Interview: Red Fang Talk Letterman Performance, “Blood Like Cream” Music Video, and the Whiniest Guitar String
The day before their performance on the Late Show with David Letterman–their first-ever appearance on network television–Portland-based sludgy hard rockers Red Fang dropped by the Revolver office to shoot the proverbial shit. We asked the guys–vocalist-bassist Aaron Beam, vocalist-guitarist Bryan Giles, guitarist David Sullivan, and drummer John Sherman–not only about how they got that Letterman gig, but also about the “Blood Like Cream” music video, which features a cameo by Portlandia‘s Fred Armisen, as well as a host of other stuff. Ultimately, what we learned is, it’s safe to assume the band is always joking.
REVOLVER Last time we spoke for the October/November issue of Revolver, your latest record Whales and Leeches wasn’t out yet. Now that it is, how has the reception been?
AARON BEAM For myself, it’s been really great and I love it–especially now that we have been playing the songs live a lot more. As far as people’s reception, it seems like it’s going really good. I mean, the only thing we can gauge is how people react to the songs live and in the last tour we did in the U.S. in December, people seem like they know the words to the songs and are into it and that’s great. Things are good.
You were just at VH1 filming for Best Week Ever and tomorrow night you’re performing on Late Show with David Letterman. Is this shocking to you?
BRYAN GILES Oh, it’s shocking, that’s for sure. When we got the email about our availability for Letterman, I was sure it was a joke. I was like, Oh, that’s a good one.
BEAM That was my reaction, too…and then three days later it was confirmed.
JOHN SHERMAN I think my response was, “What the fuck is happening?! Is this real?”
BEAM And you can extend that to all the stuff that’s been happening recently, but it got crystallized in the Letterman thing.
Let’s talk about Letterman. Are you scared of fucking up on national TV?
BEAM What I’m doing is looking forward to fucking up so I can just get it out of the way and move past it because I know it’s going to happen, so let it happen.
GILES Well, there will be ease–it’s a typical Red Fang song so whatever.
BEAM Yeah, the joy of Red Fang.
SHERMAN It’s not a fuck-up, it’s an improvisation every night. [Laughs]
Everyone is talking about the video for “Blood Like Cream.” How did you get Fred Armisen from Portlandia to make a cameo?
BEAM I think he asked us to be in it. We did him a favor–he’s been wanting to be in videos with us for years.
SHERMAN And he could never afford it until recently with all the Portlandia money. You know, I don’t know how that happened. I think Whitey McConnaughy, our director, the video is his concept. I mean, Fred films Portlandia in Portland, so he’s in Portland a lot and we filmed the video right after Portlandia wrapped. He was around.
Well, you guys always have a guest, like comedian Brian Posehn was in your “Wires” video.
BEAM Armisen was so good. Like, we started to get a little confident about our acting abilities—well, not confident but a tiny bit like, “I’m not terrible.” Then working with him, it was clear we are absolutely awful at acting.
SHERMAN He’s a super cool dude, too. I don’t know if anyone will ever see this but if there’s an outtake reel, there was a part where David fucked up his line and we all bust out laughing, but Fred just stayed in character until they said “cut,” like, 12 seconds later.
Do any of you watch Portlandia and is it accurate to Portland?
BEAM I’ve seen some of it. I think it’s accurate to that style and age of mentality of that person whether they are from Portland or not. It just happens to be called Portlandia. But it’s not specifically about Portland. It’s about identifying social tropes that hadn’t been lampooned before in a pretty smart way. I had to watch one of the episodes–whatever, I’ll just say it–my son happened to be in the pilot, which ended up being the second episode of the first season. I like it.
So Whitey came up with the concept? Were you down with the idea of zombies wanting beer, not brains?
BEAM It’s all Whitey.
DAVID SULLIVAN It’s Whitey’s ideas and he brings them to us and we say, “That’s fucking hilarious, let’s do it.” Then we say, “There’s no way you can pull it off,” and he says, “Fuck you, I’ll pull it off.” And he does.
How long did it take you to do some parts? I bet you did a lot of running.
SHERMAN It was two really long days. 14 hour days for the zombie stuff. Then there was another day at Club 21 for the performance. But there was stuff where it was like, “Alright. Run. Everyone back to their marks. Run.”
GILES Which was awesome because the extras, a lot of them are friends of ours, and that had to get really old but they looked great.
BEAM 120 people or something.
What’s something that we don’t know about another member of the band?
SULLIVAN John loves kittens.
SHERMAN David builds fuzz distortion pedals, and if Aaron eats cheese or milk, he farts like crazy.
BEAM And we’ve learned this about David as well.
SULLIVAN For guitar geeks–some may not realize it, but Brian only has five strings on his guitar.
GILES I’m a five-string nut. The high E, who needs it? It’s the whiniest of all string–you’re most likely to be a wanker if you play that string so get rid of it. Oh, and John has a cowbell with a whammy bar attached to it.