Ian D'Sa of Billy Talent Shares His Love of 80's Spectacle and 90's Guitar Grit

Ian D'Sa of Billy Talent Shares His Love of 80's Spectacle and 90's Guitar Grit

- By Ramon Gonzales

The guitarist and producer reveals how Maiden and Lizzy reeled him in, but Soundgarden and Alice In Chains really hooked him on Defender of the Riff with host Daniel DeKay.

Photo by Matthias Heschl 

Fellow countrymen unite on this installment of the Knotfest original series Defender of the Riff with host Daniel Dekay. Sitting opposite Dekay with guitar at the ready, Ian D'Sa of Billy Talent guested to jam a few songs and discuss his incredible backstory in becoming such an accomplished, respected practitioner of the art. 

Among the first topics discussed, the guys dive into D'sa's choice of tuning and how he has essentially made a career in drop D. He would go onto explain that iut was no real strategy, but rather necessity that prompted him to settle in to that sound.

While D'Sa was just starting out in bands pre-Billy Talent, he was discovering his role as a lead and while exploring other music at the time, citing bands like The Hardship Post from Halifax, Soundgaerden and Rage Against the Machine, all of those bands had the same tuning. Thus, D'Sa seemed to find something that stuck. 



As for what first compelled D'Sa to pick up the guitar, he quickly rattled of some of the fundamentals like Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Zeppelin and even Fleetwood Mac. His love for guitar rock in the 80's really proved formative but explained that if he had to pinpoint one moment in particular, discovering Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same" was really his vocational awakening. 

As for some of his heroes, D'Sa was also quick to heave praise on Jimmy Page as an inspiration as well as Andy Summers - best known for his work with The Police. Calling both his favorite, D'Sa's also spoke about how the late 80's were really eye-opening as he gravitated towards more of the heavy. Finding bands like Metallica with '...And Justice for All', Slayer with 'Reign in Blood' and Thin Lizzy's 'Jailbreak' - D'Sa was consumed. 

For D'Sa, music was core to his family upbringing. His father was a classically trained violinist and his mother, equally accomplished as a piano player. In fact, D'Sa first started playing piano in a conservatory - that is until he hot his first guitar in grade 4 and the game change completely. He explained that his early introduction to music and an early academic approach really allowed him to have a great base in exploring on his own later. 

As for some of rhe music that really helped mold his style and approach as a contemporary musician, D'Sa enthusiastically played "Outshined" by Soundgarden and shared that it was one of the first riffs he learned that really made a lasting impact. He explained how it's inherent heft, despite it not being metal was what resonated most with him, even years later. 

As for D'Sa chops as a producer, he spoke about how working with Gavin Brown for Billy Talen't's first couple of records really opened his eyes to the process of the studio. He explained how that kind of work appealed to him and shared that it was something he was already doing even in the earliest days of the band - working on home recordings on a 4-track with Radio Shack mics. D'Sa conveyed his love for the entire process in seeing a record through from concept to execution. 

The full episode of Defender of the Riff featuring Ian D'Sa can be found - HERE





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