With over 15 million records sold, a Grammy Award nomination, two Juno Awards, a Kerrang! Award and multiple Alternative Press Music Awards, Sum 41 has experienced both long-term critical and commercial success. July 2019 brings the release of Order In Decline via Hopeless Records (purchase the album now via the band’s official website), from which four singles have already been released; “45 (A Matter Of Time),” “Out For Blood,” “Never There” and “A Death In The Family.”
“Out For Blood” notably landed Sum 41, which consists of vocalist/guitarist Deryck Whibley, lead guitarist/backing vocalist Dave “Brownsound” Baksh, co-lead guitarist/backing vocalist Tom Thacker, bassist/backing vocalist Cone McCaslin and drummer Frank Zummo, into the Top 20 of a Billboard airplay chart for the first time since 2005. This lead single has also hit #1 at Sirius XM Octane and has millions of streams on both YouTube and Spotify. Even before the album’s proper street date, Order In Decline already accumulated nearly seven million streams on Spotify alone. We had the pleasure of speaking with lead singer Deryck Whibley by phone in earlier this month, and our full chat is both transcribed and edited below.
I first want to ask you about the new album Order In Decline. Did you make the album independently? Or did you know that you were going to be making an album for Hopeless Records?
Deryck Whibley: Well, I guess a little bit of both, really. I mean, we kind of knew that we were going to, but we also made a lot of it over time, just travelling on the road on tour and then when I got home. But we always planned to do it with Hopeless.
What was the first song that you wrote for the album?
Whibley: I don’t really remember because everything was kind of just written all over the place, so it all got pieced together. I think on the last tour, the 13 Voices tour, which was about three years long, I was just writing a ton of stuff. So I had all these bits and pieces of music. And when I got home, I kind of put it all together.
Hot off the presses comes the just-released new music video for “45 (A Matter of Time):”
“Never There” is a song that’s obviously going to get people talking because it’s a stylistic change in many ways. Was that one of the first things written, or one of the last things written?
Whibley: That was actually one of the last things. That was actually not even going to be a Sum 41 song. I just kind of felt that when I wrote that song, I just thought that was for something else. I had no idea that was gonna end up on the record.
For somebody who’s been following you guys for 20 years, and it’s kind of funny to think, “Wow Sum 41 has been around almost 20 years,” it’s fun to watch your evolution stylistically and all that. Somebody who’s really into the first album would go, “Well they clearly like the Beastie Boys and Judas Priest and Green Day and they like all this kind of stuff.” Has over time the music that you listen to for fun changed?
Whibley: No, I don’t think so. I mean, maybe slightly, but not necessarily. I think the music just sort of happens the way it happens and I don’t really think about it… Things just sort of evolved into whatever they turn into.
The album opens up with “Turning Away,” which has a keyboard intro in the beginning. When I read your credits, or at least the press release, it doesn’t say who played the keyboard. Was that you?
Whibley: Yeah… There’s a few keyboards in that and the intro to that is piano, I played that too. But I mean there’s a bit of myself and a friend of mine named Mike Green, he played some extra keyboard stuff as well. But the stuff that we use keyboard-wise and piano is pretty basic level. Not really anything too difficult to play.
Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley-produced album, Order in Decline, dropped on July 19th, 2019, via Hopeless Records:
Did you start off with piano lessons before you played guitar?
Whibley: Oh no, I’d never taken piano lessons. I can barely play. I can play enough to write music on it and throw a little bit of colour into a song for texture or something like that, but I can’t really play piano that well.
Was guitar your first instrument overall?
Whibley: I started very typically with a little Casio keyboard around, I don’t know, ten years old or something like that. I didn’t really play, I just kind of figured out melodies. Like I could play Christmas carols, you know? “Silent Night” and stuff like that, and I would just pick up the melody of it. I couldn’t do chords or anything. Then that turned into guitar, and then sort of everything else, so I’d sort of dabble a little bit in all the sort of normal instruments, drums, and bass, piano, keyboard, stuff like that.
What was the album in particular that made you want to play guitar? Was it a specific artist or song?
Whibley: When I started playing, it was around the time that the two biggest bands in the world were Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana. When I first picked up a guitar the first thought is, “I want to be Slash.” Nobody at that time was making playing guitar look that cool while being a really great guitar player, and he was kind of like the guy at that moment, the way his hands moved, the way he holds the (Gibson) Les Paul, the whole look. Everything seemed really cool. I quickly kind of gravitated more towards songwriting and that seemed to me like the simplicity of Nirvana opened that door of letting you know that, “Hey maybe you could write a couple of songs with only three chords.”
Dilly Halstead’s photos of Sum 41 (w/ Seaway, Super Whatevr) at House of Blues (San Diego, CA) on April 28, 2018:
Going back to what you said, with “Never There” potentially going to be something for another artist. Are you the kind of person that’s writing all the time even when there’s not an album to make?
Whibley: Oh yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, I don’t write all the time, but I do write when there’s no reason to write. It usually just comes out nowhere… A lot of times I don’t sit down to write, it just sort of happened because there’s always a guitar or something around and you just kind of pick it up and I don’t know. Ten minutes later and you’ve kind of got a riff or something. And so that happens more often than I just sit down to try to write.
Do you have any creative outlets besides music and songwriting?
Whibley: Probably not. I don’t think so.
Well I ask that because I can think of a lot of musicians that when you ask them that kind of thing, they actually also say, “Well I also want to write films or I also want to do stand-up for something like that.” Of course, you are a funny guy and you’re known to be a funny guy, so I’m curious if you ever had those aspirations to do anything besides music professionally.
Whibley: I think you might be the first person to ever say that I was considered a funny guy… (laughs) I mean, the possibility of writing or like creating like a TV show or movie would be interesting. I’ve never gone down that road. I’ve talked about it with some people, especially knowing a lot of people in Los Angeles, and sure you get into conversations… But it’s never happened.
So I take it there’s no Deryck podcast in the pipeline?
Whibley: No, no, definitely not.
Also brand new is the music video for “Never There” off of Order In Decline:
So, ultimately, you said with your last album that it was the culmination of three years on the road. Do you foresee it being that way with this album too? Or do you hope to scale back touring because you know everyone gets older and nobody wants to be on the road as much?
Whibley: We haven’t slowed down yet, so I don’t know when we will. I’m sure that feeling may end up happening at some point. But as far as feeling older and we’ve got to slow down, that hasn’t happened yet, so I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll continue to write because that sort of happens or it doesn’t. We’ll see.
So as a band that had a lot of success on its first few albums out the gate, where you were having internationally-charting hit singles and doing huge tours, is there anything that you haven’t yet accomplished with Sum 41 that you’re still hoping might?
Whibley: I mean definitely, but not anything I can think of. I just know there’s so much more to do. I feel like we’ve done a lot of stuff, but I see things grow. Every time we do a tour and we go out there it gets bigger. So really my goal is to just see where this goes.
So it sounds like you’re the kind of guy that, if I can put words in your mouth, you write music, you’re happy to write the music, you’re happy to play the gigs, and you don’t really think or plan. Everything kind of happens organically.
Whibley: That’s exactly it. Which makes it hard for me to answer a lot of questions a lot of times because I don’t really think about a lot of stuff. I just sort of feel my way to things… The things that are on my mind are the things that are happening today or tomorrow and that’s about it.
Will Sasso attempts to talk some sense into Sum 41 for Order In Decline:
So is there somebody in the band who all along was the business person that was always pushing things ahead with management and coming up with the ideas away from the music?
Whibley: (laughs) I guess that would probably fall under my theme as well. But you know, we’re a pretty simple rock band. There’s not like a whole lot of strategy involved necessarily. I think there are those things that happen with management and planning things, but it’s all based on feel and it’s usually as things are moving. It’s not such an “ok well, here’s our next three years.” As things come up, it doesn’t feel right for us or does. That’s how I make my decisions.
So, ultimately, is there something that you wish people knew about you beyond the music? Or do you just like to let the music do the speaking?
Whibley: I don’t really ever think about what I want people to think about me or what they even do. I don’t even know what people would think about me. I assume that if I knew what people thought about me I may not like it. I don’t know. I don’t really think about it.
So in closing Deryck, any last words for the kids?
Whibley: This album’s just about to come out and we’re starting up our world touring and that’s probably gonna take us through the next two to three years and we’re excited to be out there playing for people. Hopefully, we’ll see everybody.