AFI (15 juin 2006)
Entrevue de Melissa avec Adam Carson
Le quatuor californien AFI à recemment fait paraître son septième long jeu intitulé Decemberunderground et, depuis sa sortie, le disque ne fait qu’augmenter en popularité. L’album se retrouve maintenant en première position du palmarès Billboard aux États Units. PunkMeUp à recemment eu la chance de s’entretenir avec un des membres fondateurs du groupe, le batteur Adam Carson à Toronto pour discuter d’où en est rendu la formation après tant d’années.
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[MELISSA] You guys took a lot of time to work on your newest record Decemberunderground, how do you think that helped the quality of the music you produced?
[ADAM] It wasn’t as if we wrote fifteen songs and spent a year refining them. Really, the time we spent allowed us to write a huge, huge batch of songs. We wrote between eighty and a hundred songs. Like every ten songs, there’s a song that will come out that just demands to be played and recorded. We wrote for about a year, had about twenty five songs and from there, we distilled it down to the fifteen that we recorded. We took our time but we were also working really hard, really prolifically. The time allowed us to make sure we took every path before we settled on the right way to play songs.
[MELISSA] So you guys had more time to explore and experiment?
[ADAM] Yeah, every step of the process was just a little longer but a little more focused as well.
[MELISSA] Would you say you guys are perfectionists or do you guys tend to nit-pick at the songs?
[ADAM] Certainly! We had a goal and that goal was to write a better record than Sing The Sorrow. Good or bad, it’s the best record that we’ve made, so that’s a daunting task to try and improve on that. Also, every time we make a record, it’s three years later or four years later and we have to reconnect as a band and figure out who we are as a band and what we sound like. You know, sometimes that takes a while to get going too. Most importantly, we wanted to make something that we were proud of and something that was better than the last one.
[MELISSA] You guys also returned with Jerry Finn. What is it about him that works for you guys? What kind of chemistry do you guys have?
[ADAM] He’s just really laidback as a producer but incredibly attentive. He’s a music guy first and foremost but he’s also a tone guy and a studio nerd. If you have a sound in your mind, if you know how you want something to sound on the guitar for example, he’ll know exactly what year, make, model of guitar to use and what combination of amp and how to EQ it on the board to get that sound! We just work really well with him. He fits in with the dynamic that we have as a band. He’s not overbearing or under-bearing, he fits right in. When you write songs for a year straight, it’s helpful to have someone come in and be pretty objective because we as a band tend to lose that after a while. It’s impossible not to be close to your song. Collectively the four of us might think that something’s great and he might come in and say that that’s not great at all and he’s not afraid of saying it either. So that’s why we like to have him around!
[MELISSA] Is there a particular atmosphere or mood that you wanted to create on this record? There seems to be a lot of chimes and things that give you that sort of cold feeling, was that intentional?
[ADAM] Cold is a good description. We didn’t actively set up to write a record that had a certain emotion but as the record took form and as we settled on the collection of songs that we’d put on it, we noticed that there was threads that were consistent throughout the whole record, both lyrically and musically. Lyrically it is cold and detached and musically it seems to be that as well. It’s kind of why there is winter imagery, it’s called Decemberunderground and has that feeling. It wasn’t like we had it all planed in advance but when you’re making a record at some point things start to coalesce or congeal and it gets easier and easier to build the record because you have the starting and ending point.
[MELISSA] As far as the whole winter and December thing, everyone’s been talking about that in articles and in the media. Is there something about December or winter that fascinates you guys?
[ADAM] It’s difficult for me to touch on that entirely because there’s so much that’s explained in the lyrics, which is the product of Dave. But, when you think about the music and the lyrics and you think about that detachment and isolation, you think about the Decemberunderground, which is the community that finds shelter underground together, it just makes sense. December is a month where lots of animals, rabbits for example, burrow and hibernate, seek refuge and seek refuge together. It’s a month that contains the shortest day of the year, it’s an interesting month!
[MELISSA] AFI’s music is always changing. Today, there’s a lot of artists that tend to stay on the safe side and put out one similar record after another if they find a formula that works. Is that something strive for to be different each time or does it just come naturally?
[ADAM] I suppose it is something that just comes natural. We’re lucky enough to have a fanbase that allows us to grow between records and we’re super thankful of that. Even if we didn’t, I think that as a band, we’d like to challenge ourselves and we like to make sure that we are breaking new ground for ourselves. And sometimes it’s a subconscious thought. As we were getting this collection of songs together, we felt like maybe we needed a song that was a little bit faster to sort of bookend or offset certain vibes that we had already. So we tried to write a fast song but we just found that every time we tried to write one, we all got a little bit bored and the practice sort of all went downhill. We’d kind of get discouraged and call it short and go home and come back the next day. We kept coming back and trying to write these fast songs but they simply didn’t interest us because we’ve done that so much for so long. That’s not to say that we can’t write a good fast song. I think we totally can but it just wasn’t challenging. Subconsciously, we didn’t have our hearts in it. When we write a record, a lot of the progression comes from pushing ourselves to try new things and a lot of it comes from subconsciously allowing ourselves to make the decisions as to what songs we like because we all as a band focus on things when they feel fresh and when they’re exciting. So sometimes, the songs sort of choose themselves.
[MELISSA] Do you think that helps you guys become better musicians?
[ADAM]Yeah, I think that every time we make a record, we’re a couple years better as musicians, so there’s more we can do. Every time we make a record, we’re influenced by different things. Everyone’s spent the last couple of years listening to entirely different music from the rest of each other and has new things to bring to the table. Dave becomes a better lyricist, Jade becomes a better songwriter and I hopefully become a better drummer. It happens somewhat naturally but you know if this is what I’m going to be doing with my life, if this is the only thing I’m going to do, I want to do it was well as I possibly can. I’m not looking forward to the day and I hope it never happens, where we put out a record and feel that it wasn’t as good as the last.
[MELISSA] People in the music industry are always classifying music and putting it into different genres. I’m sure people have tried to classify your sound in the past and continue to do so. Are you happy that your music can’t just be classified into one genre?
[ADAM] Not necessarily! I’m proud of the fact that we’re a difficult band to define but that certainly doesn’t stop people. I was reading something from our hometown newspaper, who’s never paid attention to us at all and they described us as “emo-goth-punkers”, that’s AFI, which just pisses me off! As a band, we predate emo. When we were starting, emo was really really dissonant aggressive hardcore. It was really artsy but it was extremely hardcore and virtually un-listenable. It was actually rad but what passes for emo today, is a watered-down version of pop-punk, which is fine but what the hell? I’ll be damned if I let someone call my band that! I like the fact that we tend to blur lines and you can’t really describe us that easily but that doesn’t stop people from trying to!
[MELISSA] I know you’re one of the founding members of the band. Drummers usually don’t get that much credit for writing songs. So what kind of role do you think you’ve had over the years in the band as far as contributing to the evolution of the music and so on?
[ADAM] You know, drummers don’t often get credit for songwriting and that really just comes down to what you define songwriting as. If songwriting is just the chords and the melody then yeah, the drummer probably doesn’t have much to do with it. I’m lucky enough to be in a band where everyone is just a really powerful and musical person. My job is to interpret the songs that are written. They come to me in all different forms. Sometimes they come to me completely worked out with all the parts in place and sort of the general idea of what the rhythm should be but sometimes it’s just chords and melodies and it’s up to me to provide the dynamics, the pacing and the rhythm. I have to try and figure out what the song is trying to do and how to make it move as efficiently as possible. But, what people don’t know is that they have the most control. I mean, I can play the same song a hundred different ways and those guys have no choice but to follow me. Once the song is sort of written by Dave and Jade, it comes to the band and we all get to put our own two cents in it and it sort of morphs from there. It becomes something you can mold and there are some things that you can do to affect the song and I feel like I’m getting better as a songwriter as well.
[MELISSA] It seems as though your image is very important, has that always been the case?
[ADAM]The visual aspect of the band is important but we do recognize that we are four unique individuals and somehow we all manage to express ourselves individually and have a level of cohesion were we seem like a unit. There’s nothing cheesier to me than a band that decides “Ok, we are this” and everybody goes out and gets the appropriate costumes. We’re never the ones to do that. You are speaking to probably the most reserved person of the group but I think we all have our own style and there’s enough of an overlap where it makes sense on stage. I like to think that we are able to express ourselves through our music and through the way we look. That we are able to present ourselves and do it with a level of class.
[MELISSA] What does it mean to you to have a group like the The Despair Faction ? To have a group of people who really supports you and is interested in what you do.
[ADAM] The Despair Faction is our fan club which we created to give a forum to people who want to be super super involved. We’re really lucky that we have honestly the most supportive fans that I’ve ever seen a band have. A lot of those fans really want to be involved. As a band we’ve always paid close attention to our fans and we’ve tried to include them as much as possible. We discovered that there’s a huge group of people that really want that interaction and we’re happy to do it. So we created the The Despair Faction and if you’re a part of it, it’s just a way to be a little more interactive with us! We had a batch of them to sing with us on the new record. When we played the MTV Movie Awards we were able to get a hundred of them to surround the stage. When we do things like that on tv or in the public, when normally the crowd would consist of normal people, we’d much rather replace them with our own fans. Bu that’s not too say that The Despair Faction are the elite fans and people who aren’t a part of it aren’t as dedicated. It’s there for people to get involved with if they want to. People are welcomed to be whatever kind of fan they want to be, whether it’s really passive or super involved, there’s not right or wrong way to be a part of our community.
[MELISSA] What do you get from interacting with your fans? Does it still get to you after all of these years?
[ADAM] Of course! It’s funny now that I’m a little bit older than probably the average age of our fans, I kind of see myself so much in them. It’s not always easy to be a sixteen-year-old kid. So to be a part of something that provides a foundation for them or a bonding point between their peers or something that they can say, “I’m into this band” or “This is who I am”, that’s always the hardest thing to find when you’re that age. When I got into punk for the first time, it was a great moment to be able to say, whether I was or wasn’t I was like “Ok, I’m a punk” or “I’m a skater!” and it was great and for the first time I was like, ok, this is what I am and I think that’s what people want to have at that age. So to be able to provide that, it’s a good feeling.
[MELISSA] What do you think has been AFI’s key to success or longevity?
[ADAM] I don’t know, I think we like what we do and I think we try to do it as well as we can. It’s rewarding on a small scale and large scale every day. We just keep at it. I’ve never really questioned not doing it.
[MELISSA] Have you learned anything from being in this band?
[ADAM] There’s probably a million things but I’ve learned that probably having a regular job sucks! And I’ve learned that I’m extremely lucky to be able to do what I do. It’s nice to be able to sit in Toronto, hang out for a day and then play a show.
Un gros merci à Adam d’avoir pris le temps de discuter avec nous, ainsi qu’à Marcus Tamm et Claudie Lapointe de Universal Music Canada sans qui cet entretien n’aurait pas été possible.