Monday, June 4, 2012

Red Fang sharpens its metal riffs on seemingly never-ending tours / Interview

Red Fang's Bryan Giles rages in Portland. (All Cat Rose photos)
By Andy

My cousin Eric gets a steel-fisted high-five for flipping on his laptop one Thanksgiving day a few years ago and suggesting -- he should have demanded -- Cat and I check out Red Fang's "Prehistoric Dog" video. It's a beer-guzzling, medieval-battle-royale of a film and tune that stuck with us and had us cracking up all day.

We kept missing Red Fang's live experience, however, because we always had something else on tap or we were out of town when the Portland rockers rolled through Seattle.

But the stars -- and beer cans -- finally aligned for us the last two Fridays ... and we caught their gigs at Portland's Hawthorne Theater and Seattle's metal mecca The Highline.

They were raucous gigs, especially in Seattle, where the sweaty crowd had fists raised high and certainly brought their moshing shoes/boots to the heavy-duty affair.

Bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam and crew expect to see arms and legs flying during the upbeat tunes in their set, but there was a surprise in store in Seattle.

"Whoa, people are moshing during 'Humans Remain Human Remains' ... OK," Beam said in an interview after the gig of one of Red Fang's slowest songs. "It reminds me of in the mid- to late-'90s when people would mosh to, form a pit for Charlyn Marshall, Cat Power." (He laughed, saying it's a slight exaggeration, but close enough.)

Beam surveys the scene.

Although Seattle gave Red Fang a lukewarm reception early in their career, the Emerald City is on board to the hilt these days.

"Seattle was the first place where I saw people stage diving for us," Beam said of a gig at Ballard's Sunset Tavern. "Seattle has been really supportive and really enthusiastic for a long time, almost as long as Portland has.

"It's been especially good since my family is from Seattle, I was born in Seattle, the music that we love and has inspired us is all from Seattle, so we would hope that Seattle would appreciate what we do."

Joining Beam in the Red Fang realm are Bryan Giles (guitar, vocals), David Sullivan (guitar) and John Sherman (drums). They've been pounding away since 2005 and have two albums under their belt (2009's "Red Fang" and 2011's "Murder the Mountains") and a handful of supporting (with Mastodon) and headlining tours. More is on the way, Beam promises.

"We're four older gentlemen who are too stupid to stop playing rock music and touring," said Beam, noting that the Red Fang guys range in ages from 36-42.

"We're drawn to the Pacific Northwest kind of music that was coming out of here from the late '80s, early '90s -- this little thing called 'grunge' you may have heard of. Probably the main thread throughout the band musically is 'grunge.' But we like all kinds of heavy music --my tastes run the gamut, really," Beam said... at the Hawthorne Theater show, three of four band members' T-shirts told the tale: Goatsnake, Thin Lizzy and Unwound.

"We love a whole bunch of different kinds of shit. It's just a mish-mash of stuff," he added, noting that some Melvins-type riffs creep into the tunes, as well.

Sullivan gets on the Goatsnake.

In Red Fang, everybody handling the stringed axes up front get in on the riff action. Beam's originally a guitar player and he works his bass much like a rhythm guitarist, giving the band an ultra-meaty sound that pounds people's ears and jolts their bodies at gigs.

On their recent headlining European tour, crowds flocked to watch them unleash their rock in places like Moscow, Paris, London, Nijmegen (Netherlands) and more.

"It was great. I had no idea what kind of reception we would have, but the majority of the shows were sold out and kids are really enthusiastic for music over there," Beam said.

"It's a totally different world from what it was a year and a half ago," he added. "We had never done even close to the amount of touring that we have to do now. We're trying to figure out how to balance the amount of touring we're doing and being able to have a personal life and being able to write a new record.

"We've made the transition from hobbyists to professional musicians. It's interesting."

Next up is a US tour, an appearance at Metallica's Orion Festival in New Jersey and another European jaunt.

Is it true that Metallica hand-picked Red Fang for their fest?

"That's the story we've heard. It's great, I love Metallica, they're one of the most inspirational bands in my life," Beam said.

Singing and string bending.

As far as Red Fang videos go, their friend Whitey McConnaughy writes and directs them and will most likely get the band back in front of the camera to entertain metal film enthusiasts with a sense of humor.

"The people in the videos are characters that are more or less us," Beam said. "It reflects our personality. There's a feeling about them, they're not just some clever director's concept, they actually have a human element to them. You sort of get to know us from watching those videos."

Check out "Prehistoric Dog":

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