In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the loud music and hard rockin' has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley.
1: Name all the members of The Sums, the rebranded version of Sum 41 you play in The Strokes-spoofing 2002 ‘Still Waiting’ video.
“So it’s Sven, Thurston…um, wow, I don’t know! I don’t think I ever paid attention to the names. I just knew mine was Sven!”
WRONG. It’s Sven [you], Thurston [bassist Cone], Holmes [guitarist Dave Brownsound] and Sergio [drummer Stevo]
“Sergio! That sounds familiar! I told Julian [Casablancas] about it beforehand. We were both playing Reading and Leeds that year and were staying the same hotel. We were the last two that had stayed up partying – it was a 24-hour bar and it was nine in the morning, and I said: ‘I’ve got this idea I wanted to run past you’. I was nervous, but he said ‘That’s an awesome idea! Please do that!’, and we got his blessing. Because we didn’t want it to look like we were making fun of The Strokes – we were making fun of the music industry and how before, bands with numbers in their titles were fashionable and now it was ‘The’ bands that were hot.”
2: Who once said: ‘Do you ever look at the sky and think, I’m glad I’m alive? After I heard Sum 41, I thought, I’m actually alive to hear the shittiest band of all time. Which is quite something when you think about it. Of all the bands that have gone before and all the bands that’ll be in the future, I was around when the worst was around?’
“(Laughs) That’s awesome! Noel Gallagher!”
“We put that quote in our album press release for ‘Does This Look Infected?’ along with one from Damon Albarn [‘Another boy band with tattoos. Fuck ‘em!’] but with somebody like Noel Gallagher who’s such a character people love, you want him to always be like that. You don’t want him to be nice.”
“We’ve met Liam – who’s much cooler and nicer – a few times. Around the time of the first record, he swaggered up to me at a festival and said something but it’s loud, he’s been drinking and he has an accent that’s really thick and I couldn’t understand what he said! I was like, ‘Oh man, is he saying something bad?’, because Noel was there too and he’d been chatting shit about us (Laughs). Eventually, I got it out that he was saying ‘I like the jumping that you do!’. He gave us a few compliments and I said, ‘I’m surprised to hear you say that because your brother hates us’. And he was like: ‘Fuck him! He doesn’t know shit!’. We later played together on Top of the Pops and our dressing rooms were next to each other, and he was really friendly then too. I remember thinking: ‘Well, he wasn’t just nice because he was drunk then!’”
3: You collaborated on ‘Little Know It All’ with Iggy Pop for his ‘Skull Ring’ album. Can you name the three other guest performers on his record?
“(Laughs) Jesus! Well, I know Green Day did a song. It’s not that I don’t remember – it’s that I had no idea there were other performers other than us and Green Day.”
WRONG. It’s Green Day, Peaches, The Stooges and The Trolls.
“We were nervous at first because we were pretty young and he’s Iggy. But he made us feel so comfortable. Then we shot a video and got to perform with him on a bunch of stuff, including Late Show with David Letterman and the MTV Awards.”
When you were hospitalised for alcoholism in 2014, apparently he helped you through your recovery…
“Well, I reached out to him. When I was in the hospital, I was very confused and frightened, like, ‘What did I do to myself?’, so I reached out to a few people who I knew had been through a lot in their lives and just asked for a little bit of advice. He was definitely one of them that had some cool things to say and boosted my confidence. He made me feel: ‘I’ll get over this’.”
4: In 2004, what number did you reach in Elle Girl’s 50 Sexiest Men poll?
“I’d say 50!”
WRONG. You were number 20, which is sexier than Nick Valensi from The Strokes  and Interpol’s Paul Banks  but not as sexy as Nick Zinner from Yeah Yeah Yeahs  or Tom DeLonge .
“I was once voted second in Kerrang!’s Ugliest Singer award poll. (Laughs) I think Chad from Nickelback beat me!”
5: Which metal icon appears in your ‘What We’re All About’ video?
“Oh, [Slayer frontman] Kerry King.”
“That happened through Rick Rubin, who we did that song with. We were massive Slayer fans and had met them a few times. We were joking that it would be bad-ass to get Kerry King on the record and Rick just went: ‘Well, I’ll call him’. Sure enough he said yes. Then we flew all the way to Toronto to shoot the video, so it was awesome to hang out with him for the whole day. Outside of the video, one fun Slayer memory is they invited us to a little private album launch party at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Hanging out with Slayer in a cemetery seemed very fitting! (Laughs)”
“We actually turned down $1 million for that song ‘What We’re All About’ to be used in a Coors Light commercial. People kept pushing us to do it, but we couldn’t. It just didn’t feel right.”
6: What is the name of the episode of King of the Hill that Sum 41 appear as evangelical Christian skateboarding punks in?
“Uh! And I know this one too! Ummmm – fuck, what is it? I know it! I would remember it if I had like 20 minutes!”
WRONG. It’s Reborn To Be Wild.
“There we go! That was uncomfortable and painful for me to do because I’m not an actor. I’m horrible at acting. We had to be animated and still kind of act and my lines were so horrible, most of them were cut (Laughs). I had a way bigger part that got cut out”
But you acted in the 2005 romantic comedy Dirty Love written by and starring Jenny McCarthy…
“Let’s not even think about that! (Laughs) It was hideous!”
For a bonus half-point, Sum 41 are also referenced in Family Guy. Who does Peter Griffin mistake you for?
“Blink-182. I remember that one!”
7: What did you throw at someone which resulted in a bizarre $6 million lawsuit being filed against you?
CORRECT. Back in 2002, while watching a local baseball game in the minor league, an audience member was hit by a hotdog thrown by Sum 41. The act was taped in secret and included in the DVD which followed by the album ‘Does This Look Infected’. He filed a lawsuit, seeking $6 million in damages. His lawyer claimed his client had suffered psychological trauma and his business experienced adverse effects for the inadvertent association he had with the band.
“That dragged on for years! I’m not gonna forget that! He had a point in that it wasn’t that we threw the hotdog at him, it was that he was on camera and his face wasn’t blurred out. The problem was he was suing us for $6 million when he was only on camera for two and a half seconds! We had to end up settling and it still cost us a bullshit amount of money, but not six million dollars. What I think happened is that it was so funny that the record company’s legal department – whose responsibility it was to blur out faces – just started laughing and forget their jobs for a second. And – big surprise! – we got the blame for it.”
Ever had anything unusual hurled at you?
“I got hit in the face by a full chicken burger – with bun and everything – once. (Laughs) It felt like a punch in the face. I was standing up on a ledge and fell backwards off it and thought ‘What the fuck was that?!’ I thought it was a baseball or something!”
8: What number did ‘Does This Look Infected?’ reach in Rock Sound’s ‘The 51 Most Essential Pop Punk Albums of All Time’ list?
WRONG. It was 28.
“Okay, I’ve never seen that poll so I couldn’t have known that.”
Nearly 18 years on, how do you look back at that album?
“I like it. I just hate the way it sounds. We actually recorded that album twice and the original recordings were better. It was the fault of the producer [Greig Nori] who was unsure of himself. We recorded in New York and had recorded everything and thought it sounded great. We took three days off and when we went back to Toronto to record vocals, the producer was freaking out: ‘We’ve got to re-do everything – none of the guitars are in tune!’. To me, it sounded fine. I have the old files still and went back and listened recently and was like: I knew they weren’t out of tune! But we redid it quickly and it didn’t sound as good. I’d like to re-release it with the original guitar sounds – superfans would probably be interested in how it should have sounded.”
9: Name two things that are shown being urinated on in your ‘Going, Going Gonorrhea’ pranks video?
“Well, it’s like a hotel bathroom into a bathtub. And then there’s a car from the balcony (Laughs).”
“Every night basically for a long time had to be the greatest night of our lives. Every night had to top the night before. Every night had to be the best party, the most destruction and if stuff didn’t break, it wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll! We had to hear glass breaking or something lit on fire or pissing on something! A lot of hotel rooms got pissed on. It was usually for pranks though. We never really pissed on each other or anything – we were saving that for the X-rated video! (Laughs) You’d piss in the corner of somebody’s room that you were partying in. Say he’s in the bathroom or out of his room, you’d piss in the corner then split – and he’s got to sleep in that room. Really, clever highbrow stuff like that! (Laughs)”
10: In 2012, who did you attend a Halloween party dressed as?
“Oh, that was Chavril.”
CORRECT. You dressed as your ex-wife Avril Lavigne, while your then-girlfriend (now wife) Ari Cooper dressed as Avril’s then-fiancé, Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger
“It was done as a joke. The timing was perfect because they’d just got together and were really popular at the time as Chavril. We only decided we were going to do it on the day. I did a really good job! The funny part is I spent the whole night at the party prancing around like she does too, ‘cos I know exactly what she does, so I was able to have all her mannerisms down. And the reaction to it was perfect.”
At the time, Chad tweeted the response: ‘Hey Deryck loved the costumes! we were going to dress up as you guys this year but all the parties had celebrity themes haha!’
“I liked what he had to say. It was like: ‘See, he gets it!’ That’s the fun reaction I wanted. My only problem is every Halloween it gets passed around as one of the best costumes, and I don’t know how to top it!”
The verdict: 5.5/10
“I feel good about that score because the only one I should have got that I didn’t know was ‘Reborn to Be Wild’. The other ones I’d never even heard of.”
Sum 41’s new album ‘Order In Decline’ is released via Hopeless Records on 19 July.