Since 2009, when their first album was released on Sargent House, Portland’s Red Fang has quickly gained popularity. Now signed to Relapse Records, the quartet released Murder the Mountains in 2011 to glorifying reviews and hit the road with Mastodon and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Metallica took notice and invited them to grace the Damage Inc stage at their first annual Orion Music and More Festival in Atlantic City. MI Contributor Alex Rudisill sat down with guitarist David Sullivan before their set on the first day of the festival to talk about their respectable tour history, playing Wacken this summer, and their viral music videos.
You guys opened for Mastodon and the Dillinger Escape Plan this fall. DId you like touring with these bands, especially since they both had previously been signed to Relapse?
I loved it. It was especially awesome to tour with Mastodon because they’re huge right now. They just got nominated for another Grammy (for “Curl of the Burl). It was really great for us to be in front of their crowd. I think even though we’re nowhere near as technical as Mastodon, their crowds really liked us also. It was a good combination and they’re really nice guys. We did a US tour with them and then they asked us to go to Europe with them also. For most of it, it was just us and Mastodon. Then when we got to the UK, it was the same as in the US with Dillinger.
What was it like working with Chris Funk of the Decemberists as a producer, someone who is primarily an indie musician?
At first we were like, “Does this really make sense?” We didn’t think of him as a heavy rock or metal kind of guy, but he likes all kinds of music and he was great to work with. He was a good tiebreaker for us. He didn’t push us. When maybe two of us liked something and two of us didn’t, he would say, “well maybe we could do this.” He was also great when we would get him frustrated with recording a part. He would say, “Okay let’s just move on and take a break and come back to it.” He was just good at keeping our flow going.
What was the move from Sargent House to Relapse like?
We knew we wanted to move to a bigger label. Sargent House is awesome and we still love them. They still have a bunch of awesome bands. We just wanted to do something different. Relapse has been really great and they also just moved their headquarters from Philly to Portland, actually about four blocks from my house. We can see them face-to-face and its been really great.
How does the production differ from your first album and Murder the Mountains?
The first album is actually two separate recording sessions, two things we released as tour EPs. One of them was recorded in my living room at my house by my roommate and the other half was recorded by the guy running who’s our sound now, Adam Pike. Although I think it works as an album, its a little more disjointed. The new one, Murder the Mountains, is all in one session. We had a producer, all in the same studio. We did a few overdubs in another place, but most of it came together in the same place. The songs were mostly written all at the same time. Its a little more cohesive. We had more time to play with overdubs and more toys to play with, more effects. Its a little fancier, I guess. It has more of an immediate sound, I don’t want it to sound too slick.
After today, you’re heading out to Europe for a summer tour. How’s it feel to be able to say you’re playing Wacken Open Air in Germany?
Its amazing! That’s gonna be the biggest crowd we’ve ever played to. We won’t be on the main stage, I’m not even sure which stage we’re on. We played Hellfest in France last year and I was like, “Wow this is amazing!” People as far as I could see. Hellfest, I’ve heard, is about 25,000. Wacken is like 80,000 to 100,000, so it’s like four times as big. Its gonna be amazing, really cool.
Your music videos get quite the number of views on YouTube. Where do the concepts for these videos come from?
The credit for the concepts of the videos goes to the director, Rob “Whitey” McConnaughy. He’s really the creative force behind that. He comes up with ideas. He sort of takes who we are and sort of makes us a little larger than life. He’s just a genius with making films. He’s a friend of ours so he’s in touch with what we like as far as our sense of humor and everything. A lot of metal bands try to be all tough with fire and chains and whatever, and we’re just wanna be funny. I think it works just cause its got the right spirit.
You guys recently held a benefit concert in Portland for a local high school’s art program. Do you believe high school music and arts programs help foster the next generation of artists?
I do. I think its great to inspire art and music in kids. We did this benefit for Grant High School because their art department didn’t have enough money to buy basic supplies. We’ve also done some School of Rock shows. Those kids, at least the ones in Oregon, are amazing! They’re really good! They did a show where they played a bunch of metal songs and John sat in on drums on one of our songs, “Good to Die.” I think that kind of thing is important. Music and arts for kids is one of the best things you can encourage them to do. Theres not as many places for underage kids to come see us so we try to play all ages shows every once in a while.
What are Red Fang’s plans for the near and distant future?
Near future, we go back to Europe for our third time this year and play festivals. Then we come home in August, have a little bit of a break, and work on new songs. We have some songs written now, but not enough material to start recording. In late October/early November, we’re gonna do another US tour. After that, we’re gonna come home and finish the new album. Hopefully, early next year or springtime we’ll have our new record finished.
How does it feel to be here today at Metallica’s inaugural Orion Music + More?
Its amazing. When I was a kid, Metallica were inspirational to me and ruled my world musically. Still kind of blowing my mind. I mean, we’re sort of opening for Metallica. Its an honor.
Who else are you trying to check out this weekend?
We did five shows with the Sword on our way here so definitely them. Just got to see a little bit of Roky Erickson. I’m sad we won’t be here tomorrow cause I really like Torche and I’ve never seen Suicidal Tendencies. And of course, Metallica.
Favorite Metallica album?
My favorite Metallica album is probably Master of Puppets. Its really hard to choose though. I love Kill ‘Em All, I love Master of Puppets, I love Ride the Lightning, …And Justice for All… I really love all of it, especially the early Metallica.