Photo by Grizzlee Martin
When Sum 41 stormed the stage at the APMAs, DMC wasn’t the only notable guest onstage: With no fanfare or advance warning, guitarist Dave “Brownsound” Baksh—who had left the band in 2006—bounded onstage at the end of “In Too Deep” and helped the group launch right into “Fat Lip,”
Turns out, this was no mere one-off cameo: As heavily rumored, Brownsound’s appearance heralded his official return to Sum 41. “As long as they’ll have me, I’m back in the band,” he revealed to AP. “Deryck [Whibley] and I chatted, and we’re going to basically start working on the new record, and if there’s anything I can do for it, I’m there for him. And then we start the touring cycle. Yeah, I am back—and I will do everything I can to stay permanent. I won’t get kicked out.” Perhaps the only person more excited about having Brownsound back in the band is Whibley: “[It feels] right, is what the word for me is.”
Now that the news about Brownsound’s return is out, Whibley and the rest of Sum 41—whose lineup also features guitarist/vocalist Tom Thacker, bassist/vocalist Jason “Cone” McCaslin and drummer Frank Zummo—can turn their attention to making a new album (pre-orders are up now via PledgeMusic) and getting back on the road. Brownsound (who’s played with Organ Thieves and Black Cat Attack, among others, during his Sum 41 break) is also getting busy practicing. “Right now, I have about a 20 or 30 song list to learn,” he says. “A bunch of them are older songs, so that’s good. Basically, [I’m waiting] until I get the call for rehearsal.”
Earlier this week, Brownsound touched base with AP from Ajax, Ontario, while Whibley checked in separately from Las Vegas, where he was enjoying his bachelor party. (He had just seen his “hair idol” Rod Stewart in concert.) The positive vibes were flowing as the pair talked about their reunion, Sum 41’s next chapter feeling mentally and physically healthy, and their enduring friendship.
I think people were pretty shocked to see Brownsound come out onstage for the APMAs. How difficult was it for you guys to keep that a secret?
DERYCK WHIBLEY: It was actually kind of difficult. We were in L.A. the night before [playing a warm-up show], and I had to tell him he wasn’t allowed to come. [Laughs.] He had to just sit at my house and wait for me to come home and then ask me how it was. I felt really bad. [Laughs.] Everybody did a great job keeping it a secret. We had known about it for so long—we had known about it for a few months before. But we couldn’t say anything to anybody.
DAVE “BROWNSOUND” BAKSH: It took so much willpower not to spill the beans to anybody. I was so excited to do it. Deryck had reached out to me, seeing if it was something that I’d like to do. I was excited and into it from the minute he asked. It was probably the hardest secret to keep in my entire life.
How did the APMAs performance come about?
BROWNSOUND: The way Sum 41 have always kind of operated—if we get asked to do something special, we’re going to do something special for it. AP has been really good to us over the years. When I was approached, we were told we had to have a celebrity come out. We decided to try to double it up and give something to the fans, a lot of the old-school fans that appreciate Tom [Thacker] and myself on guitar. On top of that, we asked DMC. Once everything was planned, then I got asked.
[Deryck and I] had been chatting and rekindling how much we were in contact with each other for the past probably six to eight months, maybe even a year. It was right before he had almost died from the liver failure. Once he had come back—he came back stronger and more determined than ever. It was really, really cool to see, and really inspiring. We started talking about the idea of, “If you ever want me out [performing], let me know.”
WHIBLEY: When Dave left, there was never anything bad. He just said, “Hey guys, I can’t do this anymore right now.” We didn’t go away on any bad terms. We stayed in touch. Sum 41 kept going, [and] we toured and worked so much that it’s not that we didn’t speak—we just didn’t really have time to speak to anybody. When you’re a band touring around the world, you sort of leave the rest of the world behind. But then over time, Dave and I started talking [over the phone]. We just got to know each other again. We stayed really good friends. You get older, and you value your relationships with people a little bit more, and put in effort to try to talk to people.
Dave and I were best friends in high school. All of us were our only friends. I have so many memories of Dave and I just doing stupid shit all the time. It would be one in the morning, and we’d say, “Let’s drive to Ottawa!”—which is like a six-hour drive—and just see what happens. What are we going to get into? [Laughs.]
When you have friends who knew you back then–back when you were just a dumb kid—there’s a special bond you don’t have with any other friends.
WHIBLEY: Totally. We had so many of those stupid things that we would do that we laugh at still: “Remember when we were 15 and we did that?” There’s not too many people that you have those kinds of stories with, and Dave and I would laugh about that, talk about that, and reminisce and stuff. It just made sense, like, “Why are we not playing music together?”
Brownsound, were there any issues or lingering obstacles that you and Deryck had to overcome?
BROWNSOUND: The first thing we talked about was the fact that we never once thought of [ourselves] as enemies. We never considered ourselves not-friends. We always had mutual respect for each other; we always loved each other. We kind of lost contact for a while because, you know, we’re kind of exhausted from touring. When we came back together in contact, I explained the real reasons as to why I left and how I felt like I couldn’t tell anybody back in the day because I thought it would be embarrassing to my family and my marriage. And he kind of let me know of some issues that were going on in his life. It was just water under the bridge—we never held any grudges or anything like that. It was just like two friends. We chatted about it for like ten minutes, and then we were right back quoting movies and talking about how much we like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
Isn’t it funny that all the stuff that seemed important a decade ago when you were younger, now, you’re like, “Why was I bothered by that?
BROWNSOUND: I have had 10 years to contemplate that question. [Laughs.] It’s exhaustion and being so desensitized to where I was. Things like relying on my family and my home life to be this sanctuary—and then [after] coming home and realizing it wasn’t that, I kind of lost my mind a little bit. The only thing I thought I could do was basically leave the band. I still think that the decision to take some time off was a good idea, but the catch-22 is that I do also regret it, because I did end up hurting some people in the process.
How much did you guys practice before the APMAs?
BROWNSOUND: We [were] bouncing [ideas] back and forth on what to do for the medley. We ended up being like, “Okay, well, come down in May and we’ll rehearse,” and then it turned into, “Okay, well, come down in June and we’ll rehearse.” And then because of time restrictions and touring, it turned into, “Okay, we’re going to practice the day before the AP Awards.”
I got a recorded version of the medley and just practiced it in the van. I was actually on tour with Black Cat Attack, [and I was] practicing that in the van on the way to shows. And then I got there the day before rehearsals. We did some studio stuff, just kind of listened to demos, and then we got right down to work the next day. That was one of the first times I had seen Cone [McCaslin] with a bass on in a rehearsal studio. And it was the first time I had ever got to play with Tom, other than guesting on stage with Gob. Just watching Frank [Zummo] work those drums was amazing, because I had never jammed with him either. It was crazy.
Kind of like riding a bike, right?
BROWNSOUND: Some stuff was like riding a bike, but I see myself in the video and there’s a bit of awkwardness here. There’s definitely some stage moves I need to re-learn.
Deryck, was there any adjustment time for you? What it was like playing with him again?
WHIBLEY: I knew it was going to be a breeze, because I know how great he is. Just with the amount of years that we had in the past of playing together, I knew it was going to be simple. We only had one day of rehearsal, which was a couple hours, really. We did it the exact same way we used to do stuff all the time. [I came] up with a rough sketch of the medley we were going to do. I put it together and sent him the tracks, said, “Here’s what I’m thinking”—it’s very rough, very chopped-up and put together—and he just got it right away. He was like, “I know how we’re going to get into that song to this song. It’s going to make sense.” It doesn’t make sense in my little put-together skeleton, but for us, it makes sense. When we got together in L.A. at my house and we started it from note one; we just played it all the way through like we had been playing it 100 times already.
That’s musical chemistry right there.
WHIBLEY: Yeah, it’s really simple with us. I knew after that first time we played it, we were going to have this down. There’s always that little nervousness at first: Are we going to get it? Is it going to be easy? Is it going to be difficult? Do we need more than just this one day of rehearsal? But it came together perfectly. Playing with a drummer like Zummo, who's so good and so talented, makes everything so much easier.
Brownsound, were you nervous? You had one day of rehearsal and this was live TV.
BROWNSOUND: For me, nerves have always turned into really positive energy and positive reinforcement. Nerves for me turn into going over exactly what I have to do, material-wise, and just listing the notes in my head and going over the riffs. The nerves turn into a mental rehearsal. As far as being nervous, jittery, puking or anything like that—no. I’m going up onstage with four friends, right? It’s not like it was going to go any other way but awesome.
Deryck, were there any big differences playing with him now? He’s had a decade to work on his guitar skills and play with his other bands. What’s different now?
WHIBLEY: I would say the only thing that’s different now is that we’re both a little bit wiser—a little bit. We’re just a little bit more mature. We’re a little bit more experienced in life in general. And I think we appreciate what we have more. We understand things a little bit more.
In terms of playing, it feels just like when we got together when we were 16, 17 years old—except we’re better at our instruments. But the feeling is just the same. I wanted Dave in the band so badly when I was 16: He was in another band, and I tried so hard to get him in the band, because he was a great guitar player and a great friend in high school. He kind of fought it and didn’t really want to do it, and finally after about two years, he decided to come play. And it just clicked right away. So he stayed with us, and we went on to do whatever we went to do. Then, when he left and came back now 10 years later, it felt like that same thing when playing. It’s natural. It just feels right.
When you find someone like that, you want to make sure you keep them around, because it’s so rare to find.
WHIBLEY: He was the guy that I wanted back in high school, and now he’s back playing with us. I even said to him, “Don’t fight it anymore.” [Laughs.] “Don’t fight me on this.”
Brownsound, what’s the most gratifying thing about having this second chance? What does this mean to you?
BROWNSOUND: It’s just that: the second chance. It’s the answer to “What if?” The answer to “Why?” The chance to prove that that was just a moment in time where I got overwhelmed. I took a lot of time to … really get my brain and my thought process straight, as to what I have to do, and how much work it takes and to really wrap my head around the…honestly, and I use this word loosely, the responsibility of being in a band. It’s a lot more than a rock ’n’ roll cliché kind of state. There’s a lot to it. I cannot wait to get back. The second chance is everything to me.
Deryck, what are you looking forward to most about touring with him again?
WHIBLEY: There’s a lot of things. Number one, obviously, playing is going to be great. But number two, his personality. He’s a funny guy to be around. He’s very mellow and laid-back, and that’s exactly what I need in my life right now. [Laughs.] No more drama. He’s easy to be around.
There was so much positive energy around your return at the APMAs. People are really rooting for you guys.
BROWNSOUND: I’ve been doing a lot more smaller-scale touring with the other band, Black Cat Attack, and I’m seeing guys with mohawks and dirty vests and tattered shoes coming up to me and saying that they love [Sum 41], and showing me a patch they have on their vest or a tattoo they’ve gotten. Before when we were coming up in our scene, we weren’t the most well-liked band. To see the second coming, the second wave, of people and the love they’re putting out for the band, it’s incredible. It makes me feel awesome.
WHIBLEY: It’s pretty crazy. I never really expect anything—I don’t expect people to really care, is the way I usually go into it. It would be pretty egotistical of me to think that everyone is going to care about whatever I do. [Laughs.] I don’t ever really think like that—I’m always hoping people still remember. I always feel like it’s a new band every time a new record comes out; it’s like you’re starting over. And this time feels like we’re starting over, but I have so much confidence—this band kicks ass; it’s going to be great. And I’m really, really liking these [new] songs.
Deryck, where are you with songwriting and recording in regards to the new album?
WHIBLEY: Recording-wise, there’s about 6 or 7 songs recorded. But the thing is, I just keep writing new ones. I keep writing songs. Every time I think, “Okay, I’m pretty much done,” I write another one or two. And I keep liking them—some of them I don’t care for, but a lot of times there’s some really good ones. I’m like, “Well, these have to be recorded.” There’s a whole pile of songs that need to be recorded again. So we’re going to do that next. Hopefully then it’s just done—unless I write two or three more that I’m like, “Oh my God, these have to go on the record.” But I am going to stop it at a point. It’s not going to keep going.
For the next few months, it’s just writing and recording, and then I hope it should be getting ready to be done. Then we have to figure out the label situation. I just really want to get back out on the road—I hate being in the studio.
What are the songs sounding like? What’s inspiring you on these songs?
WHIBLEY: Musically, what inspires me is just being on stage. Whenever I write music—this is just before the words or any of the vocal melodies come to mind—when I’m just writing guitar and putting a track together, I write it as if I’m onstage in front of a lot of people. I don’t sit there with an acoustic guitar; I can’t do that. I sit there with a loud Marshall cranked up to 10, and I just blast it in my little studio room in my house. It’s like I’m 16, and I imagine the crowd out there. That’s how I come up with guitar riffs. It has to move me.
Then I put a track together with my drum machine. I build it like a band, and then I blast that through speakers, and that makes me feel like I’m onstage, and then I start singing over that. That’s how the vocals come. Once I have that, I start looking for inspiration for lyrics—which always come from life and life experience. God knows I’ve had a lot of it. [Laughs.] I have lots to write about.
How do you think having Brownsound back in the mix is going to enhance and move Sum 41 forward?
WHIBLEY: Obviously, Sum 41 is somewhat on a simpler side, musically. But I think it opens it up to just being able to experiment more and do more things with guitar and background vocals. Tom is such a great musician all around—who knows [what] different colors and flavors we can add? It makes everything open to anything, really. The exciting thing is the unknown, if that makes any sense.
With Sum 41, there is that element of “What are they going to do next? What is it actually going to be, once the band is set back together and has new music? What is it going to look like?”
WHIBLEY: We don’t even know yet. And that’s exciting to be in that position, after this many years into your career. It’s like, we’ve done all this—now we’ve got something new to try out. If there’s any band that will come up with something cool, it’s us.
If I were to think of an example—[take] Green Day. Here’s a three-piece punk rock band, and [what if] they came out and said, “Hey, we’ve got horns, and we’ve got keyboards, we’ve got all these members, now we’re not just a three-piece.” You might be like, “What the fuck? How is that going to work?” And then you see [them]—“Oh, okay, it’s awesome.” You’ve got this small band, and then you have the opportunity to turn it into so much more. What are you going to do with it?
That’s the exciting part where we’re at—what we can do with this? How far do we want to take it? I don’t think we’re going to take it and bring horns and stuff into the band, but working in a guitar forum… We love guitar. Our band has always loved guitar. We love Iron Maiden; we love all these things. It feels like guitar could be really exciting with three people.
What’s funny to me—I’ve had people come to me and say, “You know, guitar music is dying. Look at all the bands having success now—some of them don’t even have guitars. It’s a lot of guys with keyboards and computers onstage.” We’re saying the ultimate “Fuck you!” to all that shit, to everybody. We’re adding more guitars!
Brownsound, what do you want to do differently this time around with this second chance?
BROWNSOUND: I think, especially with the new dynamic of three guitar players, just seeing how much the music can punch. There’s obviously going to be some parts where the three of us can do three different things. It’s going to be a really exciting thing to do, especially working with some of the old songs, to see if there’s any kind of cool parts that we can do or bring out some of the overdubs that never got played live. Also Tom, he was the lead singer of Gob, so he has an incredible voice—so getting some of those backups I wasn’t able to play and sing at the same time will be awesome.
Looking back, would you still make the decision to leave the band if you knew then what you know now?
BROWNSOUND: That’s a tough question. There’s a lot of things that have happened that have led me to this very minute—in the present right now, with my life and how it’s going—to be able to be given a second chance. I don’t know where I would be, mentally, if I had stayed in the band and sat there for eight hours a day with my headphones on trying to separate myself until show time, because I was so exhausted. I don’t know if I would’ve kicked the drugs. I don’t know if I would’ve realized the things I did in my personal life. I think where I am right now, especially mentally in my personal life, I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I think I would still leave the band—but you’d have to guarantee me that I’d get a second chance. [Laughs.]
It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book: Every decision leads to something different, or a new path.
BROWNSOUND: Yeah, exactly. My parents are in a great place; my ex-wife is in a great place. Me personally, I’m in a great place, as well. All those lives that I mentioned, we all helped each other to get where we are today. I think it was really important for me to leave the band and come home and do my part, and also receive the help from those people.
Deryck, how is your health doing? How are you feeling?
WHIBLEY: Right now, I feel amazing—I feel better than ever. It’s great that I can actually say that, because there was at one point I wasn’t going to feel anything ever. [Laughs.] I never really realized that being sober, I would have so much more energy. I always thought it would be boring. What would I do? I get up, and I don’t get to drink? Where’s the party at? It was actually Tommy Lee who told me—he’d been sober for a couple of years, and he was my old drinking partner—and I said to him, “What’s it like being sober? Do you find that you don’t have much energy anymore?” He was like [affects muscular Tommy Lee voice], “Dude! I have so much more energy now that I’m sober!” [Laughs.] And I was like, “Oh my God, you already had so much energy, Tommy!” I didn’t really know what that meant, but now I understand. Because now, dude, I have so much more energy! Except I don’t have Tommy Lee’s voice. [Laughs.]
I sleep less, but have more energy. I’m more excited about things. I didn’t even know if you could watch a movie and laugh without having a couple drinks. Now I laugh harder than I’ve ever laughed. But at the same time, I’m definitely not a poster child for being sober. I was just an idiot about it. I’m sure if I had it under control like most people, things would be fine. I’m not saying you should never drink—it’s a blast. I just couldn’t keep it under control.
It is all about moderation. Some people can do it—and some people don’t have that “off” switch.
WHIBLEY: I have the “off” switch. That’s the only thing: I could’ve kept it in moderation. My whole thing was, I just thought I was too young for it to affect me in that bad of a way. I guess the amount I was taking in is too much. I wanted to have too much fun.
It’s like when you’re three years old, and you want to have chocolate cake for breakfast every morning. On day one you’re like, “This is great!” By the second week, you’re like, “Can I please have some cereal?”
WHIBLEY: [Laughs.] That is the perfect analogy, yes. I got too chocolate wasted.
Wrapping up: Brownsound is so excited to be playing with you guys again. It does feel like this is the next chapter of Sum 41 rolling out.
WHIBLEY: It definitely feels like that. And it just feels really good. [It feels] right, that’s what the word for me is. It feels right, because it happened naturally. There were no meetings about “How should we do this? What would we do on the next record? What’s going to be different about us?” It was just like, “Okay, this is happening. These opportunities are presenting themselves.” Either you can roll with it, or not. And it just felt too good to not.
This is a case where you don’t need to overthink things. If it feels good, do it.
WHIBLEY: That’s the way I’ve always been—if it feels good, do it. And it feels amazing, so fuck it: Let’s do it. alt