Fucked Up: the interview

10 things you didn't know about Fucked Up vocalist Damian Abraham

Fucked Up: the interview

Fucked Up's Damian Abraham gets down with the crowd at Fuji Rock Festival '12

Few people who saw it will forget the spectacle of Fucked Up's set at Fuji Rock Festival this year. It took less than a minute for the Canadian band's hefty frontman, Damian Abraham, to whip his top off and start getting intimate with the audience, after which things quickly descended into the mother of all hardcore love-ins. Compared to their poorly attended Japan debut in 2009 (see below), it was electrifying stuff – which is presumably why they're already due for a repeat visit. As the band prepare to play at Saturday's Hostess Club Weekender, we called Abraham to talk about his love of Japanese hardcore, sushi and his experiences moonlighting as a presenter for Canadian music TV show The Wedge.

Fucked Up might as well split up now.

Fuji Rock is just, like, a legendary festival that I grew up hearing about. It was just so bizarre to get to play it. Japan was always the end game for this band. It was like: Once we get to go to Japan, we can quit. And our idea of going to Japan was to do the typical punk, bullet-train-tour-of-Japan type thing, and then here we are playing Fuji Rock, and it's like: Man, how did we get here?

Their first trip to Japan wasn't quite so good.

We played at Astro Hall. It was a fantastic venue, and – to take nothing away from the people there – I had an amazing time. It wasn't like a sell-out crowd or anything: they had to cancel one of the dates, because it was two nights we were supposed to be there… After the show, we went up to some kids, like, 'Hey! Where's cool to hang out?' And they just looked at us, like, 'We're just going to get the fuck out of here and go home now, so we'll see you guys later.' [Laughs.]

He used to do security at gigs.

I had that job as a teenager, in my later teens. Promoters here started hiring kids to do the security – older kids, bigger kids. It made for amazing show experiences, because you didn't really have that antagonism with those bouncers… But having worked that job, I know that it can be a fairly thankless thing. You sometimes have to deal with terrible people: kids kicking you in the face and all this horrible shit, and you're just trying to make sure they don't crack their head open.

Sometimes things get out of hand.

The first time we played Russia, in Moscow, I got into the crowd and I just felt, man, I do not have the ability to get away from this situation if it gets bad. People were grabbing at my clothes, it was just something that I'm not used to at all – girls trying to kiss me. [Laughs.] It sounds so lame repeating it, but these teenage girls, like, ripping at my face – it was a weird experience. 'Kids trying to kiss me!' It sounds like I'm a crazy germaphobe or something. It was just a very violent display of affection.

He wouldn't get high in Japan.

I have pretty bad anxiety, and in most countries [I cope with it] through marijuana – not in Japan, ever, out of fear of going to jail for my whole life. So in Japan, I think it's just adrenaline: feeding off the adrenaline of being in Japan and being in this place that I've always fantasised about going to. It's weird, I reverted back to just being obsessed with records, and chilling in Disk Union and going and buying 45s.

He's obsessed with Japanese hardcore…

I remember the first time we went over there, I was shocked. I'm like, 'What do you mean, you've never heard of Bastard? They're the best band in the world!' Gauze, Bastard, Death Side, Forward – I could go on and on. It's bands that are just like, it's the fury of Discharge with the power of Motorhead, or it's the brutality of the Cro-Mags with the speed of Deep Wound. It's just like this awesome hybrid.

Record shopping in Tokyo can get hazardous.

Japan is like heaven and hell for a record collector, because it's like everything you ever wanted is there, all at once, but you will not have enough money to afford all of it. I walked into the Disk Union, the punk one in Shinjuku, and I'm like, 'If I had $100,000 dollars right now, I don't think I could buy everything I want in this store.' It's all about managing desires.

He wishes he could tour less.

The reality is, in the current musical climate, and being the band that we are, you just can't afford to take a hiatus. If you're not touring, you're not making any money. Not to say that you're making buckets of money touring, but you're not paying rent otherwise…. For us, it's 150% about the writing of the record, and getting to do that. I think if we could find a way where we could only play a handful of shows every couple of months, we'd do that, but the reality is that that doesn't financially make sense for any band.

Liam Gallagher shouldn't try to act nice.

I interviewed Liam Gallagher, and he was kind of aloof and stuff – but that's what you want. You wouldn't want him to be super earnest and Andrew W.K.-like in the interview, because that would be a huge bummer. It would be terrifying if he was super forthcoming and friendly. Like, 'What are you guys doing after the interview. Do you wanna chill?' [Laughs.]

His worst interview? Jamie XX.

I interviewed Jamie XX, and we never aired it because it was a disaster. He had just gotten off a plane from playing Fuji Rock, and then played a set in Montreal, and then had to hop on a private plane to play OVO Fest in Toronto, for Drake – or the after party. So he was in the middle of a truly hellish travel schedule, and he had just flown into Japan from London the day before Fuji Rock or something, so I should not hold that against him. But it was a disastrous interview. [Laughs.]

He isn't destined to be the next John Peel.

I'd love to be in a John Peel kind of position, where people just want to hear what you want to listen to, but I've done DJ nights and I am not in that position. You've agonised over a set of songs to play, and the thing that people ask you for is Miley Cyrus's 'Party in the USA'. And you're like, 'Well, I kind of hand-crafted this set to be exclusively first-wave Canadian punk but, yeah, I guess I could throw a Miley Cyrus song in between these two songs…'

Fucked Up play at the Hostess Club Weekender, November 3 at Zepp DiverCity

By James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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