This is (a) Vile Life

On a January Sunday morning, Raw War Records and Punk Scene LA were in the studio at Haven Recordings with Vile Life, a hardcore band from the San Gabriel Valley (SGV).  We realized we were going to be a little late, so we stopped by a Krispy Kreme and brought donuts (cause no one stays mad the person bringing the goodies).  When we got to the studio, the band was setting up to record some tracks.  We made ourselves at home and after getting some footage, we sat down and I prepped myself for the interview. Once everyone got comfortable, with a beer at hand, we were ready to get to know them. Without further ado, I present to you, the Vile Life interview:

Ruben (Vocals): We started playing as this band called Shattered Teeth.  It was me, guitar; Sam, bass; The homie, Bob, vocals; and then we had our friend Chris on drums. We played like that for a while, but Chris couldn’t do it for too long. Jorge came in.  It sounded solid.  Some shit went down with our singer.  We had a show coming up,  [Bob] couldn’t do it.  He was like, “Go ahead, get it done.” We jumped on it with me on vocals.  We liked it like that and kept on doing it. [We] became Vile Life after.

Drew (Guitar): We switched the name up; sound changed a little bit after that.  It just sort me on guitar and Ruben doing vocals and everything sounded pretty well.  We like how it’s going.

Sam (Bass):  Yeah, changed the direction a lot.  When you came on, Ruben.


D: We wanted the name to reflect the new sound.  Plus we didn’t want that same name, since our old singer had to leave.  I know we played around with a lot of different ideas.

Jorge (Drums):  We did, but I feel like we wanted something extremely simple and really just sounds like what the band sounds like.  It’s really cohesive, I think, with Rubens vocals.  Just sounds disgusting.

[The band shares a laugh]

S: Yeah, and the state of affairs things are in right now…

J: It’s kind of a place for us to just let our frustrations out on.  There’s no need to think about it too much.

For a recent band, you’ve played a steady amount of shows.  How do you feel about that, and what are your plans for the future?

S: Touring,  getting an album done,  More merch.  Just getting more stuff out there.

R: Just making better music. It’s continuing to evolve.

J: I think it’s really important that the band as a collective holds on to everything that we’ve done so far without having to feel like things are forced.  Everyone has a day job.  Everyone’s just kind of enjoying each other’s time, and playing when we can, and writing songs when we can.

What are those day jobs?

R: I work for a lighter company. Warehouse, logistics, forklift. The works 

S: I work for in DTLA doing IT.

D: I’m a special education teacher.

G: I work in retail for a tactical company.

If you weren’t doing Vile Life, what would you be doing?

D: Probably trying to get some other musical project going.

G: I think this band came to be because we just hung out.  I think we’d still be hanging out with friends within our group or friends of friends.

S: We all knew each other before this band and we all hung out before this band and it all sort of melded into a band. So if we weren’t doing this, we’d probably still be friends and hanging out either way.

D: Jorge and I have been playing in bands together since we were teenagers; since we were like 16 or something like that.  We were in the same clique of bands, the hardcore scene like SGV.

S: So we’d be doing something with music either way.

J: Everyone’s collectively in their 30s now.

D: For the most part.

What’s a movie or book that’s changed your life?

D: For me, a movie would definitely be Bevis and Butthead Do America.  I grew up worshiping those guys when I was in fourth grade. Having to go to my grandparents house watching the show ‘cause we didn’t have cable.  That definitely influences my personality a lot.

S: Mine would probably be Howard Zinn’s History of the United States of America.  It’s a crazy look at the world it shines a light on a lot of things people didn’t know about history.  You get taught one thing but that’s not the truth you get fed.  It’s a crazy book that goes from basically Columbus to the Clinton Administration, and it’s filled with all this stuff that nobody really knows about or talks about.  I read it in high school and I read it every year.  It’s fucking crazy, but it’s a really good book.  And for movie; I watch movies all the time, and I’d have to say my favorite movie of all time is Forest Gump because it had every movie genre in it.  It had romance, it had war, it had violence, it had comedy,  it had horror, it had sci-fi, it had everything you could think of in one film.  It showed that one dude, who didn’t have anything and didn’t realize he didn’t have anything had the fucking world.  It’s a great analogy, like you could be the lowest person in the world and still be rich.

J: Well, for me, dude, have either of you ever seen Leprechaun? … I went all deep dive and shit.

What about Leprechaun in the Hood?

ALL: Oh yeah!

D: That one’s even better!

J: One movie I saw recently was The Irishman.

S: Oh yeah.

J: It pretty much outlines the way unions came to be.  In short, it was reaffirmation of how there’s two perspectives on things.  Once in a while there will be some grey area, but there’s usually blood that things are built over.  That movie is really interesting the way politics holds out in it, because most of it’s true.  The articulation, and just the way whenever someone’s trying to attack someone, you never really know.  It just kind of happens, and the media just kind of says someone disappeared.  It’s a really practical way of seeing how our nature works… Books: I think the last book I read was The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave. It’s a really dark story, because it talks about It’s a fictional novel based on this character  Bunny Munro who works as a door to door salesman who’s going through trouble with his wife.  I believe she dies, he starts building a second personality and it’s about how his world starts spiraling down.  It’s very interesting; I highly recommend it.

Where would you like to tour?

S: Well, Jorge has pretty much been everywhere.

J: I would like us to go to a lot of different places that are offbeat away from metropolitan areas, just because I know those people don’t get a lot of bands coming through.  Bands don’t usually come through because they’re small niche areas really close to metropolitan areas so most those people just go to the metropolitan areas.  I like playing for people who have zero clue what it is we’re doing and what it is we’re saying.  We played a place, I forgot where it was. What was that place with that band Annihilation Time?  It was out in the middle of nowhere.

R: Out in the boons?  Tehachapi!

S: Tehachapi!  Yeah.

J: It’s not a dream destination by any means.  I’m not saying that in a negative way.  The city’s nice.  It’s quaint, it’s quiet, and a lot of people go to the bar and to the local show.  Some people are just trying to get entertained, they have zero clue what’s going on. So they see this crazy-ass band, like oh this is cool.  I like seeing those people and their reaction because they have no clue what we’re doing.  Then people who are into our culture are biased about things like this isn’t this way, this should be that way and this should be another way.  So I like seeing people who have no clue and are just trying to be entertained…

S: Highly agree; I would for sure like to go to the east coast; do a west coast tour.  I’ve never been up to Canada; I’d like to do that.  I’ve never toured Mexico.  That’d be cool.  Just keep it active as much as possible.

J: Going anywhere would be fucking cool.

ALL: Yeah

J: Lotta small towns in the middle of nowhere.  Towns that none of us know about, but they exist.

What is your favorite comfort food?

R: I like Cheese Danishes.

J: I like peanuts.  I like to snack on peanuts like every day.  I like Chile and Lime.  I think 7-Eleven is a good place for snacks.  There’s these Tequila Chipotle Lime peanuts, and they are highly flavorful.  I fucking love them.

S: I would say probably popcorn.

D: I like popcorn with nacho cheese.

What is the most VILE food combination you can think of?

J: My girlfriend and I made enchiladas with bacon.  We made it like lasagna that was probably like three inches thick.  It was a lot of cheese; pretty decadent.

S: I knew someone who liked refried beans and mayonnaise.

D: That’s not vile, that’s fucking disgusting.  I knew someone who put ketchup on everything too.

R: I don’t like a lot of condiments, like ketchup and mustard…

D: Ah, fuck mustard.

R: …Just a big fucking bowl of that.

What are your personal musical influences?

R: A lot of early hardcore, 80s hardcore.

D: My favorite band of all time would be The Descendants.  I grew up listening to The Descendants.  I love them to death.  Currently what we’re playing now; a lot of the heavier, darker hardcore that’s been coming out is pretty awesome.  Bands like Repulsion, Seige.

S: I’m a big Black Sabbath fan.  Stuff like that drop-tuning we use, the palm-muting we do could be attributed to that.  Like these guys mentioned, we’re all fans of the New York hardcore scene.  California’s hardcore scene.  We all grew up in the scene.  It’s what we grew up listening to as kids.

D: Obviously the 625 and bay area bands.

J: My favorite band is AFI. My gateway into punk and hardcore and everything in between was that band because that band came from the bay area.  Once I found out they played at Gilman, I started searching youtube videos and other bands that played during that time, I think the early 90s. That’s when I found Infest and spazz and I started discovering ?????? So many bands to name, like H2O,  Sick Of It All.  A bunch of stuff.

R: Too many to name.

J: But I’d say that that band is a big influence on me because it’s literally comprised of all the influences that make up who I am.  I kind of carry that everywhere. As a drummer I like to put my spin on things I’ve heard a thousand times.  I don’t like to stray away from having conviction, that’s where vocals are more important to me than drums.  We just play music, so we really have to put trust in whoever’s speaking on our behalf.  That’s the biggest influence on me.

We know there’s a lot of straight-edge hardcore bands in your genre. Are you ever treated differently for not being straight-edge?

S: No.

D: No, yeah.

J: No one in this band is straight-edge.  Although that’s something associated with hardcore, hardcore is vague, there’s so many different styles.  If you want to describe us, we lean more towards the negative aspect of things, not so much the positive.  That’s not to say we’re not fans of that stuff, like Youth of Today…   We’re just trying to convey something completely different.

What is the most memorable thing you’ve seen at a show?

D: I went up to Gilman to see a fest with Municipal Waste, Capitalist Casualties, and a few others.  During Municipal’s set I saw a couch being thrown into the crowd.  They got banned after that show.

J: Was that couch on fire?

D: I don’t think so.  Anything that wasn’t nailed down to the floor was being tossed into the crowd.  So like trash cans, all the cushions.  They haven’t played there since.  They also had beer bongs and trampolines on stage, and a dude coming out dressed like a wizard.

J: I didn’t go to the show, but I saw a video online.  This band, Punch, was playing a festival called Fluff Fest in Europe.  It was huge, there were thousands of people.  The drummer ended up having his entire drum set… This drummer was playing while he crowd surfed.  The people were holding all the pieces and it was amazing because they were all holding them level so he was able to play flawlessly.

D: Any Vandals show is pretty memorable.  Warren’s a madman.

S: I remember one of my earliest shows was GBH, The Circle Jerks, and Toxic Narcotic at The Palace in Hollywood.  The thing that was most memorable was every band was fucking on point.  I still haven’t seen it happen again, two pits broke out and they converged into a circle 8.   I’ve never seen that again to this day.  It was for only one song and happened towards the end during GBH’s set.  GBH headlined it. It was Toxic Narcotic, The Circle Jerks, and GBH.  During I think Give Me Fire, the place turned into a big circle 8 mosh pit.  That shit was craazzyy!

R: The ‘03 British Invasion when the riot broke out.

S: That was nuts.  Some nazis were inside or something like that.  Somebody got stabbed and the cops fired tear gas inside this big airplane hanger and it just turned into a massacre inside.  People were tearing up and running outside.  The punks rioted, turning over cars.  They fucking busted out storefront windows; Laundromats, Jack in the Box’s.  San Bernardino hasn’t had a punk show that big since.  It was on the second year only.

Dream Lineup

S: Since they played in ’78 together, I’d say Black Sabbath and The Ramones.  And probably for shits and giggles, I’d throw in Credence just to see how all that shit would flow.

D: if they ever got back together I would say Dahmer.

S: Dahmer would be dope.

D: I’d say Mezzarine if not Dhamer.

S: I’d say any of those early black metal bands like early Mayhem or Emperor or Dark Throne.

R: I’d want to see Bad Brains in their prime.

J: I’d want to see The Ramones for sure. Maybe Cream.  Maybe MC5.  Maybe Stooges.  I would love to see them when they were savages… licking the floor after a show.

R:  I’d be trying to catch a fuckin G.G. show.

Most interesting serial killer and why?

S: O-oh

D: Right up your alley, Sam.

S: Most interesting?

D: Most morbid would probably be Dahmer for sure.

S: Dahmer was really fucked up

R: Gacy was fuckin creepy.

S:  I like Kemper and what I mean by that is he’s a product of his environment.  His mom berated him to the point where he couldn’t have a relationship with a female, and it turned into hate.  He ended up killing co-eds up and down the California coast in the 70s.  He was so smart that he wasn’t getting caught and he literally turned himself in.  He’s in the California Medical Facility now, and he was one of the first serial killers that dignified the name serial killer before it was considered a name through Ted Bundy.  He helped the whole profiling system for serial killers.  He profiled other killers and he was able to help doctors figure out why these people do these things.  He was done after he killed his mom and his grandmother.  He killed the co-eds up and down and his last killing was his mom and his mom’s friend.  His grandmother and his grandfather he killed when he was sixteen because his grandmother was really really mean to him, and his grandfather came home from grocery shopping and [kemper] didn’t want him to see her dead like that so he fuckin shot him too. He went to Atascadero State Hospital and convinced all the psychologists that he was straight and good to go.  He got released, and started killing women up and down the California coast, befriending cops and going to cop bars.  Finding information about himself so he could find out where to dump bodies and shit.  He literally called up the police department and said “I killed this many people, come and find me,” and they didn’t believe him.  So he went to the police department in person and turned himself in.  He’s one of the highest IQs of serial killers in the world, and it’s a crazy ass story. So, sorry.

J:  Not so much detail, but just the amount of manipulation Charles Manson had.  It’s incredible.

Final Thoughts

J:  Shout out to Haven Recordings.

S:  And Raw War Records.  Punk Scene LA  Come to a show and hang out!

Vile life is Ruben Rivera, Drew Johnson, Paul Gonzalez, Jorge Herrera and Sam Santiago

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