By: Laura Beaulne-Stuebing –
AFI’s Davey Havok and Jade Puget have teamed up for XTRMST, a hardcore duo that, musically, is a significant departure from AFI and their other side-project, electronic duo BlaqkAudio. “These songs are the purest expression of emotion, with no thought towards commerce or accessibility,” Puget said in a press release announcing the new collaboration. “[We made] the album with the amount of money you have in your pocket right now—just two people expressing their love and hate into microphones in a tiny room.” XTRMST’s self-titled debut album comes out on November 18th.
When did the idea of pairing up and putting out a hardcore record come about? How did you make it happen?
We’d been kicking around for a while the idea for a straight-edge group. [For] years, we’d talked about doing a straightedge record. We were writing our last AFI record, because we’d been getting together every day to write, it just seemed like the perfect time to periodically take a break and work on these songs. It came together pretty quickly.
How does (or is) the new album/collaboration part of your evolution as artists?
Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I mean, I wouldn’t see it as evolution, but at the same time, neither one of us had done anything like this that sounds like this.
The stuff that I was writing musically was definitely stuff that I hadn’t written before. It was a fun departure.
Who/what bands served as musical influences for the album and new duo?
You know there wasn’t necessarily … I just wanted to be as chaotic and crazy and just hard to listen to. I would write these riffs that sounded angular and weird and dissonant, and I gotta take this farther and try to write something more ugly sounding. So that was kind of the influence.
What did you want to express with the album XTRMST? Are there themes or messages in it?
Lyrically, obviously, all the songs are [about] what it is to be straightedge. Or how you react to society or what you do in society, how you feel about contemporary culture.
Musically, it was creating a pallet that matched that, which is anger, aggression, chaos.
How does this band’s sound compare to AFI’s?
AFI has some aggressive music in the past…but this is way more aggressive than what AFI has ever done.
What’s your involvement in the straightedge community like? How would you describe the community for people unfamiliar with it?
To me, you know, straightedge isn’t a centralized thing…we have friends that are straightedge and have been for a long time. There are a lot of people, you know, they become straightedge and then sell out because they weren’t really into it.
I’ve been straightedge for over 20 years, so there’s a pretty sizeable group of people that I know who are like me, and that’s kind of the community. They’re like my friends that I know have the same values that I do.
How did you end up releasing the album on Dim Mak records, a label that’s known for EDM releases?
When we were thinking when we wanted to put this out, we initially were thinking of all the hardcore labels that put out music like this. People don’t really know this but Dim Mak started out as a hardcore label, so we thought that would be rad, you know obviously they put out dance music now but it would be interesting put it out on Dim Mak, and it would also sort of made sense.’ And so we asked Steve [Aoki, Dim Mak founder] and he said yes.
What are your plans for touring?
We’re going to probably play a couple of shows, but I highly doubt we’ll do a real tour.
Any plans for more music from AFI?
Yeah, Davey and I are working on new Blaqk Audio right now, so we’re going to put that out as soon as possible. Then we’re going to put our focus back to AFI.
Do you think AFI fans will dig XTRMST? Did you think about that, and take that into consideration, when putting the record together?
When I’m writing any music and putting a record together, and music, whether it’s Blaqk Audio or AFI, we don’t usually think, you know, how can we tailor this to a certain group of people. Just like, let’s just do this music for people who like it. We gotta be true to what we’re feeling. So with XTRMST, the music we’re doing will not appeal to a lot of people. That’s fine. I’m sure there are a lot of AFI fans that’ll listen to the record, and/or are straightedge who won’t be into this. I definitely think of all the projects Davey and I have done, this is the most sort of niche, specialized thing that really will only appeal to a handful of people.
Is XTRMST a one-time thing, or will there be more records/projects in the future?
I would love to actually do another XTRMST record along the way because it’s really easy and it’s really fun and it’s a nice musical relief. I would love to do another one. We’ll see. AFI alone takes up so much of our time. But yeah, I’d like to do another one.
Anything else you think fans should know?
Just, I guess, the record comes out November 18. Check it out. For people who are fans of BlaqkAudio or AFI, we’re going to hopefully have another Blaqk Audio record out, in the springtime would be ideal, followed by AFI after that.