Interview: AFI

Currently touring Europe in support of their recent album, 'Crash Love', Alter The Press! sat down with Hunter Burgan of AFI before their show at London's Brixton Academy.

Hunter spoke to ATP about the response to 'Crash Love', being the vegan ambassador for Macbeth shoes, his forthcoming side-project with Tegan Quin, plagiarism and more.

Alter The Press: How is it to be back and, playing your first headline shows since 2006?
Hunter Burgan (bass): It feels good; I just wish we came here more often. I just feel bad because it'll be, sometimes, three years between playing shows, and I wish we could do more but it's kind of unrealistic, if we take as long as we do, to write and record records. This is one of the first places outside of the United States where we have really good shows; it's definitely home from home.

ATP: You are over here in support of your new album, 'Crash Love'. It's been out for nearly eight months, how has the response been so far?
Hunter: Good. I think, in some ways, it's taken a while for people to get a grasp for it, but we always have our die hard fans, who know the album before it comes out. I think all the songs we play off it have great responses live, which isn't always the case; with some albums, and certain songs, it falls flat, so it's good. It's a positive because it's my favorite album to play songs off, so I'm having fun playing any of the new songs.

ATP: How would you compare it to previous AFI releases?
Hunter: I think with a lot of the previous albums, we were trying new things and sometimes the new aspects we were adding, stuck out; not so much as a sore thumb, but a little more obvious. I feel like we put all the things we like to do, and different styles we like doing, into a blender; this album is a more blended, less obvious combination of things. That's a really weird analogy but, in that respect, it's the most solid thing the band has released since the first record.

ATP: Davey Havok (AFI front man) was quote saying, "Crash Love will be the record AFI will be remembered by". Do you agree with that?
Hunter: I think so; it has everything that’s required for us to be remembered by. I hope we would be remembered by more then just one record, but certainly if there were a record to be remembered by, I'd want it to be this one.

ATP: Eight albums down the line, is it hard to pick a set list when playing live?
Hunter: Yes and no. There are a number of songs we feel obligated to play, because they are the ones that will always have the best reactions live, a lot of them are singles or just songs that have been really strong. The majority of the set is filled up with songs that would make us sell a set, which means there's not a whole lot of room for "wild cards," if you will. So, on one hand, the set writes itself, but the part that doesn't write itself, is tricky to figure out; what would fit in there, sometimes we like to throw in old songs, occasionally a cover to keep it interesting. If we actually knew how to play all the songs, off every album, it would be a lot harder.

ATP: Have you thought about playing each album in its entirety?
Hunter: We've talked about it but not as a plan, we couldn't do it. There are certain songs Davey can't sing from certain areas, he would end up having vocal surgery again, it wouldn't happen. I would say the only album we could play in its entirety would be, 'Crash Love'. We are always trying to put as much of that in the set as possible. As much as we would love to play just that, I think the fans want to hear some older stuff too! I think we do a pretty good job.

ATP: Stepping away from AFI, Tegan Quin (of Tegan and Sara) announced in 2008, that the two of you are working on a record in a, "yet to be named" side-project. Is there any update on this?
Hunter: Yeah. We decided at some point, we were both too busy to actually release any songs at the time as a band, so we would try pitching them to different artists. The first successful artist to take our songs, and record them, was Tegan and Sara; three of the songs ended up on their new album. Since then, we've had a few songs going in different places, but I think at the end of this AFI and Tegan and Sara album cycle, I think we will actually be synched up schedule wise, and actually do something together properly. 2011 will be the year of the "unnamed" Tegan Quin and Hunter Borgan project.

ATP: How would you describe the sound?
Hunter: It has a synthy, kind of, new wave thing to it. It has a lot of harmonies, darker and more electronic than either of us have ever done before. Then again, we could end up writing a bunch of songs, which could end up sounding completely different.

ATP: You are the also the vegan ambassador for Macbeth Shoes (shoe company owned by Tom Delonge of blink-182/Angels and Airwaves).
Hunter: You don't have to do much to be the vegan ambassador really; you just have to be vegan and "ambass" things! It's pretty cool. I represent the greater vegan community when speaking to Macbeth, and represent Macbeth when speaking to the greater vegan community, that's my job. I get to make vegan shoes with them every couple of years and, to me, that's the coolest thing ever; to have your own shoe, and to have something that's vegan that people can get into.

ATP: How did you get the job?
Hunter: I was asked to create the job and just be the liaison between Macbeth and people of vegan interest, and to be the face behind the vegan line. Even before I was working with the company, they always had vegan stuff. I don't know if they were any vegan employees at the time, but it's part of the whole greater culture the company is based around. I think it's really cool.

ATP: Have you started work on the follow-up to 'Crash Love'?
Hunter: No. We are not really good writing on the road, we've tried it a little bit, but the best we can do is come up with little pieces of songs that will have to be explored later in rehearsal rooms anyway. I think the best way would be, to try and write immediately when coming off the road, rather than writing at all, because it takes us so long to do it, that it will be another two years. The faster we can do this, the better, but we haven't started writing anything yet.

ATP: Will there be another single/video from this album?
Hunter: No, we are not being given the proper funds, unfortunately. I think it's just an indication of the way things have gone in the business. TV doesn't really play videos, so there are very few outlets for videos, and it makes sense not to waste hundreds and thousands on dollars on a video if it's just going to be on the internet.

ATP: AFI have been around for 19 years, and have been associated in this genre of music, despite your style evolving in your career. How do you feel, that so many bands, over the years, have taken many different parts/elements of the band, and a few have become arena selling artists?
Hunter: I've noticed things, but we don't claim ownership over anything. Anything we create, or come up with, is a collection of our influences and tastes. If people want to do a cheap reenactment of stuff that we've done, do it, if that's what you want to build your career on, that's fine. I've noticed some things but whatever. My official position on that is, whatever.

ATP: It's like the Misfits, and how many people have taken parts of their style.
Hunter: Or The Ramones. It was like, 15 years ago, I don't know where, but there was a press release where Jerry Ramone said: "I quit, so many bands have ripped us off and become huge, and we don't get the recognition." He just comes off as a whiney crybaby or something, but a whiney crybaby who's in the, Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame.

ATP: This summer you will be going on an arena tour with Green Day. How did this come together?
Hunter: We've been friends for a long time, growing up in the same scene, and we've tried to put something together so many times but it just falls through; like we didn't finish the record in time, or different scheduling that would mess it up. When they asked for us to go out and play with them, we were like, 'Don't let any of us jinx this!' but now it's confirmed, and it's happening, which is really exciting. Green Day are a great band and we've all been fans since we were been teenagers. It's going to be a great time.

ATP: Are you working on any other projects besides the "unnamed" Tegan Quin and Hunter Borgan project?
Hunter: I'm working on a follow-up to my 'Hunter Revenge' album, which came out ten years ago. I do one album every ten years, and I want to play some proper shows with the new material. It's always been a fun project for me and I would like to do shows, but in a way of it being economical. One of my ideas is to put together a back up band in different locations, and just travel by myself to each place; where the band know the songs really well and just support me in each place, that would be kind of cool. It's like Chuck Berry; never had a backing band, always went with the local band.

ATP: When do you think you will put this out?
Hunter: I haven't quite figured it out yet, I’ve been working on the songs since last summer and I haven't been home. Either fall, or beginning of next year, it just kind of depends on scheduling.

ATP: Any guest appearances?
Hunter: It's just me, and my friend, Jerry Alexander (drummed with Death By Stereo, American Nightmare).

ATP: What's planned after the UK tour?
Hunter: Some shows in Europe, some US dates in May/June, and some of the radio festivals; a couple of different things.

ATP: Will this be the only headline tour the UK will see with this album cycle?
Hunter: Yeah, I think we are cutting corners all across the board.

ATP: Anything else you would like to add?
Hunter: Follow me on Twitter - twitter.com/tranquilmammoth and watch Sister Salad - youtube.com/user/sistersalad.

'Crash Love' is out now on Interscope Records.

- Jon Ableson

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