Spawned from the mid 90s hardcore explosion
in Chicago, Kungfu Rick was one of the few from the area to stick
together long enough to tour the US a couple times and release
a handful of noteworthy records. Who would have thought that ski
goggles, a terrible band name, and break neck thrash would be
a formula to make the kids go nuts. Unfortunately, the band broke
up in early 2003 to pursue other musical endeavors including the
likes of Seven Days of Samsara, Hewhocorrupts, Littleman Complex,
High on Crime, Authority Abuse, and Destroy the Foundation. Interview
by David Hoffa.
know that "rick" isn't an actual person, but can you
elaborate on where the name "Kungfu Rick" came from?
John M: I was
in gym class, Sophmore year (which would have been 1996) and this
total hippie kid in my class was like, "Kungfu Grip man"!!
"thats a cool band name". And I guess I just kinda
played around with it and was like.. hmmm.. KungFu Rick?? And
it just kinda stuck, it was strange and odd yet it stuck in your
head too. So we decided to go with it.
Ryan: A lot of
people thought we were a ska band because of that name.
had some lineup changes over the years, who did what in the band?
John M: The original
members that stayed throughout the life of KFR were myself (John
on guitar), Ryan (vox), and Bryan (vox - AKA the Dark Enforcer).
The original bassist was Eric Kline and the original drummer was
John Biehl. We all went to the same high school and were within
a year of each other. The band ended with John Finaldi on drums,
Jason Zdora on second guitar (even though he quit the band 2 times!),
and Dave Rudnik (Seven Days of Samsara) on bass.
released a number of split 7"s. How did you choose who to
do the splits with? Was it just whoever was available and had
John M: We were
asked to do many records, surprisingly. Usually it just had to
do with the other band and/or the label and our relationship with
them. But many times we started new relationships, which is always
a good thing as well.
periods when the band was not getting along, Hewhocorrupts would
usually do the splits we were offered instead.
did the connection with 625 records come about; or with any label
for that matter?
John M: We had
sent Max our first demo and he replied back that he liked it a
lot, but he wasnt down with putting anything out at the
time. It wasnt until our second demo and the show that we
played with Capitalist Casualties here in Chicago that really
got Max interested in putting out our stuff.
Ryan: The earlier
splits were mostly done with labels that we knew personally from
Kungfu Rick started, there weren't many hardcore bands around
in the Chicago suburbs. What led you to start a band of this nature?
John M: Well,
Charles Bronson was around at the time as was MK Ultra. We initially
sounded nothing like Kungfu Rick sounded on most of the records,
nor how we sounded when we ended. We just wanted to play fast
and crazy music, period. Most of us in the band really didnt
listen to hardcore neither did most of the original members. Ryan
was the person who knew the most about hardcore at the time. The
band just grew on its own.
all been involved in other projects within the Chicago / Milwaukee
scenes. For the KFR completists, can you tell me what all everyone
has had their hands in?
The Fratelli's, Luke Skawalker, Seven Days of Samsara, Secret
Scars, High on Crime.
John F: I played
in Suburban Refugee, Pronounced Dead, Audience Of The End, Systemic
Infection, Chronic Bleeding Syndrome, and Im currently in
Destroy The Foundation and High On Crime.
Jay: I was in
Suburban Refugee, Pronounced Dead and Chronic Bleeding Syndrome.
Im currently in Destroy the Foundation, Hewhocorrupts and
various no-name projects with friends.
with John and Jay, Authority Abuse with John, Tale of Genji, Littleman
Complex, and the infamous Tobucdet.
Rick's music is as serious as it gets, but the members of the
band have an excellent sense of humor. Do you think it's important
for hardcore bands to have a sense of humor and not take themselves
Dave: I totally
think its important for everyone to have a sense of humor.
Its really easy to get bogged down with all the shit that
goes on in the world and our personal lives, so without humor
the human race would be fucked.
John M: Yes,
we are a wild bunch of guys. We like to have fun and we most definitely
like to joke around. Thats just the way we've always been.
Sometimes thats good and other times it's not.
Ryan: Yeah, at
times Im not sure if our sense of humor was a good thing
for the band.
Do you think that the Internet has positively or negatively affected
hardcore? I would tend to think that file sharing and CD burning
is the future of what tape trading was pre-internet, but some
people think differently. Care to elaborate?
Dave: I think
the Internet has had a very positive effect on hardcore. It enables
people from all over the world to hear shitty obscure bands and
to read about what theyre up to, where theyre playing
and whatever else people want to put on their web pages. It has
also made it a million times easier to tour. I booked one tour
before I started using email and theres really nothing more
expensive and annoying than making phone call after phone call
to people you dont know and who dont really want to
talk to you. Email is a polite, unintrusive way to make initial
contact with these people who may help you out with a show. Im
not saying that there arent flaws to the Internet and I
get a little sick of the shit talking on message boards and the
spreading of rumors, but I guess that comes with the territory.
Theres no way Kungfu Rick could have been what it was without
John F: Ill
agree with Dave, booking tours is much easier, and its nice
to be able to drop a line to a friend or band across the map.
It has definitely helped out with networking, but at the same
time I think it has taken away some of the ethics of punk rock.
It seems like people get sucked into what band has the best web
site, or whats being said on some message board, I try not
to get too involved but I still get sucked in.
band is obviously a metal-influenced band. Do you think that the
current state of hardcore is too splintered into too many different
genres? For example: "metal influenced emo-core with brit-pop
tendencies," or something of that nature. It seems that it's
getting harder to find out what a band sounds like without getting
a 20 word run on sentence these days.
Dave: I dont
think its bad that you need a 20 word run on sentence to
describe a band. To me that means theyre trying something
new. On the 625 web page Max describes us as "Ultra fast,
punishing hardcore...somewhere between German HC style and grind.
Technical yet raw, original yet brutal." Where someone else
might just say "Charles Bronson rip off" or just simply
"hardcore." Who cares what you call it, its just entertainment.
I think its rad that bands in the DIY punk scene are trying
new things, its just a shame that these new individual scenes
are so segregated.
Ryan: Hmmm, Im
not sure though I have felt for a long time that my screams have
you think that you accomplished everything that you set out to
do as a band?
Dave: No, I think
we could have accomplished a hell of a lot more, but if we had,
it wouldnt have been Kungfu Rick. I would have liked to
tour more, possibly gone to Europe and Japan, but Kungfu Rick
was a lazy band that released a lot of records and more or less
had a good time whenever we decided to practice or play shows,
which wasnt too often.
John M: I agree
with Dave, we could have done a lot more. We could have toured
more, spent more time writing songs and just overall been a better
band. Its kind of sad, but I am still very grateful for
everything we have done and how it all ended. I couldn't have
asked for more.
John F: Definitely
not. Ill never live down the fact that we never toured Japan,
but at the same time the last few years have been a struggle for
this band. There were certain people in the band I never saw unless
we were playing a show. I got sick of people asking me if we had
broke up. It seemed like everyone had more important things to
do. I would be at a show or drinking at a bar and someone would
ask me what was up with KFR and I would just say the fuck if I
know ask one of the other guys, I just play drums.
Ryan: Nope. We
fell short of my "excellent record review" quota of
at or above 50. Im still picking up the pieces to my shattered
lyric that has always stuck out for me is: "it was not me
they were beating" from the title track off of "Motivation
to Abuse." So, the lyrics seem pretty personal. What sorts
of experiences do you draw your lyrics from? Did all of the members
contribute, or was it just one person?
Jay: Ryan wrote
most of the lyrics to our songs but Dave and John M. have contributed
as well as myself. This song was about my experiences at a Chicago
public high school. A couple years after this happened I ended
up being good friends with one of the guys who used to beat the
shit out of me.
Ryan: John F.
and Bryan also wrote some of the songs so were 6 for 6 in
Can you explain the mystery of the dark enforcer?
Ryan: I could
but then it wouldnt be a mystery anymore. Anyhow, whats
so mysterious about a guy wearing a black cloak and ski goggles
while squawking like a chicken?
I know that you did 2 actual tours (one west coast with My Lai,
and one east coast with the Ultimate Warriors). Who set them up,
and how were they? Were there certain places that you wanted to
play that you never played?
Dave: The My
Lai tour was booked by Brian Peterson and I booked the Ultimate
Warriors tour. The My Lai tour was awesome and the Ultimate Warriors
tour could have been a hell of a lot better. Part was my fault
but mostly I think that tour was flawed because we just werent
getting along at the time. Even though we werent getting
along, our show in Baltimore at the Sushi Cafe on that tour was
amazing. But yea, as I said before I would have like to tour more
and hit all the places where people asked us to play, but shit,
that just wouldnt have been us.
John F: The My
Lai tour was one of the greatest things Ive ever done in
my life. We were so lucky to go on the road with such an amazing
band. The Ultimate Warriors tour was doomed from the start. We
werent getting along that well before we left, and all that
shit got dragged along with us. Jay quit the band a few times
on that tour, and I remember pulling up in front of my house after
it was all over and while I was talking to Dave I turned around
and my stuff was just getting chucked out of the van onto the
front lawn. We didnt practice or play out for a long time
after that. And I learned heavy drinking is not a good thing when
youre on a tense tour.
Jay: I dont
think touring gets much better than the time we went out with
My Lai. Some of the best times of my life. Playing a battle set
with My Lai in a gazebo, The Velvet Lounge in El Paso with Arab
on Radar, sleeping at this rich crustys house in CA which was
practically a fucking castle in the mountains (with 3 full ass
refrigerators!), the insanity at Gilman, jerkin it at the Whole
Foods and getting jiz all over my Crudos shirt, so many good times!
The Ultimate Warriors were some of the coolest guys Ive
ever met and I really enjoyed playing with those dudes and swimming/swinging
on that rope by the river. The big problem with that tour was
me. I really fucked everyone over by quitting and being stupid
on the road. I just had enough. I wasnt doing the band for
the reasons I did before and my whole outlook began to change.
I think I ruined a good thing by being that way but I think I
also followed my heart so its weird. I still love and respect
all the guys from the band and Im excited about our new
John F: Thanks
to everyone that helped this band out or supported us over the
years. Big apologies to anyone we may have let down. Dont
ever sell yourself short, and stay true.
Jay: I really
owe the guys a lot for letting me play those last 5 shows. It
felt really good to be a part of the bands end. I really want
to thank Max Ward and Brian Peterson for all their help and support.
Id also like to thank Ryan for putting many of our records
out for free on independent tape labels in several countries.
Mendolas parents really need to get thanked here too, since
they had to listen to us practice.
Ryan: Stay gold
Ponyboy, stay gold