Photograph by Lee Allen
Toronto’s Fucked Up not only make some of the best Hardcore music in over a decade, they transcend the genre while trumpeting its edicts. 2008′s The Chemistry of Common Life wasn’t just the best Hardcore record of that year, but easily one of the best records period of the year.
Our pal, Fucked Up frontman Damian Ford (a.k.a. Pink Eyes), was more than gracious to take some time from touring Asia for the first time to be part of this installment of 5 Questions! As always, it’s great talking with the outspoken Damian, because as you’ll soon notice, he’s not only one of the most interesting people you could ever meet, but one of the most genuine.
1) So you obviously didn’t major in Rock ‘n Roll in college. I always found it interesting (though not surprising) that you were a Gender Studies major while in school. Has anything you learned or studied as a Gender Studies major found its way into the challenges involved with not only managing but being the frontman of a Hardcore band?
I think Women Studies really changed my outlook on all of life, and certainly band stuff. I had always thought of myself as a leftist that knew it all; but at the same time, I was really resistant to the idea that certain elements of our world are not natural but are constructs that are directly tied to conditions of power. I think, after being exposed to certain writings and certain professors, I was forced to examine why I felt the way I did. I was afraid to admit that my liberal world outlook still had me maintaining these systems of power and I was nowhere near as open minded as I had held myself up to be. And this wasn’t just issues of gender but issues of race, sexuality, class, etc. I think Women Studies allowed me to change the way I thought, so lyrics, the way I try to interact with people, also all changed. I started to admit my own short comings.
2) What/Who is “selling out” has always been a point of contention in all counter-culture movements. I’m sure you’re faced with similar problems as we are… getting your work the exposure you feel it deserves and into the hands of as many people who would appreciate it, without alienating your original supporters. How do you cope or juggle with it? Are you ever concerned that the next move you guys make as a band may be the one to really put a wedge between you and the people who got you to where you are? Or is this something that you never think about at all?
Oh, I think about it. From day one, I never thought of this band as being anything more than a distraction from real life. I never thought it would change the world and I certainly knew that it would never get popular, so it has always been about doing as many things as possible with it to make my life more interesting. The TV appearances and other gimmicky stuff that we’ve done has never been about exposing our music to more people or trying to gain more popularity, it has been done simply because it is weird and funny. The vast majority of people watching Fox News or MTV are into shit like ringtone rap or Toby Keith or both. They certainly aren’t going to be into a fat dude screaming over punk-shoegaze-faux-psyche-hardcore songs. The same goes for the music we write. I think people honestly think that we are sitting, trying to write a “hit”, but all we are really doing is writing stuff that we find interesting and, 8 years into this band, trying to write the same song over and over again wouldn’t be that. But both of these things get us accused of being sellouts. Which is fine, people can feel that way if they want.
To me, selling-out is when you try and alter what you are doing to find a way to make other people happy. All the stuff we do is still fine by my sell-out standard. I think if I started to worry about keeping other people happy that would really be the sell-out. But by the same token, it is really weird to have this thing become the way I’m making a living. It has changed the way we approach things like touring. Before it didn’t matter what we did because this wasn’t real money, so gaining or losing it was the same thing. Now if we lose money, I can’t pay rent or my kid won’t eat. So, maybe we did sell-out when we went fulltime, because that is really the only thing that has altered the original goals.
3) Name a band or artist that you absolutely loathe and tell us why. And don’t give me an easy name that people will expect from you. And while you’re at it, name a guilty pleasure people would be surprised to know you love.
I had to really think about this and I don’t really think I can pick a band. It sounds bullshit but I look at stuff as being more just not my thing. I hate fans of bands and scenes more than any band. Stuff like fans of Springsteen-Punk, Twee-Pop revival, Celtic Rock all drive me more nuts then any of the bands in the genres do. I think it is the fact that people think the stuff they like matters and the reality is it doesn’t. All that being said, I saw Animal Collective last year and I threw-up a bit in my mouth. The dude was rocking a bucket hat and sandals but even then it was more the people watching it; they seemed totally oblivious to the fact that they are like Neo-Phish fans. I really hate that band Protest The Hero though. Their music is like a headache but I guess that is an easy one.
I have no real guilty pleasures. The rest of the band is mortified that I still listen to all the same pop punk I grew up on. I still love AFI, NOFX, Five Knuckle Chuckle, etc.
4) You’re known for getting near naked or completely naked during your live sets… is it a purely confrontational aspect of the performance or are you making a statement?
I think it is more of a comfort thing. I take off my shirt because I get hot. I’m 300 pounds and when I’m moving around under those lights I get heated like a motherfucker. For years I was ashamed of my body: like I would leave my shirt on during sex ashamed. But at one show in Texas, I got so hot that I couldn’t bear it and I took off my shirt. After the show, a friend of mine (who is a “bear” ) told me how great I looked without my shirt and that was all the push I needed. I guess now there is an element of statement to it, like: be proud of who you are no matter what you look like, but that was secondary. The moons and “mangina” stuff is a part of performance. Shoving my balls between my legs is not comfortable in the least.
5) Where do you see the music industry in 5 years? You’re clearly way into uncharted waters because of the internet and file transferring. Can bands/labels still put out albums in the same way they used to and hope for financial security from them? Do they go back to mostly releasing singles? Or does the album now become a promotional tool for tours, merchandising and licensing opportunities?
I have no idea. I mean the vinyl comeback we are in now is just a trend but I think there is a core that will always support bands by buying music. If you look at mainstream music most of the focus has turned to writing ringtones, jingles, etc. so it is obvious which way the wind is blowing there. I hope it levels out for the selfish reason that I love to go to record stores, and if they go away, where will I hang out?
If you’ve never seen Fucked Up live, do yourself a favor and do everything in your power to make it their next show in your area. Trust me, it’ll be an experience you’ll likely not soon forget! Check out The Chemistry of Common Life, out now on Matador Records.
P.S. Damian, you’re always welcome to hang out in our shop.- My Pal the Crook