FRR: This has got to be one of the most exciting times for Three Days Grace since the new album Human is out right now- it’s out today!
Neil Sanderson: Yea absolutely man. It’s a very exciting time for us. We worked very hard on this one and it’s basically two years of our lives put onto a record. We took a different approach with this album, we were touring and writing the album at the same time and then coming home and recording it a little bit at a time, so we were really able to take our time and take a step back from it, and really take the time to make it the way we want it.
FRR: I feel like you really took a different approach. The lead single “Painkiller” first off, the first two singles, “I Am Machine” and “Painkiller” already hit number one before the album even came out, but you released Painkiller about a year before the actual album releases. Was that one of those things where the song was written so early before everything else was that you just wanted to release it, or was that something you planned out really well?
Neil Sanderson: It wasn’t really planned but when Matt joined the band in December 2012 everything was moving kind of quickly and things happened really suddenly with us. We had a headliner with Shinedown already booked 5 weeks out, so Matt came in and his first show with us was in front of 8000 people with Shinedown. As soon as we started jamming with him, we’ve grown up with Matt, he’s our bass players younger brother obviously.
As soon as we played that first show we knew it was an obvious natural fit. We’re basically on the road with Shinedown and while we were on the bus we wrote “Painkiller”. We loved the direction of the band, we loved the direction of the sound, so we just decided to go and record the song and the song turned out great in the studio and we’re like, “hey, why don’t we put this on the radio, we’re gonna be touring anyways, let’s give people a glimpse of what’s to come.” So we just kind of put it out and we were out on the road at the same time.
FRR: You mentioned Matt grew up with you guys, you’ve known him obviously forever. On top of that, you’ve toured for the last 2 years straight with matt. How much did that contribute to how well this album turned out? It flows so well, the song-writing is honestly one of the most lyrically written you’ve ever done. How much did that contribute to it?
Neil Sanderson: We’re a really collaborative band. We all write lyrics, music, melody together, we always have. In fact, a lot of people don’t know but Matt has actually collaborated in the past. He co-wrote on our first album, and he co-wrote on Transit of Venus, and obviously he’s all over this new one. I’ve collaborated with him and his band as well over the years.
We’ve always written in the past together. Our lyrics are always written about us going through something, some kind of struggle or difficult in our lives and persevering through it and talking about the steps to move to a better place. Matt grew up with us, so as family he went through the stuff we did. So for him to sing the older stuff too it’s kind of natural, because those are all real life experiences that we all went through as a band and a family. When we go through struggles or addiction or loss or anything like that, that always ends up on the record, so he’s always been at arms length.
FRR: I feel like Human is really reminiscent of the self-titled record, your first record. I know that you brought back the producer for that record, so how much did that play a role into how this record played out and how much it will remind people of that record?
Neil Sanderson: Definitely bringing in Gavin Brown was a huge part of it. He in the beginning really brought out something in us in terms of helping us channel some of our deep, real emotions that you’re really feeling and finding a way to turn those into songs. That was a powerful thing back in the day and we’ve always done that but he has a way of bringing that out of us in a certain way where the lyrics are so blunt and straight up that people can relate to it, because we’re writing about real things that we’re going through, but we’re regular people that are going through the same things as everyone else., so there’s a deep connection there.
One thing he’s always helped us do is not write lyrics, but instead write conversations. What would you actually say to somebody? If you’re trying to this emotion or just trying to get this off your chest, what words would you actually use to say it to somebody? Instead of writing some really clever, poetic, rhyming Bill Shakespeare type thing, how would you actually say it to somebody? We always try to write songs that are just sort of direct on how you would actually communicate to a person, and I think Three Days Grace fans find a connection in that.
FRR: Awesome. Can you tell me a little bit about this last song that released, which is also the opener for the album, “Human Race.” For me it’s a really interesting song to start this album; it’s got its heavy parts and it’s got its slow parts, it goes really up and down. It’s really interesting.
Neil Sanderson: That’s actually one of my favorite songs on the album because it’s against the grain a little bit which we don’t shy away from. That song came about, we were on tour we were on the bus, it was super late and we were drinking wine in the front lounge of the bus, we hadn’t gone to bed yet and we were rolling through beautiful Midwest countryside and just talking about life and hanging out, looking out the window as day broke.
And then all of a sudden we went from that straight into a downtown core- we had a show that day so the bus rolled in to gridlocked rush hour morning traffic and we’re looking at the window just looking at people honking at each other, freaking out, giving each other the finger, stuck in traffic, running red lights, just being shitty to each other. And we were just like “Man, where’s everybody going? And why is everybody in this race? Why do people need to be in this mad dash to only look after themselves.” Sometimes I get sick of running in this race and that’s how that song was born at like 7:30 in the morning on like a Tuesday!
FRR: It’s just such an interesting way to kick the album off, it really took me off guard at first but it fit so well at the same time, it’s just so different.
Neil Sanderson: Yea, the album as a whole just talks about the beauty and horror of everyday human life and also there’s sort of the juxtaposition throughout the record of not feeling human, and feeling more like a machine and more like you’re controlled by technology and like you really don’t have a grasp on what it is to be natural and in the natural world when there’s all this machinery and technology around us provoking us and confronting us and manipulating our decision making, so the record as a whole kind of runs through that whole idea.
FRR: It’s such a dynamic album, whether it’s some of the more beautiful and emotional songs “Tell Me Why” or “Fallen Angel,” I think I’ve listened to the song 15 times already, it’s ridiculous! And then songs like “Car Crash” or “So What”- it’s literally a listening journey that you take everybody through when they’re listening to it, and whether it’s stuff that you guys have gone through or songs written from other people’s perspective, you really put the listener in your shoes.
Neil Sanderson: That’s really cool to hear, man, because we left nothing on the table for this one and really dove deep into our own minds and we’ve continued to put into words what we’re thinking and feeling and that’s always reflected on a Three Days Grace record. If you have an idea or if there’s something about life that’s bothering you, we just as a band sit down and talk about it.
“Fallen Angel” is one of the most personal songs that I’ve ever been a part of. We don’t take this for granted to hear from the listener what it means to them, or if there’s a song that they can relate back to their life, that’s a very powerful thing. That’s one of the beautiful things about music is that you can interpret it in your own way, and to see it surface on this level and get to hear from fans what it means to them is truly a powerful thing and that’s one of the major reasons why we’re doing what we’re doing
FRR: And I think that’s what’s helped you guys go as long as you have especially over the last 2 years with everything that’s happened, everybody knows about everything that’s happened. To know that the fans can relate that well has really made you such a strong entity in the rock world for the last however long it’s been.
Neil Sanderson: There’s a lot of contrived stuff out there, just look at reality television and singing shows and stuff like that. I think a lot of people are looking for something real now more than ever and we’ve always stayed true to ourselves that we’re a real band and live we just get up there and there’s not a lot of bells and whistles and we strive to demonstrate that it comes from a real place lyrically, emotionally, and musically.
We’d rather be a little rough around the edges sometimes or a little brash than try to make something super polished and focus too much energy on the “perfection” or image or whatever, we’d rather just make something real because people are sensitive to that, especially in 2015, there’s so much stuff out there that’s just faking it in all of entertainment and all of life in general.
FRR: One thing I wanted to talk to you about, you guys played Lollapalooza in Brazil?
Neil Sanderson: Yea we just got back yesterday. I just had an epic sleep because I hadn’t slept. We red eyed form Sao Palo. Yea, we played Lollapalooza in Buenos Ares, Argentina and then in Brazil just 2 nights ago.
FRR: From the pictures it just looked like that was insane. What was that festival like and did that set the tone for the festivals here because you’re gonna be playing a lot of festivals in the summer after your west coast tour that kicks off in a couple days?
Neil Sanderson: Yea, it was absolute mayhem. It’s pretty crazy with social media now we’re going all over the world and going places we hadn’t been before and getting there and there’s like 500 fans at the airport, it’s just like “What is going on?!” But it’s just the power of the Internet, the music has become borderless. Even this last year, we went to Russia we did like 13 shows in Russia and Belarus and stuff, never been there before never really released an album and we get there and the tour is a wild success. It’s pretty crazy to be on the other side of the planet and have people singing all the words to your song.
But yea, the festivals, I was staying down the hall from Robert Plant, to put it that way. That’s how ridiculous it was! I actually listen to quite a bit of electronic music as well and I got a chance, I saw Skrillex in a small club in Buenos Ares at some secret show at like 3 in the morning, just ridiculous stuff like that. It’s cool. It’s nice to be back over here. We’re excited for some of the big US festivals, they’re some of the best ones. Playing in front of 35000 drunk people in the sun, it’s a lot of fun!
FRR: It’s better than being surrounded by all those drunk people in the sun where we are. You guys are on the stage- you’re safe from them!
Neil Sanderson: Yea, we walk around. We like to go check out the fair and stuff like that too, it’s all fun.
FRR: You guys are doing a West Coast tour that kicks off I think in a couple of weeks and then you’re doing the US festivals and then maybe East Coast US tour in the fall, possibly?
Neil Sanderson: Yea, we’re all over the place. West Coast coming up here shortly, then we head over the Europe for a few weeks, and then we’re just jumping around doing festivals, a lot of fly in shows and stuff. We’re a touring band, that’s where our passion lies is getting up on stage. So the record came out today and generally we tour for two years on a record, so we’re gonna be all over the place man!