Welcome to Radio Feedback, Radio.com’s weekly feature where we ask artists to wax nostalgic on the first time they heard themselves on the radio.
It was 1995 and the U.S. was just beginning its love affair with nu-metal. Davey Havok was driving around San Francisco in his 1982 Honda Accord trying to find something other than exactly that to listen to on the radio — no easy feat for the AFI frontman.
“The passenger speaker was blown out and the driver’s speaker was also blown out, but still semi-functional,” Havok told Radio.com. “My cassette player was broken so we could only listen to the radio and there was a toothpick shoved into the little depressor that would make it stay on FM.”
Havok had finally gotten the toothpick to stay in long enough so that it wouldn’t switch to talk radio when he landed on San Francisco’s modern rock station, Live 105 (a Radio.com station). “We were lucky if we heard some Nine Inch Nails or Smashing Pumpkins or Pulp,” Havok said, admitting that back then he very rarely listened to the radio. “Not a lot of great stuff was happening in the mainstream.”
But then a familiar song came on.
“Like I said, my speakers were blown out and much of what we heard was indistinguishable unless we were familiar with it already,” Havok explains. “[The song] came on and we were like, ‘What is this? This doesn’t sound like it sucks.'”
The singer and his passenger, Lily Chou (who wrote the Berkeley, Calif. zine, My Letter to the World), played around with the toothpick a bit more until the song came through a little clearer. It was AFI’s “Don’t Make Me Ill,” off the band’s 1995 debut, Answer That and Stay Fashionable.
It was the first time Havok had heard ever heard one of his song — a punk song no less — on the radio. “You don’t hear a lot of oi [a sub genre of punk rock] on modern rock radio in the afternoon,” Havok points out.
Though he was a little embarrassed by the fact that he didn’t recognize his own voice, Havok was excited to hear his song. Since hearing himself on the radio that first time, Havok has become friends with Aaron Axelsen, the man who got it on the air. Axelsen is currently Live 105’s Music Director/Assistant Program Director, but back then he was just a lowly intern.
“I used to frequent a legendary punk club in Berkeley called Gillman Street, where I first saw Green Day in like 1991, and I happened to catch AFI and one of their very early shows,” Axelsen told Radio.com in an email. “I bought their album Answer That and Stay Fashionable at the merch booth and brought to the station, where it was first played on our weekly Local Music segment.”