Interview by Callum Parr
Canada’s Punk Rock veterans, Billy Talent have just released their fifth album Afraid of Heights and to celebrate they are embarking on a five-leg Aussie tour this August. Callum Parr had a chat with guitarist and album producer Ian D’Sa about the album and returning to Australia.
First of all, I’ve had the pleasure of listening to the album, and congratulations, it is a great album. Now the title, Afraid of Heights, what does it mean? Where does it come from?
‘Afraid of Heights’, I actually wrote that song about a relationship, where one person in the relationship is afraid of commitment. Then after we were working on lyrics for the rest of the songs, Ben and I thought, ‘wow’, it would be a great title as the overall album. Because a lot of the songs we were writing had a lot to do with that. Songs like ‘Big Red Gun’ and ‘February Winds’… and a lot of what is happening in the world right now, it felt like as a human race, we seem to be afraid of heights. So it just felt like a great metaphor for all the songs.
The song, ‘Louder than the DJ’ is it a statement of your thoughts on electronic music? What are your thoughts on the whole electronic movement?
No, over the last couple of years it really does feel, and it has been the truth, Rock ‘n’ Roll has really sunk into the background. So when I was working on it, it was kind of a funny, tongue-in-cheek chorus. We have nothing against DJs; some of our really close friends are DJs. It’s nothing against EDM music, or DJs, or anything like that. It was just more of a tribute to the power of Rock ‘n’ Roll. If anything it’s just like – go check out your local bands. That’s the overall blanket statement of that song.
Are there any up-and-coming bands that do get the Billy Talent seal of approval?
Yeah, absolutely. There’s a band from Sydney called The Lazys that I heard in Toronto about a year ago and I’ve already co-written a couple of songs with them and produced a couple. They’re going to be opening up for us in Melbourne and Sydney. They are the best Rock ‘n’ Roll band I’ve seen in probably the last 5 years. I literally walked into my local bar during Canadian Music Week and saw these 5 guys from Australia I’d never seen before, and it just blew my mind. I love that feeling and I think when you see bands like that it really gives you a sense of empowerment, and it’s really inspiring.
This record, like majority of your albums bar one, was recorded in Canada. Is this important to you guys to stay home to record albums? Do you prefer this process as opposed to heading elsewhere?
Yeah, absolutely, I think that’s what lends itself to being more creative on this album because there was no deadline or timeline of what we could or couldn’t do. Our first two records we did in Vancouver, but this record we did in Toronto, we have a home base, a little building that we invested in a few years ago and built a recording studio in. We recorded probably about 75% of the album in there for the first time and that made it extra special because this is a place where I can go there any time, and spend as much time working on something. There’s no one saying, okay time to pack it up. It’s been really great for creativity.
And these tracks are transferring live? How are they being received?
It’s been great so far. We play ‘Louder than the DJ’, ‘Big Red Gun’ and ‘Afraid of Heights’ now. We’ve been playing them for almost a month-and-a-half now, they’re translating great and really setting into the set well. We can’t wait to play some more in Australia, there’s a heap we haven’t played live yet, so we’ll be playing them in Australia for the first time live.
You guys haven’t been here since SoundWave 2013, so you’re looking forward to getting back?
Absolutely. We love coming down there. We heard SoundWave wasn’t happening any more so we wanted to make sure we came down and play on this record. Hopefully, not only once but again maybe next year or something. It’s really important to us and I love coming down there.
Billy Talent play Fowlers Live the 16th of August.