To celebrate the release of Dead Silence, we caught up with Billy Talent's Ian D'Sa to talk about the new record and more. Thanks to the users who helped submit some of the questions:
I believe you started recording Dead Silence way back in November?
Yeah, we started in late November, started tracking drums in Vancouver. We like the studio out there called The Armoury, it has a really nice drum room and we wanted to have some pretty big sounding drums on this record, among other things.
You produced the record, right? What was it like taking full control?
Yeah, I produced this record and I co-produced our second record too. It felt pretty natural, we worked with the same two engineers, Eric Ratz and Kenny Luong, that we worked with on the second record. We have a really tight knit circle with those guys so it was pretty easy to start doing stuff. It was the first record where we kind of did everything ourselves so it felt good doing a record without anyone else’s outside influence. It’s 100% pure Billy Talent.
What would you say was your biggest influence when you were writing and putting it all together?
I think the first song we came up with was “Viking Death March” and we were on tour at that point so I just came up with the riff. Then after when we got home it just felt like that was going to be the beginning progression of the record. I guess at the time I was listening to a lot of OFF! and Pink Floyd and stuff like that. But we all listen to very different types of music so it’s hard to pin down just one influence.
What made you decide to ditch the numbers and call this record Dead Silence?
For years people would ask us why we named our albums numbers and we just wanted to change it up. The reality is that we never really thought of naming our records before because we were so busy working on the actual songs or were just plain lazy. We never came up with names for those records, but this one felt like a new beginning to us. Doing everything ourselves for the first time, we wanted to change it up. There’s a song called “Dead Silence,” we knew it would end up being the last track on the record. We thought it would be a great closer and when we sent it to Ken Taylor, who designed the album artwork, he listened and came up with the rough sketch of the underwater scene with sharks and stuff like that. We just thought it was a cool title too, because it fit perfectly with the theme. There’s an ongoing theme of I guess the anxiety of living in 2012 right now. Some people are thinking it could be the last year of the world’s existence.
What’s your favourite track on Dead Silence?
I think "Runnin’ Across the Tracks." That one turned out better than I expected and it’s kind of like what we did on the first and second record.
When I was listening to the record, “Show Me the Way” was one of the stand-out tracks. It seemed more upbeat than most of your previous material, at least to me.
Yeah, we wrote that song after almost 8 months of writing and some of the songs were getting really dark. We did a change of pace, we were listening to a lot of The Cure at the time and it was summer, we wanted to write something fun and happy. It’s also a very dark record overall and it doesn’t hurt to have a ray of sunshine or hope shining through.
How would you say this record varies from III?
Well, the last record we worked with Brendan O’Brien and it was a great experience working with him, we learned a ton of things and we thought his production sound fit the songs we were writing at the time. On this record some of the songs are a little bit more energetic and upbeat and we wanted something closer to how we sounded on the first record. Sonically I think it’s a bit more tighter and poppier than the last record.
What do you think of III in hindsight? The record got fairly mixed reviews.
Yeah, I think that record kind of threw our fans off a bit. There’s people who really like it and people who don’t like it at all because they don’t think it sounds like us. In hindsight some of the songs turned out better than I could have imagined, like "Devil on My Shoulder," "Rusted From the Rain." And in hindsight, yeah, there are some songs, some of the faster, more up tempo songs, that I would have done differently production wise.
I think you recently signed with Last Gang.
Yeah, the last record was out on Roadrunner and we were on Atlantic before that. But Roadrunner was bought by Atlantic, we kind of left Atlantic because we didn’t really feel they were doing the job we wanted them to do and the label was turning more into an R&B and pop label anyway. When we found out about the sale we decided to move on. Last Gang, actually our lawyer, his label is Last Gang and we’re a fan of the bands he works with, like Death From Above 1979 and Crystal Castles.
Does this mean Billy Talent might have more of a presence in the United States? Maybe a headlining tour?
I’d hope so, we'd be open to doing some club shows. We’ve tried and tried to get on tours and make it happen in the States, but sometimes it’s just not financially feasible to go there. Although we have been able to do some great tours with Rise Against and My Chemical Romance, they’re great for taking us out. We haven’t always had the label support to go there, but this time we do so we’re excited to try and come to the US a lot more.
Someone was wondering what the most difficult Billy Talent song to play on guitar is.
Maybe "Cure for the Enemy," I do a lot of different stuff on that one. It takes awhile to adjust your fingers, but I’ve been doing it for a long time so I’ve gotten used to it.
Will you put together a Guitar Villain package for this record?
It was a cool thing to do for III. But I honestly don’t know if we’re going to do that this time around for Dead Silence.
Someone was wondering if you have a background in classical music?
Yeah, I started with piano when I was a kid. I took Royal Conservatory until grade 4 I think and after 4 or 5 years I just wanted to play guitar in a rock band so I quit. I haven’t looked back much, but I’m really happy I did it because when you have classical training like that it really provides you the opportunity to be a songwriter in any capacity.
I’m guessing you played the piano on “Swallowed Up By the Ocean?”
Yeah, I got into it again for that song.
The first self-titled record came out in 2003. Would you consider doing a 10th anniversary show next year?
Yeah, we’ve actually talked about it. I think it would be a fun thing to do, I think we’d have to do it after this cycle of touring for Dead Silence though.
What’s next for Billy Talent? Lots of touring?
Yeah, we’ve just returned from doing lots of shows and festivals in Europe and the UK. We’re going to Australia, we’ve only been there once before so it will be nice to go back for some club shows. The next couple of months we’re doing more European dates, we'll be heading to South America for the first time and we’re trying to fit in some US shows before the end of the year. We’ll be doing a cross Canada tour in March I believe. We’re excited to play all the new songs and some old ones as well.