ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 5, 2001 – About a dozen of fifteen-year-olds are lined up between the barricade that separates the House of Blues sidewalk and the blue tour bus parked on the lot which, presumably, belongs to the Canadian rockers of Sum 41.
“Oh-my-God, I just saw Dave!” one girl yells as the other handful of teens join her in mutual pandemonium. “Dave is so hot,” another says, as she peeks through the cracks on the wall hoping to catch a glimpse of the guitar player walking into the venue.
I walk toward the security guard and tell the beefy brute that I have an interview set up with the band. He asks for my identification, and walks me through the back door into the venue.
Needless to say, those girls give me the look of death.
As soon as they see me, the three members of the band (guitarist/vocalist Derick Whibley, bassist Cone McCaslin and guitarist/vocalist Dave Baksh) stand up, shake my hand, and politely introduce themselves to me. I let Baksh know he has quite a fan club waiting for him outside and he laughs, as his face turned a pale shade of pink.
Call it luck, but these Canadian rockers had no idea they would become this successful. Considering they were so “dorky” back in high school (their term), it’s strange for them to think that kids find them so cool now.
But having performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, being on top of MTV’s Total Request Live charts, and soon-to-perform on Saturday Night Live doesn’t phase them.
Sum 41’s sophomore album, All Killer No Filler is currently fifth on Billboard’s Modern Rock charts, and has been among the top 20 for the past 25 weeks. Yet the group remains cool, laid-back rock and roll stars.
They are dorky enough, though, that their moms remain their number one fans.
“Their license plates say ‘SUM41ROX’ or ‘SUM41MUM,’ McCaslin explains. “Mom spelled ‘m-u-m’.”
“Yeah, we’re gonna commit our moms, and put them in psych wards,” Baksh joked. “Well, they were upset when we told them we were going to send them to the psychiatrist [laughs], but they kind of realized that it was for the better.”
“They are trying to deal with it now,” said McCaslin.
” Yeah, this is more constructive than deconstructive,” said Baksh.
“They are like soccer moms,” said Whibley.
“Our mom’s aren’t like the fan stalkers, they are actually the cheerleaders,” said Baksh.
Along with their cheerful, proud mothers, Sum 41 has a growing number of fans across their hometown of Canada, as well as in the U.K. and U.S. So how do their fans across the world measure up to one another?
“They are all the same, except that some places in Europe they get a little obsessed,” said Whibley.
“In the U.K. they don’t ask for stuff, they want to see you play and have fun,” said Baksh. “In North America they are like, ‘Give me an autograph!’ ‘I want your bracelet,’ ‘Can I have your watch?’ and when you say ‘No’ they are like ‘F*ck you, you rude piece of sh*t!’ [band joins in laughter].”
Even though their career is only two years old, Sum 41 has already toured with some of the biggest names on the rock and roll scene, such as The Offspring, Blink 182, and American Hi-Fi.
Their favorite tour, however, was gaining a spot at the Vans Warped Tour this year, playing with bands like The Vandals, Fat Mike and Pennywise, with whom they remain good friends.
“Warped Tour was the best tour, just because there are so many great bands to watch and party with every night,” said Whibley.
But if there is any rock band they would like to tour with next, it would be Unwritten Law, who currently serve as their opening act.
“We wanted to tour with them and today it is a dream dome true,” said McCaslin.
Sum 41’s music also gets praise from their fellow rockers. Blink 182’s lead singer, Mark Hoppus, said, “You listen to [Sum 41’s] CD and you want to get drunk, get laid, and tell your parents to ‘f*ck off!'”
“Wow, I think we should listen to our CD then,” said Whibley. “Seriously!”
Sum 41 says their music relates to their fans the way that each would want to see it.
“Maybe [Hoppus] had a good night that night,” McCaslin joked.
If there’s one band that has influenced the young rockers it is definitely the Northern California punk trio Green Day.
“[Green Day has] definitely been an influence on us,” said Whibley. “I think that is where improv comes from the most. It was my favorite concert because of just the way [lead singer] Billy Joel just took command of the entire crowd no matter how big or small it is.”
Talking about influences, the band confesses that heavy metal music plays a big role in their career. Sum 41 recently paid homage to metal, performing the video for their song “Pain for Pleasure” dressed as 80s heavy metal band Judas Priest.
“That video shoot was actually kind of a joke,” said Whibley. “We were doing our video shoot and we saw that all these [metal looking] clothes there and we decided to the video. It was all actually done in one take.”
For being fans of 80s metal, Sum 41 earned a guest performance at MTV’s 20th year anniversary birthday bash in August, where they got to play alongside Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford and former Motley Crue dummer Tommy Lee.
“That was awesome!” said Whibley.
“That was good,” said Baksh. “That was probably the highlight of our career!”
“When they asked us to play the show, we didn’t want to just do our songs, we decided to do a metal medley,” explained Whibley. “We decided to do [Motley’s] “Shout at the Devil,” and [Priest’s] “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.” We knew those guys would be there and we thought we’d ask if they could do it and they said ‘Yes.'”
So, what does Sum 41 like to do when they are not onstage?
“We go out to bars and a lot of parties,” Whibley said. “Usually at clubs that get rented out and stuff.”
Recently, the band posted a request on their official Web site, www.sum41.com, asking fans to send them CDs with original music. Of course, they received many, many submissions.
“We need a lot of blank tapes and wanna tape some stuff and we figured that was the best way to get free tapes,” Baksh jokes. “No seriously, we want to listen to some people because we’ve been helped out so much during the past two years that we want to help somebody else out. Spread the love.”
Finally, I asked the band what message they’d most want to pass on to their fans.
“Oh, boy…” said Baksh.
“Oh, c’mon,” said Whibley.
“That is the worst question ever asked!” said McCaslin
“Make up your own message!” said Baksh, sarcastically.
“Think for yourself!” exclaimed McCaslin.
“Buy the album, even if you already have it,” said Baksh. “You can play them at the same time and on two different stereos, and then we can buy two different stereos.”
“That’s our message,” Baksh said. “Combine the two: Think for yourself and buy the album.”