Thursday, December 3, 2009

Scream All You Want: An Interview with Damian Abraham of Fucked Up

Don't let the band name or picture foul you, the people behind Fucked Up are some of the nicest people I have met. Damian Abraham was even kind of to do this interview improtu, just a few hours before the band performed at Fun Fun Fun Fest that Saturday. We dove into what it was like to win the Polarise Prize, the next singles and albums for the band, and why he was a problem with Emily Hanes.
The Creative Intersection: You just won the Polaris Prize. Does that mean anything to you?

Damian Abraham: It means something, in the sense like I have very low self esteem and stuff. So I take does types of things super personally and so I was really happy to win it, but nothing really changed. We did have more money to do this benefit record we’re doing, so from that perspective . . . It also meant that are beef with Metric kind of became public, which is awesome because I’ll fight does dudes anytime and anywhere. (Blog Note: This is due to a post Metric made on Twitter the night they lost the Polaris, insulting Fucked Up) It was just so weird, because it was honestly something I never expected to win. I couldn’t believe it when they said our name, there was no way we were going to win. It was almost like I was so prepared not to win, when we did win I was kind of like ‘Well, what happens now?’

TCI: Like you said, you’re going to do a charity album. I read your going to re-record “Do They Know it’s Christmas” with a bunch indie rock stars. So this is real and how did you think of it?

Damian: It was kind of like, we were going to this record anyway and when we won the Polaris, all of a sudden it took something that would have been really small and it became a lot easier to make it bigger. And we’ve done a couple of charity records where we’ve put out the record, sold all the copies, and donated all the money. Now we have all the money to pay for it ourselves, so every cent is going to go right to these groups. It’s these charities concerned with the missing and murder of Aboriginal women in Canada and the number is between 500-3,000 which have gone missing or been murdered. Which is a lot, but it’s even more shocking because if you put that in terms of the percentage of the population that they make up, and say the equivalent of white women going missing, it would be between 12 to 30 thousand. So it would be an epidemic. So were donating all the money for an Aboriginal women’s group that work withing the community that help to raise awareness about what’s going on, lend support to the families and things like that. So we were just thinking, what’s a good way to get as many people as possible that we can ride the coattails of to sell a lot of these records? So this terribly, kind of colonel song about the western world coming to save the western world is so fitting, because the cause we’re doing is what happens when the colonel world invades other lands, so there is in irony of using that song. And then we just started calling celebrities, and it has been going really well so far.

TCI: Yeah, you’re recording GZA’s spot here right?

Damian: Yeah GZA tomorrow. No Age tomorrow. So far we’ve done David Cross, Yo La Tengo, Erza from Vampire Weekend, Kip from Tv on the Radio, Bob Mould of Husker Du, Kevin Drew from Broken Social Scene, I’m waiting on Tegan and Sara.

TCI: Cool. So wait, you like Broken Social Scene, but your pissed at Metric?

Damian: Yeah Toronto is a really big city, but it’s very small and everyone knows everyone and you kind of meet everyone. And everyone from Broken Social Scene I’ve ever met has been really nice, real friendly, real cool to hang out with, but not Emily Haines.

TCI: I saw this online, but in a Q TV interview, you said that you never expected, with your band being name Fucked Up, you could never see your self getting much critical attention. You would just do what you did, and enjoy ever second, but not expect to get big. Are you think that’s not true these days with Pitchfork, the whole blogosphere, and this Polaris prize pretty much proves that not even your band name is stopping you.

Damian: I think it’s one of thoes things where, we’re just really lucky. We lucked out and a lot of people who grew up liking punk and hardcore found themselves. Like your friend Andy, who is an editor for Vice in the UK was like an old hardcore kid, he kind of liked the band. We just lucked out and I’m so grateful for it. It’s kind of hard to say whether the name has held us back because we’re doing all these crazy things we shouldn’t be doing. So I wouldn’t change anything. My mom is always like ‘If you change the name, you’ll be famous’ and I’m like I don’t care, I very happy with how it’s going now. I’m not going to go risk anything.

THC: Do you feel any closer with these experiences because you’ve said in previous interviews you’re not the closest group of friends, but have all these experiences changed it?

Damian: No, I think the thing that’s changing is the fact we’re all growing apart. We’ve been a band for a long time. When we started we were very similar people, and over time everyone changes, except for me. I’m stagnant, I don’t change at all, almost to the point of being kind of pathetic, but, everyone else in the band kind of growing into different things, different interests so... I think it would be impossible for us to be closer, but that being said I sure if we were closer, we would have broken up a long time ago. I think it saves us that we’re not that close.

THC: How does that work?

Damian: Well you know that whole thing, if you love someone enough you can set them free? We don’t love each other enough to set each other free.

THC: Now also another great experience was you re-created Chemistry live in New York City.

Damian: Yeah, two days ago.

THC: Yeah, surreal. So how did that come about, you got Titus Andronicus, Vivian Girls, Andrew W.K., who else?

Damian: Katie Stelmanis and Girls at Dawn.

THC: So how did that all come about and how was it?

Damian: Oh it was amazing. It went a lot better than I though it would. A couple of years ago we did your first record start to finish in Toronto and did a benefit for the sex workers organization. The Sex Workers Protection Organization of Canada, which works with the sex workers of Canada and helps provide a bad date list and support and stuff like that. And we really enjoyed playing the record start to finish then Matador was like ‘Oh we want to do something to kind of celebrate the one year anniversary of the record coming and the 12-hour show’, so why don’t we just play the whole record start to finish, and there were a lot of songs off that record we hadn’t played before of that record, so it was a little scary.

THC: Like the ambient ones?

Damian: The ambient ones, but even the song “Chemistry of Common Life”, the song “Royal Swan”...

THC: You never played “Chemistry of Common Life”?!

Damian: We now play it, well as of then. I think we’re going to play it today.

THC: Woo!

Damian: Yeah, I like the song. It’s funny because when your in a band, you play the same song night after night. So it’s good to play songs you haven’t played before.

THC: So what is the statue on your singles? You just released a brand new one right? Not the Year of the Rat one, but something newer than that right?

Damian: Uhhh, did we?

THC: (Laughs) I think that says something about the band...

Damian: Yeah, exactly. We’re all about quantity over quality. Hopefully we barrage people enough and they will like something. I don’t know, we’re working on a bunch of stuff like next week, a bunch of splits. Year of the Ox. A song with the GZA. We’re going back to the studio.

THC: That was what I was going to ask next. How is the King Kahn split and...

Damian: NOFX split and...

THC: Really, NOFX?

Damian: It’s kind of like, when they asked, it was a dream come true for me when I was a little kid so...

THC: You’re a big fan?

Damian: And I still listen to them. Josh (Concentration Camp) and I just drove down to New York from Toronto, and we listened to Punk and Drunk the whole way. It’s one of those classic records for us.

THC: So any idea of what the sound for Year of the Ox is going be?

Damian: Um, I don’t know because I don’t go...the way Fucked Up writes, because we fight a lot when we’re all sitting there jamming and stuff. It’s Mike, Johna, and Josh will go into the studio and kind of fool around and write some songs. And then when they write the songs they’ll give it to me and Sandy at the same time, Sandy will write her bass part and I’ll write the lyrics, and then we will met up to record it. We never really jam out together, so I haven’t heard year of the Ox yet. I it’s not going to be...defiantly wouldn’t be as long as Year of the Pig, but I don’t think it’s going to be as short as Year of the Rat. So I think it’s going to walk somewhere in the middle.

THC: Speaking of, you’re releasing your second singles compilation, Couple Tracks soon. No... disrespect, but isn’t it counter intuitive to release a singles compilation, but be so supportive of the 7-inch and cassette formats. Isn’t it hypocritical?

Damian: It is, it is. Well it a record collector, as someone who is really into formats and things like that, for us it was kind of a way of taking these things that we’re out of print, kind of long forgotten and giving them to people who don’t necessarily that don’t necessarily collect records. But yeah you’re right, there is a hypocrisy to it. We fought a lot about it, even the first one we fought a lot about when it first came out because I didn’t want to do one ‘cause I want the 7-inch to exist and when the 7-inch goes out of print the songs are gone, but the rest of the band is, unfortunately, against me. But no, your right there is a hypocrisy to it.

THC: Wouldn’t be easier, if you believe in it, to ask the record labels to reprint them? I mean obviously they would sell.

Damian: Yeah, there is some stuff thought that’s going to be on the singles compilation that we’ve never put out, but yeah it would. But also there’s this need to kind of compile and to piece together, for us at least and this kind of feeds into that. But your right, and there are some stuff that we’ve just kept in print like the Litany 7" is just going to be in print forever. But yeah, I agree it would be easier and cheaper to just reprint the 7-inches, but it saves people from having to flip the record over every 2 minutes, now it’s just every 15.

THC: Yeah we’re too lazy.

Damian: Exactly, exactly.

THC: So are you still working on that David Comes to Life musical?

Damian: Yeah that’s going to be the next record. We’ve haven’t really started . . . like we’ve started working on it. We’ve written three songs for it as a band, but it’s what we’re going to be working on January, February, sort of the winter of this year.

THC: So when do you know when you want to make a record and when you want to make a 7-inch?

Damian: Because a 7-inch is a lot more fun . . . but the way it works is . . . the way it works for Fucked Up is we basically decide we want to do a record and we write the song for the record and in the back of your minds we’re working towards an LP. So there are some songs we will write that are better for the LP. At least what happened with the last record was we finished writing the LP, we kind of started recording, rewrote a bunch of it, and just kept writing as we we’re recording. And I think it was a lot more enjoyable to do it that way, so I think that’s what we are going to do this time as well.

Note: To learn more and support the charities mentioned in this interview, visit these sites:

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