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"People get onstage and ruin our equipment," says Diaz. "They knock over my drum set. They knock over Jared's bass amp. One time they smashed Andy into the wall. His hand got cut open and was bleeding."
It isn't unusual for girls dressed like Courtney Love, or even like Louvau himself, to ask band members to sign their body parts or undergarments. The fans continue to be rowdy, but the band says they have come into a whole new musical and stylistic realm.
"We're kind of into stars and the Chinese vibe," says Louvau, revealing the thematic focus of the group's forthcoming album Chinese Pornography. "I have a star tattooed on my arm. Jared has stars tattooed all around his nipples." They painted their once-pink amps black and changed their logo from "a hot-pink glowy lookin' thing" to a star with the band's name spelled across it. And they've chucked the dresses.
"We started wearing suits 'cause with the dresses we looked like cheap whores," adds Bakin dryly.
The sound has changed, too, from a raw mechanical grind to a more radio-friendly industrial sound fused with samples and catchy melodies.
Victims in Ecstacy's recent creative resurgence followed an extended bout of writer's block that seriously threatened the group's future The band "all of a sudden got creative diarrhea," says Bakin. "We kind of went through a musical puberty."
Emotional highs and lows bleed heavily from every track on Chinese Pornography. In fact, if it weren't for Louvau's clever blend of pathos and comedy -- a sense of humor that keeps the lyrics from veering into tragedy -- VIE could slip easily into the realm of goth gloom. "I've yet to write a happy song," claims the lead singer, whose world view is about as sunny as a 10-car pileup.
The band promises that Pornography will sway critics who have long assailed the band for being a prime example of style over substance. Having recruited top-drawer talent to help them -- Pornography's "New Tasted" and "Nothing" were recorded by Los Angeles producer Synical while the rest of the album was overseen by Mark Matson of Sipping Soma -- their prediction may hold water. The finishing touch on the new-and-improved VIE was replacing guitarist Kaufman with Ken Bergeron, the band's ex-sound man who lives in Louvau's and Bakin's dining room. A formal audition never took place.
"It was a constant audition actually," says Bergeron. "See, I lived with Jim and Jared, and I'd wake up every morning and just play the songs for them in the doorway."
Louvau remembers it differently. "He'd just fuck it up in the front door in his boxers and just play our songs over and over. We were like, 'Go into your room and close the door. Oh wait, you don't have a door.'"
The union has been successful as evidenced by the gathering attention surrounding VIE. Recently, the band made a brief appearance on MTV's Fanatic, as well as earning some airtime on local radio. The group was also selected to perform at the grand opening of the Phoenix industrial club The Machine and has opened shows for touring acts like Jack Off Jill, Life of Agony and the Genitorturers.
"We want to get out of this town as soon as possible," says Louvau, whose frequent excursions to the City of Angels have left him hungering for a permanent taste of the big time. "If we don't get signed, we'll live in cardboard boxes, literally. If you want to make it in the music industry, you can't look at it any other way. This is my life or it's the cardboard box."
A typical tour goes like this: "We load up in two cars and we go stay in a $40 porno motel in Hollywood, with cheesy-ass stains on the bed," says Louvau.
Bakin remembers one particularly hellish experience. "One night we stayed at the Oak Tree Inn on the Sunset Strip and we woke up at 4 in the morning and realized there was pee all over the bed. And there was a refrigerator and it'd been leaking before so I said, 'Ah, don't worry about it, it's probably just the refrigerator.' So we woke up in the morning and there was this big pee stain. Free porn, though."
It's three hours 'til showtime, and VIE's headquarters is bustling like a busy airport terminal. A Canadian rock quartet, Tuuli, has descended on the boys after responding to an online query for an opening band. Sheathed in slivers of patent leather and combat boots, the female band members deftly apply garish glitter to their eyes and high-shine gloss to their lips.
Enter Louvau, wearing solar-white faux fur and Doc Martens. There's no mistaking he's a rock star. A phone rings and the lead singer snatches it up recklessly: "Rock 'n' roll!"
Leaning against a dining table, he nearly topples a container of 409 cleaning fluid and a row of empty Corona bottles. It's a personal call. Louvau swivels on a single Doc Marten, then whisks off to his bedroom.
The Canadians are getting ready to clear out. They gather their gear quietly and move briskly past shelves of KISS action dolls and walls adorned with Spice Girls posters and Ansel Adams photographs.