A Fan Retelling of 5 years of Sum 41’s Screaming Bloody Murder

My History with the Band’s 2011 Album

Screaming Bloody Murder era Sum 41, 2011 (From left to right: Tom Thacker, Deryck Whibley, Steve Jocz, Cone McCaslin)

Since the first time I saw the music video for the song “Still Waiting,” I’ve measured time in Sum 41 album cycles. The last one started on March 29, 2011. Five years ago today and two days after my birthday. But back in 2011, turning 17 seemed insignificant compared to Screaming Bloody Murder. Five years later, 22 feels insignificant to the whirlwind of time that has placed me only a couple of months away from graduating college and put another Sum 41 album on the horizon. I mean, seriously, what the fuck happened? Every high school day after it released, I started the album at the bottom of my driveway and sped to school trying to beat a certain spot on a certain track, only to sit in the school parking lot and let it play anyway. I’ve tried to put into words how much the band meant to me and I’ve always failed. But on the 5th anniversary of what will always be my favorite album of all time, I figured why the hell not try again.

2007–2010: Pre-Screaming Bloody Murder

The album Underclass Hero released in July of 2007. My relationship with the band and the Internet begins around the same time. Before that, I was familiar with the name thanks to the copy of Now That’s What I Call Music! 8 my mom bought me which featured “Fat Lip” by Sum 41 and “The Rock Show” by blink-182 back-to-back. But with extra time and access to the Internet the music world opened up to me my freshman year and eventually, after stumbling upon “Still Waiting,” put Sum 41 at the center of it.

Underclass Hero was and still is polarizing, something I learned as I devoured the band’s discography. All Killer No Filler (2001) is unadulterated fun, unthinking rebellion for the sake of it. Does This Look Infected? (2002) turned darker. It was faster, more punk, and more aware of the world, likely a result of Sum 41 performing 300+ shows nonstop that year. Chuck (2004) is heavy and more mature. The Chuck era was defined by the band’s trip to the Congo with War Child Canada in which they were nearly killed. The album is named after the UN Peacekeeper that rescued them.

So what is Underclass Hero?

Underclass Hero era Sum 41, 2007

In my opinion, confused. Which is probably why it stuck with me as well as it did when it first came out. Is it happy? Sometimes. Lead singer and writer, Deryck Whibley, had just gotten married which is what some people credit for the return to music more pop-orientated than Chuck and Does This Look Infected?. But it’s also more personal and poetic, touching on topics like parentage, politics, religion, and self-doubt, not in the broad stroke terms of previous albums, but directly through Whibley’s eyes.

“I need help to stop me from myself, can’t you help me now?” sings Whibley as the track “Pull the Curtain” comes to a close.

After the release of Underclass Hero, Whibley seriously injured his back on tour for the first time. In the years leading up to the next album and beyond, the injury played a key role in the cancellation of several tours and small breaks for the band.

In late 2009, Whibley and then wife Avril Lavigne divorced.

Around the same time, the band announced that official work had begun on the follow-up to Underclass Hero, approximately 2 years after the previous release.

2010–2012: “Soon” and the Screaming Bloody Murder Era

Sum 41, 2011

The most feared word of the Screaming Bloody Murder era: “Soon.” Because of Whibley’s injury and the rigorous tour schedule the band had had for nearly a decade, the band did not seem in a rush to immediately release a new album. In 2008, the plan had initially been to release an EP in 2009, but as more songs were written, it morphed into an album with an estimated release date of 2010. Couple that schedule with a tenuous relationship with Island Records, the delays stretched from months to years. However, the band did post nearly 40 studio updates through the early part of 2010 to keep fans in the loop.

In July of 2010, in preparation for the 2010 Warped Tour, the first song from the album titled “Skumfuk” was “leaked.” It was not an official single, but many felt it was the next major step towards a full release. Tours came and went that year, Whibley was assaulted in a bar in Japan and reinjured his back, the record label pushed it back yet again, and as seen in the documentary Don’t Try This At Home, Deryck decided to add on several songs — finally resulting in a release date in March of 2011, two months after the lead single and title track premiered.

It was a weird time to be a Sum 41 fan. Clearly, things had consistently not worked out as planned by this point. But the energy of the fanbase online at places like theresnosolution.com was incredible — hundreds of pages of threads devoted to documenting and discussing the process. It is the single most fan driven process I had seen up to that point, especially given Island Record’s reluctance to market the album at all. Information was often directly communicated through members of the forum instead of being issued via press release. Note that much of this process was also pre-Twitter world takeover.

When the album finally released on March 23, 2011 in Japan, about a week earlier than the U.S. release, users virtually gathered on the forum waiting for a member from Japan to go out and get the album and leak it exclusively to other members. I remember covertly staying up much later than was normally allowed just to be one of the first people to hear Screaming Bloody Murder in full. It released officially on March 29, 2011 in the United States.

Now, asking a dedicated music fan to choose their favorite album is like to asking a death-row inmate what they want for their last meal. Sure, maybe there isn’t an impending death sentence hanging overhead when choosing an album, but I imagine the heart of the decision comes from the same place. Do you choose something that provided you comfort? Something that reminds you of another irreplaceable moment in time? Or something fresh and different? Like the sensations often associated with food, the spirit of music exists far beyond the vacuum of consumerism. It exists in a moment, in an attitude, and can shape the tone of life yet to come.

Screaming Bloody Murder, for me, wasn’t just about a few songs listed together on the case of a disc. It’s what convinced me that art is larger than life and there are things in music that can’t be said with words. To the fans that paid attention to the album process, this was Whibley’s mind laid bare for all to see — post-serious injury, post-divorce, and though it wasn’t known at the time, the beginning of a near deadly downward spiral.

The album cover for Sum 41’s Screaming Bloody Murder

Punctuated by the emotional and eclectic twelve-minute epic “A Dark Road Out Of Hell,” the album painted the inner-journey of someone contemplating the purpose of pain and belief. So often, that pain and belief depends on memory of both good and bad moments — and how they are dealt with in the present. Screaming Bloody Murder portrays all stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As the album approaches its close with the song “Back Where I Belong,” the same drum beat is heard that began the album in the song “Reason to Believe,” begging the question, can this cycle ever end?

Screaming Bloody Murder portrays all stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

In the mini-documentary Don’t Try This At Home about the making of Screaming Bloody Murder, that picture becomes much more clear. Sum 41 has a well documented history of crazy stunts, alcohol abuse, and some experimentation with other substances, stemming all the way back to when they were first breaking out in 2001. The band has always embraced the pillars of a traditional rock and roll lifestyle. However, the depiction of the amount of alcohol consumed during the recording of Screaming Bloody Murder becomes more disturbing given the health issues Whibley would later encounter.

“I’d loved Jack (Daniels) since I was about 20,” Deryck says in Don’t Try This At Home. “A booze run” was made every morning for their Hollywood Hills studio.

“If there is any kind of concept to this record, it’s fuck you.” -Deryck Whibley

I saw them perform live for the first time when the 10th anniversary tour of Does This Look Infected? rolled through my home state of Pennsylvania. To this day, it’s the best live show I’ve ever witnessed. “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC welcomed the band to the stage as Whibley grabbed the mic and yelled, “Are you fuckers ready?”

From the first note of the “The Hell Song,” the energy of the band and the crowd never slowed down. I had never seen so much mutual excitement in my life. My friend D.J., who I drug with me, was not used to moshing and ended up getting pushed back into the crowd and at some point lost his shoe (because he was dumb enough to wear moccasins to a rock show). I looked back at him and he had a look somewhere between, “Hell yeah, this is awesome,” and “Holy shit, I might die.” The band played Does This Look Infected? front to back in what is one of the greatest nights of my life.

Deryck Whibley and I after the show at the Crocodile Rock in Allentown, PA in November of 2012.

2013–2014: “Rock Bottom”

Months later, in April of 2013, founding member/drummer Steve Jocz suddenly announced his departure from Sum 41. The band had already lost one founding member prior to Underclass Hero, leaving Whibley as the only remaining founder in Jocz’s absence. Hiatus was imminent.

Whibley created his own social media accounts to share old and new photos and keep in touch with fans, but actual news in the Sum 41 world had gone completely silent. In November of 2013, Whibley asked for fans to send their phone numbers to him on Facebook so that he could choose some at random and call.

Almost a year after I saw them live, I got a call from him at about 1AM eastern time. For the next two hours, we talked and I was able to tell him everything I wanted to say about what his music means to me. We talked movies, inspirations, goals, and more. I own a copy of “So I Married An Axe Murderer” on DVD because he told me to go out and buy it. A week or so later, I got another call. Another hour or two went by. It was clear he was in an odd place, but so was I, and who was I to make a judgement about someone I barely knew. But I did feel like I knew him because of the years I had spent listening to Sum 41.

I own a copy of “So I Married An Axe Murderer” on DVD because Deryck told me to go out and buy it.

Months passed and I hadn’t heard anything more from Deryck. Then, May 16, 2014, there was bad news, this time more horrific than a member leaving the band. Alcohol abuse had gotten the best of him and he had nearly died after his liver and kidneys collapsed.

MAY 16, 2014–9:37 PM BY DERYCK

hey everyone, it’s deryck here. sorry i’ve been so m.i.a. lately, but i’ve been very sick in the hospital for a month and was pretty sick for a few weeks leading up to my trip to the hospital. the reason i got so sick is from all the hard boozing i’ve been doing over the years. it finally caught up to me. i was drinking hard every day. until one night. i was sitting at home, poured myself another drink around mid night and was about to watch a movie when all of a sudden i didn’t feel so good. i then collapsed to the ground unconscious. my fiancé got me rushed to the hospital where they put me into the intensive care unit. i was stuck with needles and i.v.’s all over. i was completely sedated the FIRST WEEK. when i finally woke up the next day i had no idea where i was. my mum and step dad were standing over me. i was so freaked out. my liver and kidney’s collapsed on me. needless to say it scared me straight. i finally realized i can’t drink anymore. if i have one drink the doc’s say i will die. i’m not preaching or anything but just always drink responsibly. i didn’t, and look where that got me. (i never thought i would ever say that! haha) anyway i have my passion and inspiration back for writing music. i already have a few song ideas for new songs. soon it will be time to start making an album and getting back to touring again. see you all sometime! there will be more posts again so say up to date friends.
Whibley in the hospital (posted on deryckwhibley.net)

As reported by The National in an interview, he was having a bottle of vodka delivered daily. In a later interview with Kerrang! Magazine, he said that he was spending $1,500 a week on alcohol.

“I always thought ‘It’s just alcohol,’” said Whibley, “It’s not like I’d doing heroin and stuff like that.”

But years of heavy drinking had taken a massive toll on his body. While in the hospital he was induced into a coma and was frequently rushed back and forth to the ICU. He estimates he nearly died five times during the first couple weeks there.

Even when he was eventually able to return home, he couldn’t walk under his own power and had to relearn through rehab. He also was subject frequent blood work, and of course, had to remain totally sober. Doctors warned him that another drink could kill him.

Left is Whibley in 2007 and the right is him in 2013
Left is Whibley after leaving the hospital in 2014 and the right is him pictured with Tom and Cone in 2015

2015–Present: A Five-Piece Line-up and a New Album

After spending over a year focused on Whibley’s recovering and writing new music, Sum 41 launched a PledgeMusic campaign on July 9, 2015 to fund a comeback album. For the first time in nearly five years at that point, new music was on the horizon. The band was also set to perform at the 2nd annual Alternative Press Music Awards in Cleveland, Ohio — an event that I attended. They absolutely lit up the stage with a medley of old hits, featuring the return of original guitarist Dave “Brownsound” Baksh and a collaboration with hip-hop legend D.M.C. of Run-D.M.C. fame. Their return was almost unanimously selected as one of the highlights of the night by fans and journalists alike.

Few things have given me more pleasure than watching this recent incarnation of Sum 41 return to touring. Since the awards, the band has performed at several festivals, toured the UK and other parts of Europe, and has dates set in Asia. Baksh has permanently rejoined the band, as has new drummer Frank Zummo, and the 5-piece sound more powerful than ever before. Just based off of live videos, few would know the hardships that Whibley has been through. He has not lost any energy on stage whatsoever and appears more composed than ever before.

Baksh has permanently rejoined the band, as has new drummer Frank Zummo, and the 5-piece sound more powerful than ever before.

Sum 41 will embark on their first full U.S. tour since 2012 when they play the main-stage all summer long on the Vans Warped Tour. The recent line-up announcement features many bands from the heyday of Warped from past years and the rejuvenated Sum 41 will undoubtedly serve as one of the biggest draws of the tour.

The band has continued to tease snippets of new music and are now supposedly targeting a fall release for the new crowdfunded album.

The newest incarnation of Sum 41 (From left to right: Frank Zummo, Tom Thacker, Deryck Whibley, Cone McCaslin, Dave Baksh)

In just a few weeks, I will graduate from college. A lot has happened to me in the past five years since Screaming Bloody Murder. Relationships have changed, I’ve studying abroad in London, traveled parts of Europe, and work harder everyday to expand my appreciation of the world around me. This album has always stayed with me the whole time. I credit it for my ever-growing passion for music and art as a whole. Deryck’s story has acted as both a warning sign and an inspiration to me. Sometimes, it’s easy to dismiss people that refer to music as life-changing. But Sum 41 is my band. Screaming Bloody Murder is my album.

Happy 5th anniversary and thank you, Sum 41.

I’m Z Ivan Miller — writer and soon to be graduate of Champlain College’s Professional Writing department. My work has appeared in Broken Records Magazine and Broken Records Online, Auditory Spectrum, and in publications associated with Champlain College.

Newsletter sign-up: http://eepurl.com/bUPBzX

Find me at zivanmiller.com and on Twitter or via zivanmiller@gmail.com