AFI’s Jade Puget Discusses ‘The Blood Album,’ Importance of Full Album Experience, Touring + More
AFI have surpassed 20 years since their debut disc and are prepared to release their tenth studio album this week. The self-titled disc subtitled The Blood Album drops in stores this Friday (Jan. 20) and it finds the band continuing to thrive creatively and musically while evolving their sound.
We recently had a chat with guitarist Jade Puget, who also co-produced The Blood Album, about the process of putting the disc together and the importance of making it a cohesive listening experience. He also shared one of his favorite album listens, hit on the development of key tracks likes "Snow Cats" and "White Offerings" and talked up the band's upcoming "Blood Tour." Check out the chat in full below.
Jade, I know you had a lot of content -- 60 songs pared down to 14. Take me into that process, when you've got that much material, what is the tying factor for you in what makes the album -- musical direction, thematic, best of the best?
We've become a pretty eclectic band I guess. Davey [Havok] and I are songwriters and that's our material that we come up with when we do 60 songs. Now if we were doing 60 pop songs or 60 rocks songs, it would probably be a little easier but because they are so different in style, it was a little difficult and it's a crazy situation when we have to choose the album based on some objective or subjective notion of what is good. Like, what is the best song? And it's hard to compare some of these things so there really is no metric for it. We just kind of blindly choose what our favorites are and hope we made the right choice. A lot got left that we wish ... there's a lot that will never see the light of day that I would love to have on this record.
When you have that much material and some get left out, do you ever use those things as jumping off points for something in the future?
There are a handful of songs that we turned into Blaqk Audio songs and so they could see the light of day that way. I always got this idea that some of my favorites will make it on the next record but by the time the next record rolls around, you know, we've written 60 more songs so those never [get there]. There's probably ten songs from Burials that I was really hoping could have made this record, and not a single one of them ended up on it.
One of these days, we've gotta get a rarities or lost songs album. That's the perfect place.
It'd be 500 songs.
You took on production duties for The Blood Album as well with some help from Matt Hyde. I know you've worked with different producers in the past. What made Matt Hyde the guy this time?
Well, it's a big change obviously me becoming the producer after so many years. I've been doing a lot of production in the background and a lot of times we sort of recreate my demos and so I figured that we should cut out the middleman this time and I should produce. But it can be weird with a band member, especially someone who writes the songs, them taking over in the studio. Having that I co-produced seemed to be the best way to smooth that transition and I had met Matt because we had the same management with the Deftones, so I had met him just being around and we hit it off and we're into the same kind of thrifty tech stuff and he just seemed to be the perfect fit for someone that I could work with and that would co-produce and be cool with the way I wanted to do it.
Because you took on production yourself this time, did that change you're approach at all, knowing after you're done writing you're also going to have to be involved with that next step?
In a way, I guess. Usually when I'm done writing a record I let someone else be the captain and it's nice to not have to do that. But this time I knew after writing, I had to transition into this next part which is gonna be just as much work. So that was a little daunting, but the benefit being it ended up being pretty cool and very creative, and quick actually. We did things in sort of a strange way, recording. I'd record the vocals with Davey, just he and I in the room while Matt was doing the drums. So that way, I'd go into the studio at the end of the day and listen to the drum tracks and tweak, change things I wanted to change. We were actually able to do it in an odd way that made it a quick project.
As I've listened to this album, it has a great flow. AFI albums in general always just seem to be a full experience. Reading one of your quotes in the PR talking about being raised on the album experience, how important to you is it, as an artist, to give the listener a musical journey from front to back?
People are always talking about the album is something people can consume. They just want to hear songs and the album is going to go away. I don't see it happening and even if it did happen, I don’t care. I would be the last band to still put out records -- that journey, not only the actual experience of sitting down and listening to a record to a group of songs that were created at the same time for the same purpose. But also, just as a band, having this one cohesive snapshot of where you are in your career, where you are as far as your influences and what you're into at that time, or what you want to be is super important for a band. To only put out single songs and maybe a couple of songs, I just feel it would dilute the message of the band. I can't imagine doing that.
Speaking of the full album experience, are there certain albums that you just love to put on and listen to the journey of where it takes you from open to close? Can you give me one that's a good full album experience for you?
There's a lot. I love to put on Revolver by The Beatles. That's not [Pink Floyd's] The Wall or something, but to me it's just -- every Beatles record is such an icon, just a huge monument. Even though they put them out less than a year apart, each one to me I love to put on -- really any Beatles record -- but Revolver is my favorite. I love to listen to that and just get immersed in where they were at in their career. I can only imagine how horrible it would be if they were only putting out single songs.
Getting into the album here, we've already previewed "Snow Cats" for one. Can you talk about where that song comes from, and where it came in the process of putting this album together?
Easily once every record I like to do a song in 3/4 timing, that waltz time. Since it's an odd time signature, you don't want to overdo it too much. So I wrote this song sort of by myself, and I wrote the entire thing out -- did all the drums, bass and guitar. I arranged it, but after I did it I was like, I don’t know if we really need to do a song like this on this record. So I put it aside and kind of forgot about it and I came back to it a month later and was like, you know, I'll just send this over to Dave. Maybe it'll spark something. I had really kind of dismissed it. So he came back, usually we work face to face together and work on melodies together but this time because I didn't really have much confidence in the song, I just sent it over to him and had him do it by himself. He came back with this great melody and these great lyrics. The song really came together and all of a sudden I was like, and it had been weeks, but I was really kind of bummed on myself for not giving it a chance. I almost didn't even send it. I'm really glad I didn't make that mistake.
"White Offerings" as well came around the same time. Let's get into that one ...
That one was a pretty easy song. We've had this other song that was a similar one, very riffed based, chorus and style. We worked our asses off on trying to bring it together and it just would not come together. We couldn't get a vocal on it that we felt was good enough and wwe really wanted this song to be on the record to kind of balance it out. So, we were frustrated so we sat down one day and off the cuff, I just started playing that chorus riff and we made it up on the spot. And we just wrote this entire song really quickly that was in the style of the other one, but this one worked. It was cool that we called it that, in a different way.
Having seen how the video for "White Offerings" goes into "Snow Cats," is this going to be something that we tie a lot of the songs together or was this pairing a one off deal, putting the two videos together?
We shot those videos back to back days with the idea that they would go together. So, that was one director as well. I don’t think we tried to connect the videos but I like that idea, maybe in the future if we were able to shoot back to back videos again. That would be something cool. Maybe shoot a video that connects to something earlier in our career. I like doing stuff like that I think our fans like that stuff. It'd be a good idea.
I also wanted to hit on "Hidden Knives," which is a favorite off this disc ...
That was another one that we just did off the cuff. I just kinda made up all those parts on the spot and Davey was riffing on melodies and came up with that really hooky / chorus melody. It really came together easily and it's nice when songs come together like that. Sometimes you'll have to really work on something and have to grind it out, and then sometimes it just appears magically. That was one of those magical ones and I'm really happy with the way that turned out.
Having heard the album, I can't wait to see you live. Have you started thinking about set lists and what songs you want to try to get in off this album? What songs are you most excited to share in terms of the live show?
I make the set lists, so it's a very - the more records you put out obviously the more involved the process is because now we have ten records and a handful of EPs to chose 18 songs to play in one night. It's very difficult. I have to please the other guys in the band, and I have to try and please the fans who will be there. It's kind of a balancing act. As far as this new record goes, it's always a thing with a new record where you feel - you record a song and you're like - oh this song live is gonna be so great. Then you get out there and it doesn't connect the way you thought it would. But then another one which you didn't even plan on playing live, that ends up being a really great live track. So it's kind of a trial and error process. There are songs like "Dumb Kids," which I feel like would be a really fun song to play live. I really love that one. I would love to play some of the stuff like "Aurelia" and hopefully that one will connect live.
"The Blood Tour" is coming up here before you know it. You got Souvenirs, Chain Gang, 1974, Nothing. Anything you can share on the bands that will be joining you on this trek?
It's kind of a nice mix. We've never toured with Chain Gang or Nothing before but, I heard Nothing's new record and I was immediately taken by it and I got their previous record. Theyre so good, I love that style of kind of shoe-gazey, super melodic stuff. I told our management, can we bring this band on tour? They're awesome. I would love it. Our fans would really appreciate this stuff. Luckily it happened. I'm going to be real excited to be able to see them every night. Chain Gain is great, fun music. I think our fans will like it. I think the Souvenirs are very cool kinda moody stuff, and I think you're gonna get something different from each of those bands and something different with us. So, I think it's a pretty good package -- one of our best in a while.
In terms of the stage show, last couple of times I've seen you it's been more of a support role. Are you looking at straight up, we're gonna go up and play rock show? Will there be any major production involved? Any extras you are looking at in terms of bringing to the stage show?
There is production involved, but we're not one of those bands that brings a giant production out. I wish we could. It's just, you know, that's not really the reality. If we could bring out NIN's production, that'd be amazing but we bring our own sort of scaled down version of production. But I think it'll be cool. We're doing some things on this tour that we haven't done before with lights and syncing to our songs. We're doing screens - so they'll be some stuff our fans haven't seen before. I'm excited to see it myself.
In terms of the side projects. Blaqk Audio, XTRMST ... you mentioned before that some of AFI's songs may eventually go to Blaqk Audio songs. Does it ever work in the opposite direction when you guys are working with Blaqk Audio and XTRMST. Does that ever influence something you want to do with AFI?
Probably not in the case of XTRMST just because that music, I don’t think it translates to AFI or anything else, really. The interchange of Blaqk Audio and AFI is a thing though. "Love Like Winter," which is one of the biggest AFI songs, was originally a Blaqk Audio song. Like I said, on this new record. I'm switching formats on some songs that we wrote for AFI and intend on making them Blaqk Audio songs. It's easy for me to just take the organic instruments from an AFI song and just turn them into synths and keyboards and all of a sudden it's a Blaqk Audio song. For Davey and I, I think that transition is pretty easy.
What's on the horizon for AFI?
We're moving onto this tour here pretty quickly. Then we're going to the UK with the Deftones, then back to the UK to play Download Festival. We also have other stuff in the works that really isn't booked yet but we're planning on some more stuff in the summer. We'll probably play some festivals and hopefully just get out there and play these songs.
You mentioned Deftones, Matt Hyde and bringing it all back around together. Can you talk about the relationship you've had with the Deftones?
We really didn't know those guys up until recently. We have the same management, so they were really cool guys. When AFI went to Australia on the last record, we played side shows from Soundwave Festival and we put Crosses on those shows. We played with Chino [Moreno]. They're just cool dudes. Now they're taking us out in the UK, which is awesome. Hopefully the music speaks for itself and I think it's gonna be real interesting, that package. I think the AFI / Deftones thing in the UK, I hope and think it's gonna go over pretty well.
Our thanks to AFI's Jade Puget for the interview. The band's brand new effort, 'AFI (The Blood Album),' arrives in stores on Jan. 20 and can be pre-ordered via Amazon, iTunes and GooglePlay. And as Jade stated, "The Blood Tour" gets underway soon ... this Friday (Jan. 20) in fact. See all of their scheduled dates here.
Watch AFI's "Snow Cats" Video
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