Billy Talent (formerly known as Pezz) is a Juno award-winning Canadian band formed in 1993 in Streetsville, Ontario. The band consists of Ben Kowalewicz (lead vocals), Ian D'Sa (lead guitar and backing vocals), Jon Gallant (bass guitar and backing vocalist) and Aaron Solowoniuk (drums and percussion).
The band existed for almost a decade before mainstream success. The members met and played in high school under the name Pezz and remained underground in Toronto's indie music scene until 2001. The band renamed itself Billy Talent after running into legal trouble with the old name. It was then that Kowalewicz's connection with an employee of Warner Music Canada's A&R department landed the band a record deal and launched them into mainstream success. Once upon a time they also play a concert in malton. Since then, Billy Talent has made two multi-platinum records in Canada, and continues to expand their success overseas, this included touring for 20 months supporting their third album. They released their fourth album Billy Talent III on July 14, 2009.
Pezz began writing, performing songs, and gaining attention and credibility at first locally, and soon in Toronto's broader indie music scene. Their first recording was a cheap 4-track demo. It was recorded in Ian D'Sa's basement in July 1994, and was named "Demoluca", after a friend of the band named Jason Deluca had stopped by the house, banging on a basement window while the band was recording. Soon after, in January 1995, they all put in money to record another demo of better quality with engineer/producer Dave Tedesco at the "Signal to Noise" studio which they called "Dudebox". Originally, two tracks from "Demoluca" and four newly recorded tracks were compiled onto it, but a year later the band recorded four more tunes live in the studio and re-released it. After these releases and their continued performances in the immediate area, Pezz was gaining a following in Mississauga and it continued to spread.
D'Sa studied classical animation at Sheridan College, and even worked on Angela Anaconda as an animator. Gallant almost finished a business degree. Kowalewicz was in between jobs, one which included working at 102.1 the edge. Solowoniuk worked at Chrysler Canada. But during this, each member found the time and finances to max-out their credit cards, and record their first full-length album in 1999. They laid down twelve tracks at a studio called "Great Big Music", collaborating with Juno-nominated music producer Brad Nelson. Kowalewicz started singing in melody with D'Sa. The music began to transform from a "raw rap-rock" songs into "catchy and angst-ridden pop punk anthems". With that, "Watoosh!" was born and independently released. While popular within Toronto's indie scene, it did not reach large mainstream sales levels.
In 2001, the band and its management demanded $5,000 from and threatened to sue an American band called Pezz, who formed under that name in 1989, which resulted in a name change. Billy Talent would become their new name, inspired by the guitarist "Billy Tallent" from Michael Turner's novel "Hard Core Logo". The film adaptation by Bruce McDonald would be the inspirational medium for the band. However, this still led to fans mistaking Kowalewicz as being named Billy Talent.
Now known as Billy Talent, their sound began to move in a more aggressive, punk rock direction. During this time, Kowalewicz ran into Jen Hirst, at 102.1 the edge, the Toronto radio station he worked at. She had seen the band perform as Pezz, and he asked her to check out the band's performance at a club. This would prove to pay off, as Hirst was later hired by Warner Music Canada to work in A&R. This connection would get the band their producer Gavin Brown, and a demo deal with the label. Before the demos were recorded, a local manager called Atlantic Records A&R executives, who were already in Toronto, to see the band perform in its tiny rehearsal space.
In 2002, the band met with record executives, and ended up signing a co-venture agreement with Atlantic Records and Warner Music Canada. In the fall of 2003, the band released their full-length self-titled album, "Billy Talent". The album found considerable sales success. "Try Honesty" was a successful first single, and was followed by other singles "The Ex", "River Below", and "Nothing To Lose" into late 2003 and 2004. The band played sold-out shows in Canada and the United States and had success in Europe. The band received Juno, (They won two Junos, Best Album of the Year, and Best Band of the Year) and MuchMusic Video Award nominations and awards, and spent late 2004 and most of 2005 touring. Billy Talent went on to be certified 3x platinum in Canada.
A track from the album was titled "This Is How It Goes", and it was about one of Kowalewicz's friends who had multiple sclerosis. On March 17, 2006, Aaron Solowoniuk revealed in a personal letter to fans that he was the friend in that song. Solowoniuk was confirmed to have the disease, which causes anything from numbness in the limbs to paralysis or loss of vision, in January 1999. His neurologist prescribed him medication that he would have to self inject three times a week, possibly for the rest of his life. Although it was a struggle for Solowoniuk to come to terms with the reality of the disease, going to numerous doctor appointments, and touring with the band with a mini-fridge in their van has become normal routine. The medication has let him continue drumming with the band, as it eliminated his symptoms, and he has stated that "this changes nothing about my band or me."
Billy Talent's third album was mostly recorded at The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia, which was produced by Gavin Brown again, and mixed by Chris Lord-Alge. This time however Ian D'Sa got a chance to try his hand at producing. Beginning in the fall of 2005, demos from the new album were purposely leaked by the band to gain publicity. This put about half of the record out in the public, "and then someone got the other half and then it was just all out," so the band purposely leaked it.
"Billy Talent II" hit the shelves on June 27, 2006. It fared very well in Canada in its debut week, landing in at number 1 on the Canadian charts. It also enjoyed significant success in Germany, where it also debuted at number 1 in the album charts in its debut week, and was one of the top 10 selling albums in the country. As of June 15, 2007, the album has sold almost 700,000 units worldwide, 215,000 of them in Canada making it certified 2x Platinum, and 200,000 shipped units in Germany achieved it platinum status there. However the success did not duplicate itself in the U.S. The band has expressed that they know they are a new band there, and they are choosing to concentrate their attention to Canada, Europe, and other places overseas instead.
The album contains less anger and bad language than their previous self-titled album, as they had mellowed out and matured as men and as a band. More of the songs dealt with real-life issues, to the praise of fans and critics.
"We wanted to do something completely different from the first record because we had changed dramatically and had learned a lot from personal relationships. Everyone in the band is partnering up and dealing with those issues.
The general theme of this record is trust, the lack thereof or breaking up. That seemed to fuel the record".
– Jonathan Gallant, Ottawa Sun
The band ventured off on another UK tour in support of "Billy Talent II", but this one would include more shows in countries they had not performed in before. During this tour leg, the gigs at London and Manchester, on September 8 and 16, respectively, were recorded live. Limited edition CDs were released as the band's only live album to date, Live from the UK Sept./2006. Also during the tour, the band had to miss their Southampton show "due to a death in the family". The whole band returned the following month to play the show.
The band started their first Canadian arena tour with the bands Rise Against, Anti-Flag, and Moneen, performing in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and ending in Ontario. Following the Canadian tour, the band ventured onto their first US club tour.
The band went on a large overseas tour, beginning on June 1, 2007. They temporarily came back in mid June to play shows at the MuchMusic Video Awards, the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto, and the Festival d'été de Québec in Quebec City. They returned overseas, selling out multiple venues in Australia and performing at the MTV Australia Video Music Awards. They had planned to end their tour on September 3, but the band played shows in St. John's, Newfoundland, Saint John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia on September 5, 7 and 8, respectively. As of September 11, 2007, the band has indicated that their 18-month tour has officially ended, and they are "home for a while to catch [their] breath a little before [they] start writing the next record." In the meantime, a live DVD album called "666" was released on November 27, 2007, featuring footage and audio from the band's performances at London's Brixton Academy, Düsseldorf's Philipshalle, and Germany's Rock am Ring festival (at the Nürburgring).
In 2008 they opened for American group My Chemical Romance in the US with smaller group Drive By and attended several festivals and held concerts in Canada and Europe later on. Vocalist Benjamin Kowalewicz stated on July 1, on Billy Talent's official forum, that they're staying put in Canada until the album is finished, and that their promotional tour for II has come to an end.
The single for "Turn Your Back" (which was previously recorded in a collaboration form with the band Anti Flag) was released on September 15 in the UK and most of Europe, on September 16 in the US and Canada and September 20 in Australia and was also featured in the video game NHL 09.
The band entered the studio in November with Brendan O'Brien, who has previously worked with Rage Against The Machine, Incubus, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band embarked on a supporting tour for the third album, starting in Australia in the Soundwave Festival in February. Also, they played two sidewaves, one in Sydney, and one in Melbourne, with Emery and Face to Face opening for them. After Australia, the band headed to North America, where they played the three day Coachella Festival. Ian revealed that the new album is to be called Billy Talent III.
During summer 2009, Billy Talent toured North America with Rise Against and Rancid. On February 26, the band was announced for Download festival in the UK. They also played in Columbus, Ohio at Rock on the Range in May 2009. During the Melbourne Soundwave show, Ben announced they would tour Australia again in August. Billy Talent also played at Reading and Leeds Festivals 2009. Following the twin festivals the band toured the UK in late October/early November before moving on to tour the U.S. in support of their new album. In an interview with UpVenue, bassist Jonathan Gallant announced that the Canadian tour would begin in winter 2010 but would be an extensive one.
Their fourth album, Billy Talent III was released on July 14, 2009. On September 22, 2009, it was released in the United States, through Roadrunner Records.
Billy Talent kicked off their 2009 European tour on October 19, commenting before the tour that they "can't wait to come over to Europe and the UK". They followed the European tour with a Canadian tour in March 2010, with Against Me!, Alexisonfire and Cancer Bats supporting. On February 1, "Saint Veronika" was released as the third single from Billy Talent III.
On February 16, 2010, Billy Talent released iTunes Session, over iTunes, a 7-track EP with songs from all three of the Billy Talent Albums.
In August 2010, Billy Talent played 3 tour dates in South Africa, one in Cape Town, Durban and at Oppikoppi along with other local bands such as Taxi Violence, Zebra and Giraffe and Jack Parow. The band then played the main stage at the Reading and Leeds Festivals in the summer, along with bands such as Blink-182, Guns N' Roses, Arcade Fire, Paramore, Weezer, Lostprophets & Young Guns. This was the band's last performances on the Billy Talent III Tour, and it was announced by Ben that the band were going to take a two year break from recording.
With no more shows currently scheduled, Billy Talent is currently residing in their homes in Ontario planning a new record. The band has stated in interviews that their new album will not be named IV, as they wish to end the 'Trilogy', and will move into a heavier sound, similar to their first album, "Billy Talent".
"Watoosh!" saw the band mixing multiple genres and making diverse songs on the same album, stretching from hip hop to indie and ska. However, this evolved into a more collected sound that was a mix of fewer genres on their second album, "Billy Talent". The result of this has been described by the band as a their defining sound and that it was something that appeared to them after experimenting with different styles. Although they intended not to draw any inspiration from other bands, their new sound had similarities to the music of Refused, Rage Against the Machine, Jane's Addiction and Fugazi, bands that they have said they have great respect for. The similarities were especially related to a lighter post-hardcore genre and the music of Refused and At the Drive-In, but also the anger and hard rock from Rage Against the Machine.
Although there are faint similarities to their music, their mix and innovation of genres have made them unique and pioneering in the modern music scene. There are raw and frequent backup vocals heavily collaborated by main vocals, quick changes between loud and quiet, tempo changes and Kowalewicz's characteristic vocals which are the key elements that emphasize that assertion. In addition to this, they are known for their significant usage of the dropped D tuning (DADGBe) on almost every song on Billy Talent I, II, and III (the exceptions being "Tears Into Wine" and "White Sparrows" tuned in Db, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb, Eb).
On "Billy Talent II", the band altered their sound yet again, based on more mid-tempo and emotional compositions; a bit more collected than their previous work. It was also based on far less angst and aggression behind the production, something that was known factors behind their debut. While this change was apparent on many of the songs, they kept the hints of hard rock, but with less screaming and more singing by Ben. "This Suffering" in particular shows the alteration because of its reminiscence of their previous album and difference from the other songs on the album.
• Benjamin Kowalewicz - lead vocals (1993–present)
• Ian D'Sa - lead guitar, vocals (1993–present)
• Jonathan Gallant - bass guitar, backing vocals (1993–present)
• Aaron Solowoniuk - drums, percussion (1993–present)
Official Website: http://www.billytalent.com/
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/billytalent