AFI: Darkness prevails from the Sunshine State

Monday 16th, January 2017 / 13:20
By Glenn Alderson

Photo: Jiro Schneider

VANCOUVER — AFI frontman Davey Havok doesn’t want to talk about the tattoos he recently, and mysteriously, blacked out. He also doesn’t want to divulge the name of his soon-to-be released book, a sequel to Pop Kids (his 2013 coming-of-age tale about a pop-culture obsessed, pseudovegetarian, atheist, pyromaniac, trapped within a rural northern Californian town). And he’d rather not disclose the direction of his soon to be released musical project, DREAMCAR, featuring members of No Doubt. He can, however, talk about AFI’s new album, The Blood Album, which was be released this month via Concord Music.

After 10 studio albums and 25+ years holding a microphone as the lead personality for his gloomy goth rock troupe, it makes sense that he would probably want to keep his cards close to his chest while talking about his creative outlets. One thing at a time, and right now, Havok still has blood on his hands. Talking on the phone from Hollywood, the 41-year-old sounds refreshingly chipper and excited that the record is finished and, as of writing time, was getting ready to be released.

“I’m really happy with how everything turned out,” he says. “We spent a lot of time working on it and we’re excited to share Blood with our fans.”

You can tell Havok is in interview cruise control mode, but what more can you really say? The album was recorded over the course of the last year and was co-produced by guitarist Jade Puget and Matt Hyde (Deftones). The theme of blood runs throughout, not out of a twisted fascination with vampires or anything overtly cheesy like that, but it’s something Havok says was unconsciously on his mind while writing for the album.

“The theme of blood just kept coming up in a lot of the lyrics I was writing so when we finally paired down the album from the 60 songs we had originally written, I brought it up again with Jade and we decided that calling it The Blood Album made sense.”

The end result is a sonically diverse collection of tracks that may or may not be surprising if you’ve been following the band’s career for the last ten-plus years since they topped the Billboard charts with their 2003 major label breakout, Sing The Sorrow.

Havok is still channeling his inner Morrissey with hints of Danzig always present in the background, but this album slightly veers back to the band’s punk/hardcore roots — gang vocals, razor sharp 4/4 riffs, all cleverly disguised underneath anthemic compositions and crystal clear production.

Obviously gone are the lighthearted days of “I Wanna Get A Mohawk (But Mom Won’t Let Me Get One)” off the band’s 1995 debut, Answer That And Stay Fashionable. Havok has presumably removed the black nail polish along with his tattoo sleeves, but the punk rock ethos is kind of still there, just hiding in plain sight.

Photo: Jiro Schneider

“It’s not like it happened overnight though,” Havok says. “There was a very gradual progression to our success and it wasn’t until 2006 that the mainstream media even started to pay attention to us. So it’s not like how some bands will put out one album, it will get successful and then by their next album they’re playing stadiums. For us it was a much more gradual progression.”

Havok might be all covered up but at the same time, he’s completely exposed on The Blood Album. 2016 was a dark year and 2017 doesn’t look like it’s going to be much better, but maybe it’s okay to hide in the darkness.

When asked how he finds solstice in these sinister times, Havok is quick to answer, “Anything Nick Cave does. The new Neurosis album. The New Tom Ford movie, Nocturnal Animals. It’s beautiful and perfect.”

AFI performs on January 24 at the Commodore Ballroom.

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