Interview with Sum 41: Canada’s Eternal Punksters

Canadian pop-punk stalwarts Sum 41 are gearing up for the release of their seventh full-length record, Order in Decline, but don’t mistake it for a political statement. It was 23 years ago that the band first began, and merely a couple more until they caught fire with their debut All Killer No Filler.

Soon their music was appearing in Hollywood hits like American Pie 2 and video games like Guitar Hero. World tours followed, members came and went, but the music kept going.
Older, wiser, and perhaps a tiny bit nostalgic of the past, spiky-haired frontman Deryck Whibley chats with ADDICTED’s Myles Herod about Sum 41’s history, both past, and present.

 

ADDICTED: Order in Decline is your 7th studio album. What separates it from your previous work?
Derek: You know, it’s something I never think about. Each one of our records sounds a little bit different. This one particularly is on the heavier side. I think it’s because I wrote it very quickly within a three-week period. Usually, the music comes from thin air. So much so, I feel if I had written the songs on another day, they would have turned out completely different.

 

Where do you see this album in the legacy of Sum 41’s career?
Derek: I see it as where we are now. I don’t know what happens next. However, I’m very happy with how it turned out. It’s so hard to tell once you’ve finished an album because you’ve been working on it every single day. You end up starting to fucking hate it! I’m just starting to come back around now. Usually, I can’t hear one of our albums for at least a year.

 

I want to talk about Sum 41’s early days. Between 2000 to 2007, you guys released five albums, which is a remarkable accomplishment. How has that past decade compared to this latest one?
Derek: With the first few records, we were putting one out after the other. It never stopped. Then it slowed down a little bit. Now I feel it’s picking back up like the early days. Either you want to keep doing it or you want a break. For me, at the end of the first five, I was feeling burnt out. Now, I feel rejuvenated. I feel in a good place. I want to make music, and that’s all I want to do.

 

Tracks like Fat Lip and In Too Deep became anthems for a generation back in 2001. Since then, the advent of social media has changed everything. What did it take to get songs noticed 20 years ago?
Derek: You only had a couple ways for your material to get out there. The biggest thing for us was television. Those music videos are what drove those songs. Once they were getting played all over the world on MTV and MuchMusic in Canada, everything else followed. Mind you, it was difficult to initially get airtime. You had to make a video that made sense. We really didn’t know what we were doing. We were just trying to have some fun and luckily they clicked with audiences. I don’t think it was necessarily us that made them turn out great, either. We had an amazing director (Marc Klasfeld) and it was that partnership that gave us our edge. Music videos are what got us noticed.

 

Is it easier to get your music recognized today?
Derek: It’s so much harder now. People have to go look for it. Whereas back in the day, music was on the radio, you could buy it, or it was on MuchMusic – that’s it. You were essentially force-fed music. It was a different kind of difficult. There was still competition, but if you made it onto TV, the amount of people you were exposed to were massive numbers. We don’t have that anymore.

 

I wanted to quickly touch upon 2004’s Chuck. It seems to resonate with fans and critics as a highlight in the band’s discography. Why do you think that is?
Derek: Well, there’s a story behind the name of the record. There was actually a guy named Chuck. We were in the Congo shooting a documentary on a civil war that had been going on. There was a cease-fire when we entered. Not one shot had been fired in a year-and-a-half. We went over there having been told it was safe. Fast forward two weeks, the war resumes and we were caught in the middle of it with both rebel groups on either side of our hotel shooting at each other. It was very intense. We were stuck there for a few days until this guy named Chuck, a U.N. peacekeeper, came in with tanks and miraculously got us out.

 

And then you put out the record…
Derek: We really did! I remember we unfelt unsure during its release asking each other, “I don’t think anyone likes this record.” It happens all the time. You can play your new album and it doesn’t seem to have that reaction like the other songs did and you can get discouraged. Whereas now, over time, it’s been rediscovered and embraced. It’s happened a couple times. It happened with Chuck and it happened with the album afterward, Underclass Hero. It’s weird, but now when we play new songs off the last record, and now we’re playing songs off this new record, the reaction is completely different. The reaction is huge for these new songs. I don’t understand that either.

 

When did you guys realize that Sum 41 had made it?
Derek: To be honest, I still don’t think we’ve made it. I don’t think we’ve had that moment. Obviously, I know we have done well and I’m proud of everything we have done. With that said, I feel there’s so much more to do.

Sum 41’s new album, Order In Decline, drops on July 19th.

Sum 41 photo by Ashley Osborn

Myles Herod

Myles Herod

Traveller, image maker, pop-culture seeker, storyteller, a guy you want around when things go south. Tastes range from Kubrick to Krautrock, Wu-Tang to Wiseau. Currently resides in Toronto, Canada.
Myles Herod