“If you listen and read the lyrics, there might be a feeling of…well, it’s like a redemption type album. I don’t know if everyone can relate to the lyrics, or maybe they can relate to them in their own way, but I think as dark as the album may seem when listening to it, it’s actually kind of an enlightening album.” – Cone (Sum 41)
After a few years out of the spotlight, Sum 41 are back with their latest album 13 Voices. We spoke with bass player Jason ‘Cone’ McCaslin about band conflicts, their upcoming tour, and the hopeful messages on the new album.
CONFRONT: This is your sixth studio album, do you find that the album making process stays fairly consistent or does it change with each record?
Cone: In the early days it was pretty consistent on how we did it, with some minor differences. I think this one was the biggest difference out of them all just because we all kind of live in different parts of North America now, and so with technology and stuff you can do things in different ways. We’d also, in the early days, have all the songs first and then go into the studio and just bang them all out over the course of two months. This one was done over about a year, year and a half of recording just in chunks. Three or four songs would come along and we’d work on those, record, and then go back to writing and then once more songs came, we recorded more of those so this one was the biggest difference of them all.
CONFRONT: There were also a lot of personal issues within the band too. Does something like that effect and change the process, and maybe the overall theme of the record?
Cone: The theme was mostly based off of what Deryck [Whibley- lead singer] had gone through personally with his addiction and being in the hospital and overcoming it. The personal issues were kind of stuff that had happened over the last album cycle and by the time we were ready to record this new album, everything was pretty cleared up. We were friends again when we made this album [laughs]. There was no fighting in the studio or anything like that. Deryck and I, especially, hadn’t talked in over a year and then when he got out of the hospital, we kind of reconnected and had to work on re-building our friendship and basically talk about re-building the band. So that was all stuff we were working on before we even got to recording.
CONFRONT: How challenging is something like that? Having to start over? You guys have been together for years now.
Cone: It was something I had never really been through because I’ve known Deryck since i was 14. We met in high school, grade nine, so we were always such good friends. It wasn’t like one thing that happened and then we were enemies all of a sudden, it was just we grew apart during his phase with alcohol, and just being on the road for a long time, I guess we just grew a part a bit. And I guess when we both got off the road after the last album, we decided to call each other and it just sort of prolonged over a year. Then once we started talking again, it was like talking to my old 14-year-old friend again. It was kind of back to normal.
CONFRONT: One thing that’s admirable about Sum 41’s music is that the band has always had an interesting way of showcasing different genres in the music. All Killer No Filler had a more pop-punk sound, whereas Screaming Bloody Murder and Chuck had a more metal sound, how would you describe the sound of the new album?
Cone: Probably more along the lines of a Chuck or Screaming Bloody Murder. I don’t know, I kind of don’t like to use the word ‘metal’, but there are snippets in songs where people have said ‘oh that’s along the heavy metal side’, but I don’t think we make heavy metal songs. I think we do little things in songs that have a heavy metal influence, but when you get to a chorus or a verse or something like that, they’re not really metal songs, so this one is kind of along that kind of line. It’s definitely not along the pop side, it’s on the Chuck side.
CONFRONT: What was the inspiration for the album title [13 Voices]?
Cone: This was a title Deryck brought to us. When he got out of the hospital, he was trying to get better, and trying to heal his addition because basically he had to and wanted to at this point. He had a bunch of people telling him what to do and had all of these thoughts in his head pushing and pulling him in different ways, so he came up with the title, 13 Voices, because he had basically all of these voices in his head.
CONFRONT: This is also the first time you guys have recorded as a five piece band. How does something like that influence the sound of a record?
Cone: I don’t think it really influences the sound of the album, more so as it does with the sound of us live. I’d go as far back as Chuck, because with All Killer No Filler and Does This Look Infected? you could tell it was a four piece band, but we started experimenting on Chuck with more guitar parts, piano stuff, string stuff, and then it kind of progressed all the way through Screaming Bloody Murder. If you listen to some of those songs, there are five guitar parts on it, so now with three guitar players, we can actually play most of those guitar parts live. Before with the four piece, we were like, ‘ah, you know what, we don’t need to play that guitar part, it’s not necessary, we’ll just play the easy ones.’ But now, it’s more like ‘oh, we can play them all!’
CONFRONT: So it kind of helps to change your live performance too
Cone: Yea, I think mostly because with Tom [Thacker- guitarist] also being a really good piano player, we have keys set up, so on a lot of songs he’s playing keyboards and it just helps to fill it out and makes it sound really big. And for some songs Deryck doesn’t have to play the guitar as well. There are a bunch of songs where he can drop the guitar and just sing because we have a band to fill it out.
CONFRONT: Speaking of tour, you guys are going on an up-coming one in October, it’s kind of the first headlining one in a while, are there any nerves about presenting the new material?
Cone: I don’t know, I don’t really think of it like that. I don’t think of it as presenting, I think of it as us playing properly [laughs]. It’s kind of one of those things now where you play them, and I don’t want to say I don’t care what the kids think, because I do, but I don’t think of it as ‘oh I hope they like these new songs’, cause with new stuff it’s always tricky to play them live because we haven’t been playing them like we have been playing something like In Too Deep for 15 years now. I don’t even need to think about playing that song, I can just play it. With these new ones, it’s more about thinking, and so you need get to a point where it becomes second nature like the rest of the songs. That’s the only nervous-like things that come about playing the new songs.
CONFRONT: What can fans expect form the shows?
Cone: I think we’re going to be playing a longer set than we’ve ever played. We’re kind of known as an hour and 10 minutes kind of band, so I think we’re going to be up an hour and a half, so it’s a lot more songs. There’s also some production stuff that we’re bringing out on this tour, that I won’t spoil for anyone, that we’ve never done before that we just actually just started doing in Europe, so if you’ve seen live videos of that stuff, there’s that kind of stuff in it, so there’s that production stuff in it too.
CONFRONT: What do you hope the fans can get from the new album?
Cone: Just for us, it’s nice to be back and being able to do it again, so I hope our fans like the new album. If you listen and read the lyrics, there might be a feeling of…well, it’s like a redemption type album. I don’t know if everyone can relate to the lyrics, or maybe they can relate to them in their own way, but I think as dark as the album may seem when listening to it, it’s actually kind of an enlightening album. It’s a hopeful album even if you listen to some of it, you think ‘oh this is a dark album’, but if you hear the underlying message, it’s a hopeful album.
Sum 41’s new album 13 Voices is available October 7th wherever music is sold. The band is starting their North American tour this October and runs until the beginning of November.
Visit their official site for more information.