Davey Havok On The “Insulting” Term “Emo” And Why AFI Will Probably Stay Together ‘Til They’re As Old As The Rolling StonesWritten by Emmy Mack on January 31, 2017
It’s bright and early in the morning on the other side of the world when AFI frontman Davey Havok gives us a whack on the old talky stick. He’s already managed to work out and shower, and after our chat he’ll be off to film the music video for his band’s new single Aurelia with director Adam Mason, whom Havok has previously collab’d with on some of his favourite video projects, including his electro alter-ego Blaqk Audio’s Anointed clip.
AFI have just hit a huge milestone, dropping their tenth studio LP into our laps. The disc has been self-titled to mark the occasion, but fans have already taken to affectionately calling it The Blood Album to reflect its hemoglobin-like cover art. And Havok seems pumped to be back in full-on album mode.
After 25-years and ten albums, A Fire Inside is still burning stronger than ever, and showing no signs of going out anytime soon. In an oddly morbid but still light-hearted chat, Havok tells us that — pending his own death (and maybe not even then) — AFI will probably be around for as long as The Rolling Stones.
He also drops plenty of other tasty nuggets of insight, on a whole heap of topics ranging from his new side project with the guys from No Doubt, to the “meaningless” and “insulting” term “emo”, to the “emotional trauma” he suffered as a result of being asked to star on a reality TV show one time and the strong likelihood of an AFI Australian tour on the horizon.
Catch our full chat with Davey Havok below, and you can also get your eyeballs on the official music video for Aurelia, which as it so happens, just dropped today.
Watch: AFI — ‘Aurelia’
Music Feeds: Well first up, big congrats on album number 10, feels like quite the milestone! Is that what made you decide to go self-titled for this one?
Davey Havok: Yeah, we thought it would be ceremonious seeing as it was our tenth record to have our first self-titled record.
MF: What was the experience like for you personally working with Jade (Puget, keyboards) producing for the first time?
DH: It was very seamless for me, being that Jade and I – day in, day out – will write and demo songs. The stark divide that usually exists between the demoing process and the process of beginning to record the record wasn’t there for me. Jade and I didn’t even change rooms [laughs] so it was just such a very natural thing on my part, to just continue on to make the record with Jade and have Jade producing it. And looking back – it was seamless.
Jade would very definitely have a different answer to that question! Being that he was the one who produced it and the huge amount of work that he put into it — as compared to the huge amount of work that he puts into every record — it was even more than he usually does, which is a lot! Jade has historically had a heavy hand in producing all the records, but this is the first one where he actually took on the role and — thus — really, really had to do so much more. And I mean, he’s so talented, there was no question in my mind or in anyone’s mind that Jade would be beyond successful at producing an AFI record, which he was.
MF: You’d said that were in a bit of a dark place when you wrote [last album] Burials, how would you describe your overall mindset when you were working on this new one? A lot of the songs feel quite anthemic and almost – dare I say even — uplifting?
DH: You know, people have said that, it’s interesting, but people have also said the opposite and I think it depends on what they’re focusing on. Unfortunately, the lyrics don’t really support that sort of reaction so much [laughs] if at all. Unfortunately, it’s not a lyrically bright record, but in relation to Burials it is a different tone, and less bleak and less war-like and less pointed, in the darker music that you hear on the record. But if people are getting something uplifting from it, that’s fantastic [laughs].
MF: Were you listening to or drawing inspiration from anything in particular when you created this one? Some of the songs have a bit of an ’80s new wave vibe?
DH: There’s definitely heavy post-rock leanings in a lot of the songs, which – you know – post-punk is very much a part of our history as people and as musicians and songwriters, that genre influenced us very much, but many genres did. In writing this record – as is the case with every record – there are never direct influences that, say, we’re listening to at the time or that we’re purposefully referencing to inspire the record. We’re all such big music fans and have such history with – as I said – many different genres of music impacting us, they come out during the songwriting. And when we write songs, we write so many more songs than we end up putting on the record. In this case, we wrote 60 or more songs and there’s a process of culling them down to decide what are the best to represent what we want to represent as AFI at the time. So the Blood Album is those songs for this era.
MF: So something random I’ve got to ask… I’ve seen fans online literally get into fights over whether or not AFI qualify as being “emo”… What did you guys make of that whole “emo” tag?
DH: We’ve actually rarely experienced it, so it’s a strange thing. It’s also a strange thing to us because – I mean, that term has always been a negative and sort-of insulting term throughout music. It’s generally belittling… it’s always difficult for me to even hear that word and recognise that it’s now changed meaning. That word was applied to bands like Rites Of Spring, Fugazi and Orchid and Angel Hair and those bands which were very artistic and aggressive, noisy bands to an extent, you know? Who all sort of scoffed at the term, because it is a ridiculous term.
Isn’t it supposed to be short for “emotional”? And then when it came back around again it was just a press concoction, I’m sure, it was not typically applied to us, more to kind of pop-punk [bands], I think? And I’m not sure why, I’m not sure what it means now, but from what I gather musically it doesn’t really have anything to do with us. Basically, I don’t think it has anything to do with anything [laughs] it’s meaningless. But no, just by way of what’s associated with that word in modern times, I mean it’s insulting if someone says that, but only barely because it’s such a strange [laughs] such a strange and meaningless word.
MF: Yeah it’s interesting because it seems like nowadays people use it fondly. At least, here in Australia when people in my generation use the term “emo” it seems to denote all of this positive nostalgia for the mid-2000’s. But maybe it’s more to do with the fans themselves than the bands they used to listen to back then?
DH: Yeah it’s a strange thing.
MF: Now let’s talk about something else, because another question I’ve got to ask is… with the new record out now, can we hold out hope for an Australia tour anytime soon?
DH: I mean, I would. I know we’re working on it. There’s been talks going back and forth with promoters in Australia, so we’re really hoping we make it down there. It’s definitely our great desire to, because since the first time we’ve come to Australia the shows have always been fantastic and they continue to be. So I really hope we make it and I think we’re going to. It sounds quite probable.
MF: Excellent, any kind of time frame? Are we talking [this] year?
DH: [laughs] Oh yeah! It would be [this] year. If we hit 2018 and we haven’t been there, stop holding your breath.
MF: This may be jumping the gun a lot, but you guys have been together for so long now… have you discussed whether there’ll be an album #11 and whether AFI will continue to keep going after this cycle?
DH:: Oh yeah, I mean we haven’t discussed breaking up! [Laughs] Yeah, that’s generally the plan.
MF: Good to know! You’ve already lasted way longer than most bands anyway with almost the entire original lineup, could you see yourselves staying together for as long as a band like The Rolling Stones?
DH: Yeah, it’s such an interesting question because [laughs] at this point, we’ve been going for 25 years so… what could cause us to stop at this point? I don’t know, I mean, I would think so. It’s hard to envision – being that the vast majority of my life has been spent in AFI – it’s hard to envision it not being there. So… yes [laughs] I think so! I mean, that’s what I would envision, yeah. But life is wild, you never know what can happen. I could die! I could die when I get off the phone! But if I die, well then, maybe we’ll just get a different singer?
MF: Oh god, don’t say that! 2016 was a shit enough year for music as it is!
DH: Oh I know, right? What the fuck? Well with the people who’ve died in 2016, I [didn’t] deserve to die in 2016. With the year of greats that left us in 2016, the least I could do is wait until January [laughs].
MF: This conversation has gone to a really weird place. Please don’t die Davey, that would be very upsetting.
DH: [laughs] I’ll try to hold off.
MF: Good, I’m sure everyone will be very glad to hear that.
DH: Some people would celebrate. There’d be some celebration.
MF: What can you tell us about this new project you’ve got with the guys from No Doubt?
DH: Well I really don’t have much information about that. Other than we’ve been working on a record for a couple of years and it should come out sometime this year. I don’t know when, but it’s really fun, it’s been really fun working with those guys. They approached me a couple of years ago about the project and it sounded like a good time. So I joined them… and it is!
MF: Any hints on what we can expect from you guys sound-wise?
DH: [Laughs] I can’t until something is set. Yeah, I can’t do it yet.
MF: So I guess it’s probably also too premature to ask whether you guys will be touring?
DH: The Dreamcar record? I really just don’t know. If I talk to you in a couple of months I’ll probably have all sorts of answers.
MF: I’ll remember that. So as you probably know [No Doubt singer] Gwen Stefani’s been busy as a judge on The Voice, have you ever been approached to be on a show like that?
DH: Ah… I don’t think I’ve ever? No, not like those music judging shows. I think a while back I was approached to be on some sort of reality show, which was terribly depressing to even be approached by that. I remember saying to my management, like: “Oh god, is this what I am now? They think I’m a reality celebrity?” [laughs] What can I do to change this perspective?” I don’t even specifically remember who it was, just the emotional trauma of being approached for something like that. Never something like The Voice though. You know I don’t watch TV so I’m not even really familiar with the formats, when they say “reality celebrity” I think of The Real World, which I’ve seen maybe once [laughs]. I know the impact, though.
MF: Would you be offended if you did get asked to be on The Voice?
DH: I actually don’t really even know what it is. So I wouldn’t really be offended because I wouldn’t really know what to be offended by. First I’d have to figure out what it is, so I’d look into it.
MF: Thanks so much for your time mate and all the best with the video shoot today! Anything else you’d like to add before we let you go?
DH: I’m really excited to be coming to Australia if we do. I really hope we’re coming to Australia! I love it. I love coming Down Under. You have such great musical history, it’s always fun to be there to even just consider that, you know? Being in the same cities as where Nick Cave and Dead Can Dance are coming from… so I hope to be coming back.
AFI (The Blood Album) is out now.
Watch: AFI – ‘White Offerings’