Billy Talent prove their head for heights at the O2 Guildhall in Southampton
It's been four years since punk-rock stars Billy Talent's last studio album.
But the Canadians haven’t been resting on their laurels, they re-emerged this summer with the fierce Afraid of Heights, proving they’ve lost none of the fire in their bellies.
WOW247 caught up with guitarist Ian D’sa shortly after they’d been over to the UK to play this year’s Download festival – their first visit here since 2013.
They dropped a couple of new tracks into the set, to see how they’d go down.
‘We played Louder Than The DJ and the title track of the new record and they both went over really great, we were pleasantly surprised.
‘It’s always hard to play new songs in the middle of a set. We’ve been around for a while so most of the songs our fans will know. New songs are a bit of a curveball.’
Ian produced again – as he did with album number four, Dead Silence.
‘It is a little bit strange. I have to separate myself as bandmate, and even friend sometimes, from producing.
‘Everything isn’t always unicorns and rainbows when you’re in the studio. You have to push a bit sometimes to get the performance and you have to play the villain a little bit. I’m the main songwriter, so I’ll spend a lot of time writing when we’re off. When we’re in the studio I want to get the best out of everyone.’
Although it’s been four years since the last album, Ian has been writing the whole time – the title track was the first song he wrote for the record, and that was during the Warped Tour a couple of years back.
‘The Warped Tour is a bit like groundhog day – you’re playing a different parking lot in a different city each day. You have to find things to do to keep yourself occupied, so I set up a mini studio in the back of the bus we had and started writing songs.’
Between albums four and five there was also a greatest hits record, a release Ian now admits was maybe a mistake.
‘We put out the greatest hits album to sum up the last 10 years of our career and I guess in retrospect it was a bit of a mistake as I would have rather put another record out.’
Partly as a result of it being the first album after that compilation, Ian decided to shake things up a bit.
‘This record kind of loaned itself to turning the page a bit.
‘On this album I feel it’s our most mature work to date, musically and lyrically, it reflects where we are as people and it adds more commentary on where we are in the world today.
‘It’s not as much teen angst as the earlier ones – you grow out of those stages as you get older and I really want to live in the now.
‘A lot of the time, any band’s fans want them to keep making their most popular record over and over, and as much as you want to make them happy it’s also important to keep growing and changing.
‘On this record we definitely experimented more than before and there are sounds you wouldn’t have found on a Billy Talent record before, like the synths, and with Afraid of Heights being the metaphor, we didn’t want to hold back on anything.
The album also marks a change in personnel – but not through choice. Aaron Solowoniuk has been forced to leave the drum stool while he battles multiple sclerosis.
‘We’ve managed to keep the same original line-up since the start,’ says Ian. ‘First and foremost we were four best friends since high school, and we’ve always looked at the band that way, and Aaron’s still a full-time member even though he’s got the MS.’
O2 Guildhall, Southampton
Wednesday, October 26