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Three Days Grace Drummer Talks Inspiration, Upcoming Album

Three Days Grace
Mary Ouellette, SheWillShootYou.com

Together since high school, Three Days Grace have built their longstanding success on some simple core values – being true to their music, mutual respect for both the musicianship of the Canadian band and everyone in it, and first and foremost, taking absolutely nothing for granted. In an ever-evolving music industry, these basics have kept the band grounded and the music rockin’.

Having spent the last several weeks out on the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Tour, Three Days Grace have shared the stage with a star-studded cast including Avenged Sevenfold, Seether and Sevendust. While out on the road, the band has managed to log some time writing to work on their new studio album, rumored to be titled ‘Venus.’

The band made the most out of touring so much over the last two years, absorbing the inspiration they saw all around them from the people they met along the way and the societal views they encountered both personally and through the eyes of their fans. According to drummer Neil Sanderson, they’ve written about half of the album already so with any luck, we’ll hear it in full sometime next year.

We recently spoke to Sanderson about the Uproar Tour, the new album and what originally inspired him to get behind the kit.

The ‘Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Tour’ that kicked off in August is about to wrap up; can you give us a general sense of what you have taken away from the tour?

It’s been fantastic. The energy that’s been coming back to us onstage has been amazing. It’s cool to have a traveling festival because there are a lot of familiar faces. We’ve toured with Avenged Sevenfold in the past and we’ve done a lot of touring with Seether so it’s fun to travel with them and party and hang out together. For us, when we’re traveling with other bands, it makes it a much better experience if there’s no egos involved and everyone’s cool and on an even playing field.

Playing in front of 10-20 thousand people a night is fantastic. The best feeling of all is getting onstage and seeing a sea of people. We’ve had a lot of radio success over the past 10 years so we have a lot of songs that people know all the words to so we sometimes have 10,000 people singing back the words to our songs, that creates a very positive vibe.

I saw you on this tour and you busted out a Three Days Grace infused rendition of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself.’ Where did that idea come from?

We are really big Eminem fans; I think I can speak on everyone’s behalf. We believe that he’s probably one of the best lyrical geniuses of our time. It’s social commentary and he’s on a whole different level as far as being lyrically poetic. He hits the nail on the head with social commentary that’s relevant right now. We always seemed to jam that riff in the middle of ‘Home’ so we decided to just do a verse of the song live. People lit up. We like to experiment like that with different covers, but we are most definitely Eminem fans.

There have been rumblings that you’ve been working on a new album but the details beyond that are kind of scarce, can you fill us in a bit?

We’re actually quite far down the road. We have almost half of the record written right now. We’ve never been in that position when we’re still on tour. We tend to tour, take a break and then come together to write. We’re always working on ideas and writing, we’re super collaborative and we all bring ideas to the table and then we dissect it from there. We’ve done a lot of that on the road this time around and have been writing since we started touring.

We spend a vast amount of time writing and rewriting songs until everyone is high-fiving around a song even though it’s still a work in progress. The recording part of it is not that big of a deal. We demo all of our own songs meticulously so we know exactly how we want the song to be when we get to the studio. Once we get in the studio and the songs are all there, we’ve rehearsed them all, we can record a record in under a month. Our worst fear is going into the studio and feeling that there’s still some writing to be done. It’s just added pressure; you’re on the clock when you’re in the studio so that affects the writing. Right now we just write at our leisure and when we’re ready to put it on tape we will.

So you look at the writing and the recording elements as two very separate processes.

Absolutely, our philosophy is that a great song will translate on an acoustic guitar with a couple vocals, regardless of how heavy it will be in the end. We use that as a barometer, if it’s an engaging song on an acoustic guitar than it’s really hard to screw up at that point!

Your last album ‘Life Starts Now’ had a positive light to it, and Adam attributed it to the band trying to look at the world in a different way. With the new music you’re writing, are you sensing any overwhelming theme as far as the emotion?

We still write about life experiences — things we’re going through and things we’re experiencing first hand as well as the people around us. We literally just toured for two years straight all over the U.S. and Canada and we’ve seen so many people in so many situations. We do talk a lot about how it seems like there’s a general feeling that people have of being left to fend for themselves in a lot of ways. I believe society has driven people to believe that unless you’re fending for yourself sometimes it feels like there’s not anybody out there that’s got your back in a lot of ways. I think we’ve seen that in a lot of respects — people losing their jobs, people losing their shirts, loss of opportunity and just people being in a predisposition to not even be able to get off the ground because there just isn’t the opportunity. I think those feelings will probably make their way onto the record just because we talk about it a lot as a band.

We’re very fortunate to be where we are but there’s so many people that don’t even have the jumping off point to get things going in their lives and that has to be a very frustrating thing. We’re seeing a lot of it so we’ve been writing a little bit about that.

Reflecting back on ‘Life Starts Now,’ tell us a little about the success of that album.

We never take it for granted, it’s always amazing for us to create a piece of art and have it propagate to this level, and it’s unbelievable. It’s something that gives us such a rush, to be able to share our art with the masses. At the same time we’re firm believers in sticking to our guns. We write about real things and demonstrating to people that we’re a real band, we can get up on stage, play our instruments, deliver the energy and keep coming back again. We strongly believe that that’s what people truly want, to feel that genuine realness and not the contrived stuff.

Reality TV and people trying too hard to put some image together, people are way too sensitive to have the wool pulled over their eyes by stuff like that. People are sick of the set up, contrived imagery being presented to them so we’re riding that air. The success we’ve had tells me that that is what people want.

You’ve known Adam and Brad since high school, that kind of dynamic is rare in modern music, people just don’t tend to stay together for that long, what are the advantages and disadvantages to the songwriting process when you’re writing with people that you know so well?

One of the major advantages is that we respect each others’ ears and songwriting capabilities. Unless everyone is really excited about a song idea, like if three of us think something is awesome and one of us is holding out and not feeling it, we know each other well enough that that warrants us taking it back to the drawing board. Our best barometer is for all of us to agree that something is amazing; three out of four isn’t good enough for us. We have mutual respect for all of our ideas and give each other the space that’s necessary.

I don’t necessarily think that there’s disadvantages to knowing someone too well when you’re writing because overwhelmingly sometimes one of us will know the chord one of us is going to play, before we even play it. Those experiences make us a better band. I guess if there is a disadvantage it’s just being so close that we’ve seen the best and the worst of everybody. At a certain point it’s just about giving everyone their space and picking your battles. In reality it’s a twisted, weird marriage between four guys. We’ve been in close quarters for a long time so people get cabin fever and start to get irritable towards the end, I think that’s why a lot of bands don’t last – they react to a lot of that stuff instead of realizing that it’s just part of it.

Let’s talk about how you were introduced to music; you actually started out on piano didn’t you? When and what made you decided to switch to drums?

I was really lucky to have a music teacher at my elementary school that was super passionate about teaching anybody that wanted to learn. They facilitated us with any instrument and any opportunity if you were willing to learn. He was my teacher all through school and his wife was actually my piano teacher. I started taking piano lessons when I was really young, I think I was five, and basically he would give me a ride to my piano lesson with his wife. I always waited an hour before he could wrap up after school and he would let me fiddle around in the music room.

I always went in there and looked at the drum kit. In the school band, the drummer was the coolest one at the time, I don’t know if that’s still the case today. I just started messing around with the drums and had a real passion for it. I still play piano but the drumming was really for me. I’m a pretty energetic guy and I found that I could release a lot of energy playing drums and I need that in my life or I’d probably be in jail or crazy.

In wrapping up, do you have any messages you’d like to share with the Three Days Grace fans out there?

We’re all about keeping in touch with our fans. We’re coming off the road in mid-October. We’re going to be keeping in touch with our fans and setting up live chats to talk to fans directly about our music and what we’re up to. If anybody wants to keep up with us and find out what we’re up to in the studio, just visit our Facebook page and we’ll be announcing everything there. We want fans to ask us any questions they might have about the recording process and just share the whole experience with us.

The most important thing to us is our connection with our fans. Our Facebook page is run by us so reach out! We’ll probably be back out on tour next year with a new record.

Watch the Three Days Grace ‘Break’ Video

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