Interview: Fu Manchu

interview by thom cooper

Fu Manchu is no new fad rock band. They have been playing some of rocks most fuzzed out, beach bangin’, skate slamin’, space attackin’ tunes for 12 years. Many a band have come, and faded away in much less than half that time. In the 12 years that Fu Manchu have been a band, they’ve toured with huge rock acts like Motorhead and Slayer, as well as more mainstream acts such as POD and Puddle of Mudd. They’ve been to Europe a handfull of times, toured the US from east to west, and have endless credits to there name. Fu Manchu’s song “Mongoose” is on the movie soundtrack for “The Hot Chick”, and “Evil Eye” was immortalized into the minds of todays youth by being one of the songs featured on the Playstation 2 “Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2” video game.

Fu Manchu have undergone some pretty serious changes in the band, as well changes on their business side in the past 6 months. Their record label Mammoth Records, as Fu guitarist Bob puts it, “took a shit” and left them looking for a new label. (Anyone who doesn’t snatch them up quick has got to be stupid!) And last year, the band also lost drummer Brant Bjork so that he could follow the solo dream. These situations can cause a seriously bumpy road for most bands, but Fu Manchu seems to be determined to keep the rock comin’. I was able to catch up with Fu Manchu guitarist Bob Balch before a show at Costa Mesa’s Detroit Bar…

First off, let’s talk about the future of Fu Manchu. How do you think it looks?
Good. We’re in the middle of finishing up a live album, (which will be loaded with old and new favorites.) and shopping for a new label. I don’t really see Fu Manchu being the next big thing, but there’s a lot of fans that totally dig it and want it around. The next album is going to be totally pissed, borderline hardcore punk. I can’t see any reason why we would go away.

You guys just picked up new drummer Scott Reeder; (used to play for Smile) how is he working out with you?
Perfect! He fills the shoes great. We found him two days after Brant quit and he just smokes! Every night we play theres 7 to 10 occasions when I look over think “Jesus Christ! What the fuck did he just do? That’s insane!” He wasn’t just the new drummer, he became a member instantly.

It seems like the new trend is flowing away from the rap-metal scene and moving more toward bands that have a “garage rock” sound. What’s your thoughts?
I don’t know. I’m sure just like any scene there’s going to be a bunch of record labels that are going to snap up a bunch of certain bands that start with “The”. It’s funny because at first when rap-metal started I was like “Fuck this! I don’t like it, music sucks today.” and then music gets good and I’m thinking “Fu Manchu should get pretty big, what the fuck?”. I love The Hives record, I listen to it all the time.

Many people consider Fu Manchu the founders of ‘Stoner Rock’; what do you think of the label ‘Stoner Rock’?
Fu Manchu never set out to be a stoner rock band. When I first heard Fu Manchu I was in high school, and I never thought about weed. I just thought of them as a rock band that was brought up on punk music as well as rock. The label fits somes bands, I mean if the name of your band is Bongzilla people are going to think your a stoner rock band. None of our songs are about weed, they’re mostly about skateboarding, cars, and, surfing. I’ve always wanted to cover a Minor Threat song to confuse people.

Sex, drugs, and, rock n’ roll, that’s what it’s all about right?
No, it’s about beer. I like beer. I like beer more than I like a lot of people. (Laughs) No, it’s true! Last night I was just hanging out and I couldn’t just drink my beer in peace, at my own house.

But a rock band is all about the women right?
There’s like 98% men at our shows! The only women there are the ones whose boyfriends dragged um’ there. It’s all high fives, and handshakes.