IN PERSON, AFI’S DAVEY HAVOK IS so charming, upbeat and funny that it surprises you that this is the guy who writes tortured lyrics like “My whole life is a dark room.” From his home in Oakland, California, Havok, 30, says AFI’s seventh album, Decemberunderground, is about finding love — and is aimed at “those detached few who, in their relative abnormality, find solace in each other.” It’s the group’s most eclectic disc yet, a far cry from AFI’s doom-and-gloom punk-rock roots, and it mixes disparate influences, from Television to the Cure. The hot single “Miss Murder” even has a whiff of glam. “I’m really happy with the whole record,” says frontman Havok. But is he superstoked that December will be released on June 6th (or 6/6/06)? “I don’t put too much weight in those Christian concepts,” he says. “Does Slayer have an album out on that day? I hope so — it would be so right.”
Do you remember the first time you heard AFI on the radio?
Absolutely. I was in my 1982 Honda Accord — this was in 1995 — with my friend Tigerlily. My car had one working speaker — on the passenger side — the tape player was broken, and to get FM you needed to shove a toothpick into it. We were listening to [San Francisco modern-rock station] Live 105, and the song started buzzing out of the blown-out speaker. I turn to Lily and go, “God, this doesn’t sound like it sucks.” I turned it up and said, “Oh, my God!”
You’re vegan. When touring, what cities provide your best dining options?
New York and San Francisco, absolutely. There’s a woman who makes desserts in Philly. One year I happened to be there on my birthday, and everyone surprised me with a vegan cookies-and-cream cake. L.A. is fantastic. Chicago and Portland: vegan toast. Seattle: vegan cinnamon buns. Salt Lake City used to have vegan soft serve — not anymore. Vegas: vegan doughnuts — yet another reason to go to Vegas.
In the studio, do you decorate your vocal booth?
I do, for inspiration.
How’d you do it for Decemberunderground?
Well, there’s always Moz and Bowie and Freddie Mercury, Peter Murphy and Robert Smith. Unfortunately, our last recording session was greatly lacking in Ians — Curtis, Astbury, MacKaye and McCulloch. We couldn’t find any Ian posters. You might not be able to hear those guys in my vocal quality.
What’s your favorite lyric on the album?
I was thinking about this the other night, and a really quick lyric from “The Killing Lights” came to mind: “Am I beautiful?/Am I usable?” It’s obviously simple, but I really like it.
What recent song do you wish you’d written?
TV on the Radio’s “Staring at the Sun.” Amazing! I saw them recently. They were visceral, powerful, emotional. That song is so moody and so rich.
What music annoys the shit out of you?
Remember what was called ska punk? It was very prevalent in, like, ’95 or ’96. So much so that it was appropriate for us to say to Stormy, our booking agent, “Look, just make sure the local bands [opening for us] aren’t ska-punk bands. Ska is fine. Punk is fine. Putting those two together drove us crazy.
Is your iPod crammed?
I have a 40, and a Nano, which I use in the gym. It’s got stuff like Day of Contempt, Tool, Jawbreaker, Duran Duran, INXS…. I need a new one, but I’m holding out — I hear rumors that they’re going to come out with the 100-gig really soon.
You don’t drink — did you have a bad experience?
No. I’ve never been drunk. I’ve never even had a beer. It never appealed to me. I saw how people acted and treated each other — that’s not for me. I also saw it as very civilian, like mandatory recreation.
You’ve been the lucky recipient of fan letters written in blood. What do those say?
Nice things, usually. Professions of adoration, commitment, loyalty and appreciation — they just happen to be written in blood. Most of the stuff we get is not as unsanitary as that. I get socks, which is nice. Cute socks. Makeup. Nail polish. I get little Japanese plastic toys. Things far preferable to bodily fluids.
What do you listen to that would surprise people?
So many people have such different perceptions of who I am, I don’t know what would shock people. When I was getting my eyebrows done yesterday, a set of three songs came on and I said, “This is really great! I like these.” One was from Off the Wall, then DJ Sammy’s remix of Bryan Adams [“Heaven”] and then a Pumpkins song off Siamese Dream. Whatever show I go to, no matter what it is — and I go to a lot of them — people say, “Wow, I’d never expect to see you here.” I always say, “Where do you expect to see me?”
Sitting in the rain, listening to Morrissey, writing gloomy lyrics, maybe?
[Laughs] They never have an answer!
AFI stands for A Fire Inside. What’s your favorite alternate definition?
On a couple of occasions, people have maintained that it stands for A Fire Within or, like, A Forgotten Song, where they’ll totally ignore the letters of the acronym. And it’s nice to hear the base, derogatory stuff directed at the band — like A Fag Inside. I enjoy those. But I really like Aw, Fuck It.