Some things change—we might ditch the blue eyeshadow, false lashes and very straight hair for a more mature look—but luckily others remain constant. New music by the genre-bending rock band AFI (A Fire Inside) has been one of those constants for almost 20 years now. They’ve had the same lineup of musicians (singer Davey Havok, guitarist Jade Puget, drummer Adam Carson and bassist Hunter Burgan) since 1998, blessing the pierced ears of scenesters (and now their children) from stage and stereo. The veteran musicians reached a new milestone with their 10th studio release on January 20. We caught up with the man behind the music, guitarist and new producer Puget, to talk about the band’s latest achievement and his first time producing.
A 10th album is a special one. Did you put any extra love and care into it?
I like to think we always put a little TLC into our albums. This was the first one I produced, so just by nature of being a producer I put extra care into it.
Now that you’ve produced a record, is it something you wish you would have done sooner?
Yeah, at least on the last one. We had an album called Sing the Sorrow that I had an executive production role on as well, so I [produced] a little bit. But I do wish I would have produced the last one, even though we had a great producer on that record [whom] I loved working with. But now that I’ve done it, I hope to continue to do it.
[Davey] is telling a story in a very organic way without putting too much thought into it or without trying to be too deliberate with it. That’s probably where the abstract nature of [the songs] comes in.
Did you hit any unexpected bumps as a first-time producer?
You know, it was actually pretty lovely that it ran so smoothly and that everyone in the band was understanding, because it’s weird when one guy in the band takes on a leadership role. Bands are sort of very delicate political situations. So that was one of the things I was a little worried about.
It’s often said that once you get comfortable, you’re not really learning. You’ve been a band for so long now that I’m sure it’s comfortable. How do you fight against that and keep experimenting and challenging yourselves as musicians?
That’s absolutely true and something that I think about a lot. I write all the music by myself—it is kind of a war within—so I am very cognizant of that. … No one gets better at songwriting as they get older, which is weird—as you get older you know more about your instrument, you know more about songwriting, so logically you should be better at songwriting. Part of it is that fire, that hunger that you have when you first start out. I just continue to push myself and continue to not be happy with anything I do. I continue to think everything I do sucks, so I try to make it better. That’s part of it.
What are you surrounding yourselves with that creates these dark, abstract stories in the songs?
[The lyrics] definitely come from where [Davey] is at as a person at that time. Over the last couple of records, the way we write is: I’ll write an entire body of music [and] take it in, and we will work on the melody together, and he will write the lyrics right there—it’s not a stream of consciousness, but [something like] that. It’s not like he is writing gobbledygook, where it’s just whatever words come to his brain, but he is telling a story in a very organic way without putting too much thought into it or without trying to be too deliberate with it. That’s probably where the abstract nature of [the songs] comes in.
It’s been a while since the last AFI tour. Does the band get rusty from not being onstage, or is it like riding a bike?
It’s a little bit of both. Before we went out to play for the first time [during this tour], it had been over three years since we had been onstage together. We got out there and [we’re] like, “Whoa!” It’s such a weird experience. Davey and I are in Blaqk Audio together so we’d actually toured, but [I] was behind a keyboard, so that was a completely different thing—a completely different set of movements onstage and [a] different kind of music. It did take a second, but then it does come back. We’ve been doing this together for a long time, so you remember what you’re supposed to do.
Your new self-titled album is subtitled The Blood Album. How did that happen?
It was our 10th album. We haven’t had a self-titled album and self-titled albums are pretty cool. So this was the perfect opportunity to have one of our own. Because of the blood imagery that we used on the cover and the inside, we started calling it “the blood album.” It just caught on, and people didn’t realize it was self-titled. We realized it was creating a lot of confusion. [Laughs.]