Billy Talent’s Ben Kowalewicz Talks ‘Dead Silence,’ Band Consistency + More
Billy Talent have been together for two decades and gained a massive following all over the world. The band is back on the road this year in support of their latest record ‘Dead Silence.’
Make no mistake. In spite of that album title, they are anything but silent on the new disc. Noisecreep got the chance to catch up with vocalist Ben Kowalewicz while he was in Europe touring. He spoke all about being out on the road, his brotherhood with his Billy Talent bandmates and much more. Check out our interview with Billy Talent’s Ben Kowalewicz below:
You guys have toured all over the place from Europe to the States and everywhere in between -- do you notice any difference touring in Europe versus the U.S.?
For us we’ve managed to develop a pretty big following in Europe over the last 10 years. There’s a different kind of thing that happens in Europe, we played yesterday, in front of 30,000 people in Helsinki on a beach with Green Day and Gaslight Anthem.
In the States, we’ve never really had that kind of -- I don’t know if it’s luck or if it’s a family that believes in us over there but we’ve never had the same kind of gravitational pull. So for us the difference between Europe is that we’ve spent a lot of time here and things develop and we’ve played the States quite a few times in our lives and never really got a lot of traction.
What are you playing live from ‘Dead Silence’?
I like all of them but I think ‘Viking Death March’ is definitely a good banger and a song called ‘Runnin’ Across the Tracks’ which I really enjoy playing, it’s challenging but a lot of fun to sing.
Also with 'Dead Silence' I was expecting the name to be 'Billy Talent IV' since your previous albums were ‘Billy Talent’ followed by the Roman numerals for one, two and three. Instead you broke away from that -- how did the decision to name this record ‘Dead Silence’ come to be?
To be totally honest with you it wasn’t anything really methodical it was just like “We’re done with that" and I don’t think slapping a big four on it would have given it the justice that it deserved. The title worked well with the artwork and the concepts of the record so we just went with it.
It’s been the same lineup for Billy Talent, which is unheard of for many bands today. What has kept it fresh for you, what makes you look forward to continuing to make music together?
Come this August it will be our twentieth year as a band, 20 years together. The only way I can describe it is -- you can go out and buy any pair of shoes or any jacket but you always have that one that fits the best at the back of the closet. You just put it on and it feels right, that’s the only way I can describe it, I’ve been with these guys for so long, it just feels right. I don’t know myself as a singer without these guys. They are the only thing that’s ever remained consistent in my life and hopefully will continue to do so.
With 20 years of friendship and music, what do you realize about the music and connection of Billy Talent that you didn’t realize when you first started?
When we first started way back in the day, we never even dreamed of anything happening to us. We were just happy that we could play downtown. I never realized that power of connection and having people relate to the things we talk about or ideas that you present. On the same note, you also learn from a lot people as well who bring up things to counter your points, who tell you some song helped them get through terrible times or you inspired a kid to pick up a guitar.
For us we’re inspired by all of the people around us and we get to share the stage with some impressive bands and we’re thankful for that. I think the true essence, as a music fan, for me is being moved by something and if we can do that for other people then that’s just a dream come true in itself.
With all of this touring what is one thing you must bring with you, no electronics.
I would say books, I like to read books. [Laughs] Cool huh?
That’s definitely cool, any books you’ve read lately?
I just finished ‘World War Z’ a while ago, before I knew that there was going to be a movie, which I really enjoyed. I also read the Duff McKagan autobiography that he released last year. I met him, he was a super cool dude, he came to our show and hung out and he was super awesome and inspiring so I read his book. Right now I’m reading a book by Paulo Coelho called ‘Aleph‘ and he wrote a book called ‘The Alchemist’ which is probably one of my favorite books of all time. It’s more of a spiritual journey book of him being on the Trans-Siberian railway system.
Billy Talent’s music combines a bunch of genres together. How important is this for the band’s sound?
I think it’s really important to distinguish yourself. We’re all such avid music fans, we love so many different kinds of music. Although we’ve been together for 20 years we all approach it and it comes from a different place sometimes. I just think with Ian’s [D’Sa] songwriting sensibilities -- I think there’s something special within any band between the individuals that you’re playing with.
The differences are what make you special. I remember watching a Clash documentary. Not to get to much into it but Joe Strummer was talking about all these differences in a band that we’re trying to control and change each other and he realized all those things they were trying to change is what made them so special.
Just curious where did the name Billy Talent derive from?
There was a book by a guy names Michael Turner which was later adapted into the film called ‘Hard Core Logo’ and it’s this fictional story about this punk band that reunites to go across the country for one last tour. The guitar player in that band was named Billy Talent.
Now did you happen to see the movie before you read the book?
[Laughs] I did actually. I ended up meeting the author and he was a cool dude.
Has the meaning of the name Billy Talent evolved to you with 20 years under your belt?
Yeah, I mean I was always a fan of Jane’s Addiction, they’re one of my favorite bands in the whole world. I just love having that name in the band, like Jane. So when I thought of Billy Talent it just sounded cool. I think of the individual as opposed to the force.
Check Out Billy Talent's Latest Single 'Stand Up and Run'