Tito Larriva - Tito & Tarantula
The Edge - Palo Alto, CA - 1999
 
Tito & Tarantula live on the cusp of obscurity. Tito has been around almost forever, worked with many different people in music and film and has been friends with more than that, and chances are that you have seen or heard him in some form of media or another. The band, Tarantula, encapsules several musicians of notoriety themselves - Jennifer Condos, who has played bass with more people that memory serves including Sheryl Crow and Don Henley of the Eagles; session and touring player Peter Tanosoff on guitar; and Johnny Vatos of Oingo Boingo on drums. Tito himself is a history book all his own. As it is, Tarantula, with Tito, were the featured band appearing in the Quentin Tarantino film "Dusk Till Dawn", as well as performing music in it. Tito himself has played with many different musicians, scored films, had songs appear in fims, and appeared as an actor. Not bad for someone who is just coming into his prime and has plenty of years and talent to go.
 
Musically, Tito's tunes are as smooth and catchy as they come. When one goes to see Tarantula play, one goes to have a good time just getting entranced by the melodically smooth blues rock, with subtle latin overtones, that just creeps up out of nowhere and takes over. Tito & Tarantula are the band that you wish would never end, either on CD or live.
 
We had the chance, earlier this year, at the Edge in Palo Alto, CA to catch Tito when his band's tour had just begun, to talk with him a bit about the history of the band, his own acquaintances and resume, and other little oddities along the way. He proved to be so interesting to talk with that we plan to have a part 2 to this interview in the near future to cover more of his past in detail.

K2K: So, how long has this band, Tarantula, been around?
TL: I'd say about six, going on seven, years.
 
K2K: Who are the original members?
TL: All of them except for the violinist. She's been in the band since the tour started, 3 1/2 weeks ago. Our original violinist fell in love with our drummer. They had a baby together and we used to take the baby on the road with us. Then she got pregnant again last year in Germany and just had another baby. They're not in the band anymore. They decided that it was too much for the kids. So, Johnny [Vatos] who was our percussionist in the band - who's a great drummer in his own right, he was in Oingo Boingo for years - naturally took over drums.
 
K2K: So, who is in the band?
TL: There's [guitarist] Peter Tanosoff. Me and him started the band. Jennifer Condos, our bass player. Johnny Vatos is now just the drummer. Andi Figuiroa - violin, mandolin, guitar, flute, whatever. We forced her to play all those instruments. She didn't know how. Three weeks ago, she never played a guitar. We just put her in E open tuning and tell her to play it. By the end of the tour she'll be playing five [instruments]. We're going to get her a piano.
 
K2K: Where did you come up with the name originally?
TL: An old friend of ours, Charlie Midnight, he's a songwriter and producer. We were sitting around and had been playing for about a year. It was just called Tito & Friends. He said, "You guys need a name. You should call it, like, Tito & Tarantula or something." It sounded good. It just happened. And then years later we met Robert [Rodriguez] and did [the film] "Desperado". During the mixing of "Desperado" I was sitting down playing this song. He said, "What is that?". I said, "It's a song that I wrote about a vampire about 10 years ago." In 1981 actually. He said, "Really? That's weird. I'm doing a movie with Quentin [Tarantino] about a vampire. Let me videotape that." So he videotaped it acoustically. He called me about a week later and said, "Hey man, we wrote you into the movie. There was no band before, but we want Salma [Hayek] to dance to this song and we wrote the band into the movie." It was just a coincidence.
 
K2K: Did you know Quentin before that?
TL: I knew Quentin before I knew Robert. I knew Quentin through another director named Alex Rockwell. We also were in his film, "Somebody To Love" that didn't do well. It starred Harvey Keitel and Rosie Perez. I met Quentin with Alex one day at a Thai restaurant. He had just made "Reservoir Dogs". We were sitting there talking about his new film.
 
K2K: What films have you done music for?
TL: The first film that I scored was "Repo Man". That was the first soundtrack. The punk band I had at the time was the Plugz. We had three songs in the film. Before that we met with Alex Cox, the director. We had discussed what kind of music we liked. Sergio Leone was definitely up there. I just ended up scoring the film. I had already scored a film before starring David Byrne and Rosanne Arquette in 1980. But, this [Repo Man] was the first major motion picture that I did. After that, I've done many films. Too many to mention.
 
K2K: What movies are you going to be doing?
TL: Well, I just did five films in the last year and a half. I just finished a film that will be out in February that stars Mel Gibson, Milla Jovovich, Jimmy Smits, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, myself, and Gloria Stewart. It's called "Million Dollar Motel". It's written by Bono of U2.
 
K2K: Are you scoring?
TL: I'm in it as an actor. I've done like 30 or 40 films as an actor. I'm known for the Robert Rodriguez films.
 
K2K: Outside of "Desperado" and "Dusk Till Dawn" what other major films have you done?
TL: We have a movie that the band is in that I scored. The band is in it and I'm in it as an actor. It's called "A Little Harmless Sex". It stars Johnathon Richmond, Allison Eastwood; which is Clint Eastwood's daughter, and also the daughter of Steve Martin in "Father Of The Bride" [Kimberly Williams]. She's really cute, a beautiful actress. Anyways, I scored this film. I did two films in Germany, one as an actor and one the band was in.
 
K2K: Overdubbed?
TL: No, I had to do phonetic German. I had a coach with me. He repeated over and over.
 
K2K: How hard was that to do? Did you enjoy it?
TL: It was hard but it was great. Oh yeah, it was a really fun film. I just did a project with a bunch of old friends of mine. It's a Latin record. The band's called Psychotic Aztecs. It shows the guy carrying the Aztec woman on the mountain. It's punk, but it's in Spanish.
 
K2K: So, since Johnny's in the band, what happened to Oingo Boingo?
TL: Well, 20 years together and Danny's [Elfman] career is just so busy. Phenomenal is the word. He got a five picture deal with Disney to write and direct. He's in another world now.
 
K2K: So, you've done 30 to 40 films as an actor. How many have you scored?
TL: I've never counted them. Maybe about 12 or 13. There's a film I did with Danny Elfman actually. It was just released two years ago. I did "Dream With The Fishes".
 
K2K: How did you score with Danny? You are so laid back and he's so frenetic.
TL: We talked on the phone. That's basically how we did it. He was scoring in one studio. He couldn't do the whole movie. So, Matthew Bright, the director, came to me and said, "I'm a big fan." It was of a porno film that I scored many years ago. I said, "Really?". "I loved that movie! How would you like to score the rest of it [Danny Elfman's film]?" I knew Danny already. It was quite fun working with him. It was funny, this porno film that I did many years ago...
 
K2K: As an actor?
TL: (laughs) No, no, no. I've never been in a porn film. This other guy who did "Boogie Nights" [Paul Thomas] called me over and he took me in his office. There were posters of this movie that I did like in 1982, that I scored. He was basing this film ["Boogie Nights] on this film, on the whole era. That film won Best Porn Film of the year and launched a lot of stars. Tracy Lords was in it and it was pulled off the shelves because she was 16 and it was a big scandal. "New Wave Hooker". If you have "New Wave Hooker" with her in it, it's rare. It's illegal, actually. She was 16 years old. As a matter of fact, I met her that day that they shot. She was the first girl on the set. The director insisted that I go to the movies. It was weird. The weirdest experience of my life. It was so clinical, I couldn't tell you. I was like, "Oh my God." They were talking about shoes and then the director would yell, "OK. Action." and then they'd go back to doing it. Then he goes, "Cut!", and then they would go, "... and then I got the red pumps." It was like nothing happened and they were covered in all this gooey stuff.
 
K2K: So is it true about Jergen's lotion, that they use that to simulate the amounts of body fluids?
TL: I can tell you because I was there, that was not lotion. I saw it coming out... and it wouldn't stop! I was thinking, what did these guys do to be able to do that? It was like blood. Oh my God! But, anyways, I met this guy from "Boogie Nights" and he wanted to meet me.
 
K2K: How many albums do you have out?
TL: With Tarantula, we've got two. We've got more than two soundtracks. Three or four.
 
With that, it was already late in the club as we all were making our way out the doors. Tito and his bunch were on their way to continue the tour and we were off to wait patiently until we could see Tito & Tarantula in action again.
 
Written by and all photos © 1999 Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson is a musician as well as a writer. He has performed as a multi-instrumentalist - primarily guitar and vocals - in several bands in the California area over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several known magazines and television shows as well having several books of his works out.
 
See photos of this band and many more at Philip Anderson Photography online

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