Fu Manchu: Stoner Rock Isn't Just for Stoners Anymore (And Never Really Was)

Categories: Stoner Rock

Andrew Stuart
Fu Manchu

Editor's note: Check out a Q-and-A with the band here.

"Stoner rock" has yet to gain entry in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, so for the definition of the phrase, look no further than Fu Manchu.

Yet, like so many genres, the name hardly fits the sound. Pink Floyd is stoner rock, while Fu Manchu storms in -- all heavy, sludgy, psychedelic, and fuzzy -- with plenty of searing guitar riffs and a propulsive bottom end. Though Pink Floyd, continuing the comparison, works great when stoned, stoner rock fans need not bother with pot at all, explains Fu Manchu guitarist Bob Balch via an e-mail exchange.

"Most of the people I know who smoke massive amounts of weed don't ever listen to stoner rock. It doesn't really go hand in hand," he says.

"You can call it what you want," he says. "It's funny when people call us desert rock, because we are from the beach. I call it dessert rock! No, really, it's just Fu Manchu: loud guitars, fuzz, live-sounding drums, [Scott] Hill's voice. That's the only way I can describe it."

Rising out of the late-1980s Orange Country punk scene, Fu Manchu evolved by slowing the tempo (while retaining the intensity) and adding heavier elements. Instead of two-minute, 13-second thrashers with Hill screaming his vocals, the band allowed the songs some flow, adding lengthy guitar interludes, and spacey jams and "thickening" the sound in the manner of bands such as the Melvins, Helmet, Black Sabbath, and Soundgarden.

"[We went from] hardcore into slower, fuzzier stuff into more hardcore into both," Balch says. "Our songwriting has gotten better. We always try to find subtle things to add to a structure, so it's not just verse, chorus, verse, chorus. I still think the hardcore influence is there; it's just that we play those riffs way slower."

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