By David Jenison
Vice Cooler gives punk rock an art house kick
Four pajama-clad teen girls frolic about the living room unaware that young men are watching from the window. The young vixens, laughing with playful abandon, decide to play Spin the Bottle. The first spin brings two girls within breath’s reach, but the doorbell interrupts. In walks a pizza-delivery guy, whose lips curl into a smirk at the sight of so many flirtatious smiles. An unexpected slap follows, but before Venus in Furs could fire through his synapses, the girls pummel him with fists, fingernails and feather pillows. The once-drooling Peeping Toms are now vomiting like Linda Blair. So goes the two-minute plotline to Cerebral Ballzy’s “Junkie for Her” video, the work of director, photographer, writer and music artist Vice Cooler.
“The video is inspired by the ’80 movie The Slumber Party Massacre,” explains the 27-year-old Vice. “I thought it’d be funny to have the singer deliver the pizza while the rest of the band spies on the girls, but then the girls end up murdering him. You think the girls will be the victims, but we flipped it.”
As a director, Vice— whose retrospective Vice Cooler: Music Videos Screening & Live Music is scheduled for Palm Springs later this month—specializes in art-house productions that make up in original style what they lack in overpriced polish. He evokes another cult classic in Frankie Rose’s “Candy,” which channels the pig-blood prom scene from Carrie (1976), and then raises the bar with a reverse-motion cow-manure dump on Peaches’ head for her “Mud” video. Vice also brings the laughs with Male Bonding’s “Years Not Long,” which features the not-so-manly band competing in a level of macho-homoerotic sports not seen since the Top Gun volleyball scene.
Vice is not yet Marc Klasfeld or Jake Nova, but his rouge style recalls a young Spike Jonze moving from skateboard videos to Sonic Youth’s “100%” and the Breeders’ “Cannonball.” One can only imagine what he’ll do next.
And while his work might suggest otherwise, Vice is actually a clean-living artist. Still, he supports the legalization of cannabis and believes the government only outlaws it to benefit pharmaceutical companies and other campaign contributors.
He explains, “I don’t smoke or take any drugs, but I think it should all be legalized. There’s a reason it’s illegal, and it’s not for public health. There are tons of things connected where money is being made.Californiais in financial trouble, so legalize stuff, tax it and make it safe for people. This would also cut down on a lot of crime.”
These ideas go against his strict Christian upbringing inAlabama, but Vice went prodigal long before talking legalization. Nirvana helped inspire him as a youth, and he soon got into underground music, the Kill Rock Stars label and putting out zines.
“In high school I thought, ‘I can get into speed and meth and acid, or I can get into being creative and touring,’” he recalls. “I was 15 editing together home videos to sell on tour and making our own records. I have always done all these things, and I would still do them even if I couldn’t get paid. For me, not doing it would be like not talking.”
The Ace Hotel, Clubhouse & Amigo Room, 701 E Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, (760) 325-9900;www.acehotel.com. Free. Fri, June 22. 8:30pm.