Jade Puget of AFI
It’s been three years since we’ve heard anything new from AFI (Davey Havok on vocals, Jade Puget on guitar, Hunter Burgan on bass and Adam Carson on drums) and the masses are hungry. On September 29th the band debuts their eighth studio album “Crash Love” to the world. While the album will surely be put under the microscope by AFI enthusiasts who will undoubtedly compare it to the AFI albums of old, one thing is certain, AFI didn’t remake Decemberunderground or Sing the Sorrow. What they will find is a collection of songs that prove that AFI is not resting on their laurels or writing a knockoff of one of their old albums, they continue to evolve from album to album. In the “sometimes less is more” vein the band went back to basics in what may be their most guitar oriented album to date which may broaden their appeal to a more mainstream crowd.
Lyrically Davey kept a prevalent theme of hollow Hollywood and the vacuous society it perpetuates but he also ventures into tales of relationships gone good and bad. With the first single Medicate giving fans their first taste of the album stand out tracks like “Veronica Sawyer Smokes” and “Darling I Want To Destroy You” leave the best yet to come.
As with any band that stands the test of time AFI continue to reinvent themselves and challenge themselves musically. Crash Love will undoubtedly usher in a whole new generation of AFI fans to carry on the torch hand in hand with the AFI fans of old.
Guitarist Jade Puget recently took some time to talk to us about the album, the recording process, and of course Michael Anthony Hall!
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | September 2009
It seems like the term “concept album” is continually being brought up when discussing Crash Love but the band has been clear about the fact that it’s not a concept album just songs connected by a greater theme so I wanted to get what the them was in your own words.
Certainly musically there’s cohesion there. I think this record is more cohesive than our last record but lyrically is where I think the whole theme thing is coming from. Several of the songs have a certain theme of expelling the ideas of celebrity in our pop culture and revealing hollow celebrities and their lack of substance whether it be in art or music or film. But not even all the songs are about that either.
AFI has never been afraid of pushing boundaries with your music and trying new things but the general consensus is that this album is a return to basics as far as really showcasing each of your individual talents and how they really shine when you combine them. Do you think that’s a fair take on things?
It was actually a really conscious effort when I sat down to start writing the music for this record. Our last record had a lot of electronic elements and was very layered and complex and I think people expected us to go further in that direction. I just didn’t want to do anything that people thought we would do, I wanted to do something more immediate and something more stripped down and rock because for us, that is unique. It might not be unique for every rock band but we’ve never done a record like that so it excited me to get back to basics.
It think any time a band releases a new album it goes without saying that they believe it’s their best to date but Davey has been quoted as saying that he feels that you’ve made your first “timeless” record with Crash Love, do you agree with that and what do you think gives it that timeless element?
I think he was referring to the fact that for us this is a timeless record in that this record could have come out two years ago or ten years from now. It’s not tied to any genre that exists right now. It seems like music has become very trend-driven so because we were away for three years in between records it’s hard for us to jump on any trends. Not that we try to, but I think he was just saying that this isn’t an album that necessarily sounds like it was written in 2009, it could have been written over any number of years. I agree with that sentiment.
Do you consider Crash Love to be a guitar oriented record as a few reviews have alluded to?
Definitely. It’s funny, being a guitar player and a song writer, it’s very important to me to have a strong guitar presence but I also do all the electronic programming. After the last record, I was really proud of it but listening back to it I felt like the guitar took a back seat and that was one of the thing s I wanted to do on this album was to bring guitar to the forefront again and play a guitar solo. Why not.
One of the things that kind of made me chuckle was when I read you refer to the recording process as “shabby chic”; I thought that was a great interpretation of it. Can you kind of break down that idea for us?
We worked with Jacknife Lee; he’s this amazing Irish producer who’s worked with Bloc Party, REM, and U2 so I hope he’s not offended by that take on it. When you go to make a rock record the tendency is to have a huge crushing guitar sound and massive drums. We wanted to get some unique sounding tones from all of the instruments so with Jacknife we put up a lot of these little dirty old amps with no names on them and I had my guitar laying on a chair and I was playing it with a knife and a pencil, and we played wine glasses, we had the drums sounding grimy. So in that way it was shabby in that the tones were really sort of dirty but when it’s all put together it as a really nice cohesive sound to it making it chic.
I think a lot of us have these romantic notions about what the writing process is for a new album so as one of the primary songwriters in the band can you tell us what a typical writing session is like?
It was kind of different this time. This is the first time we’ve written a record where Davey and I haven’t lived in the same town. He had to fly down to LA where I live so we wrote the record in a hotel on the Sunset Strip. We would be writing during the day and overlooking the pool area where the typical Hollywood fools where hanging out by the pool so it enforced the lyrical content about the hollowness, a lot of this comes from this town. It was an interesting juxtaposition to what we were writing but it was just him and I face to face. I’ve got my guitar and he’s got his tape recorder and it may not sound that romantic but to me it is romantic and exciting because we sit there with no plan in our heads and anything can happen. We don’t know what kind of song we’re going to write; it could be the best song you’ve ever written or nothing, just the amount of possibilities is exciting to me.
And you pretty much had inspiration personified in the form of the Hollywood “elite” right there in front of you.
I know, it was kind of like a negative inspiration.
You tweeted a few months ago about being apathetic when you listen to a new album because you often assume it’s going to be mediocre. I was wondering if that sentiment was also a driving force when you go into the writing process yourself.
It is. It goes both ways. Sometimes when you put on a contemporary record and they really hit it out of the park it brings out that competitive edge and makes me want to go pick up my guitar. But at the same time most of the records that you buy these days are disappointing. You wait so long for them or have heard a lot about a particular band and they end up being not that good. When people put on our record that they’ve been waiting for I want them to be relieved and to love it.
This is your eighth studio album and most bands don’t come close to making it this far in the game. What do you attribute your long term success to and the fact that you’ve been able to stick it out this long and still enjoy what you do?
It’s a combination of a bunch of things. One thing that people don’t really ever think about is that musicians are a bunch of moody sort of jerky people that can’t always get along with each other. Then you throw songwriting into the mix and the different opinions there – it’s really difficult for 4 or 5 people to coexist like that. Then you go on tour and are traveling together, so I think one of the things about the four of us is that we have such a harmonious friendship and working relationship that we never fight. Davey and I have written together for over ten years now and we’ve written hundreds of songs together but we’ve never once argued about a song or fought about a song. So just that one thing alone, a lot of bands break up over those things so that’s one of the reasons. I also I think just that we still try to push ourselves rather than repeat ourselves makes it feel like we’re going somewhere After Sing The Sorrow we could have decided that just because it was successful that that was “our sound” but we’re still searching and pushing ourselves and we want to keep doing this.
Can we dig into a few of the songs; I know that fans would love to hear your take on them. If I threw out a song title can you tell us how the song came together and the basic idea behind it? Maybe comment on the writing of the song, the concept, the lyrics, or what it means to you personally?
“Veronica Sawyer Smokes” – We purposely didn’t write anything beforehand so when we got together we could just write what came to our heads on the spot but that one I wrote the music to that by myself. I was probably listening to some Cure and The Smiths, you know some of that good 80s British stuff and I was thinking that we love all those bands so much but we’ve never done anything like that so it would be a total departure for us so that was the genesis of Veronica Sawyer Smokes. Lyrically, obviously it refers to one of the characters in the movie Heathers. When Davey and I were young, Wynona Ryder was “the girl”. If you were an angsty teen and you were into punk, Wynona was kind of that girl that was the anti-star and that’s what we liked back then. Davey is straightedge so the lyrics refer to him loving Wynona Ryder and then seeing her smoking in the movie and being totally crushed. So it’s kind of an experiment of being young and seeing someone being not who you thought they were but at the same times it’s through the lens of a fake movie character.
“Cold Hands” – I had written another song completely different from this one and we called it Cold Hands. We ended up not putting it on the record and we wrote this new one. It was one of those songs that was very natural and we didn’t have to work hard at it all the parts, it just came together and they flowed. It’s a dark energetic rock song.
I read on your blog that you were a John Hughes fan, as was I…in closing, what is your favorite John Hughes movie?
I would have to say Weird Science. Sixteen Candles is right there. I actually got to meet Michael Anthony Hall when we did the MTV Music Awards last record. My girlfriend and I were walking through the after party and we happened to walk by him and he stopped us and started talking to us and was so cool. I was excited because as a kid it was all about John Hughes movies and it was all about Anthony Michael Hall.
For more on AFI visit their official Website
AFI will be following up the release of Crash Love with a tour, catch them live:
Sun 10.04.09 Columbus, OH Newport Music Hall
Mon 10.05.09 Cincinnati, OH Bogart’s
Wed 10.07.09 Buffalo, NY Town Ballroom
Thu 10.08.09 Clifton Park, NY Northern Lights
Sat 10.10.09 Sayreville, NY Starland Ballroom
Sun 10.11.09 Pittsburgh, PA Club Zoo
Tue 10.13.09 Hartford, CT The Webster
Wed 10.14.09 Providence, RI Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel
Fri 10.23.09 Columbia, MD Merriweather Post Pavillion MTV Ulalume Festival
Tue 11.03.09 Tulsa, OK Cain’s Ballroom
Wed 11.04.09 St. Louis, MO The Pageant
Fri 11.06.09 Kansas City, MO Uptown Theatre
Sat 11.07.09 Chicago, IL Riviera Theatre
Mon 11.09.09 Detroit, MI Fillmore
Tue 11.10.09 Toronto, ONT The Sound Academy
Thu 11.12.09 Philadelphia, PA Electric Factory
Fri 11.13.09 New York, NY Roseland Ballroom
Sun 11.15.09 Myrtle Beach, SC House Of Blues
Mon 11.16.09 Atlanta, GA Tabernacle
Wed 11.18.09 Pompano Beach, FL Pompano Beach Amphitheatre
Thu 11.19.09 Lake Buena Vista, FL House Of Blues
Sat 11.21.09 Houston, TX Verizon Wireless Theatre
Sun 11.22.09 Austin, TX Stubbs
Sat 02.20.10 Brisbane Soundwave Festival
Sun 02.21.10 Sydney Soundwave Festival
Fri 02.26.10 Melbourne Soundwave Festival
Sat 02.27.10 Adelaide Soundwave Festival
Mon 03.01.10 Perth Soundwave Festival