Twenty years ago, right around this time in the cycle of the seasons, a little band by the name of Sum 41 dropped their seminal album All Killer, No Filler and the world was simply never the same.
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Audacy host Kevan Kenney recently spoke with SUM 41 singer, songwriter, and guitarist Deryck Whibley to get a feel for what it's like for him to celebrate such an important milestone and look back on some of that era's most memorable times.
Released on May 8, 2001, SUM 41's All Killer, No Filler featured their breakout hits "In Too Deep," which topped the Alternative songs chart, and "Fat Lip," which hit the top spot on MTV's TRL too many times to even count.
"Some of the songs on there I really like," Deryck says about his 20-year-old offering when pressed on whether he still sees the release in a good light now that the band has got six full albums under their collective, spiked belts. "Even back then, I always felt like the record could have been better if we had a little more time," he admits. "But, you know, I kind of feel like that on every record anyway, so it probably wouldn't have been any better. I tell myself 'if I had more time I could have written some more songs,' but who knows?'
Let's just remember for a second the state of the Internet and social media in 2001; the promotional machine for artists was not anywhere close to the well-oiled behemoth of today. The week of the album's release, Sum 41 had performed a show with blink-182 at New York City's now-shuttered Roseland Ballroom on West 52nd Street in Manhattan, but that was the least of the work they had to put in. "We were just working so much... a ton of press, doing shows every night," he says. "Especially in those days, it felt like from the second that you woke up there was so much stuff that you had to do," Deryck remembers. "Interviews, press, or a TV show type thing, and then a concert. It seemed like it was all in one day and it was kind of like, every day. It was like that for a few years in those days."
Getting noticed in the early 2000s wasn't as easy as adding a featured singer or blowing up virally on TikTok. The way to create noise in the industry and among fans back in the day was to play shows. All of them. "What we did in those days was, we played as many shows as we could," Deryck says, "and we used to film everything that we did. This is before YouTube, obviously, but we would make these VHS's or DVD's and we would pass them out at shows, throw them off the stage." From there it could make its way into the right hands. "People would pass these things around, and it was just us doing this dumb stuff, the kind of stuff you would put on YouTube now, and we would put music to it... That kind of created a word-of-mouth for us."
While it wasn't part of Deryck's world to go out and find new music, at the time going to concerts and hearing about artists through the grapevine, so to speak, was the only way to discover new music. "That's how A&R guys would find bands and sign bands," he says. "The demo tape thing was probably pretty big, getting passed around a lot."
Being called the "next great Heavy Metal band" by Judas Priest's Rob Halford during the 2001 MTV 20 celebration had to be a career highlight, even for a group of guys who were doing their best at the time to break into genres adjacent. "We always called ourselves a Rock band," Deryck says about the group's musical style. "Even that sort of term 'pop-punk,' I had never heard of that. I don't think anyone was saying that back then. That kind of came a couple years later when there were so many bands they had to come up with a genre for it. At the time, a band like Green Day and blink were just called Punk rock bands. So when we came along, we just said we're Rock band, because we knew we did stuff with Metal, and we incorporated all these other kinds of music within our own music. We never felt like we were a 'punk band' or a 'metal band,' or anything."
That's a good thing... because putting Sum 41 into a silo is never a bright idea. From Punk to Metal, to Hip Hop, their influences run deep. The rap-rock element in some of their tracks may sometimes be glossed over. "To us, we don't really think about it because it's just music that we grew up listening to," says Deryck. "When we listened to Hip Hop it was in the era of when we called it just 'rap music.' It was LL Cool J, Run DMC, Beastie Boys -- all that kind of stuff was what we grew up listening to. It just came naturally; we didn't really talk about it or think about it. We did all that stuff live," he explains. "We would play Run DMC in our show." Cut to their working with Ludacris on his "Get Back" remix after getting the call from his team: "We just said, 'yeah, that'd be great.'" What fans may not know about, however, is the band's opportunity to work with the late DMX in the mid-2000s. Deryck says he "got a similar call like the Ludacris call, to see if I would write a track with DMX." A track was written, "and I liked it," Deryck says, "but then I chickened out at the last second. I didn't send it back. I just felt like it probably wasn't hard enough for DMX."
WATCH MORE: Deryck Whibley on the moment they missed with DMX
With all of their influences, that doesn't mean the honor and respect that a punk or metal band commands didn't follow them everywhere they went. Deryck tells the story of the group showing up at MTV's TRL to do a bit when they were told to wait in the green room. In said green room were also Will Smith, and Christina Aguilera. Still new to the world of television and celebrity, the guys were a little "shy and nervous," he says, but also likely "immature and somewhat obnoxious" as they usually were when they got together. "Will Smith was cool, Christina wanted nothing to do with talking to us," Deryck reveals. "But, I don't blame her... We had the benefit of being a group; If I was there by myself I probably would have been shy and wouldn't have said a word to anybody either." Deryck says none of the guys thought that they were too rambunctious, "but we probably were... wherever we went we were having a good time." And the good time that day continued well into the night, at a strip club, with Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath comfortably tossing money around and the Sum 41 guys trying to scoop it all up!
Watch the full interview with Kevan Kenney and Sum 41's Deryck Whibley above, and while you're in the All Killer kinda mood, be sure to crank up the album (and all of their others) in celebration today.