Q&A with Fucked Up’s Josh Zucker

[Another interview by correspondent Julia Wallace. – AC]

Toronto’s Polaris-prize winning Fucked Up released Glass Boys, its much-anticipated follow-up to 2011’s David Comes To Life on June 3. The album sees the band reflect on getting older, international success, and figuring out where they belong.

Julia asked guitarist Josh Zucker about working with J. Mascis, sharing the stage with Gord Downie, and the stress of playing for a hometown crowd. He also accurately predicted the surprising results of last Thursday’s election in which the NDP lost two vital Toronto ridings.

It’s been a wild ride on the popularity wave since The Chemistry of Common Life blew the world away in 2008. You guys did it again in 2011 with David Comes to Life. After all of that critical success were you terrified to release this album? Or does it feel like you’ve found home? 

For me there’s more anxiety getting the record done, getting it written and recorded and perfected, doing it as well as you can. Once it comes out all that just fades away and you just deal with how it’s received.

Were you worried about having to justify your existence as a band with Glass Boys? Hardcore tends to be seen as a genre with an expiration date. Not many bands last long.

Nah, we’ve justified ourselves already, musically, professionally, that’s not really an issue for us anymore. And the older, straighter hardcore records still hold up. I guess hardcore bands usually only last for so long, but that’s not different than any other genre and the original music from the 80s is still the gold standard so in that way the music doesn’t seem to have an expiration date at all.

What was your goal for this album?

To show people that we didn’t break up.

J. Mascis contributed backing vocals to the track “Led By Hand” on Glass Boys. I’m pretty sure he thinks in guitar solos. What was it like to work with him? Did you get the opportunity to jam?

He’s jammed with us on stage before live, playing 4th guitar in the song Police, I think he did a solo.

Gord Downie also contributed to the record and made a quick cameo on stage yesterday. When you started out, did you think you’d ever be sharing the stage with him? Did The Hip resonate with you guys ten years ago or has your appreciation for certain artists come with age?

No, ten years ago definitely I’d never thought he’d be on a record, five years ago I wouldn’t have predicted it, three years ago if you told me though I wouldn’t have batted an eye. Our band just does weird things.

The anticipation was high at Field Trip yesterday. The crowd started small, and the album is still fresh. I read in a previous interview that you find playing in Toronto really stressful. How were you feeling?

Truly just trying to enjoy myself, watching the cars on the gardner and looking at the condos and waving to my daughter in the crowd.

Damien has made a lot of jokes about ‘Dadcore.’ You yourself have one little girl. For those of you with families, how hard is it to reconcile the two lifestyles? It’s something Damien has also struggled with publicly. Can you imagine doing anything else?

Yeah I can imagine doing lots of things of different things, in a way it’s actually just easier to keep playing in this band. There are some good role models as far as people in bands who also have families, but really most of them are richer than me and have cushier tours and can afford to hire sitters or just have a different touring set-up. We can’t do that, so being away from home does get rough. I just put it in perspective, I know I can go home, I know I will see my family again, I have all these privileges of travel that many people truly separated from their families don’t.

It was 12 years ago now that you recorded a live record at the Rivoli – something you’ll be doing again tomorrow night [last Tuesday June 10]. Do you spend much time looking back?

Yeah looking back is the best.

I worked for the Ministry of Tourism and Culture when you were nominated for the Polaris Prize again in 2012. We pushed the Minister to send you a congratulatory letter, but I don’t think it happened. No one could decide how to address it. Do you think having this name has helped or hindered your success? Or just helped you stay away from a lot of BS?

Overall probably hindered, I could list dozens of things at this point that we’ve straight up just not been able to do because of our name.

On that note… It’s an election week in Ontario. What does that mean to you? 

I’ve been living out of province so I haven’t followed this election too closely, but I’ve seen a bit about the NDP campaigning with some policies pandering to financial sector and several dyed in the wool NDP people I know are voting Liberal for the first time in their lives. It seems like a particularly frustrating election to watch.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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