When we were at Jera On Air Festival we had the privilege of sitting down with Aaron Solowoniuk from headline band Billy Talent to chat about what it’s like for him being back on the road, playing different types of shows and, of course, who he would cast in a Hollywood movie about Billy Talent.
Hello Aaron! We’re here at Jera On Air Festival. Have you had a chance to look around yet?
Not yet. I’m looking forward to seeing some friends. I’m going for a walk around after we’ve done this. I’m looking forward to it.
Jera is a fairly small festival. Billy Talent are capable of pulling this sort of crowd on your own in this part of the world. Why do you think it’s important to get out there and play these smaller festivals?
I guess so. We called this tour Open Air & Intimate, and we’ve filled this whole summer up with giant festivals and small clubs. This reminds me of Warped Tour, we’ve done that a lot back in the day. It’s just a great punk rock festival, and the whole punk rock community is like one big family so this was a chance to come and reconnect with friends we haven’t seen in a long time.
Great. So are you back out on the road with Billy Talent full time now?
Part time, full time. I’m back playing a couple of songs every day. We did ten shows in twenty days and I played two songs at one, four songs at another, zero at another. The guys have been so cool letting me call the shots and do whatever I think I can do. It’s been great to just have a good time playing drums again.
How’re you finding being on tour without the commitment to that hour or ninety minutes onstage every night?
It’s very relieving. It’s very stressful and hard and energy consuming to be able to play ninety minutes of rock music as a drummer. I got to do that full time, professionally for twelve years and it was the best, but I think I pushed myself a little bit too hard in the last year of touring when we were getting ready to make the Afraid of Heights record. I think I just needed to step back and focus on both my mental and physical health and get that in check, and now I’m able to be a part of it again which is cool.
Awesome. You’ve set up the Billy Talent Charity Trust. How important do you think it is for bands such as yourselves that have a big platform, to use it for something positive?
It’s so important. It’s something that’s been ingrained in us since the very beginning. The first show we ever played together in high school was to benefit our local food bank. That, at a very early age, gave us the realisation that performing and being in a band gives you the chance to give something back, and it’s easy. It’s important. There’s so many people in the world in need and so many people doing great things to help them. Now that the band is bigger and I’ve stepped back from professional drumming I’m spearheading the charity aspect of it. The first project we did was the plaque project which was cool. A lot of people got this cool piece of art and we raised a lot of money for the MS Society in Canada. It’s a simple thing to do and I think every band should do it. I think a lot of them do, too.
Not just charity, but there’s also using your voice for good in other ways. I walked past a stage earlier today and heard a band say “We as a band don’t support the idea of removing children from their families and putting them in cages!” – a statement which even two weeks ago would have sounded absurd…
Can you believe it? It’s insane. It’s unbelievable. We have our issues with the leader of the country south of our border. It’s a really fucked up time right now, and the most fucked up thing is that there are so many people who support him. We were discussing it last night, we can’t believe that there are so many people that support him and what he stands for.
Yeah, it’s crazy. Anyway, moving on from that, you’ve just done a couple of sold out nights in Luxembourg. You must have played to the entire population there, right?
It was 1200 capacity for two nights. It was so hot but it was one of the best crowds we’ve ever played to. We played infront of 65,000 people in Germany a couple of weeks ago, which was incredible, and then we roll into this small club in Luxembourg and the crowd just blew us away. They had so much energy, you can’t get that same vibe infront of a sea of people. It’s a completely different thing. Being in the type of band we’re in, that’s our thing to be able to play small sweaty clubs where there’s people losing their minds. Having a thousand people in a room where they all love the same band and they’re all singing along, it’s so special.
Do you have to prepare differently for those types of show? Presumably there’s a huge difference in production when you’re playing to a thousand compared to sixty five thousand…
That’s it. You have to look at the stage when you get there and just take out of the truck what will fit. Usually it’s just a portion of the backdrop, because that’s so big. Some of the shows we’ve been able to use half of the production, but it’s beautiful.
You’ve got some more club shows and a couple of big festivals at the end of summer, including Leeds & Reading. What’s next after that?
We have a few more shows in Canada, and then after that we’re just going to disappear and start creating new music again. Ian has shown us a few ideas, but nothing has really been hashed out yet. We’re really busy right now, so we’re focusing on what we have to do and then we’ll get back into the studio in the fall.
Exciting stuff. Just something silly before we finish then – Hollywood calls, they’re making Billy Talent: The Movie and you’re in charge of casting. Who stars as the band?
Oh my God! Matt Damon would be Jon. Jared Leto would be me. I’d like Slash to be Ian. The Rock for Jordan. Who could be Ben? I want it to be funny… Jennifer Lawrence!
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just go to billytalentcharitytrust.com and check out all the amazing people that we’ve aligned ourselves with!