Before getting this interview, I honestly didn’t really know who My Darkest Days were. I had heard of them, but nothing more. By the end of my short time with them though, the guys had won me over and a few days later, I bought both their albums.
My Darkest Days originated from a small town called Norwood in Ontario. The band consists of Matt Walst, Sal Costa, Brendan McMillan, Doug Oliver and Reid Henry. They were discovered by Nickelback’s own Chad Kroeger and with his support, they released their self-titled debut album in 2010 under 604 Records. In 2012, they released their second full-length, Sick And Twisted Affair, right before embarking on a North American tour opening for Nickelback.
When that tour hit Montreal back in April, I had a chance to talk with Matt and Sal, two very down to earth guys, despite their glamorous party rock star music videos. We had a chance to discuss their arena tour experience, social media’s takeover as well as their experience working with so many influential people. They also showed me their drawing talents!
CONFRONT: How has the tour been so far?
MATT: It’s been great! To play all these arenas is just super cool and we’re really grateful to be here today.
SAL: We played Madison Square Garden a few nights ago and that was amazing.
MATT: And tomorrow it’s going to be the ACC so it’s pretty cool. We’re from Toronto so to be able to play the ACC is going to be pretty neat.
CONFRONT: Living the big rockstar dream right?
SAL: Yup, living the dream!
CONFRONT: And what’s the biggest difference between big arena shows and smaller shows?
MATT: In smaller shows, we get to play more music and we get to invite girls on the stage and have the fans be a part of the show at the end of the set. This is more, we get up there and put our best foot forward and try not to piss anybody off.
SAL: *laugh* Yeah! Pretty much! That’s a good way of putting it actually.
CONFRONT: Have you ever pissed anybody off?
MATT: Not on this tour.
SAL: I think our first tour ever, when we didn’t know a lot of the road etiquette, I’m sure we pissed a few people off but not intentionally.
CONFRONT: I guess you’ve learned now?
SAL & MATT: Yep!
CONFRONT: And what was the history behind the name of your band?
MATT: We just found on our darkest days that we wrote the best material at the time. Not all of our songs are in that dark light; you can’t be depressed all the time. Sometimes, you can write about the good times but we found on our darkest days, you can write the best material.
CONFRONT: That’s a cool story behind the name. And having your brother in Three Days Grace, do you think that helped you guys at the beginning at all?
MATT: Yes and no. It was a little harder because people were maybe being harder on us because they didn’t want to seem like they were giving us any special treatment. So it made it harder in that way to make a name for ourselves in the agency. But having my brother already been through it, he had a lot of guidance in the business part of it so it actually helped us out a lot. We knew what tunnels to take and how to make a business out of a rock band.
SAL: I think being connected to Three Days Grace, if anything, made the people hold the bar even higher for your band.
CONFRONT: That’s true. It’s like you have to be good.
SAL: Yeah, exactly.
CONFRONT: And you mentioned the music industry earlier. I was wondering, have your views about it changed from being just a listener to actually work in it now?
SAL: It’s just different. As a listener, when you’re not in the industry, I think you think everything is a lot more glamorous than it actually is. I remember being a kid and watching music videos on MuchMusic and MusiquePlus and thinking everyone was flying in jets and making millions of dollars every show. And then you realize to get to that point, you really got to work and it’s years and years and years. Even if you’re seeing people on TV and you’re hearing their music on the radio, they’re probably still a hardworking band trying to make it still.
MATT: And times have changed since. The music industry has definitely changed since the 80s or the 90s.
CONFRONT: Yeah that’s true. It’s changed a lot because of the internet. And you have a big presence on the internet, how important do you think that is nowadays?
MATT: It’s important. You got to keep in touch with your fans as much as you can and talk to them. We try to do that because we have time to do it. We like to just talk to everybody an answer questions. All our super fans, we know them by name and I talk to them almost every day on Facebook.
SAL: It’s a different connection. Also, there’s not many stations or networks that play music videos. Now, it’s how many YouTube hits a video has, not how many times a day it’s getting spun on MuchMusic. YouTube and all those things become more important so if you can develop your fanbase on the web, you’re essentially developing more hits on YouTube and more people will see your video. So it’s very important I think.
CONFRONT: And do you think it has done more good than bad?
SAL: It’s hard to say, really. It’s kind of a love and hate kind of thing.
MATT: It definitely gets the name out there more and there are more ways for you to get your name out. Once MySpace came out, we started using it to our advantage and getting shows advertised on it. It was actually good so it actually helped in that sense. In the music industry sense, I don’t think it has helped at all. It’s definitely decreased major music labels and record sales so it’s a love/hate relationship I guess.
CONFRONT: I think it’s not only because people are just downloading it though, it’s because there is so much variety now and you’re exposed to so much music, you don’t know where to put your money anymore.
SAL: That’s the thing too, now you’re competing with who’s exposing themselves the most via the internet. And if you’re not giving information constantly, they’re just going to switch over to the next band that’s giving more information because fans just want to know and see; they want to be connected. It’s making bands work a lot harder to be connected.
CONFRONT: That’s true. Now, let’s talk about your album that came out not so long ago. How has the response been?
MATT: It’s been good! A lot of people like it and all our fans are happy about it so we’re happy about it. We didn’t have a lot of time to put into it; the first record, we had years and years but I think we did pretty well.
SAL: I’m really proud of it and I think it’s a really good piece of work.
CONFRONT: And how would you compare it to your first album?
MATT: It’s just heavier and everything matches up. On the first record, we were trying to do more Top 40s stuff but I think on this one, we have a lot of the heavy rock and just a couple of ballads.
CONFORNT: And what were some of your musical influences?
MATT: A lot of Nirvana, Silverchair, a lot of grunge but also Stabbing Westward and Marilyn Manson, the heavy keyboard electronica stuff. I’m all over the place. I like all types of music. In high school, I was into Korn and new rock kind of stuff but then after high school, you realize you don’t have to be just pigeon-holed to one kind of music.
SAL: That’s true.
MATT: I find a lot of metal heads just like metal.
CONFRONT: Well I think that is less true now because everyone kind of listens to everything.
MATT: Yeah I’ve noticed that too! A lot of kids listen to rock and they also listen to Top 40, which is really cool because when I was growing up, people liked one kind of music and nothing else. I’m a hip hop dude or a metal guy…
CONFRONT: It’s almost like you’re not allowed to listen to anything else.
MATT: Yeah, you almost thought that! But now, kids listen to everything, which is really cool.
CONFRONT: Yeah I agree. And going back to your album, how was working with Joey Moi?
MATT: He’s awesome. We did our first record with him and Chad Kroeger and this time, we just did it with Joey because Chad had just finished “Here and Now” [Nickelback’s latest album]. It was awesome! We learned so much from him, he has a way of putting everything into perspective. He knows what’s good and what isn’t good. You can’t sneak anything by him. It really helps because he’ll call out your weaknesses and try to make them better and developing your skills. He’s developed this band so much since we started working with him.
SAL: That’s what you want in a producer. You really want somebody who’s going to tell you [what’s bad and where to improve]. That’s ultimately what’s going to make you a better musician in the end.
MATT: A lot of producers don’t take the reins and he takes the reins and just steers the ship so you need a guy like that.
CONFRONT: That’s cool. You also collaborated with a lot of people on this album, who do you think you learned the most from?
MATT: On the first album, I learned a lot from Chad about lyrics and all that stuff. He just made us better musicians and writers. This album, meeting James Michael from Sixx:A.M. and working on two songs with him, I learned a bit but he’s the same as Chad. He’s a great piano player and you’re around somebody of that skill stature and you just want to be better at your craft. Meeting people like that just make you want to step up your game.
CONFRONT: And that’s what you need right? And what was the idea behind the artwork for your album?
SAL: We wanted something kind of circus-like and very Vaudeville, essentially. And we have this really great artist, his name is Zack, and we just kind of tried to explain what we wanted for the record and he drew it better than we could have ever imagined. But honestly, I look at the record and I feel so lucky to have this guy drawing all this stuff, it’s incredible! He’s really, really good.
MATT: Ying yang. I just find I have my good side and I got my bad side and it’s just a balance between them. You can’t have good without the bad and I’ve always lived by that since I was 13 years old. Every time I draw something, it’s just that symbol. And it has such a meaning because sometimes I feel like I’m evil and sometimes, I feel like I’m good.
CONFRONT: Do you have it tattooed anywhere?
MATT: Yeah I do!
CONFRONT: That’s what I thought!
SAL: Mine is definitely the heart. I’m all about love.
CONFRONT: Aw that’s sweet! What did you start drawing on that other page? (That he crossed out.)
CONFRONT: Well thank you very much, is there anything else you’d like to add?
SAL: Actually, on this tour, we got together with Gibson and Kramer guitars and we’re huge cancer advocates; we truly want to put an end to it. Both myself and Matt have family members who have been diagnosed with cancer.
MATT: Yeah we do a thing every year called the James Fund which raises funds to look into research for neuroblastoma, which is a childhood cancer that actually my nephew had to deal with. He had two surgeries and it was just a really hard time for me, for him and my whole family. He’s doing better now but he still needs to get MRIs done all the time. He’s living a normal life but anything that we can do to raise funds for cancer research, we really want to do and Sal has a pink guitar that he’s using to raise money for breast cancer. We’re going to get everyone to sign it at the end of the tour and auction it off and try to raise money for cancer research.
CONFRONT: That’s great!
SAL: Yeah and the pink guitar, Rethink Breast Cancer is the organization that helped build this guitar with the help of Kramer Guitars. And they’re going to be the ones who are going to be auctioning it off. You should actually check them out because they’re a really cool organization. They’re very new age. When I met with them for the first time, they said “If girls didn’t have boobs, you guys wouldn’t have music videos!” And actually, there were a bunch of strippers who wanted to raise money for breast cancer research and they went to the Breast Cancer Society and they didn’t want to do it because they thought it was too taboo. But Rethink were totally down with that. So I thought it was a good organization for us to deal with for sure.
CONFRONT: Yeah they’re innovative and unafraid! That’s really cool! And that’s it for me then! Thank you for your time and have a great show tonight.
Don’t forget to check out our galleries for more shots of the interview!
To check out the band’s music or to see what they’ve been up to, check out these links:
Official website: http://www.mydarkestdays.com/
And this is the organization they were talking about, check it out!: http://rethinkbreastcancer.com/