Joe Escalante

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Joe Escalante
JoeEscalante Indianopolis04.jpg
Escalante performing with The Vandals on the 2004 Warped Tour in Noblesville, Indiana.
Background information
Birth name Joseph Patrick Escalante
Born (1963-01-30) January 30, 1963 (age 54)
Origin Long Beach, California
Genres Punk rock
Occupation(s) Bassist, record label owner, film director, music video director, radio show host; formerly a drummer, entertainment lawyer, and television executive
Instruments Bass guitar, drum kit
Years active 1980–present
Labels Epitaph, National Trust, Restless, Triple X, Nitro, Kung Fu
Associated acts The Vandals, Sweet and Tender Hooligans

Joseph Patrick "Joe" Escalante (born January 30, 1963) is an American musician, record label owner, radio host, film and music video director, and amateur matador, as well as a former television executive and entertainment lawyer. He is most widely known as the bassist for the punk rock band The Vandals, the owner of their record label Kung Fu Records, and the host of Barely Legal Radio on the Los Angeles/Orange County radio station The Patriot 1150AM Sundays 5-7PM.


Escalante was born in Long Beach, California to a Mexican father and Irish mother and grew up in Rossmoor, California, an unincorporated area of Orange County. As a teenager he learned to play drums and began performing in local garage bands.[citation needed]


Escalante received his Bachelor degree from UCLA, and his Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School.[1]

Career with The Vandals[edit]

In 1980, at age 17, Escalante joined the punk rock band The Vandals, becoming their first permanent drummer. He would remain the sole constant member of the band throughout the rest of their career. They released their debut EP Peace thru Vandalism in 1982 through Epitaph Records. In 1984 Escalante and the other band members appeared in the Penelope Spheeris film Suburbia and released their first album When in Rome Do as the Vandals. In 1987 they appeared in another Spheeris film, Dudes. By 1989 Escalante had moved from the drums into the bass guitar position, and fluctuations in the band's membership had left him as the only member remaining from the original recording lineup. In order to continue the band, he and vocalist Dave Quackenbush set about finding new members, recruiting guitarist Warren Fitzgerald and drummer Josh Freese. In 1990 this lineup released the album Fear of a Punk Planet, establishing themselves amongst an emerging new crop of southern California punk rock bands. This lineup would remain consistent throughout the rest of the band's career and would release numerous albums, tour extensively, and form their own record label.

Television career[edit]

After graduating law school in 1992, Escalante worked as a talent and program negotiator in the department of business affairs for CBS. He used money from his job to finance The Vandals and his television connections to allow them to play on late-night rock shows. He hosted a number of music programs during his time with the network and negotiated contracts with acting talent. After four years he left CBS to tour full-time with The Vandals and to operate his record label Kung Fu Records.[citation needed]


Escalante married in 1996. His wife, Sandra Escalante, appeared briefly in the 2005 film Cake Boy which he directed (as a member of the counseling group). The two now live together in Seal Beach, California.[citation needed]

Kung Fu Records and legal practice[edit]

In 1995 the Vandals signed a record deal with Nitro Records and released the album Live Fast, Diarrhea. The album brought increased attention to the band and Escalante toured with them internationally. He directed their music video for "I Have a Date," and would continue to direct the band's videos throughout the rest of their career. The band released 3 more albums on Nitro over the next 5 years, with Escalante participating on all of them.

In 1996 Escalante and Warren Fitzgerald started the record label Kung Fu Records, initially in order to release a debut album by the Assorted Jelly Beans. Escalante named the label after his study of Kung Fu San Soo. Over the next several years Escalante took over operations of the label, signing acts such as The Ataris, Ozma, and Tsunami Bomb, as well as re-releasing some of The Vandals' more obscure records. He funded the label by opening a law practice and using his industry contacts to build a roster of music clients. Kung Fu grew in size, establishing contracts with other American labels to distribute and promote their releases in Europe and Japan. In 2000 The Vandals moved their operations fully from Nitro to Kung Fu.

Directing and producing[edit]

Using his experience in the television industry, Escalante formed Kung Fu Films in 2000 as an offshoot of the record label, and produced and starred in the independent film That Darn Punk. He also continued to produce and direct music videos for The Vandals and for other acts on the Kung Fu label. In 2002 he launched the DVD live concert series The Show Must Go Off! He directed the independent film Cake Boy in 2005 and is presently[when?] in pre-production to direct a documentary of the band Social Distortion.

Legal controversies[edit]

In 2003 ex-Vandals members Steven Jensen, Jan Nils Ackermann, Chalmer Lumary, and Steve Pfauter initiated legal actions against Escalante, alleging that he had mismanaged the band's back catalogue and had withheld royalties that were owed them. Jensen and Ackermann asserted that most of the songs on Peace Thru Vandalism, which had since been reissued with the credit "all songs by Joe Escalante,"[2] had been written before he joined the group. Escalante stated that Epitaph Records had relinquished the copyrights and master tapes to him, and that the older members had relinquished control of the band's name and rights in exchange for permission to play an "original Vandals" reunion show. The others, however, denied that this agreement took place. They claimed that Escalante had misappropriated their intellectual property and had not paid them royalties due from the licensing of several early Vandals songs for use in commercials and films, in which the songs had been credited only to Escalante.[3][4][5][6] Lawsuits ensued, resulting in an undisclosed settlement which allowed Escalante to continue licensing the band's back catalogue. A subsequent licensing of the song "Urban Struggle" for the movie Jackass Number Two credited the group as a whole.[7]

Sweet and Tender Hooligans[edit]

In 2004 Escalante joined the Sweet and Tender Hooligans, a Smiths/Morrissey tribute band composed primarily of Latino members. In 2006 he traveled with them to the United Kingdom to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Smiths album The Queen Is Dead.

Radio hosting[edit]

In June 2005 Escalante retired from legal practice after 12 years in the profession. During this time he also began hosting the call-in show "Barely Legal Radio" on the Los Angeles/Orange County radio station Indie 103.1 FM, where he dispensed entertainment and legal advice to aspiring musicians.[8] In May 2006 he became the host of the station's morning drive-time program The Last of the Famous International Morning Shows, replacing Mighty Mighty Bosstones singer Dicky Barrett.[9]

Escalante's morning show included daily appearances by film director David Lynch, who served as weatherman, and actor Timothy Olyphant, who served as a sports commentator. The show also featured a weekly wine tasting and education hour called "Wino Wednesday", and hosted a number of celebrity guests including Crispin Glover, Christina Ricci, Pat Buchanan, Will Ferrell, Maynard James Keenan, and Andy Dick. The show was endorsed by companies and products such as iPod, iTunes, and AT&T.

Escalante left the show in November 2008, stating:

Indie asked me if I would keep the Barely Legal Radio program on Indie but stop doing mornings. I said yes. I loved doing the morning show for 2½ years but I am also looking forward to not getting up at 4 am any more. If you've ever had a morning job like this, you probably know the relief I feel, but I will still miss seeing Liz and Jose every day, having David Lynch as my weatherman, and talking to Timothy Olyphant about sports each morning. These will always rank with the coolest things I’ve ever been fortunate enough to do in my entire life.[10]

Escalante remained with his Barely Legal program, which expanded into a two-hour format. When Indie 103.1 converted to an internet-only station in January 2009, the show transferred to the new format along with the station.[11]

Religious and political views[edit]

Escalante is a Catholic and attends church.[12]

Escalante is a contributor to the center-right socio-political website Ricochet. In June 2011, he opined about his heritage: "I favor a high wall and a wide gate. As a Mexican with many ties to the old country, I want what's best for Mexico, not what's best for Mexican-American politicians, or white politicians, or any politicians... Despite the problems with cartel violence and corruption at all levels of everything imaginable, it is still a place of joy."[13]

In 2012, he made a bid to be elected judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. He was rated "Not Qualified" by the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and received only 18.41% of the vote in the June 5 election, being defeated by Deputy District Attorney Sean Coen.[14][15]


Studio albums



Year Title Role
1984 Suburbia himself (with The Vandals)
1987 Dudes
2000 That Darn Punk Dirk Castigo
2004 Punk Rock Holocaust Warped Documentary Boss[I]
2005 Cake Boy Pierre Kaniche
2007 Punk's Not Dead himself
2008 Lil' Bush (episode 204: "Katrina") Michael "Brownie" Brown (voice)
2009 One Nine Nine Four himself
2014 Comedy Bang! Bang!
2016 Bar Rescue himself; Recon spy

^ I Esclante's scenes in Punk Rock Holocaust were deleted from the final version of the film.

Direction and production[edit]

Year Title Role
1996 Glory Daze Music supervisor
2000 That Darn Punk Producer, music editor, music supervisor
2003 Neil Hamburger: Live at the Phoenix Greyhound Park
(The Show Must Go Off! episode 5)
Director, producer
2004 Goldfinger: Live at the House of Blues
(The Show Must Go Off! episode 11)
Zebrahead: Live at the House of Blues
(The Show Must Go Off! episode 12)
The Matches: Live at the House of Blues
(The Show Must Go Off! episode 14)
Director, producer
Throw Rag: Live at the House of Blues
(The Show Must Go Off! episode 15)
Warped Tour '03 Director, producer
2005 Tsunami Bomb: Live at the Glasshouse
(The Show Must Go Off! episode 17)
Cake Boy Director, producer


  1. ^ California State Bar Membership Records
  2. ^ Hinds, Andy. "Peace Thru Vandalism / When in Rome Do as the Vandals". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  3. ^ "For the Record: Quick News on R. Kelly and Jay-Z, Britney Spears, Deftones, Norah Jones, Stray Cats & More". MTV News. MTV. April 8, 2003. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  4. ^ Hochman, Steve (April 6, 2003). "Credit Theft or Just Bad Blood Between Vandals?". Los Angeles Times. pp. sec. E, p. 43. 
  5. ^ "xXx soundtrack listing". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  6. ^ Film credits (1999). SLC Punk (DVD) (Film). Culver City, California: Sony Pictures Classics. Event occurs at 1:36:45. 
  7. ^ "Jackass Number Two soundtrack listing". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  8. ^ "Joe Escalante joins Indie 103.1 in Los Angeles". May 14, 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  9. ^ White, Adam (May 19, 2009). "Joe Escalante takes over Indie 103 morning show". Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  10. ^ Escalante, Joe (October 31, 2008). "Morning Radio". Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  11. ^ Escalante, Joe (January 15, 2009). "I Will Remain on". Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  12. ^ "The Vandals official FAQ". Archived from the original on August 23, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Ofgang, Kenneth (June 7, 2012). "Prosecutors, Incumbents Sweep Local Superior Court Contests". Metropolitan News-Enterprise. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 
  15. ^ Frank, Brian (June 6, 2012). "Judicial Candidates With Highest Peer Approval Win Voter Support". KCET News. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 

External links[edit]