Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen on the Music of His Youth

Aug 02, 2010 Issue #32 - Summer 2010 - Wasted on the Youth Bookmark and Share


Music made an impression for me as far back as I can remember being alive, even as a little kid. But I feel like my teenage years were when music became more of a reason to exist, and I believed in music, and I still do, like a religion. It dictated the way I thought. I still believe in the music that I listened to when I was a teenager. It really defined me; it defined me in the biggest way you could ever imagine. I remember when I was 17, or even 15, being into The Clash and Black Flag and Bow Wow Wow and The Stranglers, Kraftwerk, Devo, and Bad Brains. I feel like all that stuff really, really, really, really defined me, and it's still a huge, huge part of my life. I 100% considered myself a punk. I had a mohawk, and everywhere I went, if my family ever traveled, I would always seek out other punks. And then, I had a really good friend, Kenny Young, who was also a punk. You believed in it, and it will never, ever go away. I will always be a punk.

I remember when I bought Zen Arcade by Hüsker Dü—that really changed my life. New Day Rising by Hüsker Dü—that changed my life. I remember Sandinista! by The Clash changed my life. I remember Computer World by Kraftwerk. The Meat Puppets' Up On the Sun; that was like what I thought punk was, just like a different version of it. The Minutemen, Minor Threat. And then moving into my 20s, things like Fugazi. Then I kind of started to branch out a little bit, and I got into Stereolab, Sleater-Kinney. I remember, also, that, at the same time, I also had a fascination with Prince. Even though I was into punk, I was also into Prince. Prince was always a huge part of my life. And even though I was really into punk, I still loved things like Paul McCartney. I've always been a huge Paul McCartney fan. He's just so prolific, and I'll always be inspired to be as creative and as prolific as him.  

I think what punk was about was being yourself and reinventing yourself and having your own personality, and to me, Prince was that. To me he was very much a punk, even though he would never say that. He was so different. I remember seeing his videos and being, like, "What is this?" The video for "Raspberry Beret," he had the suit that was all clouds, and I was like, "That is the best thing you could ever do."

(Fred Armisen is an actor, comedian, and drummer who has appeared on NBC's Saturday Night Live since 2002 and used to be in the band Trenchmouth. Armisen says that he used to watch Saturday Night Live as a child. "My mom used to watch it, and she really liked Chevy Chase," he remembers. "And then I'd have sleepovers when I was in elementary school at my friend's house, and I would stay up enough to watch it as much as I could.")

(As told to Hays Davis. Portions of Fred Armisen's conversation have been abridged and edited for structure and flow.)



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