Portland-based quartet Red Fang has proven itself to be one of the hardest-working bands in metal over the past few years. Since the release of the group's ferocious self-titled debut in 2009 -- and the hysterical beer-soaked, Ren-Faire-battle-gone-horribly-awry video for "Prehistoric Dog" that went viral to the tune of over a million YouTube views and counting -- Red Fang has logged a preposterous number of miles on both sides of the Atlantic spreading the gospel of its tuneful bludgeoning.
2011's Murder the Mountains, the band's first album for noted metal imprint Relapse Records, rightfully ended up on numerous year-end Best Of lists with its crafty mix of sledgehammer riffs and hooky tandem vocals from bassist Aaron Beam and guitarist Bryan Giles. Having made two extensive jaunts through Europe in the past year, Red Fang finally brings its pulverizing live show back to U.S. stages this fall for a headlining tour of the States, with Georgia swamp metal band Black Tusk and fellow Portland headbangers Lord Dying. Guitarist Giles recently spoke with All Shook Down about the band's new single "Crows in Swine," plans for their third album, and yet another European swing scheduled for this winter ahead of Red Fang's tour stop at Slim's this Saturday, Oct. 27.
When I posted the Bandcamp link to "Crows in Swine" on my Facebook page, some friends commented "What's that about? Is that like a turducken?" So I have to ask about the lyrical inspiration behind the song.
[Laughs] Let's just go with that! It's like a turducken.
Well, I know there are enough foodies in Portland to give San Francisco a run for its money, so it kind of made sense.
I'll tell you this: the lyrics were not put together for that song until the day we recorded it. And we got a little bit loose. I think it was just word association. It doesn't have any deep meaning, although if you want to print that it does have some deep meaning, feel free [laughs]. We were just sitting around drinking beers and Aaron threw some lyrics together and I threw some lyrics together and that line sort of stood out, so we decided to call it that. I think we had some other name for it, which was much worse. But I like the turducken idea. That's good. Crow and pork! I'm going to start a food cart. [laughs]
Can you give any hints as to whether your new material is going in a different direction for the band, sort of the way Murder the Mountains had a more varied sound than the first album?
I would say it's not really clear quite yet. It seems to me that we're working on material that's more like "Crows in Swine." The new track is sort of indicative of some of the songs we're doing; kind of more compact and technical. But the ideas that I've been coming up with are a little longer, a little more droning and downbeat. So... I don't know. We'll see how it compares to the last record. It'll be different, that's for sure. The really technical stuff is new to me. It's a real workout. It's like "Dammit, I really have to play all these notes?" [laughs] But it's fun. I hope people like it.
Do you already have an idea of who you're going to work with as a producer? Do you think you'll get back together with Chris Funk?
Yeah, I can't say 100 percent that it's going to happen, but I know Chis has interest in producing our next record and we're interested in having him do it. So as long as the stars align and he can be in town whenever we record, then I think that we'll probably go ahead and record with him again. My philosophy is if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And I was real happy with the result of our last record.
I think a lot of producers working with metal bands want to make metal that's really pristine. I liked that the way we worked with Chris was more organic; recording analog for the basic tracks so if there are flubs or the tempos go up or down, we just stick with that. It reflects more honestly who we are as a band. Obviously, there were more bells and whistles on the album then there are when we play live, but I was really happy working with him.
For the "Hank is Dead" video, did you recruit local Portland air guitarists who had U.S. Air Guitar Championship experience, or did they come from elsewhere? I've seen a couple of the regional competitions in San Francisco and the clip really captured the beer-spraying ridiculousness that goes on at those things.
No, we just put it on. We did it two or three weeks before we were going to go out on tour. Whitey had a couple of ideas and wanted to do a video for us before we went on tour. So we threw some ideas around, and it seemed like the idea that was most feasible was to just put on an air-guitar competition like anyone else. We just put up some money and said "Alright, if you win, you get a grand."
What he wanted to do was capture something sort of in the vein of reality TV, where we just threw a party and he had something crazy like eight cameras going. The setup was staged, but the air guitar competition was a legitimate air-guitar competition. The guy who won had won other nationally certified guitar competitions, but it was legit. We didn't recruit anyone as an actor or anything. It was just people who are passionate about doing air guitar.
I didn't even realize there was such a thing until we did that [laughs], but I was just blown away. It was hilarious. I can't believe that people put so much energy into it, you know? I wish I had that much energy to put into my actual live show. Of course they only had to jump around for two and a half minutes, whereas I have to jump around for an hour and ten. But man, I had a great time. Full disclosure, I don't really recall the end of the evening, but Whitey [McConnaughy, who directed the band's three videos] was nice enough not to show me stumbling around.
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