After spending nearly all of last year on the road, including their 4th headlining run on the 2010 Vans Warped Tour
, Sum 41
are preparing to release their most long-awaited new studio album of their career Screaming Bloody Murder
.The new album, which opens up a second decade for Sum 41, marks the first album to be fully self-produced by Sum 41's Deryck Whibley
.The two-time JUNO Award-winning Canadian band also recently officially added guitarist Tom Thacker
to the band's lineup.
Screaming Bloody Murder follows 2007's Underclass Hero
, and is a return to the group's more aggressive, heavier roots of their earlier albums. While the group were in Australia recently for the annual Soundwave festival (which saw the group cancel several shows due to Whibley falling ill), Sum 41
bassist Cone McCaslin
sat down with Joe Matera
to discuss the new album.
UG: The new album is a lot heavier and darker than the previous record and there is a certain aggression permeating it. Did that stem a lot from Deryck having gone through the pain of divorce in his personal life?
I don't know how he got to that place, but maybe it was from what was going on in his life as it was a dark period for him.
Was it a conscious effort to mine those darker elements during the songwriting process?
It was never premeditated as to what, if any, direction we were going to go for this album. It is literally what came out of us. It is very much a guitar driven album. But I think its natural, as we didn't really think about it much or sat down to decide that we needed to make a heavier album or a darker album. It was just that these are really natural songs that came out of Deryck.
You mentioned its very guitar driven, which I agree, and to me it really has a lot of those elements found on Chuck.
Yeah it's a really heavily aggressive album, a lot more aggressive than the last album for sure. I think our fans will really like it as they like that kind of stuff. Over the past four years, we've been noticing all our hardcore fans are really into Chuck and Does This Look Infected? and all those things on the heavier side. So I think it is good that we went this way cause they really like it.
Gil Norton produced the early sessions but then Deryck took over the production reigns?
Yeah we interviewed so many different producers as we really wanted a producer on this album, but it was just that a lot of them weren't going to work out, or schedule wise, it wasn't going to work out. Gil, we really liked, but the thing about our band is, and it's bad to say this, but we're stuck in our own process of doing things now that we've been recording for so long. Gil has his own process and he has done a lot of great records, which was why we wanted him in the first place, as we loved all the stuff he has done. But the two processes sort of collided and so it didn't work together. We did pre-production with him as well as the drums and then Deryck took over and finished the rest of the album.
When we last spoke, you mentioned you had about six songs left over from the last record Underclass Hero, were they used for this record?
"This album is literally what came out of us. It is very much a guitar driven album. But I think its natural."
Not really. The only thing that came from other sessions was the drum intro on the first track Reason To Believe' - that is actually a drum beat that we had from Chuck and that is really the only thing. There are a lot of songs on this album. There were so many songs that we had for this new album, that the ones that didn't get used, we would pull parts from and stick them in songs on this album. Like a cool riff or something. For example the track, Blood In My Eyes', the little bass thing that happens in the middle, we took that from another song and put it in that one.
With so much material, are you planning to maybe using them for a bonus EP or something in future?
Yeah and we did record extra songs. Like for countries outside of the US and Canada, there are going to be bonus tracks on the albums. And you always have to have stuff available in case someone needs a track for a soundtrack or something. So we have songs like that kicking around.
Let's chat about the bass gear you used on this album?
I used the same bass that I have used since the beginning, which is a 1962 reissue Fender Precision that I bought in 2000 when we were doing All Killer, No Filler with Jerry Finn, who got me to buy it as he had one and was like, you've got to buy one'. It's a cool bass and I used it on the road for about two years but I loved it so much and the sound of it that I took it off the road, and now it is strictly used for the studio. Both Deryck and I have these awesome tube D-I boxes called the Evil Twins which were only made for a few years by this guy in California, he made like about 1500 of them. You can find them on EBay every once in awhile, and that is where we found ours. I also used a SansAmp and a SVT Ampeg, the anniversary edition. I also used different basses for different parts, like I recorded a whole song on the '62 but then for a breakdown like in Holy Image Of Lies', I used a Hofner.
What about live?
Live, I actually use a 1959 reissue Fender Precision. I find that the difference between the '59 and '62 is that the '59 is a little bit more, grittier. It gives me that top end grit which I like live, while the '62 is not as grittier, but it's little more rounded and bigger sounding, with much more low end.
You're back to being a four piece again having brought in Tom Thacker on guitar. How did Tom come to be in Sum 41?
Tom is from a band - and still is - called Gob who are from Canada too. They brought us on tour in 1998 and then once we got signed, and went on to become a bit more successful, we took them on tour with us in the States. So we have known the guys for a long time now. When Dave quit, we were auditioning some guitar players and we thought of Tom. And he is also a lead singer of his band so he and Deryck both sing well. Tom didn't actually play on this new album, as Deryck did all the guitars on this album, but Tom was there for pre-production and co-wrote the lead off single, Screaming Bloody Murder'.
So what's it like to be a fully functional four piece again?
It feels good, but we've always been a four piece, like on the last album we may have been a three piece, but live we're a four piece band really. Tom is more involved now, like he does interviews with us, and he is in our videos, so it's all good. And he is a really good musician. A lot of fans have their doubts because of Dave having been this metal guy, a total shredder, but Tom is actually a shredder too. He used to play metal when he was a teenager and so he can play all that stuff as well.
You have a side project The Operation M.D which recently released a new album.
Yeah the album is available on i-tunes. That project is something that I do with my friend Todd [Morse] who is in the band H2O. It started about eight years ago, though we only have made two albums so far. We just do it whenever our schedules allow it and have time to do it. We just write songs over the course of years and then get together in once in awhile, and we write it together and produce it ourselves. I have always written songs for Sum 41 but when they're finished, they never sound like Sum 41 songs. So I have this catalog of songs and when Todd and I decide to do the project, we certainly have tons of material. And he even has lots of material too as well.
You have also branched out into producing, so did you also lend a hand to Deryck when it came to this new record?
"We did record extra songs. Like for countries outside of the US and Canada, there are going to be bonus tracks on the albums."
I didn't want too many people in there doing the producing so once Gil was leaving, Deryck decided he could do it on his own production wise. I just really just had to play bass on the album and then I went home, Deryck did the guitars and the vocals. Deryck is well capable of doing that on his own. I really just like to produce in my spare time.
Do you see yourself in future taking that production route more?
I like to do more of it as that's what I kind of like to do on my off time. And that kind of thing keeps falling into my lap. Like the last thing I did, I was ready to come out on tour but went and saw this seven piece bluegrass band that featured banjoes and violins and it was just like, I have to do this'. The songs were so good but I wasn't really looking for it, it just fell into my lap. So yes in the future, I'd probably get into it a lot more.
Have you got a home studio?
Yeah I have got a studio, enough to do guitars, bass and vocals but as for drums, I have to go somewhere else.
Do you see much of Dave Baksh since he left the band?
Yes but not often, he has another band right now and does his own thing, but I like to text him at least twice a year and we're friendly. If I see him it is like hey, hi Dave', there is no issues with him with anybody in the band, but we don't really hang out. Even when he was in the band, especially the last couple of years, it was kind of like that too.
What has the rest of 2011 got in store for Sum 41?
The album is out March 25th but we've been touring it since April last year really because it was supposed to come out at the end of summer but it just got pushed back, as we wanted to do more songs. And once it is out, we're doing our world tour. And now that we had to cancel some of these Australian shows due to Deryck getting ill, we'll definitely be back here as well.
Interview by Joe Matera