Simply put, Thomas Thacker is Canadian pop-punk royalty. The 40-year-old Vancouver native has been rocking with his band Gob for over 20 years, while also holding down guitar in Ajax, Ont.’s pop/punk/metal rock-stars Sum 41. After releasing Gob’s sixth studio album Apt. 13, Thacker and his bandmates spent the summer on an extensive Canadian tour. I spoke with Thacker over the phone from his home in New York.
Martlet: I remember reading about a new Gob record as early as four years ago. How does it feel to have it done and out there?
Tom Thacker: Dude, [it’s] such a weight off [our shoulders]. We started in 2010, and our initial plan was to have it out as soon as possible, around the summer of 2011, but things take time. We were self-producing the record, Theo and I, and we didn’t have management or a label, so it was the first time in our career we didn’t have someone there to prod us along. So we took our time and made sure we were super happy with it. We’re super proud of the record, [and] super stoked it’s coming out.
M: What are the lyrical themes explored on the album?
TT: A lot of the songs are about existential anxiety. I try to write abstract lyrics because I’d rather it be shrouded in some sort of mystery instead of it being super literal. It’s pretty apparent though in the song “Apt. 13”—being anxious about leaving, and wondering if you can ever come back. “Cold” sort of has that theme; also “New York”—that song is sort of about that. It’s like, “If this is just it, what do I have to show? What are people going to remember me for?”—that sort of thing, and the anxiety of the record taking so fucking long.
M: So, the last record, 2007’s Muertos Vivos, had a bit of a heavier and darker sound in parts, but was also quite experimental in others. Apt. 13 has a bit more of that melodic pop-punk sound that old-school Gob fans may be familiar with. Was this a conscious decision, or just the way the songs turned out?
TT: I think it’s a semi-conscious thing. Every single one of our records is a reaction to the previous one. Too Late. . .No Friends was really fun and catchy, then How Far Shallow Takes You was angry, faster, like hardcore punk. Every single record, if I look back, all sort of go like that. Muertos Vivos, that was the first record that we self-produced, and it was sort of like, “We’re going to fucking explore every avenue with this record.” I intended for the songs I was writing to be more upbeat for this record. I mean, some of them are kind of fun or funny in parts, but there’s still sort of the sadness. I don’t really feel sad (laughs), so I don’t really know where it comes from, but it’s something that the music inspires. But yeah, I think sound-wise, it’s back to being more pop-punk.
M: For a lot of people, “Soda” will always be the iconic Gob song. I mean, they still play it on the radio here in Victoria. Is it weird that it’s with a song that you must’ve written when you were like 17 or something?
TT: It’s pretty unusual, and it’s also an unusual song to have caught on as a “hit.” I remember having that chord progression—like, that was one of the first things I ever wrote on guitar. I had this weird chord progression and I was like, “I’m going to keep every chord major,” and they were chords that shouldn’t be but it just sounded good to me. [And] then Gob started and I wrote that into a punk-rock song (laughs). It’s awesome, because it’s such a strange song for people to have caught on to. I still love playing it. We love playing it so much that if the crowd is out of their minds and are asking us to play it every other song, we’ll just fuckin’ play it. We’ve played it four times. And of course we’re just being fucking idiots when we do that, but we have no problem playing it.
M: You’ll be playing a small, albeit great, sweaty, rambunctious venue here in town. You guys also have played lots of larger festivals. How do these two experiences compare and what do you prefer?
TT: I’ve always liked the intimate club shows better. Small shows, there’s so much energy, and people are right in your face, like you feel way more at a show like that. I’ve always preferred it. I’m slowly coming around to the big festivals. The crowd is like 20–30 feet from you, behind the barricade, and that just feels weird to me.
M: How’s your Sum 41 bandmate Deryck doing? Have you guys kept in touch during his recovery? (Frontman Deryck Whibley was hospitalized this past spring for complications with alcohol abuse).
TT: Yeah, I talk to him regularly. He’s sober, living the sober life now. I think that’s what he has to do. He’s recovering, but it’ll be a little while until he’s 100 per cent. It’s pretty extreme. We have a unique job, where it’s not only fine to show up to work and have a couple drinks before you start work, [but] you’re kind of encouraged to do something crazy, go nuts. People like danger in rock and roll. I fuckin’ like danger in rock and roll. Without danger, it’s kind of boring. I remember reading about Beethoven freaking out about how you can play all the right notes, but without passion, it’s not worth listening to. I totally agree with that. Bleed for us, show us your teeth. Unfortunately, that will take its toll on you if you don’t keep yourself in check. You can fuckin’ end up down that road. In a very quick time, he’s been through a lot. He’s got it all out of his system, is on the right path, and we’re talking about making music so that’s a good sign.
M: Any final remarks for your fans?
TT: Thanks for listening and being there all the time. We love the fans. We’re there for the fans, and they’re there for us.
Gob will be playing at Lucky Bar Nov. 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12.50 and can be purchased at Lyle’s Place, Ditch Records, and online at ticketweb.ca.