Kung Fu Records was founded by Vandals bassist Joe Escalante and guitarist Warren Fitzgerald in 1996. Escalante had been urged by his wife to allow the Riverside, California band Assorted Jelly Beans to open for The Vandals, and he and Fitzgerald were so impressed by their performance that they decided to start a record label in order to release the band's debut album. Escalante named the label after his study of Kung Fu San Soo, and its first release was a split single featuring both The Vandals and Assorted Jelly Beans. The Assorted Jelly Beans' debut self-titled album followed that same year, as did the soundtrack to the Ben Affleck movie Glory Daze, which featured The Vandals and Assorted Jelly Beans and a theme written by Fitzgerald. At the end of the year the label also released a Vandals Christmas album entitled Oi to the World!
The label began to grow quickly, releasing The Ataris' debut album Anywhere But Here in 1997, as well as releasing an album by the Bigwig and signing Longfellow. The Vandals also re-released some of their more obscure records through the label, including their live album Sweatin' to the Oldies and their country-themed album Slippery When Ill (re-released as The Vandals Play Really Bad Original Country Tunes). By 2000 the label had added Apocalypse Hoboken, Antifreeze, and Useless ID to its roster, and released a solo album by Vandals drummer and renowned studio musician Josh Freese. It was at this time that Escalante launched the subsidiary label Kung Fu Films (see below). With their contractual obligations to their longtime label Nitro Records complete, The Vandals also moved their operations fully over to Kung Fu, re-releasing Oi to the World! and an "Anniversary Edition" of their 1990 album Fear of a Punk Planet. Their first new studio album for Kung Fu was Internet Dating Superstuds in 2002, by which time more bands had signed to the label including Audio Karate, Ozma, Tsunami Bomb, and Mi6. In the next few years the label added The God Awfuls, Underminded, and Versus the World, and launched the hardcore spinoff label Broken Sounds Records.
In recent years there has been less activity from the Kung Fu Records label, as Escalante has focused his attention on Kung Fu Films releases and on his new career as a morning radio show host. A number of the label's past acts have either broken up (such as Tsunami Bomb), moved to other independent labels (as in the cases of Ozma and Bigwig), or signed to major labels (most notably The Ataris). However the label is still active and maintains a steady roster of roughly a half dozen bands, and continues to be the home of The Vandals.
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