AFI Interview

How long as AFI been together?
We have been together for about 9 and a half years. Since the summer of ’91.

Were you in any bands before that?
I wasn’t, no. No, we all started with the original lineup. We were bored, there was very little to do, so we said “lets start a band.”

Did you guys have any names before AFI?
No, we named the band before we had instruments.

What made you choose A Fire Inside?
It was just something we liked and we used an acronym because we were really young, ya know and we listened to bands like TSOL, DRI, SOA… and all those acronym bands so we were like “we’ll be an acronym too.”

What is ‘Son of Sam’?
Son of Sam is a one-time project that I did with London May, Steve Zing, Todd Youth, Howie Pyro plays, Joey C. plays, and Glenn Danzig also plays and its coming out on Nitro next year, early next year. (2001).

So it’s a one-time thing or are you guys gonna do more?
Just a one-time thing. We just recorded one record, it was really fun.

Is it going to sound like a normal record or is it going to be something innovative?
If you are familiar with the members you’re going to be familiar with the sound. It sounds really good, the tracks were recorded in two days and all the vocals were recorded in another two days and it was crazy, it was insane. We just went in there, we knew we had to do it and we only had a little bit of time and we did it, got out, and that was it. And it turned out really well, I’m really happy with that. It was really fun, for me it was such an honor to work with those people. I couldn’t believe it, it was great.

So its coming out next year (2001) on Nitro?
Yea, I think February.

You said you listened to a lot of those acronym bands growing up, what else did you listen to?
I listened to those bands. I listened to a lot of Black Flag, The Germs, Samhain, The Misfits, Minor Threat, The Cure, Joy Division, Slayer, Metallica, umm… lots of different stuff ya know?

What influences you to be in a band and be a songwriter?
I love it, there is nothing Id rather do than this. Being able to write, record, and mostly perform music and to be able to tour every night and play to a different group of people who appreciate what we do, who appreciate all what we have given our whole lifes, our entire selfs to is the best feeling. I mean going up on stage and having kids sing along to your songs, there is no better feeling then that. It’s the best.

So you have put out all of your full-lengths on Nitro?
Ummhmm, all of the full-lengths are on Nitro and we have one EP on Adeline and one EP on Nitro. And we did the Adeline EP, our friends own Adeline and they were talking about starting a record label and when they were talking about it we were like “oh can we do something on your label?” and they were like “yea, definitely” so we asked Nitro if it was ok and they were nice enough to let us do that because they were are friends and we just wanted to do an EP with them for fun so that’s how that came about.

What’s Checkmate Records?
That is Hunter’s label.

What is the weirdest thing you have done for money?
I have never done anything weird for money. I really haven’t, I mean I worked some High School jobs but nothing weird, I’m sorry. I was a babysitter, that’s kinda strange to think of but not really “weird”.

What are your future tour plans for “Art Of Drowning”?
We finish this leg of the tour in 5 days and the Distillers and ourselves join up with Rancid again to do ten more shows out west. We get home December 9th and next month we are going to Europe with the Offspring, which I’m really excited about. I believe we are going to be doing the Australian Warped Tour as well as the US Warped Tour this summer and hopefully someone will invite us to go to Japan with them. I love Japan, we have been there once with the Offspring which was an ideal situation to be in.

What are the kids like there compared to US?
The kids there are so generous, so open, so kind and accepting, and so excited about everything. All the people over there, the culture is just such an accepting culture and they are so welcoming to us. We got there and we had never played in Japan before and none of the people there did not know our songs, we were the first band out of three and every night the doors would open up and everyone would run inside, and these are huge clubs, and everyone would pack up to the front as soon as we started playing the whole place went nuts. The whole place, front to back, whole place! Never heard of us before, ya know, and your not gonna get that in the states ever, never, not to the first band… no way. Its just not like that.

How do you feel about “Art Of Drowning”?
I love it. For me, its my favorite thing that we have done. As a work, I think its our best.

How do you compare it to “Black Sails” or anything else?
I think that anybody who enjoyed “Black Sails” or the “All Hallows EP” would like “The Art Of Drowning”. It’s a more dynamic album then “Black Sails”, it has more continuity, I think its more representative of AFI as a whole like it kind of covers all of us. And it is doing really well, Im really happy, people seem to be received it very well. We were so happy with it and we worked so hard on it, it is nice that people seem to appreciate it.

Is that what you wanted to become?
Yea, its really nice. I never thought “what do I want to become musically” any way at all because I mean when we started we never thought we would make it. I remember when we put out our first seven inch thinking “oh my god we have a seven inch!” So it wasn’t a matter of “oh were working towards this” it was just eventually we decided that this was wanted to do for the rest of our lives so we worked and worked and worked and grew and grew and this is what we grew into and I am very happy with where we are.

The title, “The Art Of Drowning”, does it foreshadow any future for AFI?
No… no it is a representation of the lyrical content mainly, of the album. We will be doing this as long as we possibly can.

If you could change one thing in the world today what would you change?
I would like to make people somehow more responsible, more respectful to take more responsibility for their actions, be aware of their actions, and what the result of them will be. I think there is a huge amount of disrespect towards everybody. People disrespecting themselves, disrespecting others with really no regard for how destructive it is.

What is your favorite AFI song?
I don’t know I have a lot of them. I mean, I am really happy with a lot of the songs. The new one, my favorites are “Ever And A Day”, “Days Of The Phoenix”, “The Despair Factor”, “Morningstar” and I like “Wester”. I really like the new album a lot, there isn’t I really dislike at all. I really like “God Called In Sick Today”, “Totalimmortal”, “Fall Children”, “Prayer Position” and… I dunno I have too many favorites.

What song gets the biggest crowd reaction?
Its hard to say because we get different types of reactions to different songs. We get a good reaction to most of the songs. “Prayer Position” has a really strong reaction as does “God Called In Sick Today”, “Totalimmortal”, and “Fall Children” but they are all different. “A Single Second”, “Third Season”… they all have really strong reactions but in different ways.

Does “He Who Laughs Last” get a good reaction?
It kind of stopped. It used to but then it slowly kind of declined.

So you were touring with Rancid and The Distillers, why did Rancid drop off of this leg?
It wasn’t that they dropped off it was that we kept going. It was just that they had those shows and we were like “well were gonna be over there so we’ll do these shows. well come through the south and hook up with the rest of the tour in Seattle.”

You guys all live in Berkeley right?
All of us and most of Rancid live in bay. Not all of Rancid lives in Berkeley, technically.

What’s been the craziest show in your band’s history?
The Japan shows were great, I mean we have had amazing shows. The last show we played here (Tampa, FL) was fuckin’ awesome. Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland, most of California is great. The last show we played in New York at Rosanne last week with Rancid was great. We had a problem in Toronto a few years back where there was almost a riot, there might have been a riot. There kind of was a riot… but it worked.

Have there even been any mishaps that have caused you to stop playing?
We’ve stopped for fights. Hunter split my head open in Connecticut with the tuning pegs on his guitar. Stuff like that happens on stage all the time, he did it in the first song… but I finished the set. Hunter cuts himself sometimes too, electrocutions a lot. It happened the other night, sometimes the crowd will be so wet that when I go into the crowd to sing along with them and I touch them it will create a current.

Does that effect your voice while your singing?
Yea it is hard to concentrate when your being electrocuted. When it’s like that it is really light but sometimes like, we played in London once and they use different wattage over there and there was something going on and we kept getting shocked and it would be big like “schhhhhh” (buzz sound) and then the sound would cut off and we would be like “ahhhh!” So that happens. We stop if there’s fights, we stop if people are fighting with us… otherwise… ya know.

Is there a lot of fights at your shows?
No. Its great. Its gotten less and less and less as years go on. When I used to go to shows there would be fights all the time. When I was your age going to shows was like “alright…. we’re going to a show.” Luckily now it has gotten a lot mellower, we rarely have fights at shows.

How do shows differ from your hometown, Berkeley, to a smaller town like Lawrence, KS or something?
Hahaha, funny you should bring up Lawrence. Well, I mean, we draw way way more people at home then we do at say Lawrence, KS. Generally when it is our own show, like we played in Lawrence to like 50 or 60 kids. Well actually we’ve played in Lawrence to about 15 kids but generally nowadays, years ago it wasn’t this way, but now if its our show, it doesn’t really matter how many kids are there because they’ve come to see us and they are there to have fun. And so its just great, its just a matter of how many people giving off how much energy.

Have you ever played any arena shows?
Yea we have played some really big shows with The Offspring. Warped Tour… when we did those 8 or 9 shows last summer with the Warped Tour those were really big, I think those were the biggest shows we’ve ever played.

How do you like that compared to a place like this, or even a smaller club. Which do you like better?
They are both really cool. They are a little different, but they are both really fun. Really all that matters is the energy of the crowd and the exchange between us and them and if its there, its great whether its 5 people, or 500, or 5000 people its great just as long as the people there are giving 100%, then its great. The only thing that gets a little weird in the big places are the barricades and whether or not I can get off the stage and to the barracade, that’s kinda hard sometimes. It gets tiresome with the barricades, but other then that.

What do you do in the van between cities?
Sleep, read, and listen to hip hop stations. Jade makes good mix tapes and we listen to cd’s and stuff. Last tour we got some plastic police helmets and we had a rave in our van. Sometimes we gamble… but sometimes in the van it’s just like “oh god”. Like tonight its gonna be so bad because we have an 8 hour drive the doors are at 6 tomorrow. We got hotels whenever we can but tonight I don’t know what we are going to do because we don’t have time. I get tired, Im tired.

When you get up on stage do you get a big punch of energy?
Generally, I’ll be fine tonight. I’ll do my best. Yea, its hard like we did like a 3 day drive to Minneapolis from Berkeley and that was just draining and then we did 5 on 1 off, 6 on 1 off, and now we’re doing another 6 on, we’re on the 5th of 6 on so we get rejuvenated on the day after tomorrow.

What do you generally do on your days off?
We go to malls and stuff like that. We tried to play laser tag a few times, we played it once and it was really fun so we have been trying to play it again. We have a friend who lives in the Pensacola area so on our next day off we’ll be staying with him and hanging out with him.

If you weren’t doing this what do you think you would be doing?
No idea. If I wasn’t doing this and my body wasn’t adorn the way it was I would have liked to have done acting. I probably wouldn’t have altered myself and tried to do that, if I had the guts, if I had the courage to do that. Because acting, like music, you really gotta say ‘fuck everything’ and just go for it and if you get lucky you get lucky. So I would have liked to have done that, maybe I would have been able to pursue that and maybe not. If I wouldn’t have done that I dunno what I would have done. I would have been in college and done something that wouldn’t satisfy me at all.

So you dropped out of college?
Yea, I quit my second year. I went to UC Berkeley.

What is your favorite record of 2000?
I would have to say A Perfect Circle. The debut Perfect Circle album. I could go down the list if you want and say 1,2,3. I would say A Perfect Circle, Deftones – White Pony, At The Drive-In – Relationship of Command, the second Rancid self-titled record. The new Elliot Smith and oh god the new Radiohead.

What do you think of the new pop-punk stuff?
I have seen Saves The Day a couple of times and I like them, they are a really talented band and great songwriters, really cool… I watched them the other day. We’ve played with them. I saw them at Slims, my friend who I was staying with was tour managing them actually, my friend Jimmy. Generally I don’t really listen to too much pop-punk, I don’t know what New Found Glory sounds like for instance. I love Green Day, I love Weezer.

What do you think of the new Green Day?
I think its good. I like it, I think its really good. Really good. We listen to that a bit in the van.

What do you think of Napster?
Napster, I think its cool. I mean it could be frightening. It could starve me and prevent me from doing what I love, which is this. But I don’t think that is gonna happen. I really think that people who are gonna buy our music will buy our music and people don’t aren’t. I think the same people who are satisfied with a taped copy of a record are the same people that are going to be satisfied with a burned downloaded copy of the record and tape dubbing did not destroy the music industry and I don’t think Napster will. One the other hand I actually kinda think it might help us ’cause I know tons of kids had our record before it came out, the whole thing, because they came up to me months before it came out and said “I love your new record” ya know? And even though all those people had our record I think it was cool because I think it kinda like encouraged people to go get it because they liked it. And for a band like us where we don’t get very much radio play and MTV wont touch us and our music is not as accessible to everybody, I think for people who are like “Oh I have heard of AFI but I haven’t heard them” can go download a song and if they like it they can buy a cd. And then for those people who aren’t willing to buy a cd they haven’t heard before they can listen to the songs and come out to the show.

If you could go back and change one thing about any AFI record what would you change?
Umm… I don’t know. The second record was definitely too long. I would have liked to take a lot of songs off the record, it was too long.

What do you think of Britney Spears?
She’s pretty cool. I don’t really know her. She seems nice. She dances pretty well. I think Christina is a better singer, but Britney is a better dancer. I don’t find either of them extremely attractive, they’re not for me really.

Describe the ideal girl.
The ideal girl… drug free. Really nice, intelligent, hot! People say that doesn’t matter but it does. Ideal… if we’re talking ideal… just hot! Hot, smart, drug free, and nice. And… I don’t know… and doesn’t hate me. And vegetarian… vegan preferably.

Are you vegan?
It depends on what your definition of vegan is. I eat honey and sugar. I don’t consume any animal products with the exception of honey and sugar. It’s just a matter of semantics, a matter of definition ya know? Some people say I am, some people say I’m not, I don’t care. That’s just how I live, either way, whatever you call it.

Interview by :
Josh Stern :