Red Fang’s Aaron Beam Breaks Down ‘Whales + Leeches’ Sound + More
Red Fang have been paying their dues and starting to build a following over the past few years. But it’s looking like 2013 is going to be a truly special year for the band as their ‘Whales and Leeches’ disc has the feel of a breakout album.
Noisecreep recently met up with Red Fang’s bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam and the musician gave us the lowdown on putting their ‘Whales and Leeches’ album together, went in-depth on how they got some of the great guitar and bass sounds for the effort and he shared a story about having his first ever meeting with Phil Anselmo actually happening onstage during a Down concert. See the full interview below:
You’ve got a great record. I gotta say there’s just high energy throughout this entire disc and I know as a listener I feel thoroughly rocked by the time it’s done with.
If I feel that way, how is it for you guys? By the time your done with a recording session, are you kind of just wiped out as well?
It sort of depends. I mean some of the songs, doing the basic tracks are just really smooth and it just takes you maybe two or three takes at most. Pretty much all of the basic tracks, just you know the basic guitars, drums, and bass were done live. You know, we had our amps all in different rooms so we can separate it in the mixing but, so you know, when it goes quickly then it’s just really fun and you kind of get excited, and then sometimes it will take you all day long to get one song, so it just really depends from song to song.
You guys have got some great bass and guitar tones on here. Can you tell me a little bit of how you go achieved some of the sounds that you do? What type of gear are you using?
I honestly couldn’t answer too much about the, as far as how the micing and the studio gear, that’s more of like a Chris Funk question … I can tell you what instruments we played and what amps we were using which is, we pretty much all use Sunn Beta’s. I have a Sunn Beta bass and the two guitar players play Sunn Beta Leads and each running through 4×12’s, and they just have this really characteristic, and really great tone that is sort of like, if a Marshall was really awesome or something. [laughs] It’s Marshall like; except that it has this sort of mid-range thing, this growl thing that Marshall’s just don’t have. I mean I like Marshall’s but they just don’t, they’re just not right for our sound, you know?
But as far as like the micing and all of that kind of stuff we do, the same thing with bass that we do live which is just have the gritty tone come from a mic on the amp and then we also have a DI signal that we use to kind of add in some more of the low end ’cause playing through a 4×12 you don’t really get a ton of bass or even if you try to, you lose a lot of the definition. Then I think because we have three of the same heads … you know, we have different guitars and different playing styles but it kind of makes everything coherent, it just makes it more … uh, one big beast that’s attacking you or whatever. [laughs]
Yeah, and then the only other thing I can think of is, I think that Chris put, or it was the engineer during the basic tracking that put four mics, and I think we used two separate guitar amps. So we had the Sunn and then some other kind of like a cleaner one and they put two mics on each of those cabs and then they just kinda bounced it all out and just created the thickest kind of, most complete, rounded tone that they could for each of the guitarists without having to go back and add more layers, you know? It’s one take with just a bunch of different sounds.
You guys have a couple albums under your belt now. Are you surprised by the stuff that your bandmates bring in or at this point is it kind of, “Oh okay, I expect you to step up with this on this song” type of thing?
No, I think we’re still always surprised by each other. We’re surprised by things we do ourselves sometimes. The stuff we end up keeping is the stuff that is surprising to us because you know, once it starts getting stale or it just seems like, “Oh yeah that’s the thing I figured you would do there” then we can all tell it’s just not worth doing it again.
Obviously we have some kind of themes that we’re sticking with and we’re not really getting to experimental with this record, but I feel like we’re pushing it a little bit further even than ‘Murder the Mountains’ did and its … you know like, whatever I think there’s a song we have at least three or four different vocal parts on at a time. So it’s definitely getting out there a little bit.
And I know on this record there’s a couple of guests — Mike Scheidt from Yob, and Pall Jenkins, if you could talk a little bit, about basically how they came to be part of this record?
Sure, well Mike obviously had a pretty big part. He actually wrote the lyrics and the vocal melody for the song ‘Dawn Rising.’ But there is one we, I think it was Brian, John and I, it was the three of us kind of playing on that main riff for a while and we were just thinking about Yob when we came up with it. Once we came up with a final version of it, Brian and I had almost no vocals really worked out leading up to cutting the vocals, you know, during overdubs which is two or three weeks after we finished basic tracks. We had a lot of work to do so we were trying to come up with ideas and nothing was really happening and John I think mentioned, “Hey, let’s just call Mike and see if he’ll sing on it.” So, he’s an old friend of ours so we got in touch with him and he was more than happy to do it.
We laid a little bit more responsibility on him ‘cause I knew that he would come up with something good so we’re really happy with it. I think it turned out way better than even I or any of us expected.
Then Pall is from San Diego and I used to play in a band with Tobe who is the other half of the songwriting team from Black Heart Procession. Tobe is actually like a shredding, heavy metal guitarist so it was pretty fun playing in a band with him. But I think Brian knew Pall from when he was in San Diego, and it was just that song I heard it, I heard his voice on it, it just seemed to be kind of obvious to get his particular tone on there. So we just called him up and said, “Hey man, do you think you can come down and throw down some vocals?” and he was like, “F— yeah.” So it turned out great.
Looking at your tour blog, I saw on there that you got a chance to rock out with Phil Anselmo. Tell me a little bit about what that was like for you.
Yeah, it was pretty exciting. I was talking to John about it, that neither one of us really gets nervous. I get excited about playing with Red Fang but we really don’t get nervous that “Oh maybe I’m going to screw up,” you know? That kind of nervous energy is mostly gone but that totally happened even though the part on the song is really simple. I still had that kind of like, “Oh God, I hope I don’t screw up” ‘cause you know it’s a bunch of Down fans and as soon as Pat put the bass on me, Phil came over, and I know Pat and Kirk from having toured with Crowbar before. We also know Down’s crew so it’s pretty mellow except that I never had spoken a word to Phil Anselmo. I never met him before so the first thing when the bass went on me, he came over and grabbed my glasses off my face and I didn’t know that he’s actually a nice, pretty mellow guy so I was like, “Oh God.”
I just had visions of my glasses being broken in half, or thrown into the crowd or something but he was very gentle and gingerly put them back on my face and afterwards I was talking to him and he was like, “Yeah, I don’t know if you were so blind you wouldn’t be able to play without them so I felt kind of bad so I put them back on your face.” I was like, “Yeah I was alright, luckily the bass part is easy then.” Yeah it was super, super fun but I kind of want to do it again ‘cause I was really conservative on the bass, too worried about screwing up so I really didn’t do anything crazy.
It’s obviously a big fall coming up. If you would like to tease what’s on the horizon for Red Fang?
Sure, yeah our album is coming out middle of October, so we’re going to be doing a little West Coast touring for probably a week and a half and then we’ll do a second leg in the middle of the country and, East Coast a little bit later on probably towards November, December. Then we’re going to head back over to Europe again for a couple more, you know, like warm weather like in the southern part in February, then the cold part in the North in March, and then hopefully we’ll be, I’d love to get back to Australia, maybe get down to South America and then I’m sure we’ll be back and do another round of U.S. and Europe later on in 2014. Lots of touring coming up.
Our thanks to Red Fang’s Aaron Beam for the interview. The band’s ‘Whales and Leeches’ album is due Oct. 15 via Relapse Records. To pre-order the disc, check here.