Fu Manchu

AUSTRALIANS LOVE THEIR FU MANCHU. “WE did four shows in Australia on this mini run we just did,” band manager Dan De Vita said of the SoCal group’s recent trip down under. “One was a festival with NOFX; there were 20,000 people there. Then we did three club shows, all of which were oversold in 700-capacity rooms, which is awesome considering the last time we were there was more than two years ago – and that was the only other time we had been there.”

While it’s a commendable accomplishment, especially for a fairly underground band, band leader Scott Hill has a simple explanation for Fu Manchu’s strong appeal among Australia’s hard-rock zealots. “That’s where AC/DC came from,” he told POLLSTAR, “so they know their rock.”

After 10 years of performing and churning out a countless number of 7-inches, a couple of indie albums on Bong Load Records and a handful of Mammoth Records releases, the four dudes in Fu Manchu are ready to break out of their stoner-rock image for greater acclaim.

Fu Manchu’s groovy metal music – which sounds heavily influenced by AC/DC – is infecting more than just Australia. In Europe, where the foursome has toured extensively, the group has lined up numerous summer festival appearances, including Glastonbury in the U.K. and Eurockennes in France. Fu Manchu is also slated to appear on upcoming Euro dates with fellow Rick Sales Management client Slayer.

Before heading across the pond next month, the group is busy with a West Coast tour of the States and Canada supporting Motorhead. Recent Stateside tours included trips with Sevendust and Anthrax. “We went out with Anthrax for like a month in January. It was cool. A lot of people were at the shows,” the 32-year-old guitarist/singer said. “Those guys were really cool to us.”

With the release of the band’s latest Mammoth album, King Of The Road, Fu Manchu is experiencing a new sales peak. “We’re just over 17,000 in SoundScan in just three-and-a-half months,” De Vita told POLLSTAR. “Compare that with Action Is Go, the last record, which sold 25,000 in two-and-a-half years. So the growth is quite remarkable.”

King Of The Road continues to display the group’s flair for writing rock-solid tunes full of chunky guitar riffs and ’70s-influenced song titles such as “Grasschopper” and “Boogie Van.” It’s the second album featuring the lineup of Hill, lead guitarist Bob Balch, drummer Brant Bjork (formerly with Kyuss) and bassist Brad Davis. Another hit with critics and fans was the group’s Action Is Go album, produced by former White Zombie guitarist J. Yuenger, which solidified Fu Manchu as a staple in the stoner-rock genre.

But the classification – an ironic one considering the band induces mosh pits, and potheads generally aren’t known for being the most physically active people – is a shell that Fu Manchu is ready to shed. “Our plan is to take them out of the so-called stoner-rock genre and turn them into just a rock band, which is, in their minds and in my mind, what they are anyway,” De Vita said.

Part of that plan is performing – anywhere. “It doesn’t matter to us, as long as we can turn it up loud,” Hill said. “I like playing smaller places just because you can hear everything better and when you’re in a huge place, the sound gets lost. But it doesn’t matter to us. We’ll play wherever.” William Morris agents Jim Haljun and John Branigan share in making sure the band is consistently on the road in the U.S., and Helter Skelter’s Steve Strange takes care of the group in Europe.

guitar/vocals Scott Hill
drummer Brant Bjork
lead guitarist Bob Balch
bass Brad Davis

Another critical part of the Fu Manchu plan is to increase the outfit’s radio exposure. About 25 stations around the country currently spin the group’s album, De Vita said, and the number is growing. But even a small number of stations spinning the new record is more support than Action Is Go ever received from the airwaves.

“I’m not sure if they aggressively took it to radio but if they did, they had little or no success, I think to a large part because of the climate of radio at that time – two-and-a-half years ago. It was a lot less rock-friendly,” De Vita said. But with heavy rock increasingly getting mainstream attention, “I think that has certainly helped us.”

The band’s reps are using other methods to get the Fu Manchu word out. The powers of the Internet are utilized through live-concert webcasts on Yahoo.com and the House of Blues Web site, www.hob.com, in addition to maintaining the band’s Web site, www.fu-manchu.com. The group was included on last year’s Best Buy hard-rock compilation CD, which has sold more than 300,000 copies, said De Vita, adding that national media exposure continues to build as well.

“I think all of those elements have helped to motivate people who had a fringe knowledge of the band to go out and buy the record,” he said. “And now with radio in place, we’re looking to take that to the next level.”

Fu Manchu’s situation falls neatly between the titles of the band’s last two full-length albums, Action Is Go and King Of The Road: The action for the band is definitely a go, while the group has a bit more traveling to do before earning the king-of-the-road crown.