Fred Armisen Is Performing With a Punk Supergroup on Sunday

Fred Armisen as Ian Rubbish
Fred Armisen as Ian Rubbish
SNL Screengrab

Punk supergroup Dead Men Walking features members of The Damned, The Alarm, and The Stray Cats. When they perform this Sunday, September 14 at the Troubadour they will count among them a bunch of guests, including Duff McKagan and Fred Armisen. 

Armisen, of course, is known as the musician-turned-comedian-turned-musician who once ruled Saturday Night Live as punk legend Ian Rubbish. He took a break from filming Portlandia to talk to us about playing with his heroes, as well as a jerk who lives near him in Silver Lake.

So how did you get involved with the Dead Men Walking?

I was asked by these two people that I kind of know, one of them is Captain Sensible [of The Damned], who I’m huge a fan of. He’s a real hero of mine. They told me about a show they might do together, and it was all very loose — they might do one in Portland, they might do one here. When it all came down to it, they settled on just one show at the Troubadour. And then Slim Jim Phantom [of The Stray Cats] I ran into here and there, hanging out at Linda Ramone’s house and some parties, and between them and Duff [McKagan] who I know, and all these heroes of mine, there was a series of emails “Let’s put this show together” and I was like, “Let’s do it.”

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So it sounds like you greased the wheels a little bit?

I feel like this is something they've been doing, so I feel like I’m more like the caboose. I’m playing some songs. I’m not playing on everything.

Guitar?

Yeah, I’ll be playing guitar. I think they're trying to keep it acoustic-y, so it’s not overloaded with everyone just trying to out-volume each other. 

Captain Sensible, Mike Peters, and Armisen
Captain Sensible, Mike Peters, and Armisen
Courtesy of Dead Men Walking

Between all the bands represented, there’s got to be so much material for you guys to play.

Well, The Damned alone. They have a really rich history. Probably one of my favorite bands ever — really experimental, really melodic — and they really change from album to album. Captain Sensible...I could spend the rest of my life just talking about great he is — he’s this great musician and singer. And that’s no slight to everyone else in the band. In terms of growing up on a band The Damned were everything to me. But, as a person and as a character, he really was to me what punk was all about, which was really positive. People have this image of punk as being this kind of negative, angry thing, and he really mixed all of that positivity and all of those '60s influences into his music.

Well, he’s a fun kind of bratty, not necessarily an asshole.

Oh yeah, it’s a very British kind of...it’s the kind of sensibility you see once and a while with musicians. And it’s great because this whole event is supposed to be more like that — more like a party.

So do you think you know these guys well enough to play with them?

Well, Slim Jim Phantom and I met at Linda Ramone’s house. He’s from Long Island like I am, and whenever I talk to Long Island people it’s easy because we’re like a "type" of person. It’s really weird, we’re like secret family — it’s like you’re not fooling anyone, we’re both from the same place.

What about Duff McKagan?

He and his wife are Portlandia fans and they came to one of the live shows we did. Then his wife and I sort of became penpals and little by little wrote to each other. Then we had a part open for someone who was well-spoken but in a very rock-and-roll rock band, and he was perfect. He’s been involved with so much over the years, he can fit into any of those spots. 

Well, now it seems like you’re getting more prolific music-wise, yourself, especially with Late Night's 8G Band. Do you have any more things like this planned?

Well, I don’t plan on anything that far ahead. It’s always like, this looks interesting, so I think I’ll do that. Just taking things month to month.

Duff McKagan, Chris Cheney and Slim Jim Phantom
Duff McKagan, Chris Cheney and Slim Jim Phantom
Courtesy of Dead Men Walking

That’s a pretty L.A. attitude. 

Yeah...I just bought my first house here. I own a house now.

You do know that you and I are next-door neighbors, right?

No! You’re not the one with the ugly tarp over your car, are you?

No. God no. That guy sucks. 

It’s the funniest thing, the other day, I was so happy, they were taking down the tarp and I thought, “Oh, great, they want to make it nicer.” And then they put up another tarp. I was like, “Noooooo…” They just replaced the ugly tarp with another one. It’s not a big deal, I’m just happy to be living in Silver Lake, in my little house. I’m definitely turning it into a spooky weirdo house.



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