Davey Havok – Man Of Music, and now Man Of Words.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Author and Pulitzer Prize winner Pearl S. Buck once said that (to paraphrase) the creative mind is an abnormally sensitive machine. To the possessor of such a machine, “a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” The words are potent and jarringly fantastic but, in conversation with Davey Havok, it becomes perfectly obvious that the AFI frontman-turned-novelist is both; while his tone is intentionally reassuring when he says that AFI is in no danger of fading into the night, publishing his first work of fiction, Pop Kids [Black Candy Publishing, April 2013] was just something that he needed to do. “I've always enjoyed writing and I've wanted to write a novel since I was a teenager but I never had the story and I rarely had the time,” says Havok as he explains what prompted him to spontaneously switch artistic disciplines and begin the first draft of Pop Kids. “In the fall of 2008 though, this story hit me – the general premise and and idea of what became the B-plot for Pop Kids came to me, and so I started trying to develop it.

“I'm not, as one might be able to tell, traditionally trained in writing,” continues Havok with a nervous laugh. “But I worked on it for a couple of years and, because of the music I was also making, I wasn't able to focus on it as much as I needed to until 2010 after I got off the road from the Crash Love album cycle. Prior to that, I was working on Pop Kids in Los Angeles, in Oakland, in New York and in Germany but, once I came home, I spent a solid year writing every day. My regimen was 'get up in the afternoon, work out and then I'd start writing' after that – sometimes from two or three in the afternoon until dawn.

“There were times when I just couldn't stop; I had become pretty obsessed with it. I did that for about a year and I wrote too many words and I had to cut out about three hundred pages of the book, but now it is where it is and available.”

It may not have been the easiest labor, but the proof of Pop Kids' quality is definitely in the reading of it. The book both is and isn't what readers would expect of the authoritative voice which yielded songs like "Miss Murder," "God Called In Sick Today," "Girl's Not Gray" or "Clove Smoke Catharsis" because, while nihilistic (as AFI songs tend to be), the prose gleams with anger, catharsis and a refreshing maturity which grows as the story follows the development of Score Massi in his transition from party-planning suburbanite malcontent to a city-dwelling survivor who lives to realize he still has a lot of growing up left to do. The story arc is refreshing in that it successfully dodges a lot of the teenage melodrama which often weighs down AFI albums and comes across as incredibly genuine, overall; in fact, the prose are so refined that the fact Pop Kids is Havok's first novel becomes increasingly surprising. According to the singer, that the book reads as well as it does and has such a meticulously refined edge to it is no accident – he worked and edited very carefully as he went though the writing process to ensure that the novel focused many images and ideas, but did so in a concise manner. “I wrote way too much,” blurts the author self-consciously. “Originally, there was all this back story on Lynch's parents and Joey and there were other kids from out of town and there was all this unnecessary stuff which I ended up cutting out because, while it worked, it was just too much. In a lot of ways, the book rang with my voice in that regard – when I recount a story a story in person, I tend to be a little verbose and the same was true of the original draft of Pop Kids.

“A lot of the added stuff which ultimately got cut out had to do with the fact that a lot of these characters aren't one hundred percent fictitious,” explains the singer. “I've encountered a lot of these characters over and over again throughout the past twelve years of my life and really since the inception of modern media as we know it and the proliferation of www. and furthermore through social media and reality television and youtube and now instagram. These characters are cropping up on a more alarming basis than ever before and a lot of the characters and their characteristics or more specifically, certain qualities in characters or specific stories and events which happen in the book are based on my own personal experiences and the experiences of some of my friends who are either markedly younger than me or only slightly younger than me but still grew up in a different generation who felt the impact of those events and advances more than I did but I was still exposed to on a secondary level because I do work in the entertainment business and do interact pretty closely with that culture. In fact, a lot of the themes running through Pop Kids coincided with many of the themes which appeared on the last AFI record. It really hit me at that point – so I just started writing it and, after I wrote it, I realized that I had to trim it down a bit. Trimming it down was a task, but I truly do feel that the book is better with the edit and the process helped me learn and will help me as I further work on a second novel.

“…And there will be a second novel. Pop Kids was the first thing I've ever created artistically all on my own which was a very freeing experience, and I loved doing it.”

Hearing Havok articulate those final words straddles an imagined line between sounding ominous and like a promise. While he's quick to reiterate after saying it that fans needn't worry about the possibility of AFI closing up shop permanently so the band's singer can transition completely into his new role as an author, he's also quick to promise that this new muse will not be getting boxed up either; Havok has discovered that, like Pearl Buck once said, he'll be content doing several things – running parallel careers – for a while. “I've already started writing a second novel now, because that muse is still pulling,” says Havok brightly. “It was such a process writing the first three hundred and thirteen horrible pages, but I think this work might be far less time-consuming because I might have gotten a little better at it – but we shall see. This process is a little different in that, when I started Pop Kids, I was doing several things at once and it took some time for me to have the luxury to focus on it exclusively. I'm in that position again, but I'm hoping that this summer will calm down a bit and I'll have the chance to really delve into it like I did with Pop Kids in 2010.

“So far, again, the tone of this new book is a bit similar to Pop Kids, but that's not really so surprising because it's still my perspective,” Havok continues. “I put my perspective into everything I write; everything I write is an extension of myself. I feel that, more so in the song lyrics I've written lately than anything else, I've gotten more direct. While I've been cryptic in my music before, I've grown far less arcane since the process of writing Pop Kids began. I hope that what I've done with Pop Kids – and I feel like I have in some of the interviews I've done – is left it open enough that readers are able to take what they will from this book; depending on their age, background and experience. I hope that will become the norm for everything I write – to be honest.”



Pop Kids
is available now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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