Sum 41: the Underclass Heroes bounce back
By Lindsey Rivait
March 19, 2008
Hailing from Ajax, ON, Sum 41 is back on the scene touring to promote their latest release, Underclass Hero. Since forming in 1996, Sum 41 has seen a lot of successes as well as a lot of setbacks.
In 1999, the band signed an international record deal with Island Records. Through their career, they have produced five studio albums, one live CD, two live DVDs, more than 15 singles, won two Juno awards, and sold close to 10 million albums worldwide.
In September 2005, the band went on a touring hiatus and the members broke off into their own side projects. Lead singer Deryck Whibley wrote and produced two songs for Avril Lavigne’s album, The Best Damn Thing, drummer Steve Jocz (Stevo) directed a video for Canadian band The Midway State, and bassist Jason Paul McCaslin (Cone), along with H20’s Todd Morse, formed a band called Operation M.D.
“I kind of get to do everything I want in Operation M.D. Todd is easy to work with. We made this band where we do what we want. We don’t really over think things in Operation M.D. If we like it, we just do it,” explains Cone of his side project. “I’ve always written songs, but they’ve never been in the style of Sum 41. When Todd came along, we became friends and decided to make a side project. In Sum 41 we do things in a way that when we have to do something, we all have to agree with it. It’s kind of a struggle because there are three strong personalities with strong beliefs in things for everyone to agree. Operation M.D. is more laid back. Sum 41 over thinks things too much. It’s just the way it goes when you have three different opinions,” he says.
The band’s hiatus extended even further in October 2007 when Whibley suffered a back injury, resulting in the band cancelling their November shows and promising to reschedule dates in the new year. “It was a pretty bad injury. He herniated a disk in his back, so we had to cancel a bunch of shows. He was in a wheelchair for about a week and he’s in physiotherapy,” says Cone.
The boys persevered, releasing Underclass Hero, their first album without guitarist Dave “Brownsound” Baksh, who left the band in 2006 due to creative differences. “It was a little different rehearsing Underclass Hero as a three piece. It was strange. You get used to having that person there and then he’s gone,” explains Cone. “He wasn’t into what we were doing at the time. I think if he was in the band it’d be a lot tougher. It was probably better that he left because we could do what we wanted with the album.”
Underclass Hero has already gone gold in Canada and the US. Their first single, also titled “Underclass Hero,” debuted at number seven in the US, achieving the band’s highest chart position to date.
Recently, Cone spent some time on the other side of the table when he interviewed Slash for MySpace Canada’s Artist on Artist feature.
“They didn’t do any of the Artist on Artist things in the States for a while and they wanted to do one in Canada. They knew I lived in Toronto so MySpace called to ask me to do it. I thought my publicist was joking! They sent me Slash’s book and the Velvet Revolver album,” says Cone. “I was a little nervous asking the questions since I’m always on the other side of things. We had met before but Slash didn’t remember. Before the interview, we were chatting and I thought it was going to be easy to do because he was pretty mellow. I got nervous when the cameras went on, but I had a few more vodka sodas and calmed down,” he recalls. The three part interview is available on MySpace.com.
When asked if he would follow suit and ever write a book on his experiences like Slash did with his, Cone responds that he’d be interested in the project, but only if it were done as a band. “It’d be like The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Mötley Crüe where they all had chapters. It’d be pretty interesting from what we have been through. It wouldn’t be any time soon, but I can see us writing a book together,” he says.
Cone shouldn’t worry too much about it, as he and his band mates really do have quite a bit to write about.
In May 2004, Sum 41 visited the Democratic Republic of Congo with War Child Canada to document the civil war occurring in that country. Shortly after the band arrived, a fight broke out near the hotel they were staying at. The group was trapped inside of their hotel as the fights ensued. Luckily, the boys and the rest of the hotel occupants were led to safety thanks to United Nations worker Chuck Pelletier, whom they named their fourth album, Chuck, after. The band released a DVD, ROCKED: Sum 41 in Congo, documenting their experience there.
The boys also got to work with punk music legend Iggy Pop in 2002. “We got a call from our manager saying that Iggy Pop wants to do a song with us. Deryck called Iggy and they talked for forty-five minutes and that was it,” recalls Cone. “We didn’t know what to expect. He came into the studio and he was a quiet guy. He sat on the floor. I think he was more interested in seeing how we did things. He’s really humble, he’s really cool and he doesn’t have an ego at all. He’s been through so much and has done so much.” The band co-wrote the first single from the album, Skull Ring, called “Little Know It All.”
Now resuming their tour, Sum 41 has a bunch of dates set up all over the world. As for what to expect during the show, Cone explains that they play mostly older songs. “Going to shows ourselves, we understand that fans want to hear the old stuff. Mostly I’d say we’ll play three or four new songs, depending how we feel that night.” The band is also equipped with new backdrops and banners similar to the artwork on Underclass Hero.
Sum 41’s current tour runs until the summer, when they will spend time talking about their next album. Cone is already planning more songs for Operation M.D. as well. “Todd is coming down so we can write some songs together. We have written a bunch of songs on our own, but we need to get together to collaborate and record in the summer. Hopefully we’ll have another Operation M.D. album out by next Christmas,” Cone says.
Sum 41 will be in Windsor on Friday, March 21 at the Roxy Entertainment Complex. For more information, including additional tour dates, visit Sum 41 online at http://www.sum41.com.