Cancer Bats’ Liam Cormier: “How could we ever deny our love of Black Sabbath?”

Liam Cormier, Cancer Bats vocalist
(Image credit: Sid Tangerine/Press)

For around a decade and a half, Liam Cormier has been one of metal’s most reliable party-starters. The Cancer Bats frontman exudes righteous energy, boundless enthusiasm and an infectious lust for life. 

Whether it’s onstage barking out raucous hardcore anthems or excitedly fidgeting around on his sofa talking to us via Zoom about his love of nature, Beastie Boys or his karaoke skills, Liam is a much-needed dose of positivity in a scene that often takes itself way too seriously. Here’s what he’s learnt from it all so far.

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AC/DC were my first love

“I remember buying an AC/DC live double cassette as one of my first ever albums. It was the sickest – it had this fold-out of the band playing onstage in front of, like, a million people. When I was really, really young, I thought they were the sickest band. 

My dad was into Rolling Stones and Allman Brothers, and that was the music that we listened to together, but I liked AC/DC! I’d go to hockey practice, at like six or seven in the morning and I’d get myself going shouting ‘TNT!’, which, looking back, was kinda intense!”

Beastie Boys taught me to be musically open-minded

“Beastie Boys have always been my guiding light in my life. Being really young in the 90s, you weren’t meant to listen to all these styles of music – you had to figure out whether you were into grunge or rap or whatever. Then here is this band who were into everything. They were into jazz, they were into punk, it was hip hop, they skated.

I felt like those guys were the gateway into being more confident, like, ‘Oh, I can be into everything and it’s totally cool.’ Because they were the coolest guys on the planet. Beastie Boys were like a shield; if they liked it then I could do what I want.”

Canadian bands love heavy vibes

“I think there is a Canadian sound, especially for heavier things. When you listen to Neil Young records, there are heavy tones and heavy vibes to those records. It’s a vibe that has always existed in heavy rock that has influenced us as Canadian bands, which means that whether you’re playing metal or punk or hardcore or just rock, you have that weight. All Canadian bands, regardless of style, seem to have that thing, and I’m not entirely sure where it comes from.”

A bit of Diversity makes your scene so much more interesting

“We’re all from the same little chunk of Canada, and there isn’t much overlap to what we do. A band like [genre-blurring punk provocateurs] Fucked Up are going to do their thing, but you wouldn’t start a band who sound like that, because people would just say, ‘I’m not going to see your Fucked Up rip-off band!’

You’d go to a gig and know that all the bands were doing their own thing - Alexisonfire were doing their own thing, Billy Talent are doing their own thing. No one looked at those bands getting successful and thought, ‘Oh, let’s change our band to do that!’ A great scene should be like that.”

There are a lot of slices to the Cancer Bats pie

“The pie chart of all of our influences would be huge, for sure! I feel like we’ve always been into the heavy stuff; all those metal influences from our youth are there. How could we ever deny our love of Black Sabbath?

But we also have that punk spirit in us as well, and we come from that underground scene, so that’s also such a big part of what we do. And all the alternative rock and the touches of rap… I could be here for days naming bands that I think we’ve tried to borrow from.”

I love giving people the Liam show

“I’m not sure when I felt fully comfortable onstage, but I’ve always just tried to be myself, and I’m a positive and upbeat person. I said something onstage once, some quip, when our amps cut out or something and people laughed, and I liked that feeling, so I carried it on. Now, it’s some of my favourite parts of our show.

I love the between-song banter. I love it being the Liam show for a little bit. You have to be honest when you’re playing music. I can’t get up and be this badass, that isn’t me. What you see up there is 100% me.”

We aren’t road-sick anymore

“We’ve drastically had to change the way we tour. A lot of it is down to Mike [Peters, drums] having kids. We never tour for more than three weeks now – those days of being on the road in a van for three months are gone, because it makes you… weird.

You go a little nuts, and when you’re young that’s awesome. When you have nowhere to live, you’ll go, ‘Hell yeah, I’ll sleep on the floor!’, but we’re not those young road dogs anymore. The most important thing is that the shows are better these days.”

We will never get tired of playing our cover of Beastie Boys’ Sabotage

“When we put out Bears… [Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones, 2010] and Sabotage was the big song, I felt really proud of that. Especially the video, because we didn’t do too much with the song. We just made a heavier version, so I wanted to do something super-creative just to show people that those were heroes of mine. 

Just so people knew that we got it, that we wanted to go for the same vibe as them or Spike Jonze would have put out. It was our offering to them. And we’ll always play that song, we’ll never be too cool to pretend that this wasn’t a huge moment in our career. It’s one of the best songs ever, and why wouldn’t I play it to make people happy and have them party super-hard every night?”

Fill your spare time with adventures

“Now when I get time off, I tend to spend it going on these gnarly motorbike trips. I still appreciate that side of things, trying to push myself on a heavy, multi-day trip. Your hands are all beaten up and you’re sleeping on a rock – there is still that part of me that craves that. 

I think I’m trying to figure that out still: why is there this constant need to explore and be ripping? Brain, what’s up?! I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to sit still – that’s where I find joy.”

Straight Edge has had the most positive impact on my life

“A lot of people find out about straight edge when they’re really young, but I partied and I did all that stuff. I became straight edge at the age of 21, so I already knew that hangovers sucked, barfing in a bathtub sucked, it was all very overrated. 

When I met all these people who cared more about music and wanted to do that more than anything, have band practice on a Friday night instead of going to the bar, I was way more into that. Instead of partying I was doing street art, that is always what kept me excited about that.”

I am happy to be the sober designated driver

“By the time Cancer Bats started touring I was about 26, so the idea of drinking just wasn’t a thing for me. But you really see the worst side of partying on tour at that age. I was always the person who would drive; everyone would party, jump in the van, be super-annoying and I’d just drive all night. That just became part of the way our band worked. It was key to our well-oiled machine.”

Beware the Karaoke

“I love karaoke, but I had to stop doing it on tour. I wouldn’t lose my voice doing the Cancer Bats set, I’d lose my voice doing karaoke. This is about 2005, 2006, and they’d say that there was going to be karaoke after the show, and I’d be there screaming Just A Girl by No Doubt and it would fuck me up.

Because you’re singing songs you’re not used to singing, so you’re screaming whatever comes up: Johnny Cash, screaming, Miley Cyrus, screaming. People get too excited and it fucks you up. So, I have to hang back and look after myself.”

Don’t ever take your surroundings for granted

“Where I grew up and went to high school I lived on the edge of town, and so I was really into mountain biking through the woods and the forest and going and sitting by a stream and listening to Björk! So mellow! But then you get the call to leave the town when you’re a little older, every 18- or 19-year-old wants to do that. 

But over the last couple of years, having to be back home, I’ve realised that I love seeing those same places again. I still do those rides, it’s just that I’m on a dirt bike now. It’s important to take note of those things.” 

Cancer Bats’ Psychic Jailbreak is out now via Bat Skull Records/New Damage Records

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Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.