Of all the excellent cast of SNL's past few seasons, none have left me as impressed as Fred Armisen -- whose skewing impressions of folks like New York Governor David Paterson and Barack Obama have been sources of constant amusement. I've actually been a fan of Armisen's for years, dating back to his days as the drummer in early-'90s Chicago punk group Trenchmouth. So this weekend's SNL skit made sense to me in which Armisen, along with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, host Ashton Kutcher and cast member Bill Hader played a greying middle-age hardcore punk band called Crisis of Conformity. You can watch the clip here.
I know you were in punk band,Trenchmouth. To what extent did punk inform your sensibilities as a comedian?
"Punk did more than just inform me about what I do with comedy; punk is the blueprint for everything that I've done. Punk meant more to me than anything. I really believed in The Clash, and I believed in Husker Du, The Stranglers, The Damned, and then from there I believed in Devo and Kraftwerk and they really informed everything that I do in presentation, in concept and what I wanted to become, and that's still with me to this day. Punk will never not be a part of me; it's a huge, huge part of me. And I don't just mean the punk of yesteryear; I mean there are things that I consider punk now."
"Joanna Newsome, Marny Stern, Mary Timmons... I consider them all punks; Les Savvy Fay--they're a huge part of what I do."
PUNK'S NOT DEAD, PT. 2
Yeah, but how do you reckon that with a punk philosophy where you are "the weapon" as it were?
"Because when Devo had their new costumes, they moved on, and when The Clash had a new record they moved on as well--and punk ethics? I don't believe that punk ethics are specifically DIY."
Well, the idea is that you are the weapon, no one informs your message other than yourself, and that's different than being a vessel for writers.
"But you look at any punk band, there was so much going around every band. The Sex Pistols had Malcolm McLaren. The Clash had Bernie..fucken..."
Bernie Rhodes... but what about Fugazi? And The Clash ceased to be standard bearers and The Police have admitted to being punk opportunists who were there at the right time.
"I sill consider that punk. The Police? Totally a punk band; Because of the music they decided to do. I think it's punk to go against punk. They were like, 'I know the Damned are out right now doing these really fast songs; were gonna do these tight little reggae songs' (his hands impersonating Stewart Copeland's cymbal-finessing) That, to me, is more punk than anything. That to me is like--not wearing the uniform. I consider The Police, full-on, a punk band.
Read the full interview