By Christine Leonard
CALGARY — Undisputed kings of the road for the past two decades, California’s legendary surf-stoner outfit Fu Manchu is still working overtime to make all their boogie van dreams come true. For guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill, bassist/vocalist Brad Davis, guitarist Bob Balch and drummer Scott Reeder the regimen of touring and recording has become as much a way of life as hitting the beach on a daily basis. In honour of their 25th anniversary the long-standing band has announced the first leg of a tour that will see them sweeping along the West Coast before bar crawling through 14 European countries. Loading Calgary into their busy one-off festival season certainly makes sense when you consider that being landlocked during the sweltering summer months is pretty much Hill’s idea of sheer Hell on Earth.
“I surf every day, so it’s not the most pleasant experience being stuck in the Midwest in the middle of the summer. It’s like working out for hour and a half straight in the blazing sun. I’m moving around a lot and my clothes are getting drenched with sweat. Meanwhile, my buddies back home are calling to tell me how good the waves are.”
Trading riptides for two-lane blacktop, the consummately cool Fu Manchu plans to tour two newly crafted live sets that spans their historic discography. Sweetening the pot, they are rumoured to have prepared a revisiting of their perennial pedal-to-the-metal album King of the Road, which will be performed in its entirety. Yes, its entirety! It’s a significant and satisfying milestone for the stoner-rock mainstays, who are more than capable of holding their own with tourmates such as Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Corrosion of Conformity, Clutch and White Zombie.
“When we started the ‘90s we were happy just to play San Francisco. 20 years later, I never would have thought that, being biggest bunch of idiots, we could have accomplished what we have,” says a somewhat bemused Hill.
“It’s a surprise that the band has held up this long, let alone that we’re still playing the same records. King of the Road is definitely a fan favourite. I don’t know why. It’s not our fuzziest, cleanest or rawest album. I guess Joe Barresi just did a really good job of mixing it.”
The next thrilling adventure is only a hairpin-turn away for these stoner-rock daredevils. Perpetually in search of rock and roll glory, they continue to carve out new angles and deliver fist-pumpingly robust grooves. As fate would have it, Hill had little choice but to yield to the role of lead vocalist, a title and duty he has ultimately come to embrace.
“I never wanted to sing; what I really wanted to do was play loud,” he says. “I’m that kid who wanted to learn electric guitar and asked the acoustic guitar instructor how to play Minor Threat during the first lesson. All I listened to when I was 15 years old was old punk rock stuff that came out from 1980 to 1987. Jams? Not my deal. I was brought up on Black Flag and Circle Jerks. Heavy on the riffage, but light on the noodling. Get in and get out. I think of us as being slow hardcore.”
While observing the guitar skills and onstage antics of his favourite punk bands in real time taught Hill the ins and outs of slamming and diving with the best of them, it was the move to becoming a self-released band that represented the career equivalent of a high-flying rotating-flip into a reverse 360.
“We’ve always had awesome luck with our labels, but the last time our contract was up we decided there was another option: to say ‘No!’ and give the DIY route a shot. We’ve learned a lot since we released Gigantoid last year and will know what we’re doing even more for the next record. Like anything, it seems hard to do until you get it done. I wish we would have done it years ago.”
See Fu Manchu on Thursday, June 25th at Dickens with Chron Goblin as part of Sled Island.AB, Alberta, Dickens, Fu Manchu, Sled Island, Sled Island 2015