New Haven, Ct. shredders Kung Fu are blowing the fuck up! Since I last spoke with Tim Palmieri back in December 2012, the group has been bringing their raging performances to just about every city and festival such a group could possibly be on, with tremendous results. The cream of the crop rises to the top, and you could lighten up an entire coffee shop with these guys.
Once again slated to take the stage at Catskill Chill in September, all I can do is hope there are no tornado warnings scaring me away from the festival, and that my credentials are strong enough to get me back in once the “storm” blows over. Laminate, please!
I caught up with bassist Chris DeAngelis during their most recent stop in Syracuse, NY to talk about Kung Fu’s rapidly expanding fan base, their recently announced appearance at Catskill Chill, and a bit of his personal history as a performer.
G- How’s it going, Chris, and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today!
C- How you doing?
G- I’m doing ok, man. How about yourself?
C- Doing great! Doing fantastic!
G- Alright! So, Kung Fu has been ping-ponging all over the place and building up quite a fan base since we last spoke… How have the shows been going on this most recent run, and are you performing anyplace new this time around?
C- The shows have been going great lately. A lot of good things in the Northeast, and we just did a run down to Florida to play AURA Fest, and played a bunch of shows on the way down in the southern states. 16 night in a row run, and it was grueling but it was worth it. It was a great thing for us.
AURA Fest was great! We did the Stevie Wonder thing with Nigel Hall…
C- The tribute thing when we went down there, and did our set the night before on Friday, which was packed! Like 2000 people at least, so it was a great thing… A great thing to make it down there and play that set. And yeah, all of the shows have been going great! We just sold out the show in our hometown at F.T.C., Field Theater Company, and it was rocking, so yeah!
G- Very good! Now, something slightly new, but I wanted to get a bit more personally involved to give you a little bit of shine time. You’re a bass player… When did you personally training? Tell us about it.
C- Well, I started playing in middle school, kinda like in the school band I was playing, but I kinda learned songs on my own by ear, just simple rock songs like Guns N Roses, Pearl Jam, stuff like that. I had a couple of kids that I would jam with.
But it wasn’t until high school, senior year of high school, that I really bought a new bass and started to play again and get serious about it, and just played in some rock cover bands. And after that, I decided to take it a step further with more theory and stuff, so I ended up going to school in Connecticut at a college called Western Connecticut State University, where I got my degree in Jazz Performance playing upright bass.
C- So, it was a really good experience for me. I was fortunate enough to go to school with a lot of great players and… Actually, at the time, the drummer Chris Parker, who played with the Saturday Night Live band, toured with Dylan, played on some James Brown recordings, he and Steve Gadd were like the guys in the 70’s…
G- The “pocket” guys!
C- The session guys, and he had come back to school to get his teaching degree because he wanted to teach. He had 2 little boys and was a little bit older, so it just happened to be I was placed into the ensembles with him. And I didn’t know who the guy was! I was in the audition and this older guys was playing, and I was like ‘This guy is good!’ People were like ‘You don’t know who that is?!’ Shout out to Chris Parker… I haven’t seen that guy in years! That was a really god experience for me to really hone my craft and really learn how to groove and play in time. Studying Jazz was really good for me.
G- Right on.
C- Yeah. So after that, I’d always been playing in bands in college, playing live hip hop, jazz gigs, rock… Anything I could get hired for. And it led me to playing in The Breakfast with Adrian (Tramontano) and Tim (Palmieri) in 2008, and I’ve been playing with them ever since. We’re kind of on a little hiatus right now, but then I just joined Kung Fu in August, and it’s been a great experience.
I’m just fortunate enough to be playing with great musicians and being able to do it on a regular basis. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be able to do, and I always feel fortunate to be able to play music, you know what I mean?
G- Always, man! Beats the 9-5 that I have!
C- Yeah. I’ve done that.
G- Not as much fun.
C- I’ve laid brick, built stonewalls, worked in a pizza shop. I’ve done it all. I teach music, too, so I balance that. I actually got a job at West Conn., the school I went to, teaching part time for students. So, I teach one day a week, and the rest of my time is devoted to playing and just doing whatever. Right now, this is my main focus.
G- Right on! Well, why don’t you tell us about your rig, and are you endorsed by any companies currently or looking for anything?
C- I am not endorsed. I have, like, a partial thing with DR strings, but that’s about it. Nothing Amp or Bass related.
Right now, I play a Fender American Deluxe 5-string, active/passive bass. I just bought that back in August. It’s a great bass, you know? I played a P-bass for a while, and a custom 5-string, but this is the first Jazz bass that I’ve gotten to play on a regular basis. They’re just workhorses, you know? Great bass!
As far as amps go, I use a Mark Bass amp head, Gallian-Kruger speakers, 4×10 and 1×12 bottom. And I have a synth pedal, but mainly it’s just clean signal. A little distortion once in a while, too.
G- It puts it out pretty good, too. Kung Fu has the low end thump!
C- That’s what I’m going for! Get that punchy, mid range kinda definition, but at the same time I’ve gotta support the band with that low end.
G- Right on. So back to the band a little bit, tell us… Are you guys currently working on, any releases or planning on heading back into the studio? Obviously, you’re on the road and getting ready for festivals season…
C- Yeah. Actually, we have an album in the works right now, which is 75% done, with what’s recorded and mixed and stuff. We’re probably going to release a couple of singles off the album to get it started. There are actually a few things that are out online right now that they’ve been playing on Sirius, a song called “Do The Right Thing,” which will be on the new album.
But yeah we have a lot of new material that we want to get into the studio and record, so at least 3 or 4 new songs that we want to record and get out there.
G- Any tentative titles or anything you can share with us at this time?
C- For the album?
C- Ooh the album is called Tsarbomba.
C- Tsarbomba. Yes.
G- Well, we’ll be on the lookout for that one, for sure. Are you going to be releasing it on CD or vinyl, or anything special?
C- Well, definitely on CD, and we’re thinking about doing some limited edition vinyl possibly…
G- I think you should!
C- Along with a digital download kinda thing with the singles, but probably all 3, to get that content out there (laughs.)
G- Well that sounds good! If you need any help with it, you let me know!
C- Of course. We got you.
G- Now, to get back to the AURA performance that you guys played, the last time I spoke with Tim, you guys we’re heading down that way, and the Nigel Hall set that you guys played was super special, and people are still talking about it. You mentioned it a little bit earlier, but how was it playing those songs with Nigel and just killing that crowd?
C- It was amazing! It was a great experience. I’m a huge fan of Stevie Wonder, and have been for years, especially the bass playing between him and Nathan Watts, you know. Some of my favorite tunes that I’ve been playing for years with different bands and I end up playing with someone of Nigel (Hall’s) caliber and just kill it! And, you know, he plays the Rhodes…
G- Yeah he does!
C- He’s just as matched with his piano playing as he is with his singing. So, it was a great experience. We didn’t know what to expect… We got down there and rehearsed the stuff the day of the gig, 2 hours before. We went to sound check, and everything came together nice, man. We had, like, at least 12-13 songs. I felt like it was great. I was really feeling good!
We had a backup singer and we had a saxophone player, Adam from Lettuce sat is on guitar. He was great to play with, too! So, it was just a great experience to get to play those tunes with musicians of this caliber, and to experience that with that huge crowd was even better!
G- Well, you wouldn’t have been with them if you weren’t of that caliber, so you’re doing your thing as well.
Now, in addition to AURA, You guys were just announced as one of the featured performers at this year’s Catskill Chill festival in September. Since you did the Nigel Hall/Stevie Wonder thing down at AURA, are you planning any special collaborations or stage show for The Chill this year in 2013?
C- For The Chill, umm…
G- Is it a little too early?
C- I’m not quite sure what we’ve got planned for that just yet, but possibly something, you know? Sit in wise, but not really sure yet. We could be rocking some new tunes or something… I don’t know yet, but whatever it is, it’s going to be special.
G- I’m sure. I always look forward to The Chill, and it’s a good way to jump into the fall months… It’s one of the best festivals in the Northeast, so I enjoy it.
C- Yeah. It’s great!
G- So, 2 last questions for you. As a touring musician, you’re away from home a lot and the road is tough. I’ve done it, and you’re doing it a lot more than I ever did… What would you say is the most difficult thing about being in a band and/or on the road?
C- The most difficult thing?
C- Hmm… I would say eating. Eating right and eating healthy.
G- A lot of dollar menu?
C- Yeah. You say you’re not going to do it the first week, and by week 2 you’re eating McDonald’s, Waffle House, whatever. That’s one of the harder things to do for me… Just maintaining a semi-healthy lifestyle on the road.
But other than that, I love it! I almost feel a t home on the road, in the van crammed in or whatever. It’s great and I like it, and there is a good camaraderie in the band and we all get along, so it’s a good time. Except for that guy (points to Riche, their road manager.) No, without him, we’d be lost! We wouldn’t even be in the building right now. I’d be lost in the streets.
G- C’mon, there’s Google Maps, man!
C- That’s true.
G- So, to finish up today, given your catalogue, do you have a favorite song you perform or have written with Kung Fu, or if you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard of Kung Fu before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them and why?
C- Umm, that’s a tough question. Well, “Gung Ho” is one that people respond to a lot. It’s action packed! It’s got really tight funk, but it has that fusion aspect, too. And it has vocals and has everything we’re trying to do as a band… Keep it funky, but also show off our technical abilities on our instruments and as composers. That’s one.
But in the newer sense, there’s one called “Hollywood Kisses,” and that has vocals which I helped co-write, and that’s a great song as well. A lot of the new material… Tsarbomba, the song by Tim Palmieri, is great. We have a wide variety of styles that we go into and can pull off. That’s one of the charms of the band, I think.
G- Dig it. Well, we’ll be checking those out!
C- Sirius has been playing them a little bit. We should play it tonight!
G- I’m with it! Well look, I just want to say again, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today. Play well tonight, travel safe on the road, and we look forward to seeing you at Catskill Chill if not before!
C- Alright. It was a pleasure!