Sum 41 - 'It's only an obligation to speak out if you feel strongly about something'

Three years ago, in the backstage of Vienna's venue Gasometer, I was lucky enough to meet my teenage heroes, and guys from one of my all-time favorite bands, Jason 'Cone' McCaslin and Dave Baksh. I had a chance to sit with them, try not to fangirl too much, and to do an in-depth interview about everything I ever wanted to know about the band. Fast forward to 2020, the band is starting their European tour with last years' album 'Order In Decline' under their belt, and thanks to modern technologies, I was able to once again catch Cone for a quick chat. Check it out below.

You just started your European tour with a massive show last night in Lotto Arena in Antwerp. How did it go?

Cone: Oh no, that's tonight! We haven't played that one yet!

Woah, I totally messed up days in my head. So you're in Belgium right now? How do you like it? Cone: Yeah, we're in Belgium. We're going to play in a couple of hours, so we're at the venue right now. It's a great venue. It's an arena, so it's pretty amazing.

Last year, you introduced us to the ‘No Personal Space’ tour, where you go back to small clubs. How do you juggle between massive shows like this one tonight, and the small intimate ones? How does it feel to go back to your roots and play small venues again?

Cone: It's cool. We did those small club tours just because that's kinda how we started out, and we thought it would be fun. We could also change the setlist around, we didn't have to play only singles, we could play some album tracks that not a lot of people knew. That's kinda fun. We're doing a couple of shows like that in Europe too, 'cause we did that in America, and we never got a chance to do it over here. It's a way for us to be able to play some deeper cuts off of some of the albums, some songs that we don't normally get to play, plus to be up close and personal with fans. So yeah, it's been fun.

It's been like six-seven months since 'Order In Decline' came out. Are you happy with the feedback on shows, on social media and everywhere?

Cone: Yeah, I think so. I mean it's hard to tell. I don't really read too much online, but I normally gauge it from shows, and most of the new songs go over pretty well. 'Out For Blood,' the first single, seems like it's an older song now. When we first started playing that, people already knew the words. So I think that song resonated quickly with our fans. You know, the album is only about six months old, so I think, as it goes for a couple more months, people start to know songs a little bit more. But 'Out For Blood' definitely seems like it's already an old song, which is good.

'Order In Decline' one of your heaviest records so far, and in some ways, I fell a 'Chuck' vibe in it. What was the motivation to go even harder and heavier, when most of the bands go for more catchy and more melodic sound?

Cone: It just headed that way. We really like playing heavy music, and we like listening to heavy music. So, after '13 Voices,' which was kind of a heavy album too, we just wanted to take it a little bit further. We didn't really want to go pop or anything like that. It's just not what we like and what we like playing. Even though it's the popular thing to do right now, it just didn't really matter to us. We just wanted to do what we wanted to do. If you start to do things that you don't want to do, just because you think it's gonna make you more money or something like that, then you're going to be in trouble. We decided not to do that, and it's working out. I think our fans really like the heavier stuff from us, and we like playing it, so I think it's all good.

And to be fair, you're now in a position where you can do whatever you want to do.

Cone: Yeah, I think so. But it's still catchy. It still sounds like Sum 41. You could still sing along. It's just that music's a little bit heavier, that's all.

This is your second album with Hopeless, and it seems like you clicked just fine with them. Are you still happy with this relationship?

Cone: Yeah. Hopeless, it was new to us because we'd been on a major label for so long, and then when we were free and clear of any label, they seemed like the best fit for us. They'd been working really hard, and we seem to do good things together. Every rep in every region around the world is a really hard worker, so, yeah, it's been. I really like it.

I know you guys are Canadian, but over the career, you were influenced by politics in the USA, as the most powerful country in the world right now. Also, it seems that you were especially inspired to go political on your albums during the George Bush era, and now Donald Trump era. Do you, as a punk rock band, feel challenged to speak out against the right-wing, war-profit regimes, and point out the bad in them?

Cone: I think it's only an obligation to speak out if you really feel strongly about something. And so in those areas, in the Bush era and this era, we do feel strongly and have strong opinions about it. During the Obama era, it was pretty good. (laughs) We didn't really have anything to be negative about. And there's a lot of stuff to be negative about right now with the Trump administration, like when Bush was in. I don't think it's an obligation for musicians to always speak out, but if you do feel strongly about something and you have a strong opinion about it, you should. And that's what we're doing.

Next year, you will be celebrating your 25th anniversary as a band. Is it too early to talk about any potential plans for it?

Cone: Yeah, there have been discussions, but we don't know what exactly we're going to do yet. But there have definitely been discussions on maybe some kind of special tour next year. It's also the 20th anniversary of 'All Killer, No Filler' as well, so yeah, we been talking, I don't know what we're going to do yet though, it's still so early.

But it does sound promising. Did you ever have the idea when you started that this band can be something that will last for 25 years, and hopefully, more?

Cone: No. (laughs) When we started it, when we were teenagers in high school, you never think about stuff like that. All we thought about was that we wanted to play shows and we wanted to, hopefully, make music a career. But you don't know if that's a reality, you don't know if that's doable when you're 16 years old. You just have these dreams of being a musician. You know, like, maybe we can play in a band. But you don't think it's gonna last forever. You just take it month by month and year by year and, and luckily, we're here 25 years later, so it's all good.

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Started in Brussels in 2017 by the two fans with the idea of exploring and connecting cultures they love. From boards and wheels to beats and screams to pens and cans. If you found it here, we love it.

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