AFI by Anne Erickson

California-based AFI serve up a regal style of alternative rock that stems from a dark, mysterious place. The band is set to release their ninth studio album, Burials, on Oct. 22, and the album features the group’s trademark punk-influenced riffs, soaring choruses and poetic lyrics.

“I tend to write choruses that are big, sweeping, if possible, so I wanted to get just a massive, thick, crushing guitar tone for the choruses,” AFI guitarist Jade Puget told, regarding his guitar philosophy on Burials.

“For the verses, a lot of them are more moody with angular guitar riffs, so I wanted to switch it up and have a completely different tone on the verses,” he added. “I wanted it more vibe-y (for the verses), but to have the choruses be more straight-forward and just big.”

Puget and I chatted more about Burials, what it was like working with famed producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters, Echo & the Bunnymen) and why “you can’t go wrong” with a Les Paul. To stream the interview, go here.

Also, check out live photos from AFI’s recent Detroit show right here. At the gig, the band pleased longtime fans and newbies alike with a wide range of AFI material, “The Leaving Song Pt. II,” “Love Like Winter,” “17 Crimes,” “I Hope You Suffer” and “The Days of Phoenix,” among others.

Congratulations on your upcoming album, Burials, out Oct. 22. Did one song lead the way for the rest of the album?

It’s a pretty eclectic album, so it’s hard to choose one song. I guess you can say that the first song you write really kind of sets the tone, and that’s a song called “No Resurrection.” So, if I had to choose one song that encapsulates the album, it would be that song.

AFI by Anne Erickson

This release seems different from AFI’s last album, Crash Love, in that it’s a bigger production. Would you say that’s accurate?

Yeah. Definitely on the production side, as far as sound design and programming, I did more. That’s been part of the AFI sound for years, but on the last album, I kind of stepped back from that a little bit and made it more about just the instruments. But on this one, I definitely brought back all the big production and grandiose stuff.

Why did you decide to work with producer Gil Norton on this release, and what was that experience like?

We almost worked with him, actually, on our last album. Obviously, he’s an amazing producer. He’s been producing records since the early-‘80s and late-‘70s. He did the Pixies’ records—all these great, classic records that we love. He’s a really cool guy and really easy to work with. So, it was pretty easy to go with him.

Where does Burials fit in AFI’s general discography?

Like all of our records, when you listen to them, they all stand apart, and part of it is that is because we take so long to record a record, so by the time we put a new record out, we’re in totally different places as far as what we like to listen to and what we write. This one is hard to really compare it to any one that came before it, because it doesn’t really sound like any one that came before it. It just has a good snapshot of where Davey (Havok, lead singer) and I are as songwriters right now.

AFI by Anne Erickson

Let’s talk guitars! You’re known as a loyal Les Paul player. Why does the Les Paul appeal to you?

My first guitar that I ever played in a band, and really my first electric guitar, was a Les Paul Studio, so I luckily got to start with a great guitar—I didn’t have to start with some cheap knockoff or something. That kind of set the tone for the rest of my life and my career as a musician, and I’ve been playing Les Pauls ever since. They sound great. They look cool. It’s the best guitar, in my opinion, all around. To this day, I have a ton of Les Pauls. I play them onstage, and I play them in the studio.

What were your go-to Gibsons for recording Burials?

I have this “Cloud 9,” which is this limited-edition chambered reissue Les Paul that I just sort of happened upon, and it’s the greatest-sounding guitar and my favorite guitar I’ve ever had. I used that one for a lot of the guitar tracks on this record. I have a couple other Les Paul Studios I used in there, especially for the rhythm stuff, because they really complimented each other.

What makes a Gibson guitar special?

The sound of it, of course. You have to have a good-sounding guitar. That’s pretty much the No. 1 concern. Then, the look. They look classic. No matter what Les Paul you play, it’s going to look cool. There’s a lot of history behind Gibson. You can’t go wrong with a Les Paul. It’s just a great guitar.

AFI by Anne Erickson

Who are you main guitar influences?

I started out as a punk rocker and a skater, so I wasn’t really about guitar heroes when I started playing guitar. It wasn’t about shredding or looking up to those guys that could shred and those virtuosos. I was really into Robert Johnson when I was a teenager, who obviously was the greatest blues slide guitar player ever. I looked up to the punk bands, and they weren’t about being some flashy guitar player. The guitar player for Fear or Bad Religion or Bad Brains—that’s how I wanted to play.

Thanks for the great chat, Jade! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just that I’m excited to do an interview for Gibson, because I’ve been playing them for a long time, since the beginning, so it’s cool to be able to talk about Gibsons, specifically.

All photos by Anne Erickson.