Fred Armisen on Record Store Day, his new EP and Punk Rock
Music makes me happy
Jul 13, 2021
Fred Armisen remembers the candy man. Or rather, Armisen remembers “The Candy Man”, sung and performed in 1972 by the great Sammy Davis Jr.
In fact, says Armisen, it is his earliest musical memory. The famous comic star of Saturday Night Live and Portlandia and house band drummer for Late night with Seth Meyers, says he played the song “over and over again” when he was a child. Music, even then for Armisen, as Davis Jr. so aptly put it, helped make everyone tastes good.
But over the years, Armisen, now 54, who this year holds the honorary title of Record Store Day Ambassador and will be observing the vinyl holidays again this summer on July 17, has started exploring new sounds and songs. . His tastes have shifted from Davis Jr. confectionery to a more rugged soundscape. Enter: the burgeoning genre of thought-provoking punk rock.
“I really believed in punk,” says Armisen. “A lot of groups I liked seemed to be pro-education. Education of any kind, although that did not necessarily mean school education. I remember reading lyrics about politics, especially The Clash and the Dead Kennedys. Even though I didn’t know how British politics worked, I remember being curious about the lyrics to The Specials.
Armisen, a lover of vocal music, is also an actor. For Record Store Day 2021, he released an instrumental EP of three tracks, Parade meeting, which was produced and recorded by popular indie artist Ty Segall, in Segall’s Los Angeles studio. The music is funky, expressive, and reminiscent of stuff that sprang from the windows and front doors of New York clubs in the ’70s and beyond.
“I thought I would try to do something that sounds like a 12 inch single from the early 80s,” Armisen says, adding, “I’ve always loved drums. It is the coolest instrument. What’s better than a drum kit? I’m just drawn to them. Whether it’s on TV or just in a little club somewhere.
If music is an essential resource, like oxygen, then vinyl records (as well as CDs, cassettes, etc.) are like the blood vessels that carry us air. Armisen knows this perfectly well. And coming out of the pandemic, he knows it even more seriously.
“I’ve always loved Record Store Day,” he says. “It’s different this year, like everything, because of COVID-19. A good friend of mine died of it last year. He made me discover a lot of music that I had never heard. I realize that everyone has to have a new connection to music after last year.
To continue the vital analogy, the disc stores, themselves, are like the ventricles, capillaries, and arteries that carry what we need. They give us tangible leads. And like most people, Armisen has his favorite boutiques. But, unlike most, his are scattered all over the world.
“I always shop at Amoeba in LA,” Armisen says. “I [also] really liked Flying Out in Auckland, New Zealand. It felt like a good representation of their local music scene.
While most artists aspire to be successful in one field, Armisen has found admiration for his comedy, acting, music, production, and directing, which also include music videos. If he says he treats them “all the same” in his approach, this mentality is also often amorphous or open on the subject. Often, says Armisen, he doesn’t come in with a concrete plan.
“I’m thinking about a project,” Armisen said, “like: I wonder what it would be like to try something like this?”
But at the end of the day, with so much good work going on in his proverbial rear window and a lot, it seems, on the road right in front of him, for Armisen, music remains a staple of his life, not only in his career as an artist, thinker and performer, but in his daily life, and in the way he interacts with the world.
“Music makes me happy to be alive,” says Armisen.
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