From the Event Guide, August 2008
Looking for Gold
By Aoife Barry
There may be no other band as perfectly named as Canada’s Fucked Up. A hardcore punk band who are renowned for their intense live shows (which often end with frontman Damian Abraham, aka ‘Pink Eyes’, with blood streaming down his face from a self-inflicted head wound), they have just under 50 releases to their name, including most recent album ‘The Chemistry of Common Life’. But behind their confrontational and in-your-face style and sound lies a world of self-discovery and passion. An intrigued Aoife Barry finds out more from Damian.
There are bands that waddle, bloated with self importance, onto the stage, play with a half-arsed attitude and then shuffle off, leaving nothing more than a dull ringing in their audience’s ears. And then there are bands like Fucked Up, who bound on stage, trash it out with their inner demons and leave the audience scared, riled up and exhilarated. Fucked Up literally dive head first into every live experience, not caring who (more often than not, themselves) or what is hurt along the way – they give what their audience wants and then some. Frontman Damian Abraham is what holds the band together on stage – the 300lb mountain man who is a genial soul offstage and a towering behemoth on.
“There are things I would never have thought I would be able to do,” says Damian of his transition from gentle soul to wild beast during his live shows. “Like the other night we played a show and I jumped off these speakers and I stuffed the landing – kind of like an Olympian – and I was fine, and the next day I woke up and my knees felt like they were going to pop off at any second. It’s like the combination of adrenaline and cockiness on stage, like the world doesn’t exist.”
Does he ever stop – maybe when he’s drawing blood from his own scalp, or hanging from a chandelier – and think ‘What the hell am I doing?’ “There’s sometimes moments where there’s a conscious moment and you’re like ‘Wow, this is really stupid, what I’m doing – I’m really gonna regret doing this’,” he admits. “But you try to avoid those self-conscious moments because … it affects the way you do things, you go back to your normal shy self instead of a rather buffoon-type stage persona.”
With such a fierce name and an equally fierce reputation, do Fucked Up ever feel a sense of pressure, that there are expectations on them to always perform to a certain level? “There’s a sense of pressure just like, playing a live show, period, cause people have done without something just to see you play,” says Damian. “It’s sort of like a double edge sword – you worry about these people and you want to put on a good show, but you don’t ever want to stage it.”
Like most punk fans, when he discovered the genre, it was a defining moment for Damian that plugged him into music in a new and inspiring way. “For me it’s not like I felt a pre-destined thing to being a punk,” he says. “Nothing really ever connected with me beyond maybe sort of like ‘that’s a good song’ or ‘that’s a cool looking album cover’ until I got into punk. Suddenly, everything kind of fell into place. It comes from recognising certain parts of this world that don’t make sense to you as a person.” Punk provided a refuge from the trials of everyday life, and the realisation that the greater world was a scary place. “For me, I think – not to over state anything or be melodramatic – but, punk rock didn’t save my life, but it definitely gave me a new way of looking at the world and forced me to question not just music, but the way the world works around me, and power and tools of oppression,” states the frontman.
Fucked Up was formed in 2001, and although Damian says “nothing was pre-planned”, the band did have one interesting theory about their eventual (and as yet, not at all imminent) demise. “We kind of had a really well thought out plan of what we were going to be as Fucked Up – up until the last record,” muses Damian. “We kind of knew the plan was we were going to release our last record, and then another record at the same time, and then we were going to record one more single called ‘Back to the Womb’, and break up. It was really well thought out – and then all of a sudden we were like, ‘Ah, we’re kind of having fun with this – let’s see how long we can prolong it!”
Ironically, although the members decided not to disband as planned, it’s not because they are extremely close friends – Damian himself says there is some “animosity” between them. “We really don’t get along as a band with each other,” he says wryly. “We are definitely friendly and there are moments on tour… [but ] I don’t think any of us thought we’d be in a band this long together.”
Onstage, Damian cuts an imposing and liberated figure as he strides around topless, baring his tattoos and powerful body. But he wasn’t always this confident. “I was ashamed for the longest time when were playing live, and I would never take my shirt off,” he admits. “I would deliberately wear the biggest, baggiest shirt on stage to cover up as much as possible” After a show in Texas a number of years ago, intense heat forced him to disrobe. Two fans approached afterwards and praised his daring move. “And that was all the ego boost I needed to sort of get myself over!” he laughs.
So did the band help him to ‘find himself’, as the saying goes? “That’s a really good way of putting it,” he smiles. “Because at the end of the day, when we leave Fucked Up, if nothing else, then it gave me an acceptance of myself and I’m glad I played in the band.”
Lookingforgold.blogspot.com / http://www.whelanslive.com/