I got the chance to speak with the lead singer of Billy Talent, Ben. In case you have been living with your head in a hole, Billy Talent is the next big thing coming out of Canada. Avril Lavigne was cute trying to cover James Hetfield’s vocals on the MTV Metallica Icon show, but I am thinking that Ben would have been the Canadian that would have nailed it. Read on:
MI-What is your birth date?
Ben-I’ll never tell. (What is your birth sign?) I am a Sagittarius.
MI-So tell me how the band got together.
Ben-Growing up we were all friends. There were a lot of bands for some reason in this small community that we were in performing. Myself and John and Aaron were in a band together-and then we met this gentleman on guitar that was just amazing, his name is Ian D’sa. That was at a high school talent show, and the four of us were in separate bands. We met and have never looked back.
MI-What is the average day like in the life of Ben?
Ben-Pretty much exactly the same as every other person you know.
This has all been really weird for us. We have been together for a long time. We are a very hands on kind of band. Recording an album and everything was pretty much like a big head fuck in the beginning. It was hard to get a grasp of, but I think we have finally done that. The album is done. The artwork is done. There is nothing else we can do except what we do the best and that is play live. That is what we are really excited for-is to get out on the road. So this week I have been trying to get together and buy underwear and socks so I can go on the road for a long time. (How long are you going to be on the road?) Probably a total of eighteen months. (Wow, you are going to need a lot of socks and underwear!)
MI-How do your parents feel about your career?
Ben-That’s an interesting question you know. I have been blessed and fortunate with parents that have always supported me. They have never really understood the music. They are kind of-well, yeah that’s nice. They are trying really hard, but I know they don’t really dig the music, but they have always supported me. They have always been supportive of anything that I have ever done in my life, so I have been really lucky.
MI-Have you ever inhaled?
Ben-Yes. (As Martha Stewart would say, That’s a good thing.)
MI-Describe your music.
Ben-It is really hard to explain. We are just such an eclectic group of individuals. I give points of reference for people. Those points of reference are At The Drive In, The Beatles, to The Police, you know. We have a lot of essences of a lot of different kinds of music and we sort of mix it all together to have our own little sound.
MI-If a nuclear bomb were to wipe out everybody but you and three people, who would those three people be and why?
Ben-WOW. Okay. It’s a what kind of bomb? (A nuclear bomb.) That’s an interesting question. That’s a new question. I would have to say I think I, probably-my band mates. (Side note-that’s a pretty good answer Ben, I know this was a tough one. My answer changes to this about every half hour. Depending on the time of day-it could easily be Tom Petty, Alice Cooper, and Glen Danzig.)
MI-Do you believe in psychics why or why not?
MI-Tell me about your musical history.
Ben-I actually started playing drums when I was about fourteen or fifteen years old. A lot of my friends growing up were musicians. I have always been around musicians and artists. I actually got kicked out of a band because I was a bad drummer. I became a singer after that doing back ups for this guy. I play guitar a lot in this band.
MI-If you could play anywhere place in the world where it would be and why?
Ben-I think to play in Russia. You never hear about anybody playing in Russia.
MI-What would you say was your worst job and why?
Ben-Draining piss and shit out of airplanes. It was the worst thing I have ever had to do in my whole life. (Sounds like a wonderful job! I am so fucking glad you can sing.)
MI-What made you decide to become a musician?
Ben-It is a part of me and I can’t deny it. My mom has pictures of me singing into the back of vacuums and tennis rackets. It has always been something that I have wanted to do. It has been the only constant in my life. For all of us-we have all gone through a lot of shit together. I am not playing the little violin. We have bled together and been in the trenches for a long time.
Ben-The greatest thing that ever happened to me was probably being born. Musically speaking, I think my greatest achievement on a personal level was opening up for David Bowie. It was pretty cool.
MI-Who is your hero and why?
Ben-I guess my-uhm-dumb kids from Canada. I can’t think of anybody off the top of my head and I think that’s terrible.
MI-What comic book character would you want to be?
Ben-It is a tough call. I would have to go with Spiderman.
MI-If you could open for anyone, who would it be and why?
Ben-At this point right now, Jane’s Addiction is one of my ultimate favorite bands of all time. They just finished recording a new album and they are bringing the Lollapalooza Tour back on. A dream of mine would be to open for Jane.
MI-What are your goals as a musician?
Ben-Honestly and truthfully, my goals are to play music, keep on writing, and have enough money to eat. Everything else on top of that is gravy.
MI-Why did you change the name of the band from Pezz to Billy Talent?
Ben-Because there is a band from Memphis that had the same name as us. Around that time we were planning on coming through the States and doing some touring. We got notified by these guys that-hey we have had the name here for a long time. They seemed like nice guys and we decided hey-you know what it is not really worth it to us. We weren’t really sold on the name. There is a really good movie called Hard Core Logo about a fictional band that gets together and does a tour. The guitar player in this make believe band was called Billy Talent. I loved the movie and this guy in the movie. So, we became Billy Talent.
MI-What about the world pisses you off the most and why? What would you do to change it?
Ben-I think that being complacent is the thing that drives me the most crazy. It just seems like we are all in neutral.- I think that a really big social unrest is happening right now and I think it is going to be a really interesting next couple of years. I think a lot of really great things could happen. I think we have all been kicked in the nuts a little bit over the past from 9-11 onward and have kind of been woken up. I think the next few years are going to be really great. I think we are in for good times. We need it. We all deserve it.
MI-If a genie came to you and granted three wishes, what would they be?
Ben-I would say pass them on to the next person, because I am the happiest dude in the world right now. (Ben, if it ever really happens, you have my number-right?)
MI-If you were not a musician, what do you think you would be doing with your life?
Ben-Not draining piss and shit out of airplanes. I don’t know what I do want to do, but I definitely know what I don’t want to do.
MI-Tell me about the new album coming out.
Ben-I can honestly tell you that I believe in fate, and I believe in meeting
people, and I believe in everything happening for a reason.
I am so proud of this album. The performances, the songs- it is the best that we can do. If people like it, that that’s okay, and if they don’t get it-well than that’s okay too. I am just really proud of it.
MI-Who would your compare yourself to vocally and why?
Ben-I get a lot of Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols lately. Then from Jane’s Addiction, to Cedric from Upward Rising. I think those would be the three that people would seem to know.
MI-What inspires your lyrics?
Ben-I think a lot of times when I am writing I look at different people situations, stories, and insights. I think a lot of times music can be a form of story telling. I think that is what is lacking a lot of the time now in music. I really like to tell a story and go from other people’s perspectives and points of view.
MI-Who do you think the greatest rock star of all time is and why?
Ben-One person that I have been paying a lot of attention to and looking at is Mick Jagger. That dude was a fucking cool ass cat back in the day. No one could touch him and what he did live. I think he is probably the ultimate rock star. He is just amazing. The guy is like seventy-five years old and he is still giving it every night.
MI-Do you believe in reincarnation? If so, who would you like to have been?
Ben-Myself. I am so happy with myself I couldn’t imagine being anyone else.
MI-Do you have anything you want to say about SARS in Canada?
Ben-Don’t believe the hype. I think it is absolutely hilarious. It is absolutely not a big deal.
MI-If you could have lunch with anybody, who would it be?
Ben-I would kind of like to have lunch with John Lennon.
MI-Compare yourself to Avril Lavigne.
Ben-That’s actually really funny. I have this camouflage army shirt that I got at a flea market like four years ago, and that’s the only thing I wear. She wears a camouflage army shirt.
MI-Where do you see the band in five years? Ten years?
Ben-All with severe heroin addiction in a big downward spiral (laughing). –I see us hopefully doing what we love and writing songs.
MI-What is your favorite quote of all time?
Ben-Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.
MI-Do you have a message for your present and future fans? If so, what is it?
Ben-Thanks. Stay close to rock and roll so it stays close to you.
Billy Talent will be playing at the Cotton Club on Wednesday July the 16th with The Buzzcocks. We are going to be there. You should be there too.
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