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Sum 41 has come a long way since the days when All Killer No Filler sound-tracked the summer of every pop punk kid ever. After two decades together, and countless hours spent on the road the band is now ready to drop album number seven, Order in Decline.
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Ahead of its release, Hysteria caught up with bassist Cone McCaslin to chat about sobriety, politics and how it all inspired the new record.
With Deryck [Whibley, frontman] in a much healthier place, the band’s dynamic must’ve been different this time around. How did making Order in Decline compare to past records?
It was a little different. On 13 Voices Deryck was sober, but before that we had been off the road for over two years and we hadn’t really been in contact with each other either. We kind of had to become friends again. It was different being around each other and being around Deryck as a sober person.
Coming into this album, we had just come off the road for 13 Voices and we were firing on all cylinders. We were really excited to get back into the studio and were also really excited about the tour we’d just been on. The music that came out on Order in Decline is really inspired by being on the road.
Deryck produced and mixed this album in his home studio. Do you think that gave the band the freedom to explore any avenues they wanted?
We’ve done this before and we all have home studios now. I recorded all the bass for this album at my house and Dave [Baksh] did all the guitars at his house. Even on 13 Voices, I did half that record at home. It just allows us to take our time and not be under any pressure. When you go into these fancy, expensive studios that we used to go into there is pressure and you know that if you’re taking too long it’s just going to cost you more money. I can walk down into my studio in my pyjamas and spend hours on one song if I really want to. It’s more relaxed, I can re-record a song and send bits to Deryck and just take my time and make it right. When you’re paying a studio a thousand dollars a day to record, that luxury is not there.
For those that might be unaware, could you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind this record?
Obviously, Deryck writes the lyrics, but we did talk and have conversations about what was going on in the world. On the 13 Voices tour run, we were constantly watching the news, CNN was always playing on the bus. Deryck will say that he never really wanted to write this protest, political album and it really isn’t that, but it does have protest and political undertones. The album’s about opinionated things and luckily we all agree. Sometimes not everyone can agree with your outlook, but as a band we all collectively agree with what’s being said. I’d say two-thirds of the album is kind of political and our opinion on things… not just in America but in the world in general. We’re lucky that we get to tour to different countries around the world, we see all these different places and all the chaos that goes on around the world. Order in Decline is not a preachy album though, we’re not trying to tell people what to think or to think our way, it’s just the way that we feel about things.
What does Order in Decline mean?
It’s just about seeing chaos ensue around the world and realising that the order of things just seems to be in decline. It’s a representation of what those songs are about.
Listening to the new album, it really feels like you can’t throw it under one genre. What sound would you say the band were going for?
I don’t know. Before we start an album we never sit down together and talk about a direction. We never say ‘let’s make a heavy album’ or ‘let’s make a poppy album’, it’s always just songs that come out. Deryck comes up with a riff and a melody and sends it to us and then I’ll throw some bass on it and the other guys will add in a guitar solo and the song will evolve to what it is. On some of the songs we ended up speeding up the drumbeat to make things faster, but it’s never really a direction, it just ends up how it is. There’s never really a thought process behind it. Order in Decline is a heavy and aggressive album and it has some punk rock on it, it has some stuff that leans towards metal… I just call it a rock album.
Order in Decline is not a preachy album though, we’re not trying to tell people what to think or to think our way, it’s just the way that we feel about things.
Considering Sum 41 has been a band for over two decades now, do you feel like you have to change it up a bit?
That’s just one of those subconscious things. Since we don’t talk about a direction I think we all go in thinking, well if we do this it’s going to sound like a song we’ve already done. We always want to keep things fresh, we don’t just want to write and record songs that sound like something we’ve already done. I still feel like this album sounds like us… it just sounds like a newer, heavier, more aggressive us.
Going back to a point you made earlier, we’d love to know how the band navigated not recording together. It seems like it would’ve been a bit of a struggle, but was it just something that you were all used to?
It was different, but we did all our pre-production together. We were in L.A for weeks, getting the songs ready for recording. We all sat down together in this small rehearsal space and hashed out the finer details of the songs, then we just went home and recorded but we were still in constant communication with each other. It really wasn’t super different to how we’ve previously done it. Even on our older albums, if I was going to do bass for a whole day Deryck wouldn’t even show up [laughs]. The only real difference was then I’d have an engineer and producer staring down at me, now I’m my own producer and engineer.
I have a baby girl, she’s nine months old now, but at the time she was a newborn and she was in the home studio with me. She just looked at me strangely and wide-eyed and had no idea what was going on. She was new to the world and she was listening to this weird music with her headphones on, I put these little headphones on her so it didn’t ruin her ears. I have a four-year-old as well though and he just loves it, he sings In Too Deep all day long… I’ve got a little family band going [laughs].
Last one from us! We know it’s a bit of a cliché question to ask, but do you see the band slowing down anytime soon?
I don’t foresee it. After Deryck got sober it felt like a new beginning and I feel like we have so much more ground to cover. It wasn’t just Deryck that was drinking heavily, we all were… if you’d have come onto our tour bus you’d have walked away thinking the whole band was alcoholics. Between the Screaming Bloody Murder era and taking two years off, it just feels like a new beginning now. We want to keep going, we want to make more music and we want to tour the world more and more.