Sum 41’s sixth studio album, 13 Voices, comes out October 7, and reunites Deryck Whibley and Jason “Cone” McCaslin with Dave “Brownsound” Baksh, who alongside his old bandmates joins newer inductees Tom Thacker from Gob and token American, Frank Zummo. This is the band’s first record in five years, and their first with Baksh since 2004’s Chuck.
Rejoining Sum 41 has Baksh reminiscing about their early days, mentioning influences like Len and NC17 (a.k.a. Treble Charger), who he says were doing something different from what was happening in the mainstream in the mid-90s, when most bands were less concerned with writing fun lyrics than they were “playing really fast.”
“Shows became more of an athletic event rather than [being] about actual songwriting, and I think that’s one of the things that sparked us,” recalls Baksh. “We were like ‘OK why don’t we just write catchy songs and enjoy ourselves?’ It worked for the Ramones.”
Sum 41 hit popularity quickly, allowing them to finally afford luxuries like “organic soda,” but it also made them exposed to a potential burn out.
Their fast-paced lifestyle and ten years of continuous touring inevitably carved levels of exhaustion. This exhaustion was a catalyst to Baksh’s decision to leave the band. However, the main reason was because he needed to be home with his family during a trying time.
“I was raised with that kind of morality, which is, that family should always comes first,” he notes. “Looking back on it now, in hindsight, it is definitely something that needed to happen.”
But that didn’t make things any easier.
“Me leaving the band was kind of like spitting in the face of my best friends,” he says of his abrupt departure. “It was pretty sudden and I didn’t really tell anyone what was going on at home, so I totally understand where both sides were coming from, and honestly it took about eight years to get back in touch. But Deryck and I just picked up right where we left off. We said our apologies and it’s all water under the bridge now.”
Then came the tragic health decline of frontman, principle songwriter, and all-around melody maker, Dereyck Whibley. In 2014, Whibley ended up in the hospital fighting for his life after his kidneys and liver collapsed due to years of excessive drinking. In an interview with CBC, Whibley explained how he didn’t notice the problem had gotten so bad.
“I never felt anything weird, everything just felt normal,” he said. “I just thought: it’s just alcohol, it can’t really harm you that much. But sure enough, it can.”
13 Voices was recorded following his four-month hospital stay, and comes with ten tracks that speak of recovery, realization and exude a sort of spiritual awakening that’s felt by more than just Whibley.
“In a way we’ve lived, every single person in this band has lived in a moment of that kind of awakening,” explains Baksh. “Everybody has lived it on different levels and I’m not saying anyone has lived it harder than anybody in the world, but we’ve had those moments where you realize—every moment that you live is where you are and you need to reside in that moment, be part of it, deciding what’s best for you and those close to you.”
He recalls hearing about Deryck’s decline; the same friend that Baksh’s dad once believed was his gay partner because of their super tightness in their youth.
“Deryck is a strong character and he’s always got his eyes and his focus on what he needs to be doing. Honestly, he never stopped, though, I mean he’d take deuce breaks back then, but that was about it,” explains Baksh.
After hearing about the breakdown in Whibley’s health, Baksh jetted to see his friend in LA, which was understandably emotional.
“Once I got to hang out with him I realized like ‘this guy will never…like he needs to live you know what I mean?’ That’s his mentality,” he says. “And, not to sound pompous or anything, but there’s a lot of seriously great Sum 41 fans out there that need him to be alive and need him to be making music and that’s a great part about the drive behind this band.”
He furthers: “There’s stories like this that are all over music and it’s incredible that Deryck stuck to the side of artists that stay alive and focus on living, being a part of the world as opposed to accepting defeat, withdrawing, and losing it.”
Baksh announced in 2015 that he would once again be part of the band and came out in fine form to perform at last year’s Alternative Press Music Awards with most of the original crew, minus drummer Steve-O (Steve Jocz).
The new lineup features three guitarists, and if the album is any indication, it’s the rejuvenation the band needed.
“We wrote enough guitar parts for five or six guitar players back in the day so now that we’ve got three we can cover a lot more. Plus, the addition of pianos on records like Chuck, well, we are now able to cover a lot of those parts too,” he says.
This greater scope allows for those “cliché rock moves where me and Cone can go back-to-back,” those moments that Baksh missed and is so ready to get into. He also notes the expansive solo opportunities that can be found on the album, most notably on “Goddamn I’m Dead.”
“When that song was presented to me, like Deryck’s playing it and it had no lyrics on it, so I’m thinking ‘OK this is a long ending I wonder what he wants here’. Then he’s like ‘ya you gotta play a minute and a half solo’. I just sat there and my soul, my hands, my fists clenched, and I was just like ‘yeaaaaaaa!’”
Sum 41’s return to the scene has already been met by a more than favourable response, one that hasn’t been missed by the band.
“The record turned out better than we could’ve imagined. It’s an unreal feeling…everything motif wise, as far as lyrics, [the album] speaks to us,” summarizes Baksh. “It feels like a band that went away for four years, asked to come back to the public and the public responded by saying ‘OK we’ll book you for a good year and a half’ even without hearing the record. That’s something. It’s really nice to see everyone being on the same page with us.”
If you’ve forgotten how alive these guys made you feel you’re not going to have to wait much longer. With songs like “13 Voices,” “The Fall And The Rise,” “God Save Us All (Death To Pop),” and the pummelling standout, “Goddamn I’m Dead Again,” you’ll sure as shit remember soon.