When MTV2 started airing episodes of VBS.tv — Vice magazine’s video documentary series — it did more than introduce fans of From G’s to Gents and Cribs to North Korean tourism, Mexican death tabloids, and the Japanese sex industry. It also turned viewers on to the raw garage punk of Imperial Valley–San Diego band Slab City. Each episode of the series opens to the Slab City tune “Milwaukee’s Beast” (think of how Jackass opens to the Minutemen’s riff from “Corona”).
While most bands would kill to have one of their songs picked as the theme for a TV series, Slab City keyboardist Ernie Quintero just shrugs it off.
“I know it’s been running, but I don’t watch MTV, so I don’t know when it’s been airing,” he says.
The backstory on how Vice ended up with a CD of Slab City tunes is one of those right-place, right-time rock-n-roll stories.
After Quintero followed around the Spits with his video camera for almost a year, the Seattle band invited him to roadie and film their 2004 U.S. tour. The Black Lips joined the Spits for the East Coast leg of the tour, and after hanging out for a week or so with the break-out Atlanta band, Quintero promised the Lips to show them around if they ever came to San Diego.
“I told them, ‘Next time you get to San Diego, I’ll take you to Tijuana.’ Eventually they did make it to town, and of course, they wanted to go to TJ. The trip ended up being a West Coast tour, and I just jumped on the road with them,” he says.
That short trip led to an invitation to roadie for the Black Lips on a two-month tour of Western Europe and Scandinavia in 2006. Before heading to Europe, Quintero met the quartet in New York as the band was working out their deal with Vice’s record label. The magazine was starting up VBS.tv around the same time.
“A few months after that tour, I helped set up the show for the Black Lips’ live Tijuana album [Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo]. I put them in touch with John Reis and the venue in Tijuana. VBS had me do some of the filming of the Tijuana show. I gave the VBS people a [Slab City] CD when they were in San Diego, and I’ve been in touch with them since.”
The details of Slab City’s television deal are vague, but not because the band is guarding its connections. When asked about the particulars of the deal, Quintero shrugs again, “I don’t know…I didn’t read it. We had to sign a release for the VBS show, then for MTV we had to sign another one. They paid us $200.”
Quintero’s connection to the Spits also landed them another video track on the upcoming Creature Skateboards DVD for pro skater Al Partanen’s segment. “We got a hundred bucks for that,” he says.
“Skaters being fans of the Spits and touring with the Black Lips, I know that gives us an edge, and I’ll work with it, but I know if our music was really shitty, they wouldn’t be using it for anything.”
The Black Lips play the Casbah on Thursday, April 16.