Sum 41’s Dave Baksh Talks 20+ Years of Pop-Punk Ahead of Detroit Show

The band will perform at The Fillmore on May 10 with Simple Plan
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Sum 41 credit Ashley Osborne
Sum 41 — Tom Thacker (left), Jason “Cone” McCaslin, Deryck Whibley, Dave Baksh, and Frank Zummo — is coming to Detroit on May 10. // Photograph courtesy of Ashley Osborne

Throughout their 26-year career, Canadian rock group Sum 41 has established quite a list of accomplishments and accolades. On top of a Grammy nomination, multiple Alternative Press Music Awards, and many Billboard-charting tracks, Sum 41 is celebrating the 21st anniversary of their iconic debut full-length album, All Killer No Filler.

The 2001 release featured pop-punk anthems including “Fat Lip,” “In Too Deep,” and “Motivation” — tracks that remain fan favorites two decades later.

“The initial plan was to just put Half Hour of Power out there, get people interested in the band and then drop what was a collection of our favorite of the two albums, which was All Killer No Filler,” lead guitarist Dave Baksh, aka “Brownsound,” reminisces via Zoom call. “It’s wild. The interviews we’ve been doing for this have really drummed up a bunch of old memories.”

While the pandemic prevented the group from commemorating the iconic album during its 20th anniversary in 2021, the two-year lockdown proved to be beneficial for the group, inspiring main vocalist and songwriter, Deryck Whibley, to write and record their recently announced eighth LP, Heaven and Hell.

In anticipation of the new LP and as an homage to All Killer No Filler, Sum 41 is embarking on a U.S. tour with fellow Canadian pop-punk group Simple Plan. Ahead of the local stop of The Blame Canada Tour on May 10, Baksh shares stories from the band’s early days, thoughts on the pop-punk scene, and reasons why Detroit is a memorable city for the group.

Hour Detroit: It’s been 21 years since the release of your iconic All Killer No Filler album. Does it feel like it was released just yesterday? 

Dave Baksh: No. My back hurts. My hair is turning gray, so it doesn’t feel like yesterday at all. Maybe yearning for yesterday, but feeling like it? Nope!

Did you think you’d still be performing, touring, and releasing new music this long after your debut? 

None of us are good at anything else! We knew that, but we also knew there was nothing else that we should be doing. Anybody that thinks they’re going to be doing this 30 years later either has one of the greatest and most well-thought-out, well-laid plans of time, or you’re just fully delusional.

Sum 41 has become a household name in the pop-punk scene. How does it feel to have that kind of prestige linked to you? 

Well, it’s wild because if you picture that back when we started in the ’90s, we had to essentially get a stroke of luck, and move into a big city like Toronto. Back then, things were a little more competitive in our scene. We went to Toronto and were like, “Oh wow, this is wild. Some bands don’t make it out to Toronto.” Then it just kept going and going and going. So being, what you said, “a household name” in pop-punk — it’s unthinkable. If I put myself back into the mentality of us in the late ’90s, I’d be thinking you were selling me snake oil.

What do you think makes the pop-punk genre so nostalgic for people?

I think every genre, every scene has its unique experience. Overall, the main thing is the memories associated with that time. There’s just a love for it. Maybe it’s the similarities we find between all music and the inspiration that goes into music… It’s just a relatable experience. For me, maybe I’m in denial and I don’t want to call it “nostalgia,” but for me, it feels like it goes deeper than that. There’s a love for the genre, and I think that’s why it still survives today.

What can people expect from The Blame Canada Tour? Are you primarily performing songs from All Killer No Filler or are you going to switch it up and throw in some other tracks from your discography or from the new, upcoming album, Heaven and Hell

The core set involves a lot of All Killer No Filler, no doubt. We have a little bit of old records peppered in there, but the main thing was, before these two years off, forced by the pandemic, we were planning to do this tour. However much of All Killer No Filler is palatable — that’s what we’re playing.

The tour also features Simple Plan, who Deryck Whibley, Sum41’s founder and lead vocalist, recently collaborated with on the song “Ruin My Life.” How did the idea to tour together all come about? 

Well, the puns write themselves on that question — the simplicity of planning. The whole thing happened because the desire has been there for all of us. I think this is just the right time. We’re the Canadian bands that made it out of Canada within this genre, so why not?

In his Rolling Stone interview, Deryck described the new album, Heaven and Hell, as having two sides. Heaven has more of the pop-punk, nostalgic sound, while Hell has more metal influences. Which side do you prefer: Heaven or Hell

I’m going to be honest. I’m loving the Heaven side, but you know, there’s days where I’ll wake up and think I’m more of the Hell side. It varies.

Are there any tracks that we should look forward to when the album is released? 

There was one I was literally singing in the shower before we started here, but I can’t really say anything more than that. The pop-punk stuff, it grabs your ears, and it will grab your ears for weeks. I think that it’s some of the best stuff that [Deryck’s] done lyrically, melodically, and songwriting-wise. As far as lead [guitar] work, those two years off were great because I was able to hit those leads with a tenacity that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. It was amazing to feel super hungry again and to sit with every lead and be like, “No, this isn’t good enough,” and just—

Give it your all. 

Absolutely. 100 percent.

Do you have any spots that you must go to every time you come through Detroit? 

The wing spot [Sweetwater Tavern] across the street from St. Andrew’s Hall.

I would’ve never guessed that. 

Oh, it’s amazing. St. Andrew’s is upstairs, and then there’s the bar that we started out in, downstairs, correct? Our first show was there [The Shelter] with Face To Face, New Found Glory, and Saves the Day. That was one of our first shows in Detroit as a band. From that day, it just blossomed into this amazing thing where we got to play radio shows. We got to play with Mötley Crüe there… but it all comes down to those wings. The wings are great.

Any memorable experiences in Detroit?

We played a radio show where, you know at the gate, they used to give out promotional items. This particular day, it was the new Andre Agassi razor. Andre Agassi, an old tennis player, came out with this signature razor and they were giving them out at the gate for the show, so every band was just getting razors whipped at them all day. We thought, “This is Detroit in the late ’90s/early 2000s, so this is kind of right on brand.”

I was going to ask what the timeframe was on this because Detroit’s changed quite a bit since then.

I went downtown for some coffee with my fiancé the last time we were there. I was like, “What happened to Detroit? The Detroit I was just in was the one Dick Jones from RoboCop was talking about all those years ago that he wanted to build before, you know, corruption got him.” Detroit, I gotta tell you, is a really great city. Because it’s a border town, it was very quick to support Sum 41. It has a special place in our hearts. I know that sounds like politician talk, but it’s genuine.

Catch Sum 41 with Simple Plan and opening band Set It Off at The Fillmore on May 10. Tickets for The Blame Canada Tour start at $33.75 and can be purchased at livenation.com. A dollar from each ticket sale benefits the Simple Plan Foundation and Sweet Relief’s Covid-19 Fund.

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