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On The Record: AFI

Cathy Reay
Cathy Reay 4 May 2007 at 22.21

ROCK SOUND asks Californian rockers AFI to review the albums that changed their lives; they're certainly an eclectic bunch...


When I was young, I was a big fan of the hardcore and punk rock scene and at that time there was this huge focus on nihilism, which never really appealed to me. I thought that the destructive nature of it and the selfishness of drug abuse was horribly unsavoury. In having these feelings, I felt like an outsider within this scene. When I discovered Minor Threat and their philosophy and movement, I was so thrilled. Their music was unlike anything I'd ever heard; the emotion and aggression combined into the music really appealed to me. I found the straight edge community and I was amazed by the fact that everyone believed the way I do; they have the same artistic and aesthetic tastes, but we also share the same socio-political views. That was really life-changing for me.


The first time I realised a record could actually be a complete piece of work rather than just a collection of songs was when I heard this. I was around 12 and remember being on a school bus, which was driving three hours up north on a winding road in the middle of the summer. There was no air-conditioning or anything and there were 35 kids my age yelling and screaming; I really wanted solace. I had this record in my Walkman but had never really heard it before, so I put it on and listened to a couple of songs and before I knew it, I was in that place where you go when you really fall into an album. Suddenly I'd totally forgotten about the conditions that were so bothersome at the time. That was the first time I found what it was really like to completely immerse yourself in a record and since then I've always looked for that in everything I listen to.


This had more of an impact on me than any album has just because of its size. Johnson only has one collection of work, which is about 30 songs. He was a blues musician from the 30s and probably the greatest slide player of all time. He's influenced countless artists, such as The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and The Beatles, and a ton of people have done covers of his work. There's a bunch of weird stuff surrounding his life, like he supposedly sold his soul to the devil so he could play the blues and play as well as he did. The mythus of all that that was really cool. When I was in high school listening pretty much exclusively to punk music, I had this one collection of 30s blues and that's when I started playing guitar.


From the moment I could push the button on my parent's jukebox, I was listening to music. This came out when I was 10 and, up to that point in my life, I'd mostly listened to radio pop and rock 'n' roll. Rap and hip-hop was really jumping into the mainstream and I got this record and listened to it until it literally broke my parents' stereo. It was so fresh and modern compared to everything else I'd ever listened to and I guess liking it was the first 'rebellious' thing I ever did. Even today it's sampled in a lot of hip-hop songs, it's classic.

The album 'Decemberunderground' is out now on Interscope. Catch AFI at this year's Give It A Name festival; see gig guide for dates.

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