The New Fuzz Record, ‘II,’ Will Make Your Head Explode
A chat with Chad Ubovich, who plays bass in the SoCal psych rock trio, about night terrors and recording the band’s subliminal sophomore record.
Chad, center / Photo by Denee Petracek
The knocks don’t come for Chad Ubovich every night. But when they do, it’s while he’s drifting off.
“Sometimes as I’m going to bed, right as I’m falling asleep I hear somebody pounding on the door,” he told me. “And then I jump up and I’m like, ‘What the fuck?’ And no one is there. That happens to me a lot. I don’t know why.”
No one knows exactly what causes exploding head syndrome, an obscure parasomnia marked by strange, sometimes terrifying auditory hallucinations that manifest either on the brink of sleep or the cusp of waking up. No small number of people, myself included, claim they have “exploding heads,” that they’ve experienced something similar to the unexplainable knocking noise Ubovich occasionally hears. Either way, exploding head syndrome is totally benign. That doesn’t make the experience any less creepy, and, perhaps, a fitting psychic analog to II, the second studio album from SoCal psych rock trio Fuzz.
Some people who claim to suffer from exploding heads report hearing shouts and loud crashes in the night. Some report hearing an unknown entity calling out their name. Others see flashes of light. Some people say they experience a full-body jerk—literally, the feeling of exploding—and some even report being overcome by waves of fear. For people like Ubovich, it’s someone knocking at the door. II is all of these exploding head-like hallucinations bubbling from some horrible backwater of the mind night after night. Over 14 tracks, it oozes with the anxiety of simply not knowing why this is happening to you. Banged out in five days on the band’s own 1-inch 16-track tape machine at Hollywood’s legendary Sunset Sound Recorders studio, II binds the annals of metal, blues, thrash, and weirdo psychedelic rock into a singular paranoid mass. It is very much a Fuzz record in this sense—if there is a throughline in the short history of Fuzz, formed in 2011, it’s paranoia. (Just take standout chiller “What’s in My Head?” from 2013’s self-titled debut full length.)
But with II, Ubovich (bass, vocals) said he and Charles Mootheart (guitar, vocals) and Ty Segall (drums, vocals) were going for something darker, more subliminal. II is an eerie half-asleep, half-awake limbo haunted by an imaginary door knocker (“Jack the Maggot”) and disembodied voices calling your name (“Say Hello”). It is closed-eye flashes at 3 AM (“Bringer of Light”) while lying paralyzed in bed, wracked with fear (“The 7th Terror”). II is your brain and your meatbag exploding, painting the walls of your bedroom in pink mist (“New Flesh”). It’s also a really fucking fun rock album!
I recently caught up with Ubovich at home in Los Angeles. He’d just returned from touring on II through Europe, and he told me about chronic circle pitters, recording at Sunset, and night terrors.
Noisey: How was tour?
Chad Ubovich: Probably the chilliest European tour I’ve done. It was the most scenic tour we’ve ever taken. We went to three beaches in Italy. It was definitely more vacation steez. We were all surprised. We didn’t really know how to deal with it. Like, ‘Wow, we’ve got the day off in Italy? Go to the beach? Sure.’
Sounds delightful. How have people been reacting to the new stuff?
It’s funny because at certain times, especially with us, I think [people] come to the show with this idea that, ‘OK, we’re gonna mosh.’ So it doesn’t really matter. Like, ‘OK, here’s this next song, it’s reaaally slow!’ And they’re like, ‘CIRCLE PIT!’ But it seems to be going well.
How did this batch of songs come together, and what was it like recording at Sunset Sound? There’s so much history there.
I didn’t really know we were gonna be doing Sunset Sound. Me and Charles work together, and one day he was like, ‘Hey, let’s go to the studio. We’re gonna check out Sunset Sound.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, shit. OK.’ I don’t think we knew what we were getting into. It was fucking rad. Sunset Sound is super legendary. Every room we were in was like, ‘OK, The Doors lit a cigarette in this corner. And then over here, Marilyn Manson sang underneath this soundboard.’ [laughs] Whoa, crazy!
I think the raddest part was that everything is super old. They update, but not much. Still the same old board. They have all their old tape machines. It’s kind of a time zone. They have all these super old mics that were probably sung through by Jim Morrison, or something. And the live room you can smoke in. It’s the craziest thing. We’d be like: ‘OK, we’re going out to have a smoke.’
And they’d be like: ‘No, no, no. You guys can smoke in there.’
And we’re like: ‘What!?’
They’re like: ‘It’s Sunset Sound. It’s old school.’
Like, fuck. Nice.
Was there pressure, individually or as a band, going into a place like that? I can imagine the weight of time in there is heavy.
There were definitely moments recording when there was some sort of pressure. But we purposely went in there pretty prepared. The way the songs started coming together, honestly, we’d just call each other up and be like, ‘Time to start writing this album.’ That started maybe a month or two, possibly three, before recording. I’m blanking. But we went in and a lot of the songs Charles had in his backlog for a while. So we walked in there being like, ‘OK, this is how this song goes.’ We’d play it, and a lot of times it would be too good to do anything else. And we’d just be like, ‘OK, Ty, sing over this.’ Ty brought in a couple songs, and I brought in two songs. We were hashing it out everyday for about a month. Demoing them. We knew we were only going to do five days at Sunset Sound. So we definitely wanted to go in and get ‘em done in five days. We went in there with our own tape machine, so we didn’t have to stay there to mix or anything. We took our tape machine back to Ty’s house, and we did the mixing there. I think that was the most pressure.
Sunset Sound was kind of a breeze because they make it a breeze. It’s a professional studio. If you’re like, ‘I’m going to take a break and get some cigarettes,’ they’re like, ‘Uhm, we got a guy for that. What’s wrong with you guys? You guys don’t have any crazy orders you want they guy to get?’ We’re just like, ‘No, we’re normal nerds.’ [laughs] I think they’re super used to musicians getting in there and saying, ‘Okay, I need a snow cone in this side of the room…’
...six fishbowls of only green M&Ms on that side.
Something like that. I think they’re used to that. I think they thought we were kind of boring. But the pressure definitely was more when we decided to take tapes from Sunset Sound and mix them at home on a board we’d never mixed on in a new room at Ty’s house. That was definitely the pressure.
I feel like Fuzz is nightmare music. It exudes anxiety and fear. But there’s a sort of dark whimsy about it. It’s evil fun.
[laughs] For this album, all the songs we brought in were definitely darker than the first album. I think we were going for more of a creep-o subliminal feel.
Do you have nightmares?
I feel like my nightmares are not cohesive a lot of times now. When I was a kid, I got night terrors a lot. Those were definitely my craziest nightmares, when I was a child. It would be in situations where I’d be driving home with my parents and I’d fall asleep in the car. And [this one time] I didn’t realize I’d fallen asleep, and in the dream we were still driving. When we got home our babysitter, who’d been watching our house, was in the front doorway pinned up by her skin with knives. Blood everywhere. Everyone is freaking out. Then I woke up in the car and realized it was just a dream. Shit like that. I’d have nightmares that felt too real when I was a kid. I also used to get these dreams for a while where I was conscious, and everything was black, and I’d just hear screaming. And that was it. I don’t really get nightmares now. I don’t know what that means. [muffled pause] Whoa, what the fuck?
Here’s something creepy. I just walked downstairs and one of the faucets in my other bathroom is on. There ya go. Why is that on?
Brian Anderson is the features editor at Noisey’s sister site, Motherboard. Find him chanting incantations on Twitter.