His memory of spring 2006 is a blur. But guitarist Mike Haliechuk hazily recalls spending time in the studio with his Fucked Up bandmates recording debut album Hidden World. “Ten years is a long time, man,” he says with a shrug.
A decade later it’s time for Mike and his Canadian bandmates to face the music as they headline the killer one-day Mirrors festival in Hackney. With Fucked Up set to perform Hidden World in its entirety, it’s a rare chance to catch the blistering – and normally forward-looking – band taking a trip down punk rock memory lane.
Luckily time has been kind enough to the album. It still sounds as loud and fresh now as it did when producer Jon Drew pressed record in Halla Music studios in Toronto. “I wish I could remember more,” Mike admits. “I do know that we recorded it very quickly. It only took two or three weeks. I think that we were still writing songs as we went into the studio.”
Hidden World remains a powerful listen, thanks in no small part to Mike’s towering guitar playing. Whether it’s his axe ringing out on the opening seconds of ‘Crusades’, or his asymmetric chugging lines pushing Jacobs Ladder to its fiery climax as frontman Damian Abrahams spits: “There is nothing more pathetic/ Than too much self-restraint,” it still packs a proper punch.
But somehow the idea of underground hardcore veterans Fucked Up getting nostalgic is hard to believe, right? “We’ve never celebrated the anniversary of anything,” Mike says with a growl. “We missed our 10th anniversary as a band. And our 15th. We just never got around to it. We had joked about doing a 12th year anniversary Bar Mitzvah party – but then we forgot. So this time we thought it would be fun to play the whole record.”
NO FUCKING AROUND
Yet Hidden World is not a fun album. In contrast, it’s deadly earnest and full of ire about a corrupt world – real or hidden. “We were a shit-hot hardcore band,” Mike says. “And there was no fucking around on that album. No jokes.
“Having to go back and listen to Hidden World I can hear the seeds for the future were all there – we weren’t just playing loud and fast hardcore anymore,” Mike reflects. Which proved to be very true. They went on to absolutely nail their powerful guitar-blazing sound on Chemistry of Common Life, as they expanded their mastery of the studio while throwing in some flutes for good measure. Since then they’ve written a hilarious rock opera in David Comes to Life, a mesmerising soundtrack for the 1928 silent film West of Zanzibar and generally followed whatever creative impulse they damn well pleased.
Yet the songs on Hidden World will always be the fastest and most furious. “The songs are so fucking fast,” Mike says. “If we were to record that album now it would be about four hours long! I think Jonah [Falco] likes a challenge and that’s probably why he wanted to keep it so fast – so he could show off his drum solos.”
There are plenty of moments in Hidden World that are just relentless. Remorseless, even. And whole sections of songs that refuse the listener respite from their punishing riffs and Damian’s full-throated shouting. But it also has some truly stunning melodies scattered amongst the punishment, along with some (rather sweet) out of tune whistling.
“It was a stepping stone for us,” Mike says. “We had been a band for four or five years by then, booking our own tours and only releasing 7” singles. We were very dedicated to being a hardcore/punk project with plenty of ideals and values. But the first album just unlocked us and allowed us to become a professional band.
“At that time, we had been renting a rehearsal space by the hour and wrote most of the songs over the course of a year. We’d go in once a week, write the songs, record them on little cassettes and then have to remember how to play all of the songs when we got into the studio six months later,” he adds with a laugh. “Now, we’ll spend 12 hours in the studio playing for three or four months at a time. It just seems easier as I can just pick up an instrument and play something cool and it’s all being recorded, and we just build something from there.”
BACKWARDS & FORWARDS
This is hardly a cashing-in reunion tour as Fucked Up never broke up, Mike insists. It’s just about the timing.
“We’re able to do something like the Mirrors gig because we’ve been putting out new music consistently for 15 years and we’re still going strong. We’ve got so much new stuff. So it doesn’t feel cheap to us. And we’ve always played older songs – there are songs from our first records that have always been in our sets.
“Anyway, punk is already such a sentimental thing that it doesn’t feel weird to go back and play Hidden World. People like it. And we only started Fucked Up because we were into some bands on Dangerhouse Records from LA and others from New York City from the late 1980s. Everything we did was because of those musical touchstones. So that’s why I call punk a sentimental thing.”
But fed up with looking back Mike finishes with a promise: “Next time we’re on tour we’ll play all new stuff.” But in the meantime, enjoy the chance to hear Hidden World. It reveals the sound of a band on a collision course with its own insanely loud and colourful destiny.