Vincent Gallo will probably always be best known for his film work (Buffalo '66, Brown Bunny), but he's actually had a rather interesting music career as well. In 2001, Warp Records released his non-soundtrack solo debut When, a critically acclaimed effort that is one of the most avant/indie albums you’ll ever hear from anyone who has crossed the music and film divide. Now Gallo has returned with a new project called RRIICCEE, a 4-piece touring band (Gallo, Rebecca Casabian, Nikolas Haas and Eric Erlandson, formerly of from Hole?!) that will be, as Gallo likes to put it, "spontaneously creating" new music for each performance. RFC caught up with Gallo via phone two weeks ago just as the band was hitting the road for the first gig on their inaugural tour that brings them into Chicago Saturday night for a late show at Schubas.
There's no bio on your homepage and nothing specifically was mentioned on the press release I got, so how did this whole thing come about?
I’ve seen Eric around for years, I saw his former band play quite a few times…in 1996 we went on a double date one night and I sort of got to know him a little bit better then. One time in New York we were in a really sleazy house party and hanging out looking at each other like, ‘what the fuck are we doing here?” Just about a year ago I bumped into him again, only this time at a really esoteric health food store. And we got into a round of small talk and I ended it with a ‘hey, are you doing any music these days?’ and he sort of snarled at me and explained to me that he didn’t want to be part of that problem anymore. That’s exactly what I was thinking in a sense at the time, so a couple days later I called him up and asked him to play music together. I was so inspired by his comment, that it just reflected somebody who was not caught up in that old story and the clichés and the ego of the old story. It was really incredible right away. It was really exciting and it really felt like the exchange was coming from real openness. The music that we made together was immediately better than either of our egos or what we thought we knew.
How did the rest of the band come together?
Eventually, we got the idea to go out in public event and just look for somebody who had a good vibe…someone who was interesting looking, weird looking, something about them that would draw some attention to Eric and I. We went out to this street fair and the first person we found we would go up to them and ask them to play music with us. It didn’t matter if they had ever played music, it just mattered that they were open to the concept. Rebecca Casabian was the first person who we approached, really the only person we approached. And we had a very casual exchange, it wasn’t really clear that she was interested, but a couple days later she emailed me and said that she was. It just was incredible because the first time we played together she fit in completely in with the spirit and the mood we were going after. Then, soon after that, we invited another person [Nikolas Haas] who had a very sensitive attitude to the same regard and the four of us are now a real musical group. …it’s sort of like people when they meet their romantic partners. If they are really unhealed they immediately find somebody to play into the unhealed part of their emotional light and if they’re really open for more a progressive exchange then they find someone in that way. These things happen very quickly because they are part of you…part of your story.
You've been busy working on films the last few years and your last album came out in 2001, so was the band a result of you getting the itch to play music again?
During that period I was still making music, but my output…to be quite honest with you I’m working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. In spite of the fact that I’m constantly busy, a lot of that energy is put toward things that don’t produce career material. If I’m in the studio fixing equipment, learning, growing, buying, selling, reading, writing, you know…whatever it is. Music was going on during that period of time, especially things related to music, but it was very unusual and I feel very lucky to meet 3 people that are not stuck in musical clichés that also want to play with me. And 3 people that are trying to do things better than themselves than their own ego and better than their own expectations. And so, it’s not like for the past 5 years that wasn’t available to me everyday and everywhere. But then again, like I said, I had to be ready for that so maybe I wasn’t completely ready before.
You know, you do a record and then right away people…even Warp Records, which is a very cool group of people, they still, when they refer to me doing another record, they use words like “follow-up”…what the hell is that? That’s what they used in the movie business after I did Buffalo 66…the follow-up, the follow up to Buffalo 66! The Brown Bunny wasn’t a follow up to anything and the project that I’m doing now with Eric, Rebecca and Nik is not a follow up to my records with Warp Records. In fact, I’m not any more of a dynamic member of the band than anybody else is. This is a real musical group, it’s not a Vincent Gallo vanity project or a side project. I’ve chosen to join bands in a group and be a part of that. This isn’t the next Vincent Gallo film, you know?
Most bands obviously record music first and then hit the road to promote their record, however RRIICCEE is essentially doing the opposite...touring before any music is written or recorded and then seeing what happens spontaneously on stage instead of in a studio. Thinking purely from a creative standpoint or from a musician's perspective, I can definitely see the appeal of this...after playing the same songs night after night after night, there's certainly some inspiration lost there.
And the people that go to see that…they’re seeing cabaret, they’re going to see dinner theater. For example, I’m very friendly with some of the guys in the [Red Hot Chili] Peppers, and Frusciante is a really beautiful person, Flea is a very beautiful person and even Chad…and their hearts are in the right place and they’re sincere… but they really are going out night after night playing stadiums of people playing their record. Doing it night after night after night…I can’t imagine. One explanation that they’ve been doing it 20 years, short of sounding...let’s just say that where they’ve gone in their fashion, their philosophical views, their relationships, their music…isn’t as profound a jump as other people have gone in 20 years. I mean, 20 years…in 1969 could you have imagined 1989? Could you have imagined anything about 1989? That’s a really long period of time to be sort of stuck in a similar hue, or color or something. Part of that comes from them choosing to be open to that lifestyle. Knowing Flea, knowing Frusciante who are really remarkable individuals and creative people, I feel that in a sense the band prevented them from being the person who they could really be. And in a sense, they sort of invested a lot of energy in being the person and the people they learned to be. And certainly it's not the lifestyle that I’ve chosen in my work ever in the past. And I hope that I don’t fall into that.
And that doesn’t mean that we won’t record a record, it doesn’t mean we may not write a song that sounds like a conventional song..or that’s on the radio or play a stadium. It just means that we’re not doing those things out of unconsciousness. That’s really the difference, we’re not provoking or contrarian, we’re just staying conscious. That’s all, we’re not going into unconscious behavior or habit…and that’s it.
Without pinning you down to come up with any cliched genre terms, can you give us a vague idea of what RRIICCEE might sound like?
The music that we’ll make…you know, it’s coming from us. I have a certain taste, Eric has a certain taste, Rebecca has a certain taste and Nik has a certain taste. Nik has been experimenting with a lot of percussive things, drumming, etc. but he is playing some flute. Eric has really been focusing on effects and machines and soundscapes and Rebecca seems to more naturally feel comfortable when she’s with the piano, keyboards…something with that feel. And I seem to play a lot of stringed instruments and also some keyboard things. We’ve tried some vocal things…and when I say try, meaning we’ve done that. I’ve started singing, Rebecca started singing…it’s not like I’m going to force anything, but something keeps coming up.
Will you be recording these shows and possibly culling through the tapes later to put together an album?
I think I may record every show…I was going to actually film every show, but I felt that if I were going to be truly open musically, then documenting would require me to find a partner or crew that could allow me to not think about that at all after I set it up. I just couldn’t find a crew that didn’t keep relying on me for everything…you know, calling me like immediately with question after question and dragging me back into filmmaking. And so, I abandoned the project in that way. In any case, I will record every show for archiving things in case we want to refer to them or reflect on where we were at that time, sort of like a family album. But no intention of culling those recordings…the photos in your family album are not artwork and that’s what these recordings will be.