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October 18-24, 2006

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Kung Fu Vampire

Ayes without a face: Kung Fu Vampire will say yes to any sound.

Interview With the Vampire

Kung Fu Vampire has gone international while just being discovered here at home

By Ryan Osterbeck

FLOWING with a sinister sound and a mesmerizing presence, Kung Fu Vampire can kill you 10 different ways. Their latest musical conquest was Hef and the Bunnies at the Playboy Mansion, were they pulled no punches, rocking the Grotto full fangster style.

"We simply had to perform there ... and while we'd previously been there to hang out, performing there was definitely an experience," explains their frontman, also called Kung Fu Vampire (his real name remains a secret). "We've always been operating on an international level. It's funny, because people are just paying attention to us now locally."

As well they should. Not only is Kung Fu Vampire's music magnetic, but its stage show features the Vampire doing back flips and mind-altering visuals, and even fire dancers; it's like a hip-hop version of danse macabre theater.

The 10-piece goth and funk-infused jazzy hip-hop outfit could seriously resurrect the live-music cadaver of San Jose. Why they haven't been recognized in the local scene until the last couple of years, when KFV has become a sensation (even winning Metro's recent Best Of Silicon Valley voting), is anyone's guess.

Maybe it's because these genre-splitting musicians don't conform to any one style. Among their onstage arsenal are strings, a visualist, dancers and a keyboardist.

"We get compared with a lot of acts, but then, most people say there's nobody that sounds like us. I'm not sure that I ever agree or disagree with their comparisons or opinions," says the head Vampire. "Either way, I'm going to accomplish what I want to musically ... even if it's two steps ahead of what people's ears are ready for."

For example, at a recent practice, KFV broke into a straight jazz-laced number with the Vampire spouting smooth, poignant rhymes over the bass line, then at the break the whole tune descended into a dark lounginess before returning to a driving funk beat.

Where a KFV song starts is often hell and gone from the completed product, a testament to the talent of the musicians.

"The current lineup of musicians that comprise the whole of Kung Fu Vampire is quite unique in terms of background, with most everyone having an extensive professional music background but also bringing their own style to the group," says KFV. "We have no restraints in the styles we want to explore, and we can excel at them when we explore variant genres."

A typical composition process for the group starts with a simple idea that spawns a feeling. "Songwriting for us is collaborative to different degrees," says KFV. "Sadelia [the keyboardist] and myself create the majority of the ideas. ... Everyone contributes."

To have this many musicians focused on a singular goal is unheard of—well, at least among the living.

"The evolution of a song, the finalization of a song, where it goes and how it gets there is always a new path, because there's 10 different ways it can get there," says the head creature of the night.

The industrious Kung Fu Vampire spawns something that is more than the sum of its parts. "It's definitely a labor of love," explains KFV.

The band and the man have so many aspirations that it would take mere mortals a few lifetimes to accomplish it all. Musically, they want to take the sound even further into uncharted waters: "We'd like to start incorporating more electronica and synth into some stuff and we're working on more theatrics for the live performances." Plans are being laid for an extended tour for Kung Fu Vampire, and the director Saw III has contracted them to play for the movie's release party.

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