Sum 41 gets personal and political on latest album, ‘Order in Decline’

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Politics definitely factored into Sum 41’s latest album, “Order in Decline,” but the band doesn’t call it a political album.

“The music can be taken any way you want it,” says guitarist Dave Baksh, who returned to the Canadian rock band in 2015 after taking a break.

“If you say something is a political record, in order to do that, you have to preach to people, whether the preaching is positive or negative,” he says. “We’re not telling them ‘this is the way to do it.’

“We write according to what happens to us. Our beliefs are our beliefs. We’re not trying to impress them on anybody.”

When it comes to politics, Baksh says, “it’s bad on both sides,” and it’s worldwide — not just in the U.S. or Canada.

“We have to all take care of each other and be a part of this world,” he says. “If you’re not willing to listen to another’s argument against yours, no solution can be made. That’s the basis of the entire record.”

He points out that the album actually has personal and political meaning, from “Never There,” a story about family, to “Out for Blood,” about having the power to vote but still feeling powerless.

The music is among the heaviest Sum 41 has released. Baksh says it was a natural progression from the band’s bratty punk days, including “All Killer No Filler” (2001) and “Does This Look Infected?” (2002).

“We were seeing the world, and the music got darker,” Baksh says. “If you look at Canadian punk bands, we all kind of did the same thing. It must be these seven-month winters.”

The making of “Order in Decline” was the band’s most relaxed recording experience — no worry about timing or budgets. Band members often worked on tracks on their own, sending sessions back and forth to one another. Baksh and Jason “Cone” McCaslin live in Canada; Deryck Whibley, Tom Thacker and Frank Zummo are in the United States.

“I could sit there for three days and go through playing a part exactly the way I wanted to hear it,” he says, “where each bar is different, each bar is like a composition performance-wise.”

The album includes the band’s latest hit single, “Never There,” which Whibley wrote about his father. It’s the first time Whibley has expressed something so personal in such a way, Baksh says. The songwriter’s work is usually more metaphorical.

“This was a very personal and heartfelt attempt, and I think he totally nailed it,” Baksh says. “It gets the right emotions across. It doesn’t come off as angry. It’s ‘Hey, you missed out on something special here, but I totally understand.’”

Several years ago, the band’s core was shaken when Whibley was hospitalized for alcoholism. At the time, Baksh and Whibley had just rekindled their friendship; they hadn’t spoken since Baksh left Sum 41.

“It was a crazy feeling,” Baksh says. “I don’t know how to put it into words to get the news from a former agent that he was in the hospital, that he collapsed from liver failure.”

The band wasn’t sure Whibley was going to make it out of the situation alive.

“He had passed away on the doctor’s table and almost didn’t come back to life,” Baksh says. “We weren’t sure if we were going to be a band again. It wouldn’t have worked without him.”

Since he started making music with the band again, Whibley has been doing so with a work ethic Baksh jokingly calls “psychotic.” “13 Voices” (2016) was about overcoming his health issues.

“He came back with the work ethic I remember when we were kids,” Baksh says. “When we were kids, that was always something that stood out. You can call it whatever you want, but (he) has a certain drive, and when he has that, you cannot derail him.”

The band plays Sunday night at Delmar Hall, and the return to St. Louis brings back memories for Baksh of the band playing at the long-gone Creepy Crawl.

“It was a good show, though St. Louis was a market for us where we didn’t know if it was going to fly well,” he says. “But it ended up picking up pretty well for us.”

 

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