“Morrissey must hate fat girls.” And with that observation by guitarist Jason Hurt, I was given notice as what to expect when I stepped outside to interview the men of Deadly Fists of Kung Fu on a night when they opened for 80’s British rock group Modern English.
Modern English, touring with their original lineup of Robbie Grey (vocals), Stephen Walker (keyboards), Michael Conroy (bass), Gary McDowell (guitar), and Richard Brown (drums) and with a re-recorded version of their signature 80’s hit “I Melt With You” under their belts, the British group hit the Vinyl Music Hall stage with opening act Deadly Fists of Kung Fu performing as The Exploding Boys in tribute to The Cure.
After The Cure tribute, headliners Modern English took over the Downtown Pensacola stage. Before jumping into “Hands Across the Sea”, lead singer Robbie Grey tossed of his sport coat, and announced his pleasure with the crowd and the fact that this was the first time that the original Modern English lineup has played Florida in 25 years. The crowd was more than appreciative of the band’s return, especially when the group finally pulled out their hit song that was featured in Nicholas Cage’s film “Valley Girl.
After the show, the members of Deadly Fists of Kung Fu (Phread Touchette (bass), Zac Hobbs (vocals/guitar), and Jason Hurt (guitar) stepped outside Vinyl Music Hall and into a narrow alley way to answer a few questions about tribute sets, comic books, their favorite concerts/shows of all-time, Why Jason and Alex Steward are not allowed to have mics together, James Brown “quotes” and more.
***INTERVIEW WITH DEADLY FISTS OF KUNG FU***
WARNING: IF THIS INTERVIEW WERE A MOVIE, IT WOULD RECEIVE A PG-13 RATING FOR LANGUAGE AND OCCASSIONAL VIOLENCE WITH MEN IN TIGHTS
TCAS: You’ve just finished The Cure set and you’ve been known to do a lot of crazy tributes (in the past they’ve rocked sets ranging from Prince, Tom Petty and The Cars before. (photos and article from Deadly Fists of Kung Fu The Cars tribute set at Vinyl Music Hall-oween show) How does this rank as far as tributes…
Jason: I sort of put it in the middle because it feels like we played it really well and that’s not as much fun.
Zac: In the spirit of The Cure, I’d have to say it was abysmal. (nearly evil chuckles ring from the trio)
TCAS: Did you guys consider dressing up? I know you guys have dressed up for other shows before (the band didn’t dress up on this occasion.)
Zac: We dressed up last time we did The Cure.
Phread: I had my skinny jeans in the car…I just never put them on.
Zac: My mom bought me a Siouxsie & The Banshees shirt just for this show. I’m the only 34 year old guy on earth whose mom bought…
Jason: There was thought of dressing up, but then the air-conditioning went out in my truck and so…you know…
TCAS: How did you guys get (Alex) Steward in the band?
Jason: Andy B.’s (Andrew Bennett) our regular drummer. He’s on hiatus right now, so…you know Alex is our buddy and Alex is a hoot! And Alex is about as kick ass drummer as there is on earth. So…
Zac: It’s like when that one guy on Voltron died. What was that guy? (short pause to recollect the name and then instantly) Sven!
(The trio jump into a simultaneous outburst rivaling the most seasoned improv comedy troupes.)
Zac: Sven died and the other guy came and dropped the Blue Lion. Or Sven was the replacement guy…
Jason: No. The Princess. You’re calling Alex the Princess….
Phread: He’s a total princess.
Jason: Yes. Yes, you’re calling Alex the Princess…
Zac: He’s like the Princess of Voltron…with better hair.
Phread: He’s got the helmet.
TCAS: What do you have coming up as far as shows?
Zac: Nothing solid right now…
Phread: Well, besides that slumber party…that’s not public.
TCAS: Very private. Private Eyes Wide Shut party.
Zac: He was in Cockfight, you’re not going to freak him out.
TCAS: I’ve seen some crazy. You guys were in The Deads (formed by Eugene Swank of The Scaries and most recently The Ghostown Phantoms) so when did you guys start the Deadly Fists of Kung Fu?
Jason: It’s funny. The Deads. I f*cking loved The Deads. It was a great band, but we had that problem where nobody in it could get along. Like we all just hated each other, except for me and Zac. And the other guy we thought we got along with…after it was all over we found out…”No, I hated all of you f*cking guys.
Phread: You mean Zac?
Zac: Still is. I still hate all you f*cking guys!
Jason: But yeah, that’s how we first did a tribute set was after it was all over. It was like being in a band was a bummer for awhile so we just did this Tom Petty set to have something to do. And that was the first time Zac had ever sang and then it was like, why have you not being doing this the entire time? Why have we been putting up with singers since…you know…high school? So then we just started being a band as Deadly Fists of Kung Fu. Instead of doing Tom Petty songs, we do Tom Petty rip-offs.
TCAS: The superhero theme. I remember you guys used to have Captain America on the amps. Do you still carry on that tradition now? Is that a tradition? If you didn’t have them would you lose your powers?
Jason: You know what…we’re not as good as when we don’t have amp toys. So yeah, we definitely need…
Zac: I do get a little bit more excited when I have a man in tights to turn around and look out. Empowers me.
TCAS: So how did Phread get involved?
Zac: God, I have no idea.
Phread: I lost a bet.
Jason: We’ve had more bass players than Spinal Tap’s had drummers.
Zac: There have been like seven of them.
Jason: But Phread was the first and hopefully last of our bass players. So he is like the sandwich around the other bass players.
Zac: He’s also several of the meats.
TCAS: No vegetarian here, huh? How does the music come about? Do you sit around and jam?
Zac: There’s actually very little of that. We don’t jam very well.
Jason: We’ve tried to write as a group and it’s terrible. So we’re trying to write some new stuff.
TCAS: I’ve got to ask you this Jason. I know you like to banter with the crowd…
TCAS: Has it ever gotten you in trouble at a show or anything?
Jason: You know. It’s funny. We had Alex with us tonight. And one of the conditions was we couldn’t give Alex and I a microphone. And the whole time I was wondering is, “What the f*ck could he have said that’s worse than what I’ve said?” But no, I’ve never…like, surprisingly, no one has ever tried to kick my ass. I’ve never gotten kicked out of a show. There was one guy who got really pissed at one time when I said Lynyrd Skynyrd was from Alabama. But that was about it; that was the worst problem I ever had. Well the Van Zants are from Florida, but who gives a f*ck? You know! Lynyrd Skynyrd the band is from Alabama.
TCAS: What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen?
Jason: My favorite show personally. I guess 2000. Me and Zac and Zac’s girlfriend were going to see J Mascis + The Fog, which was Dinosaur, Jr. not being called Dinosaur, Jr., but when Mike Watt (Photos and article from the Mike Watt show at The Handlebar with Lite and Deadly Fists of Kung Fu opening) was playing with them. And on the way there Zac and I got into a fight and I had them drop me off at my granny’s house. And had someone else pick me up and then saw the show. But it was like the best show ever because Mike Watt was playing with them and they did all of these Stooges and Black Flag covers and it was just awesome.
TCAS: And you guys made up.
Jason: And we made up, yeah!
Phread: By knocking boots.
Zac: We’re bringing it back.
TCAS: (To PT): Favorite concert?
Phread: That’s hard to say. I saw Liz Phair at the 9:30 Club in D.C. and that was pretty f*cking awesome actually.
TCAS: “F*ck and Run” (Liz Phair song).
Phread: In her time…she’s sexy.
Zac: I would have to go with the Afghan Whigs at The Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans.
Phread: Oh man, that was…
Zac: Yeah, that was wonderful. I saw him (Greg Dulli frontman and architect of the Afghan Whigs) pass out on stage. Which was pretty awesome. They counted him out like it was a wrestling match.
TCAS: Did he finish the show or was that the end of it?
Zac: That was the end of the show, which was fine because he had done it for entirely too long at that point. I was one of like six people down there.
Phread: They played the Nite Owl and that was awesome.
Jason: Yeah, the Nite Owl they did that count to 36 before they started. Do you remember that? And they played “Retarded” twice because Pensacola was so retarded for “Retarded”.
TCAS: Who would you guys like to play or tour with?
Zac: Dinosaur. I’d love to play with Dinosaur Jr.
Jason: I would love to play with Dinosaur. I think right now, I’d really like to play with the Hold Steady.
Zac: Yeah. I’d like for The Replacements to do a reunion tour and us to play on it.
Jason: I would like for us to just go on tour as The Replacements.
TCAS: A lady, when you guys were playing, was screaming, “Now that’s a rock n’ roll band. No tattoos, no piercings, that’s rock n’ roll.” So none of you have piercings or tattoos?
Zac: Oh no, we have tattoos…but they’re hidden.
Jason: One of our other bass players, Scott Alvarez, he’s a tattoo artist (Alvarez’s Skin & Bones Tattoo Parlour Grand Opening w/ Kent Stanton performing). She would have hated us then.
TCAS: She loved you guys.
Zac: That’s a rock n’ roll band with tattoos. If she’d known the truth.
TCAS: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Zac: Well, there’s always “Don’t pet a burning dog.”
Jason: I feel Admiral Ackbar (Star Wars Return of The Jedi) with “It’s a trap.”
Phread: Watch out for that.
Jason: I have a little devil and angel on my shoulders. The angel is Admiral Ackbar saying “It’s a trap” and the devil is James Brown saying “Smell it, taste it, stick it in your mouth.” And those are my two favorite bits of advice and I don’t know if James Brown ever said “Smell it, taste it, stick it in your mouth.” (At this point, everyone outside is rolling with laughter) But I feel like he probably did at some point.”
TCAS: Can you guys top that one?
Zac: No, no. I’m going to have to go with “Smell it, taste it, stick it in your mouth.”
Phread: Don’t roller skate in a bath tub. Bad idea.
Jason: There’s not very far to go, except down.
Phread: Which goes back to “Smell it, taste it, stick it in your mouth.”
TCAS: DC or Marvel?
Zac: Oh wow. Depends on what you’re asking.
Jason: I’m more of a DC person in that I love Superman and Batman. But I love the big overgrown cosmicness of the Jack Kirby characters like The Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom and stuff like that. So it is hard for me to say. Most of all, I just like men in tights punching each other.
Phread: That’s a good quote.
Zac: Marvel is just a little bit more circular and God, by no means are they simple. They’re just a little bit more simpler than DC. It’s a lot bit easier to grasp it. I have to go with, I’m a bigger fan of DC’s characters, but Marvel’s stories. Really they’re right there. They’re a little easier to read. And in no way are they an easy read. Their movies don’t suck nearly as bad.
Jason: That’s true. But DC’s got better cartoons.
Zac: DC does have better cartoons.
Jason: But cartoons don’t make as much money.
Phread: Man, if I had to choose, I’d go with DC, but I prefer the indie stuff. I used to like Image back in the day. Because I’m a hipster.
TCAS: Serious question. Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
Phread: Easy. Creamy.
Zac: See, I dig the crunchy, but I can never get anyone to help me finish the jar and I’m not going to eat the whole f*cking thing. I like the crunchy, but it hurts my gums a little bit, but I think it’s worth it.
Jason: It lasts.
Zac: The crunchy? It doesn’t last as long. The creamy is a way better plan.
Phread: I’m just saying, you said…(The trio go off into another playful argument)
TCAS: Anything else you want to add before the end?
Jason: I feel like I haven’t embarrassed myself once, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead.
-Michael L. Smith
Link to more photos from the concert by PNJ photographer Phil Bailey