by Johnny Papan
“Ever since I was a kid, I always thought there was another world exactly like Earth with the same people and things, but with slightly different things going on at the same time. Doesn’t really make sense to me now, but back then it did.”
These are the words of Scott Hill, vocalist and guitarist of California stoner-rock powerhouse Fu Manchu. Hill is explaining the meaning behind the band’s most recent record, Clone of the Universe, which packs seven out-of-this-world tracks into one tight, hard-hitting record. Though seven songs seems short, the album still runs at nearly 40 minutes due to the album’s final track “Il Monstro Atomico,” an 18-minute epic that takes up the LP’s entire flipside. The song also features legendary guitarist Alex Lifeson from Rush.
“We had written about 15 or 16 songs, but we wanted to keep the entire record kind of short,” Hill explains. “We kept coming up with riffs and songs. Instead of recording them on our four-track machine and putting them away, we decided to take the best riffs and parts and do a long song with different tempos, shifting parts, quiet, loud. We got Alex Lifeson to play guitar on the song due to our wonderful manager, Brian Frank, who is friends with Alex’s manager. We had the song on a very rough sounding four-track demo. We didn’t think anything would happen but we sent him the song, he dug it and said he would play on it. We thought our manager was fucking with us when he told us. We sometimes still can’t believe that he played on our record, he is a legend!”
Preceding “Il Monstro Atomico” are the classic, in-your-face stoner rock stylings Fu Manchu is known for. The album opens with the very bouncy “Intelligent Worship” and is followed by the aggressive single “(I’ve Been) Hexed.” The loudness continues with “Don’t Panic” before installing the slow and psychedelic tunes “Slower Than Light” and “Nowhere Left to Hide.” The album’s title track, “Clone of the Universe,” encapsulates the stylistic entirety of the album in one piece.
Over the last few years, space has been a consistent trend in their album artwork and themes, and it’s especially apparent on this album. On the songwriting for Clone of the Universe, Hill explains:
“There’s a lot of isolation and being alone type themes. Some outer spacey things. General paranoia. I have had outer body experiences and I’ve seen things.”
Fu Manchu play the Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver) on November 11.