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Billy Talent Biography

Billy Talent is a Juno award-winning Canadian band formed in 1993 in Mississauga, Ontario. The band existed for almost a decade before mainstream success. The members met and played in high school under the name Pezz and remained underground in Toronto's indie music scene until 2001. The band renamed itself Billy Talent after running into legal trouble with the old name.

The band originated in Meadowvale and Streetsville, two neighbouring districts in Mississauga. In 1993, Ben Kowalewicz and Jon Gallant were part of a band called To Each His Own, where Gallant played bass, and Kowalewicz was on drums. Kowalewicz moved to vocals, and Aaron Solowoniuk was recruited in his place. Then backstage at the talent show of their high school, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Secondary, they met Ian D'sa who played with a different band by the name of Dragonflower. The two bands started playing local pool halls and bars together. Eventually Kowalewicz asked D'Sa about starting a new band with him, Gallant, and Solowoniuk. He wanted to make a band that focused more on creativity, and D'Sa agreed. This merger would bring on the name "The Other One" for a short time, and eventually "Pezz".

Pezz began writing, performing songs, and gaining attention and credibility at first locally, and soon in Toronto's broader indie music scene. Their first recording was a cheap 4-track demo. It was recorded in Ian D'Sa's basement in July 1994, and was named Demoluca, after a friend of the band named Jason Deluca had stopped by the house, banging on a basement window while the band was recording. Soon after, in January 1995, they all put in money to record another demo of better quality with engineer/producer Dave Tedesco at the "Signal to Noise" studio which they called Dudebox. Originally, two tracks from Demoluca and four newly recorded tracks were compiled onto it, but a year later the band recorded four more tunes live in the studio and re-released it. After these releases and their continued performances in the immediate area, Pezz was gaining a following in Mississauga and it continued to spread.

D'Sa studied classical animation at Sheridan College, and even worked on Angela Anaconda as an animator. Gallant almost finished a business degree. Kowalewicz was in between jobs, one which included working at 102.1 the edge. Solowoniuk worked at Chrysler Canada. But during this, each member found the time and finances to max-out their credit cards, and record their first full-length album in 1999. They laid down twelve tracks at a studio called "Great Big Music", collaborating with Juno-nominated music producer Brad Nelson. Kowalewicz started singing in melody with D'Sa. The music began to transform from a "raw rap-rock" songs into "catchy and angst-ridden pop punk anthems". With that, Watoosh! was born and independently released. While popular within Toronto's indie scene, it did not reach large mainstream sales levels.

Watoosh! saw the band mixing multiple genres and making diverse songs on the same album, stretching from hip hop to indie and ska. However, this evolved into a more collected sound that was a mix of fewer genres on their second album, Billy Talent. The result of this has been described by the band as a their defining sound and that it was something that appeared to them after experimenting with different styles. Although they intended not to draw any inspiration from other bands, their new sound had similarities to the music of Refused, Rage Against the Machine, Jane's Addiction and Fugazi, bands that they have said they have great respect for. The similarities were especially related to a lighter post-hardcore genre and the music of Refused and At the Drive-In, but also the anger and hard rock from Rage Against the Machine.

Although there are faint similarities to their music, their mix and innovation of genres have made them unique and pioneering in the modern music scene. There are raw and frequent backup vocals heavily collaborated by main vocals, quick changes between loud and quiet, tempo changes and Kowalewicz's characteristic vocals which are the key elements that emphasize that assertion. In addition to this, they are known for their significant usage of the dropped D tuning (DADGBe) on almost every song on Billy Talent I, II, and III (the exceptions being "Tears Into Wine" and "White Sparrows" tuned in C# G# C# F# A# D#).

On Billy Talent II, the band altered their sound yet again, based on more mid-tempo and emotional compositions; a bit more collected than their previous work. It was also based on far less angst and aggression behind the production, something that was known factors behind their debut. While this change was apparent on many of the songs, they kept the hints of hard rock, but with less screaming and more singing by Ben. "This Suffering" in particular shows the alteration because of its reminiscence of their previous album and difference from the other songs on the album.

As they grew on to be a mainstream rock band in several countries, often wore black clothes and had emotional lyrics in their songs, they've been said to be a part of the emo music scene, but this has never been convincingly reasoned for. The band has commented on this issue, stating that this characterization is ridiculous and that they have no connection whatsoever to the typical emo scene.


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