Interview with Scott Hill of Fu Manchu
By: Mike SOS
When speaking to guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill of Southern California’s Fu Manchu, we spoke about the aggressive turn they took with their latest disc WE MUST OBEY, in addition to their vast touring experience and their staunch DIY style.
You’ve said that this album has been the most fun you’ve had I guess in the studio. Could you explain that a little bit?
I always have a fun time in the studio. I think with this collection of songs, the way they came out, the way it sounds, it’s probably my favorite overall record we’ve done in a long time. We’re just all really happy with the way the whole record came out, but we always have a good time in the studio. We’ve really never had that bad of a time a time in the studio.
What made it so different this time around?
More aggressive stuff...I think this is probably our most aggressive record we’ve ever written. Bob and I pulled out our old fuzz pedals and the guitars sounded dirty and fuzzy again and I think an all around more aggressive sound. We're really excited to play this stuff live. It comes off really good live.
What can you contribute the new aggression to, and secondly, do you think that doing the live album kind of helped you to go back into your old roots dig stuff out?
That might seriously...I never thought about that, yeah, the live record…I think we are really happy with the way that thing came out. With that live record, we played with a little more aggression than the studio version of the songs. We just kind of, I don’t know, started writing stuff that was a little faster, a little more aggressive. Not really set out to try and do that…it’s just kind of what happened.
Now, how does a typical Fu Manchu song get done? It’s kind of organic as you mentioned, right?
Yeah, someone will come into the studio, practice the riffs and all four of us will work on it. And if we get a cool beat to it, we’ll usually work on it and go from there. But if it’s not really happening with the beat, the song gets put to the side. Luckily, we’ve been able to come with a bunch of stuff and never are at a loss for riffs.
The addition of Scott Reeder upped the game a great deal since he joined...
Yeah, luckily everyone, Reeder, Bob, and Brad, they’re all really good musicians. I’ve been lucky to be in the band since day one. Reeder’s really a good drummer.
Do you prefer gigging or touring?
It’s always fun to play live, and that’s kind of what our deal is...loud sounding guitars and loud music in general. So whenever we get a chance to go on tour and play live, five, six nights a week, we jump at that chance. That's definitely where I think we do our best, onstage live.
What’s been the most memorable tour you’ve been on so far?
I think one of our first tours we went on in ’95 was with Monster Magnet. That was kind of the first big tour we actually went on, and that’s kind of around when their DOPES TO INFINITY record came out. They were really big at the time, so those were really cool gigs, and they’re one of my favorite bands, so that was awesome. But, we’ve gone out with POD and Sevendust, and had no idea those crowds liked us whatsoever, and, at the first show, a couple of thousand kids are going nuts. It was one of those kind of tours where you don’t know what to expect with the crowds. You’re playing to a different crowd all the time, so those are really memorable. We’ve gone out with Motorhead... that’s always fun. We’ve gone out with Clutch, Corrosion of Conformity...there’s usually never a bad tour.
How’d you come up with the title WE MUST OBEY? Any concepts that you want to talk about, underlying themes or anything really fueling the lyrical fire?
We’ve never been really a big message band. We’re not political or religious or any of that stuff, so there’s never a huge message in any of our stuff. But, I think this record... it’s just kind of doing your own thing, not listening to others, doing what’s best for yourself...‘cause at the end of the day, it's what’s best for you, whatever the situation is.
You guys are still pretty much a grassroots band, running all your mailing lists and the fan club and whatnot, right?
Yeah, we do our website, all that, send out the merchandise, write people back. Yeah, we’re pretty much hands on.
Do you feel with the internet and less major label money going around, it’s more of a viable way to do things?
Yeah...I grew up listening to old hardcore punk rock stuff iin the early ‘80s. It’s always been about writing to bands, seeing if you got any stickers or shirts to sell or whatever. So, I definitely think it’s a hands-on type of thing. Even though the internet’s good for people in Europe or wherever, Australia, that want to get a hold of you, it’s a pretty instant access to get a hold of a band really quickly. But, I definitely think we’ll, always be a hands-on band, taking care of our band business and stuff.
Now, you guys are known to do some crazy covers... how’d you decide on "Movin' In Stereo" by The Cars this time around?
We’re all big fans of The Cars, and that song was in probably one of the best sequences in any movie, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. When Bob just started playing the riffs at practice one day, we tuned down a whole step, and made the guitars fuzzy. And we’re thought, "Hey, that was pretty cool” and chopped off about three minutes of the song, Got in, got out. Kind of made it sound like our own song. It’s a fun one to play, so usually if it’s fun to play, we’ll do it.
What do you think about the new scene cropping up now? Do you pay any attention to what’s going on, even though you guys are kind of an underground band ...
Yeah, I mean, we’ve done some shows on the Warped Tour. That’s a whole different scene for us. Young kids and stuff.. We go to see the Adolescents anytime they play and they usually have a bunch of newer punk bands opening. Some are good. Some...really aren’t my style, but I still buy records, go to shows, and stuff. I definitely enjoy all that stuff.
What do you do in your spare time when you’re not in Fu Manchu? What do you enjoy doing?
I usually go surfing every chance I get. I live down in San Clemente right by the beach, so every chance we’re not in the studio or practicing, or on tour, I’m usually on the water. I’ve grown up by the beach my whole life. I’ve been doing that my whole life, and I enjoy getting on the water.
How would you describe the Fu Manchu sound to people that never heard of you?
It’s a big, loud, fuzzy, heavy, aggressive sound, I guess. I think the best way to experience us is definitely live. Records are cool and all, but definitely go to check it out live, and that’s where I think we're the best.
What was the best advice you ever got, and who was it from?
Probably my dad always saying anyone that’s older than you, you call them mister. I’ve always do, and I remember him telling me that when I was young kid, so I always do that. to anyone that’s older, and they’re like "what are you calling me mister for?" I’m always like, “God, it’s just a habit”.
So when you run into Lemmy, I guess you call him mister, h?
Yeah. Or sir. Yes, to him (Lemmy), you say sir.
Now, have you done anything that’s on the side besides Fu Manchu musically? I know that Scott Reeder does a gazillion things.....
No...I kind of hold my energy in for songs that are Fu Manchu, ‘cause any Fu Manchu stuff is what I want to hear. I don’t really like playing real mellow or anything. So anything pretty much goes right to the band.
Who have you not toured with that you’d to tour with?
Clutch. I really like Clutch. I’d like to play a show or something with The Adolescents, and maybe Circle Jerks, both of them being two of my favorite bands...but just anyone really. We’ll go out with anyone. It doesn’t matter to us. As long as there’s an outlet we can plug into, then we go.