Billy Talent put us straight on hangover cures and the fact that Canadian musicís not all Celine Dion and Bryan Adams...
A damp and misty Halloween night I met up with Jon Gallant, bass player for Canada's Billy Talent - he put me straight on hangover cures and that Canadian music's not all Celine Dion and Bryan Adams.
Paul: For those unfortunate individuals who don't know Billy talent can you give a little background to who you are and what you do in the band how long you've been together?
Jon: Yeah sure, I'm Jon and I play Bass for Billy Talent. Uhm we got together back in 1993 ... Ben and I were playing in one band and Ian in another. When the bands split we all sorta got together and became the Band Pez... we played as Pez for 11 years.
Paul: What was your sound like back then?
Jon: It was nicer, less aggressive... in 1999 we released a full length album and after that point it became apparent that we'd taken Pez as far as we could go with it and so Billy Talent came to be.
Paul: You've been on tour for a bit now, how do you compare the scene in the UK to say in Canada or the US?
Jon: Erm well the way I see it kids are kids no matter where they're from. In Canada and the States you seem to get treated like a product, but in the UK and Europe you seem to get treated a little better, like over there all you'll get is a 12 pack of beer between 4 of you, no food and when you've on the road all day to play some backwater venue, it can be tiresome. But yeah the scenes are kinda the same but over here and in Europe they seem to wanna get closer to the bands, you know, try and make the bands last a little longer. It's like take Iron Maiden - they've been together forever, and still if they released a new album it would be big seller ... you know like the cream rises to the top? There are new bands springing up all the time, releasing one album and disappearing. The mark of a great band is staying power.
Paul: I hear your big Buzzcocks fans - what was it like to play with them? Any comedy moments?
Jon: Oh yeah it was amazing, it took like 3 or 4 days to get comfortable, but after that we really got to know Tony, the bass player, and Pete too who liked to hang out and drink beers you know. Well on the last night they pull out my favourite song from the set and basically told me I was gonna play it with them and I was like "FUCK, no way". I was fucking scared man (laughs) so I called my wife at home and asked what she thought and she was "well you've gotta do it" so I jumped right in. We were playing the song and Tony came over with this bottle of water yeah? And I was stood you know in the rock pose with my legs spread, rocking out, cos that's what he does, so I was trying to copy him a little bit. And then he comes over with this bottle of water, jams it down the back of my pants and I'm fucking dripping you know, I'm there in front of thousands trying to look cool with my ass and pants fucking soaked and all he could do was laugh. They were amazing guys.
Paul: Your debut is on Atlantic records - how did that come about and what's it like been signed to a major? Did you have your reservations or just jump right in?
Jon: Umm well we didn't really jump right in ... we had 4 majors wanting to sign us so we had to do our research, in the end we felt that the people at Atlantic were really into what we were doing and where we wanted to take our album. You know you hear the horror stories and I think people are right to be cautious of signing to a major but we had 11 years as Pez without an offer from any indie labels and then as Billy Talent we had 4 majors wanting to sign us. Um when we eventually signed we didn't hear from them for months, they just left us too it, to record our album yeah? I mean we've had our differences but overall we are happy with Atlantic. I think some bands make the mistake of if they sign to a major, they don't have a plan of where they want to go and what they wanna sound like. So with us knowing exactly what we wanted it helped us and the label out a lot.
Paul: For someone who has never heard BT how would you describe yourselves?
Jon: Yeah this is a difficult one; I like to think of us as a rock band.
Paul: I've heard the terms "screamo" and "pop punk" banded about.
Jon: Yeah, I don't think we really fit into any set category. So I'd say we're a guitar rock band, basically.
Paul: Your new single "Try Honesty" truly rocks but what made you single that out from the others on the album?
Jon: That's probably the oldest song on the album. It was done just after we changed our name, we thought that that song represented the album the best, you know, 'cos on the album there are some straight-ahead punk rock songs and also one or two rock songs and I think that song covers the whole feeling of the album and people really dug it.
Paul: Your lyrics seem to ply from different sources. Some seem to be from personal experiences and feelings, whereas others like "Standing in the Rain" seem to take a more emphatic view of others situations. Who's the main lyric writer in the band and where do you get your inspiration?
Jon: Ben is the main lyric writer and I don't wanna put words into his mouth you know but yeah, he pulls stuff from all different sources, he's a great story teller, he loves to tell stories. But the way he writes it can be on the coach just scribbling ideas or I know sometimes it's like 4am and he can't sleep but at that time he's at his most creative.
Paul: What bands get your juices flowing either in a good way or a bad way?
Jon: I love like The Beatles and The Clash and rock like AC/DC, you know, some other stuff, Fugazi, you cant forget Fugazi, erm I'm listening to a lot of dub and reggae at the moment too. Some of the band like hip-hop and rap and I can't really listen to that, but there's nothing I really detest - I'm just not a great fan of that or much pop music.
Paul: How's the music scene in Canada? Is it full of processed pop cak or are you privileged enough not to be exposed to that?
We get a lot of the American pop music, there's not that much Canadian pop music so we get Christina and Britney all that. Where I'm from, Toronto it's really good. Where we practice there's like 50 band rooms and there always full with kids trying to do their thing. So the whole rock scene is really good.
Paul: As a side point I think that it's important for you as a Canadian to apologise for Bryan Adams and Celine Dion!
Yeah, I know, I have seen the South Park film where the Canadians like "yeah we've already apologised for Bryan Adams twice now". As for Celine Dion, you don't see much of her any more so that's good ... so yeah I apologise!
Paul: You've played with Sum 41 on a few occasions. In a fist fight who'd win, you or the 41. My money's on Sum 41, they look pretty mean.
Jon: Your money's on Sum 41? No way! They're all are pretty small guys.
Do you reckon you'd be able to wrestle 'em down?
I hope it wouldn't come to it but I think I could take 2 of them myself. We're really good friends with them. They gave us an opening slot with them around Canada, which really helped us out. And before playing with them I wasn't a big fan you know, but they're really good at what they do and they're really tight and really catchy.
Paul: What's in your rider - is at all JD and women or are you more rice bread and water?
Jon: We have a rider but it's pretty conservative; there are a couple of cases of beer, fruit's always good too. We used to have JD but once all the beer's gone and you start on the JD you know you're gonna suffer so I try steer clear of that stuff. And plus there's no Gatorade over here and you can't rid a hangover without Advil and Gatorade!
Paul: Finally ... what's the future hold for Billy Talent? Any plans for a second album yet or is it more time on the road?
Jon: Ian and Ben are always writing down ideas you know so we're writing all the time ... but for the moment we're on the road for at least another 10 months and after then who knows? But I'm sure we'll be doing another album in the not so distant future.
Paul: Thanks for taking the time to chat, keep on rocking!
Jon: No problem I enjoyed it!