Fu Manchu Interview with Scott Hill: Because You Only Get One Chance to Come off as a Total Dumbass While Asking Questions

I think that's the cliff where they scattered Donny's ashes. Donny who loved bowling. (Photo by J Johnson)Sometimes you do an interview and it goes off without a hitch. The questions are cool, the artist is responsive, there’s a decent rapport, everything is cordial and friendly.

…And sometimes you stick your foot so far in your mouth that you actually bend over backwards from the force of it and shove your head right up your ass, where it seems to have been the whole time anyway.

My recent phone interview with Fu Manchu guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill was one of the latter. Everything was going fine, really good in fact, until I brought the conversation to a screeching halt by confusing Fu Manchu drummer Scott Reeder with the former Kyuss bassist of the same name. “Uh, I think you got the wrong Scott Reeder,” Hill said. What a fucking trainwreck.

I’ve cut it out of the Q&A after the jump, mostly out of embarrassment, but I felt it would be dishonest (though infinitely more professional) not to bring it up, since it has stained the interview in my mind and I’m unable to think of the one without the other. Obviously Scott Hill will survive, and I have plenty of experience being a god damned idiot, so I will as well, but man, that sure did suck. The worst part was I knew it wasn’t the same dude.

Fu Manchu‘s latest album, Signs of Infinite Power is available now on Century Media. Please enjoy the interview. I wish I could.

Mr. Hill (Photo by Mario Sanchez)You?re in Texas today?

We are in Houston, Texas, yes.

How are the shows going?

Good, good. Everything?s going well.

Is this just a warm-up for bigger touring?

We?ve been on the road for about three weeks. We?re just doing like a three and a half week tour, come home for Thanksgiving, then we were gonna hit the east coast for a couple weeks in December before Christmas, but I think we?re gonna push that back until January or February of next year. We were just gonna fly out to the east coast and rent a van and trailer, but this way we?ll have a little more time to drive out and play a few more shows and stuff.

December always sucks on the east coast anyway.

Yeah, we were kind of worried about the weather and stuff anyway. We were in that huge storm in Denver a week ago. It was the biggest storm in 12 years and we were right in the middle of it. Couldn?t leave, had to cancel Minnesota and the Denver show. We were kind of like, ?Maybe we shouldn?t go in December to the east coast. Might not be the best time.? We?re gonna go beginning of next year. Seriously, you couldn?t have gotten more in the middle of it than we were. It sucked.

January/February isn?t much better.

Yeah, I know, I know, I know. We might have to take a chance though.

It?s hard to listen to Fu Manchu, especially being in Jersey, and think of anything but the summer sun.

(Laughs) Yeah. Well, there you go. You?ve got four guys from Orange County by the beach stuck in the middle of the biggest snow storm in 12 years. We did not have the proper clothing either, believe me.

It?s hard to separate this album from the fact that you guys are on the precipice of 20 years as a band. Do you think about that? Do you have any reflections on the time you?ve been doing this?

I didn?t really think about it until management were bringing it up and the record label and stuff. I can?t believe we?ve been around for — next year will be 20 years. We?re still around and we?re enjoying it as much as we did when we started. That?s the main thing to me. If I didn?t like it as much, I definitely wouldn?t be doing it. I don?t really think about it too much. If I think about it too much, I might be like, ?What the hell have I been doing all these years.? We just enjoy playing live, that?s about it.

How have your feelings on it changed? Touring now can?t be the same as 20 years ago.

That wall is pretty hardcore. (Photo by J Johnson)We started touring, a lot of heavy touring, in ?94. We were opening for Monster Magnet on their Dopes to Infinity tour. It?s easier now because we?ve got a bigger fanbase and we can get a little higher guarantees to help the tour keep going, whereas before, if you don?t make any money, it?s hard to get from city to city. It?s not easy to do, but it?s running smoother now that we?ve been doing it for so long.

You?ve been everywhere at this point. Is there a certain charm to it that?s dulled over the years? You hit the same venues, the same towns.

You know, we?re going to Austin today, playing Austin, and every time we go there, we know we?re gonna eat barbecue food before the gig. We look forward to stuff like that or going to New York or Boston or up to Seattle. We hit the same places, but we enjoy going there. We?ll play different clubs, switch it up a little bit, but we definitely have our favorite things we like to see when we?re out on tour.

What?s good in Nebraska?

Good in Nebraska? I don?t know if we?ve ever played in Nebraska.

Book it!

Yeah, maybe. I?m trying to think. We probably have at some point, but I can?t remember.

Fair enough. Is it safe to say Signs of Infinite Power is a continuation of the sound of We Must Obey?

Um, a little. I think with this record we wanted to get more of a live sound, like how we are on stage and not get everything so big and boomy. With this record we all sat in the same room with the drums. Reeder would count us off with the drumsticks and there we go. We?d do maybe two or three takes and that was it. Even if there?d be some screwups, we?d keep it, just because we wanted more of a live sound, more of a raw sound. I think We Must Obey was a little more aggressive, whereas this one has more mid-tempo stuff. It still has the weird breaks and shit, but Rockin. (Photo by Mario Sanchez)yeah, it?s not too much of a departure from the last record, but sound-wise, I think this is, at least for me, what I like a lot more.

It?s interesting to hear you say that, because I was listening to the two to compare, and they are similar tonally, but there?s a different intensity to each one. I guess it is that live sound that makes the difference there.

Yeah. With We Must Obey, Reeder was in a different room, we were in a different room playing. We?re so used to practice where we?re all right in each other?s faces in the same room. With this record, that?s how we did it, and I think that showed in the recording. That?s how we write the songs, all together in one small room, and that?s how we did this record.

Was that something specifically you wanted to do differently this time?

Yeah, definitely. For us, playing in the same room as the drummer, it just seems easier to me that way, because we cue a lot off Reeder, going into the next part or stalling, we look at him when we stop and go into the next part. That?s a big deal to me, because that?s how we do it live; we always cue off Reeder for different parts. This record, being in the same room recording as him, it?s just a lot easier.

Was doing it the other way an Andrew Alekel thing?

That?s just the way the studio was. We could have sat in the same room and stuff, but with this record, we worked with a different engineer and a different studio. We just had Andrew mix it because we really liked the job he did on the last one. Plus, the studio that we went to was close to home and we?ve never been able to record and then go home for the night. Always had to stay in a hotel or whatever. We could surf in the morning and then go into the studio. To me, that made a big difference. Way more relaxed.

You always hear people trying to get away from home to record. I guess after doing it the other way for so long?

I swear this is the first record in 11 or 12 records that we?ve done that we?ve been able to be at home. I definitely don?t want to go out in the mountains or in the desert or the woods or wherever the hell. I just want to be at home and like I said, go surfing in the morning like we normally do, then go home and relax, then go to the studio. I think we?ll record close to home from now on. I?ve always wanted to do it and we finally did it.

You?ve had the same lineup for a while, but have all the personnel changes over the years had an effect on the band?s sound in your mind?

This is right around the spot where I fucked up the whole thing.This lineup we?ve had the longest of any lineup. We went through two other drummers, so that was a big thing. Each guy brings his own thing and I?ve liked everything about every drummer we?ve had. Luckily every drummer we?ve had has been good and had good ideas and has added their own deals to the sound. It?s pretty easy. Usually we get people we know. We never get someone we don?t know in the band. We?ve been lucky to do that. Whoever we get knows about the band and is not gonna want to come in and, ?Hey, let?s try and play a ska beat!? you know? It?s easy because we?ve all known each other, so no one?s gonna try and come in and drastically change what we?re doing.

How did releasing the Virulence demos come about?

There?s a band called It?s Casual out of L.A., and the guitar player/singer works at Southern Lord, and Greg Anderson owns Southern Lord. We started Virulence in ?85 and he was in a hardcore band around the same time. He ordered our demo way back then and he knew about the band and liked the band and sometime last year, was like, ?Hey man, you guys ever wanna re-release that record?? We?d never really thought about it because we didn?t like the sound of it, but we had so much demo stuff and live stuff that we never put out, we were like, ?Hey, shit, that?d be cool.? We tried to remaster everything, remix a few things, and there?s about 20 songs that?s gonna come out maybe Christmas or January on Southern Lord. You can see where we got our start.

How do you feel about that material now?

I listened to it. It?s cool. It?s very basic hardcore/punk rock stuff. It goes in reverse order from the last live show we played in ?89 to our first demo in ?85, so you can see how it mutated along the way.

It?s gotta be kind of weird for you to think about that stuff now.

Not really, because, for me, that?s all I listen to is all my old hardcore stuff. And I still hang out with the guys I was in the band with. I surf with them all the time. It wasn?t too weird. It was cool we got a chance to put it all out. People always ask me about it, so this is a good opportunity to have it out and have people check it out.

Any other plans for the big anniversary, other than touring? Anything special you guys are doing?

We might try and work out playing entire records straight through for a live show, like In Search Of or Action is Go. I know we?re gonna work on a DVD release last year that has everything from when we very first started up until now, we?ll record a live show. We?re gonna re-release a bunch of old stuff that hasn?t been available for years. So you know, I?m sure we?ll figure more stuff out.

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2 Responses to “Fu Manchu Interview with Scott Hill: Because You Only Get One Chance to Come off as a Total Dumbass While Asking Questions”

  1. We’ve all been there. I once kept referring to a band’s album switching it with a title of a Pixies album. He corrected me, and laughed a bit about it. The first time. I kept making the mistake for reasons that cannot be understood.

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