Artist and performer Vice Cooler is known to many as the vocalist of seminal thrash band XBXRX. Others have encountered Cooler’s alter-ego, punk rapper Hawnay Troof on one of his seemingly never-ending tours. Seriously—this guy works hard.
Now, Cooler is getting a solid buzz from his direction of one of the year’s most provocative videos, “Year’s Not Long” by British rockers Male Bonding.
I was fortunate enough to be able to film Vice Cooler and his friends and collaborators when they made that landmark video.
Vice Cooler is gold in my book. He’s a ripper onstage with XBXRX and Hawnay Troof, and now he’s an incredible director. Cooler was gracious enough to take time out of his schedule to chat about gender role assumptions, the need for touch, sports and Male Bonding.
How does it feel now that your video for “Year’s Not Long” is one of the hits of the summer?
Within hours of it being posted I had three new video jobs offers! Which to me is sort of insane considering that I have never aimed to be a director. My immediate feeling has just been one of shock.
This all started because I couldn’t afford to have other people do my own videos (for XBXRX and Hawnay Troof). Signals saw my video for “Everything Is” and asked me to do one for their song “What Dreams.” People loved that one and the work has naturally come to me since. I don’t solicit. I have never studied film and don’t even own a video camera. I just believe that when you do something you should try your best and see what follows.
Are you happy with the Male Bonding video?
I have known the band for years, through their old band Pre. I thought the name Male Bonding was an interesting choice since the boys in the band couldn’t be more opposite of most “male stereotypes.” They’re tiny, well mannered, thoughtful, and don’t have any muscle. That statement made me question my own viewpoint of gender, like, is it fucked up that I just made that statement that they AREN’T the “male stereotype”? That’s me stereotyping! But to me, it IS! AHHH!
Since I was a child I always found most “masculine” things to be erotic. In middle school I played basketball (for one game before getting kicked off—ha!). That energy, to me, can seriously only be matched by cruising bars.
But anyways I always thought of sports as a really boring thing for people to spend time on, but admired its intense eroticism. I think the same thing when I watch men interact at a sport bar, or when I watch bros watching other bros touch each other while a ball is being thrown. You can see lust in their eyes.
So the goal was to fuck with the idea of feminine vs masculine while also presenting it as normal. Because this IS a normal thing that boys do. They play sports, they lift weights, and they kiss. Neither thing is WEIRD. What’s strange to me is the way most people choose to percieve it.
The video isn’t shocking. It’s a fun, feel good video with a bunch of friends. So it was surprising to see some people’s YouTube comments… Dudes feeling really uncomfortable, and I think, castrated by watching it. But to me this is exciting, because they know they are missing the point. Perhaps that reaction will make them think and ask questions to themselves.
But I guess really the bottom line is the sexual tension within sports, to me, holds the same eroticism AND masculinity as sucking a dick does.
What was post-production like?
It was shockingly easy. I approach post-production the same way I do mixing a record. My brain ends up working from that same spot. You get in, lay it out, then strengthen the weak spots, then start over again until you have a presentable piece. It obviously takes time to go through all of the frames, chop them up, put them in…. but nothing terribly exciting or boring. Just sitting in front of a computer with Rich Dorato (who works with me).
How did Sub Pop and the band react when they saw the first cut?
I don’t think there was much room for a reaction. I stuck frame for frame to the treatment that I turned in. The challenge was more in the time that I had to write, shoot, and edit… which was all done in less than one week.
Did they ask for any changes?
Sub Pop told me to blur out Bieber. Though I understood the legal grounds for this decision, it bummed me out. No complaints though.
This pretty much blew up overnight. Did it catch you off guard?
People now recognise me as a director. It’s obvious that people are now paying close attention to my work due to the amount of offers that are now coming in. But this could be a result from both my videos (for Signals and Male Bonding) being in the Pitchfork top whatever video thing. Thats how the industry works. But I’m also fortunate that they are both presented in a media form where tons of people can see it!
What are some of the things that have happened for you because of the video?
Just tons of people wanting to work with me. I’m trying to not take everything on, so I can focus on only one thing at a time. But I also have $4.77 in my bank account and love making things. But really I don’t take this too seriously and am aware that it will probably disappear as quickly as it started.
Do you think anyone was converted to homosexuality?
I could only hope that some kid, in some town we’ve never heard of, will see it and feel more comfortable. But again, I don’t want to present boys making out as funny or a joke, ‘cuz I don’t think it is. The punch line is intended to be the realization, like “Oh shit, what the fuck IS masculine?”
You really have to be careful about how personal life is represented because mainstream media still doesn’t have a “normal” context for gay men. They just think of people like Elton John, John Waters, or Freddie Mercury… guys who wear tight clothes and talk funny… They don’t think “oh this guy is my boss” or “this guy is my friend that I hang out with” (I’m talkin bout NORM STORMS ya’ll).
Has anyone asked you on a date because of the video?
People never ask me out on dates. EVER.
Oh, except Taylor, who’s in the video during the arm wrestling match. But is it considered someone asking you out on a date if its 4 AM and they just keep writing “I want to rim you” over and over again?
Okay I know you have been busy. Please tell me about the two most recent videos you made.
This past weekend was the Abe Vigoda video with the following two days being the Hollerado shoot. Both of them were super intense, with time restrictions and getting the shots right…. But Hollerado was especially stressful because we did a lot of “guerilla” filming. Every shot was a matter of seconds before getting shut down. A good example of this was shooting a murder brawl on the Hollywood Walk of Fame without a permit… it was tense having dudes in bruised make up covered in blood being jumped over the celebrity stars. I was just waiting for the pigs to shut it down. Fortunantly they never did!
And, yes, Jesus did get a blow job in front of In and Out… But I don’t want to go into spoiler mode. Lets just leave it at: the video is fucking insane.
How has the learning curve been as you’ve continued to make videos?
With anything that you do you learn yr ways around the problems. Obvious problems are keeping people on the set, along with their interest and enthusiasm. I would say thats actually the most important thing. A way around this is getting the shots done as quickly as possible. I guess what I took away from the Hollerado one was that I can get away with more than I thought I could… like shooting without permits at the Scientology Building or an in and out blowjob scene involving Jesus.
Would you say that your videos thus far have an overall aesthetic?
If I had an aethetic I guess it would be trying to keep every shot “interesting”, which I suppose could be more of a goal. When I started doing this a few months ago I was talking to my friends Marie and Gina about it. I expressed my general concern about having enough ideas to use in videos when they asked if I was going to keep directing. They both agreed that when anyone focuses on something then it snowballs into more and more creativity. I have to admit that even though I doubted them they have so far been right—I AM getting more and more ideas with every video finished. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have them otherwise.
Which has been the most fun to make?
I think picking a favorite would be like asking a mother to pick which child she prefers! And as with music I have never been interested in repetition. I have never seen a point in a band making the same record twice. They already made it once right? Why fuck with a second time?
This same attitiude applies creativly across the board for me. I mean XBXRX has three record covers with yellow in it. And that drives me insane to notice!
So it’s the same with videos. I don’t see a point in doing any that are similar.
When the Signals one came out I had a few people to ask me to do videos with dogs. I turned them down. When Male Bonding hit people wanted me to do make out party videos. I was like “Dude I already MADE that!”
Repetition and comfort are both fucking boring.
What’s next for you? Are more videos coming soon?
Besides the two videos mentioned above, I am working on shoots for Free Moral Agents and Frankie and the Outs. Got a few other pending jobs on the table.
On the music tip I am demoing work for my first solo album and I go in with Brad Breek next week. Just wrapped up playing some shows with Hawnay Troof and XBXRX. Hopfully at some point I’ll get enough money for a scanner so I can finish my photobook with Mira Aroyo of Ladytron.
On the side I am putting together a benefit LP that will be available through Kickstarter soon. Proceeds will pay for orphaned women’s tuition to go to school in Africa. So far I have tracks from Deerhoof, Tre Told Em (Girl Talk and Hearts Of Darknessess), Mount Eerie, Xiu Xiu, XBXRX, Explode Into Colors, Dan Deacon, No Age, and a few others. Also doing remixes and working with Yasmine Kittles (of Tearist) on a band. We just recorded a solid jam with Juiceboxxx and Butchy Fuego (Boredoms, Pit Er Pat).
SEANCARNAGE.COM is hosting TWO very special events:
Please join us in honoring the hard work of artist Daniel Luedtke (aka Danimal or DNML) from the band Gay Beast at a special summer cocktail party!
Starts at 6pm…
-A showing of Dan’s incredible screen art
-Tours of the world-famous (but rarely seen) Tom of Finland Foundation
-Dancing with DJ Kyle Mabson
-Cocktails & vegan food from Chef Joshua Ploeg
-A limited edition Danimal/Tom of Finland print
-Limited shuttle service from Tom’s dungeon to 9pm Pehrspace concert (see details below)
-A tax-deductible donation to the Tom of Finland Foundation, the world’s repository for erotic art
$15 / 18+ only / 1421 Laveta Terrace in Echo Park
Then at 9pm…
Sister Fucker (members of Child Pornography, High Castle & Coughs)
NASA Space Universe
All-ages / $5 (free for art reception attendees)
Pehrspace—325 Glendale Blvd.
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