At Graspop 2017 we had the distinct pleasure to talk to the guys from Sum 41 before their performance. Graspop being mostly a magnet for the Metal crowd, we couldn’t wait to talk to this Punk-oriented band in a Metal setting. What followed was a fun and open talk about the lighter and the darker sides of being in a band.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! How are things in your world?
So far so good! I mean, we’re about two and a half weeks deep. This is our third to last show, and then we’re home for the summer.
Alright! Do you have big plans for the summer?
Ah, not really. Just hanging out. We’ve been home very sparsely on this tour, so it will be kind of nice to just hang out.
And do nothing, yeah.
Yeah but it’s tempting to stay busy though, because a lot of bands will approach us and say hey, come do a record with us! Come and do this! Come and do that! And it’s like, you’ve got to kind of step back from everything for a while, and recharge.
Recharge and get some new inspiration!
Do you guys visit concerts and stuff like that when you have downtime?
Yeah, yeah. We’re from Toronto, so there’s tons of show all the time. It’s such a great music scene. We have a ton of shows. There’s a lot of great art galleries out there too, and tons of stuff to do for kids as well.
What kind of music do you visit, when you’re not making music yourself?
I listen to more mellow stuff when I’m at home, because we play such high energy Rock music all the time, and we’re always at these festivals where it’s always loud and heavy. At home I’ll even listen to like, some Jazz, some Folk music… I just like some more relaxing stuff around the house. Then there’s also stuff like Iron Maiden, stuff like that, but for the most parts it’s mellow.
Jazz… That could be interesting to cover. “Would you like to swing on a star” in your style? *laughs*
Yeah. But do I listen to stuff in our style? At home, not that much.
Let’s have a look at your tour so far! You toured with Pierce The Veil! How was that?
Yeah, we just got off that in early April. It was good! It was good to hang with those guys, and their fans were really gracious with us. Emarosa and Chapel were two great bands to open up the show. Yeah man, it was a good feeling!
You also played a couple of covers on Download. I really loved seeing that. “The Trooper” and “Master of Puppets”. What do those artists, Maiden and Metallica mean to you, and those songs specifically?
Well, there’s a skate video called “Welcome to Hell”, which we ended up naming a song after, and Jamie Thomas does the longest rail in history, and it’s to the song “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, so Iron Maiden has been like an integral part of this band since 95, since before we even started. I think Metallica and Iron Maiden are probably our favorite Metal bands of the time. We throw it in once in awhile.
They’re really epic.
Do you do that more often, covers like that?
Yes we cover some Metal sometimes. And Queen, stuff like that, some good old Classic rock.
Yeah, “We Will Rock You”, right?
It’s always nice to hear a band that’s Punk oriented to do some Metal stuff as well.
Yes it’s always kind of been there for us. And if you look at Punkrock in Canada, a lot of band we know love Metal and Punk. There is no separation between the two genres in Toronto, especially where we came from.
I never got that whole separation between those genres either. For me they are really close together.
Yeah. Exactly. I have no idea. But when you grow up with bands like Metallica wearing Misfits shirts, stuff like that, you never really see the divide, or notice it.
No, exactly. That’s why I also love Hardcore, which is a nice crossover.
Yeah, that’s great for sure.
One of my favorite festivals in the old days was the Dynamo festival in Holland, which had a skate fest section with Punk bands! And a half pipe *laughs*
Oh, that’s killer. That’s pretty rad.
Back to your music. How has the reception been of your “13 Voices” album so far?
Amazing. Very good so far. Our fans seem to really like it. It’s a harder album. We’ve done harder albums in the past, but this is kind of a harder album for us. But people seem to like our songs. I did have a couple of people write me, and they were kind of rude. They were like, I used to hate your band, but I like the new record! I was like, alright! I guess *laughs*. Thank you very much,.
*laughs* I guess thank you, yeah! I always like positivity in music, and a good feeling. And somehow you always bring that.
Oh yeah, it just comes out. It’s just who we are.
Yes. What surprised me though, on 13 Voices, the first 3 or 4 songs all deal with death. What’s up with that?
Yeah. I think that lyrically though, they are more concentrated on beating death, and pretty much about coming back from the dead. And what it takes to die and come back to life stronger than before.
Would you say that this kind of puts a theme on this album? At least, on the first four songs?
I don’t know if it’s really a theme. It does deal with things like almost dying, and being sober again, being sober for the first time in one's life. But yeah, not all the songs deal with that. It’s like a journey through this guys life.
Let’s say it’s a happy view on the darker side of life.
Yes. Deryck is like a widespread storyteller in the sense that his lyrics mean what they do to him, but they’re open to interpretation to anybody that listens to them.
Yeah, I can see that. I always love seeing video of you guys on stage by the way. There’s so much energy going on there!
Oh yeah, absolutely.
How would you describe a Sum 41 show to people who have not seen you, what you bring to the stage?
It’s high energy! What people usually don’t know about us, is that we are probably heavier and more in your face than most people give us credit for, if they haven’t seen us. It’s kind of a heavy, high energy show.
I think if people say you’re not heavy, they have yet to really listen to your music *laughs* They just recognize the t-shirt.
*laughs* Well, they’re gonna find out tonight! And we love festivals like this, where we can actually kind of challenge ourselves, and any of the doubters out there, we get to play in front of them.
Are you going to have any surprises for us here at the Graspop festival?
I don’t know, it’s only a fifty minute set, so it’s really tough to experiment with new things. I think it’s just going to be the bangers.
That’s good enough for me! I’ll definitely be there. How is Deryck holding up?
He’s doing awesome.
So he’s doing well with the whole sober lifestyle?
Sober. I think he’s more energetic now than he was in Highschool. He wakes up early, way before I do. I just woke up like half an hour ago, so… *laughs* He was up at 9am.
So he’s running circles around you? *laughs*
We’ll see him bounce on the stage in a bit then!
How different is it to work with him now, as opposed to earlier?
Earlier he was fine, but when he got to be an alcoholic, it was really tough. So, compared now to before then, it’s kind of the same. He’s driven, and he knows what he wants to do. Just, when he became an alcoholic, it was a completely different thing. He’s way better, he’s way more focused, way more clear. His mind is clear. Way better.
You probably saw all the recent press around Five Finger Death Punch, who also play here with a temporary singer?
Yeah, I just heard man… Who’s filling in for him now?
The singer of Bad Wolves. I was in Tilburg to interview the band, when it happened. The guy was on stage saying “I’m Tommy, I’m here on vacation”. There you go, go sing.
Well, I only wish the best for him, man. I hope he feels better soon.
How do you look at an incident like that, knowing you had a singer with a problem as well in the past?
I feel bad, you know what I mean? The road is tough man. The road, for an artist, can be the highest highs and the lowest lows. When you get a long series of lows, it can be really tough on the mind. But at the end of the day, it’s still the greatest job on earth. Hopefully he remembers that, and we wish him a speedy recovery. It’s all real, and you have to deal with it. Being in a band with a guy like that, there’s no way you can think you can do this or that and help him out. There’s no right, real way to do it. He just has to help himself, to realise he needs the help. And he obviously did.
Indeed he did. Let’s hope it sticks!
It’s the first step!
Yes. You did a video for “Goddamn, I’m Dead Again”.
How was it to record that video?
Oh it was killer. We just asked bands to come out and hang out with us at this… it was like this spray painted old bomb shelter. A missle silo. It was actually a missile launching site, and we stood on where the missile would have been on the ground, and we filled it all up with Punk. It was wild. It was spray painted, it was awesome.
It looked awesome, it seems like a unique space!
Oh yes, really really cool. You don’t often find a place like that.
You do have some amazing fans, I think.
Yes. All we did was send out an email with a location, and all those people just showed up.
They just showed up? No idea what was going to happen?
No, I think most of them wanted to go to the barbeque.
Yeah, the barbeque, I heard about that! What does that mean to you, barbeque and beer?
*laughs* Oh man. That’s it, that is summer. Even winter! Like, my dad used to barbeque in the winter, in the garage, yeah.
Barbeque and beer equals life then? *laughs*
Very very good. For sure.
I guess that’s part of how you get your positivity and all that creative energy into your music.
Yeah, I think so. That, and we are all close friends, do you know what I mean? Tom we knew from Gob, so even before he joined the band, we were friends with him through touring with Gob. We already knew Zummo for a couple of years. Three of us went to Highschool together even.
How does it usually work, when you start creating a new album, how does a process like that look?
Normally it’s like an idea from Deryck, like a riff, a melody, a chord, or even a demo. It has changed a bit throughout the years though. Now Deryck brings us like really well recorded demos, before it was kind of like, a drum machine, some loose ideas, and we would fill in all around that. So, it’s kind of different. Sometimes it’s a complete idea, and sometimes it’s a half idea, half a song and we go into pre production and fuck around with it a little bit. Then we have Tom as well, he brings a lot to the table, songwriting wise. And Frank actually wrote the beginning of “There Will Be Blood”.
What is your favorite tour memory for this tour, so far?
This tour? Well, because we were one day away from playing Rock Am Ring in June, the day we were playing Rock Im Park, Rock Am Ring got evacuated.
Yeah, I heard.
We were unsure if we were going to play Rock Am Ring the next day, but we showed up, and the show went on, and it was probably one of the biggest impressions of the tour. 80,000 people going mental! It was one of those things where people thought the show wasn’t going to happen, so they were happy to be there, happy we were playing. It was probably the biggest crowd on the tour so far.
How do you deal yourself with things like terror threats these days? It’s strange that you have to deal with it, but there you go.
Yeah, well, what can you do? I don’t even know if anyone can do anything about it. All we can do, for us, security measures. Our security is always on top of things, they know what they’re doing. We just need to trust the people that are running things.
When I talked to 5FDP, they were the last band to perform before the evacuation. That’s crazy.
There’s always going to be people that believe that they know how the world should work, but the fact of the matter is that the world’s gonna keep on turning, whether we’re here or not.
Exactly. And that leads me to my last question, and that’s always, do you have any last words for our readers?
Thank you! *laughs*
*laughs* Nice and short.
It’s been an amazing 21 years, you know what I mean? We can’t ask for much more than just keep reading, and keep checking us out and enjoy life with us!
Great words. Thank you very much for your time, and have fun on the festival! And do enjoy your time off!
Will do, thank you!