It's hard to know what to make of it when Vincent Gallo blurts out that the biggest insult one can hurl at him is to call his films or music "art." It's an odd declaration for the 46-year-old musician, actor, writer and director of such films as
Buffalo 66 and The Brown Bunny. His works are touted as sleazy descendants of such art-house luminaries as John Cassavetes or Jean-Luc Godard, but for Gallo the comparisons couldn't be further off-base. "Art is something that is done without purpose, and I have a very clear purpose," Gallo says. "I'm making music and films for enjoyment. I would never do something without purpose."
His words require some explanation when considering that his new musical project RRIICCEE (not pronounced like the food, but spelled out) is a freeform ensemble that goes on stage each night to perform spontaneous compositions that are free of any prewritten songs, melodies or genre allegiances. Sound pretentious? It wouldn't bear the fingerprint of Vincent Gallo if it didn't. After all, this is the same guy who offers his sperm for sale under the merchandise link on his website (www.vgmerchandise.com) for $1 million.
In the '80s he played in the no-wave band Gray, alongside the king of pomp, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. He also cast himself in his film The Brown Bunny, in which he receives a real, onscreen blowjob from actress Chloë Sevigny. Postmodern megalomania is his calling card. But the genuine enthusiasm in his voice and the methodically defined intentions that he spells out over the phone from his home in Los Angeles bring the implications of such a band full-circle.
The lineup for the group features Nikolas Haas (drum kit and a drum machine), Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson (bass, drum machine and electronic gadgets), Rebecca Casabian (keyboards) and Gallo (melotrons, melodica, guitar and bass). Needless to say, the group's approach does not jive with the idea of recording, and to date RRIICCEE has no plans to record any material for public consumption.
The aim of RRIICCEE is to capture a pure, beautiful and in-the-moment musical experience. Gallo is delicate with his words when he explains this, being careful not to employ that dreaded "a" word. "The goal is always to make work that is better than yourself," he adds. "I am a buffoon. If my work is only as good as me, then it is buffoonery. So I wanted to go past myself."
His is not experimental music made for the sake of experimentation. As Gallo explains, improvisation is not the right word for the group's brand of spontaneous composition and performance. "Improvisation means committing to a musical form or vocabulary," he says. "We're creating composition, which means we need to be conscious and reflective. We are spontaneous and we are inventing, but we're not wallowing in scales. We're trying to organize structures that we recognize in the moment, that make compositional sense and build upon those. Conscious is the best word for what we're doing."
Gallo wields the word "conscious" almost as a weapon as he blasts the average band for what he describes as "pantomiming cabaret" and performing the same songs and going through the same motions every night.
RRIICCEE strives to break free by placing no limitations on what happens on stage. As dangerous and self-indulgent as it sounds, Gallo stands by the group's drive not to be musical contrarians, but to create beautiful music as a proactive band.
"I am trying to be as open as possible," he adds. "If I'm not making music that is better than me or beyond me being the asshole that I am, then ... eventually I will create my own cliché. And I'm hoping to avoid that as much as possible. There are a lot of risks with that, but I would still rather go see a band play a show that was harder to get into than see a show that was totally predictable."
Editor's note: The date for the RRIICCEE show has been corrected to reflect the original date, Dec. 5. CL was asked to change the date earlier today, 12/04, based on information from the show's promoter. That information was incorrect. CL has since confirmed the date shown above is the correct date. We apologize for the inconvenience.
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