|Photo by Adrian Discipulo|
Modern Needs is a project spawned by the devious mind of one Mr Vinnie Vacuum. He hires bloodthirsty mercenary musicians for his live gigs to help him bring to life the rousing lo-fi punk rave ups he creates himself in his secret laboratory. To get an idea of the glorious noise these records emit: put on your favorite Crime record, play it at twice its speed backwards, now douse the whole thing in gasoline and light it on fire. The sounds you hear sputtering and crackling in and out of your speakers right before you have to run out of the room is San Francisco's Modern Needs.
Interview by J Castro
Tell me what band or musician first inspired you to want to play an instrument and write your own music?
VINNIE VACUUM: Music has always been in my life and I had played in small, kinda crummy but fun bands when I was a kid, all through my teen years. I grew up around rock music and was exposed to a lot of that at an early age classic rock stuff and alternative and whatnot. I started playing because I thought it was cool. It wasn’t until I really discovered punk rock when I was in middle school that I really got inspired and found my own music as it were. I’d been exposed to it sort of before that (Ramones, Devo, etc.) through my parents, but I dove deep into it, getting into hardcore and all of that when I was around 12 or 13.
You’ve been writing, recording and performing on your releases for a couple of years now. In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of doing this as opposed to working/collaborating with a band?
VINNIE: I don’t have to wait around for anybody to finish a song or rehearse something (unless it’s in a live setting) or record or get input. I can just go for it, and fully execute my vision the way I wanna do it without being outnumbered or anything, which is great for me because I often have trouble deciding what kind of sound I wanna go for. Every song is different. For the creative process, I only see pros, and I’ve learned how to record with minimal equipment and make it sound good. If it sounds good to me, that’s all that counts, and I don’t really give much of a shit about criticism. I’ve already done more with this project than I have with previous ones, because I’m doing it almost completely by myself. As for playing shows, it’s often difficult to get people to play with me since they really don’t have any input, they’re just there to play, and I try to make it fun for them, like with the last group of guys to play with me, it was really fun and we had a good dynamic configuring how things would work in a live setting, and sometimes it’s fun to absolve yourself of a lot of responsibilities and just play for the sake of playing.
You are currently living in the Bay Area, I know there is so much going on there musically. Are there any other current and active bands that you’re into from there?
VINNIE: That’s interesting because most of my friends in San Francisco are more associated with the indie rock scene, whereas I’ve always been more drawn to the punk rock/rock n roll scene, but I still support them because it’s a really good feeling to have friends that are being productive in doing creative things, and that are playing in bands and exhibiting their talent. And I like the fact that I’m kind of a misfit among that crowd musically, because I think it adds variety. If SF were nothing but indie rock, I would’ve stayed away from here. But on the more indie/shoegaze end of the spectrum, I have friends in the bands Plush and Pardoner, and they’re incredibly talented, great folks and are doing well around here. As far as the punk scene goes, obviously Life Stinks are great, and Useless Eaters are in SF and they were a big influence on me. Scraper is also really good. However, I think Oakland has become more of the punk rock mecca in the Bay Area because SF has become pretty ridiculously expensive thanks to the tech boom (and Oakland isn’t getting any cheaper either). But Oakland/East Bay has some killer bands like Violence Creeps and Rays. Lots of things are happening.
Like I was saying before, you’ve been writing and recording your own music for a few years as Modern Needs and you seem quite prolific. I was watching the Jay Reatard documentary Better Than Something and he said he felt like there is only a short creative window that people have in their lives and that he was trying to record and put out as much music as he could before that window shuts. What do you think about that, do you think there is any truth to that?
VINNIE: I can only speak for myself but I wouldn’t say that’s true in my case. I’ve always done creative things, and that’s only increased as I’ve gotten older. I guess there are variables to that as well like how many creative things that you do. You can feel empty and spent of creativity in one area but thrive in the next. I could understand what he meant because I think there’s a certain anxiety involved with a lot of that, but I never felt like it was a race against time.
|Activation b/w Low Life 7" released June, 2015 Goodbye Boozy Records|
You just released an EP on Goodbye Boozy Records, “Activation” b/w “Low Life”, can you tell me a bit about this record and how did you hook up with the folks at Goodbye Boozy?
VINNIE: I guess things kinda snowballed after a blog in Canada put up one of my Bandcamp albums and word got around. Gabriele from Goodbye Boozy messaged me asking if I had any new songs, and this was right after I’d finished recording “Born Defective” the tape that I decided I was gonna release myself. I told him if I had some new ones I’d send them to him. He told me he wanted to do a 7” and I said okay because I liked some of the records he’d put out. I’d never done any official physical releases before that (except the tape which I was doing around that time) because for one, I didn’t really care enough to. I can appreciate records as objects, but it made no difference to me because it’s just sound, and in the collector heavy world of punk/garage/whatever, I guess I wanted to subvert the idea of analog purism and collector fetishism, but also I didn’t really know how to have someone put out my record and didn’t feel like waiting around for someone to put a record out for me and I didn’t wanna spend a ton of money either. But I decided to do the tape as an evolvement of that and lots of punk bands are doing cassettes now, so I kinda said, “fuck it” and did it. And now I have a record out and it’s cool, but I always have a lot of ideas floating around that I feel like I have to get out, so putting out stuff the moment it’s done online is convenient for that. To me, a new release is a new release regardless of the medium. It’s cool that people like what I’m doing, but I don’t care enough to get cred from the old punk/rock n roll record collector geeks of the world even though I can appreciate it. I’m just surprised anybody’s even interested in what I’m doing at all.
You also record dark ambient music under the Vinnie Vacuum name, how did you get into this type of music? Have you heard Alex Cuervo from the Hex Dispensers other project Espectrostatic? Great stuff, I think you’ll dig it a lot!
VINNIE: I’ve never heard of that one, so I’ll have to check it out. I guess it stemmed from me always liking weird/off kilter shit. What really inspired me to start doing noise/ambient music/sound art was my buddy Andrew, who also played bass in the live version of Modern Needs. He did a sound collage under the name Kuririn, and I thought it was incredible that someone could string together all these sounds and make it work sequentially and in terms of the atmosphere. So after that, I decided I wanted to do more abstract stuff on the side as an outlet. I started fooling around on my synth and did a piece that I put online. Then I started doing sound collages, which is really fun. I love making collages be they audio or visual. And then I did a couple of drone pieces, and I’m looking forward to doing more noise-oriented things. It’s fun to fuck around with that shit. I guess it’s also an attempt to alienate punk rockers. Andrew and I did some pretty self-indulgent noise experiments in my old house in Santa Cruz a few months back, which may or may not see the light of day. I look at it as more like art projects than anything official. In a way, you could also say Modern Needs is more of an art project than a real band.
What’s your favorite record to listen to from start to finish? If you can remember, tell me about the first time you heard it, where you were and who introduced it to you?
VINNIE: There’s so many but a recent one that comes to mind is “Esoteric Lore” by GG King. I discovered it when I was probably 18 or so just from being a huge Carbonas fan and realizing that it was Greg Carbona’s solo effort. I was really into it even though it sounded drastically different from any Carbonas stuff. It’s definitely darker and weirder and has a lot of different moods to it, but that’s why I love it. It’s probably my favorite LP of the 2010’s so far.
If you were exiled to a deserted island and were given (A) One food to eat for the rest of your life, (B) One person to take with you, and (C) One artist’s discography to take with you, what would these be?
- The Wipers
Where can people go or log on to hear and buy your music?
VINNIE: Almost all of my releases can be found on Bandcamp at modernneeds.bandcamp.com.
|Photo by Adrian Discipulo|
What lies in the near future? Any touring or record releases coming up?VINNIE: I’m in a transitional period right now having just moved to SF, so I’m kinda starting things over, trying to get things together in my life. Hoping to get some folks together to play with me and do some shows around the bay. No plans for touring for now but one day I might decide to do a short one if I wanted to. I hate traveling. As for new releases, I’m sure I’ll probably do some sort of new release in the near future. As for the format, who knows? Maybe another tape or something, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll get bored with Modern Needs and decide to do something else. I have horrible anxiety so I’m not one to think about these things often because if I do, I start to panic. My number one rule about doing this whole thing is that I live up to absolutely no one’s expectations but my own.