China White (band)

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China White
ChinaWhite 1981.jpeg
China White in 1981. From left to right are Frank Ruffino, James Rodriguez, Marc Martin, and Joey Ruffino.
Background information
Origin Huntington Beach, California, United States
Genres Hardcore punk, punk rock
Years active 1979–1985, 1993–1995, 2002–2004, 2013, on hiatus since 2014
Labels Frontier
Malt Soda Recordings
Associated acts Shattered Faith, Social Task, The Vandals, The Outsiders
Members Marc Martin
James Rodriguez
Joey Ruffino
Past members Frank Ruffino
Scott Sisunik
Richard Katchadoorian
Vince Mesa
Corey Stretz
Steven "Spanky" Barrios
Jeff Porter
James Lugo
Sandy Hancock

China White was an influential hardcore punk band from Huntington Beach, California,[1] famous for their EP Danger Zone and their violent gigs.[2] They were, along with the Crowd, Adolescents, Social Distortion, T.S.O.L. and Shattered Faith, the most preeminent figures of the early Orange County punk scene.[3][4]

Photographer Glen E. Friedman once described the band's sound as:

"Full doses of China White[nb 1] ... send[ing] staggering chills through your veins as you experience this nitro-punk injection."[5]


The band was founded by guitarist Frank Ruffino in the fall of 1979,[4][6][7] lining up Scott Sisunik on vocals, Marc Martin as second guitarist, James Rodriguez on bass and Richard "Skitchblade" Katchadoorian[nb 2] on drums,[6][7] who was replaced shortly after by Vince Mesa.[1][7]

The group's name was taken from the slang term for alpha-Methylfentanyl,[nb 3][nb 4] the same synthetic opioid that killed Darby Crash in 1980,[9] and by the Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers' song "Chinese Rocks".[1]

Alien symbol from The Twilight Zone episode "Black Leather Jackets".

According to Sisunik,[10] the band's logo[11] was designed inspired by a similar one[12][13] featured on The Twilight Zone episode "Black Leather Jackets", aired on January 31, 1964.[nb 5][15]

After Sisunik quit the band to go on to form Social Task in late 1979,[4][7] Marc, who sang backups, and played guitar, switched to lead vocals and left guitar duties to Frank. Vince Mesa also quit in 1980 and was replaced by Frank's elder brother, Joey Ruffino. Along with Rodriguez, this is considered the most relevant and stable China White formation.[4]

After making their mark on both the O.C. and L.A. club circuits, in 1981 China White signed to Frontier Records and released their first EP, Danger Zone with its infamous front cover of a murder scene photographed by Edward Colver in 1981.[1][4][16] They also featured tracks on New Underground Records' compilations Life Is Ugly So Why Not Kill Yourself[nb 6] from 1982, and Life Is Beautiful So Why Not Eat Health Foods[nb 7] from 1983.

In 1984, after Marc, James and Joey quit the band, Frank brought Sisunik back to sing, while Corey Stretz took over on bass and Steven "Spanky" Barrios became the drummer. After a show at the Olympic Auditorium in 1985, they disbanded.

The band resurfaced in 1993, when Frank Ruffino recorded China White's first full-length album, Addiction, with bassist Stretz, Jeff Porter as new singer and James Lugo as new drummer. This formation played some gigs on the West Coast but disbanded a few months after the release of Addiction in 1995.

In 2002, Marc Martin, James Rodriguez and the Ruffino brothers reappeared for a reunion tour. They released two albums on Malt Soda Recordings in 2004: the limited edition Live Cheap CD, with extracts from this and past tours; and Addiction.2, a re-release of their Addiction material plus two new 1997 studio tracks as well as ten live songs from a 2003 show.

In 2009, Frank Ruffino was diagnosed with severe liver problems, a biproduct of years of hard drinking and drug abuse, despite his resolve to get clean and sober after the band's heyday. Under medical treatment since then, by 2013, overwhelmed by cirrhosis and cancer, doctors told the guitarist and his wife, Ella, that his only shot at survival was a liver transplant.[3]

On March 30, 2013, China White classic lineup, along with some major bands in Orange County punk scene like Cadillac Tramps, the Stitches and the Crowd, among others, gathered for a one-off benefit show held at Santa Ana´s The Observatory to raise funds for Ruffino´s medical expenses. Frank was present but too ill to play, Mike Drake from the Outsiders played guitar. Despite these efforts, including an auction, Frank Ruffino died, waiting for a transplant, on June 4, 2013.[3]



Current members[edit]

  • Marc Martin – Vocals
  • James Rodriguez – Bass
  • Joey Ruffino – Drums

Former members[edit]

  • Frank Ruffino – Guitar
  • Scott Sisunik – Vocals
  • Richard Katchadoorian – Drums
  • Vince Mesa – Drums
  • Corey Stretz – Bass
  • Steven "Spanky" Barrios – Drums
  • Jeff Porter – Vocals
  • James Lugo – Drums
  • Sandy Hancock – Drums
  • Steve Mohr – Bass


  • Danger Zone – 12" EP (Frontier Records), 1981.
  • Addiction – CD studio album (Lethal Records), 1995.
  • Live Cheap CD – CD live album (Malt Soda Recordings), 2004.

Compilation appearances[edit]

  • "Criminal" on Life is Ugly So Why Not Kill Yourself – (New Underground Records), 1982.
  • "Solid State" on Life is Ugly So Why Not Kill Yourself – (New Underground Records), 1982.
  • "Danger Zone" ("Dangerzone" early version recorded in June 1980) on Life Is Beautiful So Why Not Eat Health Foods? – (New Underground Records), 1983.


  1. ^ A pun on band's name, which was taken from the slang term for alpha-Methylfentanyl, a synthetic drug similar to heroin.
  2. ^ January 18, 1964 – October 10, 1981
  3. ^ "In 1979, a powerful, synthetic drug called China White appeared in the illicit drug market; this drug was associated with sudden respiratory arrest and death in opioid addicts. After extensive analysis, the US Department of Justice Special Testing and Research Laboratory identified the drug as the fentanyl derivative, α-methylfentanyl."[8]
  4. ^ "China White refers to 3-methyl fentanyl and α-methyl fentanyl as well as to a very pure form of white heroin, often from Southeast Asia. Other street names for these drugs include China Girl, Persian White, Egg White, Crocodile, Dragon, 999, and Synthetic Heroin."[8]
  5. ^ Summary: A motorcycle gang who set up residence in a quiet suburb is really a front for an advanced party of an alien invasion.[14]
  6. ^ New Underground #NU-11
  7. ^ New Underground #NU-44


  1. ^ a b c d Epting, Chris (2014). Rock 'n' Roll in Orange County: Music, Madness and Memories. The History Press. ISBN 9781626196094. p. 72.
  2. ^ Jackson, Nate (March 28, 2013). "OC Punk Community Launches a Benefit Concert to Help China White Guitarist Frank Ruffino". OC Weekly. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Epting, Chris (2014). Rock 'n' Roll in Orange County: Music, Madness and Memories. The History Press. ISBN 9781626196094. p. 73.
  4. ^ a b c d e Sheklian, Brian (April 2007). "Sun, Sand, and Safety Pins: The Sensationalistic Saga of Punk Rock in Surf City". TrakMarx. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  5. ^ Friedman, Glen E. (April 10, 1982). "Hardcore Holocaust: L.A. Punk Report". Sounds.
  6. ^ a b "Social Task". Artifix Records. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d Barrie, George. Social Task biography. Stereokiller. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  8. ^ a b Barceloux, Donald G. (2012). Medical Toxicology of Drug Abuse: Synthesized Chemicals and Psychoactive Plants. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780471727606. p. 539.
  9. ^ Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Second ed., 2010. Feral House. ISBN 9781932595895. p. 17.
  10. ^ Stogref (August 4, 2012). "China White - Addiction .2 !". Death Bürger. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  11. ^ China White, LiveCheap CD, cover art. Malt Soda Recordings. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  12. ^ "The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode 18 - Black Leather Jackets (31 Jan. 1964)", still frame. IMDb. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  13. ^ The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode 18 - "Black Leather Jackets" (January 31, 1964), still frame. Twilight Zone Museum. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  14. ^ "The Twilight Zone (1959) » Season 5 - 5x18 Black Leather Jackets". Share TV. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  15. ^ "The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode 18 - Black Leather Jackets (31 Jan. 1964)". IMDb. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  16. ^ Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Second ed., 2010. Feral House. ISBN 9781932595895. p. 107.

Further reading[edit]