Released in February 1996, In Search Of… in many ways is the definitive Fu Manchu record. Their third outing behind 1995′s Daredevil and their 1994 full-length debut, No One Rides for Free (several 7″s and compilation appearances showed up between 1990-1993), it was the first time the four-piece perfectly balanced their laid back, surfer’s groove with the SoCal punk and hardcore that inspired them to get their start in the outfit Virulence, whose 1985 demo tracks were released on Southern Lord in 2009.
It would also wind up being the last Fu Manchu album to feature guitarist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano, who would soon splinter off to form Nebula. Alongside bassist Brad Davis, who came aboard for Daredevil (Mark Abshire played on the debut), and guitarist/vocalist/founder Scott Hill, Glass and Romano helped make In Search Of… a landmark of fuzz — one of a short list of heavy rock records you could truly call quintessential.
To celebrate the album’s 15th anniversary, Fu Manchu — now Hill and Davis with guitarist Bob Balch and drummer Scott Reeder — took to the road. Having long abided by their love of touring and putting out records, they endeavored across Europe playing special sets that included In Search Of… front to back. In addition, having completed their two-album deal with Century Media following the albums We Must Obey (2007) and Signs of Infinite Power (2009), they reissued In Search Of… on vinyl in a limited run and promptly sold it out.
This month, they’re bringing that entire-album tour idea Stateside, and as Scott Hill reveals in the interview that follows, there may be more like-minded touring in their future as they also secure the rights to and reissue other records through their own At the Dojo imprint. Hill discusses some of the practicalities of touring and making the band self-sustaining, and reflects on the 15 years since the release of In Search Of…, while also looking ahead to the inevitable next installment in the Fu Manchu catalog to come.
Complete Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.
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.
So it’s not like you left, the contract was fulfilled.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We were just for two records with them. I really liked the label. They did a good job. Yeah, no, we just kind of wanted to try it ourselves, give that 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.
And you’ll put that out yourselves as well?
Yeah, we’ll do that ourselves too.
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.
I saw the purple swirl vinyl. Thing looks great.
The company we go through, Cobraside, did a good job with it. A lot of them – I think the first 250 or something – are all hand-done. The swirls are all different. It’s out of print now. I think we’re going to press up another 400 in another color to bring on this tour. But yeah, they did a good job with it.
Is there anything you miss playing for doing all of In Search Of…? It obviously takes up a good chunk of the set.
We’ll come out and do about five or six other songs to start the set, just to play, and then we’ll get the old gear, and I’ll put the old guitar on, and do In Search Of… Yeah, there’s obviously people yelling for songs that we don’t have time to do. We’re doing all of In Search Of…, then we’ll do another five or so songs, then we’ll come back out and do another three or four, so it’s a pretty long set. But nah, it’s fun. It’s fun to play. We’re having a good time playing it. Like I said, we were kind of nervous, didn’t know if it was going to be fun at all to do, but we’ll switch up the songs every night that we open the set with and stuff. I don’t really miss – it’s cool. It’s something a little different to do.
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.
I’d be gunning for King of the Road, but alright.
Yeah, it’s a toss between that and Action. I think we’d probably stop with that, but we’ll see.
Talking about the reissues, are you surprised that vinyl has had the resurgence it has?
A little. I mean, we’ve always, every record we’ve done, we’ve been able to put out on vinyl. I’m a big vinyl guy. I always buy stuff on vinyl first if I can. It seems to be every time we release something and put it out on vinyl, it sells out. It’s always good. That’s a good sign. Like I said, I’m a fan of vinyl, and it seems like kids just want to hold something in their hands besides a little disc. Something to look at. Kids getting their parents’ record players. It’s good. Yes. It seems like I hear now no one’s gonna even care about CDs anymore. Now it’s just vinyl and download stuff. We’ve put out a couple 7” ourselves the last couple years. Grew up listening to and buying records. It’s just a bummer there’s not a lot of record stores anymore. That’s something I always looked forward to every week, was going and getting records, but record stores seem to be. Maybe – who knows? – maybe record stores will start popping up again left and right.
Well, I think there’s always a certain amount of independent stores that are going to be around.
True, true. There’s always going to be something. I live in Orange County, like south Orange County, by the beach, and there’s one in Huntington Beach, which is about 35 minutes from where I am, but it’s been there forever. It’s always busy, and it seems like it’ll be there forever. There’s always probably something somewhere close to where you’re at.
You hope, anyway.
You hope, yeah. When we tour, we usually find record stores. There’s usually record stores. Not as much as there were. I remember doing a lot of in-stores, playing live in record stores a lot on releases, and we stopped doing that four, five, six years ago. Stopped doing it. But, they’re out there. You do a little searching, I guess.
You still buy vinyl on the regular?
Definitely. Bands I like. Clutch, Monster Magnet. I definitely buy vinyl first, and if it’s not available on vinyl, you get the next thing you can get. But definitely. A big fan of vinyl.
So what’s the timeline? You’ve got this tour in November, then you break for the holidays and go home, then pick up in 2012 and start writing?
Yeah. I think we do this tour till right before Thanksgiving, then come home. We’ll probably play some local stuff, December, January, just around here, and then start working on new stuff, and then, I think we might start up The Action is Go, doing that whole record and trying to reissue that stuff on vinyl, and then maybe go to Europe in April, doing that, take any money we make and put it towards recording a new record.
Tags: At the Dojo Records, California, Fu Manchu