Rozz Williams interview
This interview was printed in the February
1994 issue of ?*@# exclaim !
By Mopa Dean
interview took place approximately a year ago between Rozz Williams
and I. Since then, Shadow Project (his band at that time) has broken
up. His betrothed Eva O. has not lonly left the band but Rozz's side
as in fact, Rozz toured Europe [in '93] with Shadow Project but without
Eva or their drummer Pans, both of whom had gone off in their own musical
Nevertheless, in the spring of 1993, Rozz reunited the original Christian
Death to do one last concert in L.A. Apparently people transversed the
continenet to catch a glimpse of the final chapter in the history of
Rozz Williams and Christian Death. From this final concert a CD has
been released, Iconologia. To say the least, it's probably one of the
bestaural fixations I have succumbed to this year. The energy and intensity
are not only all there, they have increased 100-fold from when I was
fortunate enough to witness their aural atrocities in late 1988 at the
now defunct Apocalyse Club.
Fortune almost smiled upon Williams when Cleopatra Records decided to
take him under their corporate wing. With his older stuff being reissued
bythem, and Shadow Project (then his main work) being carried by Triple
X records, you would have thought he'd finally made the grade. But in
the goth tradition, the black cloud prevailed once again. Cleopatra
used his cult following and name to promote their label. Bills remain
unpaid, rumours abound of bootlegged merchandise, and Williams is virtually
penniless. But not beaten. If it wasn't for his manager Amy Joanes actually
taking an interest in him as a human being, as well as an artist, I
think that we would not be without him. However, rising from the ashes
of his many demoralizing defeats, he has reunited with the bassist from
Shadow Project and rallied a new and faithful group to his side called
Davcvs Karota A CD release is scheduled for the spring of '94, as well
as a live Shadow Project CD.
The saga continues. This phone interview will let you know everything
you wanted to know about Christian Death but were afraid to ask.
were brought up in a Southern Baptist family?
Did you always live in southern California, or
did you move there?
I was born here and remained.
I take it that it was a strict family situation,
heavy on the fear-of-God stuff?
Yes, actually I was pretty amazed by the amount of stuff my parents
put up with while I was living in their house. They had experienced
all that before with older brothers and sisters, so it was fairly strict.
The fear-of-God thing was pretty set and I blindly followed it until
I reached a certain age. Then I just began questioning my belief system.
What made you immerse yourself in gothic sub-culture
as opposed to punk?
I think I began getting really influenced by that whole punk scene around
the age of 13 or 14-I went through that whole thing like the shaved
head. I was always interested in what people called "the darker
side," whatever that was, and the kind of look that you would see
in the old horror films. So I let that become more of my persona.
The whole imagery of it - pale skin, black clothes
- appealed to you more than other sub-cultures?
The idea of sub-culture appeals to me no matter what it is, but I was
more drawn to that look, and feel.
What was your inspiration to put Christian Death
together? Why did you do it?
Good question...I guess out of boredom. I was always interested in music,
I felt it was time to do it, coming out of the punk scene . I
thought it was ideal that anyone could just put together a group and
make it work. Then, of course, it became a little more detailed after
starting it and realizing that it was something serious, not just a
one-off situation. I had to put a lot more into it. Also I did it to
get a lot of things out of my system, things that had been put there
while I was growing up in my family. A sort of exorcizing of demons.
Who was in the original line-up?
Myself, James McGearthy on bass, J on the guitar, James brought George
Belanger in to play drums. We just kind of worked small shows around
town, rehearsing in the garage. Then we started getting a cult following,
which led to the interest from record labels.
You had Rick Agnew in the band at one time?
James and George met up with him, we did a couple of shows with The
Adolescents around town. He liked the group, and we were impressed with
his guitar playing. J was kind of uninterested in what we were doing
at the time so we asked him [to leave] and he said yes.
What was the primary influence when the bank formed?
Was it the gothic scene in Europe, or the punk scene in California?
Well, a lot of it was influenced by the West Coast punk scene. I was
into the Germs, the Alley Cats. At the same time, music I was listening
to when I was about 9 years old and on also had an influence, like Bowie
and T-Rex. At the time I wasn't really aware of the whole gothic scene.
I hadn't heard Bauhaus or other groups before. I'd only heard of it
Only Theatre of Pain was your first LP. How was
It was received pretty well. I was happy to see it on a religious television
programme that my parents used to watch. They did a special on satanic
influences in music, they had the record on and broke it. That rather
impressed me, I thought if these people knew of it and have such a strong
feeling about it, I'm sure other people are doing the same.
What was your parents reaction at that time?
Well, they questioned it at various times, but, I'm not sure, they're
not very good at expression, it was more me feeling what they thought
without them saying it. A weird situation - I knew they were not too
pleased without them anything. Except one time, I had a copy of it in
my room and I didn't want them to hear it. I then went on vacation for
two weeks. I came back and they'd found it. They were not too pleased
with a lot of the lyrics. But when I explained to them, what it was
about to me, they left it at that.
Were you practising satanic rituals because of
Well, I was practising a form of magic, and that's an odd thing. I still
do, but don't consider it satanic - it's not a God type of thing or
religious thing. It's more of spiritual thing, a learning thing.
When did you put out Deathwish?
Deathwish was recorded before Only Theatre of Pain. It was made from
sessions from the compilation Hell Comes to Your House. The label that
put it out bought the tapes and asked if we would like to put it out.
Was that Contempo in Italy?
It was a French label called Invitation to Suicide. They approached
the band and wanted to know if we would tour Europe and do a new album.
So we went over to Europe in 1983 and started working on Catastrophe
So the versions of songs on "Deathwish" are the original demos
for Only Theatre of Pain?
Yes. Actually Deathwish was more of a punk rock thing to me. Only Theatre
of Pain has the polished versions of those songs and started to bring
in elements of our personal feelings.
What are you dealing with in the song "Deathwish"?
Hard to say. I don't understand a lot of my songs myself, usually not
until years later. I think it was the same reaction to the learning
process that I was brought up with. You're told there's this wonderful
God and this beautiful Heaven for you when you die. You're also told
that death is a horrible thing and you know you should be afraid of
it and live in fear of it - which I found ridiculous. It's a contradiction
to say there's this wonderful place waiting for you when you die but
you should be in fear of dying.
When did you meet Valor[sic]?
That happened towards the end of the original line-up ['82-'83].
Why did people start leaving the band?
We were having a lot of problems, most of it to do with drugs. That
was becoming more important than the music, for some of us. We went
through a lot of personnel changes. People I can't even remember at
this point in my life were there. I can't remember because there were
so many people drifting in and out. I just saw the whole structure crumbling
and I just thought that this should end, or if nothing else, this is
going to grow stale. So near the end of that period we did a few shows
in L.A. and met up with Valor. His band had opened a couple of shows
for us. Then I started seeing him kind of socially. Invitation to Suicide
then gave me a call about touring Europe. Of course that was an appealing
thing to me so I called Valor and asked if his band wanted to back us
up in Europe and that's how that came about.
How many albums did you do with Valor?
Just two: Catastrophe Ballet and Ashes, which was released in '85.
Then you split up.
Were you working with Gitane DeMone[sic?] too?
Yes, she was in the group at that time. She was in his band and married
to him at the time.
What were she and Valor like to work with? I see the band as changing
its sound and going through a change at that time.
Gitane was great to work with. She shared a lot of ideas I had at that
point. I think the change in musical direction came from that. I felt
I had Properly rid myself of the religious demons inside of me. And
I had always been interested in surrealism and the Dada movement, so
that began to surface in my thoughts. I kind of purged myself, and she
was interested in a lot of the same things. That helped to move it in
the new direction in terms of sound and lyrical content. Some of it
had to do with the religious things. It was just a strong symbolism
for me, I didn't see it getting more experimental, but more open, lyrically.
Valor was nice enough to work with for a while, but I saw the same thing
happening again. It seems to happen quite frequently - watching my creations
dissolve in front of me. It had a strong purpose at the time, but when
interest in the band starts waning, I feel it's time to move on.
Is that why you went your different ways?
Basically. I wanted to move into a more experimental situation and they
wanted to stay in a musical format. I was a lot more interested in sound
structure. I went on to do Premature Ejaculation since I saw no point
working in a medium I was not happy with.
How do feel about Valor using the name Christian Death after you left
I didn't appreciate it, and it was done completely without permission.
When I decided to leave the project I asked them not to use the name
because it was something very important to me. I had no problem with
them using the material they wrote. A year later I found out they were
going under the same name and even performing songs from Only Theatre
of Pain, which they had nothing to do with. That rather bothered me.
You took no legal action?
No, because I felt at the time, although I was angered, I felt that
I had to carry on with my own thing and I didn't want to involve myself
with some long and drawn-out legal thing. I felt it was much more important
to do what I felt good about doing. Still, I didn't appreciate the fact.
I took their word that they would not use the name and would carry on
under a different name and perform their own material.
What about Valor now going around saying that he's the original Christian
Anybody who knows the real history of Christian Death will know it's
not true. He seems to like to take credit for a lot of things not of
his own doing, and I don't appreciate it.
So when you did your reunion tour in '88, there were two Christian Deaths.
Were there any problems over that? Did you hear from Contempo or Frontier
It was kind of odd, there were some shows where people didn't believe
who I was. Supposedly Valor told people I was dead.
That's the rumour I heard, that you had commited suicide.
That's right. Apparently he even printed this in one of his newsletters.
Which very much angered me. He called a club we were playing in New
York, and the woman who booked us informed me at soundcheck that lawyers
had been calling all day representing Christian Death and that we can't
play under the same name. I finally told her that if he calls back,
let me talk to him. Sure enough, he called back. The whole time he had
been calling saying that he was the attorney for Christian Death. To
me it was another instance of what his thing seems to be about. He went
into his whole routing with me, saying that he thought it was someone
else going under the same name and he didn't know it was me and he was
only looking after our best interests. That was really the only incident
What actually sparked the idea to do the '88 reunion tour?
I think basically I was rather upset hearing from so many people that
I was dead, that I was in a mental institution, etc. It was kind of
a way for me to rekindle what was mine in the first place. It was great
to work with Rick again, I think he's a fantastic musician. And to let
people know what Valor calls Christian Death is not Christian Death.
It was a way for us to work together again, but, for personal reasons,
it kind of took awhile.
Why didn't you continue it?
Because around 1987 Eva and I started Shadow Project. That was more
in the forefront at the time. The Christian Death thing was more of
a reminder to get back together and work as musicians. But I already
had plans to work on Shadow Project and I didn't want to make Christian
Death a full-time thing.
Do you still see Rick or anyone from the original line-up?
I see him every once in a while, he has a project called Yard Sale.
I heard that he was playing with some of the original members of the
Adolescents but I'm not sure. He has a wife and a child now, so he's
busy with that sort of thing.
How long have you and Eva O been married?
Six years. It's a very informal marriage, more of a partnership.
Was it done legally or through a hand-fastening or something?
Neither, we had a private ceremony for ourselves - a sort of bonding
thing- and then we did the legal thing, but that's not really important
The spoken-word album you did, Every King A Bastard Son. Is that the
sort of thing you want to be doing?
It was an interesting project. I have done a couple of live spoken things
before, but it was very uncomfortable for me and I didn't really think
about it again. Then I was approached about doing one. I started thinking
about the potential of it and using sound behind it and it sounded like
an interesting project. I really enjoyed it, but I don't know if I'm
going to go anymore, it's hard for me to say.
Why did you put out the Iron Mask release?
At first it was brought up by Cleopatra, I was not too interested in
the concept, and the album did not come out the way I wanted it to.
I understand that you were not around when they were mixing it.
Right, I was on tour with Shadow Project at the time. Originally, I
wanted to rework the songs. The idea was to completely rework them and
make new songs while working with a new structure, but I'd already made
the commitment to Cleopatra and unfortunately it was done the way it
What is "1334"? I've noticed it on several of your recordings
and on some of you merchandise.
"1334"...It's a kind of personal thing, it's the year of the