Sixth sense Thu, June 15, 2006
AFI wasn't trying to send a message by releasing its new album on 6/6/06, but the work shows a willingness to take artistic risks. By FREE PRESS STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES
Even if it hadn't come out on 6/6/06, AFI's new record would still have been one for the record books.
Decemberunderground (Universal) is a record that AFI (it stands for A Fire Inside) lead singer Davey Havok says "should break us out of any preconceived genres."
The product of two years of songcraft and performance, Decemberunderground sees the Ukiah, Calif., rockers and producer Jerry Finn find a way to build on the platinum-selling Sing the Sorrow while moving into new areas.
"Our fans always come with us every step of the way," Havok says. "I think they recognize honesty in our music, that this is the only way we can express ourselves, to make music that we love -- nothing else. . . . Our fans would probably be devastated if we ever released a record that was too similar to the previous one." Critics say Decemberunderground, AFI's seventh album, combines poppy, Cure-inspired, classic 1980s goth, mixed with hardcore sensibilities. Touring to support the CD, AFI plays Centennial Hall tomorrow night.
Decemberunderground dropped on June 6, 2006, but you can't blame AFI for that so-called "number of the beast" release date.
"I'm sure everyone thinks we picked it, but we didn't. The record label picked it," Havok says. "As far as Christian concepts, I don't put too much weight on that at all."
Havok is amused by some of the other rumours that swirl around AFI.
"Recently, I heard that Patrick Swayze and I were dating," he jokes. "I've died of heroin overdoses a few times, once in London. I was seen on my 21st birthday drinking in New Orleans, even though I was in Germany. People have given me cancer a lot recently, which I don't like. I don't think that's a good rumour. It's so amazing to think people take the time to make up something about someone they don't even know."
In reality, Havok subscribes to the straight-edge lifestyle, meaning he doesn't smoke, drink or use drugs. He's also a vegan.
"You know, if someone comes up to me and says, 'I've been straight edge for 10 years because of a conversation I had with you' or 'I was raised this way, but as soon as I get out of my parents' house, I'm going to go vegan,' I think it's great.
"It's great to make a positive change in people's lives like that. As far as people looking like us, that's flattering and the AFI tattoos are an honour. To see people dedicate themselves to us forever is a huge honour."
The origins of AFI stretch back to 1991 when Ukiah teens Havok and Adam Carson formed the band and the following year released a debut split seven-incher with fellow Ukiah high students, who formed Loose Change (whose lineup at the time featured future AFI guitarist Jade Puget).
A handful of singles, EPs, compilation tracks and the early albums Answer That and Stay Fashionable (Wingnut, 1995) and Very Proud of Ya (Nitro, 1996) followed.
AFI finally made its major label move, releasing its sixth album, Sing the Sorrow, on Dreamworks/ Universal in 2003. Sing the Sorrow was co-produced by Finn (Green Day) and Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins). It sold more than a million copies in the U.S. (going platinum -- symbolizing 100,000 sales -- in Canada) and brought AFI into the mainstream of rock success.
Decemberunderground goes farther -- in several directions.
There is a big suite, The Interview, and hardcore instant classics Kill Caustic and Affliction, and the ballad finale Endlessly, She Said.
There is also a big place for AFI's fans -- known collectively as the Despair Faction.
"They're not really a fan club per se," says Jade. "The Despair Faction was conceived to be more interactive than that, to have more of a direct connection with us and with each other."
As such, in addition to more conventional fan club perks such as exclusive merch and ticket pre-sales, Faction members regularly attend AFI soundchecks, where they come bearing gifts ranging from vegan baked goods for Havok and Hunter to homemade AFI merchandise, clothing, artwork and other keepsakes.
As their latest offering to the fan Faction, Decemberunderground includes AFI's vintage glam style shuffle on the single Miss Murder -- which makes room for backing chants from the Despair Faction.
"They come and sing at our shows, so we thought it would be fun for them to sing on our record," Havok says. "We are all really big fans of music. If there was a band that I was a huge fan of and they asked me to sing on their record, I'd love to! If David Bowie wanted me to sing on his record, it would be amazing."
IF YOU GO
What: Concert by U.S. rock band AFI. Dillinger Escape Plan and Nightmare of You are also on the bill.
When: Tomorrow, doors open at 7 p.m.
Where: Centennial Hall
Tickets: $30.50 plus applicable service charges; general admission on main floor, reserved seating in balcony; call 672-1967