Brad Walst of Three Days Grace
It’s been almost two years since Three Days Grace released their album One-X and with the latest single Never Too Late making a huge impact with fans from coast to coast with it’s message of hope. There doesn’t seem to be any signs of slowing down for these guys.
Admittedly having gone through their fair share of issues in the past, it’s these things that keep the band forging forward stronger than ever because they didn’t get to where they are now without working hard for it. With a ton of respect for each other and even more praise for their fanbase, this band knows where it came from and reaches out to music lovers night after night with a high energy, leaving it all out there for the world to see, emotionally driven set.
Currently out on the road with Seether, Breaking Benjamin and HURT, bassist Brad Walst took some time out of their busy touring schedule to fill us in on what’s been going on since we last talked to the band. (We talked to lead singer Adam the week that One-X was released, needless to say a lot has happened between then and now!)
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | March 2008
You have been playing together with Adam and Neil since you were teenagers. What do you think it is that allows you guys to stick together for so long and to still write great relevant music after all of these years? What’s the glue?
I think the fact that we’ve been together so long, we’ve gone through some ups and downs and we’re more like family than anything. I think that if there is ever any conflict or problems they are taken care of right away. We get along as friends and I think that is a big part of it.
The band was not an overnight success and you really took some time to develop and become great songwriters before you were signed which I think in today’s music industry a lot of bands are not afforded that opportunity. Do you think that in the long run that’s been a big advantage to the band?
I think so. I think you’re right, a lot of labels in the past five years have just tried to find bands that have songs – 1 song, 2 songs, and they aren’t really spending the time developing their acts. We were lucky with the label Jive because they really believed in us and it was just a great relationship from the beginning. I think a lot of labels are starting to go back to that now and I think they are realizing that they have to sell the band before they put it out. I definitely think it contributes to our longevity for sure.
A lot of One-X is said to have been inspired by Adam feeling like he was alone and the rest of the band relating to the whole sense of being on the road with tons of people around you but still feeling alone on some level. Since the band tours so much, how do you balance that energy now? Do you handle it any differently than in the past?
I think we do. I think in the beginning we were pretty overwhelmed by the success and all the cities that we were playing in and all the fans; I think it really got to us as far as not staying healthy and partying too much. I think definitely now we’re more focused on what we want to do with this in the future and as far as writing the next album. We’re definitely more focused on being healthier in general.
Three Days Grace Live – Tsongas Arena, Lowell MA – Photo by Mary
So what is your musical background? Has bass always been your instrument of choice? What made you pick up a bass for the first time?
I grew up with music; my parents were always singing and dancing. From a young age I collected cassettes and all kinds of music. When Adam moved near me he was about fourteen years old and we played on the same baseball team and he played a little bit of guitar and we became friends and got together. He said I should get a bass for Christmas and start playing, so I did. We’ve been jamming together since then.
So are you self taught?
Oh yeah, all by ear. We don’t really read music; we just listen to it and create it.
I interviewed Adam awhile back and he talked about the whole process of writing One – X and how you all went to a cabin in the woods and a lot of it just came out on acoustic guitars in a really organic way, can you explain the experience from your perspective?
Obviously there was a lot of outside pressure from the label and management. Everyone was knocking on our door asking when the next album was going to come out and we just thought that we’d go up north to get away from that. It was pretty awesome. We all grew up around campfires; we played acoustic guitars and sang around fires in the country so it was really going back to our roots. We thought, why not just go up to Neil’s cabin and just stay there until we were done and we did. It was pretty great, a lot of the stuff really came together quicker than we thought once we got up there, it just came out and the result was One-X.
Not to many interruptions up there I bet?
No nothing! We wouldn’t work the entire time, when we wanted to play guitar we would. We’d go swimming and fishing during the day and at night play guitar. I think it was just something that we needed to do as far as being creative. Just get out and have nobody else pressure us at all.
The latest single Never Too Late delivers a pretty heavy message and the video speaks just as loud. From your own perspective, what do you want fans to take away from the song and the video?
I think that song of all of the songs is definitely the most personal for Adam. I think the message in the video is pretty heavy. I don’t know if the kids pick up on it or not but we definitely want to just tell people that it’s not too late, there is hope. I think that’s one of the songs on the album that really has an optimistic outlook on things and I think a lot of people can relate to that on any level.
I think listening to the album as a whole I think its one of those albums that fans grab on to and it really speaks to them and inspires them in their lives. So I was wondering if you’ve heard from a lot of fans while you’re out on the road and what the response has been.
Oh definitely, we always have people coming up and telling us how particular songs or the album as a whole has affected them. It’s pretty crazy when a kid comes up to us and tells us that one of our songs saved their lives. It’s sort of a “wow” moment.
Yeah how do you even respond to that?
It’s unbelievable because as kids we had rough times but it was never so rough where we were thinking of suicide so when you hear that it’s unbelievable. I think that’s the ultimate goal as an artist to relate to your fans like that. It’s pretty surreal; it kind of gives you goose bumps.
I think the bass line in Animal I Have Become is one of the catchiest I’ve heard in some time. How did that song develop – did the bass line come first because it is such a strong presence?
It was weird, we toured with Hoobastank in Germany in like 2004, and we’re always writing. That riff came up just in the back of a bus in Germany. It came up as a really soft guitar part and I thought why not make that heavy, why not take that riff and make it heavy with lots of bass, so we did. We turned it around and it went from this weird quiet jam song to this heavy rock anthem. That song is probably one of the oldest on the album.
You must love playing that song live..
Oh totally, we tend to open up with it. We’ve opened up with it for a long time and we always try to think of other songs to open up with but it’s just got the perfect sound for an opener. We tend to stick with it because it works.
The album came out in June of 06. Did you envision it having as much staying power as it’s had? It’s hard to make such an impact and this album just seems to be picking up more and more steam every day so that has to be a great sense of accomplishment on the band’s part?
Oh yeah, you don’t expect it. When you’re writing an album you just hope for the best and hope that it will be successful. I think when Animal came out we were all blown away that people still remembered us and still loved the band so it’s pretty awesome. We’re coming up on two years in April that we’ve been on the road so it’s pretty wild that we’re still playing all these places over and over and that people are still wanting us and it’s still growing. We don’t take it for granted at all, we’re very fortunate to have such great fans.
In a blog a few months ago you mentioned that the band has been writing for a new album. Can you give us any insight into that?
Our past couple of tours we’ve written a lot, we probably have about two or three or songs almost finished. Some of the stuff is the lightest stuff we’ve written and some of it is pretty heavy so it’s kind of hard to think where the next album is going to go, I think it’s just going to mesh between those two things. I’m pretty excited to get off the road and start working in the studio.
When you’re on the road how do you find a time and place to write?
A lot of the music comes from when we’re on the road. It’s kind of hard lyrically probably for anyone to just sit on a bus and be inspired by your surroundings. For us, like we talked about earlier, we like to just get out into the woods where we have a creative vibe going. We have a lot of music, but lyrically we just wait until we get home and get into a good spot to do that.
So does Adam write all of the lyrics or is everyone involved?
For the last record Adam wrote the majority of them, for the first record it was all of us. It mostly just comes down to ideas and who comes to the table with what; it’s definitely a collaborative effort all around. If somebody has ideas, like Adam had a notebook full of poems for the last album.
Your first album was inspired by growing up in a small town, your second album drew inspiration from dealing with being on the road and overcoming those obstacles, what are you drawing inspiration from for your third album?
Obviously the past couple of years have been optimistic and hopeful as far as things happening with Adam getting healthy and now we have kids. Things are definitely changing within the band; I can see this next album being a little more optimistic. We’ll still have our issues I’m sure but I can see it being more hopeful.
What would a rock band be without issues right?
It’s like therapy. If you’ve got a problem and you can sing about it all the power to you because it’s going to help you in the end.
Since you have been on tour for so long, what’s a typical day off like for you and what do you like to do?
Usually we hit a lot of malls, it seems like we always end up in a mall, I don’t know why, we don’t even buy anything we just walk around and get a Starbucks. We just chill out, we try to have a good time. Sometimes if we’re lucky we can catch a show if another band is in town, we always try to do that, but in general we just relax and get healthy.
As a band do you have any pre-show rituals?
We usually take about a half an hour before each show and kick everyone out of the room. We don’t really do much, we just hang out because it’s so busy during the day and sometimes people just spread apart and you don’t see anyone for 6-8 hours so I think it’s important just to sit together as a band for half an hour and hang out and joke around and have a beer and just get back into the mind state of going out on stage.
The band has made a large effort to give back to the kind of programs that helped Adam when he needed it as well as homes for troubled kids. How important is it to the band to give back?
It’s really important, a lot of kids that listen to our music are from that kind of demographic where they are looking for help or they’ve been through a lot. It’s very important for us to acknowledge that. Adam just did a center not too long ago so he’s still consciously trying to find places to play. Usually it’s just him; he’ll just go out with his acoustic guitar and play. Some of the places we’re fortunate to do a live set up with all of us.
The band has a lot of very interactive things for fans to get involved with and I also noticed that each member has their own MySpace profile. Do you all maintain those on your own and how important do you think it is to stay up to date with all of the new technologies available to reach out to your fans?
Yep, I’m on MySpace every day. I think we were lucky with MySpace, we jumped on it early and people really took to us being on there. As far as the technology, I think it’s very important. I think as a band today you have to utilize the internet as a tool because I think in the future it’s going to be the main source of getting music and talking to the band.
Seether, HURT and Breaking Benjamin are out on this leg of the tour with you, how much input does the band have into who you bring on tour and how has it been with those two bands?
We have quite a bit of input. Management usually comes to us with their ideas. With Breaking Benjamin we’ve done so many shows with them it was a no-brainer, we love those guys. We always listen to the cds and have a lot of input into who’s on the bill so we’re definitely a part of it.
Well it’s definitely a great night of rock, Good luck with the tour!