Bay Area punks keep the faith by touring
By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer
|A.F.I. from left: Jade Puget, Adam Carson, Davey Havok and Hunter Burgan, brings its hardcore punk sound to World Cafe Sunday.
7 p.m. Sunday
With his Bay Area punk revivalist bandmates (drummer Adam
Carson, guitarist Jade Puget, bassist Hunter Burgan), Havok stalks the stage nightly in black eye makeup spouting a dark melange of brooding, angry lyrics, more often than not ruminating on subjects like death, pain, suffering, sacrifice or all of the above. All the while backed by the band's thrashing guitar riffs and carpal-tunnel inducing percussion.
Over a phone call from a Los
Angeles concert stop just days before A.F.I.'s Sunday night World Cafe gig, though, Havok's off-stage demeanor is more like the wittily intelligent co-worker you take downtown to Murphy's for a black and tan after work.
"I am ... are you?" he queries back after I ask him about a fan rumor that he is a diehard collector of ... stuff. An affirmative reply seemed to give him some pause.
"I collect a lot of Japanese stuff," says Havok, excitedly. "I like a lot of the anime characters, characters from 'Princess Mononoke,' a lot of the Manga stuff. I just got Totoro and Kodama stuffed toys the other day."
Both are from, respectively, "Princess Mononoke" and "My Neighbour Totoro," I find out. Other items filling Havok's recently moved-into Berkeley-area house include stuff from Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Sleepy Hollow," Maurice Sendak's "Where The Wild Things Are," and Disney's "Tron." Anybody looking to get rid of an upright Pac-Man arcade game or a 13- or 14-inch Oogie Boogie should give Havok a call.
Eleven years after geeky 15-year-old Ukiah, Calif., high school square pegs Havok and Carson formed it, A.F.I. is finally on the verge of growing their hard-earned fan base into a distinctly larger following. After notching 125,000-plus in sales with its seventh release, 2000's "The Art of Drowning," the defiantly independent band earlier this year picked DreamWorks Records out of a handful of major labels jonesing to sign them.
The collective ardor still surprises Havok a tad.
"Whenever anything of that nature happens to us, Adam and I still look at each other and go, 'You know, we played the high school talent show. And these people are freaking out over us,'" says Havok, cracking up. "It's not nerve-wracking. Just bizarre."
No surprise, considering the fact that the band learned to crawl musically by playing Black Flag, Ramones, Minor Threat and Angry Samoans covers while its turn-of-the-'90s classmates chewed on bubblegum pop.
"Not only was it a time when punk was the furthest thing from what was accepted ... but nobody liked us and nobody cared," says Havok. "They were into Vanilla Ice, C&C Music Factory, Paula Abdul, Milli Vanilli ... and that kind of stuff." Havok pauses. "Not to mention ... we sucked!"
After briefly trying college on for size, the band members convened in Berkeley in 1993, playing in any club that would have them. The following two years saw A.F.I. cultivating a loyal Bay Area following, while saving money from gigs to press the occasional demo or seven-inch single. Signed to indie label Nitro in 1995, the band released its first album, "Answer That and Stay Fashionable." A.F.I. has been touring the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan relentlessly ever since.
Six albums, two EPs, a couple of Vans Warped Tours and one 1999 Big Mele appearance later, the former high school misfits will finally enter the studio later this summer to record their major label debut. No big deal to Havok, really, as long as it all allows him to continue touring and playing live.
"More than anything, that's what I live for," says Havok. "Getting to perform every night in a different city to people who appreciate what we do is the best."
Well, that, and finding a Hong Kong Living Dead doll on e-Bay for less than $400. They only made 666, you know.