Dave Baksh Reflects on Sum 41's Final Chord: Legacy, Laughter and the Last Album

Dave Baksh Reflects on Sum 41's Final Chord: Legacy, Laughter and the Last Album

- By Cori Westbrook

The guitarist takes inventory of the lifespan of Sum 41 and confides the bittersweet reality of saying goodbye, despite going out on a high note.

As the curtains slowly draw to a close on a career that has defined a generation, Dave Baksh of Sum 41 sits down to discuss their latest album, their final tour, and the bittersweet symphony of their impending retirement. In an introspective look back over the years and the latest developments, we undertake a candid exploration of aspirations, creative processes and the nuanced feelings that come with closing a significant chapter in life.

“I joined the band maybe a year after they had started. When they first started out, they wanted to be the best band in Ajax, the town that we're from, but the problem was I was in another band. So they just couldn't realize that, haha! In all seriousness though, when we all first got together as this line up it was before we had any kind of proper professional recording. We just had a four song demo and with that four song demo we decided that this was something that we wanted to continue and pursue.”

Baksh shares, humor tinting his voice as he recounts the early days, the humble aspirations that would one day propel Sum 41 to international stardom. The conversation turns to their latest album, and the realization that it would be their final one, a decision that wasn't apparent from the start.

“Maybe when we were 10% through. We had started hearing demos, working on a couple tracks here and there and, then we got an email from Derek. Every single one of us. My initial reaction to the email was ‘Oh no, I’ve done something wrong. I might be getting fired.’ But then I read the email and my friendship for Derek took over and my understanding of where he’s at and how he’s feeling and I completely get why it needs to happen. Of course, there’s a sadness because if you’re in Sum 41, you love Sum 41 and the prospect of it ending can be daunting, but the thought of it ending where we are is so beautiful and I think it takes a lot of guts to go out at the top of our careers.”

The knowledge of the band’s impending end influenced their approach to the album, a sentiment Baksh explains with a sense of peace and reflection.

“Limitations will always exist in the sense that we always want to serve what the song is doing, but there's kind of a motto that we've all adopted where the song will lead us where it needs to go. That's the only limitation: not forcing things. It was a conscious effort to just let the song flow, go where the story of the song was going and just enjoy the process and I believe I got to do that during this recording. And during this recording, because it was the last recording, I believe a lot of pressure was actually taken off.”

When asked about whether this final creative process felt like a return to their roots, Baksh reminisces, “Every album has its unique experience. But this time it just had this air of fun. For me it was just snap back in and have the time of my life. I think it was the material that we got to work with this time. We leaned hard into the punk rock and we leaned hard into the heavy metal. We didn’t try to meld the two together. We just had the freedom to just go as hard as we could and as punk rock as we could.”

The legacy of Sum 41, a band that effortlessly bridged the gap between metal and punk, is a point of pride for Baksh, highlighting their unique sound that drew from a wide array of influences.

“That’s a huge, huge complement. I still have my copy of Among the Living and Anthrax kind of walk the line between thrash metal and New York hardcore. And I think there's just a sound with Canadian punk rock because even local bands around us, we grew up with a ton of bands that were kind of like DOA, which is a little bit heavier and if you’ve heard any Propoghadi and Gob, I think that Canadian punk rock sound has a little bit of heavy metal to it. I don’t know if it's the winters or what, haha! We were influenced by many other bands. Bands like Anthrax are huge in the sound that I create.”

Looking forward, Baksh hopes fans will appreciate the passion and effort that went into their last album and live performances.

“I think it's the same thing that we always care about, which is the live show. The album is our last and I hope they experience the fun that we had recording it and the time and effort Derek put into co-producing, co-mixing, and engineering. I cannot believe the work that he put into this record. Because once we're done tracking our guitars or bass or drums, he had to go through everything we’d done and make us sound like we’re supposed to.”

The decision to retire while still at the peak of their career was not taken lightly, but Baksh believes it's the right move, both for the band and the fans.

“Things have to come to an end. And to go out at a point where we are the happiest, we’re the closest, where we’re having the best time on tour…why stretch that out into something that could possibly turn into a money grab? I would rather everyone see what the future holds for each member. Maybe musically, but whatever endeavors they go for after this.”

For upcoming musicians looking up to Sum 41, Baksh offers words of wisdom: “Really work on whatever you’re doing. Make sure that you have a vision for what completion is on whatever you're working on. Whether it be a piece of music that's yours, whether its a piece of music you’re learning, just make sure that you have a vision about what you do and where you want that piece of music to take you.”

As Sum 41 prepares for their final tour, Baksh reflects on the memories and unexpected moments that have defined their career, looking forward to creating a few last unforgettable experiences with their fans.

“There's just some moments that you can't top. Like the memories of being at Randall’s Island in New York and realizing the impact of ‘Fat Lip.’ Up until maybe four or five weeks ago being in South Korea for the first time with this line up and hearing the crowd sing ‘Landmines’ louder than we've ever heard. Getting to China and realizing that ‘Pieces’ is the most massive song in that country. It's the unexpected moments that just keep getting better and better.”

In the end, Baksh’s desires for how Sum 41 is remembered are simple yet profound: as a band that truly cared about their music, their fans, and each other. With a legacy that spans three decades, Sum 41 has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the world of music. And as for Baksh’s favorite dinosaur? It's the stegosaurus, a nod to his appreciation for the underdog, a sentiment that has clearly played a significant role in both his personal and professional life.

Those of you who are long time fans of Sum 41 no doubt have a burning desire to know the answer to life's most important question: amidst all the reflections on the band's career and legacy, Baksh shares a lighter side, revealing his favorite dinosaur—a choice that has evolved over the years but is currently the stegosaurus, symbolizing his affinity for the underdog.

“You know what this actually changes from time to time. When I was a kid, definitely Tyrannosaurus. Then it went to Diplodocus. Then I was in a band called Organ Thieves and it was the raptor because I believe in working in teams, even if it is to tear the flesh off your prey. I think now, probably a stegosaurus. The underdog. Even if I’m watching a sporting event, I will alway root for the underdog.”

Heaven :x: Hell is out now and can be found HERE. Be sure to catch Sum 41 live, tickets are available HERE.

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