10 Questions with Cone McCaslin of Sum 41

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by Ryan Meehan

In 1998 Canadian musician, producer, and songwriter Jason “Cone” McCaslin joined Sum 41. Shortly thereafter, the band signed a major label deal to Island Records in 1999 and went on to establish itself as one of the most successful Alternative/Pop Punk/Punk Rock acts in the years following. Their reputation for being hard-working and immensely creative has also lead to collaborations with Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee, grandfather of Punk Iggy Pop, heavy metal legend Rob Halford of Judas Priest, rapper Ludacris as well as the multi-talented Jack Black just to name a few. Sum 41 has inarguably made an indelible mark within the industry, having sold millions of records, scored videos on MTV’s coveted show Total Request Live, topped the billboard charts and made live performance appearances repeatedly on Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Last Call with Carson Daly and MAD TV. In 2007 Cone co-founded a side project with friend Todd Morse (H2O, Offspring, Petty Cash) called Operation MD. In 2007 Cone started his Producing Career with a co-production credit on the 1st Operation MD album “We Have An Emergency” which was nominated for 2 Casby Awards. Since then he has produced many albums including Operation MD’s 2nd album 2010’s “Birds + Bee Stings”, 6 songs for Hard Rock Halifax band Shelter With Thieves’ 2011 album “Someday Is Never Soon Enough” which Won an ECMA Award for “Loud Recording Of The Year”. Most recently in 2012, Cone Produced Bluegrass/ Folk/Alt-Country Toronto band The Strumbellas debut full length album “My Father + The Hunter” which was nominated for a Canadian Juno Award for “Best Roots/Traditional Album” in 2013. Cone’s latest production was on Toronto band Sun K’s debut album called “Northern Lies”, which is it out now on Maple Music. I am very happy to have Cone McCaslin of Sum 41 as my guest today in 10 questions.

RM:  First off, where did the nickname “Cone” originate? Is there an assassinesque explanation as to why you have also been referred to as the “Sniper”?

CM: It was a high school nick name that Deryck and a few other friends started calling me. I was a big ice cream cone enthusiast back then. Unfortunately I’m lactose intolerant now…Sniper has no story…Pain for Pleasure only knows the real story.

RM:  You’re rarely seen on stage without a Fender Precision Bass …How many of those do you own; and of the several variations within that classic model which are your favorite?

CM: I think I own about five of that specific model that I play on stage…They are ’59 re-issues. I have other basses as well, but I love using those particular basses live. I have a few other P-basses that I keep at home and record with that I won’t take on tour because I don’t want them to get “hurt”…The white one and the black one I play live have been on the road with me since 2003. They rule.

RM:  Can you tell us a little bit about the series of events that led to Dave Baksh’s return to Sum 41? In the back of your mind, was that something you expected to eventually happen or did it come as a bit of a surprise?

CM: After Deryck got out of the hospital, Dave flew down to see him. Neither Deryck or I had really seen Dave in a long, long time. Deryck phoned me a few weeks after that and said he had an idea to bring Dave back for the AP Awards. Tom, Deryck and I all talked about it and thought it would be fun, so it happened. Dave has been out of the band for 10 years now so it really never entered my mind he would play with us again, but it was fun and our fans seemed to like it a lot too which is the main thing.

RM:  How does the music that the band is currently working on differ from the songs that are on “Screaming Bloody Murder”? Does the album have an overall theme to it as far as subject matter?

CM: Well in a way the vibe of being heavy and in your face is similar to Screaming Bloody Murder, but the songs seem to be a little more to the point. This new album so far seems very Sum 41 and energetic and its gonna be a great album to perform live. Deryck is still writing lyrics, so the subject matter is still unknown to me…

RM:  With Deryck doing well and having a very positive outlook on his health and the future of the group, do you think Sum 41 will ever do another record as dark as “Chuck”?

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CM: I think Scream Bloody Murder had some really dark moments, and this new one has some dark moments too. I actually think Scream Bloody Murder was darker and heavier then Chuck, but maybe that’s just me…So, yes I think we will…

RM:  When you are producing a record by a band that you haven’t previously worked with and you listen to the last album they did, what are some of the aspects of the production value itself that you carefully examine before taking the next step in the process?

CM: It’s something where I sit with them, see what they want to do and I also explain what I think they should do.  Then we find a balance and a goal and figure out where we think the songs should be on their next album. I spend a lot of time in pre-production with a band I’m producing. When I produce, the process starts months before we even enter the studio. For example I’m producing the next Sun K record and we won’t even start until December, but we are already starting the back and forth dialogue on songs. I’m a big prep guy. I like to have most stuff ironed out and the best it can be before we start. The studio is for recording and sounds and vibe, I like to have all the other arrangement stuff done before we go in. Saves the band money that way too…

RM:  As a producer who is also a bass player do you find that you are overly analytical when it comes to the sonic enhancement of that instrument more so than the others when it comes time to do the final mixdown, as well as all of the editing that is required to get to that point?

CM: Of course I’m pretty particular on the sound and parts of the bass, but actually I think that I’m hardest on the drummer and his kick patterns and grooves in the studio because as a bass player that’s what I’ve always played to. The drummer is the back bone and the first thing to be recorded. Once you have a solid groove and the kick patterns are awesome, then the song is already well on its way. I work real close with the songwriter before we even enter the studio to make sure the actual song is there, and the melody and lyrics are great…but I guess in the actual studio you can say I’m hardest on the drummer…The drums have to be solid and I’m big on that aspect, but not to mention I like catchy melodies and great riffs…

RM: Has being a father changed the way you view the commitment you have to the business side of the music industry with regards to extensive touring and the like? What has been the most unexpected emotion you’ve felt on a continuous basis throughout the first eight months of raising your son?

CM: That’s a hard question to answer, because we haven’t really toured yet. I’m assuming I’ll be like every other musician father that cares about his kid though, I’ll miss the hell out of my son when I leave but I still love to do what I do and will continue to do it and just be the best father I can be when I’m home.

Photo by Sandor Csudai

Photo by Sandor Csudai

RM:  Could you give us an example of an artist that fans of your music might be surprised to know that you are a fan of? Which particular song really drew you to their work and made you want to explore the remainder of their catalog?

CM: Hmmmm…Well since we are a heavier band I guess many fans might be surprised to hear I like acoustic music, folk music or even “alt- country” type music. That’s actually the music I listen to most when I’m at home or on a plane or whatever. No particular band really. There’s a ton of different stuff I listen to in that genre. I play hard rock so I don’t really want to always listen to it all the time…I like to relax…

RM:  Is there any possibility that we will hear new music from Operation M.D. before the end of the year? How has having that project as a creative outlet made you a better musician and producer?

CM: Yes! We are releasing a new song called “Like Everyone Else” in the next few weeks. It was a song we recorded in 2009 – but got left off our Birds + Bee Stings album for different reasons – but I always loved the song and happy it’s getting released now. We’re also gonna release another song around the end of the year as well.  I’ve had a ton of fun doing Operation M.D. with Todd Morse. We haven’t played very many shows (2 or 3 haha) but I’ve loved writing songs forever and this band had given me a chance to release them because the songs I write tend not to be Sum 41ish. Todd and I have co-produced all Operation MD songs so yeah, it’s great to get to do more production time with that as well.

RM:  What’s up for you and the rest of the band in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?

CM: We are doing some select festival shows in Colombia and Quebec and there are a few others in the works, but the main thing is finishing the new album, then hit the ground running and touring hard in 2016.

Official Website:  http://www.conemccaslin.com/

Sum 41 Official Website:  http://www.sum41.com/

Sum 41 on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Sum41

Sum 41 on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/sum41

Cone on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/cone41

Operation M.D. on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TheOperationMD

Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.

Meehan

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