Allow me to set the scene: it is a promising evening in May, the kind where it isn't fully summer yet but you can go out with a thin T-shirt and a jacket and it'll probably be fine. I am weaving through Soho's tiny, narrow streets alone and mouth is extremely dry. I am thinking about the social media website Faceparty, which was essentially MySpace but with the endgame of making out with someone moved explicitly to the foreground. I spent a lot of time on it in the mid-00s because: a) it had an option to list your sexuality; b) it was the closest we had to Tinder and; c) I didn't know how to speak to humans. I thought it was liberating. Multiple Urban Dictionary entries now describe it as "tragic".
I am thinking about Faceparty because, out of all the conversations I had on this prophetic website—which led to meeting up with someone in person a grand total of once—one subject came up more than most, because it was listed in the bios of those I was interested in more than most: AFI. Specifically, Davey Havok. Davey Havok's voice, Davey Havok's lyrics, Davey Havok's hair, Davey Havok's false eyelashes. All were of great interest to me and the sort of people I wanted to kiss in the year 2004.
It is now the year 2017, certain things have taken place for reasons I cannot explain, and I am on my way to meet Davey Havok for a date because that is the sort of thing I do for my job now. Turns out, Davey Havok of AFI had not been made aware of the context of the interview and just assumed we were to engage in an insightful discourse about music over various vegetable dishes, and not answering the many, many questions about snogging I had actually prepared.
It was OK though, because Davey Havok is the nicest man on earth. Davey Havok says "oh my god" a lot in a very endearing manner that makes you feel deeply invested in whatever it is he's talking about that you have no direct connection to. Davey Havok will ask you questions about yourself – not even out of politeness, he just genuinely wants to know your thoughts on Terrence Malick's oeuvre or the Impossible Burger. Davey Havok will spear a broccoli floret with more grace than you could possibly imagine. Davey Havok will look at a crudité platter and call it a "party". Davey Havok will address a dessert he doesn't like the taste of as if it just gained sentience and personally wronged him, and proclaim that he is "mad at it". Davey Havok is, simply put, super easy to be around – which is really quite handy when you've accidentally forced him to go on a date with you and now you're sat opposite him in a 5-star restaurant talking about Catholic school.
Noisey: What are you gonna get?
Davey: I kind of wanna get everything. Why don't we order everything on the menu that's vegan?
I think we're going to get along just fine.
Maybe since this is a pretend date it won't end in tears.
That depends, what star sign are you?
For me, certainly. You are fiercely passionate, allegedly, and I am an emotional wreck, so we'll get on really well but then you'll break my heart.
Yeah, for sure. My mother's a Cancer and she's a wreck.
I identify with her already.
Haha you're like "Yeah, I like the woman!" Are you July?
Yeah, 14 July.
[Gasps] Wait, that might be my mom's birthday. I think it is... You have the same birthday as my mom!
Well, it didn't take long for this to get weird. We might as well dive straight in from here. What would you say is the most common misconception about you?
There are so many misconceptions about me. They're endless. It's hard to say, because I think now most of that stuff really exists online and I don't really look at it. But I've had people approach me with misconceptions about sexuality, religious beliefs, drug use – anything you could possibly think, people have placed upon me. There's not one that presses upon me continuously, or that I have to dispel. People think I'm the nicest guy, people think I'm a dick. People think I've overdosed so many times. I've died a lot.
Well, it's nice to have you with us.
I've come back! Which makes sense, because I'm both a Christian and a Satanist and I think both have magical powers.
You went to Catholic school for a while didn't you?
I sure did.
Was is strict?
Uh-huh. Yeah, I definitely didn't like the dress code for sure. Just ill-fitting drab navy blue pants and a bad navy blue sort of work shirt. Hairstyles were restricted. No jewellery. One of the nuns called my parents in for a parent-teacher conference and my mom comes home after, and she's like, "We need to talk to you."
She's like "Sister…"—Jane, maybe? Margaret? Mary, Margaret, they were all there—"she wants you to watch this, it's got all those bands you listen to in it." I'm like what do you mean? It's a VHS, and this is back when Tipper Gore—a total drag who hated fun and art and thought—was responsible for labelling music and she got the "parental advisory" stickers going. It had Dead Kennedys and Circle Jerks and Ozzy on it. "Hold on," my mom said, "she said that you're an exemplary student and you get along with others and your grades are excellent and she's very worried about you. She sees the stuff that you draw in your notebooks and she thinks you worship the devil. Do you worship the devil?!" And I'm like, oh god, just give me the tape.
Was it about how they're all evil or was it just a sick tape full of performances?
I didn't get to watch the tape! She wouldn't give it to me! I mean I know what it is: it was talking about backmasking and the devil and Dead Kennedys being an affront to the family. They were mad at all sorts of fun. Catholic school wasn't really for me, but it educated me on a lot of really fun imagery. Good fairytales.
Do you remember your first kiss?
Chyeah. Yeah I do. My first kiss was fine, I think. I was in a car with a girl. Bauhaus was playing. My hair was filled with products. I had a bob and I remember these hands in my waxy hair and just being mortified, like, "Don't touch my hair, it's greasy!" Do you remember yours?
Bad? Boy or girl?
Wow, I feel so seen already. It was a boy. It wasn't too bad actually. Someone has a photograph of it. Anyway, let's talk about American Idiot, which you were in on Broadway for a while! How was that? You have a good voice for Broadway.
Oh, thank you! I don't know if it's necessarily true, but they let me on. It was the best time of my life. I did a lot of theatre while I was young. The first time I was on stage was in musicals, and that's something I've continued to love throughout my whole life. I dreamt of being on Broadway but I never thought it would happen because of the life choices that I made, and Billie [Joe Armstrong, Green Day] gave me that gift. It was all him. The producers wanted a "name", they wanted Justin Timberlake—which isn't to diminish Justin Timberlake, he is wildy talented—but Billie said no and made it happen.
What productions were you in when you were younger?
The first thing I was in was Oliver Twist. I was in Li'l Abner with our tour manager, who was Li'l Abner. I was in Pippin, as Pippin. I wanted to be in Little Shop of Horrors but I missed the auditions. I would love to be in Little Shop on Broadway!
It hasn't been made into a Broadway show yet but I can really see you as Cry-Baby.
How has that not been done? It really should be. John Waters was just in LA doing a reading of his book but I missed it—I was at a Pixies show, though, so that's OK. I love him. I fanboyed on him. I was out of control. I've never seen myself do that before. Every situation that I've been in where I meet someone I admire someone as much as I admire him, I've been prepared for it—I've already seen their presence, I've been introduced to them, it's comfortable. But I was in the elevator of this hotel and for some reason I was so rattled that I walked out on the wrong floor, and John was walking in and my voice raised like four octaves. "Oh my god! John! I love you! Ever since I was a teenager… Since BEFORE I was a teenager! You're such an inspiration!" and he was so nice. And tall. Have you met him?
Who would play you in a film, do you think?
Mark: Ray Liotta.
Davey: Can we get someone younger than me, please? Dakota Fanning. That'd be hot [laughs].
Is there a film that always makes you cry?
The first thing that came to mind, which I've only seen once but I assure you would make me cry: Big Fish. Man, did I weep at the end of that. I'm a crier, though. Pixar can't put out a film anymore that won't make me cry. Did you see Inside Out? That's not even for children! It's devastating. Up! makes you cry but Inside Out was made to destroy adults on a profound level. Sia makes me cry too. I saw Sia at Coachella—both performances—and thought that having cried thrice during the first performance I might not do the same thing the next weekend. That was not the case. I did cry at a Morrissey show once, but I was in a fragile spot.
So I listened to the episode of Turned Out A Punk that you did…
You listened to the whole thing? That is LONG, I'm sorry.
Your origin story with Damian is pretty unbeatable, but do you have any other wild stories about meeting people?
I have had really cool experiences meeting artists that I really admire. Robert Smith, Axl Rose.
How was meeting Axl Rose?
Okay, so... I didn't want to. Jack White was having a party at a hotel in New York after maybe the VMAs or something like that, so I went and Stac—my dear friend and life counsellor and lawyer, who is also Jack's lawyer—was there with us. Axl was there, Liv Tyler was there, Jim Jarmusch was there. Stacy is like, "Are you going to say hi to Axl?" and I say, "No, I don't know Axl," and she says, "I'll introduce you!" and I say, "We won't be doing that."
Because it's a big open room and there's booths all around, and Axl is sitting down in this booth surrounded by his management and babes and people. So he's ensconced, first of all. Second of all, I don't want to be brought over to be introduced to Axl Rose. That's insane. Axl Rose doesn't want to meet me. But Stacy takes me over and says, "Axl, I want you to meet my friend," and it's loud and she's shouting down at him and he stands up, puts out his hand and says, "Nice to meet you," and I'm like, "It's nice to meet you, I'm a singer, you're a huge influence on me, you've written what I feel is perhaps the best rock record of all time," and I'm babbling and babbling and he's just standing there smiling. He says, "Yeah, after my vocal warm-ups your record comes on and I try to sing along. That's some really hard shit to sing." And I'm like… "Fuck, oK?!" That's multiple compliments: simply knowing who I was at all, then recognising me, listening to our record and saying a nice thing about it. I thanked him and then ran around the room trying to find the different members of AFI to tell them that Axl Rose listens to and likes Decemberunderground.
Well, that's amazing.
I had a similarly great experience with the Wolf Child, Ian Astbury, who I've admired so much since I was so young. He really embraced me on many levels up on meeting him. The first time, I walked up to him and Billy Duffy—who are icons, they've seen and done everything and made everything up. We were backstage, they'd just played a festival and I introduced myself and said, "Hi guys, I just wanted to thank you, your show was great and—again—I'm a singer and you made me up, so thank you." And the first thing Ian says is, "Billy and I were talking about you. We saw your shirt. Nice shirt."
What shirt were you wearing?
I'm wearing an Alien Sex Fiend shirt. I'm like, "You… saw me?" They're like, "Yeah, we saw you in the audience, are you into the Batcave stuff?" And this is just about the best thing that's ever happened to me. So we're talking about the Batcave and Nick Cave getting kicked out of the Batcave. It was a dream come true. We became buddies. I ran into him maybe three or four years later at a Queens of the Stone Age show. He tapped me on the back and said [puts on English accent], "Davey. Davey Havok." I was with a girlfriend of mine who… Actually, you guys look a lot alike. Not anymore, she looked like you do now, then.
[Nervous laughter while I absolutely DIE]
So she's standing there smiling, and it's loud, Queens are playing, and I'm talking to Ian and I'm so excited because I know that she doesn't recognise him because he doesn't look like he did in 1984, and I'm so excited to introduce her. I say, "Hey Ian, this is Amber," and I go, "Amber, this is Ian…" and she goes, "Hi! Nice to meet you," and I get up in her ear and go, "It's Ian Astbury," and—you be Ian, I'll be her—[Davey clasps my hands and feigns melting]. She just melted. It was great.
Speaking of fame and celebrity, let's talk about your writing. Aren't you writing a novel at the minute also?
I just finished! I won't tell you the title because I wanna wait to announce that, but one of the secondary characters in the first novel is the protagonist. This is somewhat of an afterward but not a sequel, by any means. It's a similar world in a different setting—it takes place in Southern California and it's the story of a young party photographer who's part paparazzo but doesn't really recognise himself as such. He's obsessed with a socialite and has a vendetta against an ex-teen heartthrob online drama star turned dark pop star. There's guns and drugs and fashion and celebrity and parties and muscle cars and heavy metal and DJs and debauchery and darkness. It's a love story, in a way.
It must be weird writing about self-destruction in terms of drinking and drugs considering that's something you just don't do.
I'm surrounded by that, as most people are, so it really impacts me. I don't experience it on a personal level and yet at the same time I do because it affect you when that culture is so prominent. Certainly the life I live is adjacent to a lot of that behaviour, so it's really pronounced and I'm able to survive it a lot better than some of my characters. There are a lot of true stories within the greater fiction of my novels. Especially with the first novel, there's a lot of truth to that unfortunately, not necessarily personally speaking. It's crazy, I'll often times write something… And it'll happen. It's bizarre. There are things that happen in real life that if I did write it would be bad fiction, because it's so unbelievable.
What do you think you'd be doing if you weren't a musician?
If I hadn't pursued music I hope I would've had the courage to pursue acting, but it's easier to have the courage to say "fuck you" to everyone and everything if there's more of you doing it. It's better in numbers than when you're by yourself, which is the case with acting.
Wow, this creme brûlée really doesn't maintain any sort of handsome state. It is not an elegant dessert any longer! God I am so fucking jetlagged. Where are you from?
A small town in South Wales that's really far away from everything. You grew up somewhere remote too though right?
I was born in Rochester, lived in Sacramento until junior high, then I moved to Ukiah, California until I was 17. I spent the rest of my growing up in the Bay Area—in Oakland and Berkeley.
Do you think growing up in places that are suburban or rural affected the way that your attitude and approach towards music?
Absolutely. Because we were isolated we really had to look elsewhere for music that influenced us. Especially back then, it was very difficult to actually access music or information about it because you're only learning about it from fanzines and people in record stores. There was no internet. It was a real cultural thing. Being isolated, we weren't influenced by one particular scene. If we were actually from the Bay Area, which would have been the closest music scene to us, we would have sounded much different than we ended up sounding because we ended up reaching from mostly the past. In retrospect bands we were referencing we had just missed by a few years, but it seemed like a lifetime before us. We were drawing from DC and Chicago and Ohio and LA and Orange County and New York and Detroit and the Bay Area, whereas if we had been in a cultural epicentre I think we would've been really impacted by what was happening there right then. Where we were, nothing was happening. So I think our isolation was really formative, for better or worse.
Speaking of formative isolation, I think perhaps I should let you leave this restaurant now and get some rest. Thanks Davey!
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