As Fred Armisen preps his newly formed 8G Band for its debut on Late Night With Seth Meyers on February 24th, he’s looking within himself for guidance and asking, “What would Wayne Coyne do?” And, like most people who’ve long lost their WWJD bracelets, “What would James Franco do?” The SNL alumnus pondered those Big Questions and explained how he assumed the throne Questlove left behind in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Regarding why he picked Coyne as a role model, Armisen said, “I love how he lives his life and I think he would have done this.” And as for his Franco shout-out, which came with Armisen’s underlined, emphatic, unquestionable disclosure “and I really mean this,” he said, “James Franco has turned his life into a real art project. In my opinion, that’s the way to live.”
Armisen said that he doesn’t plan on talking very much during the show, though Meyers has suggested that the Portlandia star might do characters on the show. (He’ll also be taking the summer off to film Portlandia.) What he will be doing is giving the show its musical mien; he’s already written the theme song and he says that he and Meyers have similar tastes in music, specifically punk rock.
“We’d turn each other on to bands, and late in my tenure at Saturday Night Live, he came up with this sketch idea for a British punk guy named Ian Rubbish, who loved Margaret Thatcher,” Armisen said. “It was a brilliant idea. I would love to have said that I thought of it, but I didn’t. So, Seth went off to write the lyrics, and he nailed it. Nobody would have guessed he’s got this secret punk living inside of him.”
Although Armisen has been working with Meyers on his role, he credits SNL producer Lorne Michaels with coming up with the idea. Their discussions led to a meeting with Meyers and one of Late Night’s producers who charged him with writing a theme song. “That’s been a dream of mine,” Armisen said. “I thought, ‘I could start up a band, write a couple songs and then just send them on a trajectory.’ We’ve been rehearsing, and it’s been really fun.”
As for his Late Night bandleader predecessors, he had nothing but kind words, even though he once drum-battled one of them. “Questlove redefined what a band can be, and Paul Shaffer and Max Weinberg really put their own spin on it,” he said. “I bow down to these people. All of them.”
The one Late Night musician and fellow SNL alum that he did not acknowledge, at least in print, was Jimmy Fallon, who recently asked if he could join Armisen’s band. “I gave [Fred] my email today, and I said, ‘I can play guitar!'” Fallon said recently. “So I have to audition, but I think I have an in. I’m always there for him, if he needs me. Absolutely. Whatever he needs.”