Dixon: Hi I'm Dixon Christie and we're backstage with Billy Talent, I'm here with Ian and Jon. How are you boys?
Thank you for joining us. Tell us how the tour's been going. What's it like on the road with Anti-Flag, Moneen and Rise Against?
Ian: Pretty amazing. I think we managed to assemble a really good tour with all these bands and its been good so far.
I guess you guys have been jamming out with Kenny from Moneen, another fellow Canadian band?
Jon: This is our jam room. We've been setting up one of these rooms every day and all of the bands have been jamming together, it's pretty fun.
Kids might not know that you guys have been playing together for 13 years and before Billy Talent you guys had a band called Pezz so you have really put in your dues. Tell us about the first ten years of the band.
Ian: Well when we were called Pezz it was a little different style from what we play now but it was the same 4 members and we were just kind of finding ourselves for those first 8 years. When we found that there was another Pezz in the US and they threatened to sue us that's when we decided to change the name.
Jon: It was a good time because we had kind of changed our sounds and we were just growing into a different band so it all worked out in the end.
You've also said in the last 3 years that this is like living a rock and roll dream. Can you tell us about the dream of being in Billy Talent and what that's like for you?
Jon: For me it's just being able to play shows and make records and that's my job. That's the dream.
This is your full time job now.
Ian: When it turns into your full time job it's a lot of fun. To be able to pay your bills by playing music is the coolest thing in the world.
Hopefully maybe one day with Punk TV we will be able to pay some bills. As of right now we are just going broke real fast.
Jon: Hey man as long as it's fun then the shit just happens.
In talking to people they ask me which member was Billy Talent. Most kids probably don't know that Billy Talent is the name of a character in a Bruce MacDonald film and a homage to the character Billy Talent in the movie Hardcore Logo. I know you guys tour non-stop, can you tell us about choosing that name and how relevant that movie is and how accurate a portrayal that movie is compared to your touring life.
Ian: Well we took the name from the character that is the guitar player. Funny enough in a Vancouver show 4 days ago Callum Keith Rennie showed up at the gig and so we got to meet him, we got some pictures with him.
Jon: That's my screen saver right now.
Ian: He was the actor that played Billy Talent so that was really cool meeting him. We took that name just because it was kind of a cool name at the time that we saw it and it was really ironic and kind of cocky but kind of cool at the same time.
It's (Billy Talent) a great rock star name.
Ian: The movie has a lot to do with touring when you are in a band and touring in a van and trailer across Canada in the middle of winter and we are pretty much doing the same thing but we got a bus.
Jon: We've done that though and you can relate to the experiences and to the drives and to those scenic shots of driving through the mountains and stuff like that. It's relatable for guys like us for sure.
But the self destruction part of it, you guys aren't to that stage yet with your band.
Jon: Joe Dick was pretty frustrated with the direction of our band but we're pretty happy with the direction of ours.
Well he couldn't seem to get a break and that's the big difference. I guess that movie was loosely based on Joey Shithead from DOA. Have you guys got a chance to meet him?
J: No we haven't.
Oh because there is a comment on your MySpace from DOA.
I: Really, from DOA?! What does it say?
It says "thanks for adding us". (what else!)
Jon: If you're not checking the MySpace within hours sometimes you miss the comments. I try to read them everyday or at least the first 50 comments but it's really hard to stay on top of.
That was my next question, tell us about the relationship that you have with your MySpace fans and do you still have the time to Sidekick or get on the net and comment back to your friends or respond to people on your MySpace?
Jon: On the message boards on our website that's easier for us to comment on rather than the MySpace because the MySpace happens so fast. But we write blogs and that's kind of the way that we try to communicate with the most amount of people now because it is so hard to be individual for so many. I put a blog up yesterday.
Ian: We always post message threads on our billytalent.com website and it's a little bit easier than our MySpace because it just happens so fast.
You probably get a thousand messages a day now.
Jon: Yeah and you can respond and it will be gone in 5 minutes because it has already moved down the list.
It gets difficult also to add friends. I think you can only add 20 friends at a time so if you get like 200 or 300 or 1000 people add you as their friend a day that is like 50 times that you have to click select all, click add all of those friends so it can be a real hassle.
Jon: Yeah then you get all the spam things too.
That's the latest thing in comments, you get all these people that say check out this thing or check out this thing and you got to go in and delete all the comments because you don't want all the junk mail in your comments box. But it's definitely a wonderful asset and in incredible tool to get your bands name out there.
Jon: I wish it was out when we started.
Ian: We never had internet when we first started. We started in 93 and I guess the internet became popular in the late 90s but there was no MySpace.
Jon: In school we didn't have computers.
Well I will take you boys back. I remember before there was even internet we used to have bulletin boards and I could use my Atari 512 and I could log onto the internet and use BBS and post messages and download messages.
I: I had a Commodore 64 and you could do the same thing!!!
And a picture would take like 15-20 minutes to download then it's like, oh no, that's not porn! Alright so now we know why the internet actually started. This question is for Ian actually, for guitarists out there I'm sure everybody would like to know what is your rig on stage and what do you guys use in studio and especially what kind of magic do you use in the studio to get those incredible tight, crunchy guitar tones.
Ian: What I use live I use a Fender Stratocaster Deluxe with a Hum bucker and so it just gives you the best of both worlds for the clean stuff and the heavy stuff. In the studio I use a 1952 re-issue Telecasters and Jazz Masters.
Want about amps and heads?
Ian: Custom amps, I've been using for 4 years and used for both records. They are made buy a guy named Marc Stevenson and all Stevenson amps. You can check him out online at www.stevensonamps.com.
So how much of that natural tone that we hear going in is the tone that we are hearing because that stuff is really crunched up by the time it hits radio?
Ian: It's a little different in the studio because it is a blend of maybe a bunch of different amps. So you will have a little bit of a Stevenson in there, a little bit of an old Fender and a little bit of an old Marshall. You just kind of find the right sound.
Jon: We had a pile of guitars to go through to get the proper sounds that we wanted.
It's got to be bright then gained and compressed to it comes in like a big "chuck, chunk, chunk".
Ian: Yeah I try to keep it as clean as possible. If you can role back the gain so there's no saturation.
So you're MySpace has almost 2 million listens for "Red Flag" and "Devil in a Midnight Mass". How do you feel that with all the YouTube and MySpace plays on the internet, how do you feel about people listening and do you feel that should translate into sales for you or do you guys have any comments about that?
Jon: I think it's awesome and we both do. It's an amazing way for people to check out your band. People have been listening to songs on the radio for free since the radio was invented so what's the big difference? This is just kind of a new way to do that.
Ian: It may not translate into sales and I think that's where record companies get scared when that happened but for a band it translates into fans. You make so many new fans from just for them being able to listen to the song for free. Then hopefully they come to our shows and that's the idea because we like to play live and don't really focus to heavy on record sales or anything like that.
I know that you have also had millions of views on YouTube also...
Jon: That's great though and its giving power back to the listeners and the viewers because on MTV they will just play whatever their play list is and you are forced to watch that but you can go on YouTube and find whatever you want. It's awesome.
But you are doing what you love to do and it's a big machine and everybody's got to get paid.
Jon: Well that's the difference I guess between us and some other bands. Like if you want to see the band connect with a lot of people then a major label is the best avenue but if you want to make money on CDs then you will probably make more money on an indie label.
Ian: Bands make more money on indie labels than the bands on major labels.
Jon: On CD sales anyways.
Tom Waits went to Anti and he said it was the first time he got paid.
Ian: Yeah because he was with Island for years.
And he never got a check.
Ian: He never recouped either.
Well that's the thing, Epitaph pays their bands and so does Anti.
Jon: Well you get advances but you also get money to make good recordings so you can really spend time on making you music sound perfect.
I think I would rather go the Billy Talent route.
Jon: We feel that we are in a pretty cool position because the record companies never really ever hassled us they just let us be a band and been able to do whatever we wanted to do so it's been really cool.
Ian: It's like "here's your loan, sir" and then you just make the best of it.
Ok we've got a couple of questions that we ask everybody and one of them is which of the following experiences have you had: have you seen the face of God, have you had an alien encounter or have you seen a ghost?
Jon: None of that has happened to me.
Ian: No I don't think any of that has happened to me. I think that I may sometimes when doors close and stuff in old hotels that makes me feel like there are ghosts in the hotel.
Jon: Yeah I've felt like the presence. I went to Dachau in Germany, it's the concentration camp that has been turned into a memorial and that felt like the whole thing was ghosts. It was just cold and you know something terrible had happened there and stuff like that.
That must have been an amazing trip.
Jon: It was eye opening. I'm really happy I did it. It was depressing and disturbing and all that but educational and very important to know about. Things like that you can't forget. I think everybody should have to do that trip.
Yeah because it happened.
Jon: Yeah and it was horrible. The idea of the memorial is that people can learn from it so it doesn't happen again so its better than burying the past.
Well good. Hopefully they will stop that war in Iraq and get their asses out of there. Love the troops but hate the war. Did you see the State of the Union address last night?
Jon: I didn't see it. Aaron saw it.
Ian: He's trying to commit another 92, 000 troops.
Jon: It's scary.
Interview by: Dixon Christie, PunkTV.ca