LOS ANGELES, January 23, 2014 — AFI is a band that seems to morph a little bit with each album. If you listened to only the first album, Answer That and Stay Fashionable, and their latest album, Burials, you would swear they were two different bands. If you listened to every album the band made in order, you would hear how a band can change slowly over time by building upon each record. AFI drummer Adam Carson took some time to speak with Wells On Music back in September regarding AFI’s ever changing sound, recording the new album, touring, and rooting for the San Francisco Giants.
Scroll below video to read interview.
Kevin Wells: What made you start playing drums?
Adam Carson: I come from a pretty musical family. My dad was a drummer in the 60s in San Francisco. So there was always a lot of encouragement there. He didn’t actually own drums when I was born at that point, but when I first expressed interest in drums, he was really keen to help me get started. I guess around six or seven I was drawn to them.
KW: How did you get into punk rock?
AC: I got into punk pretty much through skateboarding, maybe when I was ten or so. My cousin gave me an old Zorlac, Metallica Zorlac deck and I started reading Thrasher Magazine. Back then, punk and skateboarding really went hand in hand. It sort of sent me down the path, you know?
KW: Which AFI album was your favorite to make?
AC: The album I’m most proud of, and I’m sure any musician will always say this, is Burials, our new release that’s about to come out. I’m really proud of the way the drums turned out. I’m really proud of the band. It really is a well-rounded record and I think all of us, as performers, sort of focused on what we know how to do, but we also showed a lot of restraint in places, knowing that what’s best for the song is what we’re not doing. So, yeah, I’m most proud of our most recent.
KW: How did the writing process go for Burials?
AC: You know, it was slightly different this time. Jade [Puget] and Davey [Havok] would get together and sort of work on ideas. Because they live in L.A. and I live in San Francisco, I would get demos of the songs and from there kind of try to decide how I wanted to approach it. So, I spent a lot of time working on the songs by myself. Then when we got together as a group to further refine them, that process was a little more streamlined because everybody had spent time with the songs and an idea of what they were trying to accomplish.
KW: How did the recording of the album go?
AC: Well, we worked with Gil Norton, who is a really amazing producer who is responsible for a lot of great records. He’s responsible for The Pixies records and I think he did the most recentFoo Fighters record. If you look at his credits, he’s been involved with a lot of great projects. He really helped us capture each song and make the song sound the way it needed to. There’s lots of different recording approaches that we took, especially with the drums. We used a lot of experiments with room compression and making certain elements of the drums really bombastic and other elements kind of dry and tight. It was a really cool process.
KW: AFI’s sound seems to morph a little with each album. Is this a conscious decision?
AC: I don’t think it’s intentional, but I think with every record we grow as people and we grow as artists, we grow as performers and we’re never really happy making the same record twice. We don’t premeditate it. We don’t sit down and decide, okay, this is the new direction, but every time we’re finished with a record, we realize we have grown, you know, we kind of have a slightly new sound, a slightly more refined sound.
KW: How long will AFI tour on this album?
AC: I don’t know. We just got started. Hopefully we spend a better portion of the year supporting Burials, but maybe it will be longer, maybe it will be shorter. We don’t really know. At the moment we’re anxious to go and play in all the cities we’ve played before and try to play in front of a new batch of fans.
KW: Is touring easier now than it was during the Nitro years?
AC: Yes and no. It’s easier in the regard that in 2013, we have a little bit more money to make sure we travel a little more comfortably, you know, we’re in a tour bus instead of a 16-passenger van. We get hotel rooms instead of all cramming into one or sleeping on a friend’s floor, but on the other hand, this is like our 15th year of touring, or something like that. After a while, the years kind of drag on you, but it’s certainly just as fun touring now as it was back then.
KW: Do you miss playing the smaller shows?
AC: We are playing the smaller shows. [laughs] This tour in particular is a lot of small rooms. I would never only want to play really large shows and I would never only want to play really small shows. Sometimes we’ll play a venue that’s 500 people or 800 people and sometimes, just last weekend, we played a festival in front of 30,000 people. So, we get a pretty good cross-section.
KW: AFI used to release EPs, but since Sing the Sorrow was released the EPs ended. Why did you guys stop releasing them?
AC: I’m not sure. I mean, usually when we get together and get in the studio, we have a specific mission and it’s to record 12 or 13, 14 songs that we think work well together. If we felt the need to release something and wanted to go in and just do four songs or something like that, then I suppose we would, but it really hasn’t happened in the past. Especially these days, with so many digital downloads, there is often times you need an extra song here or there for iTunes or for, you know, Australian release. Any extra songs we do record tend to get used in that way. So, there’s not always enough songs left over to do EPs. We’re not opposed to it. We didn’t consciously stop doing EPs, but we have just been more focused on making complete albums these days.
KW: I have always wondered, why did you re-record “Yurf Rendenmein” and “Two of A Kind” and put them on Very Proud of Ya?
AC: To be totally honest, we had just signed to Nitro Records and I’m not exactly sure they had faith we would write a record that was in their opinion as good as the last one, which is ridiculous, but they encouraged us to rerecord those. It seemed like a good idea. In retrospect, when I listen to that record, there’s something like 30 songs on it and it was totally unnecessary to do that, but whatever. Now there’s a couple different versions of those songs.
KW: I am a Dodger and A’s fan, I have to ask, why are you a Giants fan as opposed to an A’s fan?
AC: My question is, why am I still talking to you if you’re a Dodgers fan? [laughs]
KW: That’s why I saved it for the end.
AC: I am a Giants fan over an A’s fan just because I grew up and my family were Giants fans and I think that’s generally how it gets passed along. I grew up two hours north of San Francisco. I did live in the East Bay for seven or eight years, but at that point, I already had a childhood of being a Giants fan. It’s usually whatever game your dad takes you to the first time. I was six.
KW: Are you glad to be on tour now to take your mind off the Giants’ season?
AC: Ouch, man. [laughs] Yeah, it is a bit of a distraction. It hasn’t been that great of a season, but it’s been a pretty good last three years.
AC: Depends on who you ask, I guess.
KW: Yeah, I’ve had a miserable last three years.
AFI’s new album, Burials, was released on Republic Records on October 22.
Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News. He also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music, and food. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball