Red Fang Speak To SonicAbuse

With new album ‘whales and leeches’ now firmly worming its way into the public consciousness, it’s time to turn our attention the to multi-faceted musicians Red Fang whose musical remit takes everything from classic heavy metal to stoner, grunge and doom, often within the same song. We had the opportunity to pose some questions to the band via email shortly before the album was unleashed upon UK shores, looking at the process of writing ,  finding the artwork, and simply managing the day-to-day running of being in a band at the same time as trying to have a life outside of music. Welcome to the world of Red Fang…

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1.       You’re poised to release your third album. Whilst the first album seemed to be more in a stoner vein, the second album offered what seemed to be a darker, sludgier sound. To what extent, and in what way, do you feel you’ve progressed musically on this outing?

Who knows?  It’s hard to look at our own work objectively and chart our progression.  I’d love to think that we’ve “grown musically”, or our song writing has “matured” or whatever, but ultimately the listener will be the judge and it won’t matter what I think.  These new jams are super fun to play, and they sound killer in my headphones!  
2.       It’s been said before that a band has their whole lifetime to develop their first album, whereas the following records are made under a greater sense of pressure in terms of fan and record company expectations. Did you feel that there was a sense of having to live up to the first two records on this outing?

We certainly tried NOT to think about this, but it’s impossible to completely ignore.  However, we just tried to write songs that WE liked and really didn’t focus on what we thought other people might want to hear.  I’m sure if we tried to write what we thought people would want to hear, we would get it totally wrong anyway, so the only option was to write for us.  We had about 3 months to get this record completely written and recorded, and we had very little to work with at the start.  We were too stressed out about getting to the finish line with a product we were proud of to worry about if anyone else was going to like it.  That stress came later.  But what can you do?  People will like it, or they won’t, right?

3.       What lyrical themes do you explore on the new album and what influences you when writing?
Lyrics are always the last piece of the puzzle for us.  The riffs come first, then Aaron and Bryan will come up with some vocal melodies and then write some lyrics.  Often they are written in the studio moments before recording them.  I usually have no idea what they are singing about.  I think there’s usually some apocalyptic themes and some total depression session jammers.  This record has at least one vampire song and a song about the stresses of being a father/ touring musician.  All over the map!  
Red-Fang-Whales-And-Leeches
4.       Musically you seem to take from a wide variety of influences from old school heavy metal to alt rock – would you agree with that and what bands do you find particularly inspirational?
We definitely draw from a wide pool of inspiration.  All of us have varying tastes and listen to all kinds of music – Alice Coltrane is right before Alice Cooper on my iPod.   As far as what influences our playing, I think David and I have always leaned toward the 70s heavy bluesy jams (too many to list, but listen to Thin Lizzy “Ballad of a Hard Man” right now.  Then Master’s Apprentices “Choice Cuts” album) and 80s doomy stuff like Trouble & Pentagram, whereas Bryan leans more toward Jesus Lizard and Melvins, and Aaron’s love of 90s grunge like Soundgarden and Nirvana brings it all together.  
5.       Obviously the internet can help with promoting a new band but there is also the case that too much exposure reduces the sense of mystery that used to surround bands – have you found the net to be more of a help or a hindrance to Red Fang and in what ways?
We have definitely benefitted from the wide reach of the internet.  No doubt about it.  We are lucky enough to have some very creative friends and the first video that Whitey McConnaughy made for us was instrumental in getting our name out there.  It’s so easy to find out about bands now – anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the world (that’s not censored) can check out a band with the click of a button.  Insane.  
6.       Your posters and albums always have such cool artwork – is that something that’s important to you as a band and do you involve yourselves in the creation or rather tell people the kind of things you want and leave them to it?
Of course, killer artwork is super important!  With our last 2 album covers we have worked with Orion Landau on concepts and some particulars, but he is ultimately responsible for how badass they turned out.  Sometimes, an artist will send us unsolicited art that totally blows our mind and we’ll end up using it for something.  I’m a huge fan of silk screened show posters, but we don’t have the resources to produce these very often.  I love it when an artist from a city we will be playing reaches out with an offer to make some posters.  They sell them on their website and give us a few to sell at our merch table and everyone wins.  Reach out, artists!
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7.       Since you released your first album in 2009 you seem to have been on the road almost permanently, have you found it difficult to balance the commitments of life with the commitments of being in a touring band?

It’s not easy, especially as we get older and have families and responsibilities we didn’t have in our 20s.  It is also absolutely necessary.  If you want to do this for a living, even a very meager one, you MUST tour.  These days bands aren’t making money from record sales because most people pirate, right?  So you have to get out there and sell some shirts to keep the machine alive.  Luckily, playing live is my favorite part of this whole thing, so I’m happy to do it.  It isn’t easy to maintain a happy home life when you’re gone all the time, but it is possible.  

8.       What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Tough call.  We have shared stages with some of my childhood heroes and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the people that most inspired me when I was a kid.  But, I think the biggest buzz I’ve had so far was the first time we headlined in Russia.  Growing up in the 80s watching cold war movies like Red Dawn and Spies Like Us, I never would have imagined playing a packed house in Moscow to some sweaty, CRAZY rock fans.  It was definitely a milestone.
9.       Looking at previous interviews and your video clips, one of the first things that jumps out is the fact that you guys seem to be having a heap of fun doing what you do – it’s refreshing to see a band who seem to be in love with the whole process of making music because some bands seem to get so mired in cynicism – how do you keep things interesting for yourselves when you’re out on the road?
Well, to be honest, most of the time on the road is super boring.  It’s mostly traveling from one city to the next, so you’re stuck in a van or whatever reading books, playing scrabble, just passing the time.  The excitement of getting on stage every night is the big pay off, and for us it really IS fun.  I can’t imagine why anyone would do this if it wasn’t truly fun for them.  No matter what your motivation is, getting up there and sweating it out is fucking FUN.  
10.   Any final words for your UK fans?
We can’t wait to get back over there and party with you guys!!  See ya soon.
-John Sherman

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