Damian Abraham (Fucked Up) interview: “I’ve always loved hardcore when there’s a touch of sadness to it”
The bellowing voice of Canadian hardcore progressives Fucked Up reveals his thoughtful side.
Photograph: courtesy Matador Records
Onstage, Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham, frontman of hyperambitious Toronto hardcore crew Fucked Up, is the picture of intensity, screaming his band’s potent lyrics—often while jumping shirtless into the crowd. His stage banter is congenial and gracious, though, and that’s the attitude Abraham embodies when reached via phone, doling out verbose, thoughtful answers about Fucked Up’s latest full-length, Glass Boys. It’s not a concept album like 2011’s David Comes to Life, but its soaring tunes offer further wisdom about the reality of being an aging Canuck punk.
Fucked Up guitarist Mike Haliechuk recently wrote a hilariously dry FAQ blog post for would-be interviewers. How monotonous do these Q&As get?
I don’t find it monotonous. Especially with this new record, I get the chance to work through songs and think, How did it come across? I was never the most popular kid in school; I love the opportunity to talk to people and they have to listen to me. I host a TV show [The Wedge, on the MuchMusic network] and I have to interview bands, so I’m blown away when a band is problematic. They don’t have to do press. I think you can get caught up in the vanity world. You get normalized to being in a band after a while and lose touch with how incredibly unique and weird that opportunity is. Look at old interviews with Kanye West: When he first came out, he was amazingly profound and forthcoming. Now, he’s evasive. It’s an acquired reprogramming of the way you think. You get caught up in it and it fucks with you.
There’s a vulnerable aspect to the record; how does that square with hardcore?
I’ve always loved hardcore when there’s anger but a touch of sadness or melancholy to it. Bands like Judge, Unbroken and Chain of Strength, even SSD, have an anger or machismo born out of a sadness. There’s always been that tinge to hardcore.
You wrote half the lyrics for Glass Boys and Mike wrote the other half. How would a layman distinguish whose song is whose?
For The Chemistry of Common Life and Hidden World, my standard response was, anytime there’s a song about questioning one’s self, spirituality or religion, that’s me. Anytime there’s a song about plants or rocks, that’s Mike. I think that’s shifted. On this record, our songs are very similar. This time, both of us wrote about where we come from, where we are as a band and how blown away with it we are—and also how aware we are of the fragile nature of it and the compromises that have to be made.
You mentioned the TV show. Are you accepting your level of celebrity?
It’s a very minor level of celebrity. The TV show is on at 9:30am on Sundays. It’s an incredible opportunity; there’s been a chance to do some really weird stuff. The purpose of a VJ has eroded, right? Because there’s YouTube and you don’t need someone to regurgitate a Wikipedia page before the video. But music video on TV is still cool as long as it’s curated well. Unfortunately, 9:30am is maybe not the best time to try this experiment. I also did a pilot for a Web series on the Food Network in Canada and a documentary on medical marijuana for Vice that’s coming out this summer. It’s about finding other gigs. I’ve got two kids, and obviously Fucked Up has been the passion of my life, but I know I’m not going to be able to do it forever.
You’ve spoken about how pot has helped you cope with anxiety. Do you feel like you’re an advocate for medical marijuana?
I think I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t talk about it, because I have benefited from it. I’ve lost all of this weight, but beyond that, I feel a lot better. I have a new child, and when I was on antianxiety pills, as a side effect, I didn’t want to have sex. I’m not saying [medical marijuana] is for everyone, but I do think I denied myself a lot of mental well-being by being resistant to explore it. So I do want to talk about it. We’re at a paradigm shift.
Fucked Up plays Bowery Ballroom June 6.
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