|A Comprehensive Overview of Stoner Rock PT2
By Todd K. Smith and Scott Hill of Fu Manchu
“First of all, we have to say that when we talk about stoner-rock, we're not speaking about any kind of drug at all. Obviously this doesn't mean musicians and/or listeners don't use drugs, but we only want to specify that stoner-rock does not mean drugs or the use of drugs. This genre is called stoner-rock as well as heavy-psychedelia, and it usually has a certain hypnotic power. It can be said that this genre was born in the first years of the nineties, thanks to a bands like Soundgarden, Kyuss, and Fu Manchu bands that played a brand new kind of music; like a mix of 70's hard-rock roots, slow and hypnotic bass lines, crunchy guitars, simple but heavy drums, great vocals. Their sound was considered really ‘fat and groovy’
“Usually, stoner-rock bands have a sound that takes the listener to a parallel universe, a universe made up of groove, distortion, warmth and magic. If you still can't understand the stoner-sound, just mix three elements: Soundgarden, Black Sabbath and tons of magic mushrooms. Obviously, every stoner-rock band tries to be different from the other mixing their musical roots with classical heavy-psychedelic ingredients. So, we can listen to many kind of bands: a band like Fu Manchu mixes up stoner rock with skate core, a band like Sunride mixes up rock 'n roll riffs with some stoner rock, a band like Orange Goblin mixes up an heavy, distorted sounds with some psychedelia. The bands are as diversified as the sounds they create and the countries they come from. To date there are over 200 bands that could be classified as “Stoner Rock”. They come from a number of different countries and easy to research through the internet or listen to at MP3.com.”
Alex of Neanderthal 2069 (Italy)
“Stoner Rock is relatively a new, almost trendy word currently used to describe what we’ve been doing since the early ‘90s in southern California,” says Scott Hill of Fu Manchu. “We started out as a hardcore punk band in the mid-eighties and we were listening to a lot of different influences at the time. But when that style of punk started to burn out we slowed down, pulled out our old Blue Cheer records and started listening to that again. We just wanted to play ‘Rock’ music.
“We progressed by seeing early shows with Soundgarden, Tad even Nirvana. In fact Bleach, to me, has all the elements of stoner rock, fuzzed out guitar, droning bass-lines, fat drums. We weren’t the only ones pulling in this direction. There was also Kyuss who formulated the desert rock sound and Monster Magnet who put this heavy metal edge to stoner rock. Yet, as a band, we always play what we want to hear. I tried a number of different pedals and different amplifiers to experiment with our sound. We don’t really claim to be the originators of anything new, we are just playing what we like. The imagery in this type of music is also focused on a laid back type of feel. I grew up near the beach in Orange county, California and I was heavy into skateboarding and surfing. On the beach you’d always see an assortment of vans and motorcycles driving around. It was so cool. I remember having this image of an El Camino with a surfboard in the back. Now it’s the cover to our new CD "California Crossing".
“By 1994 we got to tour with Monster Magnet. We went over to Europe and all these people were showing up at the gigs. It blows our minds that this thing has really taken off. Bands send us tapes all the time, especially from Sweden, and when we tour, guys will bring us demos to check almost at every show. There are even record labels cropping up everywhere supporting the genre.”
We break Scott’s narrative to spotlight a number of labels dedicated to the Stoner movement. The leader would have to be Frank Kozik’s label Man’s Ruin. The essential and sadly now defunct company was home to a number of Stoners including Fu Manchu, Beaver, Altamont, Dozer, Bottom, High On Fire and Suplecs. Everything Man’s Ruin did is worth collecting. Growing in the shadows of Frank’s label is New Mexico based Meteor City who work in conjunction with the leading web site StonerRock.com. Recent releases include the stunning Mushroom River Band who call Sweden home. Vocalist Spice keeps the vibe soulful while the band move along at a rockin’ pace. Also labelmates Solarized, a steaming New Jersey landmark that unleash their second effort ‘Driven’. The disc blasts a serious dose of the past thirty years' worth of riff-rock through a 454 big-block to create a heaping high-energy blend of mean-ass cosmic groove. Worthy additions for holiday stuffers include Scene Killer, Blind Dog, Abdullah, Lowrider, Elysium Solace and The Quill.