Billy Talent

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Billy Talent


“There were songs that were already written for this album when we were putting out the greatest hits record,” says D’Sa, alluding to the band’s 2014 compilation Hits. “We had a few different things kicking around, but there were a few that we knew we wanted to save for the next time that we were putting out an album. Two of the songs from that era were tacked onto the end of that greatest hits album, and the rest were worked on in the time that we had taken off from touring. If we didn’t have a release impending, those songs would have probably made it onto Afraid of Heights. It was just matter of needing something new to go along with all of the old songs.”


Afraid of Heights continues to blend the band’s churning alt-rock style with massive choruses and pop smarts. It’s a record built off spontaneous energy and a defiant nature – recorded in January, finished in April and out in the world three months later.


“It’s probably the fastest that we’ve ever recorded an album,” says D’Sa. “The songs were well-rehearsed, everyone had learned all their instrumental parts; they were nearly done lyrically. I had plenty of time to demo everything and get a clear idea of how I wanted them to sound. By the time we got to the studio in January, we pretty much just went in and nailed the whole record with just a few takes each. It was a good thing for us. I think that there is a certain amount of momentum and energy when you’re just going at it in the studio. That’s kind of how the first record came together, so I can see a lot of what we did then in what we had just done.”


After holding down the same line-up for the entire lifespan of the band – including its run from 1993 to 1999 under the name Pezz – a forced hand lead to the replacement of drummer Aaron Solowoniuk. Although the drummer has suffered from multiple sclerosis for several years, 2015 saw him relapse
in a big way – meaning that recording and touring with the band, at least for the time being, was out of the question. Although it has been an arduous time within the Billy Talent camp, D’Sa is hopeful for his bandmate’s eventual recovery.


“He’s slowly regaining his strength and his health, “he says. “It’s going to take time, but it’s a significant improvement from where he was last fall. He’s actually out in Quebec with us right now at this festival we’re playing, and it’s so great to have him around again – even though he’s not playing drums with us right now, he still feels like part of the team. He will always be considered a part of the band. When he had his relapse, it was a really hard time for all of us. We had to figure out what we were going to do, especially because we were about to head into the studio to record Afraid of Heights. With MS being the horrible disease that it is, you don’t know what the recovery time is going to be; it could be three weeks, it could be three months. We wanted him to focus on just getting better, and I think him not having to worry about playing drums was such a huge relief.”


At this juncture, Jordan “Ratbeard” Hastings of Alexisonfire and Say Yes entered the fray as Solowoniuk’s official stand-in. D’Sa is incredibly proud of the work Hastings has done, and affirms he has dutifully filled Aaron’s shoes when they needed him the most.


“We’ve known Alexis for so long, and we’ve toured with them a lot over the years,” says D’Sa. “We’d all become really good friends with Ratbeard, and he was the first guy that we thought of to replace Aaron – especially because the two of them know each other so well; and Ratbeard is very aware and very sensitive of the whole situation. I feel like we’ve really made the best of a terrible situation.”


Touring will continue in support of Afraid of Heights for at least another year, with an Australian tour looming. And don’t fret – the rumours of the demise of D’Sa’s famous hair quiff have been greatly exaggerated. “We had to do a press shot really quickly, so I didn’t have time to do up my hair for it,” he laughs. As soon as that photo hit the Internet, I was swarmed with messages asking if I had gone bald. I assure you all, it’s still there!” 


Afraid Of Heights is out now via Warner Music. Billy Talent are touring nationally this month. For tour dates visit