Red Fang – Over the Mountains
By: David E. Gehlke
In what has become their breakout year, 2011 for Portland's Red Fang is surely one to remember for the straight-up rockers. Hot off the heels of their widely-acclaimed Murder the Mountains (Relapse) full-length, the band snagged primo tour slots on this summer's Monster Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem festival, and an opening gig on this fall's Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan tour. The variety of these tours prove that Red Fang can run with both the big dogs in the metal and rock scenes without having to compromise their sound and ideals. That's what having a ballyhooed album will do for you.
Already well-known for their sense of humor (check out the band's "Prehistoric Dog" and "Wires" videos - funny stuff), Red Fang's crazy schedule has prompted the members to make some life-changing decisions, something affable and outgoing bassist Aaron Beam was more than happy to discuss with Blistering. Some GPS problems that prompted the band to get lost in Indianapolis set our call back a few others, but like the true rock trooper he is, Beam called and off we went…
Blistering.com: This is the second huge tour you’ve done this year, and it seems like you are able to fit right in with Mastodon and Dillinger.
Aaron Beam: We’ve been sort of fantasizing about touring with someone like Mastodon for quite some time, so it’s been amazing.
Blistering.com: 2011 has been your breakout year with the success of Murder the Mountains, then the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem tour and now this. Can you encapsulate the year up until this point?
Beam: It started off with the Mayhem tour being offered to us in January, so that was in the beginning of the year. I was working full-time at a studio in Portland and had no idea what’s happening with the band, whether I was going to keep my job and do small tours here and there, hoping I can get time off for them. The Mayhem tour got offered to us in January, and the Metalalliance tour [with Crowbar and Helmet] got offered in January, so suddenly we had March accounted for and most of July and August. Then we got hooked up a European booking agent, so we learned we’re going to be gone for half the year, so I had “the talk” with my work that I wouldn’t be coming back.
We tried to figure out some way to make it work where I could have gone on these tours and come back, but the way these schedules were set, it wasn’t going to happen. I made the transition at 38 years old – I was 37 at the time – with a mortgage, a wife, and a child to go from a full-time employee with health benefits to supporting myself through music. It’s scary and really exciting at the same time.
Blistering.com: The album, from everything I’ve read, has scored some really high marks by both the metal and rock crowds. Do you think that has gone a long way toward landing tours with like the Mastodon and Rockstar Mayhem tour?
Beam: Yeah. I think it helps, I wouldn’t imagine if people working the record would care as much that we’re a lesser-known band…we don’t have too much to do with trying to get onto these tours. We can say yes or no to these things, but mostly it’s our manager and booking agent that do all of the work. It probably helps them that there’s positive reviews for the record, but also, having those videos out there helps too. I talked to the Mastodon dudes on the first day we played in L.A. and I think that was one of the first things they said to us. So that helps.
Blistering.com: Another thing about the new album is that you totally self-financed the thing, which in this day and age is a big plus considering how low budgets has become. That must give your success further validation.
Beam: We’ve done that with everything we’ve ever done. Even our first record [2009's Red Fang], which was a collection of everything we’ve ever done, just from different recording sessions. We did the same thing with Mountains. It gave us the opportunity to do things how we want to and I sometimes feel like when – not that I’ve ever had to deal with this situation with this band – if you’re given too big of a budget, then you expand the scope of what you want to do too far. And maybe you’re less disciplined with the work you do. There’s tons of pressure when you have a limited budget. You have to work harder and you are forced to make decisions about things you wouldn’t normally have to make. I think that’s more of a detriment than a plus, though.