My Influences: Fucked Up's Damian Abraham

110517-fucked-up-2.png
Damian Abraham performs at SXSW 2010 / Photo by Kathryn Yu
WRITTEN BY
Kevin O'Donnell

Fucked Up have made the most ambitious album of their decade-long career with David Comes to Life (out June 7), an 80-minute punk-rock opera that explores love, death, and redemption with songs that range from riot-igniting hardcore to art-damaged indie-rock. Frontman Damian Abraham - along with his bandmates Jonah Falco, Mike Haliechuk, Sandy Miranda, Josh Zucker, and Ben Cook - found inspiration in everything from obscure '70s theater-punk to classic American plays like Thornton Wilder's Our Town.

SPIN caught up with Abraham to dissect the key influences of one of the best hard rock records of the last ten years.

  • THE WHO'S TOMMY

    The granddaddy of mainstream rock operas was hugely influential even on a fiercely independent band like Fucked Up. "To be honest, we call this one song on the record, 'Who Thing,' because it's so clearly influenced by them," says Abraham. "'Running on Nothing' totally betrays our Who influence but Mike [Haliechuk, guitarist] would vehemently deny it."

    LISTEN: The Who, "Tommy, Can You Hear Me?"

  • MUMPS

    Mumps were a pioneering (though overlooked) '70s punk band, who performed on the New York City circuit with Talking Heads, Television, and the Ramones. Frontman Lance Loud was better known as a gay icon - he was one of the first to come out on national television on the 1973 reality show An American Family - but Abraham recalls getting clued into the band's groundbreaking mixture of Broadway and primal punk.

    "They were really theatrical and over the top," he says, citing "Crocodile Tears" and "Rock & Roll This, Rock & Roll That" as the band's best tracks. "I loved how they approached punk music by incorporating show tune-y elements. It's almost as if the Ramones, instead of listening to American A.M. radio, had grown up listening to Gershwin."

    WATCH: The Mumps, "Rock & Roll This, Rock & Roll That"

    Play

  • THORNTON WILDER'S OUR TOWN

    In this Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Wilder defied convention by having the Stage Manager character address the audience directly.Abraham applied a similar technique in David Comes to Life, which features the character Octavio guiding listeners through the plot. "He's my evil take on the Stage Manager, who is this friendly narrator who guides you through the story lovingly," says Abraham. "Octavio represents us and the band, this dumb guy trying to figure out his way through life."

    Abraham says he even acted in a high-school production of Our Town - he played a paper boy: "I went through this really weird series of loving plays, probably because they're short and I am a slow reader. In high school, we would have to do book reviews for literature class, but I would just do play reviews. I worked my way through all the classics then."

  • TITUS ANDRONICUS' THE MONITOR

    On the New Jersey rockers' 2010 album, frontman Patrick Stickles lays out an ambitious storyline loosely based on the Civil War over raucous anthems that mix the Sex Pistols' punk fury with Bruce Springsteen-style songwriting. "There's just something about the scope of that record - that you can have an overarching theme but each song stands out on its own, I really admired that," says Abraham. "We went on tour with them and I was just amazed at how they played with this insane energy. We try and get that across in our live shows, and hopefully with the record, too."

    LISTEN: Titus Andronicus, "No Future Part III"

  • DAVID PEACE'S RED RIDING QUARTET

    Abraham found narrative inspiration in this British author, whose series of dark books (dubbed the Red Riding Quartet) fictionalizes historical events and figures like the 1940s British serial killer Peter William Sutcliffe - aka, the Yorkshire Killer. "His work is incredibly, meticulously researched," says Abraham. "His idea of taking historical fact and creating fictional worlds with it - that was really appealing for me to try on this album. You get to look and examine time through a totally different lens."

  • SMOG, "I BREAK HORSES"

    On this 1996 track, Smog's Bill Callahan delivers a devastating tale of a women-fearing loner, which he sings in his despondent, Leonard Cohen-style baritone. "It's one of the most heartbreaking songs ever recorded," says Abraham, who did his best to write a ballad as stark on David Comes to Life. "'The Other Shoe' is the closest I'll ever get to writing something like that," he says. "It's about never being able to enjoy life because you're worried it'll always get shitty. Which is such a heartbreaking thing to realize, but sometimes that's just how life works out."

    LISTEN: Smog, "I Break Horses"

00:00 00:00 No Song Selected More info
00:00 00:00
placeholder
Now Playing
  • 1 Stalley — Jackin' Chevys (Prod. by Rashad) " 03:26
  • 2 Emile Haynie — A Kiss Goodbye (feat. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Devonté Hynes, Sampha) " 03:46
  • 3 Rusko — I Wanna Mingle (ft Pusher) " 02:37
  • 4 The Game — Don't Shoot " 06:07
  • 5 Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL — U KNOW " 03:57
  • 6 Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL — WHITECAPS " 03:43

SPIN is a member of SPIN Music Group, a division of BUZZMEDIA