By Shannon Carlin
Davey Havok isn’t happy.
The frontman is disappointed by the tone of his band AFI‘s latest album, Burials, which is once again dark and gloomy. But Havok– born David Marchand– isn’t disappointed in the songs that make up his band’s recently released record. He actually thinks this one is lusher, more layered than their previous release, Crash Love, which came out four years ago and, to him, is a real “straightforward, rock record.”
No, Havok is upset with himself, frustrated that he couldn’t pull away from the darkness long enough to write an album that didn’t focus solely on his personal pain.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to make it personal,” Havok told Radio.com a few weeks before the album was released. Which is certainly a good thing, being that Havok has made a living out of venting.
He tends to keep things vague and rarely talks about his actual personal life. But even so, fans take to the message boards on a daily basis to try and crack Havok’s code. They want to figure out what is bothering him, but more often than not, the fans just end up sharing their own stories of how the songs helped them get through the rough times.
“I’m disappointed that I was forced to return to that expected darkness that I feel is something, at this point, that has just been revisited so many times by us and by me that it’s becoming trite and expected,” Havok said. “It would be more gratifying to me in a way to have something else. But I didn’t have anything else.”
He added: “I can only be honest in what I create and that’s all I had.”
Havok doesn’t get into detail of what exactly was going on in his life right before he started working on Burials, but he does describe the album as “upsetting.” Not only for himself, but for those listeners who find some kind of personal connection to the music.
Havok and the rest of the band—drummer Adam Carson, bassist Hunter Burgan and guitarist, Jade Puget, who takes care of the instrumentation—worked on the album in the Hollywood Hills. “It was very much hunched over in a dark room,” Havok said. “It was not glamorous.”
The guys spent a year in that room, writing every day for hours and hours on end, sometimes they didn’t even bother to turn on the lights. Most of the lyrics, Havok says, were written in a stream of consciousness and in the end they came up with nearly 70 songs that they whittled down to the 13 that now appear on the record. He says the room itself played a big part in the sound of the album.
“It would have been a completely different record had we not had the ability to write in the way that we did,” Havok explained. “And had we not had that environment to facilitate our creation.”
The extra time spent working the record helped save certain songs that needed a little extra love and care like the closing track “A Face Beneath the Waves,” which happens to be Havok’s favorite, and “I Hope You Suffer,” a song the band revisited multiple times in hopes to find the right mood that would really give it that extra punch.
The song is very direct with its chanting chorus of “I hope you suffer/ Just like I suffered.” But it’s the way those words roll off Havok’s tongue, with just a hint of venom, that makes it hard not to think of someone that you wouldn’t mind inflicting a little pain on. “I would hope,” Havok said with a smile, explaining that was his intention all along.
A look at the tracklist and you’ll see titles like “A Deep Slow Panic,” “Anxious” and “Heart Stops” and you get a sense of the world that Havok was living in and why perhaps he couldn’t wait to get out of it. “There was a catharsis in the writing process and there was strangely distance from what I was experiencing,” he said. “Despite there being focus on that chaos within the content of what I was creating, it allowed for an escape, which was a strange dichotomy. But it was there and so that was very, very helpful in a way.”
Though the writing of this album was therapeutic, Havok prefers to leave it behind.
In a note to fans about the recording process, which touches on working with producer Gil Norton (The Pixies, Foo Fighters) for a few short weeks in the same studio where Pet Sounds was recorded, Havok writes: “Therein we played and sang and gave all of ourselves to the creation. Gil and his diligent engineer, Dan, did the same. They worked til the small hours of the morning – 7 days a week – even on Gil’s birthday…Amidst the tension, we realized our 13 songs of Burials.”
But Havok isn’t precious about the music and asks fans to take these songs, these terrible memories, off his hands, ending the note with the message: “They’re exactly as we’d hoped, yet they’re no longer ours. Take them.”
Havok has always felt that the songs belonged more to those who listen to them then those who made them, but this time around he was even happier to give them new ownership.
“Certainly, I hope that everything we create, that the people who appreciate what we do can appreciate it on a personal level and take something from it that they need,” he explained. “And you know, that was definitely the case with this. More so though, I would like it out of my life.”