Tried To Be Perfect – How Sum 41 Pulled It Back From The Brink
Canadian rockers Sum 41 are about to embark on an eagerly-anticipated UK tour, in support of their recently-released album 13 Voices. The band have endured through splits and personal conflicts, but three years ago it could have been much, much worse. Sam Lambeth spoke to the band.
“I don’t wanna waste my time, become another casualty of society,” sang Deryck Whibley on Sum 41’s irresistible call-to-arms, Fat Lip. It’s a statement that many who’ve sang it have probably lived through, but it’s one that Whibley almost took literally – come 2014, Whibley’s life of hedonism caught up with him, and he ended up fighting for his life.
“I slipped into a fog of partying and booze. I tried to detach myself from all responsibility,” Whibley says. The result was a lengthy period in hospital, followed by intense physical therapy sessions. “Due to neuropathy, muscle atrophy and medication that caused permanent nerve damage in my legs and feet left me unable to walk and in excruciating pain for months. I had to learn how to do everything again—my motor skills, learning how to play guitar. It was really difficult, but at the same time if I didn’t have a record to make, I don’t think I would have recovered as quickly, or even at all.”
The resulting record is 13 Voices, released last October to critical and commercial acclaim. With original guitarist Dave Baksh back on a Sum 41 record for the first time since 2004’s Chuck, there’s a sense of renewed purpose and vigour in the multi-talented Whibley, who credits the love and support of his mother and fiancée for getting him through his gruelling recovery. “Being sober and out of the fog made me realize that the only things I really cared about were music, making a record, and getting better so I could get back on stage again,” he says. The band, touring as a five-piece, will hit the road this month, beginning at Birmingham 02 Academy on Friday 24 February.
The Don’t Call It A Sum-Back Tour will see the group play the tracks that helped ingrain them as one of punk rock’s purest bands, from the deceptively light-hearted stompers In Too Deep and Motivation, to more reflective numbers such as Pieces and their most recent single, Fake My Own Death, inspired by Whibley’s ‘lost weekend’. “I just wanted to get away from everything that I had been doing,” he says. “I needed to start a new life.”
It seems he has certainly done that, but more importantly, he has bought his old band along for the ride.