Fu Manchu with Tony Cadena of The Adolescents, Photo courtesy of Scott
Scott Hill delivers the backstory on Virulence and Fu Manchu, with much more to come! -Gordo DCXX
Tell us about Virulence, where you guys fit into the California punk/HC landscape, the band's recordings and memorable shows, and the upcoming discography on Southern Lord.
In 1982 I started buying and collecting every punk / hardcore record that I could get my hands on. I tried to go to as many shows that I could get into as well. Being underage at the time it was tough, but if you had money to pay at the door, you usually got in. After all that I wanted to start a band. I believe it was January 1985 that we actually got Virulence together. I wanted to start a band earlier but I could never find friends that were serious enough to get it happening. I borrowed a Les Paul copy guitar from a friend, bought a Peavey Bandit combo amp and I was ready to roll.
My friend that I would hang out with, surf, skate, and go to shows with would be the singer. We knew some friends that played bass and drums and I remember having a very chaotic, disorganized, noisy practice in my parents' garage. It sounded great to me. I really didn't know how to play guitar that well but it didn't matter. Our friends that we had play bass and drums didn't really want to start a band so we were on the hunt for new members.
We got other friends who we surfed with to play bass and drums. After the drummer couldn't play fast enough for us we were searching yet again. We then got Ruben on drums and we were set. There were some cool local bands. A.T.G., Hangover, and Bored To Death were a few of the local bands. We played parties and a few out of town shows. Then we met the guys in Insted at a show we played. We played "Young Til I Die" by 7 Seconds and Kevin Insted said it sounded great. So we got to know them and played a few parties / shows together, then met the guys in Half Off and we got to be good friends with those guys. We were just happy to play live wherever and whenever we could.
Fu Manchu drummer Scott Reeder at a backyard party, Photo: J. Johnson
I don't know where we fit in at the time. We were not straight edge but we were friends with a lot of those bands. We started out as a mid tempo / fast punk band, then wanted to get as fast as we could. It was seeing BL'AST! at that show of theirs in November 1985 that got me re-thinking about about being as fast as possible. Their set made a HUGE impact on me.
We had recorded a 5 song demo in the summer of 1985. Then in 1986 we recorded another demo that was supposed to be released as a 7". By the time the record label was ready to get things started with the 7", we had a lot of new songs and didn't want to release the 7'. We went back into the studio in 1987 and recorded another demo to send to labels. Alchemy Records was interested in putting out a full length for us and we recorded 8 songs up in San Francisco. The record didn't come out until 1989. By that time we had a whole new set of songs and weren't really happy with the way the record sounded.
Some memorable shows were:
We opened for BL'AST! / Agent Orange / Mentors in 1986 in Santa Barbara. The singer from Stalag 13 came up to us after our set and said he dug it. We were stoked about that because we really liked Stalag 13. It was the first show that BL'AST! played where they had Kip from Neon Christ playing 2nd guitar. They were awesome that night!
First live show ever. Played with our good friends A.T.G in 1985.
This was was a very LOUD show in 1988.
This was fun because I think we bummed out a lot of the straight edge kids. They kept yelling at us to play faster so we played our very slow, very long 11 minute song at the end.
Another fun one was playing in Vadim's (Half Off drummer) garage with Half Off, Youth Of Today and I think Uniform Choice played as well. Still have the video of the entire sets by all the bands from that one. I think that was 1986 or 1987?
Southern Lord Records is releasing a cd with our full length record, demos from 1985 and 1986, live songs from 1987, and lives songs from the last show we played together in 1989. I believe it will be released 1-19-2010. It was cool putting the Virulence release thing together because you can hear the later tweaked Virulence stuff in newer Fu Manchu songs. A lot of Black Flag / BL'AST! riffing. The early Virulence demos sound the best to me.
How did Virulence fit in with the straight edge scene going on in California at the time and that wave of later 80's hardcore?
We were friends with a lot of the straight edge / positive bands from Orange County. I really liked that first Uniform Choice record. It still sounds heavy. They were always good live. I liked Half Off (even jammed with them as 2nd guitar once and I think we played a DYS song), we were friends with Insted, and I still think that NFAA 7" sounds good. I think we might have bummed some of them out because we weren't straight edge. It didn't bother us because we liked playing shows with them and the people in the bands were usually cool. None of us were ever straight edge. We didn't really care if you were or weren't.
I am a huge fan of the early 80's hardcore sound!!! Once 1987 rolled around we started getting into stuff like the Melvins, Swans, Gore, and a lot of late period Black Flag. We just wanted to slow it down, make it heavy without it being metal. Our later period stuff is very tweaked!!! I didn't really follow the newer punk / hardcore stuff that was happening in the very late 80s. I do still listen to my all my hardcore / punk stuff now though.
How did Virulence end and Fu Manchu begin and what was your idea for Fu Manchu? Fu Manchu has all sorts of fans, what do you think it is that appeals to such a cross section? Did you think you'd be doing it 20 years later?
I wanted to add another guitar player in 1989. I asked our singer if he wanted to play guitar as well, and there was no way he could learn to play. Plus, I think at the end of Virulence the songs were getting so complicated, and had a lot of weird off time breaks and a lot of riffs going on, and we needed to go back to a basic song structure. As soon as we ended Virulence, our singer went to college and the rest of us started Fu Manchu.
I think we do appeal to a lot of different people because we do have the raw, fuzzy rock thing happening and we get the Sabbath, Blue Cheer thing, but then we will record cover songs by VOID, JFA, Adolescents, Black Flag and get the punk people going "what the fuck?" It's cool because a lot of my favorite singers have gotten up on stage and sang their songs with us.
Here is Springa (SSD) and Fu Manchu doing "Nothing Done" on 10-31-09 - he is dressed as The Joker. His voice was so heavy and great, it was awesome.
We have gotten Tony from the Adolescents to sing "Things Start Moving" with us, we got Keith Morris from the Circle Jerks to sing on a song. Those are some of the coolest things to have happened!
I would never have guessed that I would still be playing in a band, touring, releasing records. 2010 will be 20 years of Fu Manchu being around. It's crazy.
We are planning on some big European / USA stuff for next year, and a Fu Manchu 1990-2010 DVD. It's pure luck or pure stupidity that we are still around...I'm guessing stupidity!!!
Scott Hill in a neon haze of light, Photo: Ricardo Carles
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Posted by DOUBLE CROSS at 7:16 PM