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INTERVIEW: AFI’S JADE PUGET

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Photo by: Chris Anthony

AFI have been called hardcore, skate-punk, goth-punk, melodic hardcore, and more … but really, they’re just a very talented band creating deep, rich layers of sound. They’ve churned out music for over 2 decades, never settling in their ways. They’re releasing a new album, Burials, due out on October 22 and are continuing their North American tour in Boston this Monday, October 7 at Royale. A week out from their show, lead guitarist Jade Puget filled us in on the details of the new album and the hazards of the live show.

Since you joined the band in 1998, Davey has taken care of the lyrics and you guide the sounds. How have you expanded with each record and into the new one, Burials?
Ya, it’s been a long time now, and it’s still fun. The first record that Davey and I did together was Black Sails. It was definitely not very lush—that was pretty angry and fast and heavy. I started from that place to, and after time, naturally, you can only play the same fast song, screaming through the whole thing for so many years before you wanna start exploring what else is out there.

The new single “I Hope You Suffer,” has some of the most lush sounds to date.
There’s a lot of layering and instrumentation.
I started programming on the album Sing the Sorrow and then I did a lot of it on Decemberunderground. With Crash Love I consciously moved away from it, to do a stripped-down sound. But I love programming, it’s one of my favorite musical outlets. So on Burials, I brought that back and did a lot more programming and layering. On “I Hope You Suffer”  there’s no guitar on the first verse and very little on the second verse – I wanted something that was different, not just me on guitar, so I put a heavy low-brass sound and a piano and a lot of drum programming – just to create some different textures we might not have done in the past.

It’s a very dynamic song, I’m eager for the rest of Burials.
Ya, I’m excited to have people hear it. You know, we’ve only played eight shows so far on this record. When we prepping to play “I Hope You Suffer” live I didn’t know how it was going to translate. But it’s really cool, people seem to be really into it. And it just sounds so heavy live.

You’ve remained intensely innovative through the years. What fuels the creative vibes?
Davey was going through a very chaotic and dark time in his life when we started this record, which really motivated what he was writing, which motivated what I was creating. We had never come from that place before. Not even Black Sails in the Sunset was as dark. We were coming from a fast and angry perspective. We were definitely drawn to the darker and heavier sounds on this new album. Lyrically the theme is definitely chaos, panic, kind of destruction, anger; and for me, knowing where he’s coming from I had to match that. I couldn’t come in with a like ska song or something like that. I mean it’s not like the whole record is a bum out, there’s some songs that musically aren’t as dark as what he’s saying, but thematically it’s that dark kind of heavy vibe.

Were there any new instruments integrated on the album?
Where I live I can’t setup Marshall stack and turn it up to 10, so I did a lot of layering and programming electronically. When you’re writing a song and you’re putting your guitar through some software effects, the sound possibilities are endless, not like just working with pedals and amps; that has definitely influenced the way I write. With technology the way it is, Davey and I started writing in a way we’d never done before. I would write guitar, bass, drums, and come in with everything done and we’d work on melodies together, and then we’d play it back and we could tell right away how it would sound on a record. It’s so much better that way. Before I would have my guitar, he would be singing, and all we could go by was how it sounded with the two of us. Then all of a sudden, we bring in Hunter and Adam, play it live after working for 3 months, and realize something might not be as strong as we thought. It’s very liberating to work electronically. It gives you more perspective on what you’re doing.

AFI has covered “Head Like A Hole” in the past. Is Trent Reznor a large inspiration or someone you want to collaborate with?
I love Nine Inch Nails. I don’t know if it necessarily influences AFI. When we were doing that cover, he actually came to the studio, which is really cool. So I’ve met him before and he’s really cool and nice. It might influence Black Audio a little bit, because we do some stuff that might be considered – you know, some of the slower songs that are on the Nine Inch Nails side.

Recently at Riot Fest Chicago, you played “I Hope You Suffer” followed by the older, faster “A Single Second.” They went seamlessly together. What dictates your set list?
I always approach it from a fan perspective as well as being in the band, to see the stuff I would want to see live if I was in the crowd. I’m the one who makes the set list almost every single night so I definitely take a lot of time to figure it out. There’s nine records now, so there’s so many songs to use. And I try to figure out which best fits a certain amount of time to create the best vibe. Sometimes you play a different set for a festival than you would play for a live show. You know, you don’t want to put a bunch of ballads in a festival set, because it slows the whole thing down. It’s definitely trying to figure out how to fit something like “A Single Second” next to something like “Love Like Winter,” and it takes a lot of thought.

That’s a big responsibility, Jade.
[laughs] It is. Cause if the set doesn’t go well from city to city, it’s definitely my fault.

AFI has deep punk rock roots, but that’s another layer to the band at this point. Is it liberating for you to dodge that “punk” classification these days?
Punk and hardcore were very important to me growing up and definitely influenced my songwriting, it will always be there. But if you listen to our music for the last 10 years and call us a punk band it doesn’t really make sense, you know? I think somewhere along the way, I think it was on Sing the Sorrow, a journalist somewhere came up with “goth-punk” and it kind of stuck to us. It’s the most unfortunate description of a genre that doesn’t even exist. We’ve been trying to shake that one for years. Because if you’ve never heard of AFI and you read that, you’re like, “Oh … goth-punk.” With that concept in your mind, it might not be something you want to listen to and I don’t think it really describes us very well. Labels are very rarely what the band thinks their music sounds like. It’s usually created by a reviewer, or someone that doesn’t even know the band very well.

After playing with The Replacements and other greats, is there still a dream gig ?
Definitely. I’d love to play or tour with Nine Inch Nails, or Tool, or Depeche Mode; there are a lot of bands I’d still love to play with. Or Refused. AFI actually played with Refused in 1997, the year before I joined the band.

When playing your live shows, things get very intense. Have there been any accidents on stage?
Oh man, there’s been so many accidents and injuries. The day before Riot Fest Chicago I stupidly reached into my shaving bag and cut a huge hole out of my finger on my razor. And there was one show before Chicago that I just bled all over and I had a pile of bloody picks on top of my amp. So when I got on stage in Chicago I was in pain the whole show. I don’t think I showed it, though. But yeah I’ve fallen off stage. When you’re running around like we’re doing, going crazy and flailing ourselves around, there’s always danger of hurting yourself. But that’s part of it.

AFI has a pretty devoted, eager fan base. Do you ever worry about jumping into the crowd and having someone pawing at your junk?
You know, people paw at Davey’s junk all the time, and it really pisses him off cause he’s trying to concentrate on what he’s doing. But you know, when you go in the crowd, it’s your fault.

You gotta be prepared for whatever’s
going to happen.

Live photo by Scott Murry
Tweets by @hotdogtaco

About SCOTT MURRY

Art director and provider of Swedish Fish for Dig Publishing.
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