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Cover Story: Local Rapper Kung Fu Vampire Sheds Costume to Focus on Music

In Music

The Twiztid tour ran for 45 dates, with crowds ranging from 300 to 3,000 a night. The tour led to several others, mostly opening for other horrorcore and Juggalo groups on Psychopathic Records and Strange Music. But unlike many of the bands he has toured with, Kung Fu Vampire doesn’t rap about graphic violence, use campy horror-movie references or talk about smoking pot. In fact, Kung Fu Vampire has several songs speaking out against meth, and he advocates healthy living in several songs.

Operatics

Before getting discovered by the Juggalo fan base, Kung Fu Vampire was gigging in the South Bay and Los Angeles on a regular basis. His first show was in 2000 at the now-defunct City Espresso in Campbell.

By 2001, he had made his first trip to L.A. with the intention of getting seen by people in the music and film industry. He was encouraged to perform at industry showcases by one early admirer, horror-film director Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed Saw II-IV, Repo! the Genetic Opera and 11-11-11.

“I thought if the right person saw what we were doing, they could help us out,” Kung Fu Vampire says. “I felt like what we were doing was super-dope, and I just wanted people to see it.”

Bousman recalls one particular Kung Fu Vampire show at the Viper Room in West Hollywood in 2008. Several standard hip-hop acts had gone on before him. The audience was enjoying the music. Then Kung Fu Vampire appeared with his full eight-piece band and complete vampire outfit. “Immediately the crowd went silent,” Bousman remembers. “Everyone’s just standing there mouth agape, not expecting Kung Fu Vampire. What he does is so unique and crazy and almost undefinable. His stage presence is so dynamic, within one song he turned that entire crowd around. They loved him.”

While Kung Fu Vampire never got that industry bump he wanted, Bousman still involved him however he could. He performed at the Saw III premiere party and was also invited to attend the Repo! the Genetic Opera premiere—where he sat next to Paris Hilton for three hours at the afterparty. Bousman also included Kung Fu Vampire’s song “Dead Girls Don’t Lie” on the soundtrack for the remake of Mother’s Day, which he also directed.

While he was busy spending time trying to get Hollywood to notice him, Juggalos were starting to discover him and his first album, Blood Bath Beyond.

“I started selling my records online to the Midwest, places like Detroit and Kansas City,” he recalls.

The first time Kung Fu Vampire heard the word ‘Juggalo’ was in 2004. He was opening up for 2 Live Crew in San Jose.

“It’s a worldwide thing now, but I was never exposed to it. No one ever said, ‘Juggalos would like your music.’ If I had been discovered when it started I would be in the top three most famous people in the genre. I already know because I am one of the people doing it without being influenced by the genre,” Kung Fu Vampire says.

Even after he learned who these people were, it never occurred to Kung Fu Vampire to try and market to them, or that they would embrace him so whole-heartedly.

As much as this scene liked Kung Fu Vampire for his dark image, they have been equally receptive to him shedding that image. Kung Fu Vampire has gotten a lot of positive feedback on this tour.

“The thing I hear most is, ‘It doesn’t matter what you look like because the music was amazing,'” Kung Fu Vampire says. From the very beginning the whole point of being so theatrical was driven by wanting to approach hip-hop in a way different than the other rappers—who were, by and large, all sort of doing the same thing.

“I’m very influenced by doing what other people aren’t doing,” he says. “I had never seen what I wanted to see.”

Even when he was in LSP, which he started with the three Huelsenkamp brothers from his neighborhood, he was always pushing rap boundaries. They would sometimes play to backing tracks, and other times to live instruments. Sometimes they would just do instrumental improv jams. Everyone in the group rapped, including Kung Fu Vampire, who also played drums. LSP was a creative, experimental hip-hop group unlike anything else happening in San Jose at the time.

“I really respect and love those guys’ talents,” Kung Fu vampire says.

Some of the change of Kung Fu Vampire’s sound came from his friend Leon Freeze, who had wanted to do a separate hip-hop project with Kung Fu Vampire.

“He would say, ‘I want to get you away from that weirdo style you keep doing. I want to do a more traditional hip-hop album with you,'” Kung Fu Vampire explains.

They worked on what would become the first Kung Fu Vampire album. Ironically, while it was much more traditional in terms of the sound than LSP, conceptually, it was much weirder. It was, after all, made by a rapping vampire. One thing that did not change between the groups was Kung Fu Vampire’s commitment to using live instruments. In fact, for the first couple of Kung Fu Vampire shows, the Huelsenkamp brothers were his backing band.

“I can feel the drums in my chest, in my balls,” he says. “That alone gives me positive energy. It’s just not the same to backing tracks. Rappers are doing themselves an injustice by not having a live band.”

The biggest misinterpretation of Kung Fu Vampire through the years from people unfamiliar with him is that he is something besides hip-hop—which explains why he’s had a tough time convincing hip-hop fanatics to give him a shot. All he really asks is that rap fans go see him live. So far, many of those that have, have walked away with a different opinion of him.

“If they walk in on us at a concert, they would have no choice but to respect us,” he says.

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