In a month’s time Billy Talent will return to Australia after a couple of years absence. They’ll be armed with a bunch of ready to be released tracks that’ll make up their new yet to be titled album which will be released later on in the year. Deborah Konopnicki recently spoke with the band’s bass player Jonathan Gallant to chat about it. Expand this post to take a read, check out a recent full live set and re-cap the tour details. Tickets are on sale now.
Hi Jonathan! How are you?
Good thanks! How are you doing?
Good thanks, mate! I’m a huge Billy Talent fan so it’s pretty exciting to be having a chat with you today!
Oh, well thank you very much for liking the band! That’s awesome!
No worries at all. You guys have announced your triumphant return to Australia, which is pretty exciting because you haven’t been here in a few years. How are you guys feeling about coming back down?
Really excited. It’s definitely a favourite destination of ours. It’s a beautiful country and I don’t think that we’ve gotten there enough times. We’re really looking forward to that.
I’d definitely agree with that. The last time that I saw you was for Soundwave, which was quite some time ago now.
Yeah! That was a really fun tour for us because that was the first time that we were able to see all of the major cities because we’ve only every done the Melbourne/Sydney things before. We wished that we would have been able to do it on this tour! I know that there’s been a lot of anger towards us from Perth and Adelaide. We’ve been trying to sort that out. From memories of Soundwave, the shows were off the hook! We were playing with Alice in Chains, which was just a huge treat. I really enjoyed having my days off because it was the summer time down in Australia and we would go down to the beach and just enjoy Australian life as a tourist. Especially on that tour there were so many days off. We filled a couple of days with shows which was great but to have that much time in another country is pretty unusual for us. To have that much time to see Australia was an awesome pleasure.
Yeah it seems to be quite a unique festival here in Australia! Do you think that it’s something that you’d like to hop onto again?
Yeah. We’re definitely pushing hard to get onto the next one in February I think.
Apart from the tour, you’ve also got a new record coming out this year. There hasn’t been too much info floating around or very much confirmed but it looks like it’s due for a September release. It’s been a little while since you released a record as well do you must be busting to get this one out there!
We are! We were trying really hard to get it released in June and then we were trying really hard to get it released for July. It takes a really long time to cook so now it’s going to be in September. We’ve got a few more tracks to record the vocals on and we’ll be mixing it in July. We can’t be more excited! It’s turning out unbelievable. We’ve got 11 songs rough mixed and it’s sounding awesome. We can’t stop listening to them.
Well September isn’t too far away! Anticipation can been a good thing at times. So it was just the songs that were holding you back from an earlier release though?
It was a little bit of that. Ian – our guitar player – is producing it this time. There’s a lot of pressure on him and he’s going back and forth on sounds. Especially with guitar, he’s doing a lot of work on his sounds because he can! If he doesn’t like the sound of the distortion on one of the songs then he’ll re-do it. A lot of that is personal preference and maybe some people wouldn’t notice but there are little subtleties of making a song perfect in our options. So there’s that and a few more uncertainties like when you work with a producer there’s another mind in there telling you whether things are good and bad. We’ve always done things on our own and always taken the producer’s opinions for what they are; they were going to be good or bad options and we were going to take the choices from there. You can then second guess yourself and that kind of stuff. We’re extremely excited and happy. This is the most personal and exciting albums of our career.
Do you think it was the suggestions of other producers that might have lead you down this path to do everything on your own? Was there something that you were unhappy with in the past?
No, we were always under the impression that Ian was capable of producing this record. When we were working on our last record we knew that he was going to be doing it. When we had the interest from Brendon O’Brien we knew that we couldn’t pass it up. We couldn’t pass up that experience. We went with that and it was great. It turned out different to our other records and we didn’t realize it at the time; that it was something different to what our fans expected. That’s fine. We love the record and we loved the experience but we can understand the differences now. We see where people were maybe caught off guard. I think that this album probably brings us back on track to where we were before. We’re using the same engineers and things like that.
I read an interview with Ben quite recently where he started talking about he songs on this record. He said that they’re still quite “Billy Talent” with this unique vibe that you guys have but they are also completely different to anything that you’ve ever done before. Do you have anything to add to that?
Yeah, I think that it’s just one of those things where we don’t want to repeat ourselves and we always want to challenge ourselves to make things different. We’ll always sound like us in a way. It’s us playing on the record and it’s Ben’s voice leading the charge. He’s got a distinctive voice so we’re always going to sound like Billy Talent. We’re at the point now where we’re not afraid to do anything. If there’s a really good guitar part that’s going to turn a song from being a three-minute song to a five-minute song then we don’t care about that anymore. Maybe at one point we were like “This song is too long! People don’t like long songs.” We’re always thinking about our fans and things like that but if it moves us and it’s cool, then we’ll accept that.
Ben also went onto mention that this new record captures the urgency of the first one. That was quite an interesting statement. Are you able to shed any light on that comment?
I think that when you’re releasing your first record there’s a little bit of urgency and a fear of success and failure. We had that into our second record too. There was this fear of whether or not things were going to carry on. Maybe we feel like we lost a little bit of that going into the third record because we had secured a little bit of a following after the second record. Now as we get older we took some time off we’re so stoked and ready to go. There’s this urgency to get out there and show people that we’re a killer band and we’re going to be around for a long time. That type of thing!
You’ve already released the first single from the record “Viking Death March” that debuted a couple of weeks ago online. It’s freaking awesome! It’s a nice little taste of the album a few months in advance. After quite a break from releasing music was there a sense of nervousness in the group?
Oh, I was shiting my pants! We did this special release where it was coming out at midnight and we were streaming it on our sites and things like that. I remember being exhausted that day. I have two kids so when I’m at home they get me up really early. By midnight I’m pretty wiped out so I’m ready for bed! I remember staying up and waiting for comments on the internet. I remember when Ian showed me the first couple of riffs of that song. He had strung together some pieces and then we started working on the song. The name comes from just the feel of the song. A crew guy said “Wow… that song sounds like a Viking death march” one day. Ian showed us these new parts that he’d written and I remember him showing them to us in rehearsal and I was totally blown away. It was so amazing and I couldn’t wait to get on board. That was a year and half ago! A year-and-a-half later when you’ve been sitting on it and it’s all done and you know every single note and you’ve over-analyzed every drum-roll and fill – we’re really meticulous when writing songs and when it comes to a drum-roll we can work on one transition to another for four, five or six hours to get it right – when you go through that process to can forget those initial instincts that you had when you first listened to it. Those are the instinctual feelings that people are going to have when they first hear it. I was excited to see that people were having those same feelings that I had.
Were you still sitting by your computer at 12:05 and trawling through the comments?
I literally was! I knew that there would be some hardcore fans waiting on the computer for it. Actually right now while I was waiting for this interview I was on YouTube checking out the comments and what was happening! I am nervous about the release because when you care about something you’re always on top of it.
I think the thing that has me really excited about the record is that now being so familiar with your style, fans can expect that there are going to be some great interaction moments that translate so well live with the catchy melodies and gang-vocal-laden choruses. You use crowd interaction to your advantage with perfection! Do you write the songs with the intention of them making a flawless transition live?
Well it started with “Try Honesty” a long time ago. That was a sound that we really liked and worked well with our band from the very beginning. We call it ‘call and response’. For us it’s an important part of our band. It adds another dynamic and makes the music more interesting. Ian is always taking that into consideration when he’s been writing songs. He comes up with melodies that are so strong that they get stuck in your head and you can’t get them out! You come back the next day and he’s got another melody that’s almost as strong, or even stronger for the same part. Sometimes he’s got this selection of melodies to choose from and you can’t even pick one because they’re all so good. Often at times they can kind for crisscross each other. That’s how those choruses get born. It’s great in terms of crowd reaction and it goes over awesome live. Sometimes we’ll be finishing a song and we’ll say “Well, that’s going to be awesome live!” or “That’s going t sound so wicked!”.
I can’t wait to be able to hear some of these new tracks. Do you think they’ll be ready in time to play a few live when you get back down to Australia?
I think by that point we’ll probably be playing a couple.
Well I’m about to be cut off so I’ll quickly ask one last one. I noticed while I was preparing for this that next year marks 10 years since your self titled record was released and is actually the 20th anniversary of you guys playing music together. Those are two pretty significant milestones. Have you thought about commemorating that in any way?
Definitely the 20 years, we’ve talked about it and what we’re going to do for that. There will be some sort of celebration. It’s amazing. I can’t believe that it’s been 10 years since the record came out. I was talking about this in another interview earlier. I remember coming over to Europe when we first started touring heavily. I was 27 and quit my job. It was he best feeling in the world and I couldn’t believe that I was quitting my job and becoming a full-time musician! I thought that was out of reach three or four years prior to that! That was a pretty special moment. I pretty much remember everything on those first few tours. Every venue name and all the people that we played with. I’m still filled with memories of those early years. A lot of the in-between stuff I’ve now forgotten. Everything has blended and fused in together because we’ve done so many now. There wasn’t one specific moment, it was just this whole eye-opening experience. It was like “Wow… all of a sudden I’m touring the world and I feel like I’m ten years smarter than my age just because I’ve seen so much”. I’ll always appreciate it.