Archive Interview: Sum 41

That time we spoke to Cone McCaslin, bassist of Sum 41…

S] It’s great to see you guys coming back on tour. How does it feel?

C] “Yeah it’s great. It has been a long time. It feels like it’s been ten years. It’s good to get back to touring again. We took a few years off and Dave (Baksh) is back as well so that’s nice and Deryck (Whibley) is doing really good, we’re playing really well as a band and we’re getting along really well.”

S] What’s inspired you guys to keep making music and come back and do the tour?

C] “I don’t know if I’d call it a comeback, for me I don’t feel like we were gone long enough and we never really broke up. We never said to each other, ‘ok the band’s done’, we just kind of didn’t really do anything, we didn’t really talk about anything. Deryck had his issues and had to overcome them. I think once Deryck got healthy and we started talking again just as friends for a while, actually the band didn’t really get brought up until a couple months after Deryck and I started talking again. We started chatting again just as friends. We’ve been friends since we were fourteen years old in high school. It was important to rebuild our relationship first before we talked about the band and once the band started getting brought up he basically said ‘do you want to do it again?’ and I said ‘of course I want to do it, if you’re in I’m in’ and then it just snowballed. He started writing a ton of songs, we’d go down and play in LA a little bit, just old songs and all of a sudden we were recording and we were doing some festivals and here we are, now we’re doing our first real three week-long tour in the UK so it’s pretty awesome.”

S] What’s been inspiring you guys as a band outside of music for the new album?

C] “I think lyrically on this album it sounds like Deryck’s really inspired by what happened in his life. I don’t think the whole album is based on what happened in the last few years, but there’s a lot of lyrical content that I think is based off that. I live in Toronto and I was going to see a ton of shows all the time, there’s a big music scene in Toronto, and I was producing music for other bands and I was thinking ‘I want to do this again’. I see other people on stage having so much fun. By the end of the last tour I don’t think any of us were having a lot of fun. We weren’t really getting along very well and we were just doing it so it’s nice to go see other bands on stage having fun and I think now we’re having a ton of fun. It takes being away that long to appreciate it.”

S] How do you feel like you’ve changed and developed personally and as a musician since Sum 41 started?

C] “I think for me, I just started producing other bands in the last few years, but it’s been amazing musically because all I knew in the 2000s from when we started making albums until 2010 was a lot of punk stuff or fast aggressive heavy metal stuff and all the bands I’ve worked on have been completely opposite of that so they’ve introduced me to music I’ve never heard of. So now I’m listening to a lot of alt country bands and rock and roll and sing songwriter stuff that I never really was listening to before. I’m turning thirty-six this year and as you get older you start to listen to a lot of different stuff anyway. I still listen to the punk stuff but my iTunes is pretty eclectic right now with a ton of different stuff. You take everything in. I never stopped trying to get better too, I started taking piano lessons a couple years ago which in turn helped me get better as a bass player too because piano really makes you understand music in a different way. I became a dad last year too so stuff like that.”

S] What can you tell me about your plans for this year?

C] “I think our year’s kind of a little bit mapped out and there’s stuff in the works that’s not totally confirmed yet, but the whole year’s going to be pretty full. The album’s hopefully going to come out later this year, it’s not done yet so we can’t really say when it’s going to come out, but it will be this year. We’re doing a festival in Japan in April, we’ve got Groezrock that we haven’t played in a long time, we’ve got some German festivals that just got confirmed for August so the whole year’s going to be full, it’s just being worked on right now, I think all based on when the album’s done. I’m excited about this Kerrang! tour. I was trying to think about the last time we did a proper tour of the UK and it’s been five, six years I think.”

S] How has the writing process for the new album been? Have you rediscovered that enjoyment for writing and playing together and building an album?

C] “This album’s been recorded a little differently than our other ones. We’ve been taking advantage of the internet. I don’t necessarily have to fly down to LA to record bass now. I did go down to LA for a batch of songs and played bass on them, but there were some songs where the tracks got sent up to me in Toronto and I played bass here so it’s a totally different process from what we’ve done. Deryck’s producing this one again and it’s the same with every album, he writes the songs and he brings all the ideas to us and we try to work them out as a band. This one we didn’t get together as much as we did on the previous albums, he took the reins a little more on this one so it’s been cool. The songs sound like us, it’s really aggressive and there are a lot of riffs and the choruses are really catchy so it’s much like Does This Look Infected? or Chuck or even the last album, Screaming Bloody Murder, production wise where it sounds really big and in your face.”

S] Is there a song you can pick out from the new stuff that defines where you are as a band now?

C] “I know the song that I would say, but I don’t know the name of it because they’re all working titles right now so we don’t really have concrete names for songs right now which is kind of strange.”

S] How do you look back on the success that you’ve experienced in your career?

C] “It’s a strange thing to think about, it’s been such a long time, but some parts still feel like they just happened, like I can remember getting signed when we were nineteen in 1999. I don’t really think back all that often, I just look ahead, but it’s been cool. We’ve done some great things, like I try to think about the cooler things we’ve done like the songs with Iggy Pop or playing with Tommy Lee and Rob Halford so that kind of stuff, really, I’ll never forget those kind of things. Those are like landmarks in our history. I still can listen to our albums and be proud of them so I think that’s the biggest thing because I’d hate to be a band where I look back on an album like ‘oh my god I can’t believe we did that’ or ‘I’m so embarrassed of that album’, but I don’t think there’s an album that we’ve done that I have that feeling for. I can still listen to them front to back and like them.”

S] When you go back and listen to them does it evoke any specific memories?

C] “Does This Look Infected was done in a crazy way, like we were touring All Killer No Filler for a long time and it was getting popular and we were getting more popular and we took two months off, that’s it, and during that time we had to write and record Does This Look Infected? and we practiced as much as we could, but it was one of those throw and go types. I remember going in and a song like ‘Mr. Amsterdam’ was half done and we just worked on it in the studio and recorded it on the spot and that to me is cool because that’s one of my favourite albums that we’ve done. You can hear the urgency and it wasn’t rushed, but it was done so quickly and we didn’t really overthink anything on that album. A lot of kids still say that’s their favorite album by us so I think that’s kind of cool. we also re-recorded a bunch of stuff on that because we recorded it in New York City in the summer when it was super humid and we got home and found out a lot of stuff was out of tune because the humidity was throwing our guitars out of tune so we had to go back to Toronto and re-record a bunch of stuff. I think that’s my favourite album because it was done so quickly.”

S] with Sum 41 being such an influential band, what advice would you give to younger musicians in the world coming out now?

C] “I think a lot of bands I run into nowadays think there’s not a lot of work that goes into it, where you can put out an album and you just hope that you’re going to have this hit, where it’s the complete opposite. There are so many more bands now than when we were even coming up because the internet and everything anyone can get noticed by a Youtube song so I think you have to work harder now more than ever, play so many shows and do so many unique things. I talk to bands in Toronto that I’m producing and I stress the same thing. It’s not putting out an album and hoping it goes. It’s putting out an album and going on the road for ten months of year, that will make the difference playing in front of people because people won’t ever hear about your record unless you go force feed it to them on the road. We did it even though the internet wasn’t really at all a factor when we were coming up. We used to give out VHS tapes and Youtube came along and destroyed that stuff. We went on the road on Half Hour Power for a long time before anyone heard about us so I think that’s the biggest thing; force feeding yourself on people and touring as much as you can and doing social media stuff all the time because it’s available. I wish social media was around when we were coming up because it would have been a lot easier than handing out boxes of VHS tapes.”

S] You’ve talked about your inspirations. What’s motivating you outside of music?

C] “I think it’s probably the culture of the studio because like I said Toronto has such a thriving music industry that I see stuff all the time and I’m kind of blown away by some new bands that I run into. I’m like ‘holy f*ck that sounds new and fresh and exciting’ and in this day and age when you think everything’s been done over and over then you run into these select few bands and you’re like ‘holy sh*t they’re actually doing something that maybe might be a throwback to 60s or 70 but it sounds so current and so fresh’. That really excites me. I think it’s just the city that you live in and the surroundings of the city.