Staff Picks: XTRMST
The new side project from AFI’s Davey Havok and Jade Puget drops an exclusive digital collection as a BitTorrent Bundle.
Long before they came together in AFI, it was the camaraderie of a small movement of straight edge fans and bands in Northern California that would connect Davey Havok and Jade Puget. Committed supporters of the straight edge movement, the duo have returned to their hardcore punk roots with XTRMST. First distributed covertly on anonymous cassettes scattered through Los Angeles, their audacious debut album officially dropped on November 17th on fellow hardcore kid Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak Records. Today, XTRMST is bringing the straight edge scene to BitTorrent Bundle.
“Yeah, you think you’re so wild but your counter culture falls straight in line. You want resistance? Then look to mine.” Davey Havok, Conformist
Download the XTRMST Bundle to unlock the exclusive XTRMST digital zine; a Davey Havok-curated collection of interviews, stories and reviews from the straight-edge scene; a never-before-heard XTRMST song “Little King” as well as a first look at the making of their latest music video for “Conformist”. We had a few minutes to chat with Havok and Puget about XTRMST, the straight edge scene and the new XTRMST Bundle. Read up.
BitTorrent: You’ve said that you guys always talked about start a straight edge project, but it came down to finding the time to do it. Was there any additional catalyst to start working on songs for XTRMST while working on the Burials sessions with AFI?
Davey: The Burials session was going very well and we were tracking with ease. Jade and I were just musing on doing a straight edge band again. Jade said let’s just do it, or maybe he didn’t say that, it was probably him just showing up with music. I think that’s what happened.
Jade: It was mainly just the fact that we were in that writing mode. And we were getting together almost everyday to work on music. It just made sense to do it right then. I never really tried to write songs in that vein, we just talked about it. Once I sat there and started coming up with material, it all came together and was really easy and fun and creative.
For me, it was very exciting to be able to touch on things that I’ve never had the opportunity to touch on before that are very much important to me and very much apart of me. XTRMST really gave me that opportunity. – Davey Havok
BitTorrent: Was it creatively liberating to work on a completely new project with no real expectations while working on your 9th album with AFI?
Jade: Originally, we weren’t even thinking of putting this out. It was just like let’s write these songs. Even when we finished the record, we started giving out free cassette tapes that didn’t even have our names on them. We kind had this notion that people would’t find out it was us. But Davey’s voice is so distinct, so that was never in the cards. There was no plan involved so it was nice to go into something where there was no pressure on us to do anything but make music
Davey: There was definitely a stark difference to the tone that surrounds the creation, both literally and figuratively speaking, as we were making the XTRMST record compared to the Burials record. It was and always is very liberating to do something that has no history, that is completely new. For me, it was very exciting to be able to touch on things that I’ve never had the opportunity to touch on before that are very much important to me and very much apart of me. XTRMST really gave me that opportunity.
BitTorrent: How was it to balance working on two very different albums at the same time?
Davey: It was really easily done. Jade would usually have a complete piece of music, well not usually, always. He would show up with a complete piece of music that was an XTRMST song. That was definite. So there were no questions involved in what that song would be. I would take the song, and within the context of hardcore, there’s no question of melody, there’s no question of any sort of hook. It’s very lyrically driven and musically driven, so the songs came about so easily. Especially because I was certainly not at a loss for word regarding the topic.
Jade: It was easy because with XTRMST, we’re not trying to write anything to please anyone. With this, I just wanted to something chaotic and crazy and write the wildest riffs that I could write. A lot of the stuff I did off the top of my head. I just wrote a lot of it off the cuff and just recorded it. It’s really fun to write music like that.
Then I found Minor Threat, and I couldn’t believe there were people who shared my affinities and my aversions. It was really so moving and truly life changing, or life affirming I should say. – Davey Havok
BitTorrent: What were your first experiences in the straight edge scene?
Jade: The first time I heard about straight edge and what it was was in the mid 80’s. When I was in junior high, some kid told me about Minor Threat. I wasn’t immediately straight-edge upon hearing Minor Threat, but in the late 80’s, when all the New York hardcore started happening, like Bold, Youth of Today, and Judge and all that stuff, then I became more and more into it and started claiming straight-edge in the late 80’s.
Davey: I was part of the alternative and punk rock scenes and was so immersed in that as a young person. But at the same time, I found no appeal to the self-destructive behavior of the majority of the people in those scenes and the majority of the people in the world. I always thought there was a disconnect between the punk rock community and their need to destroy themselves and destroy relationships. Then I found Minor Threat, and I couldn’t believe there were people who shared my affinities and my aversions. It was really so moving and truly life changing, or life affirming I should say.
BitTorrent: Were there any guiding principles around how you wanted to build your audience and fan community with AFI that allowed the band to continue to grow over the years?
Jade: Luckily, AFI was super organic. Let’s just make the music that we like and put it out there and people respond to it and become fans of ours. We would play shows and people were fucking awesome and we’d talk to them after the show, and they’re intelligent and they are listening to us because of our music not because they saw us on MTV or something. It was always a super organic growth with the band. Even today, I still get that same feeling when I talk to kids, the same feeling I got when I was talking to kids on the Black Sails tour.
Davey: When we began the band, we started because we loved to play music and we wanted to play music. We loved punk rock and we wanted to being in a punk band so we started making songs that we liked. So we continued doing that, and continued playing them and all we wanted to do was play. As we were doing so, eventually we became a part of a community. We were playing Gilman St. every month and when we started playing, we were really playing for our friends. We knew everyone in the crowd. Somehow that translated and continued to follow us as we grew in a way that we really didn’t and wouldn’t been able to have control over. A lot it was the great fans that we have.
It was always a super organic growth with the band. Even today, I still get that same feeling when I talk to kids, the same feeling I got when I was talking to kids on the Black Sails tour. – Jade Puget
BitTorrent: Do you think the same ideas apply in social media and the digital world?
Jade: It’s certainly harder and a lot different. We’re in a weird position because we straddle both eras. We came up in an era where the way you connected with fans was talking face to face at shows or maybe even answering a fan letter. Now, there’s sort of this need to be more immediate through social media. I understand it, you know the Internet’s been around for a minute now, but I still feel weird about tweeting stuff and putting out all this extraneous information that doesn’t have to do with music or the band. It’s hard to figure that out when you come from a time when that wasn’t the norm.
Davey: I don’t know the answer to the question. My natural inclination is to say no, but I wouldn’t want to sound cynical in saying that, so I would say I don’t know. When we were growing up, it was about making music and playing music and touring music as much as you can. Building a following and a community by playing and touring and the rest will follow, and for us the rest did follow. I feel that there are out there, young people who are playing shows, going to shows, and touring. I know some of them and I ask them if it works the same way. What do you think?
BitTorrent: I think there are fans that will always find that organic way to discover music and will manipulate social media to do that. And some fans won’t. It’s such a powerful tool. If I was 17 and discovering music, if I could just type and start digging through bands, I would take that and run with it. I do think those fans are still out there.
Davey: I think a lot people do do that. I have found that people no very little about a lot of things. They know nothing about everything (laughs)…but finding a song finds you a song, not a culture. Maybe you don’t know even know who the band is.
BitTorrent: Indeed. The resurgence of vinyl is a nice thing to see though, that there are fans who want a more engaged experience.
Davey: That is really cool. I agree with that. It’s really a testament to the polarization of how people listen to music. That’s there’s the purest form or something completely intangible.
Back in the day, a zine was super crucial to the scene…Just looking at the zine we did, the type face, and the shitty copied pages, I have such warm feelings for that. – Jade Puget
BitTorrent: Can you tell us more about why you guys teamed with BitTorrent Bundle and what fans can expect from the XTRMST Bundle?
Davey: We did it for people who want more from music and enjoy having a tangible thing to appreciate and look further into. We created the zine as a means of looking further into the straight edge community. It really illustrates different perspectives of our own community, but does define it in a very clear way through personal stories and different histories. We just wanted to offer something more for those people who were interested in more than just pulling one or two songs.
Jade: Back in the day, a zine was super crucial to the scene. That’s where you found out about other small communities of punk rock or hardcore. Just looking at the zine we did, the type face, and the shitty copied pages, I have such warm feelings for that. Even when we did the cassette tape, it’s bringing these things that were around when we started listening to hardcore and combining that with the contemporary release of a BitTorrent Bundle — it’s the best of both worlds. Both the super modern and futuristic thing which is BitTorrent, and the zine which is a throwback to hardcore roots.
BitTorrent: How did Dim Mak and Steve Aoki get involved to release the album?
Jade: We were trying to figure out, once we decided we couldn’t do this anonymously, we thought should find someone to put this out. We were talking about different labels that put out this kind of music, and someone said what about Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak Records. Most people know him now as a DJ, but he’s got a Gorilla Biscuits tattoo on his back. He was a straight edge, he was in straight edge bands. He really knows what we’re doing and really gets where we’re coming from. It’s a perfect place to put this out.
Davey: I’ve known Steve for years. We first met when AFI stayed at his house – Steve was part of Pickle Patch in Santa Barbara. He was a hardcore kid – he played hardcore, he had a hardcore label, the first record he put out a straight edge band. When we finished XTRMST I thought, I bet Steve would be into this. He heard it and he really was. He was really excited about it which was so nice, because he’s a friend and because we know Dim Mak of today is different than the label when it started. It’s great. They’re really wonderful.
BitTorrent: How do you listen to music these days?
Jade: I listen mostly on my iPod, my old school classic, in my car. That’s when I feel like I’m listening to music, really focusing on it and enjoying it.
Davey: Most of the music I listen to is on the radio in my car, which is satellite radio.
BitTorrent: Any artists or albums from 2014 you’re particularly enjoying right now?
Jade: Everytime I get asked this question, I blank and just forget what I’ve been listening to. I’m working on a new Blacq Audio album so I’ve been listening stuff that’s like Broods, which is not entirely an electronic record, but it’s that indie/electronic thing. Churches, the new Cavalera Conspiracy record is pretty crazy. Crywolf and Alvin Risk which is some electronic stuff. The new Knife Party record is really cool, yea that kind of stuff.
Davey: A lot of the new Marina and the Diamonds song that recently came out as well as The Presets. They have a few new singles out. The record isn’t out but if it was out I’d be listening to that. The new Knife Party record. I love the new Sia record, I was listening to that a whole lot when it came out. I’m trying to think…I believe it was this year, but the last Glitch Mob and Mogwai records. I listened to those quite a bit.
XTRMST BitTorrent Bundle
01 XTRMST Digital Zine [Art]
02 Exclusive XTRMST Track “Little King” [Audio]
03 “Conformist” Official Music Video [Video]
04 “Conformist” Making of the Music Video [Video]
05 XTRMST Wallpaper [Art]
06 Link to Purchase XTRMST Vinyl [Link]
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