Interview with Scott Hill from Fu Manchu: Still Searching

SoCal fuzz rockers Fu Manchu released their landmark In Search Of… album in 1996, which—in case you’re reluctant to do the math because of how it relates to how long you’ve been out of high school—was a full 15 years ago. To honor the occasion, the four-piece are taking the record on the road in the U.S. as they did earlier this year in Europe, playing it front to back for the first time ever.

Of course, the last decade and a half have brought about some changes in Fu Manchu (as they have in us all), and they’re a different band today than they were in ’96. Stalwart guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill and bassist Brad Davis remain at the band’s core, however, and with both guitarist Bob Balch and drummer Scott Reeder having a decade’s tenure in Fu Manchu at this point, things should work out all right. Helps when you’re kicking out “Asphalt Risin’” and “Regal Begal,” too.

Fu Manchu’s last album with Century Media, Signs Of Infinite Power, came out in 2009, which means they’re about due, but Hill gives a few solid reasons below why it’ll be worth the wait this time around, including more impending touring, vinyl reissues and the fact that they’ve got their own label started up. Dig it:

So you guys have split with Century Media?

Yeah. When we signed with them, in 2007, it was just for two records. It was a two-record deal we did. We did our We Must Obey record, toured on that one, and we did the Signs Of Infinite Power, toured on that one, and that was kind of it. You know, I think we wanted to try and maybe do some stuff ourselves, release our own records. We’ve been putting out records since 1990, so I think we’ve got a good idea of how to go about making records, touring on them, getting them out there. Let’s give it a shot.

Will you develop your own label?

We’ve been getting back some of our old records from some of the old labels that they were on that aren’t around any longer, and we’ve been re-releasing those that’ve been out of print forever, and we’ll probably do it on our own label, something called At The Dojo Records. Just kind of going back, starting with re-releasing a lot of our early stuff. We’ll probably start working on something new beginning of next year, and hopefully have it out by summer of next year.

It seems like more and more that’s the way things are going. At this point, you figure the people who know Fu Manchu are going to find it.

I mean, like I said, Century was cool. All the labels we’ve been on were cool. I think mainly they do help out a lot with tour support and stuff, but you know, we’ve been doing this for so long, we know how to do it and how to save money here and there and put money aside for certain things, and it seems like it’s just easier to get the word out, got a new record out, and it’s not too hard to find what’s going on. Just type in something on the Internet and there you go.

I’m glad to hear there’s plans for new material. I thought you guys were on a roll the last couple records.

It might take a little bit longer—usually we like to do a record about every two years—but doing our own thing now, obviously it’s going to cost more, and we’re going to put money aside for certain things. But yeah, we’ve got a couple more left in us, I think.

Do you have any specific plans? You said you’re putting money away. Are you thinking ahead to recording already?

We’ve got a bunch of new stuff. New riffs all over. A lot of new stuff, we’ve got to actually try and work on. I would think we would maybe, hopefully really start getting into the new stuff around January and really try and work on it for a few months, and maybe record it before summer, and then have it come out the end of summer. That’s what we’d like to do. Doesn’t always go that way, but that’s about as far ahead as we can plan.

And in the meantime, you’ve got this tour doing In Search Of… Any reflections on the album 15 years on? Is there something you feel differently about the material now than you did then?

Yeah, there’s certain songs we’ve never played live. A song called “The Bargain” we’ve never done live, and I guess we’ve probably played all the other ones here and there. I like it. We always do something off it in the set no matter what. It seems to be one of people’s favorites. But now we just pulled out all the old gear, the old guitars, and we’re playing on all the original stuff we did that record on. It’s cool.

It brings back memories of working on the songs and recording it in ’95, and yeah, I didn’t know how I’d feel. We actually booked a tour of Europe doing the record, and we’d never tried it before. I was like, “Oh my god, what if it sucks to play? What if it’s not fun to play?” but, you know, like I said, we’ve probably done one or two songs every set off that record, so we knew we’d be into it. We did about a six-week tour of Europe doing it, and we didn’t know if we’d like playing the same songs every night, but it was fun.

People seem to dig it, and the label that originally released it, Mammoth, which is now Hollywood Records, which I guess is now Disney, they gave us the okay to press up the vinyl of it again, which has been out of print since ’96, so we printed up about 1,000 copies of the vinyl and got rid of them, and that was very cool. It’s fun. It’s fun doing some of those songs we haven’t played forever. They’re just like brand new songs, almost, because we haven’t done them in forever.

You mentioned putting out albums every two years, and you’ve done the cycle many times at this point of putting out albums and touring, putting out albums and touring. Does something like this keep you from getting bogged down in a routine with the band, or is it just another tour?

Um, no. You know, it’s cool to do. I mean, if we weren’t doing all of In Search Of…—I mean, all of us like getting in there, working on new stuff. I like putting out records and touring, so it’s never a bummer to me to actually have to, “Oh, okay, we’re done touring on this record, let’s start working on a new one.”

We all like it, so it’s cool to do. But this is fun as well. We’ve never played a whole album all the way through and toured on it, so it’s something new to us. It’s definitely cool, all of us enjoy it, but we still like touring for a year on a new record, coming home, taking a quick break and then starting over again. I like doing that. We’ve been doing it for years. Once it gets tiresome and a chore, then we’re done.

Will you do other tours for other records as you go back and reissue older albums?

Yeah. In Europe, our booking agent and promoters over there already want us to go back and do The Action Is Go, which we might do. We talked to the label and asked if we can do the same thing, press the vinyl up again, and they said, “Yeah, go ahead, you guys can do it.” So we’ll probably do that at some point next year, I would think, and there’s about half that record we’ve never played live, so that’ll be interesting to try and work some of those.

I’ve got a lot of lyrics to remember, which is a little tough sometimes, but it’s fun. Like I said, again, we were kind of nervous, didn’t know if we’d like playing a whole record, but it is actually fun, and after doing it, we’re like, “Yeah, it’d be fun, let’s try The Action Is Go.” I think we’d maybe do The Action Is Go, and then maybe King Of The Road, and that’s it. I don’t think we’d do any more records all the way through. Action Is Go, I think that’s probably one of our most popular ones, so we’d probably do that one for sure, and then maybe King Of The Road, and that’s it as doing whole records all the way through.


Fu Manchu hit Santos Party House in NYC on Nov. 15. More info at