Interview with: Adam Carson [drummer] of AFI

with Song River

“It's just enough of an evolution to keep things interesting...”- Adam Carson Photo Credit: Jiro Schneider

AFI is truly a band that has carefully and decidedly evolved itself over their span of 25 years. Their sound has grown and changed with the times. Still identifiable by their music badge of punk rock/alternative/emo, the element of their foundation has withstood the testimony given to only those who can claim such. By design each album created begins with a plethora of songs written, almost an exaggerated amount, but time and skill of knowing who they are and the story they desire with each album to create solidifies the best tracks to partake on each record. That is a a constant that fans of AFI have been able to depend upon.

Having formed back in 1991 in Ukiah, California the original line up were really just great friends in high school with the dream of being a rock band. Intended or not, somewhere along the line each individual that made up AFI had to decide if this was going to be more than a whim. History tells us succinctly that the choice was made, although only two of the original band members, Davey Havok and Adam Carson, stayed on their decided path, the mantra still held its flame as in the years of 1997-98 Jade Puget and Hunter Burgan joined the evolving team to bring us what AFI has become... a legend along the timeline course of punk/alt music.

The coming release of their new album, The Blood Album, is nothing short of their evolving progression. Song writing that tells a story, instrumentals that are handled knowingly, and a full length record that is a cumulative effort that scores under and above ground musically. There is something congratulatory in this, an accomplishment that isn't quite over because there is still room for more and AFI is going to continue to grow, morph, adapt and yet remain who they are. That is the key and uniqueness that AFI has decidedly mastered.

Song River: Somewhere in between the release of AFI's last album, Burials [2013], touring, and this next album, there were sixty some songs written. What was transpiring during that time to come up with sixty songs? Then, how did you all decide to cull them down to the fourteen that were released on this new album, The Blood Album?

Adam Carson: [laughed] Well, the three years that elapsed between the Burial album and The Blood Album is a little misleading. Once Burial came out, we toured for a year and a couple of months, then there was a little bit of time when we all went our separate ways and all had our reset. At some point, Davey and Jade started writing and they are really prolific writers. They just write a ton of material all the time and they will be the first to admit that not all of it is good. A lot of it is great, but there may be a song or two that just isn't working for them and they will usually cut the song right away. I suppose if you took all the hits and the misses, there probably was sixty songs total, but the amount the band got together on to work out was a lot less.

Sometime during the writing process, things do become a little more manageable. There will be only a handful of songs that we all really do love and all agree on. From there, it becomes what kind of record do we want to make and what songs will work for it. That flushes out the sort of vibe for it. Of course, there are always a few wild cards that get a couple of votes here and there, but we eventually figure out what works.

Song River: On The Blood Album's release date in January 2017, your tenth studio album, won't AFI actually have been together since the first album around 25 years?

Adam Carson: Something like that. And that is from the very first inception where we were sitting in high school and someone floated the idea of us being in a band to where we are now.

Song River: You and the lead vocalist, Davey Havok, have been friends how long?

Adam Carson: [laughed] Well, um yeah, 25 years.

Song River: Do you two ever look at each other and go, “Hey, wow! We are here.” Kind of like a 'wow' moment? Does that ever hit you?

Adam Carson: Yeah, totally. Like anything in life, it's sort of an interesting journey that we have been on. Not once did we expect to end up at this place, but at the same time, we have been working towards it this entire time tirelessly and non-stop for 25 years. So simultaneously, it is a pretty normal feeling and at other times, it's pretty surreal. It's kind of a balancing act.

Song River: With long-term drumming over the years, how do you take care of your body so your joints don't become too stressed out?

Adam Carson: A lot of stretching and paying attention to playing in an ergonomic fashion that is sustainable. I have been lucky enough it seems to develop a style of playing that helps; at least I think it does, hope I haven't jinxed myself. [laughed] I know now when I play, I definitely need to take the time to warm up.

I know this morning I sat down and started playing and kind of got carried away a little too quickly and had to stop because my hamstring was starting to hurt. I stopped immediately because I didn't want to wake up tomorrow and find myself on the 21-day disabled list.

Song River: AFI has released onto YouTube the single/video, “White Offerings” off this current album, and reading some of the fans comments, it would almost seem that some of their perceptions were AFI had finished the sound of their journey around the Burial album and they felt that The Blood Album was the next part of the AFI sound journey and direction the band might be going in.

Adam Carson: It is. Like all our albums, this record is a step in a new direction; it's an evolution. It does feel like an obvious mix, as all our records kind of build on each other. I don't feel like we get too far away from the original intent and the original spirit. I am a little close to it so it's kind of hard to judge it fairly. But I have listened to this album and it makes sense; it sounds like AFI to me. I think there are some new ideas, but it's not like we have become an entirely different band. It's just enough of an evolution to keep things interesting for ourselves and to challenge our fans, but not to necessarily lose them.

Song River: Didn't you all even try a different route on your production for this album as well? As Jade Puget [guitarist] and Matt Hyde [Deftones] worked on producing, Puget took another approach, and it sounds like it worked itself out to be more efficient.

Adam Carson: It was an incredibly efficient way to make a record. I really enjoyed it because when I was laying down my drums, it was just me and the drum tech, Walter Earl, and the engineer and the producer; it was just the three of us really focusing in on the drums. I felt like I had a little bit of room to stretch and make my drums parts what I wanted them to be.

Then, when I would finish a track, I would pass it off to Davey and Jade, and they would be working on the vocals. So, to have two different parts of the album being constructed simultaneously, it made for a quicker process.

There are a million different ways you can make a record, and we have explored just about all of them. This was a new way of doing things, but this worked and it was really effective.

Song River: When you think of the name, AFI, and you look over the discography between the albums, the singles, the EP's and everything else that has come with it, AFI is almost a household name in rock n roll. As Kleenex is to tissue... AFI is to rock. When you say “AFI” to somebody, they understand what your music means. During the time, Adam, that you have evolved with AFI, is there a recording or time that has stood out to you personally?

Adam Carson: Hmm, well, first of all, I appreciate what you've said. If that is true, that is kind of the desire of anybody who plays music. If that is true even to a really small degree, thank you. I think when you look at all of our albums and you look at the circumstances, they were made under the type of band we were; the size we were and the stage we were in our evolution. They are all important to me. I think Sing the Sorrow, obviously, is an important record for us, because it sort of symbolizes a new world that we were entering into as far as being able to get our music out to a huge range of people. But, if you go back even to Black Sails in the Sunset, that is the album where we begin to show what the band was. So I would have to say that, that is the standout for me. It's the first album with Jade Puget [guitar, keyboard, programming, piano, backing vocals] and Hunter Burgan [bass, keyboard, programming, backing vocals], so it really is the beginning there with modern day AFI.

Song River: We had a couple of fans send in questions. One wanted to know why white amps and pa's have been used instead of black?

Adam Carson: We had all white gear, total white out on stage for Decemberunderground because we felt it kind of fit with aesthetics of the album and we really haven’t used that gear since until very recently when we made the video for the song, “White Offerings.” It just turned out that it was the right equipment for the vibe of that video and we actually already had all the stuff. [laughed] It was kind of fortuitous.

Song River: Second question from a fan is: Would AFI consider doing a deluxe or anniversary edition of Sing the Sorrow with the song “Synesthesia” on it? As that song was only included on the UK version and not the US version when it was released.

Adam Carson: Sure, I'd be up for it, but unfortunately the album is owned by Universal, so it is kind of up to them to decide when and how records are re-released or even if they are. You can find the song fortunately online as a single, but actually, I really like all the re-releases and alternate vinyl and the collectability of all that stuff. I would be fine if it happened.

Song River: AFI seems to feel it is still really important to release full-length albums, instead of just dropping a single here or there as we have so much new coming at us with streaming, etc... Why did AFI want to stay with the creating of a full-length album?

Adam Carson: I think we come from a world of consuming music in a complete package. We grew up buying full lengths. My favorite records are the records that take you on some sort of journey and have ten songs or twelve songs. I think once we get into the mode of writing, it gets pretty easy for us to come up with twelve songs and as long as we have the time and resources to record them [paused] you know if we are only going to be releasing something every two years I'd rather it be something that people can sink their teeth into.

Song River: With bands presenting and marketing their music in multiple ways, do you think you can pretty much approach it all in any way you want to nowadays?

Adam Carson: I think so, and maybe doing an EP or doing four songs is something that would work as it gives you the ability to go back out on the road and have something new for the fans to listen to. But, I feel we should make it worth everybody's while and make a statement. It is important to us to say something, not that four songs can't, but it is more of a statement when you have a full-length album for people to listen to. It may turn out that most people just download the single and that's that. It's fine; we would rather make something that stands along with all our other records that define what the band is doing right now in 2016.

Song River: Looking at your Instagram, recently, you stated that you were, “Shaking off the cobwebs,” because you were performing that night at The Forum. Curious, Adam, do you still get the jitters before you perform? How does that work for you?

Adam Carson: [laughed] You have no idea!
Performing live, for any musician, but especially for a drummer, is so much about mechanics and muscle memory and so much of doing things because of its second nature. If we take too much time off between shows, it really feels like starting over sometimes and all I need to do is get one show under my belt to remember, to remind myself that I know what I am doing.

Song River: Like riding a bicycle?

Adam Carson: Absolutely! It's like everyone knows how to ride a bike, but that first couple of pedals you’re kind of like, “Do I know what I am doing? Oh, yeah I do...” Playing our first show back in three years at The Forum, is an entirely different thing. It's a cavernous huge rock arena with so much history. It ended up being such a great show, but it was something I was a little nervous going into.


Website (Tour Dates and more!) 

New Album: The Blood Album- January 20th, 2017

"White Offerings"