Deryck Whibley: “Heaven :x: Hell is the best Sum 41 record we’ve made”

As Sum 41 announce details of next year’s double-album – which will be their last before they split up – frontman Deryck Whibley reflects on the bittersweet nature of calling it a day while going out with what he reckons is their greatest work…

Deryck Whibley: “Heaven :x: Hell is the best Sum 41 record we’ve made”
James Hingle
Travis Shinn

On May 8, 2023, Sum 41 announced that they’d made the decision to disband. Despite the sadness at their impending split, though, the Canadian pop-punk icons won’t be going out on a whimper. In fact, quite the opposite, with the release of their final LP – and first-ever double-album – Heaven :x: Hell in March. And with the promise of one last world tour to come after that, too, Kerrang! sat down with frontman Deryck Whibley to talk the meaning behind the title, why they’ve made so much music this time around, and still being buddies despite the planned break-up…

How does it feel to be talking about the last-ever Sum 41 album, Deryck?
“It feels good, because I’m really proud of the record. It wasn’t intended to be the last Sum 41 record when we were making it. It was only once it was finished that I felt like, ‘You know what? This is probably the best record we’ve ever made. This is the best idea we’ve ever had. And I think this would be a great record to go out on.’ I’ve been in this band since I was in 10th grade and my entire focus every single day of my life since then has been the band. I wake up every morning and I think, ‘Okay, what do I do with Sum 41 today?’ After a while, I started thinking, ‘Am I just gonna do this every day for the rest of my life?’ It got to a point where I felt like this is the best record, the band is the best version we’ve ever been, we’re the biggest we’ve ever been, so this is probably the best time to go out.”

And what was behind the decision for it to be a double-album?
“I’m a big believer in the music tells you what to do. When I first started writing the pop-punk stuff, I didn’t think I was writing songs for Sum 41. I was originally thinking they were going to be for other artists, or could be for some sort of anniversary release down the road – like for [debut album All Killer No Filler, released in 2001]. I had written a bunch of songs pretty much throughout the whole pandemic; I was just writing music, and I put them all on a disc, and I put all the pop-punk ones first and put all the heavy ones second. I just drove around listening to them and once I got through it all, it hit me. I was like, ‘I wonder if these could all live on one double-album but be two separate albums…’ And then I sent all the music to the guys, and didn’t say anything. One by one, everybody came back and said, ‘What do you think about doing a double-album?’ At that point, the music was telling us all the same thing.”

How did you all get together and make Heaven :x: Hell?
“The process of music has always kind of been the same, where I send out a demo version of a completed record. I'll leave space for guitar solos for Dave [‘Brownsound’ Baksh, guitar] and I don’t really do much with bass. But as far as the songs go and the riffs, they’re complete when I show it to everybody. Then we’ll go diving into it. Jason [‘Cone’ McCaslin, bass] will send me a few things, and David and I will dive into creating the best guitar solos possible – and I think on this record he has some of the greatest guitar solos he’s ever played, so I’m really excited about that. To be honest, once the music’s there, the long part for me is putting these demos together. It’s different every time and we had the whole pandemic this time, so we slowly chipped away at music. It wasn’t writing every single day, it was just collecting music throughout the whole lockdown.”

Is the title a reflection of what it’s been like being in a band for the past 27 years, and the highs and lows that come with that?
“Yeah, absolutely. It’s not just that it’s two different sides of the record [musically]. The whole career of Sum 41 has been heaven and hell, because it’s been extreme highs, extreme lows, and everything in between. I brought my mom on tour one time, and she didn’t know what to expect. She was like, ‘I don’t know how to be on tour, what do I do? What’s it like?’ And I said, ‘It’s like heaven and hell.’ Touring is heaven and hell, as it is the greatest experiences you’ll ever have, but then it’s the hardest, most difficult where everything falls apart. So it’s about being in a rock band for this long and having success and failures.”

Speaking of touring, can we expect a proper run of headline shows when it comes to Sum 41’s goodbye?
“Yeah, it’s gonna be a full world tour. We’re still working on all those dates and we’re gonna announce that as soon as we can get it all locked in.”

You have announced Sum 41’s final UK festival appearance, at Download next June. How excited are you for that?
“Yeah, very excited! It’s always been a great festival – we’ve done it a few times. I just love that there’s a festival that celebrates rock music. You know, for a long time a lot of festivals were leaning so heavy into pop and we lost a lot of rock festivals, so it’s great to have a festival like Download.”

All in all, then, it sounds like Sum 41 are going out on a high?
“It’s bittersweet, for sure. There is a sadness. It wasn’t a quick overnight decision; it’s something that had been coming for a while in my mind. So, I’m not having any regrets or anything, but it will be somewhat sad – especially since the band gets along. We’re all good friends and we’ll continue to hang out and be friends after the band. Which is not the norm usually when bands break up!”

Heaven :x: Hell is due out on March 29, 2024 via Rise Records. Catch Sum 41 at Download Festival next summer, which takes place from June 14 – 16, 2024 at Donington Park. Get your tickets now.

Read this next:

Check out more:

Now read these

The best of Kerrang! delivered straight to your inbox three times a week. What are you waiting for?