The PV Q&A: Davey Havok of AFI on the Title of the Band's New Album: "Themes of past and present, and the humanity that runs through blood"

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By Tom Lanham

Davey Havok has an interesting, carefully-cultivated theory about advertising. When you see a scantily-clad, or virtually-naked woman in some product’s print campaign, it’s so five minutes ago, he believes, merely the age-old concept of sex sells in action for the bazillionth time. Yawn. “But you rarely see male nudity, and it’s such a rare thing because of the social stigma attached to it,” declares the AFI singer, who decided to test that theory via his controversial new ad for PETA, wherein the buff, chest-tattooed rocker appears sans clothing under the banner of “I’d rather go naked than wear leather – Rock the skin you were born in – let animals keep theirs.” He reckons that viewers will find the shadowy photo stark at first. But then they’ll ask questions, like ‘Why I this man naked?’ before reading the fine-print punchline. Compassion for animals is one of this devout vegan’s pet causes, he explains. “So I’m using my voice, my music, and my body to help someone who doesn’t have a voice.” The PETA pic is running concurrently with “AFI,” the band’s majestic tenth album, and almost complements its dark, skeletal dirges (“Feed From the Floor,” “The Wind That Carries Me Away”), malevolent marches (“White Offerings,” “Dark Snow”), and machine-gunned punk powerhouses (“So Beneath You,” “Dumb Kids”) – all of it cleverly produced by group guitarist (and Havok’s partner in electronic outfit Blaqk Audio) Jade Puget. But Havok has much more up his temporarily-missing sleeve than AFI’s latest album, subtitled The Blood Album. And he’s proud to list for PureVolume all of his diverse projects.

PUREVOLUME: You had your own line of vegan clothing for awhile, right?
DAVEY HAVOK: Yeah. And the clothing was, of course, cruelty free, and some of the messaging on the T-shirts was very focused on animal rights and compassionate lifestyles. And I got to do a collaboration on shoes, but that went away, so now my partner and I have actually started a new company called Eat Your Own Tail – just like that serpent in Ragnarok, as a matter of fact. It’s been out for a couple of months now, and it’s T-shirts and they’re very stark and all black.
PV: And you have yet another new band? Dreamcar, with the No Doubt members, minus Gwen Stefani?
DH: They are such great guys. I can’t tell you too much about it, but the little I can tell you is, I bumped into those guys somewhere and they asked me if I wanted to do a project with them. And I was really touched, and it sounded really interesting. So I asked to hear music, and the little bit I heard, I loved. I can’t tell you what it sounds like right now, but soon I will. We started working together immediately, we wrote a record, and it’s almost done. It’ll probably be out this year.
PV: You’ve already published your first novel, “Pop Kids.” What’s happening on the literary front?
DH: Well, my second novel is done. I’m just waiting for my friend to deliver the artwork, so we can finally go into production. I haven’t announced the name of it yet – I’ll probably tell the people that follow Davey Havok on social media first. But it’s an afterword of the first novel. The first novel ended in 2009, and this is the story of one of the secondary characters who’s the protagonist of this book. It’s a millennial modern love story, real pop-saturated noir. Call it pop fiction.
PV: And you’ve been scoring film roles, too. Any new ones to report?
DH: Not since “Knife Fight.” But I would love to have the opportunity to act again. But I’ve been trying to talk them into letting me be Hedwig (on stage). And it’s such a demanding role, so I would definitely need a lot of time to work on that.
PV: But how was it working with Rob Lowe on “Knife Fight”?
DH: It was really cool. When we were shooting, I met Rob, and it just really hit me – I thought, ‘This is fucking crazy! I’m actually in a movie with Rob Lowe!” And he was so nice and so smart, but the whole cast was talented. And the script was so political, so I think it was the perfect movie for everyone involved. And actually, Bill Guttentag, the director, just emailed me the other day – he’s going to be in town, but I’m already going to be gone on tour. He’s actually a professor at Stanford, and he just told me about his new Netflix series. So I really want to catch up with him – he’s pretty wild.
PV: Is there anything left on your bucket list? You even appeared on Broadway as St. Jimmy in American Idiot.
DH: Ha! That was the best experience of my life. When you said, ‘What is there left for you to do?,’ before you even mentioned Broadway my mind went there, because my dream is to play Frank N. Furter on Broadway. It would be like, ‘That’s it – I’ve done everything.’ If I’ve done that, I can die happy. But I am so amazed to have been given that opportunity by Billie Joe (Armstrong) – it’s such an incredible gift to receive, because I grew up loving Broadway musicals. My first experience in musical theater was when I was very young, at a local theater in Sacramento. But having it actually be live Broadway theater, with live music, was so gratifying, and unlike anything else I’ve ever lived through.
PV: What’s the theme of this Blood Album?
DH: It came from a moment midway through the writing, where I recognized in the lyrics that there were repeated references to blood, snow. Then when we finished and put all the tracks together that blood did, indeed, link the songs together.
PV: And references to dust, too.
DH: Well, as I write, I think that dust and snow – I don’t know if there’s any ash or not – they occur on the record because to me, it’s talking about a time of aftermath. The aftermath of the (2013 AFI album) Burials period, and a moment of curiosity and trying to recognize what exactly remains in the fallout of what has changed. So there’s dust, and there’s snow, and it’s wintry. And then the blood, of course, speaks of connection and identity, and the perception of connection, and those themes of past and present, and the humanity that runs through blood.

PV: Out of curiosity, have you seen Nicholas Winding Refn’s latest film, Neon Demon?
DH: I love, love, love “Neon Demon”! It is so fun and she (Elle Fanning) is so great. It is perfect. And that’s the world I inhabit in the novels that I write now. I wouldn’t say my books are as good as “Spring Breakers” or “Neon Demon,” because those films are pieces of art. But it’s a similar world, in the themes that they touch on and how they represent that culture. That’s what I attempt to do in my writing. But “Neon Demon” is visually stunning, and it seems outrageous and campy, especially in the dialogue. But it’s incredibly clever at the same time, and even the extreme behavior feels very, very real. And in certain metropolises, that behavior is not that far off – stuff that people think is put in there for shock value actually happens.
PV: Refn said he wanted to tap into L.A. undercurrent of occultism. Kind of like what Kenneth Anger did with Hollywood Babylon.
DH: The occult aspect is really fun – it is such a wild ride of a film. But did you know that Kenneth Anger is still alive? He performed in Los Angeles recently, and my buddy actually invited me – he said, ‘Kenneth Anger is an 89-year-old man, and he’s actually doing a ritual.’ But I couldn’t go because we were recording that night – we’re 50 songs into the next Blaqk Audio record right now. But he actually performed a ritual, and I think there was a theremin player.
PV: The message is the same in “Neon Demon,” “Blue Velvet,” and the sorely-underrated “Eyes Wide Shut” – you go out looking for strange, you just might find it.
DH: And maybe die. You just might die.

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