As Billboard premieres Material’s opening track, the '80s-influenced upbeat pop jam “Waiting To Be Told,” Havok spoke with us about balancing three projects with Puget -- AFI, Blaqk Audio and XTRMST -- why he’d love Blaqk Audio to play an EDM festival, and -- yes -- he did speak briefly on that No Doubt-related band.
Where did you find time to do Blaqk Audio with all of these projects?
Jade is always writing, so we were simultaneously writing the Blaqk Audio record and once the XTRMST record got finished and the Burials tour ended we had time to really focus on furthering the writing and recording that record. So we essentially went straight into recording material after the Burials tour was finished. Now it’s coming out. We’re really excited.
It’s interesting you and Jade have three different projects together. What does it afford you creatively to be able to do all three of these?
It’s real exciting for us to have these outlets because Jade and I come from very similar musical backgrounds, albeit very broad musical backgrounds. We would write Blaqk Audio and we would write AFI at separate times and slowly the lines started to blur. In the case of XTRMST that was not really as accidental as that because Jade and I had been talking for some time about doing a straightedge hardcore band, which had the purpose of directly furthering the straightedge agenda. Now to distinguish between all the projects and what they afford me creatively one might just listen to the music to see how different it is.
It’s very fulfilling for me to do Blaqk Audio because I’m singing in different ways than I do with a rock band, propelled to do so by way of being inspired by the electronic music that Jade makes. The electronic genre of music is something that has appealed to us for many years, since we were very, very young. Some of the first alternative music I ever heard was very synth based. The first cassette tapes I purchased with my own money were Devo, Duran Duran, Culture Club and that British side of things. That led me to Depeche Mode and so on and so forth cause those bands were very prevalent in the United States in the mid '80s. From there I got into punk rock and hardcore and the industrial bands like Skinny Puppy and Ministry. They had a techno element to it so they kind of paved the way for the more '90s big beat, new beat, trance and progressive and a lot of the great mainstream artists of those times, like the Chemical Brothers, Crystal Method, Fatboy Slim and Underworld. To this day [Underworld’s] dubnobasswithmyheadman is still one of my favorite records.
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Would you want Blaqk Audio to do one of the dance festivals?
Absolutely, we would love to do that. We played and we’re going to play the Subsonic Tent at BFD from Live 105 up north and the reaction has been great. I really love those festivals and I love that world, in part, because everyone is just there to have a great time. Everyone is just there to dance and have fun. If we had the opportunity to do an Ultra or EDC or Hard it would be really fun for us.
Who would be the dream artists to play with in that stage?
I love Gareth Emery, Tritonal, Deadmau5, the Calvin Harris singles. It’d be hard for me to pick a dream because it’s a single-based genre and so many of the hits speak to me for different reasons. We had the opportunity to open for Underworld on the last record and their audience hated us (laughs). They did not like it. I felt a pervasive sense of distaste for my prancing about and singing choruses. So I think if we sat next to someone who has more vocal choruses it would be better. If we were near a Tiësto, even a Krewella or something like that.
Was there electronic music that really stood out as shaping this album?
I kind of feel, and he might not even agree with this, a lot of the tracks really reminded me of a lot of the dreamier moments of '90s electronica that really appealed to me and was so much a part of the culture in San Francisco, like Orbital or an Olive, some trip-hoppy moments in a sense without the scratching. So there’s a dream quality on this record that was very inspiring to me and very exciting because it touched on something that I am a fan of and has been a part of me for a long time that I hadn’t gotten to explore prior to this record.
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How is your new book coming?
It’s going so well. I’m actually on my way to finish a set of copy edits and send it back to my copyeditor, we’re going back and forth right now. I’m hoping to have it out this year -- it’s looking like we should be able to. I’m so happy with it. I feel that if not good it’s at least better than the last one. And I really love it. I think it’s good, don’t know if anyone else will think it’s good. In the next two years I won’t think it’s good, but right now I’m really looking forward to getting it out there and seeing how people react to it.
Having done three projects now with Jade it must be so interesting to work with different musicians in the project with the No Doubt guys.
It is -- those guys approached me to work with them and I was really honored that they would even consider me. And when we started writing it was just sparks and it’s been great working with them. Like I said it’s a little premature to talk about it, so I can’t go too deep into it. It doesn’t sound like any of the music I’ve worked on before. I can’t say what it sounds like, so it is another outlet for me that is very inspirational and fulfilling.
Tell us about “Waiting To Be Told.”
It is the opening track on the record and it really harkens back to a genre that very much influenced Jade and I and that really was a genre that inspired us to start moving on creating Blaqk Audio, which was, at this point, 15 years ago, believe it or not. Around the turn of the century there were so many great artists making so much great music and “Waiting To Be Told,” to me, really spoke to that genre of music and that period of time in my life. Though that period of time in my life is a type of anchor for me lyrically speaking it’s a song of feeling displaced and feeling out of place. So it is a contrast, when I actually articulate that I realize that. But I am so excited for you guys to be premiering it 'cause it is the opening to the record.