“I thought I was never going to walk again. I didn’t know if I could stand for more than 15 minutes. My voice was so gone that I thought it was gone forever. I couldn’t write songs, it felt like nothing was coming, for months…”
Sum 41’s lynchpin Deryck Whibley is talking about his 2014 hospitalisation for liver and kidney failure. Years of heavy drinking bludgeoned him into intensive care and left him sedated for a week. When he woke, he was told that one more drink would kill him.
“I couldn’t even play guitar anymore,” continues Deryck, on the point that proved most devastating. “I was so surprised. It felt like the very first year when I was playing guitar, when I was 13 and I knew where my fingers were supposed to go but I couldn’t get them to go there.”
A year of doubt and grindingly slow progress followed. “The only thing that I cared about was getting back on stage and making music again. It became my drive to get better.
“They told me it was going to take two years and I just thought, ‘There’s no fucking way I’m going to let that happen’.”
Astonishingly, Deryck’s force of will saw him return to the stage for the Alternative Press awards in just over a year. What’s more he also managed to write and record the Sum 41’s sixth album, 13 Voices, (due 7 October) and the same period saw guitarist Dave Baksh return to the fold, giving the band a three-pronged guitar attack.
“I was playing it for a friend and he started laughing,” Deryck tells us. “I said, ‘What’s so funny?’ And he said, ‘It’s hilarious that in the time when everyone’s going pop that you’re adding more guitars than ever before!’”
Back in the saddle
Central to the tones have been a ’59 Les Paul Reissue through a combination of Marshalls, including a modified ’72 Super Bass, a Jubilee, a ’79 JMP and a JCM800 and Deryck says Does This Look Infected? is a good reference point.
“They’re straightforward songs. They punch you in the face, they end and then another punches you in the face again!” The frontman is clearly, deservedly, happy to be back in the saddle.
“One thing that sticks out is just how quickly life goes on,” reflects Deryck. “I think, ‘Holy shit, if I’d have died, how much shit would I have missed already?’ It just feels like there’s so much around the corner still.”
Sum 41’s sixth studio album, 13 Voices, is released 7 October via Hopeless Records.