What on Earth is stoner rock? Not Fu Manchu, according to their
definition. They'd simply prefer to be considered a rock band. While
between record deals, the Fu recently released their double live album
'Go For It. . . Live!' The Metal Update caught up with frontman Scott
Hill to find out why the fuzz stops here. . .
METAL UPDATE: Fu Manchu now has their own live album. Are you satisfied
SCOTT HILL: Yeah, very much. I think the job Brian Dobbs did mixing it -
he did a really good job mixing the songs. I think if you've never heard
the band before, that's a good record to pick up because it's got a lot
of stuff from our first record to our last one. We're a much better band
live than we are in the studio. We are very happy with it.
MU: I've seen you guys many times, and I think it really captures your
MU: You seem to not only have a tight and heavy sound, but also a
spontaneous nature as well. Do you guys improvise or jam live?
SH: Yeah. I think especially if you listen to some of those songs on the
live record and then listen to some of the studio ones, about half of
'em are a little bit different than the studio recordings. If we feel
the need to play something a little different or extend a part, we'll go
ahead and do it.
MU: Are you guys big fans of live albums?
SH: Yeah, I definitely am. I've got a lot of early punk rock live
records, the Nugent live one, the Foghat live, so yeah I've always liked
live records. Especially a lot of bands I've never seen before and I
don't have a chance to see em, you get a live record to see what they
were like live. So yeah, I'm a big fan of live records.
MU: Do you have a favorite?
SH: Probably 'The Decline' album. It's on Punk Rock Records. It has
Black Flag, Circle Jerks. It came out in like '80 or '81. I love it.
It's a great record. I'm a big punk rock fan and, to me, I've seen all
those bands and that pretty much captures how they were live.
MU: Why the split with Mammoth Records?
SH: Well, Mammoth kind of went out of business, so we didn't have a
choice. About four months after our last record got released they told
us they were not going to be a label anymore, and we were like, "Oh,
OK." There was not much we could really do about it. We're just now
recording some new demos and we're shopping them around to labels.
MU: So you're label-less right now and SPV must have just had the live
SH: Yeah, we just hooked up with them for the live record.
MU: Why did Brant Bjork split?
SH: Brant left because he wanted to concentrate on his solo stuff and he
didn't think he could do both full time and put his head into both bands
full time. It was right before our record 'California Crossing' got
released and he was like, "If you want me to tour I will, but at the end
I'm gonna do my own thing." And we were like, "We want to find a
permanent guy." That was kind of it. We're still friends with each
MU: Are you happy with Scott Reeder?
SH: Definitely. We've known him for about 10 years and the first day of
practice it sounded great, so we knew it was going to work out well.
MU: Are you guys currently playing with the fuzz pedals anymore or has
the clean sound won you over?
SH: The fuzz pedals are gone. We haven't played with those for about two
or three years. It's not necessarily a clean sound, but it's a little
bit cleaner than our old fuzz. It's still distorted and fuzzy but not
quite as messed up as the other fuzz sound.
MU: And this is all kind of a blessing in disguise from a fan stealing
SH: Yeah. It's not a blessing whatsoever. We wanted a change of our
sound anyways. We got these clear Dan Armstrong guitars, both me and Bob
did. We plugged them straight into our Marshall heads and it sounded
good without fuzz pedals. And we were like, "That's a cool sound" and
both kind of kept that sound. We got rid of our other guitars and our
other fuzz pedals and there you go.
MU: So the pedal stealing incident happened in Boston, huh?
MU: At the Middle East?
SH: No. It wasn't the Middle East.
MU: It might have been Axis.
SH: Not a big place. Had a bunch of rooms in it.
MU: It might have been Mama Kin.
SH: No. It was on that street I believe.
MU: It's kind of irrelevant but I was just wondering anyways.
SH: It was a club that was right around there.
MU: It's kind of ironic. It seems that a lot of bad things happen to
bands in Boston.
SH: No. We always have fun in Boston and the Middle East is a pretty fun
club. That just kinda sucked but I did get it back.
MU: So now you are playing the Ampeg Dan Armstrong guitars?
MU: And you are happy with them?
SH: Yeah, they play great.
MU: Are you guys sponsored at all?
SH: Yeah. They are giving us free guitars and stuff. But just as soon as
we started playing them, they stopped reissuing them. We got about seven
guitars from them and that's it. They have no more and they make no
more. We're lucky with the one's we got.
MU: What is the writing process like? Do you guys just jam out the tunes
or are the songs complete from the beginning?
SH: Usually me or Bob will come in with a couple of riffs and then we'll
all get in the same room and kind of play with them - see what part
works where, put a bridge somewhere, extend a part, take a part out. So
it's just from all of us standing in one room.
MU: Do you guys jam often?
SH: We usually practice about four times a week.
MU: Is that at a practice space?
MU: I already know you guys hate the stoner rock tag, and it makes no
sense to me either. What would you prefer to be tagged as?
SH: Just a rock band, because you don't know what you're getting with
that. People have these misconceptions about stoner rock bands being
slow and droney, and that's definitely not our case.
MU: Do you guys think you have ties to metal in any way?
SH: I don't know. I don't really listen to metal whatsoever.
MU: You guys pretty much came from the hardcore / punk rock scene?
SH: All I listen to is old punk rock stuff. We don't like a lot of heavy
guitar leads all over the place in our songs and that's kind of what I
equate with metal. There's some stuff that I like. I like old Sabbath
and stuff. I don't like the traditional metal stuff, and I don't like a
lot of lead guitar crap.
MU: When people do mention stoner rock, Fu Manchu and Queens of the
Stone Age are usually at the top of the list. Now, do you guys know
Queens of the Stone Age at all?
SH: Yeah, we've known those guys since they started in Kyuss.
MU: You guys have Kyuss tie-ins, right?
SH: Yeah. Brant used to be in Kyuss. We've been friends with those guys
forever. We did some tours with them, played some shows with them. We're
buddies with those guys.
MU: What do you think of the new record?
SH: I like 'em. They're a really good band. I really like 'em. Live
they're really good too.
MU: They definitely took off and are cashing in now, huh? Good for them
MU: They're doing what they want to do. You guys are all self-proclaimed
fans of vintage movies, cars, vans and the lifestyle itself. What draws
you to the whole retro thing?
SH: I don't know. I've grown up here in Southern California at the beach
my whole life and I remember when I was really young seeing custom vans,
Camaros and El Caminos down at the beach. I've always been into cars
ever since I was a young kid, so it just kind of made its way into the
MU: Let's talk favorites for a bit. What is your ideal car?
SH: I actually have a 1968 El Camino, so that would be my favorite car.
MU: And that is on the cover of 'California Crossing'?
SH: Yeah. That's it.
MU: How about vans?
SH: Oh, any kind. I've never owned a van. I doubt I ever will. But,
maybe an old Chevy van. One that's all tricked out inside and looks
MU: Where did you get the photo on 'King Of The Road'?
SH: We got that from someone who shoots pictures for Hot Rod magazine.
We got a hold of Hot Rod magazine and actually they did a review of one
of our early records. We got a hold of 'em and asked if they had any
pictures of vans and they turned us on to this guy and he was like,
"Yeah, use whatever you want." He gave us all these pictures. It was
MU: How about movies?
SH: Oh Jesus, anything from old crappy B-movies to science fiction. Any
old high school party teenage movies are always good - any old kung fu
stuff - I like a lot of stuff.
MU: How about books?
SH: I'm not a big reader. I don't read a lot except for when we are on
tour. Usually I do an autobiography of someone. I think the last one I
ever read was on the singer of Thin Lizzy. It was pretty cool. I have a
portable DVD player I take along so that takes up a lot of time, which
is good when you are traveling.
MU: Do you guys play video games at all?
SH: I'm not a video game player but Brad, our bass player and Scott
Reeder our drummer, both those guys like playing video games.
MU: You guys are skateboarding fans too, right?
MU: So they must definitely love the Tony Hawk.
SH: Yeah, they play that thing all the time.
MU: What are some future plans for Fu Manchu?
SH: Right now, we just finished recording six new songs and three of
them will probably be coming out at the end of the year on a friend of
MU: What label is that?
SH: Elastic. He did a lot of early stuff for us back in the day. And
then we'll just be working on a new record to get out by hopefully next
summer and start touring again. It's kind of our plan.
review of Fu Manchu 'Go For It. . . Live!'
Interview: Scott McCooe [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ email@example.com ]
Webmaster: Sean Jennings [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]