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Boy, do we have a treat for you. We caught up with Davey last month in Connecticut to talk touring with Rise Against and Anti-Flag, being a non-political band on a heavily political tour, new AFI music, and much more. Check it out!
Mary: How was it supporting the Smashing Pumpkins last night?
DXH: It was unbelievable. It was such an honour. It was surreal. I went to soundcheck, and Peter Hook was already there. He went straight from the airport to the venue- he was the first guest that was there. I was coming from Manhattan, and though I was on time for my car, the traffic made us a bit late. We did ‘Transmission,’ which the Smashing Pumpkins and I had done before at the Troubadour in Hollywood- but without Peter. We finished ‘Transmission’- and I had met Peter when I arrived- and after the song, he went out of his way to come up to me and tell me, “Oh, you did great, man,” and I teared up. It was so profoundly moving and surreal- I keep using that word, but it really was because, of course, Joy Division has had such a huge influence on me and they always have. I went back and I was listening to Joy Division again in the wake of performing ‘Transmission’ and looking at these beautiful books of Ian’s lyrics and as I was reviewing them again, I was reminded how very directly he influenced me and his words influenced my writing and my perception of music, so to have Peter Hook say that to me was unbelievable. It was so moving. I would never have considered myself to be in that position with him, let alone the Smashing Pumpkins as well. It was an honour on so many levels. Billy was so wonderful. I spoke yesterday in an interview about the Pumpkins, and it’s really confronting how many perfect songs he has written. His songs are unbelievable and so unique, and I’ve been a fan of his since the beginning of the Pumpkins as well, and never did I think I’d have such an opportunity to be part of such a great celebration and such an important moment for them. To be invited is very touching. It was really, really, really fun.
Josh: On the topic of support, since the tour you did in 2010 with Green Day and the short run you did with Deftones in the UK, you guys haven’t really been a direct support band at all. You opened the Linkin Park tour, but you guys haven’t been direct support in almost a decade. What is it like going from headlining and knowing you can break out the deep cuts and everything to being the band that has to warm up the crowd for the headliner?
DXH: We’re very familiar with it. We spent so much of our lives in that position, where we were playing to groups of people that don’t know us and who don’t particularly care about us. In fact, the majority of our lifespan was that. You look at the first five years of our touring and the first ten years of our band, and it was a lot of playing to the disinterested. It’s something I’m not unfamiliar with. We always play the same way- we always have. It doesn’t matter who’s watching us, I react to the music as it moves me to do. Of course, if there is a group of all of our fans, there’s an energy exchange there that can’t help but elevate things. Nevertheless, it’s still fun to perform.
Josh: With the Blood tour that you did last year, you toured pretty much all year on it, and that went really well and it seemed that you guys were enjoying yourselves. Where do you think the Mourning in Amerika Tour is going to fit in with the legacy of AFI?
DXH: It seems to be odd, like a strange positioning for us to be playing. I think it is a continuation of the Blood tour as far as legacy goes. We really briefly stopped touring on that record, then we started again. I suppose it’s not much more than that. We just kept going.
Dan: Rise Against and Anti-Flag are both heavily political bands on and off the stage-
DXH: Laughing Yeah… not us.
Dan: Right, so how’s that been, playing in between these two bands?
DXH: It’s interesting that you point that out, because we go back with Rise Against many years. We’ve toured before, we’re dear friends, we used to live at Joe’s parents’ frequently when we would be on the road and they’d take care of us. Joe and I have remained very, very close over the years, so when they invited us, it was very exciting for us to have the opportunity to tour with our friends but, at that time, it was just the two of us. It was only later that they invited Anti-Flag and then the branding of the tour came and I saw it and I was like “oh, that doesn’t really have anything to do with us,” laughing which is fine. We don’t really fit into that ethos as we’ve never been a political band, but it doesn’t really impact our performance. To be honest, I’m not really feeling that we’re playing to an extremely political crowd, either.
Dan: The fan crossover is still good regardless of what, thematically, the bands are representing.
DXH: Yeah, you guys are coming, which really helps.
Josh: The songs you played on the Blood tour received a lot of positive feedback, you received a lot of positive feedback as you always do, so have you noticed that with all of these people coming out that may not be familiar with AFI, or only know ‘Miss Murder’, have you noticed that people are responding well to you being the “non-political” band on the tour?
DXH: There’s a pretty stark discrepancy between people who are AFI fans and people who aren’t. It seems to me that we have a small group of diehard fans who are coming and are there for us, and then everyone else is just kind of confused. It’s strange for me to consider playing to anyone at this point in a support slot that hasn’t already made a decision about who we are almost thirty years into a band, but it’s a big world, so of course by law of average there are people who haven’t seen or heard AFI and might like it.
Dan: I saw the same thing on the Deftones run!
DXH: Yeah, which is very touching, because I know that Deftones fans like virtually only heavy music. Heavy, we are not.
Josh: What can your fans expect to see as the tour progresses? Is there anything that will change as you grow more comfortable?
DXH: We’ve been changing up the set minimally every night, as you’ve seen. That will probably continue within the moment that we have. Other than that, we generally just do the same thing every night anyway.
Josh: The big question that everybody wants to know: What’s next for AFI?
DXH: We finish this leg of the tour and we’re home for three weeks, then we begin the second leg of the tour with Rise Against and Anti-Flag. We’ve been working on a lot of new music. There should be some new music soon. I don’t know when, but I think it’ll be sooner than later. Jade and I have been writing a lot, we have the fourth Blaqk Audio record done- we’re supposed to be touring on that right now. I imagine that early next year, the fourth Blaqk Audio record will come out and we’ll tour on that. After that, maybe sometime next year, a new AFI record will come out. We’ve been working on a lot of stuff, so I don’t think that that’s impossible.
Dan: It seems like a very prolific period for the band in terms of new music faster than the typical 3-4 year wait.
DXH: Yeah, it’s been speeding up. We get a lot of pressure from management to do that, and culturally it’s a lot of pressure to do that because people are so used to being constantly inundated with small amounts of information, so we try to keep up.
Josh: I think the wait is worth it. Speaking to you both as a fan and as a person just talking to you, you guys are such an incredible band. The things that you’ve done and the way you’ve influenced music over the years… I think you probably underestimate how much you’ve impacted a lot of people. The fact that you guys are still making music, continuing to evolve, and doing what makes you guys happy instead of catering to what people “want to hear” is nothing short of amazing.
DXH: That’s all we’ve ever done. We make music because we want to make music and we want to create something that we’re happy with. It was never meant to impress anyone or appeal to one particular person or one group, and we just hope that people like it. When they do, it’s fantastic, but we’ve never tried to conform to what’s popular or what’s cool, because who cares? It doesn’t matter. If you don’t believe in what you make, then why bother? Unless you’re trying to make money or be famous or something.
Josh: That said, Blood came out a year and a half ago. You guys have played a lot of the songs off of that record. Do you have favorites that you like to play from the record?
DXH: For me, my favourites are Aurelia, Feed From The Floor, Above the Bridge, Get Hurt, which we rarely play, Snow Cats, I would love to play Dark Snow, and I’d love to play The Wind That Carries Me Away.
There you have it, folks. AFI are indeed working on new music. We hope you’re as excited as we are.