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Portland riff rockers Red Fang have been powering through on the road and continuing to push their latest album Whales and Leeches. Their latest venture took them through Knotfest in Devore, CA where they were greeted with a swarm of fans for their early set time.
Being that it is a bit over two years since the release of their current album, they have stretched the lifespan of the release beyond where they had thought it could possible reach.
“It was October of 2013 when it came out so it’s about two years. This is the last tour we’re doing on it. We’re trying to play some smaller cities and cities we haven’t played in a long time. We wanted to get out with some of our favorite bands Whores and Wild Throne and take those guys out. We’ve been writing some new songs and we wanted to try some of those songs out on the tour. We didn’t play them today (Knotfest) because it was a shorter set, but on the rest of the tour we’re doing three to four new songs,” said bassist Aaron Beam, talking about where they stand today.
He talked playing Knotfest and how different it is playing an American festival versus the numbers of European festivals Red Fang had participated on over the years.
“Most of the people at Knotfest speak English! They speak English at most of the festivals in Europe too. I feel more comfortable speaking to the audience here and feeling like they understand me. Besides that, generally festivals are festivals and they’re pretty similar,” he said.
During their 2011 release Murder The Mountains, Red Fang took part on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival tour across North America and played in front of crowds largely geared towards the younger, modern metalcore oriented audiences. Now fast forward to 2015, Beam talked about how playing Knotfest differs from back then.
“I think the lineup today was a bit more varied than Mayhem was the year that we did it. I know Mayhem changes up but the year we did it there was lots and lots of metalcore and more thrash bands. We were the only band that was a rock band. Today was good. It seemed like people were more locked in.”
He also talked about public awareness growing over the years and fans becoming much more saavy with the Fang helped sway them in their favor.
“That’s it too. More people know about us now. Almost any time you go to see a band cold and you’ve never heard of them before, you’re not going to be thrashing around. You’re going to be paying attention and listening, especially when it’s something so different from everything else during the day.”
Recently, Red Fang has released a new seven inch single on Volcom Recordings with two covers – an Elvis Presley and the theme song for the popular 1980s television series Fraggle Rock, reinterpreted by the band.
“There’s two covers on the Volcom seven inch. There’s the Elvis cover which is only the lyrics are the same. The song is an old couple of riffs that we’ve never figured out how to turn it into a song before. Then there’s also a cover of a song from that TV show Fraggle Rock, which is similarly lyrics and an old song that I wrote from before Red Fang even existed that we modified and turned it into a track that worked with that vocal melody,” he explained.
Beam himself took part on the Teenage Time Killers’ record Teenage Time Killers: Greatest Hits Vol. 1 on a song titled “Your Empty Soul,” which he also involved Corrosion of Conformity drummer Reed Mullin. He talked about how he got involved in this project.
“It was actually through this guy Sean Cox, who’s a tech for the Foo Fighters. Several of the Foo Fighters crew live up in Portland. So Sean was helping us out with some guitar problems and we were just hanging out and he asked me if I would mind if he put me in touch with Lou, who engineered the thing. I was like ‘yeah…’ “
“Reed was originally thinking of having Pepper [Keenan] sing on that track but something happened and Pepper couldn’t do it. So it was like ‘you know what would be cool is if we got that guy Aaron from Red Fang.’ I think it was like Reed mentioned it and then Lou talked to Sean, and then Sean talked to me and that’s how it came together.”
While he enjoyed working on the song, he missed his one chance at performing it live at a recent one time show in Los Angeles.
“No I’ve never played it. That was my chance I guess with the concert that they did (Teenage Time Killers at Henry Fonda Theater) in LA but there was no way for me to make it down. Juggling kids and being on tour was real hard. That was a weekend I wasn’t available. Hopefully they’ll do another one and I can do it. I love the idea and I want to actually perform the song once.”
While Beam and the Red Fang guys experienced a lot during this album cycle, he shared some of the highlights he experienced throughout the past few years.
“This last tour with Whores and Wild Throne was big. That was one of the funnest US tours we’ve done. I also loved that tour we’d done with Big Business and American Sharks earlier, and we did a tour right in the beginning with Helms Alee, Wild Throne and a band before them called Gaytheist. Those were all super fun US tours.”
“The highlight of show for me was…and we’ve played a lot of really good shows. But the one that really was the most memorable from this album was Hellfest in France. It was the third time we’ve played it and we’ve got a pretty decent main stage slot. I would say conservatively there were 25,000 people watching us play, and they were not just standing there. It was packed and people were rocking out all the way to the back of the crowd. It was amazing. It was so fun.”
“Lots of times there’s something about the energy of an intimate club you can’t capture on a big huge festival stage like that. But with that many people it was awesome. Maybe we’ll never get to do that again but that’s really memorable.”
They met a lot of high profile names along the way, and many were not necessarily from the heavy music world. One person they met was David Letterman, where they had a rare opportunity to perform on his television show – Late Night With David Letterman – before he retired earlier in the year.
“That was on this album cycle! It seems like so long ago,” said Beam, suddenly remembering this moment. “That was an amazing experience. It was one of those things where I didn’t feel nervous until they started taping the episode. Once they tape it there’s no stopping. It feels like when you’re climbing to the top of a huge waterslide or you’re about to skydive. You know you’re committed. There’s nothing you can do – you have to do it. You’re terrified when you do it and as soon as you do it, you want to do it again. It was exactly like that. It was awesome.”
They also got to work with actor and musician Fred Armisen, who appeared in their music video for ‘Blood Like Cream.’ “He played in a band called Trenchmouth in the 90s that my kids’ mom they used to play shows together, like way back when. She knows him from the music world before he was on TV at all. Pretty interesting.”
Lastly, Beam talked about a new Red Fang also in the work, following the conclusion of their touring cycle.
“Yeah for sure. We’ve already got three songs that are totally done, and we’ve got pieces of…I don’t know…30 more songs worth of material. We’ve got to start as soon as we get back from this tour we’re gonna lock in and start bashing out the songs and turning them into finishing them. We have studio time tentatively booked for end of February or beginning of March.”
“We’re really buckling down now. These tour things come up and A) you’ve got to make money and B) we wanted to try out these songs on the road as well and dial them in a little bit better and see how they’re working. That really helped a lot.”
He gave a preview of the new material that is in the process of becoming the new Red Fang album. “You’ll probably be able to find some YouTube videos of some of the new songs. We’ve played them on this whole tour. One of them is called ‘The Shadows’ and it’s actually on this seven inch we’ve already put out. We’ll do an updated version of it.”
“There’s a new song that I’m super excited about that we’re playing on this last tour that’s kind of a slower, a little dirtier songs but it has this more Russian Circles kind of thing that happens half way through it. It’s got some surprises.”
“We’re still experimenting and branching out and trying new things always. It’s clearly going to be a Red Fang record but with some stuff you haven’t heard before.”
Red Fang’s latest album Whales and Leeches (Relapse) has taken the Portland based rock outfit to new heights and placed in front of new audiences they never imagined seeking out.
During their album cycle, the band appeared on Late Show With David Letterman, a popular US late night television show that usually features well known actors and celebrities, as well as larger named musical acts. On this particular date, Red Fang made a rare network television appearance to perform “Blood Like Cream,” with Paul Shaffer joining them on keyboards.
Band guitarists David Sullivan and Bryan Giles both shared their experience, and whether they actually got to meet Letterman himself.
“I didn’t see him until we walked out there. He was on stage and I got to shake his hand, then he disappeared. There was no communication,” said Giles.
“It was pretty limited with him. He came over and shook our hands, made a little joke at the end, but we didn’t really get to hang out with him and see what he’s like. I love David Letterman,” said Sullivan.
When the confirmation email first came to the band, various forms of sarcasm erupted and it took a bit of time until they realized the email was real.
“When we first got this email, it was like ‘I wanted to check you availability to play The Late Show.’ I was like…is this a joke?,” said Sullivan, remembering that moment.
“At least two of us wrote back ‘ha ha. Hilarious’, said Giles.
“It didn’t seem like something would to a band our level. It was awesome. I didn’t really sleep much the night before. I was pretty nervous. We got there and we did a little line check and then Paul Shaffer came in. He agreed to play with us. It was awesome. I’ve never been on a big TV show like that before. Everybody was super cool. I think it turned out cool I think. It was definitely nerve racking for me,” added Sullivan.
Aside from the excitement within the band, breaking the news to their friends and family became a bit more challenging.
“We weren’t really supposed to say anything until there was an announcement. I remember telling my girlfriend, ‘you’re not going to believe this…we’re going to play on Letterman!’ She was like ‘really?!’”
“It was crazy. For me, it seemed out of our reach. It didn’t seem like something that would happen to us. It’s like a dream. I’m stoked I got to do it. That was a huge show,” Sullivan said.
The band has also worked with a couple of well recognized faces on their music videos. Actor and musician Fred Armisen (Portlandia and now band leader on Late Night With Seth Myers) appears on their “Blood Like Cream” music video.
“He started up being in bands. He was a musician before he was a comedian so it makes sense,” said Giles.
“He was real nice. We’re not best buds with him. He works and lives in Portland, but it’s not like I can call him up and ‘Fred…get us on the show.’ That would be cool, but…maybe we should just try that! Why not? We have a little connection to him. Worth a shot I guess,” said Sullivan.
“He does Portlandia. I think he has a house in Portland. He lives half the time in Portland and half the time in New York. So I think he was wrapping up the season of Portlandia and was nice enough to agree to do it,” added Giles.
The band also worked with comedian Brian Posehn appears on their 2011 “Wires” music video, off their Murder The Mountains album.
“He was here [Portland, OR] and we were looking to have somebody fancy on our video. We were limited to when we could do the shoot. It was two weekends were the only options and then we had to wait until summer. One of the two weekends everyone was able to do it. He was so happened to be in town doing three shows. He was in town for a couple of days. He was also really nice. He likes metal,” explained Giles.
Sullivan added, “We had met him before. We were on tour in somewhere in Florida. He was playing down the street. We were fans of Brian Posehn so I think they went down to the show to see if they could sneak in and ended up meeting Brian. ‘Hey we’re playing down the street. You should come to the show.’ “
“He came to the show. He digs metal. We became friends and when the video came up, we’re like ‘hey when you’re in town, we’re doing this video’ and he was nice enough to do it.”