Friday, September 24, 2010

AFINewsHQ Exclusive Interview with AFI's Original Bassist

I have been in communication with AFI's original bassist Vic Kenyon (AKA Vic Chalker) for a couple of weeks and he was willing to dig deep into his memory and answer a few questions about his days in AFI's early existence. Vic has given us some amazing information.

We would like to publicly thank Vic for doing this interview, it means a lot to us! The stories and information you have given us in this interview is priceless.

He will be reading this so please take a second and leave a comment to thank Vic for taking the time to do this interview.

The text of this interview is exclusive to the AFINewsHQ, so please do not post the text anywhere without linking back the original post :)


B: Were you the original bassist for AFI?

VK: yes. adam, davey, mark and i all got together in adam's parents'
garage to write and play some music. mark had bought some peavey
guitar and amp, i bought some jukey bass from a fly by night music
store in santa rosa and adam had drums which i believe were his dads.
i recall davey and i shared adam's dads' bass amp for vocal and bass
duties until it was blown out.

B: When you were in AFI, did AFI stand for A Fire Inside?

VK: i seem to remember AFI standing for A Bunch of Fucking Idiots. not the
nicest thing to call yourself, but i really like to have cuss words in
a band name. i do believe it was emulating EMF to the degree that the
F didn't stand for frequency. having fuck in your band name challenges
you in flyer making and promotion, which is nice. davey really wanted
to call the band 'bananas in the rough' but we call kind of thought
that was a little to big-hair-ish. sorry dave if i ruined your new
secret band name.

B: Can you describe how you came to join the band?

VK: not really. it's been quite some time. i'm pretty sure, though, we
started off talking about starting a band and before i knew it,
everyone had instruments and we were all playing together. I use the
term playing together loosely because it took a few months before we
were actually playing the same notes although we were all playing at
the same time.

B: Other than Ny-Quil, were you involved in writing any of the music or song lyric/song titles? If so, which ones?

VK: this is a tough question because so much of music is collaborative in
nature. many times, many bands will have a riff that evolves to a song
by jamming it out over and over. mark was a pretty prolific song
writer and would come to practice with a song written in it's
entirety, from the intro to the end with stops and accents already
planned out. i would bring some riffs and we would either work them
out into a song or ditch them by the roadside. i've always been a fan
of letting the vocalist work out the words and the melody which is one
of the reasons that davey wrote the lyrics to nyquil (as well as most
song that mark didn't write the words for). although i could be having
a revisionist memories here, i seem to recall writing red hat as kind
of a break-up song that was a real departure from any of the previous
AFI songs.

B: Can you recall the titles of any songs (if any) that you performed live that were never recorded? Any cover songs that you can remember playing live or recording?

VK: i don't recall to many song names. mark would be the authoritative on
this subject because he wrote most of them. for covers, we played
'california uber-alles' at the talent show in the 11th grade. that was
a different time and place where the only bands that played were
either silver surfer, guitar virtuoso types or metal bands doing
vocal-less covers of metallica songs. needless to say we didn't win,
but i thought we killed it and left the crowd kind of speechless. at
that point in time, DK wasn't an easily accessible band and i think
everyone thought we were these young militants from the theme of the
song. another song i recall playing (which was one of my favorites)
was 'nutrition' by the dead milkmen. it's a really spunky song and
kind of a non sequitur when you consider the content contrasted with
the punk songs we were playing at that time. mark was a fan of minor
threat and we covered a ton of minor threat songs in practice. we were
all huge angry samoan and decendents fans and attempted to play any of
their songs when we could figure them out. i'm not sure if we played
it live, but i really enjoyed playing 'bikeage' by the decendents at

B: What was your relationship with the members of the band like, how did you
know them?

VK: i just saw davey at a wedding a few weeks ago and he reminded me that
i was the first person to befriend him in high school. i don't
remember that but i'll take his word for it since his brain is a
little sharper than mine. we met in a transitional english class as
freshman (freshman weren't allowed to take honors classes, but we
segued into honors the subsequent year) and immediately became skate
or die buddies. mark and i were in advanced math classes and art
classes together and eventually the three of us met up. adam and mark
were neighbors and had known each other since childhood and mark
introduced us to adam. davey, mark and i were all fringers and adam
was more of a prep at that time but we all got along well and managed
to become good friends. i think the music was just another excuse to
try to create something together and it ended up working out well.

B: Were there any other members of AFI that the general public does not know about (even if they were in it for a short time)?

VK: davey's dad? no, not to my knowledge.

B: What was the line up of AFI when you were in the band?

VK: the OG members, adam, davey, mark and me.

B: Do you remember your first/last live show with AFI? Anything crazy ever happen at your shows?

VK: do you mean like actually being able to finish a song without fucking
up? um... i could be confusing this with some I13 show or a loose
change show, but i seem to remember there was a crew of dudes that
loved to shoot around with no clothes on. they referred to the act as
'nudie-rudey,' and, while it was essentially streaking, would run on
stage while someone was playing, much to the chagrin of the band.
there was also a psuedo-dance/posturing called the scarecrow robot,
but i'll leave that to the readers imagination. maybe one day a
youtube clip will come out to describe it in all its glory.

B: What were your favorite AFI songs back them and what were your favorite songs to play live?

VK: that's a good question and i'd have to remember the actual song titles
(which i don't) to answer this question. we really only had maybe
10-15 songs, including covers, so can i say all of them?

B: Did you record any songs with AFI?

VK: we recorded our first demo with dave raitt. yes, that is bonnie
raitt's brother. his son, bay raitt (who i think won an oscar for his
work on gollum in the LotR movies), was in the same class as the four
of us and he had convinced us that his dad was an awesome engineer,
although our demo didn't turn out too great. granted making a shitty
demo takes more effort than from just the engineer, it was probably
one of the muddiest, low ended, speaker destroying demos i have ever
heard. i think we recorded four or five songs, which hopefully will
never see the light of day, in the course of a day. mastered them on
the spot and left with the demo. about three days later, adam's car
speakers had been destroyed from the lowest of low ends coming from
that tape.

i also played bass on the dork ep. i was working at taco bell at the
time and had pulled an all-nighter when we drove to triangle sound (i
think) in lakeport. i didn't have a bass amp so i plugged right into
the console. everyone else worked on the overdubs while i slept
outside. later after geoff replaced me, he overdubbed all of the
tracks, which probably sounded a million times better.

B: Do you have any old recordings anywhere?

VK: not of AFI. i wish i had kept a few copies of dork, it could helped
pay for college!

B: Are you in this picture?

VK: i know that mock turtleneck anywhere! from left to right, adam, davey,
mark, then me. i guess we are such nerds we did it in alphabetical
order without knowing it.

B: Do you have any pictures of you playing live?

VK: not with AFI, no. although i know there are some circulating somewhere.

B: Did you play a lot of shows with AFI?

VK: i don't think so. the only ones i can remember are:

talent show (one song)
ukiah high tri (lunch set)
phil's house (totally awesome)
low gap park

there was one more i didn't recall that adam reminded me of, our first
real show. my memory of those times is a little cloudy, but i have
been corrected. phil's house was our first "house party," kind of like
a warm up show. our first real show was at the lakeport fairgrounds in
(surprise!) lakeport. we didn't have a method of taking all of the
drums and equipment and the whole band to the show so a family friend
volunteered to take us there in his van. he was this real nice guy
named art who had become a paraplegic at a young age when he dove into
a shallow pool and broke his neck, hence having the van to carry his
wheelchair around. we were all stoked in the back of the van, ready to
play our very first show, when art started pulling coors lights out of
a cooler in between the driver and passenger seats while driving the
windy highway between ukiah and lakeport. at first everyone was like,
whatever, it's only a beer. but then one beer turned into two, three,
then eight. no one wanted to drive back with art so we all found
alternative rides for the ride home and made art schlep our
instruments home. i felt bad at the time, but, in reality, i shouldn't
have because no ride is worth the possible consequences of driving
with a drunk driver.

B: Why did you leave the band?

VK: i didn't leave, i was kicked out. my recollection was adam's neighbor
telling me that he had heard us practice. upon my telling him i wasn't
there and him telling me he had heard a bass, i knew the gig was up. i
think a day or two later, they handed me my papers. they had every
right to kick me out. i was a total flake (as are 99% of most
musicians, hence why only the hard workers make it), i would show up
to practice late, if at all. i didn't have the motivation to write
music, i was preoccupied with other things besides playing music. it
was a very pivotal point in my life where i was being pulled in a
number of directions without any goals. speaking of being a flake,
this reminds me of the time that i was recruited by I13 to play bass
with them. adam was playing drums, N13 and jade were playing guitar. i
showed up to practice about 3 or 4 hours late, played one song and
then that was that. it was an awesome song (i think the spirit of '76)
but they didn't need a bass player without a watch, either (insert
timing joke here).

B: Do you listen to current AFI? What is you favorite AFI album since your leaving of the band?

VK: to be honest, i haven't listened to an AFI album in its entirety for a
long time. even at the point of getting kicked out of the band, my
musical tastes were diverging from everyone else. i've followed them
at shows and watched their music change and evolve. to be honest, i'm
torn between the dark hardcore when mark was writing most the music
and the poppy stuff that jade is writing now. i'm a sucker for
dynamics and production and i think the music they are making now i
find most appealing.

B: Any other memories about your band mates or experiences you had with AFI that you can think of?

VK: you know, we spent a whole lot of time together as teenagers growing
into adults. there were a lot of interpersonal as well as group
dynamics that helped shape my life as far as making and keeping
friends. trying to think back it is such a blur that it's hard to pull
a rabbit from the hat. i do have one funny memory that i can share. i
was the only one in AFI without a car and one of the other dudes would
come pick me up for school. at that time, we would eat donuts and
coffee everyday before classes started. each person would take turns
buying donuts or bringing coffee. my number one style was to bring
iced coffee that i would make the night before, but mark would always
bring his hot and fresh. one day, he had brought us all coffee and
while he was pouring the coffee, began extolling the virtues of MSG to
us. he then explained that MSG makes everything taste better
and that he had put MSG in the coffee. needless to say, it was the
saltiest, crappiest coffee that had ever touched my tongue. we all
went a few hours without coffee until we were ablet to procure some
off campus. with that said, i'm lucky enough to see many of the AFIers
frequently. there are a lot of memories between the past and current
crew. for a full summary of experiences, i think that we'll have to
wait for my memoirs.


  1. Thats pretty interesting!
    Thanks Vic and Brandon!

  2. That was pretty fucking cool.
    Bananas in the rough. Oh god why can I see that so CLEARLY.
    Thank you!! <3

  3. Awesome interview, Vic and Brandon! Thanks!

    Vic, thanks for giving Brandon the opportunity to interview you!


  4. Vic you seem really fucking cool (no sarcasm). Great interview and great questions Brandon, this is one of the more interesting and entertaining ones I've read on here.

  5. i enjoyed this very much! big thanks to Vic and Brandon!

  6. This was a real cool read!
    Thanks Vic for sharing with us!


  7. Hey, cool idea. Never really considered the possibility of a Vic interview.

  8. Really interesting interview! It's always cool to take a look back at the early days of AFI. Thanks for sharing, Vic!

  9. maybe, is it possible to interview mark?

  10. This was quite interesting of an interview! Bananas In The Rough made my day! I love hearing more about the history of AFI!

  11. Very interesting read, first off thank you Vic.

    But I must say Jade's a better guitarist than Mark (you never said anything about this... but I just had to make my stand LOL)

    But again Thank you for the Interview Vic! :)

  12. ^You're delusional. Mark was way better.

  13. thank you Vic, it's much appreciated. :)

  14. What a surprise! Didn't expect a interview with Vic. This was a lot of stuff I was curious about. This Vic and Brandon.

    Mark and Jade are awesome guitarist but both different. For example, Mark didn't give us the Sing The Sorrow guitar tone Jade did that was just beautiful and fantastic. Jade didn't give us SYMOYE hardcore licks that Mark did that were fucking awesome.

  15. Thanks, Vic, that was fascinating!

    Bananas in the Rough......oooo, boy.

  16. @Danny
    Delusional? More like a opinion.

  17. I was wondering how did AFI become A Fire Inside!!!

  18. Yea, how did AFI go from A Bunch of Fucking Idiots to A Fire Inside and when did it change??? And we shall not let Davey live down the whole "Bananas in the Rough" name. :) I agree that they are both good guitarists, but different, if Jade hadn't of joined the band I would not have heard AFI and chances are I would be listening to Justin Bieber with my older sister because I wouldn't have heard of punk and rock before, that thought scares the living shit out of me... but I do like Mark's sound from before too because it has that messy hardcore sound...

    Thanks for the interview Vic!

  19. AFI didn't go from A Bunch of Fucking Idiots to A Fire Inside. It was A Bunch of Fucking Idiots, then Asking For It (confirmed by Adam) and then it was A Fire Inside.