RED FANG – Amplifier Worship
Stoner rock had finally hit Roskilde festival like a solid brick and though the crowd in front of the stage were largely dry becuase they were under the cover of a tent ceiling, the attendance on the larger stage area were not so lucky. Although mother nature tested the festival goers on this day, most of the unfortunates that stod outside the safety of the concert tent were in good spirits and the concert went really well. Red Fang is perhaps not that well known among the average rock fan. The two records Red Fang(2009) and Murder The Mountains(2011), have presented the sound of the Portland band to an appreciative fan-group. The last record has perhaps a more polished sound and does also have a few pop-elements, the first record is a little more dirtier and more punkish and grungy, and I don’t mean that in any bad way at all.
As I watch the crowd sing along to the lyrics, something hit me. What springs to my mind about Red Fang, isn’t the live apperances, but rather the totally hiliarious music videos. I remeber the first time I saw the video for Pre-Historic dog from the first album. I laughed so hard I nearly fell of my chair. The video depicts the band as modern knights, clad in armor made out of beer cans, while they trash a LARP(live action role play)event. In turn, the participants of the event kill the band with swords, spears and a touch of magic. I had the same experience watching the two videos Hank Is Dead and Wires from Murder The Mountains. Hank Is Dead starts of with bathroom homo erotica ala Red Fang and later depict them as judges of a airguitar contest and Wires show the band as worthy assasins of groceries and other implements. Their murder weapon in question is a chevy impala station wagon, which they set on fire in true jackass fashion. The concert I was watching was a testament to the power and influence of youtube and social media. The fans knew the lyrics to the songs in question and everyone had great time, but then disaster strikes.
Suddenly the left speakers go out and then you couldn’t hear anything at all, the band looks at each other in bewilderment and panicstricken stage hands invade the stage and the band goes off. What the hell is going on? Will the concert continue? Finally a spokeperson goes on stage and informs everybody that there will be a short intermission and then the concert will continue. This short intermission last for thirty minutes, but during those thirty minutes I witnessed something I have never seen before and in all probability won’t see to many times again. The main crowd that were inside the tent area, stayed and waited for the band and shouted for them to go on again. Stoner fans can go on and further on about Red Fang and that they are too soft or even boring, but to the massive crowd in front of the stage this didn’t matter. I guess you can’t argue with sucsess. Finally the band goes on again, and they finished the concert with Pre-Historic dog and the crowd went wild. With the show over, I ran to the backstage enterance and met the manager. I was led over to a trailer, which the band used as a dressing room. I told bassist and vocalist Aaron Beam about what I had witnessed and congratulated him. His respons was earnest and modest, but not without appreciation.
It was pretty remarkable, somebody told us that it was a 27 minute delay. Not everyone stayed obviously. Mostly the people who where in the rain left, but yeah I was really suprised that so many stayed as they did. It was a really great crowd and a great show, so hopefully we get asked to come back and play a full set, without a thirty minute delay in the middle.
I guess the music videos have made an impact. I saw that the crowd really sang along to Pre-Historic Dog.
For sure. We first started noticing it during the very first tour we did over here last year. The first place I felt it’s effect was when we went to Greece. We flew in and played one show in Athens and people in Athens were singing along to Pre-Historic Dog. It was right after Murder The Mountains had come out, so nobody knew that record yet. That was the point when I really understood the impact that youtube has on the world. I mean, I knew it had spread across the US, but when I saw people singing along in Greece, I thought – Something weird is happening now that is kinda special.
But they also seem to follow a continous story, I mean in the beginning of Hank Is Dead, Pre-Historic Dog is playing in the background.
It’s the same director for all three videos, so that’s what ties them together and also we’re the same four characters that appear in all of them. So, he has created these four characters for us that are not too distantly related to our actual selves. Once he understood the connection that people made to the characters in the Pre-Historic Dog video, we wanted to use the same characters in the other videos and realized that what people really identified with was our was our natural reactions to things and our actual personalities. It wasn’t nececcarily a trick of the story line or some fancy camera thing. It was more about the personality that was coming through, It’s a tribute to Rob " Whitey " McConnaughy, who is the director of all those videos.
I imagine that the video for Wires must have been fun to make.
Yeah, Oh yeah. We had recently got in a accident with our van, where I was driving and a deer ran out in the road. My gut reaction was to swerve right away and lost control of the van. We rolled over a couple of times and then a few months later we started shooting that video and we were just driving through stuff and it was very(long pause)cthartic.
Portland, Oregon is perhaps most known for the pop and hipster music that comes out of that town, but also Toxic Holocaust and the crustier punk bands like Tragedy, His Hero Is Gone and Murderess. I know that YOB is from Oregon state, but is there a stoner crowd in Portland?
There is a crowd for us now. There’s not that much of stoner crowd. I think we kinda bridgded a little bit, we’re not quite as full on stoner rock as other bands. YOB is also more of a doom band. I think we have a little bit more of a punk energy to us. We have a few more fast songs or something. We also have a little bit of a pop-sensibility kind of thing. There are pop-elements to some of our songs. We do pretty well in Portland now. It took a few years, but people respond to us pretty well there.
I totally get the punk energy. I think your first record really brings that forth, like the song Wings Of Fang.
Yeah, I didn’t have anything to do with the writing of that song. There’s a band from Seattle in the late eighties or early nineties called The Derelicts, and it sounded just like a song from The Derelicts. It had very much a hardcore vibe to it. A late eighties Seattle punk vibe to me.
When heard your first record I immediately thought of No One Rides For Free by Fu Manchu, especially the more dirtier tracks, have they been an influence on you?
Yeah, I like the band, but we’re not directly influenced by them. We share a lot of the same influences and we come from kind of the same place, so they may not have directly influenced us. The same things that have influenced them influenced us. We are all about the age as they are.
I really like your first album because of the punk energy and the dirt in it. There’s nothing wrong with Murder The Mountains and it still sounds like Red Fang, but is there a divide among the fans when comes to those two records?
I haven’t really encountered that. Nobody has really told me – I love your first record and the second one is terrible or vice versa. Mostly, on the road they sell about the same, so I haven’t noticed it so much. Maybe a couple of people have said that they like the first one better, because it’s dirtier and I think we’re gonna try to make the next one a little bit more dirty sounding again. The second one weren’t like, we didn’t write songs that were that dirty. It was kind of more the recording of it. It’s like you said. It still sounds like Red Fang, but it’s a little more polished than the first record, but I think we might go back to that on our third record.
Does the third record have a work title yet?
No, not even close. We didn’t really have a title for Murder The Mountains until the very last minute. It was like,- " We got a print up label and a print out label cover for it, so maybe you should have a title." " Okay, all right, fine!" So last second. I’m sure it will be the same for this next one.
Last year I interviewed ST Vitus and the interview dealt with their time on SST and also that they toured with Black Flag in the eighties and about the book Get In The Van by Henry Rollins. I asked them if there were any new bands that toured like that and DIY. They talked about the Metal Alliance Tour and Red Fang was one of the bands that were mentioned.
Really, they mentioned us? They were sharing a bus with Crowbar. A few of the bands like us and some of the smaller bands where in vans chasing the buses. In the US, we have never even pulled a trailer. We pulled one for one show, but we pack everything into the van and we drive ourselves, we do all our own loading and that’s the only way we’ve known to do shows. It’s kind of the only exercise I get during the day. If I’ve been driving for eight hours, I want to get out and start moving and do something physical. I don’t want to just lay around. I understand the idea of having people to do that stuff for you, but for us it’s like leisure we really can’t afford at this point, but also, do you really ever need to afford it. We don’t really need anyone to do that stuff for us. It would be nice if somebody did it, but we can handle it ourselves. You know, our equpment is really small. It’s loud enough for a small room and if we’re playing a big room, the PA is gonna make all the power for you anyway. We can load it all into a van. Why not do it yourself and you save a lot of money that way.
You also played Roadburn this year, how was that like?
It was GREAT! It was kinda crazy how well organized it was. We have like a electronic file send over of our stageplatform and all the info about our mix and everything. So we go there and had some time to kill, but when we got to the venue and had all our equipment loaded up on stage, it was no time at all for change over. It was pretty much,- the last band finished and then we put our stuff on stage and then there was time for us to go. There was no line check, no sound-check or anything. They were like, "You guys are good, go ahead" and we just started playing and the monitor mix was almost perfect and the mix in front. The venue was complety full. It was fun and Walther who runs the whole thing was really nice and we’ve met him before, when we played the same venue with Mastodon in January. It’s great, it’s a really fun festival.
In all your music videos there is always one beverage present and it’s beer. From the armor you make out of beer cans in Pre-Historic Dog, to the beer bonanza in the other videos, so are you heavy beer drinkers?
Well, I would say that John and Brian are better at drinking beer than I am. I can’t speak for David, but I know that those guys can drink a lot more beers than I can. When I’m at home, I don’t really drink that much. I’m basically doing family life when I’m at home. I have a three year old son and a wife. For the most part I’m just relaxing and taking care of my son or whatever. When I’m on the road I drink a lot more beer.
Do you have a favorite brand?
I don’t really have a favorite at all.
What’s your least favorite brand then?
I really hate hefewiesen. That’s my least favorite beer. Although, what I think is worse than that, is any beer that has any kind of fruit to it or anything, like an appricot or something. I can’t deal with those, I like neutral beers, you know. A lot of german beers are actually really good.
With the closing arguments around beer, I remebered that I actually hadn’t had a beer for about one solide hour. I ran to the press-area to get lubricated and as always, there were plenty of others who had the same idea. Red Fang might be best known for their music videos, but I wouldn’t be so stupid as to suggest that all the crowd saw that day was their four favorite youtube characters. The blend with hard rock beats and soft pop sensibility has made them popular, even if they’re not world famous. Red Fang is one of the bands that can make the rougher LO-FI crowd shake hands with the techno crazed kids and grannies? I don’t know, but it’s going to be exicitng to check out their third record, whenever it will be released. One thing that is reassuring is the fact that a modicum of talent and internet can get you far. It’s just to bad that so few want to rock, while the majority want a twelve year old girlfriend.