“I THOUGHT we were going to die,” says Sum 41 lead singer Deryck Whibley, while recounting a trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where fighting erupted while the band was filming a documentary with War Child Canada. A near-death experience will change anyone-even four young men with a penchant for drugs, strippers and rock ’n’ roll.
When Sum 41 broke out of Ajax, Ont., and onto the international music scene back in 2001, Whibley, Dave Baksh, Jason McCaslin and Steve Jocz were poster boys for suburban ennui, with concerns that ran not much deeper than a 7-Eleven Slurpee. But they recently realized that celebrity musicians should, and are expected to, give back. “We wanted to help out and do something that was more hands-on than play a charity show or do a compilation CD, so we thought let’s go to an actual war zone,” says Whibley. “We chose the Congo because the war basically had been about the control of its resources, mainly coltan [columbite-tantalite]. It’s used in electronics, like cellphones and computers, things we use everyday-that’s what people are dying for.”
After talking to child soldiers and rape victims and experiencing the terror and devastation of fighting firsthand—they were trapped in a hotel with mortar rounds going off outside and ran through gunfire to be evacuated in a tank-the guys in Sum 41 have matured in their music, personal lives and priorities. And in turn, they’re inspiring that young, hard-to-reach demographic to do the same. “Everybody should try and do something that’s good that doesn’t benefit them,” says drummer Jocz. “You don’t even have to go to the Congo or anywhere, you can donate money, read a newspaper, start looking at the world in a different way.”
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