Kung Fu Records
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (December 2007)|
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Kung Fu Records is an American independent record label founded in 1996 by Joe Escalante and Warren Fitzgerald of the punk rock band The Vandals. Founded in order to release a record by the Riverside, California band Assorted Jelly Beans, the label soon grew to include a roster of notable artists such as The Ataris, Ozma, Tsunami Bomb, and The Vandals themselves. In 2000 Escalante started Kung Fu Films as a subsidiary of the music label in order to release DVDs of live concerts, music videos, band documentaries, and independent films. In 2005 Kung Fu also spawned the spinoff label Broken Sounds Records, focusing on hardcore releases.
Kung Fu Records was founded by Vandals bassist Joe Escalante and guitarist Warren Fitzgerald in 1996. Escalante had been urged by his wife to allow the Riverside, California band Assorted Jelly Beans to open for The Vandals, and he and Fitzgerald were so impressed by their performance that they decided to start a record label in order to release the band's debut album. Escalante named the label after his study of Kung Fu San Soo, and its first release was a split single featuring both The Vandals and Assorted Jelly Beans. The Assorted Jelly Beans' debut self-titled album followed that same year, as did the soundtrack to the Ben Affleck movie Glory Daze, which featured The Vandals and Assorted Jelly Beans and a theme written by Fitzgerald. At the end of the year the label also released a Vandals Christmas album entitled Oi to the World!
The label began to grow quickly, releasing The Ataris' debut album Anywhere But Here in 1997, as well as releasing an album by the Bigwig and signing Longfellow. The Vandals also re-released some of their more obscure records through the label, including their live album Sweatin' to the Oldies and their country-themed album Slippery When Ill (re-released as The Vandals Play Really Bad Original Country Tunes). By 2000 the label had added Apocalypse Hoboken, Antifreeze, and Useless ID to its roster, and released a solo album by Vandals drummer and renowned studio musician Josh Freese. It was at this time that Escalante launched the subsidiary label Kung Fu Films (see below). With their contractual obligations to their longtime label Nitro Records complete, The Vandals also moved their operations fully over to Kung Fu, re-releasing Oi to the World! and an "Anniversary Edition" of their 1990 album Fear of a Punk Planet. Their first new studio album for Kung Fu was Internet Dating Superstuds in 2002, by which time more bands had signed to the label including Audio Karate, Ozma, Tsunami Bomb, and Mi6. In the next few years the label added The God Awfuls, Underminded, and Versus the World, and launched the hardcore spinoff label Broken Sounds Records.
In recent years there has been less activity from the Kung Fu Records label, as Escalante has focused his attention on Kung Fu Films releases and on his new career as a morning radio show host. A number of the label's past acts have either broken up (such as Tsunami Bomb), moved to other independent labels (as in the cases of Ozma and Bigwig), or signed to major labels (most notably The Ataris). However the label is still active and maintains a steady roster of roughly a half dozen bands, and continues to be the home of The Vandals.
The majority of Kung Fu's releases are categorized as pop punk, blending the rebellious and independent attitude of early punk rock with more pop-based melodies and song structures. Musically Kung Fu shares aesthetics with other southern California record labels such as Epitaph Records, Nitro Records, and Fat Wreck Chords, all of which have rosters rooted in the 1990s punk rock revival, particularly emphasizing bands that originated in southern California. As the label has grown it has branched out, and in 2005 spawned the spinoff imprint Broken Sounds Records to focus on more hardcore acts (see below).
Offshoots and subsidiary labels
Kung Fu records has also spawned several subsidiary imprints specializing in particular types of releases. In 2000 Escalante started Kung Fu Films as an offshoot of the label with the release of the independent film That Darn Punk, in which he starred. The label also released the internet television series Fear of a Punk Planet, which was later released on DVD. Over the years Kung Fu Films has released more independent films, such as 2005's Cake Boy starring Fitzgerald, and several video compilations showcasing bands from the Kung Fu labels. The film imprint is best known, however, for its series of live concert DVDs grouped under the title The Show Must Go Off! To date there have been 19 "episodes" of the series released. These have included bands signed to Kung Fu Records such as The Vandals and Tsunami Bomb, but more often have branched outside the label to include groups such as Alkaline Trio, Guttermouth, Reel Big Fish, the Circle Jerks, and The Bouncing Souls.
In 2005 Kung Fu Records launched the spinoff imprint Broken Sounds Records to focus on releases by hardcore acts such as the Righteous Jams, The Getaway, xdeathstarx, Suffocate Faster, and H2O. To date, however, the only album to be released under the Broken Sounds imprint has been the Righteous Jams' Rage of Discipline.
- Apocalypse Hoboken
- Assorted Jelly Beans
- The Ataris
- Audio Karate
- Josh Freese
- Kenneth Keith Kallenbach
- The God Awfuls
- Sweet and Tender Hooligans
- Tsunami Bomb
- Useless ID
- Versus the World
Notable one-time releases
Kung Fu records has notably expanded to include distribution and promotion deals in Europe and Japan. Such international distribution is not common for American independent record labels, and has allowed Kung Fu to put its stamp on albums by notable artists who are not signed to the label. For example, in 2004 Kung Fu served as both the European distributor for Social Distortion's album Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll and as the American distributor for the UK band Stiff Little Fingers' album Guitar and Drum.
Much like other independent record labels, Kung Fu has released a series of low-priced compilation samplers designed to draw attention to the label. Originally these compilations did not have a unifying title similar to Epitaph's Punk-O-Rama or Fat's Fat Music series. However the third sampler was titled Punk Rock is Your Friend, and this became the series' overall name. Future compilations were released as Punk Rock is Your Friend: Kung Fu Records Sampler #_, the first such release being #4 even though the first two did not carry the Punk Rock is Your Friend title.
|Album Cover||Year||Title||Other information|
|1999||No Stars, Just Talent|
|2000||The "Gone With the Wind" of Punk Rock Samplers|
|2002||Punk Rock is Your Friend||First in the series to carry the Punk Rock is Your Friend title.|
|2003||Punk Rock is Your Friend: Kung Fu Records Sampler #4|
|2004||Punk Rock is Your Friend: Kung Fu Records Sampler #5|
|2005||Punk Rock is Your Friend: Kung Fu Records Sampler No. 6||Subtitled Hardcore is Your Friend, Too as it contains several tracks intended for the label's hardcore imprint Broken Sounds Records.|
|2002||Secret Weapons of Kung Fu||DVD|
|2004||Secret Weapons of Kung Fu 2||DVD|
|2005||Secret Weapons of Kung Fu 3||DVD|