My Greatest Hits: Deryck Whibley of Sum 41

The Sum 41 frontman picks his own career highlights, from playing with his heroes to throwing up on their feet

Once members of rival bands, it was 41 days into their summer break when high school musicians Deryck Whibley and Steve Jocz decided to join forces.

Landing a deal with Island Records at the age of just 19, Ontario’s Sum 41 have been on a wild ride ever since. Rising to prominence in the early 2000s with their debut album All Killer No Filler – featuring ground-breaking hits ‘Fat Lip’ and ‘In Too Deep’ – for the last 27 years the Canadians have expertly straddled the line between pop punk and metal. 

Playing some of the world’s best venues, attending prestigious awards shows, and shaking hands with celebs, Sum 41 have risen from scrappy punk kids to rock royalty, developing a reputation for hard partying along the way. His wilder days now behind him, life is a little different now for frontman Deryck Whibley. A gentle, well-spoken man – embracing both sobriety and fatherhood – the 44-year-old is preparing to lay his band to rest. 

With ambitious double album Heaven :x: Hell serving as a triumphant parting gift, Sum 41 are going out with a bang on their 2024/25 farewell tour – stopping off at Fairview Park this summer to play their last ever Irish show. To celebrate over two decades of his band, we sat down with Deryck Whibley to talk through ten moments that have defined his career, from early touring experiences to creating their most defining record to date.

Touring with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones 

Deryck Whibley with the rest of Sum 41 in early 2000
Sum 41 in early 2000
Photo by Robert Knight Archive/Redferns

“On our first US tour, we started with Face To Face for two weeks, then we bounced onto some shows with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones for another two or three weeks. It was in early 2000, and we were the opener for Flogging Molly and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. From the second we got there, both bands and crews welcomed us like long lost family. We watched each other play every night, we drank backstage, we hung out on the Bosstones’ bus, and we were inseparable. We’d go on their tour bus and play dice with Dicky [Barrett, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ vocalist], and he would take all of our money without thinking twice about it. We didn’t know what we were doing, and we barely had any money, but he’d be like, ‘Them’s the breaks, go run along kids!’

“On that tour, Dicky and I had somewhat of a similar look. We had the same colour hair in the same style, and I was like this little 20-year-old version of him. He started calling me his son, and I started calling him my dad. Halfway through the tour, the Bosstones were onstage, and I heard on the PA, ‘Where’s my son? Deryck, get out here!’ I ran out on stage, and he was like, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is my son Deryck from the band Sum 41. I haven’t seen him in 20 years, but now we’re back together – reunited!’ It was ridiculous, but he started doing that every single night. To this day, if I see Dicky, we still have that bit. It was 24 years ago, but he’s still my punk rock dad.”

Getting our first tour bus

Deryck Whibley, Jay McCaslin and Steve Jocz on the Sum 41 tour bus
Deryck Whibley, Jay McCaslin and Steve Jocz on the Sum 41 tour bus. Canada, 2001.
Photo by Bryce Duffy/Corbis via Getty Images

“Slightly before the Warped Tour, our label decided it was time for us to have a tour bus. We were still playing in pretty small places, so we couldn’t afford our own tour bus, so we were incredibly excited. To us, the bus was a bar on wheels, so every night at the end of our show I would say, ‘Hey, everybody! We’re having a party on our tour bus; it’s parked out back!’ On the first night, the entire audience was lined up trying to get onto our bus. Our tour manager was checking IDs, and we stuffed as many people as we could into it and had this raging party. 

“I don’t remember too much, but eventually we wound it down and started driving to our next stop. We were trying to make some food, and we passed out. The toaster caught on fire whilst we were asleep, and the whole bus filled with smoke. The driver stopped and we all had to wake up and get off. They opened the windows to clear it out, and the bus driver came to tell us that there was still somebody passed out in the back. We were all accounted for, so we had no idea who it could be. We went to look, and we realised we had taken somebody with us from the party. We couldn’t wake him up, but he was breathing so we knew he was alive. We took a Sharpie and coloured his whole face and his arms, and finally he woke up. We were six hours out of the city we’d picked him up from, and we just kicked him off the bus. He had to figure out his way home, which I’m sure wasn’t fun, but he got a great story out of it.”

Playing the Vans Warped Tour in 2001

Sum 41 at Vans Warped Tour 2001 - Fat Lip

“In 2001, the bands that played Warped Tour were a little older. In the late 2000s into the 2010s, the line-ups were more focused on new bands, but back then they had a lot of veteran punk rock bands. To be a new band on that tour… it was an initiation. It was tough, intimidating, and scary, but we started Sum 41 because of Warped Tour ‘96. We went, and we saw NOFX, Pennywise, Face To Face, Unwritten Law, and Rancid, who were all bands we grew up listening to. When we did the tour in 2001, the same bands were on that tour, and we were among our heroes. 

“Our first record had just come out, and the first single – ‘Fat Lip’ – was starting to take off. It wasn’t huge yet, but we were on MTV. We were the only band on that line-up who were that fresh, so we were very nervous. On day one though, we met Fat Mike from NOFX and the guys from The Vandals and H2O. They welcomed us. And we were so stoked to meet our idols. We were in awe of them, and we didn’t come in with any, ‘We’re on MTV now’ attitude. We were genuinely amazed to spend time with people who had inspired us, and we also loved to party! We immediately fell into a groove with everybody, and we were just drinking and partying every single day from that point on.”

Playing with Rob Halford and Tommy Lee at MTV’s 20th Anniversary party

Sum 41 FT Tommy Lee And Rob Halford Rock Medley Live Mtv 20th Anniversary

“As the Warped Tour was starting, ‘Fat Lip’ was taking off and the record was becoming known, but we were still relatively new. It wasn’t this big explosion, but by August MTV had asked if we could come to New York to open their 20th anniversary show. It was a great honour, but it was also an opportunity to do something fun. We asked if we could do one of those cool collaboration performances that we’d seen at MTV awards shows in the past, and they were up for it. We started throwing out ideas, and Tommy Lee, Slash, the Beastie Boys, and Rob Halford were all names that came up. MTV asked everyone we suggested, and Tommy Lee was immediately game. The Beastie Boys were out, and despite Slash being at the show, it was just after Guns N’ Roses had bitterly broken up so, understandably, he didn’t want to be playing their songs, but luckily Rob Halford was up for it.

“We put this medley together whilst we were on the Warped Tour, and we started playing it onstage because we had no time to rehearse it. We threw it into our set, and people were like, ‘What the hell is this?’ We were playing these random songs, and they really didn’t get it, but it was our only way to rehearse. When we flew into New York, we got into a rehearsal room with Tommy and Rob, ran it a couple of times, then the next day we had to play it live on TV. 

“Whilst we were playing it live, it felt horrible onstage. It felt like we were f*cking it all up, and I thought I was missing lyrics and playing the wrong guitar parts. The room was so boomy that you could hardly make anything out in our monitors, and I thought we f*cked it all up. When we came offstage though, we walked into the green room to a standing ovation. All the heads of MTV, all the record company people, and all these different celebrities and guests. Everyone was coming up to us saying what a great job we did, and from that moment on, everything changed in our lives. That was the turning point of our career, and the next day MTV threw ‘Fat Lip’ into heavy rotation all over the world. All of a sudden, the song shot to No.1. We went back to the Warped Tour the next day, and the crowd was so much bigger. We reached a new level, and from that moment on nothing was ever the same.”

Our first time being nominated for an MTV award

Deryck Whibley and Sum 41 arriving at the 2001 MTV Music Awards
Sum 41 arriving at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards.
Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect

“We were nominated for Best New Artist, and a lot of people thought we were going to win. We were excited going into it, and we got to New York the night before to party with everyone who was in town. We were bumping into all of these people, and we decided to take mushrooms that night. We were really f*cked up at this New York bar, and somebody brought Nikka Costa over to our table. Cone [Sum 41 bassist] was having a hard time, and when he shook her hand, he immediately started throwing up all over her feet. We were dying of laughter whilst Nikka was freaking out, so naturally she didn’t want to hang out with us anymore.

“The next night at the awards show we were so overwhelmed. It was our first time at a show like that, and it was at a point where MTV was at its height, so everything was crazy and overblown. We were up against Alicia Keys, but we didn’t know much about her. I’d heard her songs on MTV a few times, and she came out to perform ‘Fallin’’ at the show. The piano came out and she started singing, and it was so incredible. I was having chills watching it, and halfway through her performance I started pleading in my head that we didn’t win the award. We didn’t deserve it, and ‘Fat Lip’ was nowhere near as good as that song. I felt like if we won, there’d be a revolt in the audience. When they said that the winner was Alicia Keys, I was so happy. I don’t know if anyone has ever been so happy to lose at something.”

Being nominated for a GRAMMY

SUM 41 - Blood In My Eyes (Official Video)

“The awards were in 2012, but we got told in 2011. I got a random call from our management whilst I was working alone in my home studio, and they told me that we were going to be nominated for a GRAMMY. I was blown away, and I was convinced that it must be some weird off-shoot of the GRAMMY’s rather than an actual GRAMMY. We’re not an academy-level band, so it didn’t make any sense to me. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. 

“The next year, we went to the awards. We didn’t win, but the song that we were nominated for was ‘Blood In My Eyes’ from Screaming Bloody Murder. That record took a long time to make, and that song was one of the last ones written. The record company fought me tooth and nail to leave that song off because the record had been taking too long. It was overdue, and they refused to give us any more time. They cut the budget off, but I decided to pay for the rest of the record myself. I have a home studio, so whatever costs arose, I decided I’d pay for it. They couldn’t stop me, so I continued working on the song, which took me another six months or so. I finished it, got it on the record, and then it was nominated for a GRAMMY. It was a great ‘F*ck you’ to the label.”

Working on our final album Heaven :x: Hell

Sum 41 - Landmines (Official Music Video)

“Our career has been long so there’s been a lot of ups and downs, but where we’re at now feels like the ultimate peak. Honestly, this album was an accident, and none of it was planned. The first seven or eight songs that I wrote, I didn’t even think were going to be Sum 41 songs. Most of the Heaven side of the album was written with the intention of giving the songs away, but once I listened back to them, I liked them too much. I wasn’t sure if Sum 41 even did pop punk anymore, but I also had all these heavy songs I’d been working on. As time went on, I had an equal number of pop punk songs and heavier songs. It dawned on me that this could be a double record in the truest sense, where they’re two completely separate records. It makes sense for us because this is what we do. The music just spoke to me, and the best-case scenario is always when the music tells you what to do.”

Even the idea of revisiting that old school pop punk sound was an accident…

“It was, because we had a baby right at the beginning of the pandemic. He was five days old when the world went into lockdown, and the only way you could get out of the house was to drive around. We would drive around for hours in LA, and the only time he would stop screaming and crying was when a punk rock song would come on. I decided to make a playlist of all the punk rock songs I used to listen to in high school that I didn’t really listen to anymore, and we listened to it every single day. After a couple of weeks, I naturally started writing songs in the same way that I used to write songs. It felt like the early days, and being in the lockdown felt like when I graduated high school. It was the first time since I was 18 years old where I had no responsibility, nothing to do, and nowhere to be. We signed a record deal when I was 19, and it never stopped until the lockdown. Suddenly, I felt like I was 18 again, and I was listening to the same music I was when I was writing All Killer No Filler.”

It’s sad to see the curtains drawn on Sum 41, but this feels like the perfect moment. Now you get to do one final lap of the world in celebration of this band…

“Especially in the early days, whenever people would say that our band was a flavour of the moment, I always told myself that we’d write our own story. No one else was going to tell me when this was over, and even when we were at our lowest points, I knew that I’d get us back up. I always knew that we’d write our own story, and this is the perfect conclusion. Now that we’re out there playing these shows, it feels like a celebration. We’re playing something from every single record, and it’s incredible to see the crowds react to songs from throughout the years. It’s a reminder of the impact we’ve created over these last two-and-a-half decades.”

Sum 41 are now playing their final ever world tour, playing Ireland for the last time at Fairview Park, Dublin on 19 June. Find tickets here.

Header photo by Sergione Infuso/Corbis via Getty Images