Brian Fair Is The NBA’s Most Metal Fan

Boston native Brian Fair—the multi-instrumental vocalist of the metal band Shadows Fall—bleeds Celtics green. Although an avid (and often outspoken) fan of all sports, he has a special place in his heart for the team that launched legends such as Larry Bird, and can fall back on decades of memories, seemingly able to call up the briefest of plays from years ago as if they had occurred the night before.
With the Celtics’ three-championship run still fresh in his mind, he represents his favourite team at concerts around the world, often wearing his favourite jerseys and engaging in heated battle with bands who—for some damn reason, anyway—back other teams. We gave him a call to talk about the current season, his favourite moments in Celtics history and the state of modern metal music.
Photo: Creative Commons One of the first things that always comes up about you is that you’re a die hard Celtics fan. When did that start, and what was it that got you hooked?

Brian Fair: Really, as long as I can remember. I grew up in Boston. I was 10 years old during that run of the ‘84-’86 championships—the Larry Bird, [Robert] Parish, [Kevin] McHale, Danny Ainge—and so, at that time growing up, the Celtics just owned the city. The Old Garden, there was no other place like it: it was either a thousand degrees sweating, or freezing. The arcade floors had holes and spots and bumps. It was just a cool place, that’s really just what got me hooked for life. I was a season ticket holder for a long time, saw 29 seasons and championships now. You stick with them no matter what.

BnR: Did you get a chance to attend any of those historical championship games?

BF: I remember the ‘86 championship team, that was the one that had me hooked. From then on out, it was all Celtics, all the time. None of the championship games, but I did see some of the games that season. That was the definition of team basketball, the way they played, it’s so ridiculous. Bird was just making magic everywhere he went, but the balance of the team, with Parish just a scoring machine, and McHale with every post move in the world, and Danny Ainge just that little annoying dude that’s just poking everyone and hitting threes. And the bench—you had Hall of Famers on the bench!—with Walton coming out. What a team.

BnR: That was a great era, that’s also when Bill Simmons was falling in love with the Celtics.

BF: Oh yeah, Bill Simmons is another classic Celtics fan through and through, we grew up at the same time.

BnR: Back at the end of the 2007-2008 season, something pretty big happened: the Celtics won the NBA Championship. Where were you at the time, and was it the happiest moment of your Celtics-loving life? 

BF: I actually was home from tour, and [only] got to catch [one game], and they lost at home. I didn’t even care, I was just so excited that they were back. When they acquired Garnett, I was pretty hopeful about their chances, but I just didn’t know… Especially with Rondo coming in unproven at that point, I figured they’d have a great run, but I didn’t see the steamroller they were going to [become]. But man, that was good times, because the season before I literally went to almost every home game, and they were one of the worst teams—not just in basketball that year, but that I can remember in decades. So to go from that—you know, Paul Pierce sitting out most of the seasons, Tony Allen blowing out his knee on a dunk after a foul call—to then suddenly Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett walking through the door? We’re all good.
Photo: Roberto Chamorro/Razor and Tie Publicity

BnR: What did you do to celebrate?

BF: Just raging, man, I was just partying. I think I was with my fiancee at the time, me and the wife were just hanging out, partying and just enjoying it. That was a championship I didn’t see coming. And Paul Pierce being one of my favourite players ever, to have him get the MVP after sticking with the Celtics and being a lifer, that was huge.

BnR: You must not have been happy with KG and Paul Pierce, who were sent over to Brooklyn recently. At the beginning of December, the two even played against their old team, with Pierce ending up with a broken hand that put him up 2-4 weeks. How’d you react?

BF: It was one of those things, something big was going to happen, and when Doc left, I just knew they were going to blow it all up. But to see Paul Pierce in a Nets jersey—especially after going through all those Eastern Conference finals in the early 2000s—and see Jason Kidd drawing the place of Paul Pierce? There’s something so intrinsically wrong with that, it’s insane, you know? I had a feeling that Pierce was going to get traded, but I just wanted to see him end his career in Celtics green. It’s so brutal to trade the cornerstone of your team, and within your division! I’m amazed at how poorly the Nets are trying to find the chemistry and play as a team. I didn’t expect them to be dominant right away, but I didn’t expect them to be that bad, either.
 Photo: Shadows Fall/Facebook

BnR: Trading players like that within a division is just a recipe for awkwardness on the court. From the perspective of a fan who’s been watching the Celtics for so long, what are your impressions of this season’s team so far?

BF: You know, it’s definitely set up to I think as a rebuilding thing, but I just don’t see them being bad enough to end up in a low lottery, which is a little scary, because as a fan you want them to win every game, and I’m more of that way—I don’t want them to tank, but it still puts you in a weird situation. But the team, Salinger’s improvement is really encouraging, that’s huge, Avery Bradley is playing more of a 2 guard, being more of that defensive guy and getting in that role is big, and we’ll see when Rondo comes back, maybe we’ll make a small run. But honestly, winning the Eastern and ending in the seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs, all you have to do is get bounced in the first round by Miami or Indiana and you’ll get a number 10 pick or something. Ugh. I’m a big University of Kansas fan, so I’m watching Wiggins every game and I’m like, “Yeah, that guy would look nice in Celtics green.” We’ll see what happens.

BnR: Yeah, that is pretty troubling: they’re not great, not bad, just mediocre, middle ground.

BF: Exactly, it’s almost unfortunate the way the NBA is set up where draft talent is so top heavy, it’s ridiculous. You do need those magic spots if you’re trying to fully rebuild, unless you can do what Ainge did, which is bring in a KG or Ray Allen through trades or free agency. The reason I’m not worried yet is—like with the Patriots and Belichick—Ainge has a good enough track record of just doing things that make no sense and having it all fall into [place], so I’m waiting for that moment. It’s going to be a long, annoying season of blowing leads in the second half is what I feel. [laughs]

BnR: Well put! Speaking frankly, you’re a famous musician, so have you ever had a chance to meet any of your heroes, hang out with them or whatnot?

BF: No, not really! Funny thing is, the closest I’ve ever gotten to being in the backstage area of the Celtics and the Garden world was before Shadows Fall really took off, I was delivering ice cream around Boston, gourmet ice cream, and I was dropping it off at the Legends Restaurant in the Garden.I got to sneak off and watch a little practice here and there. That’s about as close as I got, when I was a delivery man before the music career took off. But who knows, I’d love to one day get a chance to meet somebody and talk, but so far it’s been seats in the stands, or at home on the couch, screaming at the TV. But I feel they can hear me, so I think we’re communicating on some level.

BnR: I read that one of the things that often comes up with you is that you often wear a Celtics jersey on stage. Can you tell us about that?

BF: It really started on Ozzfest 2003, it came down to it being about a hundred degrees on that stage every single day. I’m like, I had a nice Paul Pierce jersey, that makes it work. Plus I have this old school black on black one that still looks metal, so I get to represent both the hometown and Paul Pierce. I pretty much have a different Paul Pierce jersey from every era of his career from Inglewood, to Kansas, to now—I don’t know if I’m going to get a Brooklyn jersey, though, I’m not sure if I can do that [laughs]. The other jersey I rock on stage is just a really old Larry Bird jersey that was from the mid to late 80s. I retired that one because it was starting to get beat up on the road and fall apart, so I wanted to keep that one intact.
Photo: Roberto Chamorro/Razor and Tie Publicity

BnR: You’re not on tour right now with Shadows Fall or Death Ray Vision, what are you up to right now?

BF: Shadows Fall is on a little downtime, and I just had my first kid about six months ago, so I took a little time off from the road to be home and hang with the wife and the baby. I actually have some shows coming up in January, a reunion with an older band called Overcast. And then Shadows Fall is going to be doing some stuff right after that as well. I’m actually a part of something called Metal All-Stars, doing a run through Europe with different singers from different bands ranging from Sepultura—Max (Massimiliano) Cavelara is doing it—with a different backing band, rotating. It’s something different, something cool that’s unique to anything I’ve been a part of, so I’m looking forward to that in March. And then from there, we’ll try to get a new Shadows Fall record going.

BnR: Speaking of doing something fun, Death Ray Vision is your other band with some members of Killswitch Engage. I don’t want to say it, but—okay, honestly, what’s a better term for it than “supergroup”? That just sounds so lame.

BF: [laughs] To me, we always call it a side project, because in short, “supergroup,” it just sounds like something more like with a cheesy, hollywood feel. Nah, It’s just a bunch of friends who all happen to be in different bands who tour together just writing some cool music together. A friends and family project.

BnR: How’d that collaboration come together?

BF: Me and Mike [D’Antonio] had been in a band called Overcast together when we grew up, and once Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall took off, we’ve always still stayed friends. He had some songs that were just more old school, hardcore, a little bit of thrash metal—but they weren’t really Killswitch-style material. He sent me the demos and asked if I’d be down. It was raw, we’d record real fast, aggressive hardcore tunes. These days, metal is getting so technical in the studio, where things are so perfect. Things are all cut and grid and beat detected, you’re punching in little chugs and stuff like that. You know what? Let’s just let it rip and keep that old school energy, just keep it sounding like a modern record. Shows are few and far between, but playing them is awesome.

BnR: Yeah, it’s got a great sound, more of a return to those classic, east coast hardcore roots.

BF: That was the music we grew up on, that early New York hardcore as well as that crossover thrash stuff. The energy of those records, half of it was that the drummer was slowly speeding up throughout the song, or like it sounds like it’s about to be a train wreck bbut they save it and crush some killer riff. Now, everything is gritted out perfect, it sounds like machines. It just takes that human element out of it.

Photo: Roberto Chamorro/Razor and Tie Publicity 

BnR: Anything else you’d like to throw in?

BF: I think it’s cool what you’re doing, bringing in some different elements to the sports conversation. I’ve even talked about doing a music meets sports podcast, because half the time on tour, what bands are talking about and fighting about is sports. Those rivalries, when they come out on stage, I’m not afraid drop the gauntlet! When I play Philly, I’m talking to Eagles fans. When I play New York, I’m talking to Yankees fans. I’m bringing the hometown pride. It’s fun to have that part of music with sports, and definitely on the social media side of things, I talk more sports than music on Twitter and Facebook with fans.

BnR: Thanks so much for your time! For more metal sports commentary, catch up with Brian on Twitter right here.


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