Interview With Fucked Up - 15th July 2010
Photo Of Fucked UpAfter entering into the dark side with Fucked Up’s puppy like frontman Damian Abraham, and some Fanta with a dose of digital drugs, we got down to the business of conservative parents, record collections and his hatred of summer.

Fucked Up, that’s a very chartable band name. Who came up with that gem?
Damian: Mike came up with it and it’s from a song by this band, MTA, called Fucked Up. He decided that he was going to build a band around the name with the most fucked up people he could find. Not crazy necessarily but people that just would not get along in a band together. That was before I joined, I joined after their second show cos Josh our guitarist went hitch hiking across the United States [of America] so he was away for a bunch of cool shows happening in Toronto. At that point when we formed in Toronto it was like, not that there wasn’t hardcore or punk because there was but it was the birth of the scene that we were part of. Kids were coming to shows. Mike and I had literally played to two people. There were more people in our band than there were watching us, all of a sudden we started playing and all these things started happening, like Ben’s [Cook, third guitar] old band, No Warning, started playing and there’d be two hundred kids there which was insane. We never thought this was going to happen. It was really exciting, we all wanted to be a part of it. They asked me if I’d sing a couple of shows for them and, I’m not dissing Josh, but I definitely had a different sort of presence than he did. Josh is one of the heart and souls of this band, when he came back he moved to second guitar, which takes us to the birth of Fucked Up which was about 8 or 9 years ago. We never thought we’d ever have to deal with international borders or being played on the radio, none of that stuff ever seemed like a big possibility so the name Fucked Up was just fun. We never thought we’d even have to tell our parents we played in a band called Fucked Up, I didn’t mind because my parents are very laid back but some of our band member’s parents are very conservative so we never thought we’d have to tell them, we never thought anybody would find out. We thought we’d never be in the newspapers so what did we have to worry about? Jonah’s Dad takes it the worst, he still won’t acknowledge it which is funny because we’ve had some critical acclaim, we won the Polaris Award (Canadian Mercury Prize) and many really proud moments but his Dad can’t see past the name.

In October you’re going to be on tour with Against Me, are you excited to get onto another tour?
I hear they’re really nice guys. It’s funny, the only interaction I’ve ever had with that band is with the former drummer, we played a Vice Party with them and a wall collased, crushed a car no one was hurt and they shut down the party. The police came, raided the house and kicked everyone out. The old drummer, who’s not in the band anymore, rammed a case of amps into me. He hit me with a case of amps! I’ve had a grudge against them ever since. He’s not in the band anymore and I’m sure it was an accident. I’m fine though.

Should be some good gossip from that tour then.
They’re a band that started coming out just before we started coming out and had to deal with a lot of backlash. They had to do a lot more shoddy versions of what we had to do, and I respect being honest about that sort of stuff. It’s a weird thing where bands pretend things haven’t changed, like a lot of political punk bands pretend like nothing has changed and don’t acknowledge that there’s a level of hypocrisy in what they’re doing which I’m not saying is a bad thing but they just don’t acknowledge it so it’s like this elephant in the room with these bands all the time. Here they are talking about anarchism while they’re signed to a major label. I’m not bad mouthing these bands but Against Me at least acknowledges that whole thing. As a band, and we’re not signed to a major or anything, still to Matador from self-releasing records has been a big jump and we still had to deal with people calling us sell-outs. I respect the way they [Against Me] can handle that, acknowledge it and take people to task for what they are criticising them for. It makes for a lot more open communication between band and audience.

But today is the first day of your headline tour in Cardiff. We couldn’t have had worse weather today, if I’m honest.
I have to say every single time we’ve been to Cardiff it has rained.

It’s obviously Fucked Up bringing the rain!
We bring the Canadian rain. At home right now it’s like 30 degrees. I like this though. To quote Garbage “I’m only happy when it rains”. I hate the sun, I hate the summertime. I just don’t like it. I’m an indoor kid. I’m a guy who likes to watch movies, listen to records, play with my son. I take him to the park and he enjoys being on the swings, but I hate being outside. I’d take him to an indoor park but that’s not healthy for him.

Camping must be your idea of a living nightmare.
Hell. I appreciate nature but I have a live and let live approach, why doesn’t nature exist over there and I’ll exist over here. It’ll be there and it’ll be happy and I won’t interfere because I’ll be over here not having to deal with it.

Look at the movies. If you interfere with nature bad things happen.
More power to nature. I want nature to be happy. Let me not have to deal with it.
Also, wilderness cottages are a horror film waiting to happen. We’ve all seen Friday 13th.
Exactly, you’re just laying prey to Jason Voorhees! But camping, I don’t understand sacrificing to do without. I hated summer camps. I don’t understand it. I went to one that was a converted orphanage. There is nothing appealing about that prospect. No one wants to go to an orphanage let alone have your parents send you to an orphanage. I only had to go for to weeks because I had poison oak and they thought it was chicken pox so I got sent home and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was the best day of my life. The day I went home from camp is a very vivid memory for me.

Wow, that was obviously a real highlight in your life. For Christmas Fucked Up produced a Band Aid cover, how did that come about?
We were talking about doing something around the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada which is an epidemic of violence against aboriginal women. If you converted the number of aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in Canada to white women, because aboriginal people represent 2% of the population in Canada, it would convert to around 20,000 women have gone missing, something ridiculous. The official number is around 500 aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in the last 30 years but it actually is a lot higher, so even going with the 500 figure it is still ridiculous. There are a lot of organisations who work from within communities, work for marginalised women across Canada and have been doing a lot of hard work for an issue that doesn’t really get talked about. We wanted to raise some money for these organisations and found ourselves at that post-Polaris press conference after we won and were asked what we were going to do with the money. I told them we’re going to cover Do They Know It’s Christmas Time and give all the money to these organisations. Then it was like “Wow, this is real” so that day I called David Cross and was like: “Hey, I’ve got this idea would you be at all interested in being a part of it?” He just said: “Sure” So I went down to his hotel room [in Toronto], didn’t know how to use the recording device that I was trying to record everyone with. I played him the original song and was just like: “Sing along to this”. That’s how I recorded everyone. John Drew, who always engineers our records, Jonah our drummer and I sat in the studio and put it together. It was a really bizarre, amazing experience. We raised money for Downtown Eastside Women’s Empowerment Project, Justice For The Missing And Murdered and [the record] is still making money for them. We’re still sending them cheques every once in a while, so far we’ve raised over ten grand for the organisations. Every single person who wound up on the record, with the exception of Teagan And Sara who were amazing to work with but I didn’t record them they sent us their songs, was so much fun to do it with and awesome to hang out with. There were a lot of people who didn’t make the record because they were huge assholes and didn’t come through with what they said they would.
Who is on the record?
Ezra from Vampire Weekend, Bob Mould, Teagan & Sara, Andrew WK, the GZA from Wu Tang, TV On The Radio, Broken Social Scene. It’s mainly indie rock artists. I want to do another record. It was a really good experience and I’m so happy we did it because it definitely reserved my place in heaven where I’ll be sitting beside all the other famous people. Oh and Bob Geldof didn’t sue us which is a great thing too! I went to a music lawyer as I’m doing it and asked if we needed to get permission to do this, he just said: “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission” Thankfully Sir Bob Geldof did not sue us. I think it would have looked really bad if he had sued this charity record and I do know his daughter, that Peaches Geldof girl. She used to date a friend of mine, so I could always go to her and beg for forgiveness if Bob Geldof ever comes to us.
Or possibly use a story to stop you getting sued.
That’s true. Mind you Peaches Geldof did unfriend me on Facebook. Not cool.

Ouch! Well, more fool you Peaches! From charity to lawsuits with Camel, what’s the story there?
We lost. We were put in an ad[vert] by Rolling Stone, Camel cigarettes had this advertorial thing, like a pull out. The front was an ad for Camel cigarettes, the back was an ad for Camel cigarettes. When you unfolded it once there was an ad for Camel cigarettes and when you unfolded it again it was a guide to the Indie Rock Universe. We were listed as one of the bands in this Indie Rock Universe with a hundred other bands. So us and Xiu Xiu launched a class action lawsuit, if we’d won everyone would have won. We won the first round, it got appealed to the California Supreme Court and we lost. There was talk that we could win if we took it to the American Supreme Court but we had a lawyer who was doing it pro bono and we could not have afforded the legal fees. In Californian law, if you lose a lawsuit you’re on the hook for the person you’ve sued legal fees. So we technically owed Camel in the realms of $200,000 each. We signed a waiver saying we’d never sue them again, that was the only way we could get out of the legal fees. And it moved so slowly, we started the lawsuit about five years ago and we found out we’d lost it this year. So five years of nothing. It was kind of disenchanting because we’re in the right and we still lost. That being said it wasn’t necessarily about the money, more about that it was wrong. We just wanted to make it clear to every single person that we didn’t agree with what had happened. Hopefully we did that.

You guys have done MTV Live.
We’ve done it twice. The second time was not good. It was kind of our fault and kind of MTV’s fault. MTV Canada is a lot cooler than what you’d expect from a music station, they were like a small upstart station so they’d have smaller indie bands to come on and play. We played there the first time and everyone thought this is going to be fun, let’s go down and there was a really good turnout. Kids were moshing, I bled like a motherfucker and it was a really fun time. We said we’d never play MTV again, we’ve done it. MTV kept asking us to play again and suggested we played in a bathroom. We were like ok, that sounds weird. So we went to the bathroom and said our friend has a motorbike, can we bring the motorbike in here? MTV were like yeah sure so we brought the motorbike down and the whole day we were doing graffiti in the bathroom and no one said anything. They set up a barricade at the front of the bathroom so the people who came to see us couldn’t get in but they didn’t have anyone holding the barricade up so kids forced their way in over the barricade, it fell and hit a cameraman. I started smashing all the ceiling tiles, which I admit is my fault, and MTV sent us a bill for $5000, but they had forgotten to get us to sign waivers before they put us on TV because they were so busy throwing us out. So it’s kind of a stand still. I love all the people on Canadian MTV, all the people are legitimately like music. It’s funny because the President of MTV said: “I don’t know why they sent you a bill, I thought it was awesome!” Someone there is a dick and sent us this bill. And someone’s got pipedreams if they think I’m paying $5000 to MTV. I can now say we are the reason moshing is banned on MTV. They banned moshing.

You’ve got to be known for something.
I’d rather be infamous than famous. I’d rather be the band that did that than be the band that came there for the second time and it went exactly as the first time or not as fun as the first time. It was scary, it was not cool, and I’m not saying it was cool, but I’m glad it went that way as opposed to the more boring way. My favourite thing that can happen when Fucked Up’s playing is to have a security guard or a cop shut down the show. I love that. When you see a band, they’re never going to get better than the first three songs I find, it’s all downhill then it gets really good at the end. So if you can get cut in those first three songs, it’s awesome. It goes better that way. People are always upset because they always want to hear other songs, and I always feel bad for those people but at least you gave them a show. You gave them a memory. I either want it to be amazing or terrible. If it’s terrible you leave knowing that what you saw will never happen again. It’s a unique experience. So many bands go through the motions, and it’s so easy to do that because you’re playing the same songs over and over again. If you can disrupt the monotony of going to see a band by having something weird or out of the ordinary happen then that’s a good thing. Not that I want cops to shut down every show we play. We’ve played a couple of festivals and police have shut it down. We played this festival in England, we basically travelled 30 hours to play three minutes because they shut it down.

That’s pretty exciting. So with all this excitement and chaos and hopes that police might show up, how do you chill out in your down time?
I think you saw us here earlier doing digital drugs, that’s how we relax. No really, I have a son at home who’s 14 months who I take to the park, even though I hate being outside. I collect records, that’s my main addiction.

What’s your favourite record of all time?
The Confront 7” artwork is up there, which is a Cleveland obscure hardcore band who I just love. It’s just so brutal. It’s got a photo of a staircase going downstairs but it’s really grainy. It looks so evil. The vocals are so hard on the record that’s my thing I like vocals, so I like hearing vocals that are, erm, fat guy vocals. You don’t have to be a fat guy to get those vocals, there’s a woman who sings for Look Back and Laugh and she has fat guy vocals but she does not look anything like a fat guy.

I think she’ll appreciate that. Thank you so much Damian. Have a great set!

Interview By Jessica Acreman
 Band Members

Damian Abraham
Jonah Falco
Mike Haliechuk
Sandy Miranda
Josh Zucker
Ben Cook
 Latest Releases
Fucked Up - Couple Tracks
Release Date - 2010
Disc 1
1. No Pasarán
2. Neat Parts (7" Version)
3. Generation (7" Version)
4. Ban Violins
5. Dangerous Fumes
6. Triumph Of Life (7" Version)
7. Fixed Race
8. Toronto FC
9. Black Hats
10. David Christmas
11. No Epiphany (Fast Version)
12. Crooked Head (Video Version)

Disc 2
1. I Hate Summer
2. Teenage Problems
3. Carried Out To Sea
4. Looking Back
5. Anorak City
6. I Don't Want To Be Friends With You
7. Mustaa Lunta
8. Dream Come True
9. Magic Kingdom
10. Magic Word (Daytrotter Version)
11. Last Man Standing (Year Of The Dog Version)
12. He's So Frisky
13. David Comes To Life (Daytrotter Version)

 Band Related Links
Fucked Up Myspace