Five Minutes With…AFI

Recently we had the opportunity to speak with AFI members Davey Havok and Adam Carson while the band were on tour in Nottingham at the city’s famous Rock City venue. […]

Recently we had the opportunity to speak with AFI members Davey Havok and Adam Carson while the band were on tour in Nottingham at the city’s famous Rock City venue. We chatted to the band members about influences, the impact of life on the road, touring with Green Day and the new album ‘Crash Love‘.
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“We move forward artistically every time we write a record”

S] You’ve been touring constantly since August last year, how’s that been going?
D] It’s been exhausting but we just do it. It’s something we’ve been doing since we were teenagers so it’s something we’re used to. I mean, it’s tiring but you know, it’s our life.
S] AFI started out in 1991 with your current line-up existing since 1998, how do you keep it exciting and fresh?
D] Honestly, it’s artistically moving forward every time we write a record and every time we record what we’ve written. It’s all about creating something that’s new and exciting for us it allows us to continue.

AFI_live_in_Nottingham_2S] We heard that when you started you didn’t have much of a musical background?

D] (laughs) No we didn’t…!

S] …so what was it that made you want to start a band?

D] Well we had a background in the sense that we’re all big fans of music. But none of us, except for Adam, had ever played music at all before. I’d sung a lot but not professionally.

A] Well I don’t know! I owned some drums and I thought that my limited experience qualified me as a drummer, but in retrospect it didn’t really add up to much! (laughs)

D] He had slightly more musical talent than us!

S] If you couldn’t have been in AFI, what would you be doing instead?

D] There’s just no telling what we’d be doing! I mean, I was 15-years-old when we started. I would have liked to do something with acting, whether it be stage or screen, I’d have enjoyed doing that.

A] It’s hard to say but whatever it is, I can’t imagine being as fulfilled as I am doing what we do now.

S] Do you enjoy coming to the UK?
D] Yeah, it’s nice. (smiles)

A] The UK is one of the few places where we’ve shown up, had a really good response, and had a real, almost built-in, fanbase. I’m not sure why that happened – there’s a lot of places we played over and over and slowly built up a fanbase but in the UK we’ve always had a really great response from the start.

S] Do any experiences in the UK stand out?

A] It’s hard to say, we’ve had a lot of great shows in the UK. We had a really good time at the Reading and Leeds festivals last year but we’ve also had some great experiences in London. It’s hard to compare shows from different areas.

S] You recently held a live Q-and-A session on the internet with fans posting questions to you in real-time, who came up with that?

D] Not us! We didn’t enjoy it; it was awkward and so strange. All these questions would come up really quickly, a lot of them weren’t even questions in fact, just statements. It doesn’t work as well as you’d think. It’s pretty awful, we did two in a row but it ended up with us just freestyling, maybe taking one of the few questions that were coming up or just going for it and improvising so we didn’t have dead air!

A] The concept of having a round-table discussion with the world is cool but in reality it didn’t work out. We just had this monitor that was streaming what seemed like instant messages that was scrolling so fast that we couldn’t really keep up and there was a lot of people talking to each other or asking, ‘is this thing working?’ or saying, ‘this is fun!’ So yeah, it was a great idea but it just didn’t really work!

D] We hope we don’t have to do it again!

S] You’ve always seemed to have a strong relationship with your fans, how do you feel that’s evolved from your beginnings to now?

D] From the very beginning, the people who came to see us were just our friends but then slowly we’d play shows and start to see people we didn’t recognise, so that was really interesting. But from the view of where we came from, it was just a matter of hanging out at shows which were in a way like a party. Sometimes they literally were a party where a bunch of us would be hanging out and then we’d get onstage and play – then a bunch of other friends would get onstage and they’d play, so we’ve always had a really strong interaction with the people that were at shows. As we grew and as our fanbase grew, we’ve always tried to maintain that connection on some level but in a way that was reasonable which was when we created The Despair Faction where fans could join that and interact with us that way.

S] You recently had some fans singing some tracks of your latest album ‘Crash Love‘…

D] Yeah, we had some fans come in and sing on ‘I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here’.

A] They also did some of the percussion on ‘Too Shy To Scream’ – the stomps and claps that you hear, that was them.

D] So yeah, that was really fun; it was a really nice experience to have them involved.

S] You used to have a gallery of fan tattoos on your website, did you get to look through those and what do you think of fan tattoos?

A] We get a lot of people showing us their tattoos after shows and that’s pretty cool. I saw a great one the other day that I hadn’t seen before. Two guys had the little devil that’s on the back cover of ‘Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes‘. It came from this old magic kit from the 1920s and I’d never seen anyone with those particular tattoos so, I was quite impressed. AFI_1

S] Do you ever find it strange or get taken aback by people getting AFI tattoos?

D] No, I don’t. I think it’s fun. I have many band tattoos myself and I can understand people wanting to get band tattoos.

A] I’m not shocked by the concept of people getting band tattoos but I’m still at the point of having to pinch myself and think, ‘Wow, people like my band enough to do that’, so that’s more the source of my surprise.

S] Obviously, your music has changed a lot since your beginnings but how do you feel you’ve progressed as individuals through the music you make?

D] Well we’ve grown so much as musicians and songwriters. Who we were and what we wanted to create at the conception of AFI is completely different to what we are now. As artists, our ability has grown and our tastes have expanded. As individuals, there’s a lot about us that remains the same but over the almost 20 years that we’ve been doing this we’ve grown pretty much as any human being… hopefully! At 35, one would hope not to be the same person they were at 15!

S] Do you have a favorite song or lyric from the new album that resonates with you personally?

D] No, not for me anyway. Each song is so important in its own respects. When I’m writing my lyrics I really take a lot of time to make sure they’re exactly, or at least as close to what I’m trying to convey in whatever way that I find appropriate so I don’t have any favorites.

A] I like all the lyrics and a lot of them speak to me personally so I have a really hard time falling on just one.

S] Is there a song on ‘Crash Love’ that defines where AFI currently stands?
A] That’s kinda hard too because, at least in my opinion, there is so much diversity in the record between all the songs. They all work together well and they’re definitely all from the same gene pool but there’s no one song that really sums it all up.

D] The whole album just shows where we are.

S] ‘Crash Love’ is quite different to anything you’ve released before with it being more stripped back and almost upbeat than your previous albums…

A] It definitely sounds different, but I don’t feel it’s that much of a stretch from the albums leading up to it. To me it’s a logical continuation of the band. I don’t think it’s a departure at all, it’s just another evolution.

S] Could you expand upon how the themes of ‘Crash Love’ progress from ‘December Underground’?

D] Thematically they don’t really relate. Certainly the exposé that ‘Crash Love‘ is, can be seen as results in themes that can be seen as running through ‘December Underground‘; those feelings of detachment, those feelings of isolation can be a AFI_2result of what you see going on culturally today in modern art and culture which is what ‘Crash Love‘ is focusing on. ‘December Underground‘ is a very introspective album whereas ‘Crash Love‘ is more of a commentary of what’s happening in the world right now. ‘December Underground‘ is much more personal.

S] Moving on to plans for the future, you’re touring with Green Day in the summer, how did that come about and are you looking forward to it?

D] We’re very much looking forward to it; we’ve been friends with Green Day for years but we’ve never toured with them and never played any shows with them that weren’t at festivals. It’s really such a pleasure after all these years to be touring with them. I can’t think of very many other bands that, as a group, we would want to tour with and to go out and support.

A] They’re such a tight unit. There’s no band that plays together that sounds exactly like them. You could have them play just one chord and you’d know straight away it was Green Day and that power is so inspiring.

D] Yeah, they’re so perfect live.

A] Yeah, I mean besides their songs being very good, just the power of them playing together is amazing.

D] They’ve always been that way, even when they were just a band playing at parties they were always that good and as you can see just by looking at their catalogue, they’ve always written songs that were great – I mean at the same time we were writing totally awful hardcore songs, they were writing perfect punk-pop songs. They’re great, so it’s really thrilling to be invited. Billie Joe [Armstrong – vocals] wrote me an e-mail a few months ago asking what we were doing in the summer and if we wanted to join them and I said, ‘yeah absolutely’ straight away.

S] Another year of touring then?

D] Yeah! Right! We are gonna have some time off this summer though, before we go out with Green Day so that’s good! I actually hope to not leave my house, but we’ll see how that works out…!

A] I hope to stay in his house too!

D] Yeah that’d be cool, so we can actually hang out! We live about 10 miles apart and we’re divided by a bridge – it’s a big barricade, that bridge!

S] So moving into the realms of the surreal now – in the event of a zombie outbreak, what weapon would you choose to defend yourselves and why?

D] Against zombies?

A] Hunter [Burgun – bass guitar] should be here for this question – he’d know what to do!

D] What even kills zombies? Fire?

A] How about a shotgun?

D] Would that work?

A] Yeah, but you’ve gotta go for the head… just some sort of de-heading device, such as a shotgun or a sword. You’d just have to say ‘hey stand there’ and chop their head off and you’d be fine…  if they’re compliant.

S] Finally, what does the next decade hold for AFI?

D] You never know…

A] We’ve never really looked too far ahead, we’ve always been too preoccupied with the present and try to take each day as it comes and enjoy it as much as possible.

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