Human, the new album by Three Days Grace, is the first to feature new vocalist Matt Walst, who happens to be the brother of TDG bassist Brad Walst.
Besides bringing a familiar face to the band, Matt’s arrival heralds a new-found dynamic; Human introduces heavier, darker shades to the band's songwriting and sound. New tracks like “I Am Machine” offer inspired, hook-laden riffs while “Painkiller” tackles more personal topics from a unique point of view.
Human, which will be released March 31, reunites Three Days Grace with producer Gavin Brown, who was at the helm for the band’s platinum-selling self-titled debut in 2003.
Three Days Grace also includes guitarist Barry Stock and drummer Neil Sanderson. We recently tracked down Stock to discuss the new album, his gear and more.
GUITAR WORLD: What was it like reuniting with Gavin Brown?
Gavin is awesome because he brought us back to the past. When he’s with us, it’s almost like having a fifth member of the band. He really has an ability to see inside of us and pull out these really deep feelings. He’s also great at making it not just about the lyrics but more like a conversation. He really gets involved in the music and creating sounds, and it was a blast working with him.
How would you describe Human?
Human is the perfect title for this record because there’s been a lot of inner-struggle and loss in the last few years. We’ve had a few people close to us pass on and some addiction and personal issues. This record is really about the last few years of our lives.
What was the writing process like?
We did a lot of writing for this album while we were on the road. It was all about gathering riffs, melodies and vocal ideas. Then we would all get together in a room and start throwing all of the ideas around. It started from there. Songs can come from anywhere. Whether it’s a cool riff, a chorus idea or even just an emotion.
I’d like to ask you about a few tracks Human, starting with "I Am Machine."
It’s a song about a feeling we all have from time to time. Everyone is stuck in technology these days with our heads stuck down on our phones. We’re all guilty of that to some degree. The song is really about the idea that sometimes you just have to lift your head up and look around and see how beautiful things are.
That song is about how everyone has a vice and it’s written from the perspective of that vice drawing you back in. It can be anything, from drinking to drugs to cigarettes to sex. Whatever your vice is, it’s written from that perspective.
What are the band’s touring plans this year?
Our goal this time around is to focus on other parts of the world. We’ll be doing America and Canada and then going back and forth all over Europe, playing places we’ve never been to before or haven’t been to in a long time.
What inspired you to play guitar?
I had a bunch of older brothers. I remember sneaking into their rooms when they weren’t around to see what they were listening to. At the time it was a lot of Seventies music like Black Sabbath, Van Halen and AC/DC. I really wanted to play and actually started out on drums, but my dad made me get rid of them because he didn’t want to put up with them. So instead, he bought me a guitar. At the time, I didn’t have an amp so I had to play it through his reel to reel. By taking away my drums I wound up gassing his reel to reel to get distortion and ended up blowing it up! [laughs].
Who were, or are, some of your influences?
I’m a huge fan of Paul Gilbert. I also love Yngwie Malmsteen and those Eighties-era players. Tony MacAlpine is another great player. I also love the riff master Tony Iommi and guys like Ritchie Blackmore, Stephen Carpenter of Deftones and Daron Malakian from System of a Down.
Were you one of those guitarists who'd lock themselves in their room and play for hours?
In my younger days I did. I wasn’t a jock in school and didn’t have many friends so all I did was play music. I eventually made a lot of friends through music and got into bands and started moving around. Then as I got older I started focusing more on songwriting and playing cool parts.
How did you connect with Three Days Grace?
We were all out-of-town guys who centralized in Toronto and rehearsed in the same building. I was in a band down the hall from them and we’d always see each other in passing. Early on, I thought they could use a guy to fill out guitar so that Adam Gontier [the band's original vocalist] could focus on lead-singer duties instead of having to worry about guitar. We were all in from there and it’s been awesome.
What’s your current setup like?
My rig is pretty extensive. My guitar tech/builder, Lonnie Tottman, spent a month rebuilding it. I’m still using the Diezel VH4’s and Marshall JMP1’s which are modded by Trace [Davis] at Voodoo Amps. They go into ENGL power amps. Everything is MIDI-controlled with a loop station and various cool fuzzes I use for different things.
What can you tell me about your MEAN clothing line?
That was an idea I started in 2004 when I was putting that “mean” sticker on my guitars. For me, “mean” is more than just being bad ass. It was a feeling I was going though at the time. It’s about aggressive passion. If you’re going to do something, mean it. That’s how it started and I carried that idea on to making shirts with my wife and turned it into this online company that’s expanding every day. It’s another expression of myself.
What excites you the most about the release of Human and this next stage of Three Days Grace?
I’m really looking forward to getting out there and playing. It’s such a rush. I never look at it as us four guys up there and everyone else out there. It’s all of us together having a blast in one big social. And now that we have this new record, I’m also looking forward to the new songs. Our favorite thing to do is play live.
For more about Three Days Grace, visit human.threedaysgrace.com.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.