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My Darkest Days

Matt Walst decided to follow in his brother's footsteps, Brad who plays bass in Three Days Grace, when he put together his band: My Darkest Days.  Nickelback's Chad Kroeger took notice and signed them up on 604 Records.  The band's debut album was released almost a year ago last October and has achieved incredible success. For example, their single and video Porn Star Dancing has made it to the 100 most downloaded video on iTune.  Matt, Sal and Brendan gladly answered all of my questions before their show in Toronto at the CNE.  My Darkest Days is currently on the tour supporting Theory Of  A Deadman, Finger Eleven and Great Whites depending on what dates.  For more info on this band and tour itinerary, visit: MyDarkestDays.com

Interview by: Valerie Bastien

Val: There are two inevitable questions that I must ask.  First, with Matt’s brother Brad in Three Days Grace, what kind of advice have you received from him?

Sal: Their career has been ridiculous.  They are one of the biggest rock bands in North America.  Just being able to look up on these guys has been awesome. 

Matt: It’s helped a lot having Brad around because he’s been through it all already.

Sal: They have thought our band a lot about how song writing might be and their old equipment; they have pretty much given to us.  Recently, we have toured with them a few times throughout the US.  It’s been really cool to sit beside them and watch.  I think it’s been the biggest learning experience to see how they do their job every day.  We aspire to be as good as those guys. 

Val: They are very successful. Having someone so close to you in the business and in the family, do you witness any rivalry between the two bands?

Brendan: There is no real rivalry.  If there is, it’s more like a friendly one but not really!

Val: Good!  The second question that is also obvious is your association with 604 Records and Chad Kroeger.  Tell me about what aspect of his personality inspires you the most: Chad Kroeger the song-writer or Chad Kroeger the businessman? 

Brendan: Everything!  He’s a really smart guy in all these aspects.  He’s got song-writing down to a science and he’s a very good businessman as well. 

Sal: To be literally a rock star, you have to have the entire package and he does.  He’s a great businessman, a great musician, a great singer, an amazing song-writer and producer.  He’s just the whole package!

Val: Where did you learn your skills because I was just reading the other day in the book called Outliers;

Brendan: Good book!

Val: Yeah! So the author remarks that most often, people that are successful will have spent at least 10 000 hours developing their skills…

Matt: For us it’s been a lot of practice, a lot of determination and wanting to play music for a living.

Sal: They reference The Beatles in that book.

Brendan: And Bill Gates…

Sal: And how they spent about 10 000 hours perfecting their craft.  We are probably around that number now or close to it!

Brendan: I’d say with the amount of hours we used to rehearse, every single day… I’d say we’re getting pretty close.

Val: There is no official training?  You are all self-taught?

Sal and Brendan: Yes!

Val: Excellent! Your video “Porn Star Dancing” is one of the most downloaded videos on iTune.  What do you attribute its popularity to?

Sal: I don’t think there’s really been a strip club anthem in years since “Girls, Girls, Girls”.  There are lots of songs that you will hear from time to time but it became one of those songs that wasn’t just number one on the rock charts, it became a strip club anthem.  So having all these girls in the video made sense and obviously guys like to see videos with girls half naked!  It’s the whole idea that it’s empowering women, that we like dancers and that we are promoting them.  So there were all of these girls that really loved the video as well.  I just think it was something that not a lot of people are doing right now and because of that it had some interest. 

Val: It’s almost becoming a little bit taboo to do these videos now because you have to be so careful about not objectifying women…  Just to make sure that you are not alienating any of your female audience, especially tonight; it will be quite a family oriented audience, can you tell me about some personality traits that you look for in a woman?

Sal: I like a nice booty!

(We all burst into laughter!)

Val: Personality traits I said, lol!

All the guys: Aww!

Val: Sal that was too easy!  Matt, I saw you gulp when I asked that question, haha!

Sal: Personality traits…  Really?  Now we’ve gotta go into substance, lol!  Outgoing with a booty.  That’s what I say!

Matt: I like nice girls…  The ones that don’t snap at you for stupid reasons…

Brendan: I like intelligence!

Val: That is always very attractive.

Sal: I like the opposite of that, lol!  Just kidding!  To go back on the whole half naked girl thing; we respect the working girls and dancers.  So it’s not like we’re saying it’s taboo and wrong.  We want to empower women and we respect what they do.

Val: It’s true because a lot of these women will say that they are in control of their body.

Sal: And they are athletic.  It’s very hard to get on a stage and perform.  We do that every night.  Imagine if we did that naked!!!

Val: Yeah, try it tonight ;)  I’ll tell you if it works for you or not!

Sal: Mmmm, if we do that, I’m sure we will never get invited to the CNE again!

Val: Tell me about your next single “Move Your Body” which follows a bit the same formula with the video and the topic of the song. 

Sal: It made sense to follow up with a song that wasn’t as obvious as “Porn Star” but kinda in the middle.  It was so high energy and we wanted the first two songs that people heard on the radio to be high energy and in your face, and to be a little bit different.  It’s not a representation of the entire record.  There are tons of different songs, a variety of different styles and different subject matters. 

Val: That’s what I want to pick up on for the next question.  Tell me about a song that is more serious and out of the box as opposed to those two songs.

Matt: “I Can’t Forget You” would be one.  “Set It On Fire” is also totally different than those two songs I think.

Sal: Then you have “Fucked Up Situation” that is completely different than songs like “I Can’t Forget You”. 

Val: What do these songs talk about?

Matt: Still women…  Relationships…

Val: It’s ok because relationships are such an important part of someone’s life. 

Brendan: A lot of people can relate to the subject matter. 

Val: It never gets old.  Sometimes things happen to you and you think that you’re so unique and when you talk to people or hear it in a song you realize that others have also been through that.  One of the songs that I like and that’s going to be the next single is “Every Lie”.  It seemed when I was listening to that song that you had someone in mind.  I was wondering if that person had heard the song and if she’s recognized herself in the song. 

Matt: I actually kinda did the song about myself and changed it around to make it about somebody else.  But it’s really about me…

Val: About you being a liar?

Matt: Yeah.

Val: Mmmm…  Explain that!  Is that something you are working on then…  The lying, lol?

Matt: Yeah, lol!

Val: I hope so!

Matt: I’m telling the truth right now!

Val: Well at least you’re honest about it and admitting that the song is about you shows a good side of your personality.

Matt: My ex-girlfriend used to say: “My phone’s dying”; I’d say: “Where were you last night”?  She would be like: “My phone was dead” when I know that’s not even true.  A lot of people say that. 

Val: Yeah really!  I heard it too.  Anyhow, there has been lots of collaborations with other artists such as Chad Krueger (we’ve already touched on that), also Orianthi who is an awesome guitar player, Jessie James and Ludacris.  Besides giving you more exposure, why is it important for you to associate with those people and how do they help you become better artists?

Matt: It’s not because they are famous.  It’s because they are awesome at what they do.  I like collaborating with people that have something to bring to the table to make the song a lot better. Also, meeting someone like that, learning from their skills is a big part of growing as musicians too.  If you work with people that aren’t very good, you’re not going to be very good.  If you work with people that are top notch, like Chad Kroeger, you learn from them and put it into your own.  You build your skills by that. 

Val: Can you give me an example of what you might have learned?

Matt: Lyrics, big time!  I don’t settle now for making the second verse the same as the first anymore.

Val: Don’t settle for mediocre!  What kind of writers are you; do you write all the time or do you prefer to get together and write as a unit?  For instance, some musicians enjoy writing on the road while others become hermits to write an album.

Matt: We individually come up with ideas and then bring them to the table.  We also try when we are all together. 

Brendan: Sometimes, it’s better when we are all jamming. 

Sal: It’s been a different experience this summer as none of us had ever been on tour for such a long amount of time.  At night sometimes we are all in our bunks with our lap tops and literally programming random ideas.  It’s like web jamming!  You’re on the internet sending ideas to each other.  It’s different but cool.

Val: I guess technology has changed the way we make music.  It’s neat to be able to record ideas at any time.  I heard that you are from Toronto and you are playing at the CNE tonight.  How do you feel about that?

Matt: It’s good to be home!

Sal: Yeah, I think we’ve all come here as children at a certain point.

Brendan: I’ve never come to the CNE before!  First time!

Matt:  I worked at Randy River the last time I was here!

Sal: Really?!  That’s crazy!  I used to come with my grand-mother.  She used to take me every year.  We’d jump on the bus and just go.  I remember watching bands in this area before and so it’s cool that things are going full circle!

Matt: I was selling clothes.  By the end of the day I had three pairs on me because I’d just keep grabbing a pair, putting them on and putting my pants over top.  Then put on a shirt and threw another shirt over top!  By the end of the day, I had three new pairs of wardrobe, lol!

Val: That’s so cool!  It’s actually my first time at the CNE.  I’ve been living here for 15 years so I think this is going to be a perfect way to experience it for the first time. 

Matt: It’s a big event!

Val: Are you going to try any of the rides?

All: May be, haha!

Val: Well it was a pleasure talking to you guys.  Have a fantastic show tonight; I’m looking forward to it!

All: Thanks!

Valerie Bastien is a vocal coach, teacher, musician and freelance journalist.
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