Billy Talent drummer discusses recovery from open-heart surgery

Billy talent

Billy talent

At this year's Download festival we sat down with Billy Talent drummer Aaron Solowoniuk and chatted about his recovery from open-heart surgery and the return of the Canadian band.

Pick up the Summer issue of Rhythm and you'll find our Welcome Back interview with Aaron, but here's a few extra snippets for you.

When did you realise that you needed surgery?

"I recorded drums [for Billy Talent's new album] in November and December in Vancouver. The day I got home from recording drums I had a second opinion about my heart because I still didn't really know if I needed the surgery or not. I explained to them what I do and they told me I needed to get it done as fast as I could. They fitted me in on 2 February, the surgery took an hour and a half, I was in hospital for seven days and at home for five weeks. It's crazy."

It's a few months on now, how are you shaping up?

"I'm pumped. I'm running on treadmills, I'm not napping anymore. When I get to the halfway point of the set, before I'd be worn out, but now I'm energised and can just keep going. If you get the chance, I can't see how anyone would blow the opportunity to become healthier. I've changed my whole routine. I'm conscious about eating healthy food. I just want to play drums and be a good drummer, and I think I'm going to be able to do that. I'm always pumped to play drums."

There's been a few lifestyle changes, then?

"I quit drinking and I quit drinking coffee. My routine of what you put in your body really does affect how you feel. Everyone tells you that but until you have open-heart surgery and go through all of that, it's weird you realise that something as simple as flossing your teeth every day makes a difference. It's crazy. I'm a little bit of a health nut now."

Did you have to ease yourself back into drumming? Were you scared of pushing yourself?

"I remember the first day that I did push it. I'd been given a clean bill of health and I played all of the Billy Talent I record and I played it as hard as I could. I got to the sixth or seventh song and I text the guys telling them that I played the record and felt awesome."

Your new album, Dead Silence, is released in September. Are there any tracks on their that you're proudest of?

"Viking Death March is a drum heavy song. There's lots of tom fills. My drumming is usually just beat-orientated. AC/DC is one of my biggest influences. This whole album I'm moving around the kit a lot more. I can't wait to do the next album because I'll have a healthy heart and I'll be able to do a lot more. You're always learning and now that I can play harder for longer I'm going to really pick it up for album five, but that's not for a while yet! I've been given a great opportunity and it's sad when people squander opportunities. Just for me to be able to play drums is great and the fact that I think I can play them even better is really cool."

Did you change your set-up at all on this record?

"The only thing I switched was I used to play a 24"18" and I went to a 22"x20" kick. I've found you get the same sound, or maybe even a little more bass out of it. I use Dunnett snares and all Sabian cymbals and a DW9000 pedal. I like just a small set up, a 12", 16" and a snare."

Rich Chamberlain

Rich is a teacher, one time Rhythm staff writer and experienced freelance journalist who has interviewed countless revered musicians, engineers, producers and stars for the our world-leading music making portfolio, including such titles as Rhythm, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, and MusicRadar. His victims include such luminaries as Ice T, Mark Guilani and Jamie Oliver (the drumming one).