Interview with Billy Talent’s Frontman Benjamin Kowalewicz at Circus, Helsinki

The guys from Billy Talent were shocked when they when they arrived in early November to Scandinavia on their Afraid of Heights tour – first in Stockholm and then in Finland’s capital Helsinki. They looked out of the window and saw a snow-covered city, cloudy and windy. Surprisingly, untimely winter didn’t stop the band’s hardcore fans: “Have you seen those girls in front of the door, sitting on the snow for hours?”, I asked Ben before our interview. “Yeah, they’ve been sitting there since morning,” he added, also shocked.
Ben was in a really good mood, because the day after that the band were flying back home for a short break. What’s the first thing Billy Talent’s frontman does as soon as he comes home after a long tour? What are Ben’s plans for the winter holidays and his upcoming birthday celebration? Read AlteRock interview below to find out and check out the photos from the show.

November 6, 2016

– Hi Ben! How do you like the weather here in Helsinki?

– It’s like the winter time already here. It’s warmer here but outside… I don’t want to look out.

– But tonight you’re going to make this place hotter.

– Yeah, tonight it won’t be cold.

– You’ve been on the road since the end of spring. How does it feel to be touring for so long? Don’t you ever think like, “Oh god, I just want to go home”?

– I never think that. The road is not the easiest place in the world but we have such great crew guys. We all get along really well. Whenever you’re feeling low or down, there’s always someone to pick you up, you know. For the most part I love touring. As soon as you walk on the stage, all of a sudden your bad day, an argument you had at home, it all goes away. You know, the thing that really sucks about being on the road is when you’re sick.

– And I read you’ve never cancelled the show even when you were sick.

– I had to cancel one show in my life in 23 years. It’s not too bad. But sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

– What are the highlights of this tour for you?

– Man, it’s all been a highlight. I know that sounds like a cheesy answer but it’s true. We had so many great shows, going back to places we haven’t been to in a long time. It was great. We just did a UK tour, which was amazing. Such a positive reaction there. I can’t really picture one moment which really stands out because everything has just been really awesome.

– Has anything gone not according to plan during this tour?

– Yeah, it always happens. There’s always something that’s going not the way it was supposed to be. But that’s life, right? Even if you have your whole year mapped out, your week mapped out and your day mapped out, there’s always something that makes it not exactly how you thought it was going to be. It’s life, it’s problem solving. Some people just put their hands up, and other people go like, OK, and they charge into it. We’re kind of… half and half (laughs).

– The review of one of your shows in Russia says that it’s a shame most artists are not as spontaneous and confident on stage as you are. Would you say you’ve always been that confident and active on stage, or is it a natural result of many years of touring?

– Wow, that’s an interesting question. I don’t know! I’ve always enjoyed being on stage from the time I was a kid till now. Last time we played in Turku, it was a great show: everyone on stage was very relaxed, so we’re funny, we’re joking around, the crowd was really good and made it kind of easy. But the night before I was in a bad mood and I had a bit of an angry show… which also can be sometimes good.

– Sure, different kinds of energy…

– I like for people to have fun, so if you’re going to come to a Billy Talent show, we’re all trying to make sure that you guys are having a great time. Over the time we’re getting better at it and not worse… I hope. (laughs)

– Billy Talent’s 2016 tour wraps up in mid-December. How are you planning to use the Christmas break?

– I’m a Sagittarian baby so I’ll have my birthday two days after I land.

– Big plans for your birthday celebration?

– No, no, probably not. Something stupid will happen, I’m sure. But no, you know, family, friends. I’ve been away for five weeks right now, then I’ll go home for ten days and come back for another month. So I’ll spend some quality time with my friends and family.

– What’s the first thing that you jump to do as soon as you come home?

– I kiss my wife and I grab my dogs. I love my dogs and I miss them so much. And they are going to freak out when I walk in the door tomorrow. They’ll lose their mind! I just lay on the ground and they kiss me. It’s fun.

– And they never forget you, right? Which is a good thing…

– Yeah, I don’t know about that. (smiles)

– Imagine one day they’re like, “Who’s that guy?”

– Oh my god! If they didn’t recognize me, I’d be devastated. I’d quit the band. I’d be like: “That’s it! This is it! I can’t do it!” (laughs)

– If you had to choose one song of any artist that describes you best as a personality, which one would that be and why?

– “Creep” by Radiohead… No, I’m totally kidding. (laughs) That’s the worst answer of all time. One song that would describe my personality? Wow… “Indifference” by Pearl Jam.

– If you decided to start a side-project or a solo project one day, would music direction would you choose?

– Probably it would be a little bit more folk, country. Acoustic guitars…

– So you’ve been experimenting?

– I mean I’m a horrible guitar player but I do play it by myself when I’m home.

– Are there any more singles you’re planning to release from Afraid of Heights?

– Yeah, good question. I wish I could give you the answer. I don’t really know the answer. We’ve talked about a few songs. That’s why it’s great for us on this run: we’re playing new songs, and we can see which songs people are reacting to and which songs people might not be digging. We’ve narrowed it down to 2-3 songs which might potentially be chosen as the new single. But I don’t have an answer.

– Every new album is usually a new stage in the band’s life and to some extent in the life of each of its band member. If you could draw a parallel between a certain phase in your life and this album, how would you describe Afraid of Heights period?

– I think this record was really really hard to make. For numerous reasons, one of them being Aaron, our drummer, who’s been in the band since day one – before day one – he wasn’t able to be on the record because of his battle with MS. That was really really hard on us. We didn’t know what to do: we had no idea if we were going to take some time off, or if we were going to let him decide what he wants to do. All that was just really f—ing awful. Hard and weird and sad.

– Once we decided we wanted to continue, we called our friend Jordan to play on the record. Then on January 2-3 we started recording: it’s not the best time of the year in Canada. It’s cold and bleak and grey. That’s why there’s something special about the record: you can feel that there’s a lot of love, time and energy put into it. It really happens for a reason.

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Billy Talent’s Ben Kowalewicz Plays AlteRock’s THE LAST TIME

AlteRock would like to thank Warner Music for organizing this interview.

Photos by Tatiana Vinichenko