Fu Manchu - 16/12/2009

Southern California's heavy fuzz rock legends FU MANCHU were originally formed in 1985 as a Black Flag-influenced hardcore punk band called Virulence. The band has since become one of hard rock’s most celebrated names. The band released its first single “Kept Between Trees” in 1990 and in the years following, helped give rise to a celebrated style of heavy music tagged “stoner rock” alongside peers such as Kyuss, Monster Magnet and Sleep. Since its inception, the quartet has built itself a fanatical army of loyal enthusiasts all drawn to the group’s ridiculously catchy, unpretentious music, guitar-driven sound and carefree lyrics centred on "old muscle cars, choppers, vans, skateboarding and science fiction”.

The electrifying group dropped their new album ‘Signs of Infinite Power’  on October 16, 2009 via Century Media Records. If life is a highway, FU MANCHU is its soundtrack. While FU MANCHU’s music has been alternately described as stoner rock, surf-punk and desert rock, the truth is that it’s all of the above. Over the last dozen years, the Southern California quartet has perfected the art of the riff, mastered the depth of the groove and sharpened the edge of the hook.

The new album was recorded at Maple Studios in Santa Ana, California by the band and producer Sergio Chavez (Motörhead, Helmet) and mixed by Andrew Alekel (Foo Fighters, Danzig). ‘Signs of Infinite Power’ could well be dubbed “a reawakening” of FU MANCHU as the record delivers monstrous doses of the group’s punk energy, hard rock drive and psychedelic crunch in spades. From the instant the album’s lead track “Bionic Astronautics” soars from the speakers, it is undeniably evident that FU MANCHU is as primed and hungry as ever before. The record holds the sound of a band rocking purely for the sheer joy of rocking; amps cranked to 11 and revved to maximum overdrive.

To properly celebrate their 20th anniversary the band is also working on a full European tour in 2010! Until then high doses of ‘Signs Of Infinite Power’ are highly recommended as this is an unmistakable sonic statement for the infinite power of rock ‘n’ roll!


It appears there is plenty to talk about and guitarist Bob Balch was available to answer some questions. Here you can read what he had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com


First of all, congratulations on the release of your album ‘Signs Of Infinite Power´ which was recently released. How did you launch into writing material for ‘Signs Of Infinite Power´ and how much time did you spend on the songs?

We usually get together twice a week and work on tunes. That way we can listen to them all week and come back together with improvements. The whole process takes around 6 to 8 months.


Which approach did you choose to make this album, did you go for a more raw exposition.. or something more reminiscent of your previous other works, or something all together different?           

I guess a mixture of the both. We wanted more fuzz than the last record, and a few of the songs on this release are more aggressive. We don't really set out to make a certain kind of record, we just get together and whatever comes out that's it.


What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘Signs Of Infinite Power’, any elements you definitely wanted to include on the album?

Yeah, like I said, more fuzz. We also wanted more low end in the mix, more of a dry drum sound. I worked out my solos before going in to record them. I would record a few takes at home and keep the choice licks.


Can you give us a little background information on the songs, is there a story behind them?

Hill writes all of the lyrics. I think they are about "Irish Mist." I know one song is about "El Busta." It's called "El Busta."



What is the utmost important ingredient for a song? Is there a typical way in which your songs come into being?

A riff that sticks in your head. If we jam out on a riff and forget it a few days later then it's gone. We usually listen to the songs over and over to try to trim the fat. Keep it simple and to the point.


How can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the typical writing process like for Fu Manchu?

One of the guys brings in a riff, another one of the guys adds a riff, we all work on arrangements. Hill then adds lyrics.


Could you describe the implications of the title ‘Signs Of Infinite Power´, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?

I think it's about Eddie and the Cruisers II. I never know what he is talking about, I could be wrong...


Who was responsible for writing the songs and the lyrics on this album? What would you say are the main themes in your lyrics ?

We all write riffs and arrange, Hill adds vocals. Like I said, I don't know the theme. You should check out Eddie and the Cruiser II.


Is the music written independently of the lyrics or do you try to reflect lyrical ideas through the music?

Music first, then vocals. Sometimes we don't even hear the vocals until we are in the studio.


How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?

It depends on the listener. If you are a guitar player you should check out the riffs. If you are a drummer you should check out the drums. The only person who should really look into the lyrics is “Webfoot”.


How can we imagine you work on new songs?

Riffs, jamming, writing, demoing, recording, touring, typing interviews.



How has the band's sound progressed from your first album ´No One Rides for Free´ to ‘Signs Of Infinite Power´ in your opinion?

More aggressive, more fuzz.


The production of ‘Signs Of Infinite Power’ was done by yourself and producer Sergio Chavez, what made him the perfect man for this album?

His sense of humor, and he knows his way around a studio. He helped me find the bathroom a number of times.


In which elements on the new album can one clearly hear his vision and ideas?

The songs were pretty much worked out beforehand. We just needed somebody to get the room sounds we wanted. You can hear that on every track.


Are third party opinions (press, fans, etc.) on your music important to you? Or are your music and band the only things that matter?

I don't care what other people think. If they like it that's good with me.


Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of the songs or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective?

I'm pretty good with these songs. I spent enough time working on them.



Which aspect of the CD are you most proud of?

The guitar tones and the intro to "Webfoot."


Which song is your favorite one to play live? Which song do you find is the most challenging one to play live?

"Signs" is my favorite to play live, "Webfoot” in the most challenging.


Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics? What are you personally into?

I'm not into poetry. I like pottery. I also like Irish Mist. How did you know I liked Irish Mist?


How would you sum up Fu Manchu to someone that has never listened to the band before?

Black Flag meets Black Sabbath with Ace from KISS on vocals.


What makes Fu Manchu stand out compared to other bands?

Hills vocals stand out to me. We try to go over the top with the fuzz.


Is there anything missing from the scene nowadays?

I don't know what is missing from the scene.


Could you respond to the following terms in just one word or sentence:

Metal : Pinch Harmonic

Underground : Grave

Internet : Porn

Religion : Fireproof

Politics : no

The Netherlands : yes

U.S.A. : O.K.

Where do you see the band going within the next couple of years, any tours coming up? And where do you see the band’s musical direction going for the next album?

Who knows about the next album. We'll se when we write it. As for now, we will tour for this record.


Any last statement?

I would like to shamelessly self promote for a second. Check out my guitar teaching website www.PlayThisRiff.com. It features lessons from me, and members of Kyuss, Clutch, Monster Magnet, Torche, The Dickies, Circle Jerks, The Red Chord, Municipal Waste, Gwar, Trivium, Brant Bjork, Nick Oliveri, and many more!


Thanks for your time.

Eugene Straver




Scott Hill – Guitar, Vocals

Bob Balch – Guitar, Vocals

Scott Reeder – Drums, Vocals

Brad Davis – Bass, Vocals


Former members:

Brant Bjork

Eddie Glass

Mark Abshire

Ruben Romano

Scott Votaw

Greg McCaughey

Glenn Chivens



(1994) No One Rides for Free

(1995) Daredevil

(1996) In Search Of...

(1997) The Action is Go

(1999) Eatin' Dust)

(2000) King of the Road

(2001) California Crossing  

(2004) Start the Machine

(2007) We Must Obey

(2009) Signs Of Infinite Power