September 4th, 2012, 4:46 pm · · posted by KELLI SKYE FADROSKI, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
They’re best known for fronting the long-running punk rock band AFI, yet for more than a decade vocalist Davey Havok and guitarist/producer Jade Puget have also been hard at work on their side project, Blaqk Audio.
The duo began dabbling in electronic dance music (or EDM) as far back as 2001, writing dozens of songs but not officially releasing anything until their CexCells album in 2007. They played shows in support of it, though soon returned to their main group, with AFI issuing Crash Love in 2009 and embarking on another lengthy tour in support of it. With that wrapped up, Havok and Puget returned to their electronic ways, creating new material for Blaqk Audio’s sophomore release, Bright Black Heaven, dropping Sept. 11.
Several gigs have been planned to usher in the release, including Sept. 8 at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach and Sept. 14 at the Roxy in West Hollywood, both of which sold out almost immediately. As of this writing, tickets are still available for the duo’s shows at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on Sept. 7, Ace of Spades in Sacramento on Sept. 10, the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Sept. 11, and the Blank Club in San Jose on Sept. 12.
Though the album has been ready for some time, Blaqk Audio went through some back and forth with a variety of labels before Havok and Puget signed with German indie label Superball Music and set a release date. Some of the new tracks began to trickle out as early as February 2010: “Ill-Lit Ships” was played on a few Southern California radio stations, “Bon Voyeurs” was showcased on BPM, a Sirius XM Radio program, while “The Witness” was featured in last year’s Taylor Lautner flick Abduction.
And earlier this year BA toured New Zealand and Australia, opening for Evanescence. “It was fantastic over there,” Havok says during a recent phone interview. “The reaction was really strong. It was nice to see we had a fan base out there, and I got some glow sticks thrown at me, which I always take as a compliment.”
With AFI, Havok and Puget are accustomed to performing in full amphitheaters and arenas, but Blaqk Audio is predominantly playing clubs and the occasional outdoor festival. Puget says the size of the room never matters – it’s the vibe that’s created that he responds to. Havok reminds that there hasn’t been a point during his two decades in the rock biz that he hasn’t played tinier places with one project or another.
“The small venues have never really become unfamiliar to me,” he insists. “Blaqk Audio shows are more of a party than a rock show.”
The duo agrees it’s gratifying to see so much overlap among fans of both groups. “What we’re doing is so musically divergent from what AFI does, so to see some of those fans able to appreciate what we do is very satisfying,” Havok says.
“It’s nice to see that sort of open-mindedness, which is not unexpected at all. AFI fans have been nothing if not open to new music and experiences. I think within the context of both groups, we tend to stray from a particular, distinguishable format or identity, so really in either case, to enjoy the band takes a willingness to step out of musical confines. With Blaqk Audio, we really don’t fit directly into any sort of house music or current definition of electro, either.”
Not only has the EDM scene changed drastically over the last few years, the technology employed to create such music has also rapidly advanced. Puget says his abilities as a programmer have greatly progressed since CexCells; that much is certainly reflected on the new album, which is more modern than its predecessor.
“The tools that are available to someone doing electronic music are just insane,” he points out. “It’s crazy what you can do now and what’s out there. I changed platforms – I went from doing everything in (Swedish recording program) Reason to doing everything in (German counterpart) Ableton – which might not sound like much, but it’s a huge change. It changes the way you write. That has had a huge impact on (Bright Black Heaven), and whatever the third Blaqk Audio record will be, (technology) will have an even greater impact.”
Given how artists like David Guetta, Skrillex, Tiësto and Armin Van Buuren have been gaining mainstream radio airplay by teaming with various pop and rock stars, as well as the success of electronic acts at nationally heralded events like Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival and HARD Fest, it seems the release of a new BA record couldn’t have been better timed.
“I love pretty much everything that’s going on in electronic music,” Puget says. “That’s how it’s always kind of been for me. It’s always spoken to me as a style of music, whether it be industrial, electronic, progressive, drum-and-bass or dubstep – I like it all. It’s all an attraction for me.”
Havok, who grew up listening to bands like Erasure, the Human League, Pet Shop Boys, Skinny Puppy and Ministry, say he’s stoked to see a new wave of electronic music invading the scene.
“In the ’90s I got into the Chemical Brothers, the Crystal Method and Fatboy Slim, and later it was the Prodigy and Aphex Twin. Now I’m mostly into mainstream house like David Guetta, Kaskade, Deadmau5 and Afrojack. I like a lot of the stuff you can hear on pop radio now. A lot of producers who are working with some of the current pop stars really appeal to me.”
He and Puget will continue to tour as Blaqk Audio through 2013, preferring to keep their work with AFI completely separate. They plan on crafting new material with that band after they’re done touring.
Havok, not exactly a recognizable face to those who don’t follow modern rock, recently had a moment of surreal celebrity when he was caught off-guard by some excited TMZ photographers in Los Angeles and later appeared in a quick segment on the gossip site’s syndicated television show.
“It’s strange, at a time when I’ve been least in the public eye and the must unexpected person to talk to, to receive such recognition,” he says with a laugh.
“Spending a huge amount of time in Hollywood, that culture is prominent and it’s very much evident everywhere I go. The swarms around the Château Marmont are constant and it’s an omnipresent presence that always brings to mind what a difficult life it would be … to have the level of fame of a Johnny Depp or a Miley Cyrus. On one hand, there are so many perks to it, but on the other, it would seem stifling not to be able to go anywhere in the world without having someone being interested in what you’re wearing or who you’re with.
“Those TMZ moments for me are novel and flattering, but I can easily see that if it was an occurrence every 10 minutes, it would be upsetting.”
Havok, who admits he’s always been one to spend more time than he should looking in the mirror and fixing his hair before he leaves the house, says he was thankful the paparazzi caught him on a good day and not one of the rare occasions when he walks out of the gym in sweaty clothes.
“Now we live in an era where people can’t go a second without taking a photo for their Instagram, candid or otherwise, which is upsetting to me on many levels. But I guess I was prepared for that without knowing it.”
Blaqk Audio plays Sept. 8 at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach and Sept. 14 at the Roxy in West Hollywood. Both shows are sold out.
Photo courtesy of Blaqk Audio.
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