Vice TV is one of many ventures of Vice Magazine, a veritable guide to existence for urban hipsters in New York City that covers independent art, pop culture, music and fashion. In 1994 its creators, Suroosh Alvi, Shane Smith and Gavin McInnes, founded a government-funded magazine entitled “Voice of Montreal” in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. They bought out their publisher in 1996, changed their name to Vice, and eventually moved the magazine to New York in 2002. Vice is published and distributed for free in a number of countries worldwide and has published collections in book form, including The Dos and DON’Ts Book, and The Vice Guide to Sex Drugs and Rock and Roll. It also has its own retail clothing chain and record label, Vice Records. Vice TV, or VBS.tv, the group’s online broadcast network, was launched February 5, 2007. In Vice’s mission statement, Smith explains how the travel articles the creators began to feature in their magazine (which lead to a well-received DVD: Vice Guide to Travel) opened their eyes to ways of living that were much different than “cocaine, whores and denim…We want to do the real deal on VBS, not just the usual bullshit.” VBS is produced by Eddy Moretti, who also produced the Vice Guide to Travel DVD, and oh yeah, its creative director is the incredibly accomplished Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Being Josh Malkovich).
Vice shows are divided up into a number of categories. There’s Music World, which follows the lives of musicians all over the world; Dos & Don’ts & Friends, which feature celebrity friends of Vice (like David Cross) discussing good or bad fashion; or Inside Sudan, the site’s most serious news broadcast about the genocidal war in Darfur in which Shane Smith and other Vice crew members travel around Sudan interviewing people about their lives. The production expertise fueling VBS TV is evident as the majority of the vids appear to have all the trappings of similar programming you’d find on traditional television (except perhaps the Dos and Don’ts and Friends shows, but they’re still hilarious). Live at the Old Blue Last, recordings of live shows at the Vice owned London pub, is especially well done. Also good is Soft Focus, where legendary musicians are interviewed by lyricist and performer Ian Svenonius (Nation of Ulysses, Make-Up) in the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Many shows are divided up into episodes, which can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes and viewers can also make comments on the VBS forum.
While VBS promises to go all over the world to bring back the coolest music and culture, there ain’t noting wrong with staying right here in America. Check out Americana, Vice’s take on weird and awesome subcultures in the good old US of A. I thoroughly enjoyed the episode on Voguing, in which Vice interviews two professional voguers from the House of Ninja and the House of Extravaganza about the history and politics of this dance culture. Fascinating.