Since that day I first saw Vice Cooler on stage, I’ve watched as he’s grown as an artist. His newest venture is into the world of music video direction and just like everything else he’s been a part of he’s doing it at a breakneck pace. He’s released no less than twelve videos in the last year and his no plans to slow down.
Tonight there is a screening of these videos plus some unreleased work at the Dem Passwords gallery in West Hollywood with music from The Urxed (Rob from High Places) and SFV Acid. If your a fan of art, music or joy this event is not to be missed.
I met the one and only Vice Cooler on April 21, 2003, at The Chain Reaction in Anaheim. I was still in high school at the time and his band XBXRX scared the daylights out of me. They were loud, fast, bodies all over the floor, throwing fireworks into the crowd. Vice was bouncing around like a living cartoon, throwing his fists into the air and shrieking like he’d just been run over by a car. When we talked that night he was speaking a mile a minute, telling me about some band he had seen a few days before and how I should check them out. I was blown away that this guy who was around the same age as me was touring all over the country and making his own rules. He had a huge impact on me that night.
Since then he’s worked with countless indie icons (Kim and Thurston from Sonic Youth, The Boredoms, The Raincoats, Deerhoof), released a hand full of critically acclaimed solo records as Hawney Troof and with his other band KIT, toured all around the world and left a mark on the indie underground.
Now Vice is a director, and he was gracious enough to discuss his video works in advance of his Dem Passwords retrospective tonight:
Hey, Vice, please tell me a little about those early video projects and how they came about (like the XBXRX live vhs/early music videos)?
XBXRX has always plowed through lineups, live arrangements, styles, and presentation. When we started the band was moving so fast. Sometime we would play a show on a friday night and have 12 people playing in the band, then the next night it would just be 5. We were also getting rapidly banned from a ton of places. I thought it would be a good idea to document the whole thing on a VHS camera and then edit together. What was great is that this wouldn’t be just a document, but a new merchandise piece that would also double as a promotion of our live show.
Now were you the one “directing” and editing this project or were others involved?
I would edit in my moms living room with two VCR’s and a stack of tapes. Our drummer’s mom had a VHS camera from the 80’s that we used to film most of it. Some of the tapes have stuff from other people who would mail us copies in the mail. I haven’t seen the videos in years, but i think they are all credited on each tape? There really wasn’t much to “direct” as the camera was just lying around and band members would randomly grab it to film.
Was this the first video project you were involved in? Did you always have an interest in working with video?
I suppose it was the first project. It was the first time I thought in a “editing” way. Though I never thought of it as anything beyond a necessity for us to get gas money. I love video but to be honest never saught out to do it, I just randomly ended up doing it. Pretty sure the only reason it is what it is is because me and Rich Dorato (who works with me on almost every project in the past year) both have photography backgrounds. I defiantly approach every video I have ever done as a great photo, then think of it a music piece, then as a video last.
To me it seems like your directing career can be broken into two parts (your early more experimental video pieces and the modern VC / Who Ate My Teeth? era) would you agree? If so do you feel like they are both connected…how do you think they relate to each other?
Sure. I still don’t own a camera, and I believe everyone I have worked with on camera in the past year (Rich Dorato, Steve Garcia, Dalton Blanco, etc) are way better at setting up shots than I am. But also it would be ridiculous to think that if I never had those years of experience at doing videos that they would look the same. I hate getting older but one of the perks is experience. As you age you ask better questions. I am always questioning any work of art I’m involved with- music, photography, or film. I learned to question myself through my experience in the past. But also what’s funny is and I was thinking about this while driving last night I feel like working with Rich in video was creatively to me how people fantasize falling in love or finding the perfect drummer for their band. We really understand each others direction and it really makes for a good creative combo. I’m pretty happy to have found that.
So what was the process like for those early videos? Was your first “music video” Offend Maggie by Deerhoof?
Hm I don’t even remember what the first was. I made a bunch with xbxrx before that. And I’m pretty sure some other random stuff. Deerhoof might have been the first external project I worked on hut I made a VHS documentary of our tour in 2000 in 2001.Yeah the process was just shoot and then edit. I mean I thought about framing with the stuff I shot. You can watch those videos and probably be able to pick out when I had the camera.
So how do you and Rich meet?
He worked on the Hawnay Troof “The Gods Are Crazy” video years ago. He did the camera. Adam Franklin directed that and he works on some of the shoots now, doing camera sometimes and lights.
So when and how does your new creative partnership with him come to be?
I did the Hawnay Troof “Everything Is” video and Jacob Safari from Signals really liked it. So he asked me to do their video. I was living out of my car in LA at the time and didn’t have a camera. I told him I would write a treatment if he could find a camera. He suggested Rich. We really enjoyed working together so then when Male Bonding came along Rich helped me edit it since I also don’t have a computer with workable CPU. So it just of blossomed by accident.
So explain how a music video you work on comes together now. What is your treatment process like? How much influence does the band have over the video? What is the normal turn around time from start to finish?
I start by hearing the song. I listen through a few times and write out scene for scene what I forsee happening. I like to go over it every day for a few days but in some cases, like Male Bonding or La Sera, I had to write, organize, shoot, and edit in a few days. Depending on the project it has taken anywhere from 3 days to 3 months start to finish.
My worse nightmare would be a band not liking their video. Whatever happens visually becomes a permanent attachment for the music. So I try to be very, very open with the band and make it extremely clear that I do not want to make them do anything that they are anything less than excited to do. So the bands do have input though all the videos except for two or three have been based on the early treatment and they end up using the first or second edit. I suppose that means we are lucky.
Most if not all of your videos have been made for what most mainstream directors would consider a shoestring budget…how much do you feel that plays into your thought process when making a video?
It just limits certain forms of creativity. My ultimate fantasy involves a really high budget. People are cheap as fuck and expect you to work for free. Not realizing that they are limiting how commercial the video could actually be. From a label perspective these are commercials, not works of art. They don’t care about art. But I have turned down high paying jobs just because I’m not interested in working on those projects. I only take on work I like.
If you were come up with a “wish list” of bands or artist you would love to work with who would they be? And finally what should people be looking for from you coming up? Anything you’d like to say about the event tomorrow?
Making a video for Nirvana would be so amazing! I remember when You Know Your Right came out I thought the video could have been so much better… But I suppose most people who respect the band probably thought the same thing. As far as the future I am working on a lot of things. I am working on the first “Vice Cooler” record. My first show is a few songs on June 6 at Pehr Space. Me and Mira Aroyo (from Ladytron) have been working on this multimedia project together. Hopefully we can get it finished before the end of the year. We also just directed a video together for Smile when I was int he UK. XBXRX and KIT both have new songs coming out. As far as directing there are some huge things on the horizon but I don’t want to speak about them in print yet! Oh yeah we are going to show one or two of videos that aren’t released. If people like music and art they should come. If they don’t maybe go to a bar or a house party.