Man, I fucking love Cancer Bats; a mental hardcore punk band, full of spunk and spitting, that are proud to call Toronto their home – albeit probably a fleeting home given the amount of time these stalwarts spend on tour.
Their tunes are fast, their riffs are crushing, and their gigs are amongst some of the craziest I’ve ever witnessed (and I’ve seen Meatloaf and Billy Joel live – so I know what I’m talking about!).
But you know what’s cooler than a big, loud, fun punk band? A big, loud, fun punk band that doesn’t need BOOZE to get pepped up and start windmilling (hair, not penises, you perv), and Cancer Bats have not one but TWO members that DON’T NEED NO FUCKEN BEER TO HAVE A GUD TIME: Frontman Liam Cormier, and guitarist Scott Middleton.
I was lucky enough to catch up with badass shredder Scott, and ask him a few questions about his decision to live a life sans the devils jizz…
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your band, and what you do in the band
Scott, I play guitar in Cancer Bats, we’re a punk / hardcore / riffy metal band from Toronto that started in 2004. I also do record producing, mastering and mixing out of Schoolhouse Studios in Hamilton Ontario!
2. How long ago did you make the decision to go sober, and why? Any bumps along the way?
I made my mind up when I was 17. I never liked alcohol when I tried it and trying to fit in by getting drunk at parties was the lamest thing I ever did. I saw all my “friends” in high school put getting drunk or high as more important than friendship. I thought that was the most fake, poser shit ever. I ended up loving the local straightedge hardcore scene and I loved that I found a community of musicians that didn’t focus on getting wasted for a good time. So 21 years later I’m still straightedge and happier for it.
3. Does working as a musician make you more susceptible to alcohol problems? How do you think your job in the band has affected you personally where booze is concerned?
For sure it could. I’ve seen it happen to so many people. Basically as a band, you’re given a case of free beer backstage before they’d ever give you food on a tour rider. Add that on top of trying to cope with being homesick, insecure, bored or mentally ill, and you’ve got an alcoholic in the making. We spend every day in a bar on the road. Alcohol is everywhere and people always wanna buy the band drinks. I’ve offended sooo many generous people by refusing shots or beers they’ve bought me without first asking what I’d like to drink. I’m always polite about it, but some people are angry that I don’t fit into their party animal rockstar fantasy narrative. I don’t mind either way anymore I’m so used to it.
4. If nothing else, our years of boozing can give us some awesome stories. Tell us about some of the stuff you’ve done, or witnessed. Give us the gory details.
See that’s just it, boozing never gave me anything good or memorable. I just ended up in awkward high school relationships I immediately regretted come class time Monday morning.
5. If someone came to you and asked you for your number 1 tip for staying on the wagon, what would you tell ’em?
This is what helped our bass player Jaye take a healthy break from the bottle a few years ago and I always respected it : “the only difference between doing it and not doing it, is doing it.”
6. Punk shows are notoriously messy, for both the bands and the audience. Have you seen a shift in the importance of alcohol to this whole experience?
When I started going to punk shows in the 90’s and early 2000’s straightedge was huge and massively influential and trendy. I don’t really see much of that movement anymore. Veganism prevailed over straightedge that’s for sure. I feel like the term drunk punk never really went away. It seems resilient as ever if I go by the bands and people I meet around the world anyway !
7. How has quitting the booze affected you in your normal lives and relationships? Any new passions/hobbies that have replaced the drinking?
I lost a lot of friends when I stopped drinking and even had relationships break up as a direct result. Good riddance to that! I just dove more into the DIY music scene and ignored everyone else.
8. Stats tell us that kids these days are drinking less. Why do you reckon this is? Have they learned from our mistakes?
Hopefully, and probably because they are being brought up by sober parents who aren’t just doing it for religious reasons or something. Education is a good thing for sure, and I think with the internet it’s really easy to pick and choose to be surrounded by like minded people when you want to be. I also hear from parents kids are less interested in going out and being wild in general. Is that the fault of the smartphone and social media? Who knows? Only time will tell if this is worse or not? But with opioid epidemics on the rise, the more sober kids around supporting each other, the better I think.
9. Anything else you want to tell us?
I don’t sit around judging people who drink or smoke weed. Many of my best friends and bandmates do! I don’t think it defines your character at all. I think tolerance from sober punks and drunks alike is a beautiful thing.
10. What’s the greatest punk album ever (except for The Spark That Moves)?
I mean obviously it’s Static Age by the Misfits, but everyone should listen to Animal Boy by Ramones, Reaction by Complete Control, Summer Failures by This Drama and the Self Titled Tragedy album!
Cheers Scott for taking the time to speak to SoberPunks!
Be sure to check out Cancer Bats latest album ‘The Spark That Moves’, out now on New Damage.
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