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Billy Talent's Benjamin Kowalewicz on the Tragically Hip

Kiah Welsh

The national celebration of the Tragically Hip's Man Machine Poem tour, to be held in Kingston, Ont., on Saturday, Aug. 20, will be a momentous time for Canadians, and the CBC will be there to broadcast it to the whole country, commercial-free, across our television, radio and digital platforms. For details, head to

In the lead-up to the event, we asked celebrated Canadians, from Geddy Lee to Clara Hughes, to tell us how the Hip has impacted their lives, and share stories and reflections they have of the band.

Below, Benjamin Kowalewicz from the band Billy Talent describes why the Tragically Hip matters to him.

Why the Hip matters

"The Tragically Hip matter to Canada because they were pioneers. I’m assuming every other Canadian band will say that they were trailblazers for Canadian bands to be cool. I was a late bloomer, or latecomer to the Tragically Hip. I’m very happy that I did because some of their songs have really changed me. I also love the fact that it’s the same members. That's something that our band aspires to ... and we look up to that — we think that there’s chemistry and something that happens when you’re with people for so long. Without them, I don’t think there would be a lot of the bands we know today.

"I was a very troubled, angry young man. So, I listened to a lot of hip-hop and punk rock and I found [the Tragically Hip] to be a little too safe for me at the time. But, as I’ve grown as an individual and [been] in a band and [learned] to appreciate things a little different way, my palate has expanded a bit. I remember ... Up to Here and Road Apples. I bought those records but they never really connected with me as a whole piece until later on in life. For me to listen to songs like 'Bobcaygeon' when I’m driving down to the cottage, there’s no other song I’d rather listen to. When I found out about Gord’s situation, I was really upset and I’m still upset by it. It shook me in a way I didn’t think it would’ve. Having the chance to meet him and a couple other guys in the band, they were always such generous, kind, intelligent, well-spoken and carried themselves with such grace."

The Tragically Hip

Favourite album and song

"The Hip album that means the most to me is Road Apples. There’s just something about it that takes me back. When I first got the record there were certain songs that I really liked. But, now having listened to it when I’m driving they’re my driving band ... you know when you have certain bands you just drive to? — I think that record will go down in history as one of the best Canadian rock records of all time.

"My favourite song would have to ‘Nautical Disaster.’ I just think it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s funny because we have a song called 'The Navy Song' which we wrote on our second record and Gord [Downie] was talking to Ian and was saying how much he loved 'The Navy Song.' He said it’s a rite of passage for Canadian bands to write a song about the sea. I thought that was really cool. It was cool that he actually heard the song and liked it."

More to explore:

The Tragically Hip's albums, ranked

25 things you didn't know about the Tragically Hip

Is the Tragically Hip really the most Canadian band ever?