One of the most pure forms of the Ska-Punk (or Punk-Ska) sound you’ll ever hear, comes from the Tijuana natives Los Kung-Fu Monkeys, who with their multi-cultural background have carried the torch of Latin music to far-away places like Germany and Belgium, while still inspiring the underground ska-core/punk scene in Southern California be what it is today.
We chatted with front man Bernie Leos and asked him about the band’s 17-year-old history and how he has seen the punk and ska scene change and grow. We also took the advantage to ask him about his work as a tour production manager and got him to modestly “name-drop” some of the people he has worked with.
LatinAlt: What was the vision for the band when you first got together, did you plan to sing in both Spanish and English or was it something that got molded over time? Also talk about the different sounds you guys have explored in the length of your career.
Bernie: We were in high school and we wanted to start a band, get out all that teenage angst and play music. We started singing in both languages, we are border kids, we grew up in Tijuana where we share customs from both the US and Mexico.
And as far as our sound goes, we are a punk-ska band but we do experiment with a lots of different styles of music like reggae, metal, hardcore, pop, folk, etc…
LatinAlt: Tell us a bit about the many cities and countries you've reached as a band, I know you've been playing in front of some big crowds lately in some important festivals too, tell us about those a bit.
B: We have played in over 15 countries including Germany, Canada, Croatia, Mexico, England, and many more. Cities like Hannover, Prague, London, etc… Festivals are always fun, we have played some like Warped tour, Vive Latino, Titail Festival (Belgium), #QueMePreguntenFest in Mexico City, which had a central theme of protest against the Energetic Reform of Peña Nieto (Mexico’s newly “elected” President). These are just a few, we have been lucky to be a part of many in our time as a band.
LatinAlt: How was the ska and ska-punk/core scene when you started, what made you want to put in the good o' horns in the band.
Bernie: It was starting, so there weren’t many bands, but it was an amazing scene. It grew as time passed, but in a certain way we are part of the first wave of ska punk or ska core bands that came from Mexico. We always wanted to add horns, we were listening to all the punk and ska bands like the Suicide Machines, Rancid and Voodoo Glow Skulls and it was a natural step to add the horn section.
LatinAlt: I know you personally have a lot of inside knowledge of the genre because you are the "go-to-guy" for booking punk tours in TJ, talk about your personal history in this aspect of the "game," and how do you see the future of punk and ska? For both underground and mainstream scenes.
Bernie: I started getting in to the “Game” on management, booking, and such due to necessity. No one was interested in booking a tour for us, so I got into it and I never stopped. I started booking Mexico tours for bands like Union 13, then for Voodoo Glow Skulls, The Casualties, Wisecracker from Germany, The Toasters and many more punk and ska bands that, it actually became my first Job, I never did anything else and that gave me my first start to get me where I am today in the industry. Some of us dedicated our lives and work completely to music, and not just playing but also working production, management, recording, etc. I have also been the production manager for tours of big artist’s like Enrique Bunbury, Zoe, Los Amigos Invisibles, Nortec Bostich + Fussible and some others.
And how do I see the Ska Punk for the Underground and Mainstream scenes? Growing, it is not the popular genre at the moment, but I do notice that at least in the world of latin rock, the biggest bands are ska bands, so I see a bright future.
LatinAlt: What's in store for Los KFM in the near future? I heard you've been recording an album with Steve Loree (Jr. Gone Wild, Less Than Jake) as a producer.
Bernie: Yes, new record on the way, the same you saw us do part of the recording (yes, I was there). Steve is an amazing producer, he has recorded some of our favorite bands like The Real McKenzies and SNFU, great guy that is easy to work with and brings out the best in you, I did vocal parts I never knew I could do… I am very happy to be working with him.
And as of next year we will tour again, keep posted for dates. LA