Even if you're unfamilar with the name RED FANG, there's a good chance one of the band's videos has made its way onto your computer monitor at some point, whether it was the clip for "Prehistoric Dog" that established LARPing in beercan armor as the Internet's premier fake competition or the unbridled destruction (via an old station wagon) portrayed in the video for "Wires." The Portland, Oregon quartet has carved out a niche for themselves in the metal scene by playing loud and disarming themselves as people, careful to not fall into the dreaded "serious metal guys" trap. Relapse Records took notice, snatching up the group and releasing their latest full-length, Murder The Mountains.
With an American tour alongside Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan kicking off this week, Red Fang bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam chatted with Altpress.com from Portland about the band's plans for the tour, how their videos have gained them exposure, and what they have planned for their next video (spoiler alert: air guitar will be heavily involved).
Interview: Bryne Yancey
How did the tour come together on your end? Were you asked personally by the Mastodon guys to come on or was something far more corporate and much less metal than that?
[Laughs.] It was through our manager, actually; she's friends with some of those guys. Originally, Dillinger [Escape Plan} was talking to us about going out together, and then their tour—they were supposed to be touring at the same time as Mastodon—got combined with the Mastodon tour.
As an opening band on a huge tour like this, is there any difference in approach between playing these types of shows and playing smaller club shows? What's the band's collective mindset like going in?
Well we've done another tour that wasn't quite like this, we toured with Clutch after our first record came out which was pretty big—maybe not as big as this tour will be, as that one was mostly smaller markets but like, 1,000 seat venues. And then we also just did the Mayhem tour which was pretty huge.
I think for these kinds of shows—1,000-2,000 people—it's gonna be basically the same show we put on as a headlining band. The only thing is we'll have to squeeze everything into half an hour instead of an hour or an hour and 45 minutes. But the approach is not that different. Club shows are different from outdoor shows, really huge shows, but it'll still be the same kind of thing.
For those fans familiar with Red Fang, what can they expect to see from the band on this tour?
We've been toying around with a couple different things. We're gonna try and focus more on the new album, even more so than on the Mayhem tour, where we had some stuff [in the set] from the new album but were still relying more on older songs. I think that we're looking at the setlist—it changes around a lot until we figure out what works for the crowds that are coming to the shows, you know? It's also about trying to figure out how to bring in the new songs and make the show flow the right way, and usually it takes two or three shows to figure that out. And then we kind of settle in and usually play pretty close to the same thing every night once we figure it out.
How much have the band's music videos helped your exposure? These days a lot of bands don't even make videos, let alone smaller bands. Is there a conscious effort to make them funny and unique?
For sure. Those videos have made a humungous difference—we couldn't have gotten that first tour with Clutch in 2009 had it not been for the "Prehistoric Dog" video, and I think a lot of people came to see us having only heard that song and seen that video. MTV sort of went away as far as a place to see videos, so people have given up on trying to make good videos, and instead just kind of spit out basically something like "Oh, it's them playing in some weird place, or in a warehouse, and then the camera will jiggle around and there's some crazy lights." There isn't really any thought or energy that goes into it, so if you actually do create something that's worth watching it will help you. I think people gave up on videos because it used to be if you were a good enough band, MTV would play your video and that would help. The video didn't have to be good, you just had to be a band that people wanted to hear. But, there's a million more bands than there used to be and they're all competing for your attention, and now YouTube is where people watch things, and if you make it something that people are going to pass around on YouTube, it's going to help you. And luckily, Whitey, who makes our videos, is really talented as far as making things that are worth watching for a lot of people, even if they don't like the music. The videos have helped immensely, there's no question.
The band recently announced an air guitar contest for the upcoming "Hank is Dead" video. What can you tell us about that?
We're working with Whitey again. It's another idea that he had that just seems to work; he just has tons of ideas and his fun ideas seem to work better for us. So we met with him a week ago and he gave us his ideas, and we wanted to get something out before the tour starts, so that one seems doable and really fun. Turns out the guy who I think placed fourth in the US Air Guitar hampionships lives in Portland and I just saw a Facebook post that said he was going to enter. We were actually gonna ask him to be a guest judge but he wants to enter the contest because we're giving away $1,000 to the winner. [Laughs.] But it should just be a fun party; part of the idea behind this video and what made the "Wires" video so entertaining to watch was just seeing our genuine reactions on camera to doing these crazy things. Seeing how fun it is to be stupid and not take yourself so seriously.
You guys obviously take your music very seriously, but the band's aesthetic, I think, is great in that you don't take yourselves all that seriously as people.
Right. We don't plan on burning down any churches anytime soon. alt