Compared to a typical January snow pack, this year’s is light, just under an inch. But Aaron Solowoniuk is a neat freak: The snow has to go. He grabs a shovel and meticulously begins cleaning in front of his band’s studio door. He’s a pale guy in mid-calf winter boots, jeans dangling around his thighs; he looks like everybody else, is out shoveling snow (albeit perhaps a bit more frequently) like everybody else. But whereas his attire and routine parallel his neighbors’, Aaron himself is markedly different: He is the drummer for Billy Talent, one of the most famous punk rock bands in the world. The band recently released a best-of album and has emerged with a heightened self-confidence.
Says bass guitarist Jon Gallant, “I don’t think that we are still influenced by other bands. Inspired, maybe. But we are doing our own stuff.”
The guys from the Great Lake area renamed themselves Billy Talent after a character in Michael Turner’s punk novel “Hard Core Logo”.The friends perform – and stick – together: 22 years and counting. They’ve come a long way, Aaron, Jon, vocalist Ben Kowalewicz, and guitarist Ian D’Sa; they’re far from their start as a school band covering songs by their idols Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and, most often, Rage Against the Machine. “The sound of our generation”, Ian says. “These forces never let you go.”
The four young men officially became a band in 1993. They played the clubs of Toronto’s indie scene and called themselves Pezz until that created problems due to a US band claiming the same name. So the guys from the Great Lake area renamed themselves Billy Talent after a character in Michael Turner’s punk novel “Hard Core Logo”. (To this day, people wrongly think front man Ben’s name is Billy Talent.) The friends perform – and stick – together: 22 years and counting. And as their friendship as individuals has grown, it allows the band to continue to evolve musically and to allow their sound to grow alongside.
The band was maturing. Time to create a band milestone?
And as the band has matured, it seemed to be the right time to create a band milestone, which they chiseled at their studio in a quiet area of Toronto. At this former film props warehouse, on these pine floors and fake Persian rugs, the friends get together several times a week, hang out, sip chicken soup and coffee from paper cups from the deli next door, talk, practice (individually as well as collectively), try out new tunes. The studio has become both refuge and sanctuary: Here they freely discuss what is going on in the world, Ian and Ben write lyrics for new songs, and they together plan Billy Talent’s future.