Posted on by Oran

With their recent studio opus, ‘Bodies’ receiving critical acclaim from all corners of the globe, genre-evolving Californians, AFI continues to surprise and delight with stylish unpredictability as they continue to explore their creative horizons. Multi-instrumentalist/songwriter, Jade Puget sat down with Overdrive to discuss the bands’ new album, their 30th anniversary, and much more…

From their inception thirty years ago [this year], AFI continues to grow and evolve in their own unique way, despite changes in trends and popular culture.

The band’s, now, 12-album discography ranges from hardcore to punk, to gothic-tinged melodic-indie, and more recently, an influx of synthpop, new wave, and electronic.

In short, AFI are songwriters, they are skilled musicians who do not conform to one design, one idea, or concept. They are fearless.

Guitarist/songwriter Jade Puget spoke to Overdrive about the band’s legacy, their continuing evolution, and their relationship with their music as well as plans to mark their 30th anniversary later this year and the possibility of vinyl re-issues for ‘Sing The Sorrow‘ [2003] and ‘Decemberunderground‘ [2006]…

OD – Finally, ‘Bodies’ [the bands’ 11th studio album] is out for all the world to enjoy. Can you tell me if there were any ideas for this album that came from ‘The Missing Man’ sessions in 2018, or was it a completely fresh take on writing?

JADE – It was a fresh batch of songs. Davey and I actually started writing after we had worked on ‘The Missing Man‘ stuff. It’s nice to have a new chapter to open and not have to go back and pull out old ideas when it comes to getting in the headspace for a new album.

OD – The decision to release so many singles prior to the official release date of the album got a great reaction, was this decision inspired by the restrictions of the pandemic, or was that always the plan?

JADE – We had planned on releasing this album last year so, in lieu of not being able to go out and tour, we agreed to do things a little different this time around.

To be honest, I was a little trepidatious about releasing so much music prior to the official release because I was worried about people would get tired of it and be like: “Just release it already!!!” but in hindsight, it was a really good way to keep the band on the forefront of our fans’ minds, and give them a little bit here and there; of the new album.

OD – Do you think that the marketing aspect of this worked well and can you see the band doing this going forward?

JADE – I would have said “no” before we did this but… you see, I’m very impatient about my music and just want to get it out there as soon as it’s finished. I want people to have it as soon as possible, so I can just move on to the next project. I have a lot of OCD when it comes to my music [Laughing]

It was really hard for me to release the record the way we did as I’ve just got no patience, so to answer your question, I’m not really sure how I feel about releasing so much prior to a release date going forward. We’ll just have to see what the circumstances are in the future.

OD – You are so immersed with each AFI album from writing, recording, producing, etc. Do you ever feel that you need to step away from the project as it can be a bit overwhelming?

JADE – That would be the smart thing to do. If I ever take a day off from writing music, I actually feel really strange. I feel that I should be doing something creative…do you know what I mean? I feel that something’s missing and kind of feel nervous.

I’ve been like that my whole life, and I think that’s why I’m able to be prolific and work the way I do.

OD – This collection of songs sees a great deal of synth-pop/New Wave and ‘80s Goth Rock influences embedded throughout and is somewhat of a diversion from previous material. Was there any kind of conscious decision for this change and if so, what sparked it?

JADE – It definitely was a really natural progression. For people to say that we’re changing now, well we’ve been “changing” for the last 25-years. We’re not really doing anything that we’ve not done in the past.

With this new album, it’s just us moving forward, progressing, evolving in a really natural and organic way. Luckily, we have a very loyal and understanding fan base that has stuck with us over the decades.

But to go back to what you were saying, we really didn’t have any kind of masterplan for this album, it just sort of grew with us. Davey and I grew up in the late ’70s and throughout the ’80s, when the electronic, Pop, and New Wave scenes were exploding, so there’s a huge influence from those eras in our music. We didn’t plan on it, but it’s just such a huge integral part of who we are and where we came from.

I used to fight the influence but not anymore, I’ve just given in to it now [Laughing]. I’ve been listening to a lot of Death Rock over the last year. There’s really no substitute for those incredible genres like New Wave, Synth-Pop, New Romantic, Post Punk, and Death Rock. There’s so much incredible music from that era that doesn’t get the credit that it so deserved.

OD – Of course, it’s been widely reported that you co-wrote ‘Dulcería’ with Billy Corgan [Smashing Pumpkins] which was the first-ever collaboration on any AFI track. Tell me how this came about [who reached out to who]?

JADEBilly and I had got together in the past to write for another project. I really enjoyed the experience of working with him, as I don’t really get to write with other people, so it was really interesting and very productive.

It was such an easy process working with Billy and when we were done working on the other project, I said to Davey: “Let’s sit down with Billy and see what we can come up with” because he [Davey] is also good friends with him [Billy].

We didn’t write ‘Dulcería‘ as a complete song, we worked on a bunch of ideas and arrangements and I then took those parts and created the track. It was a really fun experience and the track came out so well. Billy is such a great writer and just hearing him sing… I mean that voice is just so iconic.

For me personally, hearing him sing over music that I wrote is kind of a wonderful, yet strange experience. He’s still got the chops! A lot of singers that get older, well, some of them can’t do what they used to do, but Billy can really still nail it.

Billy Corgan [Smashing Pumpkins]

OD – Besides ‘Dulcería’, did you write any other material with Billy?

JADE – We wrote a couple of songs and a few bits and pieces which is how I put ‘Dulcería‘ together but prior to that, Billy and I wrote stuff from another session. I love that stuff and really enjoyed working on it, but whether it will ever see the light of day, is anyone’s guess. We’ll just have to wait and see.

OD – There is a very strong visual concept with ‘Bodies’ as with all of the merchandise to accompany, etc. In your own words, can you explain the overall vision that was eventually created for the title and artwork?

JADE – Yeah, Davey had this overarching idea for his lyrical concept. It’s a type of physical and non-physical, exploring the aspects of that which led to the idea of the physical form of bodies, but trying to do something that is provocative of that.

We don’t want to that band that’s still doing horror, graveyard stuff, with “Dark” this and “Dark” that, themes, etc, it’s nice to step away and do something different and get a new sense of creative inspiration, which I think we definitely achieved with this album.

ODAdam [Carson, Drums] commented in a previous interview that he believes ‘Begging For Trouble’ to be the “cornerstone” of the whole album, would you agree with this, or do you feel it’s another track?

JADE – Well, I don’t really think the album has a “cornerstone” because it’s such an eclectic album and it’s hard to tie the songs together in that way, but for me, I really enjoy ‘Tied to a Tree‘.

OD – Would you agree that the creative outlet you and Davey have created in Blaqk Audio has had some influence on the songwriting for AFI and by that I mean more electronic influence?

JADE – I don’t really think so. All the music is coming from me and the melodies are coming from both Davey and me. We just influence it ourselves. On this record, this is just what came out.

We’ve always been open to using electronic programming. I was programming back when we did ‘Sing the Sorrow‘ and that was…um… 18-years ago, so we’ve been open to incorporating these elements in our music for a long time. We just took it a little further this time around.

I’d rather fail at doing something really interesting and different, than to just fall back to the things we’ve already done.

OD – With regards to your XTRMST project, can you divulge if there will be another album, or was it a “one and done” situation?

JADE – Most likely it’s a “one and done“. I did write and have a bunch of songs that could be for another XTRMST project, but there are no plans to do anything about it right now.

We were in the middle of writing ‘Burials‘ [2013], and Davey and I just had this idea to make a Straight Edge Hardcore album because we grew up listening to that stuff. So, it really was a spur-of-the-moment type of project. We never had plans to do a big campaign with it, or organise a tour, etc.

We just felt inspired and captured that very inspiration…of that moment. I really don’t see us putting out another XTRMST album anytime soon, if at all.

OD – Being a band that has been in motion for 30-years this year, was there any talk of doing something special to mark the anniversary/occasion, or are you not fussed with such things?

JADE – We are talking about doing something cool for the fans. Now, that does not mean that we’re gonna go out and play a full album in its entirety. That’s just not who we are. We also don’t view ourselves as a “legacy” band, because we’re trying to create new music and move forward.

But I can confirm that we are in talks at the moment to do something to mark the anniversary and we’ll be able to release some details in the coming months, so watch this space.

OD – Being an avid vinyl collector, I’ve gotta ask you about ‘Sing The Sorrow’ [2003] and ‘Decemberunderground’ [2006], are there any plans to re-issue those albums in the future as they are very hard to find in the wild and are going for crazy money online?

JADE – This comes up a lot. Back then, the record labels really didn’t give a shit about vinyl and with us coming from a punk background, vinyl was a must. But it was kind of difficult to get vinyl pressed back then. I think it’s become really difficult to find those pressings from that era.

Do you remember that fire that happened in Universal’s storage facility back in 2008, where loads of master tapes got destroyed? Well, I was convinced that our masters were among the casualties. But apparently, they didn’t which is really great news so I think we’ll definitely be doing some kind of special release for those two albums.

We’re not really into the whole re-issue thing, like: “here’s this album re-issued with extra whatever“. There’s so much of that going on right now, so we want to do something really cool for the fans instead of doing the same old thing.

We want to do something that is worthwhile and I’m sure that we’ll make it happen. The cray thing is, I don’t even have vinyl copies of those albums. [Laughing]

OD – Finally, the bands’ touring history is primarily based in America with very little in UK and Europe apart from some festival appearances. The last UK venue tour was with Deftones back in 2017, and have never performed in Ireland. Is there a particular reason for this?

JADE – Yeah, in fact, it’s really bummed me out that we’ve never performed in Ireland before. It’s come close a few times but for one reason or another, it just never came to fruition.

As far as the European touring, we try to make it over there when we can, but because we take a long time between touring cycles, we’ve never built up our presence there. A lot of bands’ constantly tour over there, and that’s just what you have to do which is really expensive, and now it’s just become really hard for us to do it because of all of the logistics and visas, etc.

We have to be very mindful of our costs and avoid situations where we’re just breaking even. It is very tricky for us to get over there, however, we’re really trying to rectify that when we can eventually get back to performing live again, so fingers crossed we can get things back to normal sooner rather than later.

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AFIBodies‘ is out now via all good streaming platforms and your local record store. Pick up a copy today.

Oran O’Beirne

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