Published Oct 06, 2016Sum 41 broke out of Ajax, ON in 2001, bringing their belligerent, boyish pop punk to the masses with hits like "Fat Lip" and "In Too Deep" off their debut LP All Killer, No Filler. Over the course of the next decade and four subsequent studio albums that heard the band veering toward darker, heavier sounds and implementing multiple lineup changes, frontman Deryck Whibley recalls that he was ready to pack it in after 2011's Screaming Bloody Murder.
Fast-forward to 2014, when Whibley revealed that he had been hospitalized for health issues related to excessive drinking. After a recovery period that found him fighting to relearn basic motor functions (not to mention playing music), the newly sober singer/guitarist reclaimed his passion for rock'n'roll, patched things up with the band and recorded Sum 41's sixth studio album, 13 Voices at his home in Los Angeles. "It's the first record I've ever written completely sober," he says. And while he credits it with saving his life, fans don't have to worry about it being a preachy album of feel-good pop songs. "It's a rock record."
What are you up to?
Right now, I'm in-between tours, I've got about two weeks off. I'm just at home, we just got back from a European tour and are sort of getting ready for our North American fall tour.
What are your current fixations?
Right now, what's taking up my free time — which is probably a little bit obsessive — is just recording. I've been practicing and learning new recording techniques, so it's sort of like recording not really anything. Just setting up an entire drum kit and mic-ing it up and just hearing how it sounds for no reason. It's just to teach myself new recording tricks.
Reading-wise, since I'm on tour, which is where I mostly read, I've been reading autobiographies. I read Tommy Lee's book, the Duff McKagan book, the Slash book, I'm reading the Ozzy book right now, kind of just going through all of them.
Why do you live where you do?
The sun. I like the food, it has the best restaurants.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
Mind-altering? That's a bold statement. I think the whole art form of movies. I would say Tim Burton to me is very visually stimulating. Edward Scissorhands — I remember seeing it for the first time, I was pretty blown away.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
One that I attended that really sticks out in my mind was Beck on the Odelay! tour in 1997. That was pretty phenomenal. It was the first time I realized that a concert could be a show. I'd never seen anything like that — I was used to seeing punk rock shows and club shows with jumping around on stage and mosh pits. This was like a whole show; there was choreographed dancing, it obviously wasn't as crazy as James Brown, but for me at that point, it was the craziest thing I'd seen — a full band, and a full show.
What have been your career highs and lows?
Oh that's tough. It's been 20 years, so there are lots of ups and lots of downs. Damn. One really high moment was on the last record when we were nominated for a Grammy for the first time. So that was pretty new and exciting. And the low point would be losing to the Foo Fighters.
No, the low point would be coming off the last record where it felt like, at least in my opinion, I didn't think I ever wanted to do another record again, and I don't think I ever felt that before. At that time, after three years of touring for the Screaming Bloody Murder album, I thought it was all over. I think we just burnt ourselves out so much that the last thing I could ever see myself wanting to do was another Sum 41 show or sing another Sum 41 song or see another Sum 41 member.
What should everyone shut up about?
I don't really pay attention to what other people are talking about, but one thing I still see that I'm amazed by is the Kardashians. I don't really pay attention to it, I just can't get away from that name: Kardashian. It's everywhere.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
That's a hard one, 'cause I like a lot of them. I'd say I'm a pretty driven person, which I like very much, but I'm a pretty kind person, so I don't know which one I like more. Dislike, I don't know… I guess maybe I don't have a lot patience for bullshit, which comes from being sober I think too. No time for bullshit. I can be pretty honest with people when I'm not happy with them.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
That's tough because days don't mean anything to me. I would really love to have a whole day to just watch movies and TV and not have to do anything. Not have to be anywhere, not have to do something. I don't every really have a day where the day is just off. I used to try to do that once a month when I was making the record, like a year and half or two years ago. I would try to have a day off to just watch movies. But my day off, ideally, would be to just never have to leave the couch except to get food or go to the bathroom.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Whenever I think of advice, I think of when I met Ice T. He came to me and said, "Yo. The only thing harder than being the Mack is staying the Mack." And I thought, "Thanks, Ice T. I'll remember that." That was in 2003, I think, at a party that Iggy Pop and I were at for something. It had something to do with Iggy, and Ice T was there. And I try to live up to that, I try to always stay the Mack.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
Oh my god. Out of my bed? I don't know how to answer either of those. I've never kicked anybody out. I mean, maybe when I was younger, like in the early, early days and you're a teenager you kick somebody out of the band just for fun. I remember Steve-o [Jocz, former Sum 41 drummer] were just bored and we kicked a bass player of ours, like one of the early Sum 41 bass players, out. We took all of his gear, his bass and his amp and everything he had and shoved it out on the curb and told him to pick it up. We did it just so we could watch him come pick it up. We were like 14 or 15.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Tim Hortons. Not the actual guy — the donuts!
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
Appetite for Destruction cassette tape. I was living in Peterborough at the time, with my grandparents, and I was about 9 or 10. It was around the time when I just started getting into my own music. Guns N'Roses were huge at the time and it was the first rock band that I got into. Before that I was listening to rap music. That was right at the time when you start discovering music on your own. You're not listening to the Beatles because that's what your parents listen to.
What was your most memorable day job?
My first real job was a clown. I had to stand out on the street holding a sign that said: "Roses $9.99" You know those guys that have to advertise a store on the side of a busy street? Well, I did that. I don't know why I was a clown. It was a flower shop in Ajax. The weirdest thing about it was that the job was famous on that street because people would always egg the clown or throw stuff at the clown or honk at the clown — and then I ended up becoming the clown. I was the guy that used to throw stuff at the clown before that. And then I got eggs thrown at me. I never got hit, but I was also like 13, so I didn't care either. I thought I was getting rich. It was five bucks an hour, it was a five-hour day and I thought it was pretty awesome.
How do you spoil yourself?
Probably too many good dinners. The problem with that is I like everything. So, I kind of do everything. I have to say the most common would be Japanese.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
In the NBA. Point guard. I think I'm pretty good.
What do you fear most?
Spiders. I've always had serious arachnophobia.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
It was at a Grammy party, probably 2006-ish and it was in L.A., and I was with a few different people and I got introduced to… you know the guy Chris Daughtry? I was with Avril Lavigne at the time, we were married, and he got introduced to her, and he was like, "Hi, nice to meet you, I'm Chris." And then he came to me and he shook my hand and I said, "Hey, I'm Deryck." And he just goes, "Oh, thank you very much!" I was like, I didn't compliment you, I just said my name. He was so full of himself!
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
If I was cooking dinner, it would probably just be cereal. I would say Iggy Pop because he's got the best stories.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
I don't think she wishes I was doing anything else instead. Growing up, I always remember doctor seemed to be pretty high up her list.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
Frank Sinatra's "That's Life." There's a lot of things I like about that song. I like the lyrics and I like his vocal performance, he actually kind of sounds a little drunk in it. I'm a huge Sinatra fan, so kind of an all-around win.