The Action is Go (Mammoth)
An interview with bassist Brad Davis
by Dave Bone
Does it ever bother you that Fu Manchu are constantly referred to by the media as “stoner rock”?
We don’t really care that much. It’s only the press that brings that up. There have never been any lyrics that have anything to do with pot. We really don’t have that much to say about that kind of stuff, but I figure if there’s some guy who’s getting loaded somewhere and someone says “Fu Manchu is stoner rock” he’s probably gonna dig it, so that’s fine by us.
Did you consciously avoid modern sounds again on The Action is Go now that you have a bigger recording budget, or was it unintentional?
When we go in the studio we just try to do what sounds best. We wouldn’t rule anything out except for maybe Pro Tool-ing our album. That’s where they chop it up on the computer and make drum fills correct. Usually we end up using old equipment because it sounds better. You’d be surprised, even on big, new rock albums they’re still using compressors that cost five thousand dollars from the fifties.
Your lyrics have definite associations to ’70s movies. Which ones in particular stand out as being the most influential?
As (Scott) Hill (vocals, guitar) would say, “Any teenage party movie with drugs, skateboards, bands, cars, pinball.” Anything like that and sci-fi like Lazerblast, and Saturn 3 with Farrah Fawcett.
Does she show her tits?
Yeah! Actually, I think she does. Scott will also just overhear a cool line and put it in. He heard the line “She wanted nothing and I delivered” from “Ojo Rojo” at the beach.
Do you wish not to be associated with the supposed Orange County music movement?
Ummm, yeah. There’s no way that could work in our favor. Other bands they use it as a crutch and say, “Oh, we’re from here so we’ve got to be good.” Any time people mention where we’re from, they just get the wrong idea and make assumptions that are even worse than when people call us stoner rock. We just lie and say we’re from San Clemente because people don’t know where that is.
What caused the departure of Eddie Glass (lead guitar) and Rubin Romano (drums) after the last album, In Search of?
During the last tour and the making of the album, there were musical differences. We (Brad and Scott) wanted to get heavier and gnarlier. They wanted to get into this ’60s thing. We didn’t like that and once we went on tour it got to the point that they had to get kicked out.
How did you get Brant (Björk, ex-drummer of Kyuss) to join?
Scott had known Brant for years because he was a big Fu Manchu fan. He’s gotten a lot of people into us. He got J (Yeunger, guitarist for White Zombie and producer of The Action is Go) into us. We’ve always wanted to play with him just cause he’s gnarly and we just gave him a call to jam. We did the 10″ (Godzilla) first and he’s a good friend of ours.
Is the lineup going to remain for the next album?
Oh yeah. I’ve never seen a band get along so well.
How did things work out with J in the studio?
It wasn’t just the typical rock-star-thinks-he-can-produce thing?
It wasn’t like he was going to change anything. We knew he was going to produce the album and we all decided what kind of role each of us was going to play ahead of time. We did the pre-production which turned out to be really good. He advised us on arrangement, where to put this part, make this longer, this shorter, maybe another part here. He pointed out things we wouldn’t’ve seen. In the studio, he has a lot more experience with more complicated things. Usually, we just go in there and record live, which is cool. We wanted to make each song sound different and he added a lot to that, sitting down and really listening to everything closely.
Where does The Action is Go artwork come from?
Glen Friedman. That’s Tony Alva in the picture. We were sitting around talking about the cover with J and he had happened to mention that he was friends with Glen Friedman so he called him up and asked him if he might have something that we could use for an album cover. We sent him a CD and he sent the picture to the art department at Mammoth and as soon as we saw it we were like “Yes, we’ll take that please.”
What other stuff has he done?
A million insane photos of skaters but he’s also done all those pictures in the eighties of Bad Brains and Black Flag.
Is it true that you’re going to release all the old Fu Manchu 7″s remixed on CD soon?
Yeah. That’s gonna come out next year. It’s gonna be on Elastic Records.
What else do you have planned for the future?
We’re gonna put out a split 7″ on Sessions with our cover of (Thin Lizzy’s) “Jailbreak.” We made skate decks, so they’re out. We’ll probably go back to Europe and do some festivals. Go to Japan or Australia if we get the chance. We’ll probably do another U.S. tour in February. This is our first headlining tour and it’s been insane.