Sum 41 Survive Teen Stardom, Substance Abuse and Changing Tastes to Rise Again on 'Out for Blood'
Published Jul 12, 2019The early oughts were awash in bouncy pop punk bands. Yet Sum 41, a young and bratty quartet from the Toronto suburb of Ajax, ON, somehow managed to cut through the throngs of Warped Tour wannabes to stand amongst the genre's greats. What's even more staggering is that Sum 41 have weathered the storm of substance abuse, lineup changes and evolving musical tastes, selling over 15 million albums across the world in the process.
With the band dropping their seventh album, Order in Decline, on July 19, we look back over the band's unlikely rise and sustained success.
1980 to 1995
Deryck Whibley is born March 21, 1980 in Scarborough, ON to 17-year old Michelle. His biological father is out of the picture by the time of his birth and the two never meet. Michelle raises Whibley as a single mom, while attending school. "We didn't have any money, we didn't really do much," he'll tell Vice in 2016. They live in Peterborough for a time during which Whibley discovers music, first rap (he forms a short-lived rap trio, Powerful Young Hustlers) and later Guns N' Roses, whose Appetite for Destruction is the first album he buys with his own money. Michelle, now a nurse, marries Kevin Gordon and the family move to Ajax while Whibley is in elementary school. He gets his first guitar at 14 and joins a rotating cast of short-lived bands, the first of which is called Eternal Death. Other groups are glorified Nirvana and Weezer cover bands. He also discovers Green Day via their video for "Basket Case." "I was about 14 when Dookie came out," Whibley will tell NME in 2014. "It had so much energy and it was so different. I'd never seen anything like it before. From then, I was instant fan."
In 1994 he meets Steve "Stevo 32" Jocz, born July 23, 1981, described as a burnout, and the two become fast friends while attending Exeter High School. "I can be like super-hyper all day," Jocz will tell Spin in 2002. "My mom was convinced I had like, A.D.D. or something. It's just like, kids hate school, you know?"
Ajax is a typical bedroom community. "It's a happy suburb, with kids — no crime," Jocz will tell Spin in 2002. Whibley and friends regularly take the train into Toronto to see shows; when he's 16, he sees Treble Charger for the first time.
Jocz and Whibley form Kaspir as a NOFX cover band with friends Richard "Twitch" Roy on bass and Jon Marshall on vocals. After attending a Hole concert, they opt to change their name, reflecting the fact that it was the 41st day of summer.
Six months after seeing them for the first time, Whibley attends another Treble Charger show. He sneaks backstage and convinces frontman Greig Nori to come see his band. The singer-guitarist acquiesces and catches their set at the Opera House in September, along with his friend Marc Costanzo from Len. It's the band's first gig as Sum 41.
"I wasn't crazy about the songs they were writing and the singer they had was not that great," Nori tells Exclaim!, who had never worked in A&R or managed a band before. Whibley gives Nori a cassette of songs he's written on his own. "Right away, I could see that this other kid could write songs." He's also blown away by Jocz's drumming and thinks the entire group are hilarious. "Seeing this was explosive friendship and charisma between them, and they had this standout drummer, and a kid that has early signs of writing catchy stuff, I thought, 'Ah, that's a flag.'"
"It was the first show of a 16-year-old band," Whibley tells Exclaim! today. "We were pretty, pretty rough, but there was some kind of spark there."
Costanzo has access to a recording studio at Ryerson University. He convinces Whibley and Marshall to switch positions, and they lay down demos of Whibley's songs. Sum 41 become part of a group of friends that includes Nori, Costanzo and a pre-Broken Social Scene Brendan Canning. "No one was managing us at the time, because we weren't really anything but we were starting to get some shows and we would do some shows with Treble Charger," Whibley tells Exclaim!
They play a gig opening for Len. "I remember it being one of the first times I felt like I belonged to something cool," Whibley will write in a Facebook post in 2014. "I was so hated in high school by all the jocks and popular kids, but hanging out with the guys in Len made none of that matter… We were doing what we loved and having a blast along the way."
Costanzo lends Whibley a four-track and Whibley begins recording his friends' bands, including groups that feature future Sum 41 members Jason McCaslin and Dave Baksh. "I was in the room when [Marc] was recording and writing 'Steal My Sunshine,' and I just saw the way that those guys put records together in their house. And then to see that song become what it became, it was so simple. Knowing that you can do this kind of stuff, everything seemed possible."
As people begin to take an interest in the band, Nori offers to manage the band. According to Nori, he and Whibley strike up a writing partnership that makes up the band's creative core. "Deryck and I were writing the lion's share [of material]," says Nori. However, today Whibley disputes that characterization.
Marshall leaves the band and Dave Baksh joins on guitar and backing vocals. He's previously played in a local Rage Against the Machine-inspired group called 747. Baksh was born July 26, 1980 and attended Exeter High School with Jocz and Whibley. He meets the latter when the two are kicked out of transportation technology class together. His nickname, "BrownSound," is a reference to both his Guyanese heritage and the guitar tone that Eddie Van Halen used on Van Halen's first two records. Whibley catches Beck's Odelay tour when it stops in Toronto. "It was the first time I realized that a concert could be a show," he'll tell Exclaim! in 2016. "I was used to seeing punk rock shows and club shows with jumping around on stage and mosh pits."
The band record an untitled demo tape, which becomes known amongst fans as the Rock Out With Your Cock Out tape. They send the tape to record companies in hopes of getting signed.
A near-fatal car crash causes Roy to leave the band; he's replaced by Closet Monster's Mark Spicoluk, who will go on to play with Avril Lavigne, before Jason McCaslin takes over the bassist position. Born September 3, 1980 in North York, Ontario, he attended high school with Whibley, who gave him the nickname "Cone" due to his propensity for eating ice cream cones at lunch. McCaslin picked up the bass at age 14 and formed a grunge band, Second Opinion, with some neighbourhood friends, including another future Avril Lavigne band member, drummer Matt Brann.
The band start filming their antics; they make action movie spoofs, drenching unsuspecting people with Super Soakers. Eventually they edit the footage into a ten-minute film soundtracked by their music and mail it to labels. "We just did stuff that made us and our friends laugh. That's all it was for," Whibley tells Exclaim! "The video was just us causing all this stupid trouble in our hometown, like egging houses and spraying people with water guns. We put our music on it and then labels wanted to sign us, just because we wanted to make our friends laugh."
They start incorporating elements of '80s heavy metal into their live set, going so far as creating a fictional hair metal group called Pain for Pleasure, with Jocz on vocals. With high school nearing its end, Whibley's parents give him two years to "make it." Whibley's stepdad Stephen Gordon will later tell CBC News that they thought they were being strict, but "all the other parents had only given their kids one year." Baksh drops out before graduating.
After being the subject of a major-label bidding war, Sum 41 sign with Island Records. "I hadn't been on a plane until I signed with a record company," Whibley will tell Vice in 2016.
On June 27, the band release the Half Hour of Power EP on Big Rig Records, a subsidiary of Island and Aquarius. The song "Dave's Possessed Hair/What We're All About," features a verse from pioneering hip-hop star MC Shan, a member of the Juice Crew.
The cover image, of Jocz in his underwear holding a Nerf gun, is the same one they used for their demo tape. "Makes No Difference" is released as a single; the initial music video is edited footage from the home video the band used to solicit record labels. The second, more professional clip, features the band playing a house party; it includes a cameo by rapper DMX, who rolls into the party on an ATV.
They play the side-stage of Our Lady Peace's Summersault festival, a travelling summer music fest that takes the band across the country with artists like Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, A Perfect Circle, Deftones and Treble Charger, whose album Wide Awake Bored shifted the band's sound away from power-pop to more of a pop punk sound, especially on single "American Psycho."
"Me writing with Deryck was naturally making me start to write songs like that," says Nori. They also play on a handful of Warped Tour dates.
At first, Sum 41 struggle to find their footing commercially, particularly in Canada. "It didn't seem like we could get any kind of video or radio attention at the beginning," Whibley tells Exclaim! But then for some reason it took off at MTV, and that's kind of what changed everything for us."
To record their debut, the band recruit Jerry Finn, who helped engineer and mix Green Day's Dookie and produced Rancid's ...And Out Come the Wolves and Blink-182's Enema of the State, among many other landmark records. Whibley and Nori co-write most of the tracks, with Jocz penning the record's two Pain for Pleasure tracks, "Introduction to Destruction" and "Pain for Pleasure." He writes the lyrics to the latter in ten minutes while on the toilet. The whole band co-write to first single "Fat Lip." A re-recorded version of Half Hour of Power's "Summer" is also included.
All Killer No Filler is released in May. The record peaks at #13 on the Billboard 200 and #9 on the Canadian Albums Chart, while "Fat Lip" hits #1 on the U.S. Modern Rock chart. Its video appends "Pain for Pleasure" to the single, introducing the band's alter-egos to a mainstream audience. Subsequent singles "In Too Deep" and "Motivation" also do well on the Modern Rock charts. It is eventually certified platinum in the U.S. and the UK, triple platinum in Canada and gold in Japan.
In 2018, on the Blink-155 podcast (co-hosted by Exclaim! film editor Josiah Hughes), Fucked Up's Ben Cook, who previously in No Warning had worked with Nori, reveals that "In Too Deep" began life as a collaboration between Nori and Canadian Caribbean-inflected rapper Snow: "One of [Nori's] early ideas was to mix pop-punk and reggae," says Cook. Cone later confirms Cook's story, noting that Whibley, Nori and Snow almost formed a band together on the basis of the demo.
The video for "In Too Deep" is a riff on the Rodney Dangerfield movie Back to School and both it and "Fat Lip" appear in the film American Pie 2. The former is included on its soundtrack, alongside like-minded bands like Blink-182 and Green Day.
They hit the road opening for bands like Offspring, Blink-182, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Social Distortion. "We treated every set like it was a miniature headlining set," Jocz will tell Seattle PI in 2002. "So when it was time to headline our own shows, all we had to do was add more songs."
The band head out on Warped Tour. Their tours are rife with bad behaviour, which becomes grist for the increasingly high profile music magazines that want to profile the band. A Rolling Stone story recounts Whibley's fondness for shattering the windows of his hotel rooms with a BB gun, and the night band members went around slashing car tires with members of rock band Saliva. After getting drunk with some local radio personalities in Florida, Whibley terrorizes guests at the hotel the band are staying at. He sets off a fire extinguisher in their tour manager's room and pulls the fire alarm at 4 a.m., forcing an evacuation of the building. Members from Christian metal outfit P.O.D., who are also staying at the hotel, are unimpressed.
Island/Def Jam president Lyor Cohen, who worked with the Beastie Boys during their Licensed to Ill days, according to a 2001 story in Rolling Stone, encourages the band to "fuck shit up," assuring them that the label will pick up the tab — as long as the band videotape the mayhem. "The Beastie Boys were much tamer," he tells Rolling Stone. "Sum 41 are a multiple of them." Some of the footage, as well as the stuff they filmed before getting signed, appears on the appropriately titled live DVD, Introduction to Destruction.
The band make two appearances on the KROQ holiday charity compilation Kevin and Bean present Swallow My Eggnog; they join Unwritten Law for the song "Unwritten Christmas" and appear as Sum 41 vs. Tenacious D for "Things I Want." They're nominated for Best New Group at the Junos, but lose to Nickelback. They win the People's Choice Award for Favourite Canadian Group at the MuchMusic Video Awards.
In April, a new version of "What We're All About" appears on the Spider-Man soundtrack, featuring a guitar solo from Slayer's Kerry King. The song is released as the second single from the soundtrack. A music video is shot, directed by Marc Klasfeld, but the track fails to live up the massive cultural ubiquity of Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott's "Hero," the soundtrack's first single.
In June, Sum 41 appear in Treble Charger's "Hundred Million" music video, alongside Avril Lavigne, Swollen Members and Gob, all of whom are at their commercial peak. Gob are also managed by Nori. "The second that Sum 41 became a big hit, suddenly every band and every label wanted me to work with them. I went through this period where it just got insane."
In 2011, Lavigne will recount the night she meets Whibley at a bar while still underage, to Rolling Stone. "I made out with him the first day I met him. He gave me my first shot of Jäger…. as I was getting carried out of the bar, I saw Chad from Nickelback!"
"Hundred Million" is the first single from Treble Charger's album Detox. It's released in August and features additional playing and production from Whibley and Jocz.
Does This Look Infected? is released in November. Reflecting the broader musical and life experiences the band underwent, following the success of All Killer No Filler, it's a heavier album, both musically and thematically, with lyrics tackling everything from substance abuse to HIV and war. The song "No Brains" takes aim at former lead singer Jon Marshall, with whom Whibley had a falling out. Though it lacks the goofball irreverence of its predecessors, it still fits firmly within the loose boundaries of pop punk.
Reviews are generally positive. Exclaim! calls it "harder, angrier and beefier" while a review in Blender notes that "Sum 41 have grown up... a little.... It's all relative, and, crucially, it still rocks."
"There were so many bands that came out at the same time as us, and we knew we'd all be coming out with records again," Whibley tells Toronto alt-weekly NOW. "We knew everyone was expecting us to try and repeat the last album, and we wanted to do something different."
The record is produced by Nori who also co-writes many of the songs. "Half Hour of Power, All Killer No Filler, and Does This Look Infected?, those three in a row were very much like a Deryck and me collaboration," Nori tells Exclaim! today. Nori and all four band members have matching "41" tattoos above their right elbows. "He taught us everything we know," Jocz says of Nori in NOW. "He's totally a member of the band."
The Marc Klasfeld-directed video for lead single "Still Waiting" pokes fun at the rise of garage rockers like the Strokes, the Hives and the Vines. A record exec, played by Canadian comedian Will Sasso, encourages the band to change their name to the Sums. The band perform on a stage identical to the one featured in the Strokes clip for "Last Nite" and ends with the band trashing it and their equipment. "[It's] kind of making a joke about ourselves," Whibley will tell Spin in 2003, "saying that we were part of the 'cool' bands last time, and now we're going to try and do it again."
The record peaks at #32 on the Billboard 200 and fails to match the sales highs of their previous album. "Still Waiting" peaks at #7 on the Alternative Songs chart, while "Hell Song" peaks at #13. It goes platinum in Canada and gold in the United States.
Sum 41 are nominated for Best Group and Best Album at the Junos, losing the former to Nickelback once again. The band cover "Rock You," by Canadian hard rock heroes Helix for the FUBAR soundtrack. Cross Your Ts and Gouge Your Is is included as a bonus DVD on certain versions of the album. It includes a fake documentary about Pain for Pleasure.
The band appear on an episode of MTV's Cribs. It's filmed in Jocz's parent's house in Ajax.
In February, Sum 41 are featured on the cover of Spin, posing in an homage to the Damned's Damned Damned Damned album. The story plays up the band's juvenile sense of humour and hard-partying ways. Baksh is described as the only band member to refrain from getting "regularly" wasted. In 2001, Rolling Stone described him as "the band dad," much to his dismay.
They win Group of the Year at the Junos. They're invited to perform at the MTV Icon Metallica show in California, part of an incongruous assortment of acts that includes Lavigne, Snoop Dogg, Korn, Limp Bizkit and Staind. They perform a medley of "For Whom the Bell Tolls," "Enter Sandman" and "Master of Puppets."
Whibley briefly dates Paris Hilton, hotel heiress and co-star of the reality show The Simple Life. When asked about the relationship in an interview with Howard Stern in 2005, Whibley will explain that they "hung out" for about six months, but were never exclusive.
The live EP Does This Look Infected Too? is released in Japan and they play some dates on the summer's Warped Tour. The live DVD Sake Bombs and Happy Endings: Live in Tokyo is released, featuring a performance from their May Japanese tour.
Whibley and Nori co-write "Little Know it All" with Iggy Pop. It's the first single from Pop's collab-heavy album Skull Ring. The band appear in its accompanying music video. He meets Ice-T at a party who imparts the advice that "The only thing harder than being the Mack is staying the mack."
Nori is fired as the band's manager. "It was my mistake. I wanted to pull the band off Nettwerk and I did it without asking the band. I wanted to grow our management company [Bunk Rock Music]," Nori tells Exclaim! "They gave me a call one day and said that there were certain things that were going on that they didn't agree with, and that was the biggest one."
In May, the band visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo through War Child Canada to document the aftermath of the country's years-long civil war. Fighting breaks out near their hotel, and the band and 43 other hotel guests are evacuated. It takes armoured carriers 20 hours to reach them. With the help of Canadian peacekeeper Charles "Chuck" Pelletier, the band and other civilians make it to safety. The trip, including this ordeal, is documented in the documentary Rocked: Sum 41 in Congo, which is released the following year.
Chuck is released in October, named after the Canadian Peacekeeper who had helped them out of harm's way in the DRC. It's a far more aggressive album than the band have previously produced. Metallica and Iron Maiden, who once ironically inspired the band's Pain for Pleasure alter ego, are now embraced sincerely. Nori again produces. Baksh contributes very little to the direction of the record, only writing a few guitar solos. Cook writes the main riff for "We're All to Blame" which he'll describe as "the one where they were trying to sound like System of a Down," on the Blink-155 podcast. "They kind of jacked some of No Warning's stuff, so I kind of felt like they owed us a little bit, and I got to reap the benefit."
The record receives mixed reviews, but tops the Canadian album charts and hits #10 on the Billboard 200. Exclaim!'s Stuart Green notes that "the band has never sounded more determined or cohesive," but Q Magazine sums up detractors' assessment in their review: "Too melodic for metal fans and too heavy for the pop punk kids who made them famous." It goes gold in the US and double platinum in Canada.
Whibley and Lavigne begin dating — she has a pink heart with the letter "D" inside it tattooed on her wrist.
Chuck wins Rock Album of the Year at the Junos. Whibley sells his stake in Bunk Rock. Chuck Acoustic is released as a tour promo in Japan, as is Go Chuck Yourself, a live recording of a show in London, ON; it gets a North American release the following year. The band cover "Killer Queen" for the Queen tribute album of the same name. In June, Whibley proposes to Lavigne while vacationing in Venice and she accepts.
On May 11, Baksh announces in a press release that he's leaving the band. He soon founds the band Brown Brigade with his cousin Vaughan Lal, drummer Lee Fairlee, and Sum 41 guitar tech "The Craigulator" and they release the EP Appetizer for Destruction. It's reported that Baksh and Whibley had competing visions for the band, with the former wanting to pursue a more aggressive style, while the latter pushing for a more progressive pop punk sound.
"As a guitar player, growing up I always used to practice the entire album of Symbolic by Death," Baksh tells Rolling Stone. In the leadup to his decision, Baksh says he became increasingly withdrawn from his friends. "All three of them, when we actually spoke, said, 'We saw this coming.'" Gob's Tom Thacker is recruited as his replacement.
Whibley marries Lavigne in Montecito, CA on July 15.
Underclass Hero is released in July. It takes the band ten months to write the record, which Whibley also produces. It's the band's first as a trio, and their most personal record to date, diving into Whibley's (lack of) a relationship with his father, religion and substance abuse. It dials back the aggression of Chuck while borrowing some of the musical ambition of Green Day's American Idiot. Whibley states that he wanted to make the "most artistic punk rock record," while Jocz calls it the direction they should have gone in after All Killer No Filler.
Whibley produces two songs on Lavigne's album The Best Damn Thing; Jocz plays drums on both. They play a few Warped Tour dates. The Canadian dates on the Strength In Numbers tour, which they co-headline with Finger Eleven, are cancelled after a herniated disc flare-up leaves Whibley unable to perform.
McCaslin forms the Operation M.D. with H2O's Todd Morse, in which he goes by the name of Dr. Dynamite. Their debut, We Have An Emergency, is released in Canada and Japan. Whibley produces and Jocz plays drums. Brown Brigade release Into the Mouth of Badd(d)ness in August.
McCaslin marries Shannon Boehlke. Whibley and Todd Morse perform at the wedding.
Baksh joins Organ Thieves on guitar with his Brown Brigade bandmate Chuck Coles. A Japanese-only hits compilation, 8 Years of Blood, Sake and Tears is released in November; it includes unreleased song "Always," and a DVD of their music videos.
Jocz joins the Vandals for the summer's Warped Tour.
Sum 41 plan to make an EP at the end of the year, but they decide to keep writing, working towards an album instead.
Jocz directs a video for Canadian band the Midway State's "Change For You," which features a pre-"Call Me Maybe" Carly Rae Jepsen.
In January, Organ Thieves release God Favourite Sons EP for free on their MySpace page. The rest of the world gets the hits compilation All the Good Shit: 14 Solid Gold Hits, 2000-2008 in March. Thacker is confirmed to now be an official member of the band.
In September, Whibley and Lavigne split; their divorce is referenced in a joke during the second season of Parks and Recreation.
They begin the year recording with producer Gil Norton in Los Angeles, but he's dismissed after a week and Whibley takes over production duties. The album is finished the day before the band head out on the Warped Tour, but they have to bow out of several dates due to Whibley contracting a case of bronchitis. A few days later, while on tour in Japan, Whibley is attacked at a bar by three unknown people. He's taken to the hospital where he is diagnosed with a slipped (herniated) disc. "Somebody recognized me and thought it would be fun to beat the shit out of me," he'll tell Rolling Stone in 2016.
The band play their remaining Japanese dates, but have to cancel more Warped Tour dates upon their return to North America. Whibley is eventually confined to a wheelchair and manages the pain with alcohol. "I was like, 'Well, I don't want to become addicted to painkillers, but I do notice when I have a couple of drinks I feel a lot better.'"
In a 2010 blog post, roadie and lead singer of pop punks Reunion Show, Brian Keith Diaz, recalls that "The first Europe trip was a blur of Jack Daniels and vodka, shitty European cocaine and non-stop partying."
Originally set for release at the end of the year, Island postpones the release of the band's next album until 2011.
The second Operation M.D. album, Birds + Bee Stings is released. Whibley and Jocz, as well as Billy Talent's Ian D'Sa all contribute.
McCaslin produces three songs for a then-unsigned band called the Strumbellas.
Screaming Bloody Murder is released in March. It receives mixed reviews and debuts at #9 in Canada and #31 on the Billboard 200. Thacker co-writes first single "Screaming Bloody Murder" with Whibley. "Blood In My Eyes" is nominated for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance at the Grammys, but loses to Foo Fighters. The band play on a number of Warped Tour stops. Despite their split, Whibley produces half the songs on Lavigne's album Goodbye Lullaby.
Whibley tries getting sober while on the Japanese leg of the band's tour. "[He] passed out on stage in Sapporo several songs into the set," recalls Keith Diaz.
Live at the House of Blues, Cleveland 9.15.07 is released in August.
In October, Whibley and girlfriend Ari Cooper attend a Halloween party dressed up as Lavigne and her fiancé, Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger; Whibley goes as Lavigne, Cooper as Kroeger. Kroeger later tweets "Hey Deryck loved the costumes! we were going to dress up as you guys this year, but all the parties had celebrity themes haha!"
The band's tour in support of Screaming Bloody Murder grinds on, including dates in Russia, Australia and across Asia. In November and December, the band play a number of shows in honour of the 10th anniversary of Does This Look Infected? In February.
The Strumbellas release their debut album, My Father and the Hunter, which is produced by McCaslin. It's nominated for a Juno Award.
In April, Organ Thieves release their full-length debut, Somewhere Between Free Men and Slaves. Nori produces. The band are now Baksh's main gig, with Brown Brigade strictly a studio project.
Dates in support of Screaming Bloody Murder end in March. In April, Jocz leaves the band and later becomes a realtor in the Palm Springs area. "[He] left after a long, gruelling tour, which is not surprising," Whibley will tell The Toronto Sun in 2016. "I know I was feeling, 'I don't know if I ever want to see these guys again. I don't know if I want to do this again. This may be a time to do something different.'"
On April 15th Whibley is hospitalized in L.A.'s Cedars-Sinai with liver and kidney failure, internal bleeding and vomiting blood, all stemming from years of excessive drinking. He's put into a medically induced coma for three days. When he awakens, the first thing he sees is his mother. "I knew something was really bad because she lives in Toronto," he'll tell Rolling Stone in 2016.
In a note on his personal website, title "Rock Bottom," he details the ordeal and includes several disturbing pictures of himself in a hospital bed. "I was sitting at home, poured myself another drink around midnight and was about to watch a movie when all of a sudden I didn't feel so good. I then collapsed to the ground unconscious. my fiancé got me rushed to the hospital where they put me into the intensive care unit." His condition is uncertain, but miraculously, he does no long-term damage to his organs. "They were saying one more drink would kill me," Whibley will tell The Toronto Sun. He spends five weeks in the hospital. Lavigne tweets support upon his discharge writing, "He is family to me and always will be." Whibley ends his "Rock Bottom" message noting that his health scare has renewed his passion for music and that he's already got ideas for new Sum 41 material.
Two days before going public with his diagnosis, Whibley reaches out to Diaz. After Whibley's post, Diaz writes a Tumblr post detailing his experiences with Whibley and the band on the Screaming Bloody Murder tour. "We all enabled one another and that was okay," he recalls. "I got off the phone and cried. I was imagining my friend Deryck completely hitting rock bottom alone, and it scared the shit out of me."
Whibley kicks booze with the help of his fiancé, who has also struggled with alcohol addiction, and his mother, who quits drinking in solidarity with her son. In the wake of his sobriety, Whibley discovers that his social circle changes. "I don't get calls from certain people that I used to… the drinking friends," he tells Kerrang in 2014. "Who wants to invite the sober guy to the party?"
He finds supportive friends in Iggy Pop as well as Mötley Crüe's Tommy Lee and Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum from Guns N' Roses. "We go out for coffee and talk about shit." For a year afterwards, Whibley can barely stand for more than a few seconds at a time. Speaking and playing guitar are also difficult. "My whole brain felt like it reset."
Whibley makes his return to the stage, booking a small club gig in Los Angeles backed by a handful of friends. It's also the first time he's played sober. He begins working on a new Sum 41 record. Frank Zummo replaces Jocz on drums.
In July, Whibley plays a trio of gigs in California as Deryck Whibley and the Happiness Machines. His backing band includes My Chemical Romance's Mikey Way and drummer Zummo. MCR's Gerard Way and Ray Toro attend the LA show and reunite with their former bandmate backstage.
Sum 41 launch a Pledge Music campaign for a new album and play their first gig since 2013, performing at the Alternative Press Music Awards in Cleveland. Joining them for a handful of songs is Baksh, who confirms that he's re-joined the band a few days later.
13 Voices is released in October. It's preceded by the song "Fake My Own Death" in June. Its video features band members being attacked by memes. With a more aggressive hard rock sound, 13 Voices receives generally positive reviews. It debuts at #6 on the Canadian album charts, #22 on the Billboard 200 and goes gold in Europe. It's the first record with Baksh on guitar since 2006 and the first without Jocz.
"We don't speak anymore," Whibley tells Rolling Stone. "I have nothing bad to say about him, but I never miss people who bail." The band play at 38 of the summer's Warped Tour stops, and perform on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in October, after which they head out on the "Don't Call it a Sum-back" Tour to promote the record.
Inspired by the crowd reaction to songs old and new Whibley slowly starts amassing a cache of tracks he records while on the road. "Every time I picked up a guitar, I'd kind of come up with something whether it's big or small," he tells Exclaim!
In April and May, the group play a series of Does This Look Infected? 15th anniversary shows. Pain for Pleasure mark their return to the stage for the first time since Baksh left the group. Thacker now takes Jocz's place on vocals. The day they get back from the tour, they hit the studio to begin work on their next record. "We used every soundcheck as a rehearsal space," says Whibley now.
In July they play at the final Toronto Warped Tour date ever. Jocz once again plays drums with the Vandals for their Warped Tour dates.
In April, the band reveal they've been working on a new album, followed shortly by the release of "Out For Blood." Whibley produces, engineers and mixes it. Using ideas formulated on their last tour, it takes just three weeks to write, with Whibley finishing lyrics shortly afterwards. "I didn't want to write a political record or a protest record," he says now. "But in a way it sort of is. It's more about my feelings about things that are going on, but it's not necessarily about specific things going on." Order in Decline will be released on July 19.
Despite everything the band have been through, both personally and musically, Whibley says little has changed about the way he approaches music. "Everything just kind of comes out, and I don't think about it. I don't really know why [our music] changes. I don't know where it comes from, or if it's any good or bad or whatever it is. It's just all I've got. So I just do what I do."
Essential Sum 41
Half Hour of Power (Big Rig, 2000)
Rarely do bands emerge as fully formed as Sum 41 did on this aptly titled debut EP. It's all there: hooky melodies, aggressive guitars, an affinity for Beastie Boys-style rap and a juvenile sense of humour. Their origins as a NOFX cover band are still evident, but the band's irreverent (and immature) personality shines through.
All Killer No Filler (Island, 2001)
More a distillation of turn-of-the-century pop punk than any sort of musical evolution, All Killer No Filler delivers on its boastful title. Fusing frat-rap and ironic nods to hair metal with ripping riffs and a snot-nosed attitude, it launched the band into the big leagues with the likes of Blink-182 and Green Day. It treads well-worn terrain — girls, youthful ennui — but the carefree, give-no-shits vibe is as infectious as the songwriting.
Does This Look Infected? (Island, 2002)
Whatever your thoughts about Sum 41, few deny they can write a hook. Here, they marry that skill with a newfound sense of the world outside of the band. The hermetic insouciance of their debut is (mostly) gone, but Does This Look Infected? still packs enough catchy melodies and youthful attitude to fill a Hot Topic.