio, that was a dream come true. It was strange to be sitting with your friends and then your song comes on the radio. But it's because we worked so hard that we've now proven that we're not just a one-trick pony."
Indeed, the new record sees the band further honing their chops with catchy melodies, guitar heroics and Kowalewicz's (slightly ) toned-down wail. And unlike many of their too-cool counterparts, Billy Talent want nothing more than to bring their music to the masses.
"You shouldn't feel guilty for wanting to play your music and entertain people" Kowalewicz adds. "The point of music is to connect with people, and the more people you connect with the better. Why wouldn't you want to do that? This whole stigma of indie labels and this punk rock selling-out vibe, we just never subscribed to any of that s---.
"We just want to play."