|Billy Talent's Ben Kowalewicz (left) and Ian D'Sa (right). PHOTO: Dave Thomas, QMI Agency)
Making a new album can be tough on a band. For Billy Talent, it could have been fatal.
Guitarist Ian D’Sa came to that grim realization halfway through producing the veteran pop-punk band’s fourth studio album, Dead Silence.
“I feel bad cause I could have killed him,” D’Sa says of drummer Aaron Solowoniuk, who didn’t tell him he was about to undergo open heart surgery in February of this year to repair a valve defect that he’d been born with.
“Being Aaron, the guy he is, just a great human being, he didn’t want to cause any downer-ness in the recording process. So I'm sitting there recording drums in December with him and I was like, ‘No, hit the drums harder Aaron, really give it all your energy!’”
Solowoniuk, who was previously diagnosed with MS in 2006, had only told frontman Ben Kowalewicz (and not bassist Jon Gallant either) of the looming surgery.
“They cracked his chest plate open, took out his heart, stopped it, put in a pig valve in, sewed him back up, and four months later that video for (Dead Silence’s first single Viking Death March) that was his second show back,” says Kowalewicz, seated beside D’Sa.
“He has never felt better. He’s healthy. There’s a brightness to him. There’s a light in him again. Now after a show, he feels full of life and he’s playing better than he’s ever played. He’s just has a whole other new lease on life. He’s a tough S-O-B.”
And the medical drama may have just fuelled the band’s best single to date in the form of Viking Death March, which seems to have garnered them new fans, both younger and older.
“We were in the U.K. for the last couple of months and our crowd has noticeably gotten more diverse, there’s older people and younger people as well, so I feel like something’s happening, it’s great,” says D’Sa.
“It’s an exciting time for us. It’s a new beginning. We didn’t name the album a number for the first time (Dead Silence was preceded by Billy Talent, Billy Talent II and Billy Talent III). Everything we’ve done on this record, we’ve done ourselves. The band was pretty much left to its own devices. It’s the first time we’ve finished a record where it’s 100 per cent our creative output.”
Kowalewicz says the anthemic song was the first one they had finished recording so they put it out early in June for fans to hear.
They plan to tour Canada in March and April next year.
“To watch it kind of manifest itself into this thing that now people seem to really be reacting to it, it seems to be striking a lot of chords with people,” says Kowalewicz.
“It’s an interesting time right now because I feel like things are really kind of percolating. And I think it all starts from this new record. I think there was just such a beautiful energy and magic around it. I think when people listen to it, there’s such a strong sense of honesty and conviction and hard work that I think people will be able to feel that.”