Sum 41’s Frank Zummo

Interview By: Cathy Moore

Sum 41 has been through hell and back in the two decades they have been in the music business. Starting with their debut album, All Killer No Filler, in 2001, the band was off and running. The album achieved mainstream success with its first single, “Fat Lip“, which reached number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. From that point on they amassed a huge fan base with their unique and fun-filled punk rock style. They hit the charts repeatedly, were nominated for multiple awards including a Grammy, and played to millions of people all over the world. Then they entered a dark time when lead singer and producer Deryck Whibley became seriously ill and had to furiously fight for his life – and his livelihood with Sum 41.

 

Today, the band is back and maybe better than ever. They have just finished a major international tour and their latest CD 13 Voices is the band’s most intense, cathartic and all-around finest work in years. The album has had incredible success with Billboard charting positions that included #9 on the Top Albums chart.

 

And if that wasn’t enough, Sum 41 has been nominated for three awards at the 2017 Alternative Press Music Awards The nominations include Artist of the Year, Music Video of the Year for “Fake My Own Death,” and Best Drummer for Frank Zummo. I had an opportunity to talk to Zummo about the nominations, his once in a lifetime performance with Adrian Young (DREAMCAR/No Doubt) and a special surprise guest at the APMA awards, and the status of Sum 41.

 

 

Side Stage Magazine: Hi Frank! How are you?

Frank Zummo: I’m good. We literally got back last night after three and a half weeks in Europe doing festivals. So this morning was a bit chaotic with just family and catching up and just getting back. We’ve been out forever. Now we’re finally home until the AP (Alternative Press) awards. So now I can enjoy being home. Just getting ready for this performance is going to be a lot of work too so it’s good to be home and that this all worked out.

 

 

I am sure it feels good to be home. I saw you at both Carolina Rebellion and Rock on the Range this year and both performances were awesome.

Amazing! Those were sick shows. That was cool because we were out on a tour with Pierce the Veil – hitting all the markets that we didn’t hit on our big fall tour. So we did that but then weekends we would break off from them and go do all those cool festivals across America, which was fun. We had never done most of those festivals before so it was cool to do those. Then literally we went home for like three days and then we just blasted off to Europe for 3 ½ weeks of like the most epic, insane festivals ever. I mean it was like 80-90,000 people at some of these shows. It was so sick.

 

Why do you think that American rock music has such a huge appeal over in Europe and draws such enormous crowds at some of these shows and festivals? Why do you think it seems like American rock music is so much popular over there than it is here?

That really is the million-dollar question. I don’t know. I just think maybe they don’t get ‘em as much as we do here. I think it’s just over-saturated kinda in a way in America and you really could see anything you want to see at any given point. And over there bands only can go there maybe once an album cycle or whatever it may be. And these festivals have been going forever. I mean Jimi Hendrix played some of these festivals. So I think it’s just a very traditional summer thing. I mean these people camp out for a week at some of these things, and you know in America you don’t really see stuff like that. So I just think it’s the culture. It’s a different thing over there.

 

It’s really amazing to see how big rock music is over there. Because we just played I-Radio Days in Milan and we had, you know, Green Day one night. It was us, Blink, and Linkin Park one night, Justin Bieber one night, and Radiohead one night. And the rock nights – especially our night – did 80 some thousand people. It beat all the other nights out and especially Bieber who’s such – you know, pop music is like the biggest, but not really over there. It still was amazing to see that a lineup of us with Blink and Linkin was the biggest drawing thing over there. It’s still such a rock heavy market you know? Where here it’s more the cool bands, and indie shit and a lot of young music which I love all that stuff as well, but it’s just like cool to see how big rock is still. You have bands like Rammstein that headline these festivals over there. So it’s pretty cool. Europe’s got a great thing going on for rock music.

 

 

So congratulations to Sum 41 in general for being nominate for 3 awards at the Alt Press Awards but most importantly to you for being nominated for Best Drummer! How does that feel?

It’s insane. All three are insane. I played my first show with the band on that stage in that same arena three summers ago which was two years ago and talk about a high-pressured gig. Your first gig is in an arena, it’s streaming to over a million people, and we played with DMC from Run-DMC so you’re talking about like, so much going on for my first show. Then to come back to it two years later and to be asked by AP to do this drum performance and then to have three nominations it’s pretty overwhelming. I remember we were out on the Pierce the Veil tour and I was in my hotel room in El Paso. I woke up and checked my email and our manager had sent us the email that we had those three nominations and I literally froze for a couple minutes just looking at my screen being like, “Am I sleeping still? What the fuck is going on?” It’s just really humbling and overwhelming and amazing just to be nominated – especially for Sum 41 for Artist of the Year and Music Video of the Year. It’s pretty insane.

 

AP has been amazing. I mean they’ve been amazing to me as well. Mike Shea, the owner, and I go way way back. He’s been part of my career for the whole 13 years I’ve been out in LA and all the bands and he loves Street Drum Corps. I remember we ripped through their office one day on the Linkin Park tour and we just played their office. We went in there with nothing and played their office. On their desks and we went through the whole thing. You can probably still find that video on YouTube or on an AP site somewhere (yep….here it is: https://youtu.be/S9QM-aV6NG4), but they have been really really supportive of my career so it’s just an honor to be part of that. To be up with all these amazing drummers in the nomination as well – I mean there’s a bunch of rad guys in that category. It’s awesome. I mean we’ve been doing a ton of shows with Machine Gun Kelly (drummer JP “Rook” Cappelletty is also nominated) so we’ve both been hanging and watching each other play. We both just trip out that we’re both even nominated so it’s cool.

 

The thing is with drummers there’s no egos – it’s a brotherhood. I talk about this all the time in interviews. At festivals and on tour you see all the drummers hanging out together, getting coffee together, like chillin’. There’s no egos. It’s an egoless thing. It’s just a brotherhood. You don’t really see that with other musicians. I don’t know why. But drummers – I mean that’s why we started Street Drum Corps. It’s just a brotherhood thing so it’s like we all support each other and come together and we’re like hey – it’s all good whatever happens. You know, we’re still all brothers. It’s all good.

 

So it’s going to be a fun night. I’m making a whole thing about it. I just booked a ticket for my one-and-a-half year old and my wife. We’re going to make a family trip out of it and just enjoy. Now that I’m home it’s really going to be fun to dive into building this performance thing for this drum moment. So I’m really excited to be home and kinda switch gears for a minute and get back into this drum crazy world and just do something epic for AP for this 5-minute performance.

 

 

So you’re going to have a surprise guest join you for the AP performance. I don’t suppose you can give me any clues as to who that might be?

Nothing. We’re sworn to secrecy. We can’t for many different reasons, but we’re going all out and we got the craziest stuff planned. We definitely do. You know, Adrian and I have been working together for 13 years. We have a long history. He filled in for me. The reason I met him is he was my sub. When I moved to LA I was touring with this rad indie dance rock band called TheStart and he was a huge fan. And I had to miss a weekend of the tour to do Street Drum Corps Days and he was my fill-in. I was like, “What?? This is who you are getting to be my sub? Like you couldn’t get an unknown guy? You get one of the biggest drummers?” And we just hit it off and we’ve been bros since. When AP wanted me to do this he was the first person I thought of. And it’s perfect timing cuz he’s killing it with DREAMCAR right now. He’s got a new project and all that so the timing couldn’t be better, we work well together, and then let’s get someone else. The only thing I could say to keep people on their toes is it might not be another drummer. It could be a singer. It could be a dancer. It could be a DJ. So we’re just going to do something definitely different. I can say that. Yeah.

 

 

 

 

So how’s the band doing? You guys had some pretty turbulent times when Deryck was going through his health issues.

Yeah, that was kinda all when I entered. I’ve known the guys – and especially him, we’ve been good friends for years – and like right before he got sick and all that he actually performed with Street Drum Corps for our Vegas residency and that was the first time that he and I played together and it clicked and that’s when it all started happening. But you know I was with him and saw the whole process and ummm, it was completely scary but it’s one of the most amazing things to see your friend come out stronger than ever. And I was there for him because we lived down the street from each other and when he was feeling better and he was like, “Hey I wanna jam. I want to try drums in” – because we basically did the record in his house and he was moving drums all over the house to see which room would sound the best – I’d be there for him because I was inspired that he wanted to do music and work on stuff and just going through the whole record process with him and now seeing it to getting on stage. You know, again, I played his first show back with him. We booked a bunch of little club shows around California with just some buddies just to get back onstage again just to see if he could do it and kinda all that stuff. And it was just cool to be there for him as a friend and to watch my friend come out better than ever. I mean he’s one of my favorite front men. When I saw Sum 41 that was the thing that drew me into them.  I saw this guy captivate an entire freaking audience and own everyone in the audience and that’s a very very hard thing for a singer to be able to have that power. But he just has that connection with the audience, and it’s been amazing. The guys are such amazing musicians to play with and I mean we’ve been on tour since I joined the band and we’re tighter than ever – best buds – like there’s no bullshit and it’s just cool to be in the band I’ve always wanted to be in. You know, being a fan and stylistically it just works. I just do me and it’s me being natural. I’ve played with so many artists and you have to kinda curb your drumming or whatever to fit that thing and here I just do me and it works perfectly which is amazing. So it’s been one of the greatest things ever in every way possible. And I’m really grateful to be in this band and to be working with such great dudes.

 

 

That’s awesome. So Sum 41’s latest album 13 Voices came out late last year and it’s been a little over 15 years between the debut album All Killer No Filler and this latest release. How do you think the music has evolved over that time?

It’s just the most personal record because he (Whibley) poured his heart out and really got real with everything he went through. Each one of the songs actually was written and recorded in the way the track list is so all of that touched different feelings for me – just seeing what he was going through at that time and where we were at and all that. It’s really aggressive, but I feel like there’s really beautiful moments like “War” and “Twisted By Design” that it ends with which is my favorite song on the record. And the cool thing is we actually learned every single song on the record and over the touring we’ve done we’ve actually played every one of those songs live, which I’ve never done with any band. We put them in and we just rotate in the middle certain ones. But I’m so proud of it. I’m proud of him. I’ve loved the whole process of it in the studio. Deryck produced it. He’s one of the greatest producers I’ve ever worked with. I mean he fucking pushed me so hard and got things out of me that I didn’t even know were there. He’s so smart with his drum ideas. So the whole thing was just an amazing process and I’m so proud of it, and I can’t wait to start working on the next one, which I’m sure we’ll get into at some point next year. But yeah, it’s a great record – and such a triumphant record for him just winning and coming back and being better than ever.

 

 

Zummo was on his way to a bachelor party in Palm Springs with his Street Drum Corps partners – which he assured me will be chill since they are all dads now. “A nice, peaceful, non-chaotic bachelor party,” he said. But, when he gets home it will be all AP time – “it’s fucking go time,” he said, “and we’re going to make this happen and make it epic.”

 

The Alternative Press Music Awards will take place on July 17th at the Q Arena in Cleveland. Fans can buy tickets to this year’s APMAs at www.altpress.com/APMAS. Fans can vote for their favorites in any of the categories at http://www.altpress.com/vote.

 

 

 

For More Information

http://sum41.com

www.hopelessrecords.com 

 

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