MUSIC : Down and Dirty With Band Gasoline in Santa Barbara : Tattooed singer Vince Dirt and cohorts bring their incendiary brand of hard rock to the Underground.


Vince Dirt, the colorful Santa Barbarian with enough tattoos to impress a jail full of bikers, wants to be a rock star. With his latest band, Gasoline, he may finally have the technology. Saturday night his band will bring its incendiary brand of hard rock to the Underground in Santa Barbara along with the equally raging Rice & Beans and this week's signed band that no one has ever heard of, Better Than Ezra.

Formerly Colonel Vince Dirt, but now demoted to civilian status, the singer has been in a lot of bands, the last two being Official Resistance and Skin. Many musical carcinogens blended to form Gasoline, which includes Dirt on voice and tattoos, Paul Lester on lead guitar, Luke Burleson on bass and tattoos, and Jason Loree on drums. During a recent phone conversation, Dirt discussed his latest rock 'n' roll thing and his new collaborators.

"They saw my band Skin play at Metro Bay Club with the Gin Blossoms," he said, "and Luke followed me into the head. 'Hey man, how into your band are you?' he asked. He looked like my evil twin. He gave me a tape and eventually just wore me down. The first time I checked 'em out, I chucked my old band and that was that."

Dirt, whose full-time job is being Dirt, is happy enough thus far with his new gig.

"They're just so much better than any other band," said the singer. "The songwriting, my relationship, my collaboration with Luke, just meeting up with him was like hooking up with my long-lost stillborn brother."

Not surprisingly, with a name like Gasoline the band doesn't do a lot of sensitive ballads, plus it's not the type of dance music that makes greedy club owners salivate or patrons want to dance or fall into temporary love. Hard and fast generally translates into trouble getting gigs, even in Santa Barbara, the hometown Dirt's been terrorizing for years. But the band's triumphant return to the Voodoo Lounge last weekend was uneventful.

"You know we were banned from the Voodoo Lounge in Santa Barbara after playing there once because we look like a bunch of junkies and we scared their little dance crowd," said the Illustrated Man.

"I've never seen so many frightened people. They were just fleeing for their lives. We got on the bill there last week before they realized it was us, but when we played it was cool because all the Buffys were at the Toad the Wet Sprocket show up the street. Places have to change their attitudes because only the hard bands are drawing now, except for the old standbys like Spencer."

Ventura, it's been said, may never be Santa Barbara. Rock 'n' roll-wise, that's too true. Ventura, at present, is at all time low, venue-wise. With the viable venues down to a handful--Metro Bay Club, the Bombay Bar & Grill, Nicholby's and occasionally the Ventura Theatre--95% of the local bands have nowhere to play. But Dirt, as stubborn as dust, doesn't care.

"Bands in Santa Barbara are afraid of bands from Ventura. The Ventura crowd just dominates the Santa Barbara crowd," he said. "Crowds in Ventura have so much more of a vibe. They're all blue collar, no students--none of that mommy and daddy (stuff). They're not afraid to be who they are because they work hard, then on the weekend, they go off."

"They accepted me in Ventura right away because they're a bunch of freaks just like me."

But local Luke Burleson isn't so hot on the Ventura scene, and the fact is, Gasoline usually plays in Santa Barbara.

"There's no place to play around Ventura for us," said the bass player. "They say we're too heavy and they don't want our type of crowd hanging around."

Maybe not, but Gasoline has dreams that extend south from Ventura. The band recently played one of those L.A. showcases where the industry slugs promise to show up, but never do. But this time, they did.

"We got bites from Giant, Island and Epitaph after a showcase gig at the Coconut Teaszer in Hollywood," said Dirt. "That's not bad for our first gig in L.A. I think in early April at the Underground, we're going to do a limited release CD party. People have been asking us for a CD, so we feel we have to. But we really don't want to spend the money, so we'll make just enough, maybe a couple of hundred."


* WHAT: Gasoline, Rice & Beans, Better Than Ezra.

* WHERE: Underground, 110 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara.

* WHEN: Saturday night, 9 p.m.

* COST: Five bucks.

* CALL: 965-5050.

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