The Punk Rock Roots of XTRMST, the New Straight-Edge Hardcore Project from AFI’s Davey Havok and Jade Puget
AFI's Davey Havok and Jade Puget explain their unlikely and unexpected new project.
Today in Didn’t See That One Coming: AFI’s Davey Havok and Jade Puget have started a straight-edge hardcore band dubbed XTRMST, and producer/beat wizard Steve Aoki will be releasing its debut album on his label Dim Mak. The thought of the man we once called “the “Sean "Puffy" Combs of DJing” getting together with the elder statesmen of eyeliner punk to put out a bunch of theoretical Vegan Reich covers is a bit of a head scratcher, but as it turns out, it’s not as strange as it seems. The music is dark, frantic, and moody, tinged with electronics (of course) and very slick; it’s not exactly Judge, but there’s an intensity there for sure.
We asked Davey to whip up a quick list of bands that had influenced his decision to form this band, and were pleasantly surprised with the result. As he told us, “XTRMST has been a long time in the making. Jade and I were very young when we joined the straight edge movement and have ever since spoken of starting a SXE band. Having never before had the time and resources to do so, we only began writing songs for the project in 2013 Not before XTRMST did I have an appropriate musical means of expressing the part of me that is the core of who I am.”
Once a punk, always a punk.
The Top 5 Bands That Made Us XTRMST, by Davey Havok
Teen Idles - Embracing youth and innocence without meekness, Teen Idles were straight edge before there was straight edge. They empowered the marginalized drug-free few within the inchoate hardcore scene by eschewing alcohol and encouraging us to put on our "sneakers and be a kid." Within the political strife of early 80's DC they added a human element to a highly political punk scene and began sketching the anti-rule book for DIY. Teen Idles taught us that just because we were teens, it didn't mean that we couldn't create, that we couldn't be heard. Their disbanding lead to Minor Threat.
Minor Threat - Coining the term Straight Edge, this band unintentionally started the movement. Unlike any band before them, and influencing thousands of bands to follow, Minor Threat were the first to show me that I wasn't alone in my beliefs. There were those that shared my artistic affinities as well as my aversions. My life changed when I heard "In My Eyes." To this very day, I get chills listening to their records. There would be no XTRMST without them.
Negative Approach - NA are not straight edge but I'd be horribly remiss to not site their pure, unapologetic aggression as a huge influence. They are an archetype. They are one of the best hardcore punk bands of all time.
Snapcase - Though subtle, Snapcase's SXE beliefs came through in their forward thinking. Their thoughtful lyrics and instrumentation broke the boundaries of hardcore. In the mid nineties, local bands across the US decided to attempt to emulate them, en masse. But no one could match their sound. "Incarnation," will always be one of my favorite songs to dance to.
Earth Crisis - In the wake of the fallen Youth Crew movement which proved itself to be almost entirely hypocritical in it's message of "positivity," Earth Crisis offered realism. More metallic, brutal and uncompromising than their late 80's predecessors, EXC's direct anti-drug, animal rights messages spoke to the the true SXE that remained, abandoned, in the early nineties. Almost single handedly responsible for igniting the Vegan Straight Edge, they wrote which many consider to be our definitive anthem, "Firestorm."
Davey didn’t elaborate on how Steve Aoki entered the mix, but Steve's no stranger to hardcore, either; as he posted on his website a few months ago, it’s in his blood. “I got into straight-edge hardcore music when I was a teen. It was my community, it was the reason I picked up a guitar, it’s the reason I was in bands, and ultimately it was the reason why I started Dim Mak,” he wrote.
Steve Aoki will release the debut album from XTRMST via his Dim Mak label on 11/17 (preoder it here). Check out our premiere of the band's new video for “Conformist” below.