Raising hardcore babies
Fucked Up incites pandemonium.
Singer Damian Abraham (aka Father Damian or Pink Eyes) takes pride in the fact that all the injuries suffered at Fucked Up shows have been non-life-threatening. During an appearance on “MTV Live” in Canada, a fan got a mirror cracked over his back. In Austin, a stage-diving concertgoer knocked himself unconscious. “He did a running head-plant into the pillar and split his head open,” Abraham recalls. It seems the Toronto-based hardcore punk six-piece invites bedlam every time the lights go down.
The band members are no strangers to injury, either. Abraham still has shards under his skin from a pint glass he smashed on his head. The only time Fucked Up cut a set short came after Abraham crushed a lightbulb on his melon. The glass from the bulb flew into guitarist Mike Haliechuk’s face. “He was a little upset,” Abraham says. “But I was devastated that I did that. It was during the first verse of our first song.”
When its members aren’t being rushed to the hospital, Fucked Up performs experiments on its constantly mutating species of hardcore. The organism found on more than three dozen 12-inch and 7-inch singles, as well as two full-length CDs, embodies frightening chaos. Fucked Up elicits visions of a car crashing into a phone pole, or a mob of angry drunks knocking each other to the ground. The melee can be dangerous, but there are some surprisingly tuneful moments tucked away under Abraham’s barking. The songs are rooted in punk rock vigor, but they can also trip out or charge-up and emit a laser blast of furious arena rock.
“Seven-inch [records] are the ideal format for any sort of pop-based music, which punk and hardcore is. The three-minute song is the great contribution of pop music.”
Fucked Up’s latest album, The Chemistry of Common Life (Matador Records), made several 2008 top 10 lists. Many critics have hailed the band as a punk rock savior.
Abraham spoke with the Alibi while in Philadelphia, a day after Barack Obama became president. He says getting to watch the inauguration while inside a McDonald’s was “the most quintessential American Experience.”
What do you make of all the press you’ve gotten saying your band has saved punk rock?
I don’t know. I think the postmortem on punk and hardcore has kind of been given constantly since its inception. It’s one of those genres that people have always pronounced dead at every turn. To me there’s always been really exciting bands. It’s incredibly flattering when people say that we’re breathing new life into it. But at the same time, I take it all with a grain of salt, because I certainly have always felt that it’s always been there.
Do you guys push each other to go different places creatively?
There are moments where we push each other in places where the other person is definitely going to hate it. We just do our own thing and try and push each other’s buttons in a playful, antagonizing way.
Do you ever get angry at each other as a result?
Oh yeah, all the time. The studio is one of the few places where we actually get along as people. It’s like kind of a playful antagonism. On the road, it’s like a mean-spirited, twisting-the-knife-in-the-wound type of antagonism.
What keeps you guys together through all that?
It’s not friendship. I’ll tell you that much. I think, at this point, it’s more like, creatively this is the most interesting any of our lives will ever be. None of us have any notion that, after this band, we’re going to walk into another band and go on to some sort of meteoric rise to fame. So for us it’s kind of as exciting as it gets. Also, we’re making music that’s keeping us interested.
The majority of your releases are 7-inch records. What about that format do you prefer over CDs?
Seven-inches are the ideal format for any sort of pop-based music, which punk and hardcore is. The three-minute song is the great contribution of pop music. So for us, that’s why we did 7-inch singles. I can name a thousand great punk singles, but I can probably only name a hundred great punk albums. It’s harder to make an album.
What’s next for Fucked Up?
I’m going to have a baby in May, so we’re just going to take some downtime and do some light touring for the summer. Then we’re actually going to start working on the next record, which is tentatively a musical called David Comes to Life.
What made you want to do a musical?
It’s kind of like the ultimate rock cliché. I can’t think of too many hardcore musicals. It became a joke that, like all things Fucked Up does, was taken too far.
How does it feel to be in this rambunctious punk band and about to become a father?
It’s terrifying. It’s absolutely terrifying. Sometimes I forget this isn’t like a joke. I’m still walking on stage, dropping my pants and smashing a microphone into my head until I bleed. I thought my dad was a bad father figure, but I will prove him to be “Father Knows Best” by the time this is all said and done. That being said, it’s incredibly exciting, and I’m glad I’ll be able to expose the kid to all this exciting music. I’ve made a point of keeping a memory box so I can say, Look! Daddy was culturally relevant at one point.