Redline Distribution: Offering the finest in Chicago independent music. Search our catalog for:
Kungfu Rick
"Grinding to a Halt"
KungFu Rick
"Coming To An End"
Kungfu Rick
"The New Breed"
go to catalog!
Kungfu Rick
interview by: David Hoffa 2003

Spawned from the mid 90’s 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.

Hoffa: I 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"!! "that’s 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.

Hoffa: You've 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.

Hoffa: KFR 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 songs?

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.

Ryan: During periods when the band was not getting along, Hewhocorrupts would usually do the splits we were offered instead.

Hoffa: How 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 wasn’t down with putting anything out at the time. It wasn’t 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 our area.

Hoffa: When 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 didn’t 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.

Hoffa: You've 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?

Dave: Wretch, 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 I’m currently in Destroy The Foundation and High On Crime.

Jay: I was in Suburban Refugee, Pronounced Dead and Chronic Bleeding Syndrome. I’m currently in Destroy the Foundation, Hewhocorrupts and various no-name projects with friends.

Ryan: Hewhocorrupts with John and Jay, Authority Abuse with John, Tale of Genji, Littleman Complex, and the infamous Tobucdet.

Hoffa: Kungfu 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 too seriously?

Dave: I totally think it’s important for everyone to have a sense of humor. It’s 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. That’s just the way we've always been. Sometimes that’s good and other times it's not.

Ryan: Yeah, at times I’m not sure if our sense of humor was a good thing for the band.

Hoffa: 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 they’re up to, where they’re 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 there’s really nothing more expensive and annoying than making phone call after phone call to people you don’t know and who don’t 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. I’m not saying that there aren’t 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. There’s no way Kungfu Rick could have been what it was without the Internet.

John F: I’ll agree with Dave, booking tours is much easier, and it’s 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 what’s being said on some message board, I try not to get too involved but I still get sucked in.

Hoffa: The 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 don’t think it’s bad that you need a 20 word run on sentence to describe a band. To me that means they’re 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 it’s rad that bands in the DIY punk scene are trying new things, it’s just a shame that these new individual scenes are so segregated.

Ryan: Hmmm, I’m not sure though I have felt for a long time that my screams have brit-pop tendencies.

Hoffa: Do 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 wouldn’t 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 wasn’t 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. It’s 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. I’ll 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. I’m still picking up the pieces to my shattered heart.

Hoffa: One 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 we’re 6 for 6 in that department.

Hoffa: Can you explain the mystery of the dark enforcer?

Ryan: I could but then it wouldn’t be a mystery anymore. Anyhow, what’s so mysterious about a guy wearing a black cloak and ski goggles while squawking like a chicken?

Hoffa: 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 weren’t getting along at the time. Even though we weren’t 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 wouldn’t have been us.

John F: The My Lai tour was one of the greatest things I’ve 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 weren’t 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 didn’t practice or play out for a long time after that. And I learned heavy drinking is not a good thing when you’re on a tense tour.

Jay: I don’t 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 I’ve 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 wasn’t 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 it’s weird. I still love and respect all the guys from the band and I’m excited about our new shit.

Hoffa: Final thoughts?

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. Don’t 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. I’d also like to thank Ryan for putting many of our records out for free on independent tape labels in several countries. Mendola’s parents really need to get thanked here too, since they had to listen to us practice.

Ryan: Stay gold Ponyboy, stay gold…

Authority Abuse
"Ten Steps To Success"
Littleman Complex
Seven Days of Samsara
"Never Stop Attacking"
go to catalog!

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

PO Box 14334
Chicago, IL 60614