Fu Manchu is a Southern California heavy rock band that has been putting out music and rattling skulls since the early 1990s. Group founder Scott Hill tells us the stories behind some of the album covers in Fu Manchu’s discography.
The Action Is Go (1997)
Our collective favorite album cover is The Action is Go. We had a new drummer and a new lead guitar player, and the music was a little more aggressive than it had been in the past few years. We wanted to find an old surfing or skating photo to go with the record. We were mixing the record and we thought it would be awesome to get an old Glen E. Friedman photo. We were kidding around. He’s one of our favorite photographers; we all grew up with hardcore punk rock stuff, seeing his pictures of Black Flag and Minor Threat. We called the record company and asked if there was any way we can get something from Glen Friedman. A couple days later, they got back to us and said they got a hold of him and that he wanted to hear the record to make sure he’s cool with it. They sent him a copy of what we had mixed and he liked it. Then the record label sent us the actual picture and it was of Tony Alva, who was one of our favorite skaters growing up. We couldn’t believe that first we were going to use a Friedman shot, and then that it was of Alva. We were freaking out. Growing up as a kid in Southern California, I had those pictures on my walls. We got to meet Tony Alva, he’s come to a few shows. He actually lives down here in San Clemente. My wife almost ran him over when he was skateboarding. He was skating down Del Mar and she almost hit him. He’s a really cool guy.
King of the Road (2000)
We told the label we’d like to do some custom van stuff and asked if there was anywhere where we could get some of that. Someone at the label reached out to Hot Rod magazine and got in touch with the photographer who shot all that stuff. They sent us all these pictures and we couldn’t believe we got to choose from them. When that record came out, Hot Rod reviewed it, and they never do record reviews.
California Crossing (2001)
I had just bought a 1968 El Camino. I grew up in Huntington Beach, and I remember walking to the pier and in the parking lot there was an El Camino with some surfboards sticking out. These girls were talking to these guys in the car. I was a real young kid and I always wanted to recreate that memory. That image stuck with me all those years. We shot that down by the beach in San Clemente with my car, and my wife is the blonde in it.
The Covers (2011)
We figured it’s a record of covers, so why not do a record cover that’s a cover of Fear’s The Record cover. We love Fear and that record, so we figured we’d spray paint Fu Manchu on the asphalt like they did. We tried to be clever, but that doesn’t always really work with us.
In Search Of… (1996, reissued 2011)
That record came out in 1996. They printed up a couple thousand on vinyl, but it’s been long out of print. A couple years ago was the [album’s] 15th year anniversary. Our record label had folded and was now part of Disney. Our manager got a hold of somebody over there to see if they had any old CDs we could sell. He also asked if we could repress some copies on to vinyl and they were cool with it. We planned a tour of just playing that record from start to finish, but then we realized we had to learn the whole thing. We printed up a thousand on blue vinyl and those sold out quickly. We printed up another thousand on purple swirl vinyl and those sold out quickly. We toured the States for five weeks, Europe for five weeks and then up the West Coast of America, and we sold pretty much everything we had. The original records were going for $80 bucks and we re-pressed up about 4500 records and we basically sold them all. Everything we’ve recorded has come out on vinyl except for Start the Machine, which came out in 2004, right when the label folded. I think we are going to re-release it on vinyl next year. Everything else we’ve released since 1990 we’ve released on vinyl—11 or 12 7-inches, a couple 10-inch records and 12 full LPs.
Check out more articles like this on the Scion AV Journal Vol 3.