Tuesday 8 April 2014

Gigantoid, The Recording Of A Massive Album by Fu Manchu. An Interview with Bob Balch & Scott Reeder of Fu Manchu

(c) Andrew Stuart

It is not every day you get excited regarding an album.

Also, it is not every day one of your favorite bands enters the studio to work on a new listening pleasure. I was thinking about what you would need to make an album with massive riffs, tasty solos, a shit ton of low end and a drummer with a pocket as deep as the abyss. I was able to sum it up in three syllables, Fu Manchu.

The Reverend Bob Balch and the man that hits the Ludwigs like only he can, Scott Reeder  took time from mixing their album to converse regarding how the process flowed into a meteor of rock n roll so huge, it had to be called Gigantoid.

So sit back, relax and enjoy my conversation.

Q) Bob, do you mind sharing with me how long it took to track this album. Balch, “The bass and drums were done in a day and a half each. The guitars and vocals were both done in three to four days.”

Reeder, “This has been stuff we had been working on since last summer that we had been refining. The method is that Hill and Balch would come in with riffs, a lot of the songs are long and heavy, which is pretty rad. One of the songs Davis was playing and it was almost like, I don’t wanna say jazz, but it was quiet, I could see Chris Squier playing it. I tried to do my best Bill Buford. It is an eight minute song, and there is a lot of cool stuff on this album.”

Balch, “Davis killed it he has a huge bass sound on the album. Hill did all the singing and he is a master at doubling vocals. The vocals are laid back he totally does the Scott Hill thing here.”

Reeder, “I think it is really interesting vocals.” 

Q) Did you sing at all Scott, “I do a really long scream on one of the songs.”

Q) Obviously a big part of the sound is the interplay between bass and drums. How great is it to be able to play with Davis? Reeder, “We really like each other, which really helps, having a mutual respect is great, I really want the guys to be able to rely on me. I never want to fall short of that. We don’t over think shit, we have a blast.”

Q) How does this album rank in terms of tone of the guitars? Balch, “Tone wise it is one of my favorite albums. I was using my 73 SG, 78 SG and my Reverend. I feel that my playing has really improved from teaching so much, this time when I was doing a solo, I was really able to improvise, and most of the time we kept the first one I did. Scott Hill was playing his Fender Jaguar and the rhythm sounds are amazing.”

Q) Scott, were you using your Ludwig, “I actually brought out the rototoms for this album. That is actually one thing I didn’t rehearse on this album. I would be dicking around it would sound ridiculous, we said fuck it, lets’ keep it.” 

Q) Is this a heavy pocket album, Reeder, “In the parts that it needs to be, I hope so. I enjoy having fun, try and stretch my playing. If a big heavy riff needs space, I wanna make sure I am out of the way. There is slow spaced out stuff and some really aggressive shit and definitely longer tunes.”

Q) Do you get involved with the mics that are being used to record your kit? Reeder, “I don’t get involved, I know how I want them to sound. We are all like that.  We all know the tone we are looking for. I like my drums to sound if you are in the room with them. Really what I want most is to hear my snare and kick. Basically we are always trying to make things sound like a better Fu Manchu.

Balch, “Reeder came up with some ridiculous fills. We all love to try to make each other laugh and ninety percent of the album is the first takes of the songs.”

Reeder, “I would say to Davis, hey I got this part, let’s record it and see how it sounds. I will usually defer to Davis and ask if I should do more or less here. We are all interested in the end, the whole product. It is a very Democratic process. Hill writes the lyrics that end up sounding a certain way. When all the songs are written and the finished project, it all paints a whole picture.”

Balch, “I was a huge fan before I joined the band and the way Hill sang on this album really brought me back to those days. We really didn’t hear the lyrics until we were in the studio. Scott would sing and then double his vocals so effortlessly. Some of it reminded me of Mark Arm but not as hard. I think the album as a whole is us letting ourselves play and not worrying about fixing everything. We just went in and played. We definitely were more into the groove and energy, which a big thing.”

Q) How does your playing differ on this album, “Balch, I played a lot of leads, trippy guitar stuff, using a lot of simulators, tap tempo delays, super fuzz, creepy face, and big muff. It is extremely fuzzy, Hill and I wanted that Godzilla sound.

Reeder, “It is funny to talk about a Fu Manchu album and talk about heavy guitars, but 

Balch and Hill really sound huge on the album. The solos are amazing.”

Q) Where does this album rank, “Reeder, overall, I am happiest with this one. You want your most recent stuff to be what you are most stoked about. If we are working on something and it happens cool, we respect each other so much that we can easily say if we like it or not. We look at the greater picture, the sonic quality you are working on and see how everything fits together. I am looking at the end result for this album, people grooving, moving their heads and getting lost in the sonic picture. Bottom line, we are all fans of music and are so lucky to be able to play music every day.”

Q) Now you guys are mixing the album, how is it going, Balch, “We have been mixing on Friday, Saturday and Sundays. We are pretty close to getting the Sound.
Reeder, “We are hoping to be done in a few weeks.”

Q)Are you guys going to be playing this live, Reeder, “We will try and throw a few into the set.”

Q) How did you guys come up with the name, Reeder, “Hill had it for a song title, then we thought it would be a great name for the album. We looked it up and it read that it is a description for something huge, which perfectly describes what happens when you hear the first song.”

Q) When will this be out, Reeder, “The album will be released on 4/28/14 in the UK and Europe and on 4/29/14 in the us.”

Q) Well, rather excited to hear it and thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedules to speak with me regarding the recording of this album.

Balch, “Anytime, thanks a lot.”

Reeder, “My pleasure, thank you for taking the time and speaking with us.”

Gigantoid will be released on At the Dojo Records. Please make sure you get out there and pick this album up.

From the chat with these two, this album will be blaring from speakers worldwide. Make sure you get your copy, put on the head phones, enter that place where you can zone out, and let the Gigantoid sound of the Fu take over and release an audible assault on your eardrums.



Thanks to Bob and Scott for talking with us, here at The Sludgelord.  Big thanks also, to your resident Bostonian correspondent, Marc Gaffney for hooking up this interview.  Good work my friend.

Gigantoid will be released April 29 via the band’s own label, At The Dojo.

For more information :

Fu Manchu tour 2014
April 30—Bottom Of The Hill—San Francisco, California
May 1—The Alley—Sparks, Nevada
May 3—Dante’s—Portland, Oregon
May 4—El Corazon—Seattle, Washington
May 6—Club Sound—Salt Lake City, Utah
May 7—Marquis Theatre—Denver, Colorado
May 10—Subterranean—Chicago, Illinois
May 11—Small’s—Hamtramck, Michigan
May 13—Ace Of Cups—Columbus, Ohio
May 14—Grog Shop—Cleveland Heights, Ohio
May 16—Lee’s Palace—Toronto, Ontario
May 17—Cabaret Mile End—Montreal, Quebec
May 19—Mercury Lounge—New York, New York
May 20—The Sinclair—Cambridge, Massachusetts
May 21—The Barbary—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
May 23—Rock & Roll Hotel—Washington, D.C.
May 24—King’s Barcade—Raleigh, North Carolina
May 25—The Earl—Atlanta, Georgia
May 27—Red 7—Austin, Texas
May 28—Gas Monkey—Dallas, Texas
May 31—Pub Rock Live—Scottsdale, Arizona
June 14—The Casbah—San Diego, California
June 21—The Troubadour—Los Angeles, California