Interview: AFI Talks “The Blood Album”, Musical Escapism, and Intimate Concerts

L-R: Hunter Burgan, Davey Havok, Adam Carson, Jade Puget of AFI. (Photo: Jiro Schneider)

Multi-platinum-selling punk rock band AFI (vocalist Davey Havok, guitarist Jade Puget, bassist Hunter Burgan and drummer Adam Carson) is set to return with their new album, AFI (The Blood Album), on January 20th, which serves as their first album since 2013’s Burials.

The creative process saw the band crafting a plethora of material—60 songs according to vocalist Davey Havok. “Historically, we always write far beyond an album’s worth of material,” he said in a press release. “The process of culling down approximately 60 songs to 14 is difficult. But when we create, we do so with an honesty and a hope to satisfy our artistic needs. We were raised on albums, which had far greater impact on us than singles alone. I believe that there are still a select group who look for that same deeper musical experience that we grew up on. Our records are for those music fans.”

In our recent interview, drummer Adam Carson talks the making of The Blood Album, musical escapism, what it was like having guitarist Jade Puget as an official producer, playing intimate shows, and more.

The Blood Album will mark your 10th studio album as AFI. What’s it like hitting that milestone?

(laughs) It’s fairly surreal. I mean it’s a big, round number, but like I’ve said before, it wasn’t a target. It wasn’t something we were… I mean it’s something we hoped we’d get to, but not something that we were expecting. So it’s like anything, still surreal to be at it after all this time, but also totally normal because it’s been what we’ve been doing every day for the past 25 years.

We feel lucky to have a band that not only can creatively grow together, but can also stay together as people. It’s a difficult thing, but we seem to do it quite easily.

The album name is pretty strong. What does blood symbolize to you and the rest of the band?

I’m not always at the forefront of the lyric writing and the symbolism and stuff – but it’s something that as the songs were being written and the lyrics were being written, Davey noticed that there was a recurrence of the word blood, and blood being used in the imagery. It just seemed appropriate to… we refer to this album as the blood album. It’s sort of an unofficial title, since the album itself is self titled. It just seemed appropriate, taking all of the lyrics into consideration.

I was curious too, because there’s the whole expression of blood, sweat, and tears, and it’s the 10th album.

Well, yeah. I’m not sure that was a conscious thought, but it (laughs) certainly works in. It is something that we’ve taken the band incredibly serious for 25 years and it really is an extension of ourselves. So it does work on that level.

While it’s the 10th album, you’ve been playing together for 25 years, and it’s the first time someone in the band has stepped into the production room. What was it like having Jade (Puget) in the production chair?

It worked out really well. It’s a little misleading I think, giving him the production credit is giving him credit for stuff that he’s been doing for quite a while. I think there’s an argument that he has kind of been the unofficial co-producer of many of our records. Because so much of the initial songwriting, a lot of the layers, and [the] overall focus musically, originates with him. I think the biggest compliment I can pay Jade for his production is by saying that it didn’t really feel different than any of the records we’ve ever made. I think everybody understood what their roles were and what their job was. We’ve all made enough records at this point to know what we’re doing, so everybody took care of their side of things and Jade’s role was oversight on everything. It was an incredibly efficient record to make, it was just very focused. Everybody knew what they were doing and it came together pretty well.

He’s also very in tune with all of you guys. Do you think that had any effect on the way that it flowed?

Yeah, I’m sure. We’ve always entered the studio having a very clear idea of what we’re trying to accomplish. There’s a history of a lot of bands going into the studio and writing songs in the studio, trying to feel their way through things in the studio and we’ve never really done that. We’ve always used the pre-production and the writing stages to figure out all those details. We got in there and recorded the songs and it worked out really well.

Matt Hyde (Deftones) co-produced the album, another first for you guys. What was it like working with him?

Matt’s great. He’s a great producer and he’s a great engineer. He was meeting the charge, so to speak, from a sonic perspective, he’s the guy behind the board getting the sounds and helping to create the drum sounds and dial the guitar sounds. He’s made a lot of records, he most recently worked with the Deftones, and the new Deftones I think is a great sounding record for a lot of the sonic construction side of things.

AFI will return with their new album, AFI (The Blood Album), on January 20th.

It’s been three years since you released Burials. That’s a pretty long wait with the cycle of music production nowadays. Was it a conscious decision to not rush yourselves with this album?

No. Three years is a long time, but if you look at… Burials came out and we toured on it for a year and a couple months, then there really wasn’t a whole lot of time before we started writing again. So when it’s all said and done, three years is a big chunk of time, but I don’t think there was any time wasted. If anything, I’m happy that we seemed to be a little more expeditious than we were the last time around and that here we are with another record that’s ready to be released and we’re ready to do it all over. There has been times where we’ve taken more time and that’s never my favourite thing to do.

You said you always strive to make an album that’s authentic to that moment in time. What is The Blood Album, 2016, reflective of for AFI?

It’s a strange time. (laughs) Lyrically the album deals a lot with connection, misperceptions, and issues of identity. Though the lyrics are specific to Davey and how he goes through life, his lyrics are always written in a way that allows you to interpret them the way you see fit. So it makes sense that the world is struggling with his identity, you could say. Sometimes the lyrics discussing that feeds in with a lot of the insecurities that one might be feeling these days.

Yeah, I feel like we’re still teenagers as a world.

(laughs) Yeah, there seems to be a lot of regression lately.

That many years as a band, there’s a lot of room for growth. Would you say that this album compares sonically to any of the last nine?

I think it’s always in line with all of our releases, I think that the spirit of the band is there, it sounds like an AFI record. I think that it’s also an evolution and a big step forward. Hopefully it sounds fresh and it sounds like we’re doing new things. I don’t think that we’re re writing the book, but for AFI it’s new territory packaged in a way that sounds like the band that our fans like.

Most fans consume music on a by song basis today, but like Davey (Havok) said, there are those fans that still strive for the deeper musical experience that is the full album and that’s who the albums are for. Does it still cause any anxiety trying to give that full album taste, while still producing singles that can satisfy those per song listeners?

Honestly, no. I think that the four of us are so firmly from the world of albums and full length records, I think once we get in the groove [of] writing songs – provided we have the time – it’s fairly easy for us to come up with 12, 13, 14 songs. If anything it makes it a little bit easier, because with any record there’s always going to be the four or five tracks that… I don’t want to say they’re the standouts, but they’re the ones that pose the vibe, heart, or meat of the record.

If you’re making a full length record you get to take a couple chances and have a couple moments where things deviate. If you had a four-song EP and you had one song that didn’t necessarily fit with the others, it might be more of a stark departure. But if you have 12 songs, or 14, or whatever, you can go on a tangent and then come back to where you were. It’s more telling a story, more taking the listener on a journey.

It’s just the way we like to do things, and I know that these days a lot of bands don’t do that and that’s fine, but we’d rather give the listener something they can disappear into for a little while.

Your headlining North American tour kicks off on album release day (January 20th) with a sold out show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Do you guys have any kind of celebration planned for that show?

It’s a 500 capacity club. It’s for our fan club. I think tickets were available to anybody, but they got snatched up pretty quick by our core fans and that’s going to be fun. That by far will be the smallest show of the whole tour and it’ll just be an intimate place to start the album cycle. I’m expecting all the shows to be great, but the first one always is a little special. Any time you do it in a room with as much history as the Troubadour, it’s a good place to start.

Pre-order AFI (The Blood Album) on iTunes or Amazon.

This interview can also be found on Aesthetic Magazine’s website.

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