Just call him Kung Fu.
California rapper Kung Fu Vampire won’t disclose his real name. As soon as people know your name, they judge you, he said. “Once they know your name, they know your nationality, your religion … If you look at me, you can’t tell if I’m Caucasian, Mexican or Middle Eastern. You can’t tell if I’m 21 or 31 …
“And I don’t know that you need to know.”
He’d rather be a blank slate and let his stage persona and music speak directly to audiences.
His stage presence is menacing — even without the face paint he’s left off for the last four or five years. The once bald San Jose native has grown out his hair (“It’s curly and messy”) and created a pointy beard — a diabolical look that now gets him recognized in the supermarket.
But Kung Fu doesn’t mind being approached — especially by fervid fans. “It makes you feel good when people say how I’m a legend and I’ve influenced them …”
The artist — who will perform at Wild Bill’s Sports Bar in Red Deer on Thursday, June 16, with his band — started break-dancing at age 5. He began dressing as a goth and experimenting with mixing electronica, goth and funk with rap as a 14-year-old.
Kung Fu Vampire went on to win his first free-style rap contest, and has been performing professionally since 2001. He has toured with horrorcore group Twiztid, Tech N9ne, 2 Live Crew and Insane Clown Posse. He’s performed at the Playboy Mansion and at the release party for the horror movie Saw III.
Kung Fu aims to create “creepy” soundscapes, like one of his inspirations — composer Danny Elfman, who’s worked on Tim Burton movies like Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride and Beetlejuice. “If you mix one part Danny Elfman, one part Nine Inch Nails and one part N.W.A. you get Kung Fu Vampire,” said the artist
He’s occasionally performed with a “symphonic orchestra” of as many as 10 musicians. “We’ve had cellos and all these different instruments …” The effect has been opera-like. At other times, he’s created a music hall vibe behind his lightning-fast rapping tracks.
“It was like a swing number for a while … I was mixing dark music with show tunes … I wanted the scary sound, the wicked sound, but with lyricism.”
His latest album, Look Alive (vampire pun intended) is about feeling like the walking dead because he’s being stretched in too many directions. Kung Fu has a 5-year-old daughter and admitted it’s harder pulling himself away from home these days.
But he’s looking forward to performing once again for Red Deer fans, saying, “There’ll be some live battle rap, some comedy … You do not want to miss it!”
Tickets to his 9 p.m. show with Dirtbag Dan are $20 from the venue.