“Improvisational” would be the closest word to describe the current musical work of Vincent Gallo, creator and front man of RRIICCEE, and even that can’t possibly prepare listeners for the show they’ll see on Sunday, October 5, at SOhO. Intentionally unarranged (but not unprepared), RRIICCEE is an effort of three musically inclined artists who perform live music that has never been written or rehearsed.
And though it’s far from typical, this avant-garde style-usually reserved for innovative jazz musicians-is very familiar to Gallo. “When it worked in the past,” Gallo recalled, “it was such a high vibe, and really beautiful. Listening back, listening back as an experiment, some of the things we played were the best things I’ve been a part of. There’s no sense of continuity. We go on stage fearless, open, and also focused.”
When trying to understand exactly what RRIICCEE aims to do, it might be easy to assume they get together and “jam.” Wrong. “Anyone can go into a room and jam, but when composing-and not thinking in the language of arrangements and compositions-sometimes you can create musical vocabulary you’ve never heard or experienced before,” Gallo explained. “Listening back to tapes of what I thought were some of our worst shows, I found they were actually some of our best. It’s nice not to be involved in musical cabaret or cliche. The goal of the show is more exciting. It’s what we do best. It’s not a pale version of prepared and overly rehearsed writings, which aren’t nearly as effective.”
Gallo, who’s on the frontier of something rock ‘n’ roll music doesn’t typically embrace, is offering exactly that: an experience that unfolds on stage before the crowd, a moment so sincere and intimate it can never be recreated. But it’s not as though he’s against recorded music; “I like records and believe music and theatre have a remarkable effect. I’m more excited to go home and listen to a record than go out to a show-and I do record for personal pleasure-but for RRIICCEE, recording would be separate, and meant only to be listened to in that way.”
A few things ticket holders can count on this Sunday are a guitar, bass, melodica, and mellotron. “We use a vibraphone and chamberlain. I’m not looking to play a saw or electric motor,” Gallo deadpanned. “The concept puts focus on instruments rather than musical vocabulary. It’s hard to invent musical form; I’m really classical in that way. I’m into instruments which have survived-melathron and things like that. I grew up and experienced more with tape loops and speed changes, and I like electric guitars very much. It’s an instrument which hasn’t been around long, but it’s rock and roll.” Even with his passion for classical instruments, Gallo recalled a recent film set he’d been on, in which an orchestra was employed. “They were beautiful and played beautifully, but they seemed stuck,” he explained, “and it just wasn’t compelling.”
Despite his cult celebrity status, Vincent Gallo is anything but the type. He self-made his way in the world starting at the age of seven years old and has always been something of an entrepreneur with a raw eye. “My first job,” Gallo mentioned, “was when I bought cinnamon oil at a drugstore and dipped toothpicks in it. I sold them for one penny each in school after I’d seen someone on television do it. They were really strong,” he noted. “Then I started making candles and sold them door-to-door. But when I was 11, I got my first job. It was at a gas station, dog kennel, and restaurant. Then, when I was 14, I worked in a janitorial business, cleaning blinds and waxing and stripping floors. When I left Buffalo I was 16. I worked in a high-fi guitar shop and also as a dishwasher before I had my first art show in 1984. And I didn’t do art to be a celebrity, it wasn’t to make a living,” Gallo said. “I was a proud dishwasher. I didn’t tell people I was an actor. Kids now are so connected to ego that they aren’t playing music to play music-they want something from it.”
Gallo continued on this thought, juxtaposing current young musicians to those of the 1970s punk rock scene. “Now the art world is bigger and more prolific than ever, but it’s not affecting the way people think and act. People now look at the punk and noise scenes and have no idea how remote the possibility of them passing a record deal was. It was so remote : Playing was this celebration of sharing, an exchange, and [it] was personal and occasionally an intimate exchange with the audience. Charisma, honesty was gigantic for the Ramones, for example-and Johnny Ramone was my best friend. They played to get by.”
Vincent Gallo and his band RRIICCEE will play SOhO (1221 State St.) this Sunday, October 5, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available online at clubmercy.com or sohosb.com. Call 962-7776 for details.