Fu Manchu Announce Tour Dates; Currently Mixing New Album Gigantoid

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

A Fu Manchu tour would be good news enough, but to have a list of dates come with word that the band’s new album, Gigantoid, is currently in the mixing stages is even better. Southern California’s Godfathers of Fuzz will embark on a spring run across the US at the start of May, making their way into Canada to hit Toronto and Montreal en route to the East Coast, presumably with some new material from Gigantoid in tow. Hopefully, anyway.

Gigantoid will also be the Fu‘s first new full-length through their own At the Dojo imprint. If the recent 20th anniversary vinyl reissue for their first album, No One Rides for Free (review here), is anything to go by, they should be more than up to the task of handling the next record themselves. Freedom of choice, right?

Here’s the latest:


California rockers FU MANCHU announce their Spring USA INVASION Tour 2014

Fu Manchu are hitting the road in May 2014 to bring their new album “Gigantoid” to fans in the Unites States and Canada. Tickets go on sale Friday March Friday March 7th 2014 for all shows in the US and Canada. The band is currently mixing the album, their first new studio album in 5 years, with Andrew Giacumakis (MOAB). The album was recorded by Giacumakis and Jim Monroe(The Adolescents, X) at the end of February 2014.

The band recorded and released the single “Robotic Invasion” with Andrew Giacumakis last October for Scion Motors.

This is the bands 10th studio album, their 14th release over all and follows on two years of touring in the US, Europe Australia and New Zealand on successful reissues of the classic records ” In Search Of” and ” The Action Is Go.” This will be their first new full length release on their own AT THE DOJO label. The band celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2015 and this year marks the 20th Anniversary of their first album “No One Rides For Free” recently reissued on AT THE DOJO.

Thursday May 1st San Francisco CA Bottom Of The Hill
Saturday May 03 Portland OR Dante’s
Sunday May 4th Seattle WA El Corazon
Tuesday May 06 Salt Lake City UT Club Sound
Wed May 07 Denver CO Marquis Theatre
Saturday May 10 Chicago Il SubTerranean
Sunday May 11 Detroit MI Smalls
Tuesday May 13th Columbus OH Ace Of Cups
Wednesday May 14th Cleveland OH Grog Shop
Friday May 16th Toronto ON Horseshoe Tavern
Saturday May 17th Montreal QC Cabaret Mile End
Monday May 19th New York City NY Mercury Lounge
Tuesday May 20th Boston MA The Sinclair
Wednesday May 21st Philidelphia PA Barbary
Friday May 23rd Washington DC Rock N Roll Hotel
Saturday May 24th Raleigh NC Kings
Sunday May 25th Atlanta GA The Earl
Tuesday May 27th Austin TX Red 7
Wednesday May 28th Dallas TX Gas Monkey Bar and Grill
Saturday May 31st Mesa AZ Pub Rock Live

Los Angeles / San Diego show info soon…
Europe tour info soon…
Australia / japan tour info soon…
Canadian tour info soon…

Fu Manchu, “Robotic Invasion” (2013)

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On Wax: Fu Manchu, No One Rides for Free

Posted in On Wax on February 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

“Gas, grass or ass. No one rides for free.” — ancient boogie van proverb

Here’s a fun idea: let’s talk about Fu Manchu. The long-running SoCal fuzz rock progenitors have a vinyl remaster of their 1994 debut LP, No One Rides for Free, out direct from the band on their own At the Dojo Records imprint, following reissues of In Search Of, The Action is Go, Godzilla’s/Eatin’ Dust, California Crossing Demos and a collection of their cover material aptly-titled The Covers. Even as they’re currently in the studio working on a follow-up to 2009′s Signs of Infinite Power, however, they’re going back to their van-worshiping roots in repressing No One Rides for Free. The album arrives in gatefold form, quality card stock with photos of the four-piece from that era, pressed either to yellow (300), clear (300) or black (the rest) platter of substantive heft, and sounds even better than it looks, the eight tracks reading like a gnostic text of the heavy that would follow in their wake over these two decades since No One Rides for Free was first issued.

The lineup of guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill, guitarist Eddie Glass, bassist Mark Abshire and drummer Ruben Romano would be a supergroup if they got together today, with Hill having put out some of CA’s finest fuzz in Fu Manchu over the years while the others went on to form Nebula (whereabouts unknown), Romano now good company and good time in The Freeks — never mind Brant Bjork, who produced the thing — but make no mistake, on No One Rides for Free, there were no laurels to rest upon. Fu Manchu had put out a handful of singles between 1990 and 1994, but what’s widely considered their best work lay well ahead of them, and 20 years ago, the laid back, easy-flowing grooves of side A cuts like the opening one-two of “Time to Fly” and “Ojo Rojo” didn’t fit nearly as easily into assignations like “stoner” and “fuzz,” since they barely existed as a subgenre of rock. It’s easy to imagine No One Rides for Free finding an audience among the more baked-out contingent in Southern California’s seemingly perpetual punk and hardcore scene — that’s where Fu Manchu‘s roots lie, as the 2010 Southern Lord release of Virulence‘s If this isn’t a Dream… 1985-1989 (review here) showed, with Hill, Abshire and Romano in that lineup — but it’s not like it came prepackaged with a sticker that said, “Okay kids, this is stoner rock! Get on board!”

And for everyone who wound up doing that (i.e. getting on board), it’s no stretch to figure there were just as many who heard the acoustics and dreamy leads of “Summer Girls (Free and Easy)” — which here starts side B — and had no clue or context for what to make. If it was next-generation surf rock, however, Fu Manchu could easily fit that bill. No One Rides for Free sets in place an allegiance to that culture that continues to be a part of the band’s identity to this day, and a lot of what they’d later turn into the core of their sound is present in these tracks, let alone a lyrical affinity for good times, vans, Camaros, chrome pipes, ladies, and so on. Is it the record that launched a thousand Spicolis? More likely it’s a piece of that burnout puzzle than a sole actor, but Fu Manchu make it plain by the time Romano starts in with the cowbell of “Shine it On” that they know what they’re doing, and that the rolling grooves preceding are no mistake. Hill sounds like a kid on “Show and Shine” and “Mega Bumpers,” but that only adds to the fun of the reissue, and with the interplay of his and Glass‘ guitars in the jam of closer “Snakebellies” — which they still pull back to the main riff before they’re done – it’s easy to hear where a lot of players might’ve heard it and decided to try their hand at something similar. Like everybody.

It’s not a release that needs to justify its own release. Some reissues you wonder why they even exist. For Fu Manchu to be re-releasing their back catalog as they continue to work on new material wants nothing for rationale, and since they obviously have the rights to the material, all the better they’re the ones getting the chance to profit from putting it back out. Its production might sound dated here and there, but No One Rides for Free has a righteousness at its core that Fu Manchu‘s unyielding relevance and enduring influence shows to be timeless, and whether you’re a fan looking for an excuse to revisit their early output or a newcomer just getting to know them beyond preliminary investigations, this LP seems to serve all interests in a manner worthy of the band’s legacy. You can’t really lose.

Fu Manchu, No One Rides for Free (1994)

Fu Manchu on Thee Facebooks

Fu Manchu’s website

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Fu Manchu Reissue No One Rides for Free on Vinyl

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

After running a contest to give away the test-pressing on their Thee Facebooks page (I didn’t win), Southern California fuzz innovators Fu Manchu have made available a limited run of vinyl for a new remaster of their 1994 debut album, No One Rides for Free. Obviously this is a scenario in which all of humanity benefits.

That’s not sarcasm. Yeah, No One Rides for Free doesn’t enjoy the same kind of landmark status as some of Fu Manchu‘s subsequent outings, like 1997′s The Action is Go or 1996′s In Search Of, but it’s amazing how much of Fu Manchu‘s approach was already laid out by the time they got to No One Rides for Free after a couple of initial singles. Cuts like “Mega-Bumpers” and “Time to Fly” and “Ojo Rojo” lay out the blueprint for what the band would become, and with the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill, bassist Mark Abshire, guitarist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano — the latter three who’d go on to form Nebula – not to mention production by Brant Bjork, who’d later join on drums, the badassery speaks for itself. It’s like they recorded surfing.

Instructions for how to order follow here, and Fu Manchu are also playing Feb. 8 at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa, CA, with Blasting Concept, so one imagines you can pick up a copy at that show as well. From there, the Fu head into the studio to lay down a new album reportedly for release later in the year. Like I said, everybody wins:

Fu Manchu 20 year anniversary of “no one rides for free” remaster / reissue gatefold LP out now. 300 on yellow vinyl and 300 on clear vinyl the rest on black vinyl. We will be selling the colored copies here. CD’s out soon.

Inside the USA $13.00 plus $7.00 shipping fedex priority. email your order.

Outside the USA contact us for shipping.

Paypal and contact is kingfu666@aol.com

Orders will start shipping out 3rd week of feb. Include order and address with payment.


Fu Manchu, No One Rides for Free (1994)

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Brant Bjork

Posted in Questionnaire on January 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Brant Bjork is the godfather of desert rock. As drummer and co-songwriter in Kyuss, he anchored some of the thickest and most influential grooves the world has ever known. Landmark albums like 1992′s Blues for the Red Sun and 1994′s Welcome to Sky Valley are not only genre staples, but have become the measure by which the bulk of the desert-influenced heavy is measured. Ceaselessly creative, Bjork joined Fu Manchu, whose 1994 debut he co-produced, for their The Action is Go, Eatin’ Dust, King of the Road and California Crossing albums between 1997 and 2001, also putting out the cult hit Sounds of Liberation with the short-lived Ché trio in 2000 and in that same period embarking on a solo career that to-date has resulted in 10 albums, 1999′s debut, Jalamanta, setting the course with what would become a signature blend of funk, soul, punk and heavy rock.

Bjork joined former Kyuss bandmates John Garcia and Nick Oliveri in Kyuss Lives! in late 2010, and after a lawsuit and name change (more on that in this interview), Vista Chino emerged to release one of 2013′s best albums in the form of Peace (review here) on Napalm Records, the touring cycle for which will take the lineup of Bjork, Garcia, guitarist Bruno Fevery and bassist Mike Dean (also of C.O.C.) to Australia’s Big Day Out this month. A funk-influenced instrumental solo album, Jakoozi, was also mixed last summer and is expected for a 2014 release.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Brant Bjork

How did you come to do what you do?

I was born with a genuine love of music. Growing up, discovering The Ramones and punk rock in general, gave me the courage to try playing music myself. It turned out I had some natural talent as well as a strong conviction to continue doing the thing I love most.

Describe your first musical memory.

When I was a little kid, I had this Fisher Price record player that my mom gave me, along with a stack of 45s. One day I went through the stack and picked one because of the attractive orange and yellow label. It was the Capitol Records label and it was a Beatles 45. It had “Help” on side 1 and “I’m Down” on the B-side. I put it on and John Lennon began to scream “help!” at me through the tiny little speaker. It scared the shit out of me. I didn’t know music could, would or even should sound like that.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

September 18, 1987. It was the first real concert outside of the desert I ever saw. The Ramones, in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Palladium, I was 14 years old. It was also Dee Dee Ramone’s birthday that night and to make things super rad, my first son, Swan, was born on September 18, 2010!

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I always had a firm belief that The Stooges, the MC5 and The Ramones were the most radical bands of their time and they were releasing the best and most influential records of their time as well. This belief was tested after I bought and listened to the release of Death’s record, For the Whole World to See… a record that was recorded in 1974 but shelved until its release in 2009. This record is so good; I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s almost hard to imagine what might have happened to rock and roll music, or even music in general had this record came out and the band had evolved. Unbelievable.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

For me, there is no destination for an artist. I would define artistic progression as a journey of experiencing your life as one of creativity. If you’re a genuine artist I think it simply leads to more art.

How do you define success?

To me, success is the result of looking at your current life situation and not having to wonder how the hell you got there.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

While on tour last month, I battled some boredom by watching the Star Wars sequel, Attack of the Clones. Holy moly. Super bummer. George Lucas should be ashamed of himself. And I thought Return of the Jedi was bad.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

Even though I’m a musician and music is a part of my daily life, I find myself spending a lot of my time thinking about stories. About five years ago I started studying and practicing screenplay writing. I write a lot when I’m on tour… so much time on planes and buses, etc. I have a dream of creating and finishing a rad screenplay and having it picked up for a feature movie. I wouldn’t mind directing the movie as well but you know…. one dream at a time.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

A night without the kids and a nice romantic dinner with my wife at our favorite Italian restaurant in Santa Monica.

Vista Chino, “Sweet Remain” official video

Brant Bjork’s website

Vista Chino on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

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Friday Full-Length: Fu Manchu, We Must Obey

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Fu Manchu, We Must Obey (2007)

I’ll gladly grant that there are way more obvious Fu Manchu records with which to end the week. Indeed, even the Californian fuzz legends themselves seem to have acknowledged by touring playing full records an audience preference for older material, if not actually the oldest, albums like 1996′s In Search Of…, their third, and 1997′s subsequent The Action is Go hailed as heavy rock classics while much of the rest of their catalog, particularly the three LPs they’ve released in the last decade, are viewed with interest varied from superfan loyalty to utter discount from those whose allegiance lies with their ’90s output.

Fair enough. I can’t and won’t argue that In Search Of… isn’t genre genius, but neither do I think Fu Manchu‘s contributions ended with what’s commonly considered their most highly-regarded material. Whether it’s the early rawness of their 1994 debut, No One Rides for Free, or the striving to breathe new life into their established wall of fuzz in 2009′s Signs of Infinite Power by means of focusing on the SoCal punk and hardcore influence that served as the band’s drive when they got their start as Virulence in 1985, it’s strange to think of a band as being both classic and underrated — unless you think of all heavy rock as underrated in the wider pop-cultural sphere — but Fu Manchu seem to be exactly that. It’s a fascinating position for a group who are past 25 years together, who’ve toured the world and who’ve influenced a generation of bands in their wake.

So yeah, I could’ve closed out the week with The Action is Go, and I’m sure at some point I will, but with “Shake it Loose,” the opening title-track, “Hung out to Dry,” the slow-grooving “Land of Giants,” “Sensei vs. Sensei” and a cover of The Cars‘ “Moving in Stereo” to its credit, I decided to roll with We Must Obey as an example of Fu Manchu‘s work that never quite got the attention it deserved. If that makes me a sucker for the band, I can think of far worse things to be. As always, I hope you enjoy.

I know I had that Queens of the Stone Age live review on Monday, but I only reviewed one record this week, and it was an EP. In fact, over the last few months, I’ve been doing fewer and fewer reviews from week to week, and I find it unacceptable. I don’t believe in “resolutions,” but I may start imposing a word count on reviews — 500-700 words tops, let’s say — until I can restore some balance. It would be an interesting challenge for me anyway I think to have to say what I want to say about a record without hitting 1,000 words, which is where most of them hover nowadays when I do get to bang one out. If I do or don’t decide to do that, I need to figure out a way to deal with the anxiety I’ve come to feel about writing up records and still manage to keep my critical voice, which apparently has a thing for compound sentences.

Or maybe I should cut myself some fucking slack and just try to live out my meager fucking existence in the best way I can.

Yeah, not likely.

This coming week is the inexplicable federal holiday Xmas. If you’re of a persuasion to celebrate that or its more Jesus-ified equivalent, Christmas, I wish you a happy one. I’m traveling — of course, because that’s what I do now; unfortunately it’s not to Europe — south to see family and coworkers in Jersey, but I’ll be posting where and when I can. I’d like to get a list together of the best EPs, demos, singles, etc. I heard this year, and I’ll do my best to make it somewhat less… elaborate… than the Top 20 albums list that went up on Monday. Thanks as well to everyone who commented and shared that link.

Double thanks to everyone who’s submitted a list to the Readers Poll. I’ve really enjoyed seeing all the picks come in, the things people agree on, disagree on. I look forward to getting the final results together and sharing them when the time comes. If you haven’t added a list yet, the form will be up next week and then comes down the week after, so there’s time, but not too much.

Next week I review Clagg‘s new album and if I have a chance, do some more stuff to wrap up the year as well, best debut, favorite song live, etc., but it might have to wait until the week after. We’ll see how it goes with road time and all that.

Until then, I wish you a great and safe weekend and a great and safe holiday if you’re celebrating. If you’re not celebrating and you at least have the day off, I hope that’s at least relaxing. Cheers.

Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Poll Results: The 10 Greatest Stoner Rock Records

Posted in The Debate Rages on September 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

A couple weeks ago, I asked the question above: “What are the 10 greatest stoner rock records?” It was kind of just something I was throwing out there to see what came back. Nothing scientific, pretty vague on what “stoner rock” actually meant as a genre designation. Basically just trying to get a spur-of-the-moment response, like an inkblot test for riffs. First thing that comes to mind.

The response was awesome, so before anything else, thank you to everyone who contributed a list to the original post. I was taken aback by the number of replies that came in — a total 73 comments — and the resultant breadth of records named reads like a wishlist of the damned. Some people were pretty orthodox in their definition of the genre, and some more open in the bands they included, but working from everyone’s lists, I tallied up the votes, and while I don’t necessarily agree with all the choices personally (I added my own list as a comment to the initial post, so I won’t bother reprinting it), it was a blast to see what emerged on top. The people have spoken.

I tried to be as fair as I could in the tallying. There were some comments left that were individual songs and not albums, and those I didn’t count, but everything else went in, even if it was only mentioned once, and when someone said, for example, “Melvins – all,” I actually added a tally to everything by the Melvins that everyone else had said. Again, it’s not really a scientific thing polling demographic data, but it was a lot of fun.

Okay, here’s the list:

The Top 10 Greatest Stoner Rock Records Poll Results:

1. Kyuss, Welcome to Sky Valley (41 votes)
2. Sleep, Sleep’s Holy Mountain (27 votes)
3. Black Sabbath, Master of Reality (19 votes)
4. Kyuss, Blues for the Red Sun (18 votes)
5. Monster Magnet, Spine of God (15 votes)
5. Sleep, Dopesmoker (15 votes)
7. Electric Wizard, Dopethrone (14 votes)
7. Fu Manchu, In Search Of… (14 votes)
9. Queens of the Stone Age, Queens of the Stone Age (12 votes)
10. Fu Manchu, The Action is Go (10 votes)

As you can see, some real classics in there, and Welcome to Sky Valley was far and away the winner, picked by 41 out of the 73 people (myself included), with Sleep and Black Sabbath behind. There were two ties at numbers five and seven, but beyond that, it’s a pretty clear picture of where people are at with their favorites.

What about everything else? Well, it was all counted. I broke all the entries down by number of votes and listed them by artist with albums in chronological order.

You’ll find the complete list after the jump.

Read more »

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The Company Band, Pros and Cons EP: A Short Presentation with a Power Point

Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Now aligned to Clutch’s Weathermaker Music imprint, corporately themed supergroup The Company Band make their latest wager in the form of the five-track Pros and Cons EP. Like the band’s past works – 2009’s self-titled full-length (review here) and 2007’s introductory Sign Here, Here and Here EP – Pros and Cons was produced by Andrew Alekel, and to The Company Band’s credit, aside from replacing bassist Jason Diamond of MIA NYC rockers Puny Human, they’ve managed to hold together a very busy lineup for half a decade now. That lineup shakes down as follows:

Neil Fallon (Clutch): Vocals
Jim Rota (Fireball Ministry): Guitar
Dave Bone: Guitar
Brad Davis (Fu Manchu): Bass
Jess Margera (CKY): Drums

Not exactly small potatoes as regards pedigree, and though The Company Band has never toured – they’re doing a few East Coast shows in support of Pros and Cons – their recorded output has remained as consistent in quality as their lineup has stayed stable. Their process seems to be that every so often the musicians get together and rock out some new tracks and then Fallon either tops those songs in the studio with them, as was the case with the LP, or on his own, as is the case with the new EP. Rota, Bone, Davis and Margera recorded with Alekel out on the West Coast, and Fallon put his vocals to the instrumental tracks afterwards, the steady hands of Clutch familiar J. Robbins helming the recording. The result on these five songs is a few strong chorus, some excellent straightforward riffing, Davis’ always stellar bass, and an overall mixture of elements that’s distinct from each individual part while not necessarily separate in terms of genre. Heavy rock persists, is another way of putting it. Rota has long since proved his songwriting acumen in Fireball Ministry, and he’s got excellent collaborative accompaniment in the rest of The Company Band. Perhaps most importantly, as much as it’s been enjoyable to follow the project’s periodic installments since their 2007 first outing, the players’ enjoyment and respect for each other bleeds into everything they create, and that can be heard here from the opening strains of “House of Capricorn” to the fadeout of “El Dorado”’s catchy title line.

Fallon peppers the lyrics of “House of Capricorn” with the kind of tongue-in-cheek corporate-speak that has in no small part defined the course of the band since their inception. It’s almost an exit interview, or the kind of questionnaire one might get upon calling a “How’s my driving” number on the back of a track. The lines, “Welcome everybody to the House of Capricorn/Here’s a short presentation/Please enjoy your stay and thank you in advance for your kindness and participation,” serve as a verse in what I can only imagine is a perfect live set kickoff. A subtly righteous guitar lead is worked into the end, and with its pointedness of direction, “House of Capricorn” is every bit the strong opening statement, following “Zombie Barricades” from the self-titled and the course-setting “Company Man” from the first EP in that regard. The Company Band, it seems, know how to launch a release. Davis’ bass at the beginning of “Black Light Fever” double-times the guitar and commences to launch a profitable groove in the verse, which leads to a grower chorus, Fallon eventually answering himself in a revivalist mode bound to be familiar to anyone who’s gotten down with latter-day Clutch. Moments like that leave me wondering what would happen if Rota was charged with backup vocal duties, what he might be able to do to complement Fallon’s ultra-distinct, ultra-established methods, and how much potential there is there that’s yet been unexploited. Whatever methods they take to get there, The Company Band has never yet failed to produce top-grade choruses, and as the rest of Pros and Cons plays out, it quickly becomes evident that “House of Capricorn” and “Black Light Fever” are, figuratively as well as literally, just the start.

Read more »

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Album of the Summer of the Week: Fu Manchu, In Search Of…

Posted in Features on July 2nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s hot. I mean, seriously hot. Like August hot and it’s only July. Obnoxiously hot. It’s so hot that in fact I’ve already passed out and I don’t even know what I’m typing anymore. Here in the scenic, urine-stank Northeast, we’re mired in a permanent-seeming cloud of humidity the only action against which one can take is to rock and roll as loudly as possible and hopefully sweat enough to cool down. To that end, for the next few weeks, I thought we’d have a series of posts: “The Album of the Summer of the Week.”

We’ll do a few of them until my inevitable death from dehydration. For the first, I couldn’t think of a better start than Fu Manchu‘s classic third album, In Search Of… A record that turned 15 last year, it was the last Fu Manchu outing to feature the guitar of Eddie Glass and Ruben Romano‘s drumming before they left to form Nebula, and there’s something about the über-fuzz of “Missing Link” that feels like a refreshing jump in the ocean. Guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill (who spoke about playing the album live front to back in an interview last year) and bassist Brad Davis turn in classic performances, and aside from being one of heavy rock’s most landmark albums, it also goes great with a sunny day.

You could probably say the same for most of Fu Manchu‘s discography, but In Search Of… is pretty much the archetype they’re working from, so whether it’s the psych guitar on “Supershooter,” the motor-ready groove and Davis‘ boogie bassline in “Regal Begal,” or the none-more-stoned leads of “Strato-Streak,” it’s about as necessary for your summer as a cold beverage and lawn furniture. In case you’re so overheated that you can’t get up and go get the album off your shelf — because you and I both know you already own it — I’ve included the video below for “Asphalt Risin’.” All you gotta do is lift a finger to click play:

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The Debate Rages: Fu Manchu’s King of the Road vs. Nebula’s To the Center

Posted in The Debate Rages on March 15th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Not to overstate it, but these are two of the best stoner rock records ever.

Both released in 1999, they’re of an era where those who played it were still cool with being called “stoner rock bands.” The genre hadn’t yet exhausted its commercial reach, and though Kyuss had already been finished a few years, Monster Magnet had hit it big with “Space Lord” only the year before, so mainstream success was still regarded as a possibility for that which was fuzzed and riffy.

Nebula and Fu Manchu. You couldn’t have one without the other — literally. Guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano split from Fu Manchu after the release of 1996′s In Search Of… and would go on to form Nebula with bassist Mark Abshire (also formerly of the Fu), releasing their first EP, Let it Burn, in 1998. Just a year later, their first full-length, To the Center, became one of the most blissed-out desert rock albums ever, striking a landmark balance between trippy indulgences and memorable hooks. In many ways, it has never been matched.

Meanwhile, Fu Manchu guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill and bassist Brad Davis joined forces with guitarist Bob Balch and drummer Brant Bjork (ex-Kyuss) to issue The Action is Go in 1997. A work of absolute stoner/surfer glory, it set a bar for tone so high that bands today still try to capture the same magic (and usually don’t). The subsequent studio outing from the same lineup was 1999′s King of the Road, on which Fu Manchu further refined their process to a perfect balance of heaviness and pop appeal, inciting many landmark choruses on tracks like “Boogie Van” and “Hell on Wheels.”

Of all the “The Debate Rages” posts so far, I’m most interested to find out how people feel about this one, as it really doesn’t feel that cut and dry to me. Whatever either of these bands has done since (both discographies have their ups and downs), there’s no denying both these records are masterpieces that have helped define what we think of as stoner rock today.

But that said, the point is to have fun with it, so please, leave a comment and let’s have some fun. Thanks in advance.

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Fu Manchu Announce European Tour Playing The Action is Go in its Entirety

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 27th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

As guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill said the band would in our interview this past November, Fu Manchu have announced a slew of tour dates playing their 1997 classic The Action is Go front to back. One can only assume/hope that American dates will follow the European ones that have been made public, and look forward to staring into the “Evil Eye.” If the tour they did playing all of In Search Of… was anything to go by, this should be a blast.

Here’s the poster. Click to enlargify if you don’t like looking at tiny dates:

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Live Review: Fu Manchu, Honky and The Shrine in Manhattan, 11.15.11

Posted in Reviews on November 16th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Less than 24 hours after Michael Bloomberg gave an unceremonious middle-of-the-night boot to the protestors at Occupy Wall Street, I parked just blocks away from where the tumult had taken place (by all reports, the Occupiers were back in Zuccotti Park by then) and made my way around the corner to Santos Party House to catch Fu Manchu playing their In Search Of… record in its entirety. It was my third time at the NYC venue this year – see Orange Goblin, see Weedeater — and like at those two shows, I was surprised immediately at how crowded it was. There was a line outside before the doors opened.

I don’t know if that means Santos generally pulls people in, or if there’s something happening around heavy rock that no one told me about — always the last to know — but people milled about early waiting for SoCal trio The Shrine to open he night, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say it looked like a happening scene. Pretty sure it wasn’t sold out, but the room was certainly full for both Honky and even more so for Fu Manchu, and what’s more, people knew the songs. The crowd wasn’t just hipsters, though some of that element was there, and young and old, everyone seemed to be there for the music. I don’t remember the last time I left a show in New York feeling that way.

There was something liberating in flying blind into The Shrine‘s set. I didn’t even know they were from California until I heard them tell someone else on line outside as they stood in front of their van — I had somehow just figured they were local, and perhaps on the bill as a last-minute Brooklynite replacement for Naam, who were too busy preparing for their European tour with Black Rainbows to make it down. That’s what I get for assuming.

Watching them play was like seeing the future of Volcom. They were the youngest act of the night and played like it — the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Josh Landau, bassist Courtland Murphy and drummer Jeff Murray — were excited and excitable. There was enough punkish energy and immediacy in their songs to offset the riffy ’70s swagger, and one of their songs started out so charmingly Sabbathian that I thought of fellow Californians Orchid, who seem to be the reigning American champs for that type of thing. I don’t know if I’d check it out every week, but I wanted to buy their 7″, didn’t, and was disappointed later for not.

In a fantastic bout of self-bargaining, I’d decided to allow myself three beers on the night. I’m on a self-imposed, much-needed dry-out, and anyway, had to drive home when the show was over. So three beers. Three beers for three bands. I’d already had two by the time Honky went on.

Somehow though, in the midst of all Honky‘s Texan charm — two out of the three of them in cowboy hats, they said they were from, “London, Eng-land” and bemoaned the cost of beer — I managed to keep to my limit. And Honky, who haven’t had a record out since 2005′s Balls Out Inn, killed. They served as an excellent transition into the good-times but still ultra-heavy sounds Fu Manchu would elicit, and by the time they were through the first song, I don’t think there was a head there who wasn’t aboard for what they were doing.

Bassist J.D. Pinkus and guitarist Bobby Ed led the charge on vocals, and drummer Justin Collins made sure that as out of hand as things got, they never actually were. Hats were tipped, drinks were sipped: It was boozy, Southern and heavy, and stoic as New Yorker crowds are, Honky was a lot of fun. Last time I saw them was in their native Austin, Texas, and they weren’t in their element at Santos like they were then, but they weren’t far off. PinkusButthole Surfers bandmate Gibby Haynes stood on the side of the stage and watched them play, bobbing and smiling with glee as they tore their setlist a new asshole.

These things happened: They sent “Plugs, Mugs, Jugs” out to “Handsome” Joel Svatek, who worked the door at Emo’s in Austin until he was struck by a drunk driver in 2003 (Arclight Records released a tribute in his honor that Honky was featured on along with Mastodon, Amplified Heat, SuperHeavyGoatAss and two discs’ worth of others), covered Pat Travers‘ “Snortin’ Whiskey,” and brought out Fu Manchu guitarist Bob Balch to close out a solo during “Love to Smoke Your Weed,” Bobby Ed‘s slide guitar putting in some good work beforehand. They were like ZZ Top without any of that pesky class. It was lots — and I mean lots — of fun.

Ditto that for the Fu, who ran through some swift foreplay with “Hell on Wheels,” “Open Your Eyes,” “Boogie Van” and “Evil Eye” before getting down to business with In Search Of… front to back. They were tight, just about all the stops dead on, and it was excellent to hear the songs run into each other differently on stage than on the record, big rock finishes and so forth. “Regal Begal” got things under way, and they went onward to glory. I thought my head would explode halfway through “Neptune’s Convoy.” It was fucking awesome.

The hazard, though, of the complete-album gig is that sometimes there’s some filler, and Fu Manchu have had their share over the years. Some of those songs toward the end of In Search Of... are cool and all, but there’s a reason they’re back there and “Asphalt Risin’” is up front. Still, they kept the crowd with them. Scott Hill was pretty much shouting his vocals by the end, which ruled and underscored his Cali-punk roots, and I don’t know how he did it, but bassist Brad Davis looked like he barely broke a sweat. Dude’s riding some of the fattest grooves ever — period — and to look at him, he could be folding laundry. It’s like he lives in the pocket. It was a sight to behold.

And a sound to hear. Fu Manchu have had some serious players in their lineup over the years. Brant Bjork on drums comes to mind, and guitarist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano who both played on In Search Of… went on to form Nebula. But Bob Balch nailed those solos and added his own flavor to both them and each one of those landmark riffs, and on the purported occasion of his birthday (or so Hill said when telling everyone in the room to buy him shots; he wound up with eight), drummer Scott Reeder was smooth where he needed to be and pushed those older songs further than I thought they could go.

Only bummer was that as “Supershooter” capped the regular set and the band came back out for a two-song encore of “Weird Beard” and “Godzilla,” they didn’t play any material less than a decade old. I know a lot of bands I only wish would do that, but it might have been cool to have one song from either Signs of Infinite Power or We Must Obey. No time, I guess.

Nevertheless, Honky came back out for the rousing take on “Godzilla” that served as just one more reminder of how killer the show had actually been. The melee finished right around midnight, which I can only assume was curfew for Santos, and Fu Manchu sent us poor, hapless souls out into the NYC rain; a long, long way from the Californian sunshine that seems to emanate from their stalwart fuzz pedals.

Good people, classic tunes, good times. I popped open my laptop in my car to get the pictures off my camera on my trip back to the valley, in some misguided effort to save some time for today. It didn’t work out, but whatever. Extra pics are after the jump, as always. Special thanks to SabbathJeff for reviewing the show on the forum.

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Fu Manchu Interview with Scott Hill: Finding the Missing Link in Neptune’s Convoy

Posted in Features on November 4th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

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.

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Mundee Fu Manchu

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 10th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’d intended to close out last week as usual with a Frydee clip. And then to do a post in the earlier part of Saturday, but then by Saturday afternoon, just decided screw it, I’d wait until today and open this week instead of close the last one. I don’t know if it makes sense, but I don’t think it matters either.

Whether or not I go to see them tonight at the Mercury Lounge (it’s up in the air right now), tomorrow I’ll have my interview with CT from Rwake online. I’d wanted it to go up last week, but I just didn’t have time. Stupid job and real life distracting me from posting. The nerve.

So that’s up tomorrow, and Sungrazer just sent back their emailer too, so I might get that up this week as well, again, if there’s time. I’ll also have a review coming in a few short hours of the Earthride gig at the Acheron in Brooklyn this past Friday night with Archon and When the Deadbolt Breaks, and some other whathaveyou.

I hope this week to review discs from Eggnogg, Groan/Vinum Sabbatum, and Hull, and I’ll have a track tomorrow from the new Isole record and one Thursday from the new Samsara Blues Experiment. I was also hoping to have a new podcast up this weekend, but, well, you can see how that went. Should be this weekend. If you’ve been waiting, I hope you’ll take comfort in the fact that, in the delay, I purchased Kingdom Come/Sir Lord Baltimore by Sir Lord Baltimore, and I definitely plan on including something from that once it arrives.

Thanks to everyone who pre-purchased a HeavyPink 7″ so far. I’ll have more on that this week as well.

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Buried Treasure: Irresponsibility Crossing

Posted in Buried Treasure on May 12th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Nothing gives me that “born too late” feeling like buying old promo CDs on the internet. Finding bits and pieces of buried treasure here and there, this store and that store, is all well and good, but it’s a different experience. Promo CDs have pretty much no value other than as a collector’s item. Even full-album promos, if I’m buying it, chances are I already own the final version of the record. And radio singles and stuff like that? Shit, I’m watching an eBay auction right now for a radio single that’s one song from Clutch‘s Pure Rock Fury. And I’m pretty sure I already have the single! I’m still watching that auction though. Like a fucking hawk.

Last week on a whim I shelled out $20 for a Fu Manchu jewel case promo disc with two “unreleased” songs from the California Crossing era. The copyright date on it is 2002.

Now, I don’t care how much you like Fu Manchu, that’s too much money to pay for two songs. Granted, I was inebriated, but even so, I probably should have taken my finger off the trigger before clicking “Buy it Now.” It’s my own fault, for sure — but here’s the worst part — when it came in the mail yesterday, I was excited.

I didn’t even remember how much I paid for the damn thing until just now when I fired up my eBay account and looked.$20? For two songs? I don’t know who to be madder at, the seller or me for being dumb enough to make the purchase in the first place. Probably me, but seriously, I got the disc, opened the envelope and was just stoked on the fact that it was Fu Manchu songs I didn’t already own. Price wasn’t even a factor. Not even a little bit.

This wouldn’t be a problem if I, you know, had money, but I don’t. I just have collector’s impulse, and the longer I live with it, the more I wonder how come no one’s developed a pill for it yet. Seriously. We live in the age of Restless Leg Syndrome — a completely fabricated “disorder” — and I’m supposed to believe they wouldn’t market medication to people who spend money irresponsibly? Come on.

Fortunately for me, I think The Patient Mrs. has all but stopped paying attention entirely, which is undoubtedly for the best. And when I put the CD on earlier to check it out, I was pretty into the groove of “Planet of the Ape Hangers” (a title I can’t even think about without automatically adding “dot blogspot dot com” in my mind), which was a bonus track on the Japanese version of California Crossing, and “Breathing Fire,” which was on the Japanese and European versions of 1999′s King of the Road, but left off the American in favor of “Drive.” I don’t know if I was into each song $10 worth, but whatever. I didn’t need to be a grown up for anything this week anyway.

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Fu Manchu Announce In Search Of… European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 24th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

Venerable Californian heavy rockers Fu Manchu are celebrating the 15th anniversary of their classic third album, In Search Of…, by touring it. They’ll be playing the whole record front to back for the first time, first in Europe, then in the US. There are a lot of bands doing this kind of thing these days, but screw it, In Search Of… rules. I’d happily see that show.

Here’s the story from Blabbermouth, and the poster with the tour dates:

Southern California’s heavy fuzz rock legends Fu Manchu will celebrate the 15th anniversary of their major label debut, In Search Of… The hardworking group will be undertaking a headlining tour with a set comprised of the entire album from start to finish. Many of these songs will be performed live for the first time ever.

On March 1, Fu Manchu will make In Search Of… available as a 180-gram vinyl reissue on the band’s own At the Dojo Records worldwide. The band will also be selling the reissue at these shows as well as on CD. On March 2, Fu Manchu will launch its European trek in the UK.

“I can’t believe that it has been 15 years since we recorded In Search Of…,” states Fu Manchu vocalist/guitarist Scott Hill. “We are stoked to be playing these tunes for the fans and will be doing a few of them for the first time ever and maybe the last.”

The band intends to replicate the classic album experience in upcoming tours with subsequent albums and their companion vinyl reissues. Fu Manchu will also tour the US for “In Search Of…15 Years” later in 2011. Details are expected to be announced in the near future.

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