Fu's paradise 

California-based skate rockers are serious about not being serious

click to enlarge When not playing the video games with their songs in - them, the guys in Fu Manchu enjoy sunsets and walks on - the beach.
  • When not playing the video games with their songs in them, the guys in Fu Manchu enjoy sunsets and walks on the beach.

You get the feeling that Scott Hill isn't too uptight.

His band, Fu Manchu, might have a playable song in Guitar Hero II, the insanely popular video game. Or it might not. Hill, Fu Manchu's singer and guitarist, isn't quite sure his label announced that a song would be on there, but Hill can't find it. Fortunately, he's got a crack team on the case: his three nephews, ages 8, 9 and 11.

"I'm trying to get them to unlock everything and see if we're on there or not," Hill says. "I've got my little nephews kicking my ass, saying, "Don't you play guitar?'"

Yes, actually, Hill does. And his band, ironically, does owe a debt to video games. The game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 featured the riff-heavy Fu Manchu song "Evil Eye" and introduced a whole new audience to the surf-punk rockers.

"I notice there's a lot of younger kids in the audience, as well as people who've been around," Hill says. "The biggest change is there's a lot more girls at the shows, which is always a welcome sight."

Hill's Orange County band has always appealed to the skaters, the surfers and the kids who played way too much pinball. Its music clearly comes from the same place that gave us both the Beach Boys and Z-Boys; simply, it's about as "West Coast" as it gets.

And since its '94 debut record, No One Rides for Free, Fu Manchu has produced 11 albums that beg us not to take them so seriously. Why else would a band release a live album that features a track with a very tepid audience reaction, as it did in 2003 with Go for it ... Live?

This isn't to say that Fu Manchu is a Tenacious D-like group of mock rockers. The heavy guitars and hooks snare you just as hard as any other band's. But with such songs as "Sensei vs. Sensei," Fu Manchu is a band that produces albums for, to quote an amazon.com review, "the bong and beard nation." And even though they've been touring as Fu Manchu for well over 13 years now, they aren't going soft. In fact, it's the opposite.

"With this last album, we took a more aggressive approach," Hill says. "From the actual songs to the sound, this is my favorite album from start to finish."

The guitar does come at you quickly on the just-released EP We Must Obey. And it's a little more messy than the band's last three efforts, a bit more of a return to its roots.

"We've been doing this for 13 years," Hill says. "We have the songs down, and we're ready to tour."

Just don't expect Fu Manchu to play pump-up music on the bus en route to its upcoming date at The Black Sheep.

When asked what he and his band listen to in order to get jazzed up for shows, Hill says they just watch B-movies.

How rock-star.

"We love bad movies," Hill says. "I don't know if they pump us up for the show, but I love movies like Showdown, starring Billy Blank. You should see it."

And, yes, he's being serious.


Fu Manchu with Valient Thorr, Artemis Piledriver and Smaug

The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.

Tuesday, March 6, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $12; visit ticketweb.com.


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