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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

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Volker Corell

Spider Baby: Tito Larriva has become a cult item.

Tito on Movies:
Film scores are just a side project for Tito Larriva

MOST ROCKERS would kill for Tito Larriva's cool cachet. If you've seen Repo Man, Desperado or New Wave Hookers, you've heard Larriva's lascivious, spaghetti Western-style guitar tones. In New Wave Hookers (which features an underage Traci Lords), Larriva's music served as the sole plot device: the band's sound turns women into sex-starved freaks. How cool is that? Tito and his loose group of friends, Tarantula, play at the Usual in San Jose at 8pm on Saturday (Feb. 21).

Larriva lived the Decline of Civilization years of L.A. punk as a founding member of the Plugz. In a move that would elevate Larriva to cult status, the Plugz hooked up with director Alex Cox to score Repo Man. "Alex was a big Plugz fan," explains Larriva. "We hit it off. We'd sit around talking about Sergio Leone and [Ennio] Morricone. We were big fans of their films."

After the Plugz broke up, Larriva reappeared in the Cruzados and nearly self-destructed. The Cruzados recorded an album with a producer who added slick touches, watering down the snake oil. A hit single, "Motorcycle Girl," pushed the band farther down an unwanted trail. The Cruzados went on punishing tours opening for acts like Joe Walsh, the Alarm, INXS, Billy Idol and Fleetwood Mac. "We had this image we had to fulfill," Larriva says. "We did that for four years. It nearly killed us."

After the dismantling of the Cruzados, Larriva sat around for three years disenchanted with the rock & roll machine. He eased his way back, jamming with Tarantula guitarist Peter Atanasoff and doing sit-down gigs. His dusty rock attracted auteur Robert Rodriguez, who enlisted Larriva to score his Desperado and From Dusk 'Til Dawn. Rodriguez co-produced Tito and Tarantula's debut album, Tarantism (Cockroach Records). Tito's penchant for sleazy, greasy bar rock is highlighted on "Smiling Karen," "Angry Cockroaches" and "Killing Just for Fun."

"Robert's a lot more organized than most producers I've been with," says Larriva. "He comes in with a little map of what he wants to do that day. It was a piece of cake. He's real musical, real positive. When it didn't work, we didn't waste too much time. We'd throw it out and move on. He's got a real punk approach to music." Larriva doesn't regret scoring New Wave Hookers (even though an actor, trying to maintain an erection, recognized Tito on the set and introduced himself, prop in hand. Ack!). Cox is planning to release a follow-up to Repo Man (titled Otto's Christmas), and Larriva might be aboard to score.

So how would he rework Titanic? "I wouldn't have a whammy bar on my guitar, that's for sure," Larriva says, replicating the sound of the ship going down with a washed-out whammy effect. "I could revamp the Repo Man soundtrack for Titanic; that'd be kind of cool."

Robot Launch!

The Alternative Press Expo rolls into town this weekend (Feb. 21-22) at the Parkside Hall (near the convention center) in San Jose. Among the tables of zines and comics, those Giant Robot guys will be here, promoting their newest issue, which features interviews with Jenny Shimizu, Simply Jeff, Francoise Yip, a good article on Ping-Pong by local guy Chi-hui Yang and the authoritative history of rice. ... Also this weekend is Jazz & Justice, a two-day symposium and commemorative concert on the Japanese-American Internment. Participants include Mark Izu, Anthony Brown, Jon Jang, San Jose Taiko, George Yoshida and the J-Town Jazz Ensemble, and the Asian American Jazz Orchestra. Jazz & Justice happens at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco. Call 415/978-ARTS for tickets.

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From the February 19-25, 1998 issue of Metro.

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