During that time the four-piece have released a total of four studio albums that are as diverse as they are innovative. With tremendous hard graft and endless touring, the band have been building an immovable fanbase thanks to their unrelenting stoner-tinged rock and powerful live shows.
Ahead of their November/December UK and European tour with Mastodon and Russian Circles, Overdrive grabbed some time with vocalist/bassist Aaron Beam to get the lowdown on
OD – The touring schedule for ‘Only Ghosts’ must be nearly halfway through at this stage, do you find that that music has changed somewhat to the material that you recorded? Almost kind of loosened up a little so to speak?
Aaron – We do play the songs a bit differently live once we’ve been doing them awhile. Most often it is just tempo changes, but sometimes we will fuss with the arrangments. The few times that we have played “I am a Ghost” live we have done the ending part quite differently. I would say it’s a strange combination of loosening and tightening. We’re more relaxed so the songs maybe feel more relaxed, but transitions are often tighter it that make any sense? (laughing)
OD – Recording with Ross Robinson and Joe Barresi must have been an experience, as I know that he can be a little intense at times. He’s known for taking people out of their comfort zones and that can be a little traumatising at times I’m sure. But, given the chance would you work with Ross again or going forward will you look to working with different producers for every new album/EP?
Aaron – Oh, I would love to work with Ross again! It was actually a goal of ours to get taken a little bit out of our comfort zones. Mix things up a little, you know? But we don’t have any particular broader goals regarding producers. We just do what feels natural in the moment. We worked with Chris Funk twice then mixed it up. Maybe we’ll go back to Chris, maybe back to Ross, maybe to someone brand new! We’re not really sure yet.
OD – One of the things that I was wondering about was the reverse way that you did the vocals on Only Ghosts as these were laid down first rather than the music. Do you find that this was an effective approach?
Aaron – Well, that’s not quite how it happened. On all our other albums, we almost universally wrote all the music and then fit the vocals/lyrics to it after the fact. For Only Ghosts, Ross insisted we do it all together.
So the lyrics/vocals were written along with the music, and we recorded scratch vocals along with the drums while we were tracking. We’ve never done anything like that before at all. It was a big change for us, and Bryan (Giles – Guitars) and I were both very nervous about it, but now that I’ve done it that way, I kind of don’t want to go back. It just makes so much more sense to have the song written as one thing rather than two separate sometimes seemingly unrelated things (an instrumental song and some vocals).
It’s weird, actually, how common this seems to be in heavier music. To write basically an instrumental song and then just try to crowbar some vocals into it after the fact. Can you imagine Neil Young or Tom Petty or The Beatles writing a chord progression from start to finish and not having one idea about what the vocals or lyrics or melody will ultimately be? (laughing) It’s kinda weird, don’t you think? It’s extremely common, though. It’s the only way I ever did it for years and years and years before working with Ross.
OD – The album is approaching its first birthday on Oct 14th, which is kind of hard to believe that it’s been a year already. Have there been any thoughts on a break before you get into that creative mode again for the next album?
Aaron – Well, we’ve had kind of a break for the past couple months but it was mostly from people being on vacation so we couldn’t get a ton of songwriting done. Bryan and I have already been kinda messing around with some ideas. And we actually have already recorded a brand new song for a 7″ that is supposed to come out sometime next year.
OD – David (Sullivan – Guitars) had said in the past, that there is kind of two separate modes – writing time and touring time, does this still apply?
Aaron – Absolutely. We can’t write while on tour, and even during the breaks between tours its very hard because you have to catch up on all the stuff you missed while being away. And you need some decompression time!
OD – In the past, we have seen a short EP or 7” come out between albums and you did mention that there might be something coming soon. Has there been any progress with something like this and if so, what will it be?
Aaron – Ha! It’s like I knew this question was coming! (laughing) Yeah, we recorded an original new song and a cover song for a 7″ that was supposed to be available for Christmas, but it is a collaboration with a skateboard company and something I think happened with the production schedule, so it will probably be next Spring that it comes out. The music is all totally done, though!
Check out the brand new video for ‘Not For You’ below:
OD – I’m sure touring has it’s up’s and down’s, however, the cost of being on the road can be crushing at times, do you find that especially coming over the Europe and the UK, it’s a tough slog?
Aaron – The US is actually much harder for us because the touring business infrastructure is different over here. There aren’t smaller companies that do backline and vehicle/driver rentals for the prices you can get over there. Which means that we still drive ourselves in a van and trailer, so we’re often getting up at 7 am to drive all day, then play a show, then get to the hotel at 2 or 3 am then do it all over again. So, it’s much more physically taxing to tour in the US.
OD – Looking back on the discography all the album covers are dramatically different and most people would be surprised to know that Orion (Landau) did all of them. How does the process work with Orion when it comes to creating Red Fang covers?
Aaron – Orion is obviously a supreme badass when it comes to graphic design and artwork. He actually hand-painted the cover for Murder the Mountains (but sold the original – bastard!!!). We always have a sit down meeting with him and bounce ideas back and forth and he also always has a copy of the record before it is done so he can take some guidance from the sounds. He’s just really really good. And really really fast. And extremely hard working. And such a positive dude! He’s seemingly always in a good mood, even when he’s bummed out. It’s very handy that he lives in Portland, so we can have one on one meetings with him about art stuff.
OD – So far, Red Fang have only played in Ireland once and it was a blistering show. We have missed you over the last few times you have been in UK and Europe, I know that this is not really down to you guys, but promoters and the business side of things, but what is the likelihood of another headline tour after this December, as there are no other dates confirmed for Ireland?
Aaron – Well, shit. I am happy to hear that you enjoyed the last time we played Ireland. It is crazy that it was only the one other time! I also thank you for recognizing that it isn’t completely up to us where we get to play always. We don’t currently have any tours in the works for coming back across the pond. We have a bunch of stuff lining up through May of next year, so maybe another July tour could see us coming back to Ireland? I sure hope so!!
OD – With this run of dates in Europe and the UK come December you are playing much bigger venues with Mastodon. Do you feel that the hard work over the years and all the brutal touring conditions is finally beginning to pay off?
Aaron – I certainly hope so! I kind of feel like it has been paying off the whole time, but I would definitely love to get to a point where we don’t have to slog quite so hard just to make ends meet! I feel extremely lucky to have an opportunity to play music for a living, but I am also extremely lucky to have a fantastic home life that I actually don’t like to miss so much of.
OD – Regarding the tour with Mastodon and Russian Circles, did this come together because of management or was it a band to band thing, as I know you get on with those guys really well?
Aaron – I think at this point its kind of a combination of all those things. We were all texting back and forth about, but its also one of those things where, as you pointed out in earlier, it’s not always completely up to us. So, I’m very happy it worked out!
We obviously love Mastodon, duh. I’m also super stoked to be touring with Russian Circles. I like those dudes a lot, but we’ve only played together once, and have run into each other at festivals and have been talking for years about getting some kind of tour together. Sometimes it just takes years for it to happen.
OD – For me personally, I’ve noticed that there is a tremendous push with each album with reference to arrangements, style and influence. Red Fang could never be accused of being a one-trick pony. Is the common goal amongst you all to keep exploring your sound and venturing into new areas?
Aaron – Ha! Maybe part of that is just that we are totally psychotic with short attention spans and we can’t ever focus on one thing for too long (laughing).
To be fair, though we never issued a mission statement to that effect, we did have a discussion early on that because we all are so interested in so many different kinds of music, that we never wanted to be one particular style. We’ve always said that if we all feel like a song we wrote is good, then it doesn’t matter if it is a doom song, a goofy punk song, a prog rock song, or whatever. The only criteria for us is, do we all like it?
I think that sense of exploration comes more from the fact that we’ve never set any kind of genre boundaries for ourselves, and that over the course of 12 years, we’ve all discovered or re-discovered lots of music that inspires us, which ends up filtering into our songwriting.
OD – Can you tell me one part of the music business that you personally would like to see change or believe could be improved to a better standard?
Aaron – Oh geez. I mean, I know this will probably bum some people, but I feel like a lot of the way the music business works is dominated by market forces and that itself regulates to a large degree. I think its awfully hard to try to impress changes upon it from the outside. I suppose the one thing I would like to see at least in the US is a better way for musicians to get healthcare. The Affordable Care Act helps, but because income fluctuates so much I would like to see some sort of organization to help subsidize health care for musicians.
Catch Red Fang on tour with Mastodon and Russian Circles in November and December across select European and UK venues.
Red Fang are currently on tour in the US and have just announced a Winter tour with Black Label Society and Corrosion of Conformity and Eyehategod. Check out the dates below and visit your local ticket agent for the hook-up!
For more information on Red Fang, please visit this link.
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