By Steve Newton
When you check out the song titles on its latest CD, Gigantoid, it’s clear that Fu Manchu still has a hankering for sci-fi–oriented tuneage.
The band that once proudly named a song after the flaky Farrah Fawcett flick Saturn 3—which Roger Ebert dubbed “awesomely stupid and totally implausible”—still churns out rockin’ ditties like “Dimension Shifter”, “Triplanetary”, and “Robotic Invasion”.
“I’m not really one to write personal or political or religiouslike lyrics,” admits founding vocalist-guitarist Scott Hill, on the line from his home in San Clemente, California. “You know, I’ve always grown up with watching outer-space stuff, and it’s all nonsense, so it’s just easy to write about. The cheesier the better for me.”
Anyone expecting major changes from Fu Manchu on the musical front can forget about that, too. The fuzz-happy sound you hear on Gigantoid is not far removed from that of its 1994 debut, No One Rides For Free. And Hill’s fine with that.
“We’ve kinda kept it pretty close,” he points out. “I know ‘artists’—whatever—like changing from record to record, but I don’t like changing. We’ll mess around with an arrangement and get mellow here and there, but for the most part I just like big, loud, heavy stuff.”
Fu Manchu’s fiery brand of ear-bustin’ boogie once led Rolling Stone to describe it as “what Black Sabbath would sound like with suntans and a fleet of dune buggies at their disposal”. And if you think you sense the spirit of Tony Iommi in that monster doom-metal riff propelling “Dimension Shifter”, it’s because you do.
“Who doesn’t like Sabbath?” Hill says. “But my main influence is old hardcore punk-rock stuff. Like, Black Flag is my favourite band ever, of all time. I like Minor Threat and Circle Jerks and stuff, too. But Blue Cheer I’m a huge fan of, and I guess any mention with Sabbath is good.”
First formed in 1990, Fu Manchu is celebrating 25 years by bringing the pot-flavoured party to the masses with complete live performances of its 2000 King of the Road album—which was recently released as a double disc on sweet lime-green vinyl. (The tour hits Vancouver’s Rickshaw Theatre this Sunday.)
“Hopefully, King of the Road’s goin’ over well,” quips Hill, “ ’cause we’re gonna be doin’ it every night.”
Since Fu Manchu has been one of the standard-bearers of the stoner-rock movement for a quarter century—along with the likes of fellow Cali acts Kyuss and Sleep—I’ve got one more question for Hill before signing off. Is he stoned right now or what?
“Nawww. See, the thing with me, man, I pretty much like surfin’ all day. When I’m at home I try to surf as much as possible. If I’m stoned I’m not goin’ outta the house, ya know. I’m not very productive in life when I’m totally stoned.”