Sum 41 walked away from their trip to the Democratic
Republic of Congo with a fuller understanding of the
country's six-year civil war, a sense of what it feels
like to be caught in a battle zone, and a name for
their next album.
The Canadian pop-punk quartet has dubbed its third
full-length album Chuck in honor of United
Nations peacekeeper Chuck Pelletier, who escorted Sum
41 safely to a U.N. compound when gunfire erupted
outside their hotel during their humanitarian visit in
late May (see "Sum
41 Run For Their Lives During Violent Outbreak In Congo").
"We started joking around about it while we were in
the U.N. compound," singer Deryck Whibley said. " 'If
we make it out of here alive, we're going to name the
album after Chuck.' Then a week later we said, 'Should
we still name it after Chuck?' and we all thought it
was still a good idea."
Sum 41 had visited the war-torn African nation in
association with the charity War Child Canada to shoot
a documentary called "From the Front Lines," which
examines human-rights violations, the role of child
soldiers, the condition of refugee camps, and the
demand for coltan, a mineral used in the electronic
components of cell phones and the foundation of much
of the country's land disputes.
Just days after the band arrived, fighting broke out
between government soldiers and renegade troops in the
street outside their hotel. As bullets flew through
window and bombs exploded in the street, Pelletier,
who was also staying at the hotel, orchestrated a
40-person evacuation into armored personnel carriers
that transported the group to a nearby U.N. compound.
Because Pelletier is still in the Congo, Sum 41 aren't
sure if the new album's namesake is aware of their
tribute. "We haven't been able to tell Chuck," Whibley
said. "We don't have direct contact with him. ...
We're gonna try and send him an e-mail or something."
Though it was without a title, the follow-up to 2002's
Does This Look Infected? was nearly finished
before the band left for the Congo. One tune, however, continued to rattle around in Whibley's head after touching down in central Africa (see "Sum 41 Touch Down In Congo, Visit 'Witches' And U.N. Officials").
Just as he was about to put the ideas on paper, the
fighting started and he was forced to temporarily
abandon the endeavor. When safely back in Toronto a
few days later, Whibley was able to completely recall
the work-in-progress, despite the lack of any
recording device, a mental phenomenon he equated to
"I had no way to record it while in Africa; there was
no electricity," he explained. "I couldn't even use a
cell phone to record it into my answering machine or
anything. So when I got home and remembered it
perfectly, I took it as a good sign.
"I made a little demo of it and showed our manager and
a few people at our record label," he continued, "and
everyone who heard it was just like, 'That's the best
song on the record.' So we went back in the studio and
recorded it, and now 'We're All to Blame' is going to
be our first single."
Despite its origin, "We're All to Blame" doesn't
solely place fault on the cell-phone-happy Western
world's demand for coltan as the reason for the
Congo's turmoil. Rather, the song looks at the bigger
picture of how the modern world's unquenchable thirst
for power, money and natural resources has put the
entire planet in hot water.
"It's about the state of the world, and how it's come
to be like this," Whibley said. "Directly or
indirectly, everyone is somehow to blame one way or
another. Whether you have direct involvement or you
just choose to be ignorant, we all have some kind of involvement."