If nearly 20 years serving up Platinum-selling projects and touring the world isn’t a testament to the success of Three Days Grace, then perhaps the arrival of their latest album Human will drive the point home. As their fifth studio album, Human topped Billboard’s Hard Rock chart and landed at #16 in the Top 200 when it was released this month. But if that wasn’t enough, the album also spawned two chart-topping singles so far, giving the Canadian band the record for #1 singles on the Active Rock Radio Chart.
It can safely be said that Three Days Grace fans are not only listening, they are supporting – something that is eluding so many artists in today’s fickle stream-driven music business. And atop their growing album sales, the band is setting up for another world tour.
In this exclusive interview, Three Days Grace percussionist / keyboardist Neil Sanderson talks with UrbLife.com a bit about his favorite tour stops, as well as some of the key factors that have kept the band’s emotionally riveting music alive. Read on…
Can you name your favorite places you like to tour, and tell us a little about why each place is special to you?
Neil Sanderson: 1. Canada – British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario
We’re from Canada, and we don’t tour it too much because you can do it in two weeks and you’re done. But there’s something patriotic about going across your home country and it’s a rugged way of touring, because we generally do it in January when it’s minus 40 degrees out. People get cabin fever, and it makes for a better Rock concert because they don’t get out much and when it’s time for a concert so they are ready to go after being snowed in for months. [laughs]
Victoria, British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. And then Vancouver Island is really rad too. It’s got this really West Coast feel. It’s on the other side of the mountain so it doesn’t get the arctic climate that we get in a lot of other places in the country.
Montreal is bad ass too. It’s got a very European influence. Sometimes it feels like people are celebrating life a little bit more and not as worked up as some other places. It’s a little more chilled out.
And it’s always nice to play in my hometown of Peterborough, Ontario. When I was 14 and like six people would come and see us play, those six people are still coming out in the front row to watch us! [laughs]
2. Moscow, Russia
One great thing about the power of the internet is that we’d never been to Russia in the past, and we went there to Belarus in October. Having never been and there never put out a record, from the power of the internet we got there and sold 8,000 tickets in Moscow. There were like 100 fans at the airport. For some reason they knew every flight, train and hotel that we were at. [laughs]I don’t know if someone was tipping them off or whatever, but it’s crazy to see you so far from home yet your music has spread that far and affected that many people.
Touring Russia was really cool. One could say that there’s a bit of a stigma attached to Russia, maybe that’s an American influence or something, but we got over there and it was beautiful. It was peaceful and people were going about their business. There was commerce and they were working, nightlife… it was safe. It’s difficult to tour because it’s so massive and it’s a lot of flying. People bring you gifts and they brought us a lot of vodka. [laughs]Touring Russia was a highlight.
3. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Rio is one the coolest places. We were there a few days ago and we were there 10 years ago. What’s cool about that place is you look out your window and you’re inspired to not be in your hotel room.
We were actually looking over Copacabana beach and everyone’s out running or playing soccer in the sand and volleyball. They have these workout facilities and everyone’s out working out, running around. It’s such an active city, so if you sit in your hotel there’s this feeling of guilt that comes down on you. [laughs]So it’s cool to get out and experience that.
4. Buenos Aires, Argentina
We were in Buenos Aires, which we’d never been to before, and it was pretty cool. I went to the craziest cemetery I’ve ever seen! There are these massive temples and if you look inside some of them are decrepit and broken down and stuff. All the coffins are stacked on top of one another, and I had look inside one and it had fallen off the ledge and it was a body that was wrapped up from hundreds of years ago. [laughs]It was a pretty trippy place.
5. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is really cool. The streets are super clean and you will not find a cigarette butt. Smokers carry their own personal ashtrays around. It’s crazy because the streets are built on top of each other, and unless you have a tour guide its hard to find stuff to do. Up on the eighth floor there’s some really cool restaurants, and there’s no sign on the ground level but you kind of got to be in the know.
What’s cool is, we played our own show there and in between songs the crowd would freak out for ten seconds, and then dead silence. I think they were kinda showing respect for the band but for us we’re on stage and it was them clapping and the dead silence. Normally in between songs we might need to communicate with each other and stuff, but we had to whisper to each other like “Hey! Turn the guitar up.” [laughs]it was super cool.
We were just in Alaska and did some salmon fishing and stuff. [We did our] ALS Ice Bucket Challenge there, which was a pretty cool movement I thought of. The ALS thing was pretty powerful. A stunt helicopter pilot took us and landed us on a glacier. It was the most exhilarating and scariest trip of my life being in this helicopter. We went up on the glacier and the guys took the challenge on the glacier.
Talk about natural beauty – just driving down the road and there’s a family of Moose just hanging out… The stat is there’s a Black or Brown bear per square mile up there. It’s just an untouched frontier and it’s really beautiful.
7. Germany – Munich, Berlin and Hamburg
I would have to say I absolutely love Germany. The food and the rich history. Just when you start really immersing yourself the history, it’s beautiful and horrifying at the same time. You see these buildings that are still riddled with bullet holes and then you realize that was 65 years ago. 65 years was not a long time ago, but when you walk around now, people are really nice.
I’ve always considered myself a beer connoisseur, so Germany is great for that as well. I love German cuisine and I got a really good vibe there. They love the Rock music so it’s always a great spot to go to.
What are some of the factors that have helped this band sustain longevity in the business?
NS: I think one of the major things is writing about real life and not shying away from some of the dark emotions that we feel, and being able to turn those emotions into lyrics and songs. We’ve always been an extremely collaborative band, so everybody writes lyrics, melodies and music together as a band. We write about real things in our lives that we go though and the struggles and witnessing the lives of people around us and people that are close to us and losing people that are close to us. Just real life struggles that we go though, the same kind of thing that everybody goes through.
I think that’s what makes Three Days fans realize that the music is relatable, because we’re kind of laying it out on the line real life things that we’re going through and people can relate that back to their own lives. We’ve always used music as a form of therapy. If something’s on our mind that’s bugging us, someone comes in with a lyric idea or an observation of what’s going on in their life or the world or whatever, we talk about it until it naturally turn into songs.
A lot of things are reflected on the album. We try not to write lyrics. I know it sounds weird, but we try to write conversations. If I’m trying to express something to you, what words would I actually use to say it to you? Instead of trying to write some complex, poetic, clever rhyming scheme, Shakespeare type of thing. It’s like, “how would I actually articulate the words to say what I want to say to you” and keeping it like that. I think if you can get that right it’s powerful, because it feels like you’re being talked to. I think the relatability is that much more, and the listener can really hone in on what you’re saying and identify with it more.
We try not to be contrived, over-think things or try to be too shiny. People are looking for something real, now more than ever, when there’s so much fake stuff out there with reality shows and singing contests and all that stuff. People are really sensitive to what’s real and what’s not, and if we can provide something that’s real I think that’s attractive. I know as a listener and music fan, I always gravitate toward the stuff that I feel is coming from a genuine place.
Do you feel its gets your head space better by releasing depressing songs? What’s that process like?
NS: Absolutely. The process is basically just talking about life. We’re a band that hangs out outside of the band. We’re all kind of outdoorsy guys so we sit around fires and jam with acoustic guitars and things like that. We also do a lot of writing on our own and stuff. I think being able to put into words and songs, it does help to get your head right. Sometimes it’s hard to say “this is what I’m going though” and sit down share it with the world.
At first that’s kind of weird, but it kind of really awesome to be able to do that and it takes a little bit of bravery I guess. After a while you’re like “Fuck it I’m just gonna lay it out on the line and speak my mind”. I think the biggest thing is that when you write something that’s super personal to you and it’s articulated in a way that’s it a clear emotion, people can pick it up and understand it, or maybe even relate it back to their own life. People can interpret it in different ways.
The notion of a fan coming up and saying “that song got me though this because I was dealing with this”, that’s really powerful thing for an artist to hear and we love that part of this whole process. When a fan comes up and says “this song changed my life because I was going though this”, it was born out of us sitting and writing about something that was bothering us or something we’re going though. I think that’s why we do it. It helps with not feeling like you’re the only person in the world that understands this stuff.
If you listen to Human, it is kind of social commentary. It sort of talks about the beauty, hope power and also the hopelessness and horror of being a human being in modern society. Songs like “I Am Machine” talk about sometimes you don’t feel like a person. Modern machinery and technology is having such a tangible and intangible influence on what we do and on decisions we make. You don’t feel like you’re a part of the natural world, and you choose to numb yourself to the world around you.
I’m guilty of that and I think a lot of people are. You’re choosing to put the walls up around you, numb yourself, or hide behind a computer screen. This record talks a lot about that too, whereas kind of yearning to feel an emotion rather than shutting it down just to avoid pain.
What would say about this Human album that is different for the band?
NS: I think what we’ve done is we’ve gone full circle back to what we set off to do in the beginning with our first album, which is really dig deep emotionally, lay it out on the line, leave nothing on the table, and really pull from or own lives. At the same time really just talk about the vulnerability and the power and all the emotions and craziness of existing in 2015.
Who are some other percussionists you’d like to collaborate with?
NS: I’d like to just sit down with some guys and say “show me some shit.” [laughs]. Danny Carey from Tool is the wizard. I think he’s unbelievable. I’ve hung with him a little bit, he’s a super cool guy and Tool is my favorite band. All of those guys, they rule.
John Bonham is one of my favorites. My older brother was a Led Zeppelin freak. I remember being ten-years-old, and whenever he played them it was something about the drums that I couldn’t put my finger on but was always drawn to it. John Bonham was an anomaly. His sound and vibe and flow and feel and stuff like that. Both those guys are super awesome.
Also Ray Luzier. I got to know Ray years ago. He had opened for us, not Korn which he’s in now, but he was in band called Army of Anyone with the DeLeo brothers from Stone Temple Pilots and Richard Patrick from Filter. I was just blown away by Ray’s drumming, and then of course he got the gig in Korn and it’s history. But he’s amazing, and a cool guy.
What would you like for people to know most about you a man and artist, and about the band at this point of your career?
NS: At the heart of what we love to do outside of touring and stuff, we’re major outdoor Canadian, borderline lumberjack type people. We all live out in the woods and stuff. When we’re not touring it’s all about literally cutting trees, four wheeling, boating, being on the water, fishing, hunting, campfires, chilling out, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and that’s pretty much it. [laughs]It’s music and outdoors, and we’re all kind of like that. We’re all from this small town and we still have field parties! [laughs]
Find out more about Three Days Grace at ThreeDaysGrace.com, and follow the band on Twitter @ThreeDaysGrace, Instagram @ThreeDaysGraceOfficial and Facebook.com/ThreeDaysGrace
Watch the Human album trailer and get the album on iTunes here.