Spike Jonze Spends Saturday with Shane Smith (Part 1/3)

Uploaded by vice on Oct 4, 2012


SPIKE JONZE: (SINGING) a salaam aleikum.
A salaam aleikum.
A salaam aleikum, come on!
A salaam aleikum.
A salaam aleikum.
A salaam aleikum.
SHANE SMITH: A salaam aleikum.
SHANE SMITH: A salaam aleikum.
SPIKE JONZE: They were starting to
open the door to leave.

We are in the Socotra, which is an island a two hour flight
of the coast of Yemen in the Indian Ocean.
SHANE SMITH: It's hot as balls.
SPIKE JONZE: It's hot as--
it's hot.
Yeah, this is a pre-historic land because it broke off from
the continent of Africa at least two million years ago,
and so all the has evolved on its own trajectory.
And so you have incredibly exotic trees--
SHANE SMITH: We're going to see the blood tree right now.
SPIKE JONZE: A tree that bleeds dragon's blood.
We came to Yemen to do a story on, basically, the truth or
untruth of al-Qaeda in Yemen.
But Shane was like, if we're going to Yemen, we have to go
to the Socotra.
I don't care, I'll buy a helicopter.
And so, based on Shane's demands, we took two days to
go to this pre-historic land of the lost island.
SHANE SMITH: But since it's two hours drive in the hot
heat, we decided to do a Spike [INAUDIBLE]
spend Saturday with.

So how does this dagger look, shitty or good?
SPIKE JONZE: We're doing the official, full blown,
deconstructed, "Rolling Stone,"
"Playboy," Shane Smith interview.
We're going to get to know every inch of your cranium and
body by the end of this interview.
SHANE SMITH: Are we going to touch moles?
SPIKE JONZE: Probably.

Your one of the driving forces behind this whole Vice thing.
SPIKE JONZE: Yeah, why did you start Vice?
SHANE SMITH: Because I couldn't get a job.
SPIKE JONZE: Where were you living?
SHANE SMITH: I was living in Budapest being a criminal.
And I came back for my brother's wedding.
SPIKE JONZE: What kind of criminal?
SHANE SMITH: You know, buying and selling
money illegally, arbitrage.
SPIKE JONZE: What's that mean?
SHANE SMITH: Buying and selling money illegally.
SHANE SMITH: And I came back for my brother's wedding and I
met Saroosh Alvi, who was just out of rehab.
And I was on acid.
And I was like, oh, you're from Pakistan.
I'll show you how to throw a googly, which is the type of
Cricket throw.
SPIKE JONZE: Yeah, how old were you guys?
I was 24.
Saroosh was 25.
And then we became best buddies.
And then we were working at a place called "Voice of
Montreal." It was a make work project for Haitian
immigrants and us.
And then, after a while, they owed us money, and they
couldn't pay us, so we took it.
And we dropped the O, and we called it "Vice." And then
that was it.
SPIKE JONZE: So you stole the magazines from a nonprofit
organization that was trying to help Haitians.
SPIKE JONZE: Dude, that's kind of not that nice.
SHANE SMITH: Yeah, and we were on welfare, too.
The government paid for us.
SPIKE JONZE: Then what?
SHANE SMITH: So in 1998, when we came down to the States.
Well so, we were interviewed by a newspaper.
We made up this story that Larry Flint was
going to buy us.
And there was something that someone else, named Conrad,
and then this guy named Richard Szalwinski, who was
like the richest guy in Montreal, Richard Szalwinski
read it in the newspaper, and he called us and he said, who
are you fucking guys?
So we went to lunch at his restaurant and someone came in
saying, Shane's hung over or something.
And he goes, oh you drink?
I said, oh, I can drink.
He goes, OK, drink that bottle of whiskey.
And I drank half the bottle of Jack Daniels and then had to
sit there at lunch and negotiate with him.
And so he's like, we talked to him for the lunch, and he
goes, it's a Friday.
And he goes, OK, I want to see you guys Monday.
I want to be your partner.
So we went away on the weekend.
And we know how to value a company,
we didn't know anything.
And we have the paper somewhere.
It's called the Price of Vice.
And it's got doodles all over it.
And it was basically, we're so stupid, it was like, so
there's three of us, right?
The fourth partner to come in at an
equal share is $1 million.
So that valued it at $4 million, and we would get the
$1 million.
Because it was worth nothing.
It was worth, I mean, whatever.
So he looked at it.
He said that's a lot of money.
He signed it, I don't know why.
He signed it.
And we just got whisked off, and all his
minion gave us money.
And they give us $50,000 each, just to hold us over until we
got all the rest of the money.
And we didn't know what to do.
I remember running in circles outside screaming at the top
of my lungs.
Because none of us had ever had any money.
So then he brought us down to New York for the e-commerce
dot-com revolution thing in the '90s.
And so we came down, and we were sort of fascinated with
cocaine, and supermodels, and street wear, and just shit.
We were like we're so rich, we're so rich, it's crazy,
dot-com, hooray.
And then obviously, boom.
He had about 25 companies.
And they all went bankrupt.
And we were the only company that didn't go bankrupt.
SPIKE JONZE: And how did you get it back from [INAUDIBLE]?
SHANE SMITH: We bought it back.
That's a long story, but we bought it back.
We bought it back for pennies on the dollar.
And it wasn't worth anything.
And then we moved to Brooklyn.
And we just started from scratch, like
started from nothing.
And so we only really became Vice when we got back to being
poor, and punk, and started expanding in our own way, and
having our own voice, and owning our own company, and
doing it our way.
SPIKE JONZE: Describe the different periods.
And what the magazine wrote about.
And what the tone was in the Montreal years, in the early
Brooklyn years.
SHANE SMITH: In the beginning we were all about making up
shocking stories.
We made them up.
So that was the beginning, was sort of like "National
Inquirer" type shocking stuff combined with, like, hip-hop
and punk rock.
And then when we came down to the states it was more of,
like, we were drunk at our Christmas party, and we were
like, look at little Eric Lavoie, who
was my intern for--
he's only had one job.
He started working for us when he was 17.
And we were like, look at that little guy.
Let's do a whole issue on him.
So like every article, every fashion shoot, every record
review was all him.
And we just loved it.
We thought that was funny as hell.
And half the people would say, that's really funny.
And half the people would say, fuck you, "Vice," I hate you.
You're full of shit.
And we always said, actually, from the beginning, either
have people love you or hate you.
But just don't be in between.
And it's the same thing with all our good issues, like the
Iraq issue, where we gave the whole issue over to Iraqis
during the war.
Or the special issue.
SPIKE JONZE: What's the special issue?
SHANE SMITH: We gave the whole issue to a group
called How's Your News?
Which is a group that does news.
They're mentally challenged.
I was really proud of that.
And then when we went out into the world more, we were like,
oh, there's a lot of bad things happening.
We have a media platform, and what are we talking about?
A pair of Nikes that you can only get in Tokyo
between 2:00 and 6:00.
So we got a little more serious.
It became more international, for sure.
Like, when we had two employees and were in
Montreal, it's different than having 750
employees in 40 countries.
It's just a different entity.
SPIKE JONZE: What were some of the pieces that you guys did
that were like turning, defining points.
SHANE SMITH: A lot of pieces that made VBS famous were
actually mag pieces.
So like, Gun Markets in Pakistan, Butt Naked in the
Tupac Army, we shot Heavy Metal in Baghdad.
I think we do things in a different way.
We call it immersionism.
So we come here, and we just travel
around, and we see shit.
And we say, this is what we saw.
Maybe it's not 100%, obviously, because you can't
do it all in a couple weeks or whatever.
And I always used to say, like, if you're looking at
"Vice" for being news and the truth, then you're in trouble.
Because we didn't come up as, like, I'm Jesus on my cross.
We came up as, yeah, it's totally cool, fucking shoes.
Vice guide to fucking eating pussy.
Vice guide to fucking you in the ass.
I don't know if you've heard of a thing called "Jackass."
We were like that.
We're not the best because we're the best.
We're the best because we're the tallest of the midgets.
But we want to get back to being the best just
for being the best.
And that's why we're putting Viceland, VBS, and "Vice"
altogether as one beautiful big boy.
SHANE SMITH: Online and in the man, and everything.
We're just going to-- because we built "Vice" and then we
built Viceland.
And then we built VBS.
And they all are a little bit separate, but they all have
the same voice, the same attitude, the same people
working on them.
So we're like, why don't we just put them all together.