INTERVIEW WITH DAVEY HAVOK
INTERVIEW BY ROBIN FLEMING
INTRODUCTION BY ROBIN FLEMING
PHOTOS BY ROBIN FLEMING
Being a known audiophile (music pervert) means that people are always trying to tell you about a band. For a while my friend Jim Thiebaud (of Deluxe and Adeline), being a skate and music aficionado, had been harassing me ‘You gotta hear A.F.I!’ Being a fool, I ignored him, but as luck would have it I ended up spending seven weeks on the road with A.F.I. During the first set that I watched, I called Jim and held my phone out for him to listen, as I watched this perfect physical and aural chaos unleash itself. I never saw a bad show out of the fifty that I watched. I was awed in every city, as thousands of kids would chant, in unison ‘Through our bleeding we are one!’ until the band would take to the stage. Over seven weeks I got to spend some time and lose some money playing dice with Davey, who has zero percent body fat, which means he is a force of nature on stage, Jade and Hunter , who are stuntmen with instruments avoiding collision at terrifying speeds and Adam, who winked at me once while he was playing… ’nuff said. This is what happened when I called Davey Havok.
When I heard that you guys were on tour in Japan with Sick of It All on September 11th, I wondered what it was like to be away from your families, but to be with a crew of New Yorkers during the tragedy.
It was horrible. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen happen in my life. I don’t think that it would’ve been different had I been in the United States, being in Japan just made it more surreal. Also being with Sick Of It All, who were worried about their friends and families. It was awful, and we had to perform after watching the second building fall. It was one of the most awkward performances that I’ve ever done. But at the same time we were with a really large group of close friends so at least we had that support.
Well I’m glad you guys are back. So, A.F.I. started in a garage?
I was 15 and we’d move back and forth between the garage and my parent’s living room.
So your family was really supportive?
For the most part, but I don’t think that when we were playing in garages that they thought we’d be doing this for the rest of our lives. When they realized that we were serious and that I was truly dedicated to it, they said, ‘Well, if this is what you love to do, then we support you. Even though we think it’d be a better idea if you finished college.’ They were at The Palace shows, they flew down because they’d never seen us in LA. My dad actually helped print our first t-shirts, helped get us our first van, printed our stickers, and he’d sing along at practice. He’s always been really into it.
“We became friends through the Bay Area. We were skaters and he was always good to the young skateboarders and punk rockers and we became friends. When he and Billy (Joe Armstrong of Green Day) started the label (Adeline) we said, ‘Hey, can we put something out?’ They said ‘Totally.’”
Was your single on Adeline Records your introduction to Jim Thiebaud?
We became friends through the Bay Area. We were skaters and he was always good to the young skateboarders and punk rockers and we became friends. When he and Billy (Joe Armstrong of Green Day) started the label (Adeline) we said, ‘Hey, can we put something out?’ They said ‘Totally.’ When we put out that EP, we’d already released three full lengths on Nitro, but they were really cool about it, because we explained to them that ‘these are our fiends and they’re starting a label and we just want to do this for fun.’
Is the Bay Area alliance how you met up with Rancid?
We would go see Rancid all the time, and I’m sure Jim was at most of those shows. I met Jim (Thiebaud) at Gillman Street. When I was in high school we’d follow Rancid around with our 7 inches that we were putting out and beg ‘em to let us play shows with them and they did. We went from being the fans to touring with them.
It appears to me that the beginning A.F.I. was a hardcore band with some comedic influences and then you guys remembered that you like the Cure and goth. Is that something that happened when Jade (guitar) and Hunter (bass) joined the band?
It was just a matter of growth and becoming comfortable as songwriters. We became more solidified with each album and Jade and Hunter joining the band definitely added to that. As far as the lyrics go, with each album the words and music started to compliment each other more and more. I became more comfortable expressing myself the way that I really wanted to. In a way I couldn’t when I was younger for fear of being made fun of, or looked down upon. As we’d perform more I just felt that putting all my heart into the performance and singing about frivolous things just didn’t make sense to me. So I began writing about things I really felt strongly about.
It seems like A.F.I. has invested a lot in a certain mythology, with ‘The Lost Boys’ and the pumpkins. Your show is almost cinematic. Was that conscious or born of the performance?
It was just a matter of us, especially myself, always finding the darker aesthetic appealing. You mention ‘The Lost Boys’, which is great because that’s one of my favorite movies growing up and still is. I have always liked that and as we grew as a band we became more comfortable with incorporating that type of aesthetic into our show. It helped because it complimented the music and it grew out of itself. It wasn’t really conscious, like ‘We need to have bats!’. It just seemed right. We would work with artists and say, ‘Here’s our music. Can you draw something that you think relates?’ and they would come up with these ideas that we would love, you know, angels slitting their wrists.
I always envision Tim Burton when I listen to you guys.
Thanks, that’s very flattering. He’s one of my favorite directors of all time. I think we draw from a lot of similar themes.
How is it that you seemingly came from obscurity and then, we’re on tour and everyday thousands of kids are screaming your words back at you?
It’s great. It’s amazing. For us it was gradual. We’ve been touring for years and we’ve slowly built a larger following across the U.S. with every tour. It never gets old; when someone comes up to me and shows me an A.F.I. tattoo, or tells me how much we mean to them or that we’re some sort of inspiration. Because I still have those feelings that I had about bands that I did when I was growing up. I’d hear they were coming to town, from somewhere far away, two months before they show up and I’d just be waiting for that day to come. When they came it’d be the best thing, and to get to be ‘that band’ for some one else is a great feeling. It’s bizarre because I still feel like that excited kid.