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Exclusive Interview: AFI's Davey Havok Discusses His Debut Novel "PopKids"

Davey Havok, singer and frontman of rock group AFI, has just released his debut novel, Pop Kids, on April 4th, 2013. Offering an unflinching portrayal of a teenage generation obsessed with modern media and the cult of celebrity, Havok captures both the thrills and dangers of growing up in an overly connected world.

Davey Havok signing Pop Kids at his novel debut in Hollywood, CA
I got a chance to catch up with the musician-turned-novelist to chat about his forray into fiction:

In addition to a successful career singing in AFI, you’ve also experimented with electronica in Blaqk Audio and have appeared in numerous films and on Broadway in Green Day’s American Idiot. What inspired you to write Pop Kids? Had you always planned on writing a novel?

Havok: Writing a novel is something I’ve wanted to do since I was very young, but I never had a story. I never wanted to write non-fiction, and I’ve never wanted to write anything autobiographical, but novels have always appealed to me. When the idea of Pop Kids hit me, I just started writing.

The main character, Score Massi, not only has to deal with the growing pains of being a 17 year old, but also keeping up in the modern world. Unrestricted access to web technology plays a central role in Pop kids. In what ways do you believe modern technology affects adolescence?

Havok: I really think it (modern web technology) affects modern culture, and youth culture specifically. If you look at the group of people who were born into the internet, they’re living in a completely different world than those having the divide of not being raised on that, and not having access to every form of information at all points, including every form of media as well as social media and reality television.

In combination with media in general, taking the cult of celebrity and highlighting it even more so, those other forms of media morph celebrity into something that is not only accessible to everyone but is more easily accessible when that person is doing something perhaps very little of merit or actually something destructive. I really think that informs the desires and values in so many different ways of a culture raised on modern media.

Fans of Havok's work line up at The Standard in Hollywood to hear a ready by Davey.

At the start of the story, Score is living the life of many typical teengers. He has a core group of friends and relatively gets along with his parents, but he’s anxious for something greater, and he’s ready to leave his suburban California town. How does Score begin to achieve this greatness?

Havok: For Score, that greatness is adoration and attention. It’s fame, and he first starts to achieve it on a local level, first and foremost by gaining Stella’s attention (Score’s love interest). He’s already instilled with this drive for fame, having been raised in the environment that the rest of the pop kids were raised in.

[Editor’s note (minor spoiler!): For context, Score begins throwing parties for his friends in an abandoned hotel.] 

Havok: He sees the party as not only a means of recreation, but a means of elevating his persona, which he struggles with all the time. Score has an issue with his identity and an issue with his sense of self. As the parties start to grow, he realizes, ok I’m not only starting to attract attention and positive reactions from my peers; it’s going beyond that.

It’s going beyond my social circle. It’s going beyond the circle of this town, and it could be something that I receive on a global scale, if not a national scale. He gets elevated the worse and worse things get. This conflict and this youthful fear of repercussions trouble him, but the only repercussions he truly fears is his party falling apart and being stuck in a small town.

Score’s looking for something. There’s a part of him that’s turning and hoping that he can find a relationship with meaning in it.

Of the possible outlets Score and his friends could have turned to, why did you focus on underground parties as a means for them to escape suburban boredom?

Havok: I created the party as it was because it was contained and it was separated. In the setting for Pop Kids and for Score and his friends, isolation plays a lot upon their detachment from actual experience in contrast to their access to all of this information and lifestyle and access to their ability to be a part of a virtual celebrity world.

Making the party beneath the hotel gives the teenagers access to free reign as well as free access away from what they’re doing around any sort of parental figures. This allowed the party to take a life of its own and allowed it to really be as precarious as it was.

How do you think people from various backgrounds and personalities are affected by such unchecked freedom and sexuality encouraged by the confines of Score’s underground parties?

Havok: I think that what we’re seeing, culturally speaking, is when you have access to porn from age zero and when you have celebrity based on sex, when the lines get blurred between porn stars and actresses and celebrities, you get a completely different culture and a completely different perspective on sex. It’s not a commentary on promiscuity or freedom of sex by any means, but it is a commentary on taking part in adult scenarios that are open to you and that you are semi-familiar with. It’s not even about sex. Score’s looking for something. There’s a part of him that’s turning and hoping that he can find a relationship with meaning in it.

If you look across cultures and the information and experiences that are available to them without having to experience them, there’s a divide that the youth can seemingly experience and think they know about without having actually having experience. You may not have the facilities to actually deal with adult scenarios while being a child, even though you’re essentially an adult as a child.

Anything else?

Havok: Anyone who’s taken the time to find the book and read it, I really appreciate it.

I’m glad I got the chance to talk to Davey about his inspiration for Pop Kids, and it’s clear that he’s put a lot of thought into the fiction he’s created. Pop Kids is now available for purchase, and I suggest you check it out.

About the Author

Dan Noel is a San Francisco transplant covering music, video games and whatever is thrown his way. Follow him on Twitter:@Hurrican3Dan

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