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.

Another US label makes our list in Long Island’s
The Music Cartel which currently host Leadfoot, Bronx Casket Co., Karma To Burn, Roadsaw, Sheavy, Acid King and Goliath. Here is another company that only put out top quality rock. Every band is well rehearsed, produced and recorded. Highlights also include Orange Goblin, Spiritual Beggers and Son Of Otis who they inherited from Man’s Ruin and who utilize the most from their vintage equipment bringing to earth some of the most organically dense and psychedelic riffage known to man.

Just around the corner is
Tee Pee Records who house Sofa King Killers, Leechmilk, The Brought Low and New York’s Bad Wizard. The latter are rising to prominence and seem to be on a crusade to bring the true spirit of rock ‘n roll back to the masses through their brand of blistering sweaty and soulful anthems...and unforgettable live shows. Their new outing ‘Free And Easy’ is absolutely contagious. A hit at CBGBs, these rock ‘n groovers lay it down thick and heavy. Also try Brainticket Records featuring Oversoul, Datura, and Dixie Witch, the latter giving southern rock a steroid injection of densely heavy blues chug compressed with spellbinding novelty. A monster!

As we venture overseas
People Like You lead the way in both Stoner and newish-Punk. Every band, and we mean EVERY BAND on this label is a killer from the threshold of Bones and Aerobitch, to the fumes of Red Aim and The Awesome Machine. Check out Finish band Sunride if you don’t believe us. (PLY discs are currently being distributed in the US by Century Media). Next in line would be the Freebird Records (Freedom Bleeder, Demon Cleaner and the Kyuss meets Helmet Jersey band Horsy - thunder indeed!), Daredevil Records (Calamus, Duster 69, Blacktop), Water Dragon Records (Low Vibes, Space Patrol, Sparzanza) and a number of others including Molten Universe, Custom Heavy and RedSun. All mentioned here dub as both a label and distribution center for purchasing CDs from anywhere in the world.

The best way to check out any number of these bands is to pick up the several compilation CDs offered by nearly all these independent labels. We have gone through a number of them and recommend A Fist Full Of Freebird (Freebird), Sacred Groove (Monstruo De Gila) Molten Universe Volume I & II, Greatest Hits (Water Dragon), Stoned Revolution (Rough Trade), In The Groove (Music Cartel), Stoned Again (Bong Load). Another economical route is to pick up a split disc. Often a band will share CD space with another (hence the expression “split”). It’s a great way to check out two bands for the price of one. Splits aren’t always CD only. The Stoner wave is very pro vinyl, oftentimes releasing 45 singles (7”), 10” EPs and full length 12’ platters as well as gatefolds. The cost is comparable to a CD and the buyer benefits from all the great art.

Most of the compilations mentioned above are available for purchase in the
All That's Heavy Online Music Store on StonerRock.com this as well as most of the other releases mention in this article.

So many bands answered our request to review their CDs that we will be adding reviews for the next several issues. However on the top of the heap are Brits Whoremoan (the first to send us anything!) They have two killer releases Absinthism, and Head On with the killer tune "Hit And Run". - both are brilliant. Norway’s Pawnshop light it up with "Aloha From Saturn" a full on riff-o-rama and wooly as a siberian yak. Punch play and let it rip. Kung Pao, a NYC three-piece bring denim and a ton of sound packed into their Bogotta masterpiece. And checkout New York’s Stoner Punk band Blowtop, our current favorite. Regulars at CBGBs, they draw their influences from Grand Funk Railroad, MC5 and the like and play infectious riff-rock simular to The Cult with emphasis on the road-ready rock. Go to Mp3.com and download "Wild Woman" and "Reason Why".

Local heroes Zen Guerrilla balance on the fringe with "Shadows On The Sun", a hybrid of of Stones or Kinks meets Ohio Players and the Temptations - it works in a strange memorizing way. Also checkout Sweden’s Grave Flowers and the Dutch Celestial Season for an added twist.

“What makes this type of music so appealing is the fresh yet altered respect for the past,” says Scott. “ We work on our arrangements, we stew over each song but in the end it has to mean something to the listener for it to work.”

Graphics by StonerRock.com. Also check out the Ultimate Band List here.