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It is a boiling hot afternoon in Budapest. The sun is sizzling, but people are already gathering outside concert venue Budapest Park to dash inside once the gates open and secure a front-row spot. It is an exciting day for rockers; after a warm-up from Halestorm, Three Days Grace are playing their first ever gig in the Hungarian capital. But while a crowd of skull shirts and studded belts peacefully chill outside, it is bustling backstage. Halestorm and Three Days Grace have already parked their massive tour buses here and now the space is full of managers and staff running around. It is here in this huddle that a familiar face, Brad Walst, comes to shake my hand across a nearly seven-foot bouncer in characteristically polite manner.
Neil Sanderson behind the drums, Brad Walst on bass, Barry Stock on guitar and Matt Walst on vocals make up Three Days Grace, a hugely popular and multi-platinum certified Canadian rock band who burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s. Last September, they made history when their song Infra Red from latest album Outsider topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, their 14th record to do so, surpassing Van Halen. But before Infra Red fills Budapest Park later tonight, we sat down backstage with Brad Walst.
We Love Budapest: It is just super busy here and people are so excited to see you. Do you still get nervous before you go on stage?
Brad Walst: I know, and this is a super cool venue, I like it. Well, I don't really get nervous anymore, I'm a lot more excited.
WLB: Do you have any tips and tricks up your sleeve, or anything special you always do before a gig?
BW: Well, usually about an hour before everybody gets together, we play some music, have a few drinks and just have a good time. Nothing really special, just getting all excited.
WLB: What can people expect at the concert?
BW: This is our first time in Hungary, so we are very excited. We are getting really pumped to play and got some cool beer and some video so it will be great!
WLB: Did you or will you have any time to look around the city?
BW: No unfortunately, I was just sleeping and then woke up here, backstage. But I've heard that Budapest is beautiful and I've never seen it so I'd absolutely come back.
WLB: What do we need to know about Outsider?
BW: Music is therapy in a way for us. Before we even write anything, we do a lot of talking, laughing and crying just to get what everybody is thinking. To have fans relate to what you're going through is a huge thing and very important to us. So Outsider is a great thing out there for us, as we really spent a lot of time to just hanging out and being friends and buddies, playing acoustics around campfires or fishing – and I think because of that, the lyrical content is pretty strong. Outsider kinda represents stepping outside the box a bit. We all moved to Toronto from small towns, we are small-town boys so for this record we had to get outside the city. We had this rehearsal space for 15 years where every single record was made, so now we've moved to the country. I live in a town with 1,300 people so we built a studio there and just hung out.
WLB Do you always write together?
BW: Yeah, on the road not much really, but afterwards we always piece our ideas together.
WLB: You've been working together for so long, obviously with a little change (former frontman Adam Gontier left the band in 2013, later replaced by current vocalist Matt Walst) – do you ever predict each other's thoughts?
BW: Absolutely, we are all brothers... Neil and I, and well, Matt is actually my brother. Of course, we have our ups and downs like everyone does, but we are a very close-knit family and the future is exciting for us, with a lot to look forward to.
WLB: After the immense success of I Hate Everything About You or Not Too Late, do you ever feel any pressure that you always have to create something exceptional?
BW: It's funny because we don't really feel that and I think it's part of our success that we just go forward without really looking back much. One day when we're retired, everything will hit us and we'll realise what we've done, but we don't feel that pressure now and that's why it's important we collaborate so much. If just one of us says no to something or they don't like an idea, we don't do it. That's kinda the success of our band, everybody being a writer.
WLB: And you're close with your audience, too. I really think Never Too Late actually saved lives.
BW: That is true, we hear that a lot and get letters! I think about this almost every day. The ripple effect of something that we do on stage and how it affects people. It's pretty important for us to in a way reflect on people how we feel and help them.
WLB: You even started Mountain of Hope...
BW: Yes, we're all involved with different charities so we decided to create this support for everybody's charity. Matt and Neil went to Africa recently and visited a town where we donated money to build a well. Sick kids in Toronto is another big one. So it's an umbrella for all of our charities. If you have this power and so many people in the audience, it's almost a responsibility to spread knowledge about foundations and charities and how to help each other.
WLB: Many wonder about the name of your band, where did it come from?
BW: This goes back to like '97. I heard the term in college. Three days' grace is basically three days to pay back your debt. The whole idea behind is that whatever debt you have, you must pay them back in three days, and could you do it? When we first started we were very prog, almost prog rock so it had a sense of urgency. We had ten-minute songs so the band name really fit.
WLB: What does the future hold for you and where are you off to next?
BW: After our European tour, we'll have a break then start another tour with Breaking Benjamin in the States, which will take us all the way to October. Then another one with Five Finger Death Punch. So it's a busy year, we're booked until the summer. Then hopefully back here again for a few festivals. If we'll be back to Budapest, I want to see the city.
WLB: You seem to have a pattern of releasing a new album every three years. Do you think after Outsider in 2018 this will happen again?
BW: That's right and I think so. This is how it works out. We usually spend a good two years touring and a year to make the record. And you need to take some time off as well. If you're always on the road you burn out. And we all have families and it's important to reconnect.
WLB: If you would or had to be in another band, what would it be?
BW: I'm a huge Deftones fan so that'd be cool. I like them a lot, so probably they're my number one.
WLB: And if you weren't a musician at all, what would you do?
BW: Oh, I'd be in jail! (Laughs.) No, my family are all accountants, so when I didn't want to go to school they told me to go be an accountant. So I got my degree and a job at a company where I worked in a suit in a cubicle... but then we got signed and I quit! I'd probably be miserable counting numbers and stuff...