Does Rock N Roll Kill Braincells? Fucked Up - NME interview

What (roughly) was the combined total amount of damage Fucked Up reportedly caused during your two MTV Canada appearances in 2007 and 2008?

“I think if you combine it, it’s around $18,000.”


“The first time we played felt like it became an event for hardcore scene kids, who drove in en masse. We’d been sitting downstairs watching Fear’s Saturday Night Live performance on YouTube [where the American punk band destroyed the set in 1981, resulting in a ban], fantasising about how incredible it would be if it was like that. As soon as we walked out, it exploded into this sea of chaos. I took a handful of aspirin beforehand to thin my blood and gave myself a little cut on the head with a razor blade during that performance, so there’s blood pouring out of my head. MTV was convinced a piece of the set had been thrown at me and cut my head open, which I let them believe!

“MTV thought it was fantastic and invited us back. We felt we’d already done it, but they said we could play anywhere else in the building, and we thought: ‘What if we played in the bathroom?’. Like in the Michael J Fox-starring film Class of 1984, where all the punks hang out in the bathroom and there’s a scene where they ride a motorcycle around it. We graffitied the bathroom walls and brought a motorcycle down there, but it went badly that time and they cut to black. We were supposed to play three songs, but after the first they told us: ‘No, you’re done. We’ve called the cops!’. That time, they actually sent us the bill for $10,000 – which we received on the same day we found out we weren’t going to appear on the TV show Skins! I was a fat kid, so people didn’t take a lot of pictures of me growing up – so any time you put a camera on me, I’m going to go off for ya!”

In 2009, Fucked Up released an all-star charity cover version of Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’. Who gets the famous Bono line?

“David Cross.”

CORRECT. Apart from the comedian, the remake also features Tegan and Sara, Andrew W.K. and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig.

“David changed the line from Bono’s original [‘Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you’] to ‘Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of Jews’, playing up to the humour of the thing, and my jaw hit the floor! He belted it out and has an incredible voice. Everybody had to sing it a cappella, as I was just recording their voices on my little Zoom recorder. M.I.A. was supposed to be on it but backed out at the last second, so Tegan and Sara jumped in and saved the project. Although it was an in jest version of a classic song, it raised a lot of awareness for the then-little-known subject of the violence towards, and disappearance of, indigenous women in Canada.”

Who beat Fucked Up’s third album ‘David Comes To Life’ to the 2012 Polaris Music Prize (the Canadian equivalent of the Mercury Prize)?

“Oh fudge! I can remember sitting there, but that’s when I started smoking weed so I was pretty stoned!”

WRONG. Feist won for her album ‘Metals’.

“I have no recollection of that. Damn, I must have been really stoned! [Laughs] That was the first time we’d played after we’d done the MTV bathroom show, and they would only allow us in the building if police could frisk us before and after we came out. They had real fears for what I was going to do during that appearance. They even wanted to frisk my then-six-month-old child!”

What are you holding on Fucked Up’s September 2008 NME cover?

“It was supposed to be a heart.”


“But instead of being a sacred heart, it ended up just being a hunk of meat because we couldn’t find one [Laughs]. NME wanted me to bleed for the cover but we could only find safety razors, so I snapped one in half, got the blade off it and went into the bathroom of the Braford grocery store we were shooting in and secretly cut myself. But the aspirin hadn’t kicked in and I only ended up with a pretty pathetic blood spatter on that cover! Kids at the gig had staged a protest about NME shooting us for the magazine, and came out in a giant Trojan Horse saying: ‘Keep NME out of Punk!’. It was a memorable show!”

Fucked Up NME cover

What T-shirt were you wearing when you guest-appeared on Fox News in 2009?

“An Obama T-shirt.”


“I made an appearance on Greg Gutfeld’s [Red Eye] show, which I regret now hugely! It’s one of the greatest mistakes of my life. He’d picked our album [‘The Chemistry Of Common Life’] as his favourite of 2008 and invited me to come on Fox News, pointing out all these different punk people he’d had on. I thought, ‘What the hell? This could be funny!’ and that I could make a joke of it, hence the Obama T-shirt. I thought it could control the narrative of what was going on, but it’s like that Jay-Z lyric: ‘A wise man told me, ‘Don’t argue with fools’ /Cause people from a distance can’t tell who is who.’ A regrettable but memorable experience.”

Aside from conservative Fox News hosts, who’s been the most unexpected fan of Fucked Up?

Lou Reed put us on a Spotify playlist just before he passed away. I refused to believe he was a fan and thought he’d got some intern to make a playlist, but they put on a display of all of his records and he had a ‘The Chemistry Of Common Life’ LP in his holy collection!”

Fucked Up have so far released nine entries in the Zodiac series, based on the 12 signs on the Chinese Zodiac. Can you name all 12 Chinese Zodiac signs?

“Phew! Dog, rat, hare, dragon, rooster, pig, goat, ox, tiger, horse, snake… oh man, monkey!”


“They’ve always been fun musical experiments. I’ve only written two so far. When I went into the studio to record the vocals for [2021’s] ‘Year Of The Horse’ during COVID, we were constantly laughing, saying: ‘What?! That’s the next part? That’s insane!’. You never know where Mike [Haliechuk, guitarist] and Jonah [Falco, drummer], who are primarily the ones writing them, are going to take the music. They’ve always been the records with the lowest stakes. When ‘Year Of The Pig’ came out in 2008, we got trashed in Maximumrocknroll and received Single of the Week in NME. That was a real changing-of-the-career moment for us!”

In 2013, Sneaky Dee’s restaurant in Toronto honoured Fucked Up with which two items on their menu?

“The ‘Fucked Up Breakfast’ and the ‘Queen of Heart Attacks’.”


“I’ve had both, and the ‘Queen of Heart Attacks’ is an intense meal!”

What review score did NME award ‘The Chemistry Of Common Life’ in 2008?

Eight out of 10?”


“My ego is so fragile that I cling onto great reviews! To my kids’ chagrin, one thing I bring up a lot is that I was 11th in NME’s Cool List in 2008. I didn’t realise that 2008 was the peak of my coolness! [Laughs]”

What do your kids think of your music?

“They’re all supportive and put ‘David Comes To Life’ on to check it out, but my eldest is much more into KSI. If I were to do a song with KSI, I would be redeemed in his eyes! KSI, make me one of the Sidemen! [Laughs]”

What is track five on Fucked Up’s new album ‘One Day’?

“Is it ‘Nothing’s Immortal’?

WRONG. It’s ‘Broken Little Boys’. ‘One Day’ has the ambitious concept of being written and recorded in the space of 24 hours…

“It was the idea of ‘What can be done in 24 hours?’. We all adhered to the 24 hours rule. For my vocals, it was probably around six days in total, broken up to a few hours each. Mike putting that limitation on us was interesting because some of our previous records were recorded over the span of six months, and I think that’s what originally drove me out of the studio.”

Broken Little Boys’, a comment on the toxicity of alpha masculinity, seems especially timely at the moment.

“It was inspired by raising sons and realising how much gender is a manufactured thing that is put on us, and how much of our fucked-up society is ultimately created by broken little boys creating the next generation of broken little boys. It’s one generation inflicting its trauma on the next.”

This is the first time you’ve contributed lyrics to a Fucked Up record since 2014’s ‘Glass Boys’…

“It felt liberating to be back writing songs. After the backlash ‘Glass Boys’ received from everyone, I felt rejected and thought, ‘I don’t know what to write about any more’. Someone within Fucked Up said: ‘People don’t want to hear Fucked Up sing about what it’s like to be in Fucked Up’, which I totally get. But when you’re out there making your trade from your traumas and people reject your insecurities and mental health issues, it feels like they’re rejecting you. Now I feel I can write about whatever and it doesn’t have to fit anybody’s expectations.”

Your early pseudonym was Pink Eyes. Name four other Fucked Up members’ nicknames.

“I was Father Abraham. Josh Zucker [guitarist] was Concentration Camp – which is a regrettable name – and then he switched to Gulag, which is also a regrettable name. Sandy [Miranda, bassist] was Mustard Gas, Mike was River Suite and Jonah was G. Beat, then Mr. Jo.”


“We wanted to have somewhat controversial punk names. I always thought having a punk name was silly, which is why they called me Father Abraham on the first couple of records. We wanted to spread a lie that I had a kid, so any time we couldn’t do a show we’d use the excuse: ‘Oh sorry, Damien’s kid…’. Mr. Jo was a name that a guy at the falafel shop Jonah worked in called him, then G. Beat was in tribute to the drummer Nickey Beat. I think we all secretly wish we had gone to art school, and Fucked Up is our art school thesis that just became our career somehow!”

The verdict: 8/10 

“Wow! I’m going to celebrate that score with a Pot Noodle!”

Fucked Up’s ‘One Day’ will be released on January 27 via Merge Records

The post Fucked Up: “We were supposed to play live on MTV… but they called the cops on us!” appeared first on NME.


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