We Unearthed Sum 41’s First Ever BLUNT Cover Story
Slip out of the Delorean and into the colourful year that was 2003, a magical time before iPhones and emojis, where we were introduced to All Time Low and Enter Shikari – a time before Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley had even thought about dating Avril Lavigne, let alone marrying her. If only we’d had the forethought to tell him she’d end up with the Paddle Pop Lion. 13 years on from Sum 41’s second album, Does This Look Infected?, we’ve rolled up our sleeves and dug deep into the BLUNT vault to bring you the band’s first ever BLUNT cover story.
What do Iggy Pop, Playboy and Metallica all have in common? Sum 41, and in the lead-up to their Australian tour, Jude Winston finds out why…
Down a crackling line from Canada – where Sum 41 are on a homeland tour – the band’s frontman Deryck Whibley kicks off our conversation with a question I’m surprised I don’t get more often: “Blunt – is that like a dope magazine?” he asks very seriously. “Because, you know, I don’t smoke dope, so I couldn’t help you.” After I reassure him that it’s the music we’re interested in, he laughs and says alright then – and I’m still not sure whether he’s serious about his weed inclinations or not. Either way, Deryck seems very keen to talk about the rock, and begins by laying down a situation that many Australian bands could relate to.
“We don’t get to tour at home in Canada that often,” says the frontman. “Like it’s so small, that there’s not that many places to actually play. So you can really only tour the country once a year. But it’s cool to be in front of some home crowds though.”
As part of their current Canadian tour, Sum 41 will be giving a bit back to the town that got them started – a town that’s had a cloud hanging over its head ever since the outbreak of SARS: Toronto.
“We’re from Toronto, and while the whole thing hasn’t been a scare for us personally, it’s been really hard for the city. It’s really crazy. Like my mum’s a nurse there, and so she’s been having to deal with it every day. It’s pretty crazy there right now, and even more so a few months ago. So we’re doing this show in our time off. We’re taking a day to just go and do the show because we’ve always had a lot of help from Toronto, so it’s good to be able to give something back.”
Of course, Sum aren’t the only big name from Toronto, and the guys will be joined for the two-day benefit by the ubiquitous Avril Lavigne. Given that Avril and Sum seem to be popping up everywhere together – she’s just been here and they’re just about to be, they’re sharing the benefit bill, and they’re both from the same town – it seemed logical to ask Deryck his thoughts on the ‘punk’ chick…
“Ah, I don’t really have any,” he laughs somewhat diplomatically.
Really? Fair enough, but would he listen to her music?
“Ah… no. But not in a bad way, I just like to listen to heavier stuff than that. You know, she’s not exactly heavy.”
And while Sum 41 might have been spending a bit of time entertaining the same folk as old Avril, they’ve also been hitting another audience – Metallica fans. The guys recently took part in MTV’s Icon tribute to the legendary metal band, and even if Metallica have waned in their later years, their early days are enough to make this almost as good a cause as the Toronto benefit.
“It was awesome,” Deryck says. “We got to do a three song medley of “Master Of Puppets”, “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and “Enter Sandman”. We opened up the show – so while Metallica walked out on stage, we were playing. It was totally cool, because they were a totally influential band for us. We got to hang out with Lars and party at his hotel afterwards. He’s exactly the same as he is on stage you know – he’s intense but he’s a really nice guy.”
However, even though Deryck and his mates were totally stoked to be part of the Metallica memorial, they did knock back an offer to join the metalheads on their Summer Sanitarium tour, choosing instead to hit the Warped trail again.
“It’s nothing against any of the bands or anything, but we just didn’t feel like we fitted in on that tour, you know? The Warped Tour is just something that we always had fun on, there’s always great parties and that sort of thing. Like we’ve been on it, or gone to it, every year it’s been around I think. It’s a tour where we love so many of the bands on it, so it’s cool that we can see them play as well.”
“I got a call from our manager and he said that Iggy Pop wanted to do a song with us. And I was like, ‘Oh shit, OK’.”
And, even if Warped is a punk rock institution, it’s certainly not the biggest one that Sum 41 have been involved with this year – that honour would definitely go to Mr Iggy Pop. Sum 41 will appear on the new album from the punk legend, after the Chairman of The Bored asked them to write a song for him earlier this year.
“It was a really last minute thing,” recalls Deryck. “Like I got a call from my manager and he said that Iggy Pop wanted to do a song with us. And I was like, ‘Oh shit, OK’. And he said, ‘Yeah, so you’ve gotta call Iggy, because he wants to talk to you’. So I called him up and he was like a really totally nice guy. He was so humble and just really cool. And we talked for about an hour, and as soon as I got off the phone, I started writing the song that became “Little Know It All”. We met up two weeks later, and recorded it. It was weird, but he was so nice I didn’t feel nervous or anything. But he was definitely Iggy Pop – you know, he’s definitely a little out there.”
Being invited to work with someone like Iggy is a sure sign that your band is impressing the right people, and a sure indication that Sum 41 are starting to shed their teen-brat sort of image. And while it might surprise some people, Deryck for one is happy to be moving on and growing up a little.
“When we first started getting a bit of attention, we were only 18 or 19, you know? And in those days, there was nothing else to my life other than hanging out with friends and going to parties and that sort of stuff. So naturally that’s what we wrote about. But now, things are changing. I feel like I’m definitely growing up, and I’m really enjoying that. And whatever we do will probably change with that, because the songs I’ve written have always been about the things in my own life. Once that was just chicks and parties, but, you know that’s changing and I can see a whole bunch of other stuff I never knew about before.”
Even so, Sum 41 aren’t about to forget all about the fast and free life of rock’n’roll. If you need any proof of that, then you should look no further than another of the band’s recent exploits, one that may even top working with Iggy Pop – a day as guest photographers for none other than Playboy Magazine.
“Straight out of the blue, we got this call, and it was like, ‘Playboy want you to be guest photographers and shoot one of their Playmates’,” laughs Deryck. “And so she came down to our show – we were doing a show in Chicago – and she came down and we just did it backstage. We did a whole day shooting. It was an easy one to say yes to.”
Well, there’s an understatement for ya! But the whole thing begs the question – what was it like to live out just about every teenage (and older) bloke’s fantasy?
“Well, it was easy for us, but I sort of felt bad for her,” Deryck admits. “You know, there were four of us and just her. And like, she had to get naked in front of us and we were like telling her what positions to go in and stuff. But the weird thing for me is that I’ve never taken many pictures, so I just had to sit there and be like the director. But she handled it well – somehow I think she’d done it before.”
And while you’d probably think any hot blooded male would accept the whole experience as a once in a life time opportunity, Deryck – ever the ambitious optimist – doesn’t mind thinking otherwise.
“It could be a one-off,” he says with a laugh, “but then again, I can see myself sitting around and taking pictures of naked girls for the rest of my life. That would be OK. So you know, when we’re old and washed up and nobody cares about the band anymore, maybe I’ll start working as a photographer…”
Given some of the reactions Deryck gets from his female fans, we’re guessing he’ll probably have no trouble finding a few willing models.
Featured in BLUNT #20 – July 2003.