article by Arvo Zylo
I know that Boyd doesn't like for people to try to apologize or explain on his behalf, and even after an extensive interview, I still don't feel any authority to justify such an explanation anyway. What appeals to me beyond his creative output, or perhaps part and parcel of it, offensive or otherwise, is his direct approach to life on his terms. This can be seen in Boyd Rice's research of The Holy Grail, where he traveled to France to further explore and studyRennes-le-Château, and he did so, apparently, without the internet or a university library. Rice is someone who will not only have a passing curiosity about Charles Manson but will also go so far as to visit Spahn Ranch and get on the man's visiting list personally. The first person signed on Daniel Miller's then small bedroom label, Mute Records, Rice went directly to theRough Trade store in the UK, and by chance, met the man who would end up heading a multinational record company. Rice found a longstanding interest in Anton La Vey, an outspoken magician who also owned a pet Lion, practiced hypnotism, and had wild parties with famous people, so he eventually befriended “The Doktor”, becoming a protégé and one of his favorite people. Rather than simply being a fan of Tiny Tim, Rice interviewed the gangling ukulele player, and would have late night conversations with him about god knows what. While writing for various magazines, rather than interviewing Henry Rollins, Rice interviewed Martin Denny, Bill Mumy, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Ray Dennis Steckler, andHerschell Gordon Lewis. Bobby Sherman signed a photo for Boyd, “To Men In Uniform”,Frank Sinatra has done a painting for him, and Nancy Sinatra signed one of her records to Boyd with his patented symbol, the Wolfsangel. This is what sets Boyd Rice apart from the rest: a desire to go directly to the source, and to allow, even through excess, for things to run their natural course.
The creative output of Boyd Rice tends to engage the medium itself. Early recorded work, either under his own name, or the moniker “NON”, utilizes layers of tape recorders and turntables, and various specialized devices, without a sampler or in some cases even a mixer, to create little alchemical creatures of sound, often times more like a combination of rocks and minerals than that of instruments or guitar pedals. Instead of simply acting as a photographer, Rice meddled with the actual darkroom and created “Places That Don't Exist” from no source photographic landscape material. He also showcased a collection of found photographs in an art exhibition. Worn and faded, people accused him of simply taking polaroids and rubbing dirt on them, but in effect, it stands as a series of documents with no explanation, leaving the viewer only to speculate on the context. This as well as his abstract paintings, too, don't seem to leave as many answers as they do questions.
The world of tiki culture is a phenomenon that Boyd Rice is intimately familiar with from visiting several tiki bars throughout the country in the 70s and 80s, as they continued to fade away. This is to the degree that he designed the interior, top to bottom, of a short-lived Tiki Bar aptly named “Tiki Boyd's”. Early NON performances were in a Tiki Bar called Kelbo's, which, like many tiki bars, didn't exactly harken back to Polynesian culture, per se, but still provided a peculiar sense of escape. Particularly, as it is described in the documentary ICONOCLAST, Kelbo's had a wall of glowing tiles which contained bizarre, unrelated objects imbedded inside; a fried egg, a pair of scissors, a hand-held mirror, a pencil, and so forth. Try to imagine, if you will, going to a precocious noise show, leaning against this large piece of dadaist art, drinking out of a coconut at a Tiki Bar in the late 70s. It must have been quite an experience, and perhaps it made a strong impression on Boyd Rice.
In his writings, Rice expresses a deep fascination with artificial environments that become quaint magical worlds not to be experienced anywhere else, probably in some cases, because of their failure to reproduce the environment that was originally sought out in the first place. For instance, at Lawrence Welk's amusement park of a retirement resort, everything is shaped like a champagne glass and it seems that Welk had effectively memorialized himself with his own museum, country club, and movie theater. This theater only shows The Lawrence Welk Story, a tale which has left remnants and references to it all over the park. Disneyland is a place which has scarcely changed since its inception in the 60s, a cartoon land, to be sure, but also a place rife with occult underpinnings, and a hidden club beneath one of the rides where only the elite can visit (and drink booze). “The Good Life”, Boyd writes, was an abstraction in the 50s where people's fantasies of the future, seduction, and a wild space age party manifested themselves within the advertising, and especially the record albums of the time; “by bringing otherworldly sounds into America's suburban living rooms, suburbanites were made to feel like participants in the Herculean strides being made by ...astronauts newly arrived on another planet, being offered glowing libations by its sexy female inhabitants”. Rice described his former DJ night, aptly titled “The In Sound From Way Out”, as being like an alternate dimension, where people could come in and hear music that they wouldn't be able to hear anywhere else. These facets of Boyd Rice reveal something about the less universally palatable characters he takes inspiration from. Hitler was a failed artist who played with toys into his final days. Gabriele d'Annunzio had a book printed on rubber pages, so that he could read it while sunbathing in his private fountain. Anton La Vey had a bar in his black house called “The Den of Iniquity”, where he'd fashioned dolls with imperfections, rather than flattering features, as his guests. This is what I get from Boyd Rice. In virtually all of his creative output, there is an ambiance that can scarcely be found anywhere else; a place where Ragnar Redbeard's calloused rhetoric blends smoothly with the mannerisms of beatnik poet Rod McKuen, where effected girl groups coagulate with storms of locomotives, and scathing, pugnacious depictions of violence coexist with celebratory Las Vegas lounge. People have said that he does what he does to generate attention, to commit an elaborate prank, to allude to a deep meaning where none exists, or to respond like a contrarian jack-in-the-box to the prevailing ideas of tolerance and acceptance. I don't think it's as simple as that, I don't think that Boyd Rice is simply a prototypical version of power electronics or neofolk artists, haphazardly flinging cryptic symbols or rape victims about, and I don't think his dressing in fascist paramilitary gear is the manifestation of a cowardly lion trying to overcompensate, like others have speculated. It's been mildly intriguing for me to gather the various opinions from people on the subject, especially here in Chicago. I can't really mention his name without someone cringing or looking at me like some kind of foul animal. It is very much like a sociological study.
Some people have peppered their words with a coloratura of extraneous vocabulary while only really coming to a conclusion that amounts to “I know you are but what am I”. Other people seem to puff themselves up with their elaborate dissections of his work, while at the same time indiscriminately marginalizing all of this vast output as the masturbatory ego stroking of a narcissist, without seeming to realize that, paradoxically, they are likely only writing these brash, dismissive diatribes to satiate their ego. I can only imagine that a person's identity must be threatened (or reinforced) in some way by the notion of a (still living) character that doesn't mind terribly if everyone thinks he's a bad guy, as a result of some of the controversial things they've read about concerning incidents from 20 years ago. Of course there are also crude and pedestrian people that will claim that he simply must be profoundly stupid.
With what people have said, surely there are some truths, and there are some half-truths or maybe some non-truths, but I'm not the one to tell you which is which, I wouldn't be so audacious. I can only tell you what I get from it; I don't condone many of the things that have been alleged or even maybe correctly appended against Boyd Rice, but as far as I'm concerned, someone who can make a living as an artist and garner my interest, if not admiration, on a creative level or even simply on their breadth of reach, is in The House of The Lord in my book, regardless of any amoral accoutrements. Like those of so many other artists who are an undisputed source of inspiration in the world of expression, despite idiosyncrasies; Dali, Lennon, Man Ray, De Sade, Wagner, and so on, the most longstanding work comes out of necessity, not practicality, and, like revenge, is best served cold. The place where ideas come from is, indeed, an unsafe one. To me, if no man is an island, Boyd Rice is at least a peninsula. Where many artists might take from the same pot, Boyd Rice seems to dig into the core of the earth. And what he excavates might be the unequivocal joys of life, just as much as it is history's never-ending frenzy of death and looming embers of decay. Of course, it isn't always nice, but in a parallel universe accessible to some and not all, it can be a heap of fun.
In addition to a new NON album, Back To Mono, Boyd Rice has written a book about his time in San Francisco in the 1980s called Twilight Man for Heartworm Press. The first edition of another book, NO, concerning his beliefs (or lack thereof), sold out quickly, but will be reissued with extra chapters, and he has compiled a coffee table book that collects his 30 years of found thrift store art, all of which should be released this year. He is also working on a book that collects all of the interviews he has conducted with other people.
So do you really not get hangovers?
BR: No, absolutely not! The last time I had a hangover, a friend of mine had a Christmas party in San Francisco, where there was this massive bar, but there was a massive amount of people and they began running out of everything, I had beer wine, whiskey, rum, vodka, you know, the next day I felt like I was going to die! I kept leaning over and throwing up, going to the train station to leave San Francisco and I was throwing up every 5 minutes, if I don't mix my alcohol, I can drink as much as I want...but that incident was 16 or 18 years ago.
BR: I'm just talking about waking up, I used to have a rule “Don't speak to me within 20 minutes after waking up”, I just wake up slowly, you know I can't just wake up and have somebody going “OH look at this, look at this email I got...” [makes screeching sound] It's just like [groaning sound].
Yeah, I use the quote by Oscar Wilde a lot: “Only Dullards Are Brilliant At Breakfast”.
BR: (laughs heartily) And that probably isn't even true!
Yeah, I don't think I would argue with that. I think another good question is, you've done a number of collaborations with Coil, is there anything you'd like to share about the recently departed Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, or your time with Coil in general?
BR: They were both really great guys. I met Sleazy, the first time I went to London, I met Sleazy and the rest of [Throbbing Gristle], that was May of 1978, and he was just a very bright guy. Very smart, great taste in everything. And I was in correspondence with Jhonn Balance, for a long time before I actually met him, I went over there once and I was doing a concert in Brighton, and as the train was leaving the station, this guy walks up and sits down across from me, and he said, “Boyd, I'm Johnn Balance”. So I've known both of them for decades. Jhonn lived in Brighton, and he'd come to a show I did in Brighton, and it was during the New Romantic period, and he had the hair like the guy from The Human League or something, and the shirt with big puffy sleeves and a frilly collar. I remember being on stage and looking at this guy and thinking “What is this guy doing at one of my shows?” and I would later find out that was Jhonn Balance. He came up to me and told me how much he liked the show. I thought “Why is this guy who's into New Romantic stuff like noise music?” But they were both great guys, and I was one of the few people who was ever allowed to stay at their house, and they said, “You can stay at our house, we never let anybody stay here, but you can't tell anybody anything you see while you're in the house, you can't mention any of this to anyone.” And I never did.
Fair enough, I wouldn't either.
BR: The room I slept in, they had so much unbelievable art. I slept in this room where there was just stacks of Aleister Crowley, and Austin Osman Spare, there were paintings and drawings and pen and ink things from every conceivable period in his life. Stuff that should go in the British Museum. And it was just like stacked against the wall in their spare bedroom, I mean they didn't even hang the stuff up.
Wow! I knew that there would be absinthe but I had no idea that there would be that! That's impressive!
BR: Yeah, well I'll tell you a story they told me, it's like, the other person they let stay in that room was Kenneth Anger. He was in London, he needed a place to stay, and they thought “Oh boy! We're into Crowley, we're into all of the same stuff, this will be amazing to get to have Kenneth Anger staying in our house”, and he went in that room, and he never came out. They would go and listen at the door and see if he was even alive, if he was even moving around. They said the only time he would come out is late at night, they would hear the door open, and hear him walking into the kitchen and getting some food, and walking back into the room, he stayed there a week or something. They really never saw him! He showed up in London for a book signing of some sort, and they were there, and he was talking about [how] he was looking for a place and they thought “Oh Wow” so they went up to him and said listen, we live in a really nice house, a very safe section of London, we have a spare room, you're welcome to stay as long as you wish, so he did. He just didn't interact with them.
Now I know that I shouldn't rely on the internet, especially if it's not an official source, but it's a question that I have to ask, because I'm a big fan of Jim Thirlwell and Foetus, it said somewhere for a while, in a Wikipedia article, that you were in the process of collaborating with Jim Thirlwell of Foetus. Now I'm going to assume that it's not happening anymore, because it's not on your website, but have have you ever come across Jim Thirlwell at all?
BR: Oh yeah yeah yeah, In fact most recently I was in New York, I ran into him at the opening for the Brion Gyson exhibit, and he was there, and then I did a show in New York, and he came to the show. So I've crossed paths with him you know, over the course of decades, and he used to send me postcards and stuff. If he found a cool post card, he'd send it to me, but I mean, yeah, never planned on it. I remember when that was up there and people were asking me “Are you doing an album with Jim Thirlwell, that's going to be great!”, and you know, gosh I wish I was!
Yeah I had to ask the question because he just recently did a retrospective album of hisminimalist experimental works, and it's literally very similar in approach, very different in result. There're two different tracks on the CD where he takes a sample of Vincent Price, and one of the tracks is 20 minutes long, it's just several layers of him saying “YOU HAVE TO OBEY. YOU HAVE TO OBEY. YOU HAVE TO OBEY.” over and over again.
BR: (Laughs heartily) That's funny. Yeah well if I end up in New York, I think he's in New York, and I know a great guy who has a great recording studio there, it's like if I'm in New York and I meet up with this guy, who knows, maybe we'll have to make this rumor come true sooner or later.
I certainly hope so, that'd be great. So you've been doing this for 30 years, how much of a function does noise have in your life now? Do you listen to a lot of noise at home?
BR: Um, not really. I still really like it, what attracted me to it still excites me about it, and that's why with this new record, I wanted to get back to my roots and do something noisy again. I sort of branched off and started doing other things, because it seemed like the marketplace was so flooded with noise. I just went off in another direction. I still like it, I still like the effect is has on me, I still like playing it live.
So you're talking about the more abrasive stuff.
Cool. And there're archival recordings from 1975, are there any insights you'd like to share about those archival recordings that might see the light of day?
BR: I don't know if they're from 1975, they might be from 1978. But I know one is a live recording from the Whisky A Go Go I think, and one is a song that I always used to close my concerts with, where I would scream at the end of a song and it would go into a loop. They mentioned this in RE/search Magazine I think. I did a concert at Skid Row, at the time of the Skid Row Slasher, and it was this venue above the cafe where The Doors had their picture taken in the 60s, but all these homeless people, to get in from the cold, and to get away from the Skid Row Slasher, came up and watched my concert, and when I did the song where I screamed, they all ran outta the building as quick as they could. They'd rather be with The Slasher than at a NON concert.
I think the interview that I read this from is probably 6 years old now, but it still precludes a new album, you said that you recorded 13 queen bees on a piece of tape, and there was a loud, screeching, organic feel that came from it. Is that still something that you're going to be working with for the new album?
BR: You know what, unfortunately not, because it’s the most uncanny sound, and they were actually I thought they were queen ants, but somebody has since told me that they might be termites because they look like ants but they have wings and they fly. And in my back bedroom, in this basement of my apartment, once a year these things just come out of nowhere and they just fly all over the place. And I put tape on my hand, to get all of these ones off the bed, I put tape on my hand, and I picked up all of them that I could, and I heard this faraway sound that sounded like souls screaming in hell or something. I thought, “What is that sound?”, and I realized it was these ants or these termites or whatever, and I held it up to my ear, and it was the strangest sound because it was this pure shrieking noise, yet it sounded absolutely organic, it was obviously something from some living creature. So I taped this, I borrowed a tape recorder from the guy who administers my website, Brian Clark, and unfortunately he had this tape recorder that had a million speeds on it, and he's moved out of town, so unless I have that model of tape recorder, I've got the tape, I know where the tape is, but I can't use it unless I have that exact model of tape recorder.
Well best of luck to you! Yeah, you said that you started out with just tons of tape recorders right? So you would try to do your own transfixed kind of multi-tracking without a mixer, is that what you did?
BR: Yeah, yeah, whenever I'd see a tape recorder in a flea market or thrift store, I'd get it, and I had a room at the time, with virtually no furniture in it, and it was just full of tape recorders, and I had a tape recorder with a really good condenser microphone, so I could play a lot of things at once, and the condenser microphone, and it's very strange how those work, because they would hear things that your ear doesn't necessarily hear, so I'd record this stuff and I'd playback what I'd recorded and it sounded completely different, which is good!
Another thing that I've seen that may be in the realm of a rumor, but it was on your site. The upcoming album was slated to be called at one point I think “Man Cannot Flatter Fate” or maybe at another time “Stone Doesn't Lie”. Are these faulty memories?
BR: “Stone Doesn't Lie” was a book I started on, I made all the notes on it, but I never really followed through. But the thing is, the original idea for “Man Cannot Flatter Fate” was I wanted to do a thing where I knew these girls that were opera singers, girls that sang in Catholic choirs, and I wanted to tell them what to do and sort of sample their voices and make loops out of it in layers, and exactly as I started to do that, all these girls' parents found out about this, and looked me up on the internet, and they thought I was the leader of a sex cult or something, and forbade their daughters to see me. So that never happened. So the new album is going to be called “Back To Mono” and it's going to be completely different from the original concept I had for it, but you know, that original concept was like 6 years ago or something. I haven't put out an original studio album in 6 or 7 years.
We're waiting! We're being patient!
BR: It's forthcoming, all I need to do is figure out what the cover art is and then it'll be out later this year, and hopefully I'll tour to support it, that's the plan, and hopefully I'll take Z'ev along because me and Z'ev have done a lot recordings together and the new album has a couple different mixes of a song me and Z'ev have done.
And that's unrelated to the LP that you guys did?
BR: No it's related to it, but it's just, the LP was supposed to come out before my LP, and the people at the record company said well Boyd, we'd really rather have you do a new album, and then you can tour to support it, and then Z'ev can come along on the tour, and that will generate interest in Z'ev, because you know, a lot of the new audiences, a lot of the kids are too young maybe to remember what an important figure Z'ev is. They thought it'd be great to generate interest before just putting an album out from left field, an album by me and Z'ev.
OK. That makes sense. In that collaborative LP that you did with Cold Spring, it says that you did voice, but I didn't hear any voice there, that seems pretty buried if there is one, it's a good amount of drone.
BR: All those sounds, I think virtually every sound on that is my voice, and Z'ev has done something to it. Believe it or not (laughs). Because they don't sound like my voice, but he would say “Yeah Boyd, sing 'I Will Follow Him' by Little Peggy March” and I'd do it, and he does something to these tapes and it's like RAWRAAAWR (makes a kind of tape warble noise).
BR: I like Einsturzende Neubauten and Z'ev. Let's see, there's a guy who's really really great. Nobody knows about him. He's called Steve Thomsen, and he just does this unbelievable music that doesn't sound like anything you've ever heard in your life. And I don't know what's become of this guy, he was in a band called Monitor in the 70s, the last I've heard nobody knows how to get in touch with him. He was very much into caves, cave exploring and stuff. The last I heard he was actually living in a cave. So I don't know if anything by him is available. Steve Thomsen, if you can get anything by him, it's pure gold.
Did he use the atmosphere or the ambiance of caves in his recordings?
BR: No, although there is a place, have you ever heard of Luray Caverns?
I can't say I have.
BR: It's a place, I believe it's in West Virginia or some place, and it's a cavern where they have turned the stalactites and stalagmites into kind of a giant organ piano thing, they have them hooked up into a keyboard, and they have filed them down so each on represents an different note, and you can go on a tour of Luray Caverns, and somebody will play this music and it reverberates throughout the entire cavern. That's gotta be spectacular.
How did you achieve 130 decibels? I can't imagine that you have an extreme budget, how are you able to outshine Deep Purple or a 747 jet (in terms of loudness)?
BR: I don't know. This is something that has been said, I don't know if it's true, because I thought a jet taking off, in sound there's something known as the threshold of destruction where it is literally so loud that it will decompose matter or human flesh if you're too close to it. I was told that at one time, I'm not sure whether that's true or not, but it sounds good. But, in that (Iconoclast, documentary about Boyd Rice) there's the guy who put on my first concert in San Diego that he'd seen Deep Purple, which had the Guinness book of world record. It was said that it was so loud that a dog walked into their concert once and started bleeding from the ears and keeled over dead. I don't know if that's true either, but he said he saw Deep Purple and he saw my first concert, and I was louder than Deep Purple. I think it's just a thing too where, if you have a frequency going, and it's constant and consistent, it can seem to be louder even thought it isn't. Rock 'N' Roll has the hills and valleys, the rhythms, it's not always loud. What I used to do, and still do sometimes, is always loud. People are afraid to get it as loud as they can because they're afraid they're just going to destroy the speakers. In some cases it has blown the speakers, and I've got a really great effect. Doing vocals and they come out (makes noises).
OK. More history questions. You threw a television out of the window of an art gallery with Monte Cazazza [an early controversial artist on Throbbing Gristle's Industrial Records, he was known to carry around and set fire a dead cat among many other prankish, shock value oriented antics]. Did you do anything else of that nature with Monte Cazazza?
BR: Well, Monte Cazazza wasn't actually there at that time, I didn't meet Monte, I'd been in touch with him, but I didn't really actually meet him until I played at San Francisco Art Institute. Strangely, cause one of the of the things that intrigued me about moving to San Francisco was that I knew there was this crazy guy Monte Cazazza living there, and he was into the same stuff that I was into. But I didn't meet him until later, when I did the T.V. thing, Z'ev was there, Frederik Nilsen from Los Angeles Free Music Society was performing there, I performed on a bill with this guy that was an Italian Futurist who did sound poetry back in the 20s with Marinetti, who brought some of the old magazines, was doing this crazy ass stuff.
One of the most inspiring things that I've read that he did was in art school, his art project was building a piece that would effectively block the entrances to the school, so it definitely seems right up your alley.
BR: (Laughs) Well I knew these people, Bill Gaglione and Anna Banana, and they had a group where they'd call themselves the Bay Area Dadaists, and they would have a party every year where everybody would dress in black and white. And everybody's saying “Where's Monte?” “Isn't Monte gonna be here?” and somebody said “Well he said he was coming, he should've been here an hour ago”. Then they hear this siren coming down the street, and an ambulance pulls up in front of their house, and these guys get a stretcher out, and Monte Cazazza is on a stretcher, these guys are carrying him up the stairs into the apartment. They had a bunch of stories like that. (laughing throughout) They were sitting in their living room one day, and a brick comes through their window, and it's got a note on it, and the note just says “LET ME IN”, and it was Monte! (laughs all around)
One of a kind! Wow. Well, another person you've worked with, there's a video of you, where you took part in a performance with Frank Tovey (Fad Gadget), it was atLondon's Institute for Contemporary Arts, that video was great. I don't know anything about synthesizers or anything, but it's a pretty otherworldly sound, would you care to share anything about what you did?
BR: It's not really synthesizers, it was some system where we had all these instruments interconnected so they reacted to one another, and some of it I would feed in bits and pieces of noise from a tape recorder I had. Monte... that was a time I collaborated with Monte, it was like I could feed into the thing he had, and what he had would make a loop of it plus put delay on it, so some of it was that. Monte actually was in London, and I asked if he would like to come along and do something with me and Frank Tovey and he said yeah “just tell me what you want me to do, I'll do anything”. He played a guitar, we had it going through a a noise gate, it was raised to a certain level that it created this really abrupt sound. Unfortunately I used to have a tape of that full concert some place and it was really good, and I guess within the last couple of years, Mute [Records] was trying to find the actual master tapes and they're unable to locate them. And it's a shame because that was a really good one-off performance. We just sort of got together for a week, figured out some system. It was well received, and I think the people who opened for us were Sonic Youth, that was their first show in London.
I read that you put an amplifier underneath a grand piano, and you recorded the vibrations that happened to the piano from the amplifiers, did you ever expand on that concept? I mean I could just visualize this happening to 4 pianos or something, shaking things up.
BR: What I did is there was a microphone on there on the strings of the piano, and when this thing came on, before any noise came out of the amplifier, it was already so loud that it shook around the microphone on the strings. So when you listen to “Theme to Dark Shadows”, everybody over the years just said, “What are those weird sounds at the beginning of that?” (makes Pling Plong kinds of noises) and then the music starts, well that's the microphone being vibrated on the strings. The silence out of this amplifier was so loud that it was vibrating things before the music even started.
I know about the Roto-Guitar (a 50s era metal fan attached to the pick-up of a guitar, one of Boyd's early instruments), I know that you used a shoe polisher, I know that you had a strange spiraling drill bit kind of thing. Did you have any other machines? I love the idea of machines that create noise in that kind of grinding way.
BR: (Excuses himself to sniff snuff for a moment) Well early on I had this box I invented which I called the noise manipulation unit, and in effect it was a way for me to sample noise and form it into rudimentary rhythms live on stage. When you mention Sleazy, this just came up, it's like, I used this thing for a number of years and I never told anybody how it was made, and to look at it, you know, it's just a box with buttons on it and cords coming out, and I never told anybody what it was. When I played at the London Filmmakers Co-op, Sleazy came up afterwards and he said “What's in that box that creates those unbelievable noises?” And I told him how it was designed because, I figured anybody else, I tell them how it's done, and they're going to have the same sound that I have. Sleazy is such a creative guy, I didn't think Sleazy was gonna rip me off, but the next time I saw Throbbing Gristle, when I played with them at SO36 in Berlin, Sleazy had told Chris Carter about this device, and Chris Carter had designed a version of it for Sleazy to use, so when Sleazy died, it said Sleazy was the first person to invent a device that could sample, and that's not true. He didn't invent it, and Chris Carter didn't invent it, I invented it. There are pictures of me on my website where I'm holding a little metal box with buttons and cords, that's what that was.
Yeah that's in your bio too, and it definitely looks like it's from the 70s.
BR: Oh it's definitely from the 70s! I used to just go to hardware stores and wander around looking at stuff thinking. I'd see stuff and it'd suggest ideas to me, I'd think “Wow! I don't know what that is but I bet I could use it to do this or this or this”, you know.
Are you that much of a handy man? I mean, you really don't strike me as a circuit bending type of guy.
BR: I'm not! I'm not. But I'm an idea guy. It's like I actually came up with this idea years before I actually invented it, and I asked people who knew about technical things. I'd say “What would it be like if you took this and this and this and tried to do this?” and they'd say “Oh no, that's not possible.” And I'd think, well it seems possible to me. So after putting it off for a couple of years, I thought, “Fuck all of these experts!” I think this can work, I'm going to see if it's possible. I'm not a technical guy, I'm like a cave man, I'm like a cave man with ideas. So I made this crude device, and it worked, and that's what I used the first several years I was touring on my own.
It seems like it's even more ornate than a Jam Man would be, I mean, even that just loops one thing, but you're able to do as many as four things I'm going to guess?
BR: Well, it depends on the device, I could've made it so that it would do an infinite number of things, but I essentially had it so there were a couple noise sources and you could hear one noise source, you could hear the other noise source, or you could hear them both at the same time, so it would sound like 3 different octaves. That's sort of the sound you have on my first single “Mode of Infection”, but it was done differently.
Did you do that in “Fire In The Organism” by chance?
BR: “Fire In The Organism”, let's see... No no no, “Fire In The "Organism” actually is a jet plane taking off! Multi-tracked. There was a place, the airport in San Diego, where you could get directly behind the jet planes taking off, and I'd heard at the time, that this is the loudest sound that exists, known to man. It is so loud that if you're too close to it, it will destroy human flesh. And I thought “That's the sound I need to get!” . So there was a place where you could park and there was a fence with corrugated metal over it, and then right down at the bottom there was a place where could kind of squeeze the tape recorder inside and turn it on when the jets were taking off.
Did you spend a lot of time with jets? I know there's that story about when you finished the album with Death In June that a jet flew between the two of you [he and Douglas P. of Death In June] and that's when you knew that it was done, that is the best you're going to do (together), or what have you. Do you spend a lot of time around planes for the sound?
BR: No, I spend too much time on planes, traveling back and forth. But yeah, even here in Denver, there's a place where you can go and park and watch the jets land at the old airport. But yeah, I used to have one of the early walkmans that had the binaural condenser microphone, so I used to record everything every place. I'd be in a train, walking from one car to the other, in the part between one train and the next train, there's this loud rhythmic sound. I used to record construction sites. Back in the 70s, I never went anyplace without a tape recorder, and I could take these things and make loops out of them, taking them out of context, a lot of times you wouldn't be able to tell what they were. And I mean, that was always my intention. I didn't want to use something that sounded like a jackhammer. A jackhammer has no... There's nothing emotive about a jackhammer. There's nothing emotive about a guitar. If you're using a guitar for something and you can tell it's a guitar, it's sort of a cliché. I wanted to use things where people would hear them and say “What is that? I've never heard that before”.
That's funny that you say that, I mean, you've mentioned many times in previous interviews that you like for things to be open-ended, and I also, you just gave me the question. I know that Andy Warhol was obsessive about that too, he recorded everything, I mean everything that, even while he was sleeping, he had a recorder going if I remember correctly from what I read.
BR: Yeah so all this stuff I've got, I've got, collections of some of those Andy Warhol tapes, and there are tapes where he let the silver balloons go, and he's like “Wow, look at them, oh they're great!” And it's like you're right there for this historic moment, and there are thousands and thousands of hours of this stuff at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
BR: Yeah I like that, I wish, I started doing that, I was going to do a book where I thought, I know so many interesting people, and I'd have so many interesting conversations, I'm just going to start recording whenever I go out to dinner with somebody or something, or whenever I'm on the phone talking to somebody, I'm going to record this stuff. And I did for about a year or something, and a lot of it, it's very funny, you know, if you're out at dinner and you're talking, and you turn on a tape recorder, you know, it gets silent very quickly.
Yeah, that's almost the jinx of it I would guess. But yeah I do like, especially with tape recorders, I use mini cassettes too, because I mean, the fidelity is definitely lower when you deal with mini cassettes, but especially with vocals, and the way that air interrelates with reverb, it really takes on another form, you know you listen to something and like “I wasn't really sad when I said that but it sounds like I'm sad”.
BR: (laughs) Yeah I love tape recorders, one of my pivotal things of my youth, one year for my birthday, my parents got me this little blue plastic reel-to-reel tape recorder from Japan, and I just recorded all sorts of stuff. And then it had multiple speeds so I could record stuff and listen to it slower and listen to it sped up and I thought “This is miraculous! You can just capture something in perpetuity that is happening in the moment!” and then when I started doing my ambient music, a friend of mine had a really good tape recorder, and he was going to jail, and he said “Boyd, you can use my tape recorder while I'm jail”, and that's when I did all the stuff that's on The Black Album.
That's how he said it? Out of the blue? You'd probably already expressed interest in getting a tape recorder, but that phrase “Boyd, you can use my tape recorder, I'm going to jail”
BR: Yeah, well, that was that, I'd been planning for a long time to record some music and I knew how I was going to do it, and his going to jail afforded me the opportunity to record all of that early stuff.
It's pretty marvelous stuff, I think my favorite is the part that I read about. Where, oh who's voice is it? At the very end of the record, it's a woman's voice over and over, she sang a word, and I don't remember what the word is...
BR: This is something the RE/search (magazine) people put in their thing, and that recording was never released, I don't even know what became of that recording, but Lesley Gore's first album was something with the word “Cry”. Because her big hit was “It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To”, that was a huge hit, they thought “Okay, we'll have her record every song ever written with the word “Cry” in the title. So it's like “Cry Me A River”, “Cry And You Cry Alone” so I went through this entire album and I just had the tape recorder on pause, and I just recorded every time she said “Cry”. It came out and it made these very weird rhythms, and stuff, but it's really never been released on anything. For some reason the RE/search people made a big deal about that, and it's still on, it's probably still on my Wikipedia page, I mean people are still talking about it. It's like one weird thing I did 33 years ago and it was never even released.
I listened really diligently to try to hear it, and at the very end of Side B, I think there's something that might've been, by a stretch, what would sound like that, I would think. But yeah, it's just an interesting artifact to listen to, even now it's, the sensibility of it is very alien.
BR: What, The Black Album?
BR: Yeah, I mean I can't believe nobody's made a bigger deal out of this, but I was essentially doing sample-based music years in advance of the invention of the Fairlight, or the early samplers. That's how I did everything on The Black Album.
Another thing I'd like to ask, with the way that you do music, you still don't know anything about music, and your ability to create music seems to be getting more and more refined, but you must not be doing everything with samples, you've gotta be at least doing percussion or something. Are there any secrets or insights that you'd like to share about how you create music? I mean, I know that you're doing a cover of David Bowie...
BR: Well that I just did vocals on, that's done by Bryin Dall, he has a group called Hirsute Persuit. I was in the studio one day, and I didn't even remember this. He said “Hey Boyd, would you do this David Bowie song?” and I said “I can't sing really” and he said “Well, just read the words.” so I did, and the last time I'm in New York he plays this thing for me and it's like “Is that me? That's really weird”. So he wanted to do a remix album of this Hirsute Persuit thing, and get all of these remix people to do different things, and everybody wanted to remix “Boys Keep Swinging” with my vocals, so he's putting out a record, there's like a 12 inch single that's going to have 6 remixes of me doing “Boys Keep Swinging”.
BR: Thank you! Thank you because I thought that was so fun, and funny because I was listening to The Stooges and I thought “Wait a minute, '1969' and 'Rocket USA' are the same song!” You know, it's like, it would be great to do a loop of '1969' and turn it into 'Rocket USA', so I'm glad you picked up on that.
When you are making music, for instance with “Solitude”(one of the most, albeit loosely, melodic tracks by NON) at the very least, you're playing a piano, or are you sampling something with that?
BR: That's a sample off an obscure British girl group song, it's called “Dark Shadows and Empty Hallways”. I made a loop of it but then I tracked it so that there would be two of them, so it creates these strange overtones, so you hear stuff in there that isn't actually in the sample. That's how I do a lot of things, where I get a loop and then I track it just slightly differently, or make it slightly shorter or longer, so that when they both play out they will go in a different rhythm from one another, or if they're the exact same length, they will create a sort of Moiré pattern, if you know what that is.
You're a person that champions what could be called “brutal realities”, and you're definitely a proponent of self-awareness, but your naivete' or your Peter Pan Syndrome, and the fact that you're inherently anachronistic, might be the secret to your success in achieving things that you yourself have proclaimed that you're in no way qualified to do. How do you juxtapose these concepts? Is there a rational self-delusion in any part of that? Or is there a rationale that I'm missing?
BR: I'm not sure, I think I'm a Pragmatist, but I think a lot of, when I talk about naivete' I think, when you're young, you sort of imagine that you can do anything. So you can go into things. At this point in my life, people say “Hey! How do I go about doing this?” and I just say “Give up, it's hopeless. Forget about it, you don't stand a snowball's chance in hell.” Luckily, when I was young, I didn't know that I didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell, so I proceeded in these directions that everybody advised me against, and in the long run it worked out for me. It probably only worked because I didn't have the concept that it wasn't possible. But now, looking back at it, what are the odds? That somebody could put out a record like The Black Album and every major critic in London would get it, and all these influential people would get it, and it would result in me being signed to what is now the biggest independent record label in the world. At that time, Mute Records only had one record out, I went to London, and he asked me to re-release my record.
Yeah, that's a pretty miraculous story.
BR: Yeah, and even then, it is miraculous because I just happened to buy this record, and 5 minutes later, Daniel Miller from Mute Records walked in, and they said “This guy just bought your record!”, and we started talking, and it's like I could have gone into Rough Trade Shop in London, the day before that, the day after that, an hour later, an hour earlier, and I just happened to be there at the exact time this guy was there and I was the first artist signed to Mute Records and that defined the rest of my life on a certain level.
Just 30 copies, you said, it just went to some incredibly influential people. I'm gonna guess that Steven Stapleton was one of them because he put you in his list [The Nurse With Wound List, a list of 292 obscure artists, which was included in “Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella” (1979) and later expanded on “To the Quiet Men from a Tiny Girl” in 1980], in one of his early LPs, and that's actually a legendary thing by itself, just that list.
BR: Really? Yeah, he actually did. Rough Trade somehow got copies of this to a pharmacy, like it was CVS or something. Some ordinary drug store in London, and Steven Stapleton went in, and he always looked through the 99 cent... 99 pence bin, and this record was reduced to 99 pence, and he saw this and he thought “This is an album with an entirely black cover! What could it possibly be?”, so he felt it was worth the risk of spending 99 pence to get this to find out what it was. And he got it home, and he was shocked. You know, he's like “Oh my god, what is this?” So he went immediately back to the store and bought every single copy they had in there. And he gave them out to people over the years.
I saw your website, and you know, I've obviously sent you some letters. Do you think you're ever going to do a book or anything about the interview questions that people have mailed to you? (According to boydrice.com, the last printed interview with Boyd Rice was published in 2006. And in 2008, Boyd proclaimed that the only interviews that he would do from that point on, would be by way of mail, with his fans who have asked him the best questions out of genuine curiosity).
BR: You know what, I intended to collate all of those things but at a certain point, I got a lot of really good questions but at a certain point I just decided, no I'm not gonna do that because if I put that out it would be like me saying this is definitive, and I don't think it could be definitive. So I mean, I haven't done any interviews in years and years and years except for the rare times I go on the radio or something. I think I'm ready to speak again, there are a lot of new things going on. And the documentary's out there, so people will have a lot more background, and they won't just be concentrating on “Tell us again what you did in 1987”.
Well thanks again! How did you come to be interviewed by Tom Metzger on his television show? (Metzger is a notorious racist, who had a nationally televised talk show in the 80s called “Race and Reason”).
BR: Well, a year or two before I met Anton La Vey, I was working on a book called "The Outsiders"; and I wanted to do a series of interviews with people who had become iconic figures in popular culture not despite the fact they were outsiders, but because of the fact they were outsiders. I wanted to come up with twenty largely generalized questions to ask all of them and see how their answers varied or how they overlapped. So I sent off ten or twelve letters to a sort of Who's Who of figures considered to have extreme views at the time. I sent a letter to Anton La Vey, another to the Mormon polygamist Alex Joseph who had 13 wives and I was also keen to interview the hardline Zionist Meir Kahane, whose views were considered so extreme he was nicknamed "the Jewish Hitler". So I sent off all these letters and the only person who contacted me was Tom Metzger.
So Metzger called me up and said I could interview him, so long as I went on his public access show so he could interview me. There weren't a ton of people asking me to go on T.V. in 1986 so I jumped at the chance. I think it's pretty obvious to anyone who watched the program in its entirety that Metzger had no idea whatsoever of who I was or what I did.
Were there areas where you saw eye to eye or areas where you disagreed?
BR: I was more into a generalized Spanglarian "Decline of the West" mindset, and he was into a very specific anti-U.S. government thing. He hated the Feds, as he called them. We were both fans of Jack London, but he was fondest of London's socialist works like "The Iron Heel", which I never quite cared for.
There is a point in your interview in which you seem to make the point that industrial music is racialist music, or white music.
BR: Industrial music is not racialist. I think that what I said was that someone in Europe wrote an article in which he stated that industrial music was the only form of 20th century music that didn't have roots in black music or negro spirituals or something like that. Even that's not strictly true. You've got surf music, heavy metal, lounge music, exotica, and so on ad infinitum. Even Motown doesn't have roots in negro spirituals. I think the point the author was making was that industrial music was largely unrelated to any pre-existing tradition, and certainly not to rock and roll. I've made the same point myself repeatedly. Rock music today uses the same three or four chords that were used in "Louie Louie", by Chuck Berry. And most of it is lame. But then, 95% of everything is lame.
What was your impression of Tom Metzger?
BR: I won't lie to you, he was very intelligent, very well read, and very charming. In other words, he was a textbook example of a high dominance male. I've met many such people in the course of my life, Charlie Manson for example. You don't have to agree with or condone all of their thoughts or actions to find them fascinating. And for better of worse, I've been fascinated by the extremist fringe for literally most of my adult life, if not going back to my childhood. I find Stalin more compelling than Mother Teresa and Eva Peron more compelling than Hillary Clinton. So do most people. If you were in prison and had the choice of reading a biography of Lady Di or The Marquis de Sade, which would you choose? The question answers itself.
Well, people might have a passing interest in these things, but few will own a bust of Hitler or a swastika flag. I can't help but ask if there was more than just dabbling going on.
BR: A book came out in the 70's, I think, called Morning of the Magicians and it was the first book to posit the notion that Hitler was essentially an occultist who wanted to end the Christian era and inaugurate the resurgence of paganism. That's quite interesting. In the following decade, maybe ten or twelve other books came out expanding on this theme. I'd been immersed in the occult since the age of 13, and naturally was curious. So were Anton La Vey and Michael Aquino. My milieu in the 80's consisted of people like David Tibet, Genesis P-Orridge, & Coil; all people who were occultists first and musicians second - and they all shared the same fascination. It had nothing to do with conservative politics because we were far from conservative, and it certainly had nothing to do with race. We were drawn to the occult aspects of the phenomenon. In fact, Douglas Pearce [of Neofolk band, Death In June] was quite vocal in his opposition to Hitler, saying that the phenomenon was interesting, but Hitler was not.
The rest of us, I think, were anxious to know how an unknown, homeless artist became, in a few short years, the leader of a powerful nation that was (for a time) the strongest force in Europe. I alluded to this about 30 years ago in in the RE/Search Industrial Culture Handbook.
What I took away from all of this is that people who know how to manipulate archetypes can essentially end up becoming the imagined manifestation of those archetypes. I must have done my job effectively because to this very day there are people who imagine that I'm synonymous with Hitler. This has become quite tedious for me because I've never had any interest in being anyone's leader. I was offered the leadership of the Church of Satan and turned it down.
At present, my life amounts to this: everyday, my girlfriend wakes me up at 2:00 in the afternoon so that I can see two episodes of the Partridge Family on T.V. I stay up all night watching obscure, old films or episodes of The Highway Patrol or Mister Ed, then go to sleep when the sun rises. Those among you who find that threatening or evil should consult a good psychiatrist. Or maybe not. If Hitler were alive he'd be up at night watching Mr. Ed. And Charlie Manson told me that Mr. Ed was one of his favorite shows as well. In his own words, Charlie said "I love that fuckin' horse! He's a motherfucking beatnik, man!"
There are some people who say that Anarchists and Antifa are the new Nazis because they are trying to snuff out the things that they don't like or don't agree with in the name of "freedom" or "free speech" and etc. But at the same time, there are parts of Europe where Nazis/violent racists are a reality and people are still acting out against that. I know that there won't be another Nazi Regime anytime soon, but Nazis are still a threat in some places. Are all of them misguided? I mean, if you were living in a situation where you were facing real life scrutiny and suppression by thugs or police for the way that you live your life, would you become an activist? What would you do?
BR: So much of this question is specious, and in essence I've already answered it and addressed it in my book besides. If, as you assert, nazis are "a reality" or threat in some parts of Europe, please alert the news media and apprise them of the fact. I'm sure they'd love to know. Better yet, alert the anti-fascist groups!! I'm sure they'd rather protest real nazis than a bunch of hapless goth groups, such as the "Neo-Folk threat".
As for living in a situation in which I faced real life scrutiny and attempted suppression by things and the police, I've experienced that for the last twenty-some years. Unfortunately, the scrutiny wasn't terribly well-informed or in depth, and happily, the suppression has been largely ineffectual. It's been tedious, but fun.
And I would take issue with the statement that anarchists and anti-fascists are "the new nazis". That's rubbish. Sure, they'd love to censor everything they disagree with, but so do most people in today's world. If you were to label all such folks as "nazis", we'd have the Fourth Reich this very second! In the recent past, people have called everyone from Nixon to Reagan to George W. Bush "nazis" and that simply isn't the case. When you bastardize a very specific word like that because it's a convenient way to demonize those with whom you disagree, the word becomes meaningless after time, and tends to trivialize a great deal of what happened during World War II.
In listening to your more misanthropic recordings, you strike me as a humanist, a person who wishes values were upheld as much as they were when you grew up. At the same time, there are some people that would say that your work or your writing is encouraging a decline in such values, in a world where a lot of popular television has been upheld by a decline in respect for one another and values, for at least the last 15 years. What would you say to people who think that you're part of the privileged who are making fun of those less fortunate? I guess a good example would be the Tards record or the "Violence Towards Women" stuff in Answer Me! or Hatesville. Where would you stand on that? Are you making fun of retarded people, rape victims, or victims of domestic abuse? Is your motivation simply against political correctness?
BR: If you read my book NO, I make it very clear that I reject a great many of the most cherished values of Western civilization. I have no great nostalgia for the dominant values of the era in which I grew up, although they were more functional in terms of running a well ordered society than those in vogue today. I think most of today's highly prized values are weak, corrupt and make little sense in the real world. So I reject them. This works for me, and that's all that I care about. Anyone who thinks that the gospel of love is going to better serve their needs, good luck to them. But I'm not holding my breath. As for making fun of people, I will make fun of whoever I see fit, whenever I care to do so. No apologies. That's part of my job. Those with a modicum of sophistication, or half a brain will understand my humor and my commentary. For those too dimwitted to get it, I'm not going to explain. That'snot my job.
As for being a member of some privileged class, give me a break. I was born into a very lower middle class family, grew up in a trailer park and dropped out of high school. What degree of "privilege" does that equation provide for me? I've known a ton of people with exponentially greater advantages who've done nothing whatsoever with their lives, whereas I've been able to make a living off my wits and create a respectable body of work besides. I take pride in the fact that I came from nothing, yet was able to live the life I wanted entirely on my won terms. I know a lot of people who are smarter than me and vastly more talented who haven't been able to pull it off.
And thirty years ago I was homeless and selling plasma just to eat. I slept in graveyards and abandoned houses in Phoenix, Arizona. I'd wager that none of the folks who posit I'mprivileged have ever lived through one hundredth of what I've experienced. And I loved every second of it. I mean, if your options are living life on your own terms, or having the comfort and security you can get from punching a time clock, which would you choose? For me it wasn't a decision I had to think too long or hard about.
What was your article with Bob Heick like? I haven't found a scan or a copy of it, and I'm sure it must've been interesting.
BR: Not particularly, no. It was an interview with Bob and it was more or less what you'd expect, perhaps a bit more clever. I put on that shirt and tie and showed up primarily because I wanted to be in a fashion magazine for teenage girls and because the magazine was going to foot the tab for a night of bar hopping in San Francisco's greatest dives. That outfit, in fact, was the uniform I wore as an alarm agent for Twilight Security, I just added the patch for the photo shoot. Bob said he needed as many "cool looking people" as he could get. Sixty guys were supposed to show up, but because of inclement weather I was the only one who did! These folks were Aryan Warriors ready to die for their race, but apparently rainy weather didn't agree with them.
My relationship with Bob was like my relationship with Jello Biafra, we never saw eye to eye on politics, but they were both fun. And I didn't give a rat's ass about politics so I didn't really care. Some people have made a big deal about the photo of me brandishing a knife, but San Francisco was a violent place in the 80's. Me and La Vey both had that Spyderco Harpy, and we never left home without it. In fact, me and Anton both carried firearms at all times when we went out in public. It was that bad back then. I never fired my gun during those years except once. Blixa Bargeld didn't believe my gun was real and I shot a hole in the wall of his hotel room. Welcome to America, Blixa!
What was your impression of skinheads at the time?
BR: I saw them as being the cultural equivalent of what the Hell's Angels were in 1969. And I wasn't alone in that opinion. Both La Vey and Manson said virtually the same thing. And both La Vey and Manson had tried to co-opt the Angels in '69, but both failed. Both wanted to co-opt the skins in 1987, and both saw me as the vehicle for that. Of course, such attempts were destined to fail. Though Bob Heick could embrace La Vey's philosophy, the lion's share of Skinheads rejected La Vey because he was a Jew. And they rejected Manson because he putatively orchestrated the murder of a woman who was 9 months pregnant.
The sole reason I could relate to Anton and Charlie's thought on the subject because growing up my father's best friends were Hell's Angels and Iron Horsemen. Outlaw bikers. As a kid, these guys were my role models, never my dad. I wanted to be like those guys. Consequently, I always identified more with the villains of movies than the heroes. In horror films, I always wanted the monster to win. So the die was cast at a very early age.
My attitude at the time was "when in Rome, don't do as the Romans do". And San Francisco in the 80's seemed to me like ancient Rome in decline. I wanted to be an irritant, like the proverbial grain of sand in an oyster. And I was. But this wasn't gratuitous reactionary contrarionism, I wouldn't have struck such a nerve if it was. In retrospect, I was very conscious about what I was doing, and I did my job exceedingly well. Most people will never understand this and they don't deserve to. I do what I do for a small, select group of people who actually get it and always have. The others don't count. Nothing I've ever done has been for mass consumption.
Your tour bus was fire-bombed while you were on tour because of misinterpretations of this stuff at one point. What was going on in your mind? You did get another bus and you did continue with your tour, but what was the driving force with that? Did you sit for a moment and think “Well, this is my art and I'll die for it” or did you think you'd be more of a sitting duck if you got on another bus? I'm just wondering what was on your mind in this situation.
BR: You know, what crossed my mind was, people never come to me with stuff. Because if you can destroy property, or if you can confront somebody that might beat the hell out of you, what are you gonna do? I mean it doesn't take much courage to throw a molotov cocktail under a tour bus. We heard about this, and we thought, “Oh, well, this bus is rented, and it's insured, so there's no skin off our nose, we just drive to the airport, get another bus from the same company, and we're off down the road.” And it only delayed us 15 minutes or something. It was no big deal. But this is the way of those people, people who yell at you when they're in a car and you're walking down the street, and they can yell anything they want, they know they're not going to have to face the repercussions, because you're on a street and they're in a car. It's the same thing. But you know, people who do stuff like that are cowardly, and they're people who are ill-informed, and they're people who want to do something hateful, but they want to feel that they have some moral justification, so they come up with a justification.
Yeah, I think I'd totally agree on that, not that I've been in that situation before.
BR: Yeah but that's one of the rare occasions where anybody has actually done anything. We'd get threats, we arrived in Vienna, and there were police with machine guns at the subway stop. There were police with machine guns in front of the venue. There was a paddy wagon driving around the block in a circle in case there were riots. It'd been in the newspaper everyday for a week. It's like “These horrible people Death In June and Boyd Rice, are coming to our town, and there's going to be violence and there's going to be riots”. Obviously, nothing happened, but the people who came to that show got the extra experience of, imagine going to a music show, and you have to walk between two state police with machine guns. (laughs) I'd like to do that at every show! Have people with machine guns standing outside, how cool is that? And another place we went, there were going to be protesters and so they brought out the military and these guys with attack dogs, and there were like 7 protesters with 2 dogs wearing scarves around their necks. And the protesters were white guys with dreadlocks, so you've got an army of people, again with automatic weapons, to fend off 7 ineffectual little vegan people? And their dogs?
I'm no stranger to the amount of adversity you've faced, I mean I obviously live in Chicago, so I won't be seeing you live here very much!
BR: Well that's the only other time, what happened in Chicago with Death In June, those people are absolute dye-to-the-wool COWARDS. They didn't confront Doug Pearce who's six foot two and can beat the hell out of them, they ran up and they hit little girls who were five foot two. These are rarities too, this stuff really never happens to us. I haven't had any problems in years and years and years. Doug really hasn't either. But there are people who feel like “I'm an anarchist punk, and I can only be an anarchist if I can have an adversary, and then I could only really be a real anarchist if I go out and commit violence in the name of what I believe”. So they don't even have an intellectual, you know, Socratic dialogue with a person to find out what they believe, because they don't want to know what they believe. It's easier to show up at a place with a pipe, and run up to some little girl who's not paying attention and hit her over the head.
Oh, jeez, I didn't even know about that...
BR: Yeah, I mean Chicago police were very interested in this, because it essentially is an act of terrorism, if you call up venues and say “We're going to smash all of your windows if you let Death In June play” or “We're going to bomb your place or burn it to the ground if you let them play” So this show was transferred from place to place to place and finally, these people showed up and they were wearing masks, and they beat up a bunch of girls. Doug (lead singer of Death In June) was standing right there, they could've come to Doug but they didn't.
Wow. I thought it was just the same kind of hapless protesters that are in your documentary, I wasn't there, so that was the impression that I had from people that told me about it.
Thank you for doing an interview with me, I'm learning a whole lot here.
BR: Sure thing, my pleasure.
What do you think of the people who protest your shows?
BR: It strikes me that the people who consider themselves politically conscious or strive to be militant and activists are the most politically naive people on earth. Gays and feminists marched in England in support of radical Islam, apparently incognizant of the fact that you can be jailed or put to death for being gay in most Islamic countries; or that women in such places wouldn't be allowed to march for or against anything. Yet they wanted to demonstrate their solidarity with the poor, oppressed jihadists. Are they mentally retarded? I suppose so. And those who want to protect anti-semitism needn't look too far afield. There are people out there who are actually blowing things up and cutting off people's heads. There's a state in the mid-east that's working on a nuclear bomb that they promise to drop on Israel. Are these same protesters outside the Iranian consulate? Nope. The whole world looks the other way, including the president of the United States. Yet these mental midgets deem me a subject worthy of protest. It's not like it bugs me, I just wonder sometimes what planet these people are from. We lie in a world in which massacres, uprisings and political instability are in the daily news; and in which any number of circumstances might trigger world war three. And there are people out there who are worried about me? I'm complimented. I love it! I love the spectacle of people still splitting hairs over political systems that ceased to exist sixty some odd years ago, even as the world around them falls apart at the seams. It's like the new Wiemar Republic: but with all the superstition and none of the decadence, fun and glamor.
People on the internet say that you're a "wife beater" because of what Lisa Suckdog said in her book. How do you respond to that?
BR: Well firstly, I was never insane enough to marry Lisa, so she was never my wife. Secondly, her false charges against me of domestic violence were laughed out of court. All charges were dismissed, and that's a matter of public record. The truth of the matter is that Lisa Carver is a pathological liar, and nine tenths of her "auto-biographical" scribblings aren't strictly true, but a means for her to live out her fantasies. And she had this white trash fantasy about men who were brutes and used their girlfriends as punching bags. For better or worse, I was never that guy.
I never read her book, but from what everyone tells me she never even describes any domestic violence, she just hints at it or implies that it happened. Why? Because publishers have lawyers on staff, and the lawyers don't want anything to see print that can't be substantiated or might prove libelous. So she never even describes what she purports I did to her, when presumably that would constitute the most exciting paragraph or two in her entire book. Evidently, she said something along the lines of "Boyd came toward me and . . ." So she just left that blank, assuming her idiot audience would assume the worst. And naturally, they did.
The case was thrown out of court because there was not a single shred of physical evidence to back up her charge. Police routinely take polaroids of cuts, bruises, black eyes and so forth in such cases. But there was nothing to photograph with Lisa because nothing happened. Lisa's a liar, full stop. When she sold two thousand copies of her Rollerderby magazine, she told her advertisers that she was selling ten thousand. When Adam Parfrey put out the Rollerderby compilation book, he printed way too many because she said she had an audience of twenty thousand. That was about fifteen or sixteen years ago, and Parfrey has boxes and boxes of those books sitting in storage because Lisa lied to him.
BR: Well, that's what she told the police. One of the cops took me aside and said "listen, because this is a domestic violence charge we're obligated by law to place you under arrest, but we know this is bullshit because we saw that girl and she didn't have a mark on her. If this case isn't thrown straight out of court, you'll get a plea deal for sure. The D.A. doesn't like losses on his record and he can't prosecute a case with no evidence. So don't sweat this, you'll spend a night in jail, be out in less than 24 hours and get on with your life."
So on the day of my trial, I was offered about six plea bargains and turned them all down because I wanted this thing to go to trial. Lisa flew to Denver from the east coast just to testify at my trial. I was adamant about wanting it to go to trial, so after I refused the final plea bargain, the assistant D.A. called LIsa over and asked her to tell what she was going to say on the stand. So Lisa tells her that I was growling like a wild animal or someone demon-possessed and that I lifted her off the ground by her neck, shook her around while strangling her, then smashed her face against a brick wall over and over and over, all while holding her in mid-air. Just as she thought she was going to lose consciousness from the severe pain, I tossed her across the room and she slammed down on the hard, concrete floor.
The assistant D.A. dismissed Lisa then turned to her assistant and said "I can't put that woman on the stand. The jury would think she was insane and the judge would think I was insane." A few seconds later the assistant D.A. came over to me and informed me that I was free to leave, that they'd decided not to pursue the charges. She even apologized for "any inconvenience this may have caused me".
The back story to this incident was that I told Lisa I was sick to death of her and couldn't stand living with her anymore. She protested that she still loved me, that she could change and things would improve if only we got married and had another child. I told her that wasn't going to happen. So she found an apartment nearby and was supposed to sign the lease the very next day after this so-called incident occurred. In truth, she'd always wanted to move back to New Hampshire to be near her loser father. This was the act of a bitter, vindictive woman. I rejected her so she wanted to destroy me and send me to prison. And it might have worked except she's not a good liar. I'm told that in recent years she did an interview in which she said she'd written that book to destroy my career. Wow, it's nice to know that even pathological liars can be honest on occasion.
Over the years people have asked me why I didn't respond to her accusations against me. The simple reason is that I don't care and neither does anyone else. And too, no one has ever asked about Lisa in an interview. In fifteen years, not a single person has asked about Lisa until you did, so far as I recall. So you asked, and I'm telling you. I invite anyone who thinks I'm not telling the truth to go down to the court building and check the records.
This is the first stuff I've said publicly about Lisa and it will no doubt be the last. If I were to write an autobiography about my life, I doubt she'd merit a footnote, because she's a puzzle piece that doesn't seem to fit into the larger picture. My life has largely been fun and interesting, but my time with her was dreary, dismal and tedious. The false charges she filed against me were actually a Godsend, because they got her out of Denver and out of my life. Even when I was in jail as a result, I felt an absolute freedom and sense of exhilaration; because I knew that when I finally went home she wouldn't be there.
Does it concern you that there are people out there who believe her charges?
BR: Not particularly. People who dislike me will want to believe it's true, no matter what the real facts are. They're idiots. People who know me will know none of it is true. And realistically, how many people even read that book? Very few. The fact is that the very few people who remember who she is, lost interest in her antics a decade or more ago. Taking your clothes off on stage is hardly the basis of a serious career. It might get you attention when you're young, but when you're fifteen years past your prime, no one cares anymore. Why else do you think that 50% of her biography, the story of her life and career, has to do with me; when we were only together a few years? I've been told that copies of my book "NO" are selling on Ebay for upwards of a hundred dollars. Lisa's book can be had for three bucks. I think that says it all.
Is there any reason why you've never responded to these charges?
BR: Sure. Because no one's every asked me about them and because I don't care. I'd assumed no one had read the book, and I doubt many have, aside from people who know me or her. Lisa's target demographic is adolescent boys who live in their parent's basements and have never been laid, and whatever the twenty-something female equivalent might be. Such people's opinions or feelings don't impact my life whatsoever, so why should I give a fuck? At the end of the day, I don't. I couldn't care less.
In a previous interview, you defined “Love” as something that you wouldn't touch with a barge pole except for your version. Would you care to elaborate on your version?
BR: I don't know, it's like, you say certain things at certain points in your life and I think when I said that then, that was very true for me, but now I'm in love, and I'm sitting here and I have a beautiful girlfriend sitting across the room and I have two lovely cats, and life is beautiful. Love didn't work out for a whole lot of years, anything you do with other humans is gonna be problematic.
Yeah. Well, congratulations!
BR: Well, thank you! I'm very happy (laughs).
It seems like a lot has changed since at least the “About the Author” page in the NO book (a collection of essays about what Boyd doesn't believe in), or the first edition at least, was put out. From there, it said, you know, you don't have any cats, and no girlfriends...
BR: (Laughs heartily) Yeah, I know, they're going to have to take that out for the next edition. But how boring would it be to say “Boyd lives a contented life and eats nice meals everyday and has two lovely cats!” You know that doesn't sound like, it's not what people want from their underground figures. (laughs).
Well, for good or ill, you seem to be honest, I mean, if you're not, you're fooling me pretty well, and I consider myself a pretty skeptical person. With the things that people have accused you of, they could easily look at the things that you've said outright, and compared those to what you've denied. I can't imagine why anybody would think that you would deny anything, because of the way that you're just outspoken about your opinions.
BR: That's what always confuses me, it's like, wait a minute, the reason I've gotten into hot water with various people and groups is because I'm honest, I will tell what's on my mind, I will tell you what I think about things, you know, so why should I hold back anything? You would think anything that I'd thought would be in print 100 times over by now, if I really thought that, so if you look at everything I've said, to substantiate a certain point of view, it probably doesn't exist.
In the (ICONOCLAST) documentary, there's that part where, you know “A man should be both a mentor, and a father, and a lover” stuff like that, [this is in reference to a part of the documentary where Boyd says that the people he looked up to to some degree, Tiny Tim, Anton LaVey, and Charles Manson, all had the same view that it's best to dominate/control women when they're young, before anybody else gets to them] and I'm just curious if there's any background on it, or if there's a certain depth to it that you may be able to illuminate.
BR: I remember when I'm talking about the older men giving me advice about women.
When I asked you about it, I'm thinking in terms of a father with a lover, who is also given the same attitude as mentor, or a daughter. I know that you're not a proponent of current or fleeting morals of the day, that morals definitely only reflect a phase in history. But I wonder if there's any more of, not necessarily a justification, because I don't feel a need for anybody to be an apologist about anything, but I just wonder if there's a deeper, I can't say philosophy because you'd say you don't have a philosophy, but an approach, there's gotta be a method or something behind it.
BR: Behind what?
Well, dating younger girls, and having the approach of you know, a mentor, and a father...
BR: Okay, well, you know, I think for many years I dated younger... women because I was essentially frozen in a state of adolescence. And it's like I would age chronologically, but not really emotionally. So I really still felt like I was a teenager. Even when I was 40 or something. And I don't know what has happened to change me but I'm not that way anymore. So, you know, I think when I used to date 19 year old girls, it's because when I was 19, I dated 19 year old girls. And I still felt like I was a teenager, and that was the thing that seemed appropriate for me. Now it's like, I can't even imagine it.
That was something that was glaring that I really wanted to ask. I mean, somebody who is very picky about who they spend their time with, I can't relate to somebody who's under 23 most of the time. And I'm only 29 so I had to ask that.
BR: Yeah, well, I can't relate to young people at all. Of either sex, every once in a while there's one of them that's really good. And I cut people slack because I feel like I got my best ideas when I was 17 or 18. I'm still making a living off the ideas I had when I was a teenager. So I know that you can be very young and you can deliver the goods, but just generally speaking, most young people don't. I appreciate spending time with people who are doing real things in the real world and have a knowledge of the real world. You have a common basis for some sort of discussion.
It seems like you have a great deal of clarity. There's never been a point where you were confused about what you wanted to do, it seems like you always knew what you wanted to do. As I'm asking these questions, it still seems right on par, there's no flexing at all.
BR: I think there was a period where I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew precisely what I didn't want to do. And maybe sometimes that's more important.
That was a pretty poignant part of your book “NO”, I think. The idea that the two things that a baby learns [at first] is the concept of “No” and the concept of “Why”. Would you care to share anything about the next edition? I know that you're going to add 13 chapters...
BR: Yeah, 13, 13 new chapters. And I wrote those and had them sent off so long ago, I don't really remember what much of the content was. But, you know, they're essentially like the other chapters, sort of short and to the point.
That's the tricky thing about them, I'm glad it sold out quickly, but a lot of people said, you know, it's just a guy being self-indulgent, and sounding off about the way he feels about the world, and I just, even for yourself, you said you have no philosophy, you have no beliefs [ed. note: "NO" is now being taught as part of the lesson plan for a comparative literature class at NYU, by a teacher who graduated from Oxford], but the book puts across a really poignant message throughout all of the chapters. It'll be up to you whether you want to say what the inherent agenda is in the book, but I'm just surprised that people didn't pick up on it. I read some reviews, whether they're in chat forums or blogs or whatever. But people are saying that you're just being self-indulgent and I missed that whole (self-indulgent) thing, I don't understand how that happened.
BR: I disagree, I think that's the least self-indulgent book that a person could imagine. Most people who talk about ideas, they don't get to the point, they don't bottom line it, they just go on and on and on, it's like the more big words they can use, the more they feel good about it, and the more their readers will be impressed, and I hate stuff like that. I wanted to write down everything I kind of thought, in a form where somebody could sit down and read it in an hour or an hour and a half. Cos' we don't have time to read Spengler's Decline of the West. You know, sit down and read 800 pages of something. THAT is self-indulgent. A book that's 120 pages or whatever it is...
Especially with a lot of people who just spend a lot of time just reading little articles on the internet too, that would be more self-indulgent if it's quantity over quality, which it usually is.
BR: Yeah, it usually is. A lot of people go on the internet and post their opinions, I don't go and post my opinions on the internet. It takes some discipline to write a book, and have it published. It takes no discipline at all to go and post your opinion on the internet and it seems like most of the people who do it are people who have an ax to grind. You know I saw something, I was directed to something a couple weeks ago, and it's something I've never seen. And all these people were posting their opinions and saying “As far as I'm concerned, Boyd Rice isn't terribly intelligent.” You know, “This is hokey, and that's hokey” and it's like I think that if these people don't like me, why are they even posting things about me on the internet? If I don't like somebody, I pretend they don't exist, I ignore them. I don't go on a public forum and explain why I don't like them because it's irrelevant.
Yeah, a lot of times it's under the pretense that it's over discussion, you know, stimulating thought, but [most] times it's a lot of gossip. Well anyway, that's a great book. I'm glad that it's going to be reissued. I'm very sad that I was never able to pick up a copy of “The Vessel of God” (A book concerning Boyd's research into the bloodline of the Holy Grail) is that going to be reissued at all?
BR: That version that was released was really just a handful of essays, it wasn't the actual book, “The Vessel of God”. It was a handful of essays and part of it was in English and part of it was translated into Portuguese. But I would like to release all of those essays, because I was just looking at them a week or two ago, and some of them are really good. There's a lot of facts in there, and there's a lot of things I tied together. I reread an article and I thought “I shouldn't let these fall through the cracks, I should really get this published”. So, I mean, I'm sure eventually it will be.
You're still doing research on that right?
BR: Not really, for several years, I was actively doing research on that, and then I just kind of feel like I went in one side of it and out the other. There are people out there who've devoted their entire lives to that. Very intelligent people, they've made a good living off of it, and published books, but I just feel like I have bigger fish to fry. I can't obsess on some weird little conspiracy theory forever even if I've learned a bunch of good stuff from it, and I turned up a lot of good facts that nobody's ever turned up. I've got a million and one things that I want to do in my life. I still have a lot of things I haven't done.
I'm really looking forward to the thrift store book (a coffee table book of art found in thrift stores).
BR: Wait until you see it! It is so good! It is SOO GOOOD! I mean I can't wait for that thing to get released because people are going to lose their minds. It's just so perfect. You can't make up stuff like this.
I'm already pretty confident that you're going to blow me out of the water, because for me, my life story about thrift stores has been seeing the clown paintings. And it seems like, if I didn't live in Chicago, there would be a lot more for me to talk about, about thrift stores, than just clown paintings. Especially some thrift stores try to sell them for like $100, just clown paintings.
BR: (laughs) I know. It didn't used to be that way. But now it's like “This is a real painting, somebody really painted this”.
Okay, well I guess I'll let that be a surprise, I won’t ask for any descriptions out of you about that...
BR: Okay well there are paintings of clowns, paintings of peoples' pets, paintings of celebrities like Brigitte Bardot, John F. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, pictures of wild animals getting ready to attack, fake modern art, you know, everything. Every artistic category you could imagine. Still lifes, great and bizarre still lifes, but done by real people who had more passion for art than talent.
That reminds me, Thursday night, I went to a bar and I heard a man sing (Taike Santos). He's on the side of Asperger's or autism, but he's functional on a certain level. For several years, he's been playing acoustic guitar and singing. When he's done with a song, he just drops out of it, it doesn't just fade out, or sometimes, he'll try to fade it out as if he's the volume knob. There's something about that. It's not just outsider, for me, I'm personally, I like what happens when a person has a dysfunction or a disability or something like that. Sometimes, it ends up being a gift that comes at an expense. This guy, for instance, he was able to... he was somewhat clairvoyant. There was this guy that came through, my friend was telling me, and he was really cranky, he was kind macho, and he didn't like it at all, he just went “Aw This Sucks”, and the guy started singing, a song that this fella had been sung by his mother, when he was a little kid. And the guy had tears in his eyes. While I was sitting there, my friend was telling me this story and then he was saying, “The only thing I missed is that, he didn't play my favorite song”. And so, we were definitely out of ear shot, and this guy all of a sudden starts playing his [favorite] song instrumentally. The song he was talking about.
Yeah I don't know how you feel about that kind of thing as it relates to outsider art, but that's what I'm really into. Sort of what happens when they're really really manic-depressive or really schizophrenic. That guy, I forgot his name, the guy that painted the cats and just [gradually] digressed into these crazy psychedelic paintings [Louis Wain, his paintings of his cat morphed into paranoid, psychedelic frenzies].
BR: Yeah, I don't remember his name either, David Tibet used to collect his art. There was a Time-Life book series out during the 60s, it had just the progression of those cat paintings, I think it was called “The Mind” or something.
Do you think there are any paintings [in the thrift store book] made by schizophrenic people or anything of the sort? Or anything to that kind of degree?
BR: I had some drawings by a guy who's obviously schizophrenic, drawings and writings, and they were glued to this box near a stop light near the biology museum. Museum of Science in Los Angeles. And there were layers and layers of these things as though he drew a different one every day and glued it up to this thing, and it was just thick, and I pried some of them off, and it was just amazing stuff about how the doctors at a certain hospital would steal new born babies, and when they returned the babies, the babies would have brass teeth, and would bite their mothers' nipples off while they were nursing. Very strange stuff.
BR: I wish I still knew where those drawings were. Unbelievable document. And you know it's like really crazy people will write stuff in this itsy bitsy teeny handwriting, a whole page full of it, and you can barely read it it's so small.
Yeah. I've read a little bit about Graphology, and a schizophrenic person, you can pretty much tell, because they never fail. They write their Bs exactly the same every single time. And they'll write pages and pages like that without fail. So there's something going on with that [This is not always the case, but a trademark of the criminally schizophrenic, or a regressive personality in general, is highly monotonous and heavy handwriting].
BR: I saw a woman outside of Grand Central Station once, in New York in the 80s, and she had a shopping bag full of yellow legal pads, and she was writing furiously. I thought “What is this woman writing?” and when I got close enough, I looked down, she was writing the same word over and over and over and over, filling up entire pages, and she had half a dozen yellow legal pads already entirely full in her shopping bag.
Did you catch the word?
BR: (Laughs) No, no I did not.
Wow! How do you find this stuff? I just can't imagine how you would find all of these photographs on the ground that you had shown.
BR: I started collecting them in the mid 70s. One shows up every once in a while, and sometimes you're going by somebody's house and they have been evicted, and there's a lifetime worth of photos in the garbage cans. Eventually, I want to publish those found photos, because when I did a show of the found photos, people thought it was a trick I was doing, that they were going to show up to this gallery and they were going to see a bunch of photos that I'd taken and that I'd poured water on them or rubbed mud on them. When they came and they saw that I actually had this massive collection of these photos, it was profound. This is like, the unwritten history of the United States of America or something. Very bizarre stuff, very good stuff.
Yeah, I hope that does see the light of day some time.
BR: Well, I've got them all here, so I think I might eventually scan some of the best ones and put them up on my website. Because I've been trying for 20 years to get somebody to publish these things. When people see them they're impressed, but the idea of it, people will actually have to see it.
Hopefully it'll happen!
There are a lot of hidden things that I think you've influenced and you've hinted at but I think it's understated how much influence you've had in the last 20 years especially on mainstream culture, and I think one of the most poignant examples of that would be with Quentin Tarantino. I read that you gave him a mix tape which ended up being most of the soundtrack of Pulp Fiction [the movie ended up helping to spur a resurgence in surf music]. Is that true?
BR: Well, the thing is, I'm friends with Allison Anders, and she used to be very close with Quentin Tarantino, and she called up and said, “Hey Boyd, Quentin wants the soundtrack to his next movie to be entirely surf music, but the only problem is, he's not really that familiar. He doesn't have any deep knowledge of surf music, could you make up something and send it to him?” And so, I had a ton of surf music at one time, but it's like, people would visit from Germany and I'd be playing this stuff and they'd go [yells with faux German accent] “We've never heard this in Deutschland! Where can I get this record!?” I'd say “You just take this, I can always replace it”. So at the time I actually called up this guy Mike Lucas from Phantom Surfers, and said “Hey Quentin Tarantino's doing this thing of surf music, he's gonna use all surf music for his soundtrack, can you make him a tape of the best surf music and be sure to include 'Bustin' Surfboards' and 'Miserlou' and blah blah blah blah”. So Lucas made this tape and sent it to me, and I forwarded it to Quentin Tarantino, and you know “Bustin' Surfboards” is kind of obscure. It's not something that somebody who doesn't know about surf music would know to include. So, that ended up in the movie and of course “Miserlou” , the huge song from Dick Dale. But I like that, I like being able to have things seep into popular culture, and know that at some level I'm responsible for it, kind of. And I don't care about getting credit for it, if everybody all of a sudden likes Martin Denny or Serge Gainsbourg or any of the people I'm interested in, I don't get jealous [and say] “These people shouldn't be listening to Serge Gainsbourg!” I feel like everybody should be listening to Serge Gainsbourg, and Martin Denny, and so on and so forth.
There is a time where I found The Poppy Family [a kind of spooky 60s band] in a bargain bin, but I never moved beyond the one single in a bargain bin, until I read what you said about them. That was just surreal. The one that I found was “Shadows On The Wall” so...
BR: Oh that's a classic! And I think that might be the song that, they released a “Best of Poppy Family” thing, and that was released by a company right here in Colorado, and I'm sure that was probably released because I turned everybody in Denver on to The Poppy Family. I would play them when I'd deejay at this local bar, and people would come up, young girls would come up and say “Have you ever heard of a band called 'The Poppy Family'”? Well the reason you know about The Poppy Family is because I gave cassettes of The Poppy Family to all of the movers and shakers in town, and they're turning everybody else onto them. So I feel like on some level, I probably got that “Best of The Poppy Family” thing re-released. But I think “Shadows On The Wall” is the song from the first album that's actually missing.
I can't tell you for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised [it is on the best of compilation]. Well I guess I can ask you about Lion's Lair (A bar that Boyd deejayed at every Thursday night during much of the 90s, his night was called “The In Sound From Way Out”, and he was said to play mostly obscure, strange records from the 60s). When I heard you describe, it seems like a wild juxtaposition, just hearing the words “Monster A-Go Go” really perked up my ears. I'd never heard that before, I listen to a lot of Monster Mash and the offshoot kind of stuff. What would you consider “Monster A Go Go”?
BR: There was a group called Frankie Stein & His Ghouls, and it's Monster Go Go music. And they put out I think 3 albums. And it's just like this basic sort of Rock N' Roll, but with sounds of gunshots in the background and people screaming, creaking doors, wolves howling, and I mean every song on every album is great, but they're very hard to find. I eventually got all 3 copies.
That stuff is great! I'm pretty sure it was reissued on CD [it was]. It's pretty good!
BR: I had one for years and I knew a girl that worked at this bizarre record place, some place in Mid-America, and they had every single album you could imagine. They were just all [excuses himself to tell his cat to stop chasing the other cat] so they had hundreds of albums, but they were in no particular order, so I would say “If you ever find the ‘Moonatics’ album...”, and she eventually found it, and she eventually found both of the other Frankie Stein & His Ghouls albums. Yeah that was a fun time at Lion's Lair, because it was like a great little scene where people could come in and hear stuff that they would never hear anyplace else.
What do you think drove people to run around and get naked? Surely, it wasn't Nancy Walker [a lounge singer who did an album called “I Hate Men”].
BR: No, actually, the initial time was, me and these girls were doing a photo shoot in a room in my basement apartment, and they were both naked, and then I said, I've gotta go do my DJ gig. They said “Oh jeez, you know, we hate putting our clothes on, this has been so much fun!”. I said “Not a problem! When we go to the Lion's Lair, you can take your clothes off.” We get to the Lion's Lair and they get a few cocktails in them, and I said, “Hey! What gives? You guys were gonna take your clothes off when you arrived here!” and so they both took their clothes off. And (laughs) to the delight of everybody in the bar. You know, after that, once you set the precedent for something like that, everybody likes it, everybody's having fun. A couple weeks
later, “Remember those girls who took their clothes off here?” “I'll bet you don't have the nerve to go into the womens' room and come out completely naked.” And she did. So it's just one of those things where you know, you've got to convince people it's okay, everybody likes it, this is fun. And it was fun.
Yeah that's amazing. When did you stop doing that?
BR: Probably ten years ago? I don't know. I remember I was still doing it in 1997 and I started getting a bit...
I did see the episode of Good Afternoon Colorado with you on it, and I wonder, I have not been able to find anything about the Wishniks at all, the wishnik record (Wishnikswere early versions of the treasure trolls, and they had an LP with high pitched vocals like The Chipmunks).
BR: It's a tough one to find...
I mean, with the internet now, almost everything, you could at least read about it, but that is the only document [of the Wishnik LP] that I've been able to find, even on the internet. Not just in record stores. I wonder if you were ever thinking about reissuing it.
BR: Ohh, I'd like to. Well I know that one song that they played in that Good Afternoon Colorado episode was “Mommy, Where Is My Wishnik?” and we actually, my friend Frank Bell does a DJ thing at the Lion's Lair now, he did his first show on Saturday afternoon, and when he deejays, he has his computer and he can download stuff from youtube or whatever, and that is downloadable [it is], “Mommy, Where Is My Wishnik?” I don't think it's been re-released, and the only time I've ever seen that album again, I was at this guy's house namedKristian Hoffman, he did the music for Klaus Nomi, and a band called The Mumps. I went in his room where he had the wall lined with records, and it's like “Oh My God! That's the only other person I've ever seen with a Wishnik album”.
Well, I'll have to look it up. Is that something that you found in a thrift store? Or did you have it when it came out?
BR: No, I found it in a thrift store. I had trolls when I was a kid, and then when I moved here, I started collecting them again, the old trolls. I have, there's a two-headed troll, there's an elephant troll, and then I saw the album and I thought “Oh Perfect!”. Wishnik music. (Laughs).
Yeah, the song just eclipses anything by the Chipmunks, by far. Although, I do likeRoss Bagdasarian a lot.
BR: Like what?
I can't remember what his formal name was. He did the Chipmunks.
BR: Oh Dave Seville?
Yeah, he also went under Ross Bagdasarian.
BR: Oh yeah, there was a guy in Germany, I'm forgetting his name, but he did German versions of the Chipmunks songs. He did the same thing you know [starts yelling “Alvin! Alvin! Alvin!” in a loud German accent]. It was just one guy, I don't remember his name, Gus Backus, perhaps.
You've spoken about people acting on their feelings, or maybe feelings as they equate to emotions, in a kind of negatory way, as an irrational thing to do, and when you talk about the little voice in your head (instinct), how do you relate that- do you have any input on how you relate that to instinct verses feelings? The reason I'm asking this question is because there are people reviewing noise [particularly harsh noise]. They'll describe stereo separation and the degree of harshness and stuff like that. They're describing it in such an objective or dissecting way, that I think they're missing the point, and so when I say feeling, I mean something like that. When you listen to noise, you don't really sit and study it, you just feel it. But acting on your feelings, do you think that acting on your feelings is separate from acting on your emotions?
BR: Well, the feelings and emotions are sort of very similar, but a lot of people's feelings are based on abstract intellectual concepts, so they just naturally feel that some things are bad. If you ask me a question about why I feel a certain way or I act a certain [way], I will be able to verbalize it, I will be able to put it down into words, and I think most people who feel strongly about things, they don't know why they think that, it's just something they've picked up by osmosis; Going to the university and being exposed to a lot of liberal ideas. So I think there's a lot of people out there who are, their lives are run by their feelings, but they don't really understand why they feel the way they feel. I mean it's not some visceral thing, like some reptilian brain thing, fight or flight response.
It's a conditioned thing.
BR: Yeah, exactly. If you see somebody on the street and people are beating the shit out of them, you feel terrible, or you wanna run in the opposite direction, that's some gut instinctual response, it's not just an abstraction.
Alright, I like that answer. In your book Standing In Two Circles, you talk of an experience you had with ghosts, or at least a ghost. How do you feel about paranormal activity? Do you believe in ghosts?
BR: Well, I do now. I don't understand it, it's like if you experience something, this is the way it's always been going in my life, if I experience something, and I see it to be true, I have to sort of accept it whether I understand it or I don't understand it. I just have to say this is a reality I'm dealing with. I don't know what it means, but I know that it happened, I know that it happened to me and...
Well I know how you feel about the theoretical realm, but do you have any theories on it?
BR: No. No I don't. Because even if I were to describe what happened to me, I know that it happened to me, and none of it makes sense from any reasonable point of view. It's like it's so full of paradoxes and things that don't add up. There's no way you can understand it.
I've had experiences like that in a haunted cemetery, and these people, they all see the same things, and I didn't even read about that stuff, and I saw the same things. So, you can think about it being a collective hallucination or a psychic manifestation, there are a lot of things. Your particular perspective would bring me to my next question. I read in your interview, you were talking about the fella who was behind the old time radio show, The Shadow, how for years and years [after he died] people would see a shadow in [his former] window or something like that. You were talking about how that is something that manifested itself into the collective unconscious.
BR: It wasn't really the collective unconscious, the theory is about these things called Tulpas, where a thought form is so strong, it literally becomes manifest in reality. I'm forgetting the man's name who wrote The Mothman Prophecies, his name was John Keel I think. He wroteDisneyland of The Gods but I think he's the person who discussed that thing, The Shadow.
That's something, you can't deny if it happens for so long. But we'll go to the next question. I heard the story about the midget in the hospital that scaled like Spider Man down to the floor, that's going to be in your upcoming book “Twilight Man” [a story from a short interview on another radio show, where Boyd is called to a hospital as an alarm agent, and on the rooftop finds a homeless midget looking for drugs that can scale the walls]. Are there any more stories like that? Your escapades as an alarm agent in San Francisco?
BR: Oh god, yeah, well of course the whole book is made up those stories so... Well I guess the thing that pops into my mind immediately is that our patrols were in Chinatown, and Chinatown is infested by rats because in ancient times, all the major businesses were run by the Tong, and the Tong created tunnels under Chinatown for purposes of smuggling opium and white slavery and stuff, and when I was in Chinatown, those tunnels were no longer used by anybody, but were filled with rats, tens of thousands of rats. I mostly was an alarm agent in Chinatown. We had all the major accounts of all the major stores in Chinatown, and a lot of our alarms were set off by rats. So I'd show up at a place and there would just be, I'd shine my flashlight inside to see hundreds of hundreds of hundreds of hundreds of rats. Most of our accounts were in Chinatown, but some of the accounts were these people who're importers, and they had vast warehouses out in the warehouse section of San Francisco. Some of them were 100 years old, and made out of wood. They were like, the length of a football field. So I was walking in one of those at night, and I shined my flashlight around, I wasn't looking where I was going, and I stepped, and I just fell maybe 8 feet or something. I was in this weird little round cement enclosure, and my flashlight fell down beside me, and as I got myself up, and it was pure luck that I didn't break my neck, I looked around me, and this hole was filled with rats, and they were freaked out by the fact that I was there amongst them. I would stomp on most of these rats to try and kill them, and I had a two by four in there, and I crushed a bunch of them. They didn't just die, you had to hit them with a piece of wood and then step on them with the heel of your boot.
Eventually there was like a weird little grate to one side and a bunch of the rats got scared and ran out of there, but one of the last rats I was stomping on ran up the leg of my pants, and bit me on my calf (laughs). He's running up there and rat claws going up your leg feel really hilarious. It's terrifying, but it's very ticklish! So I took my mag-light, and I hit this thing, and at first it didn't kill it, and between the first time I hit it, and the second time I hit it, the little fucker bit my leg (laughs heartily). So then I shake my leg and I kick it to one side, and eventually the police came, and you know how cops are, they can be really great guys and they can pricks, and these guys were pricks. They were telling me “Oh man, you know what the cure is for a rat bite? Rabies. They have to stick 7 long needles in your belly button every day for a week.” And the other guy says “Nah, that's just to discover whether you've got rabies.” And I was just thinking “Aww Damn It!” I've always been fond of rats, but at that moment I was thinking maybe I shouldn't have my fondness for rats, maybe they are disgusting creatures.
Wow. Did you end up getting tested for rabies?
BR: No, I didn't because a friend of mine was a nurse who worked in an emergency room, and I called him up and said “Hey Bill, I've just been bitten by a rat, and these cops are telling me I'm going to get rabies”. He said, “No, that's bullshit, you're not going to get rabies.” He said if there were rabies in this town, if there was the plague, it would be all over the news, and they'd be trying to kill every rat. “This rat bit you because you were in his house! Of course a rat's going to get freaked out and it's gonna attack you! If you were that close to a feral dog, the feral dog would probably bite you.” So he said “Don't sweat it.” And so I thought, “Okay!”
Well I'm glad that you didn't have to get 17 needles in your stomach or whatever.
BR: Well you know later that evening, another cop told me, I was telling these people this, and they were freaked out, and I was in the donut shop where the cops and alarm agents hung out, and this guy says to me “You know, I heard what you were saying and I know those two pricks who responded to the call that you were at, and they're assholes. It's been years since they stuck long needles into peoples' belly buttons for rabies.”
Yeah, I thought that was a kind of archaic thing when you said it too.
BR: Yeah, well when I was a kid, that was the truth, and it was this horrifying thing that everybody was afraid of, like, if a dog bites, they'll have to stick long needles into your stomach once a day for seven days. Now it's just like a blood test or I don't know.
(at this point there is a noise in the background, and I ask if it's a smoke alarm. Boyd says it's his girlfriend acting up. When she hears people putting bottles into the recycling bin, she sets off her car alarm from her apartment. He says when they hear people by the trash can, they turn on the car alarm, and sometimes the neighbors will jump back a foot or so)
(Laughs all around)
In 2003, you said something like “The Great Work Is To Create The New Man”. Do you still feel that way, do you still consider yourself a “seed”?
BR: In what context? What interview was that in?
Well, I wrote down that it was in 2003. I can look it up really quick...
BR: That's weird because that sounds like something I would say more like in the 80s. As I said in [the book] NO, I don't really think there's such a thing as the new man or aNietzschean superman. I'll have to look that up and see where that is.
I know how you feel about Nietzsche [who said that a man shouldn't go into the bedchamber without a whip, although he probably didn't get laid very much, if at all], but the abstract concept of “a new man” is interesting. I know that, something that you've already brought up, a person's genes change considerably in a life time, and as that relates to the concept of a new man, the way that you said it might have applied to your work. I definitely didn't think you were working on an overman kind of thing [I had been reading The Decay of Lying, and I was thinking more along those lines].
BR: Yeah well that sounds like something I would have said in the mid 80s, you get into these things when you're young, and then it's like, the older you get you kind of go “Ugh” because one of the things I really dislike is idealism. I think even a lot of people with very harsh ideas, they're idealistic in their harshness. I think pragmatism is better than idealism. The idea that you're going to change mankind on some intrinsic level, or you're going to change the world, I think that's stuff for young people. It's not something that I give a great amount of thought to.
It's not a very survivalist thing to do, in a lot of cases [trying to change the world]. I feel like I should ask you about magic. I've heard you say that you don't believe in beliefs, and you have no philosophy. But you are a mystic. So you might deny that you're a spiritual person, but how do you draw that line, how does that relate to a philosophy or a lack of philosophy? There are those people who can say that Nihilism is a philosophy, but it's essentially a belief in nothing, so it's kind of a word game. How do you juxtapose that?
BR: Well that's another one of those areas where I don't know how it works, I don't understand it, but I've experienced it, so I have to acknowledge that it exists on some level. It exists at the most primary level. In a way, it's like at the center that's shaped and defined my whole life. You think of something, you make it happen, and things alter in accordance with that. Magic is making things happen in accordance with your will. There are direct ways you can do that, and there are abstract ways, and I don't know why they work, I don't understand them, but I've seen them happen over and over again. I mean, I've seen bizarre, miraculous things happen that I don't even speak of because nobody would believe me.
[At this point, I leap into a longwinded tangent about how there are similarities between some of the things that Crowley said as they relate to some other things that are not necessarily of an occult nature, such as writings about meditation, lateral thinking, image streaming, and and a very old book I read about how to get rich that emphasizes daily rituals. I also mention that what I read about Crowley's "True Will" doesn't reflect the people I've met or corresponded with who have followed or been outspoken about their knowledge of his writings.]
BR: That's a tough subject to talk about because when I was very young, I read a bunch of biographies of him, and I find that a lot of people, their lives are more interesting than actually what they do. So it's like I can read a biography of some really mediocre artist and maybe he's lived an exciting life, and then you look into what the guy's actually produced, and it doesn't really live up to the person. I was interested in Crowley early on, but as you go out into the world, and you meet people who are into him, they sort of put you off of him. You see a bunch of idiots who worship this person who's actually really good, they sort of put you off of it. But still, they're idiots, they aren't manifesting anything he's done on any level of their lives. And like I said in NO, it's like trying to judge Gene Roddenberry by a Star Trek convention. Gene Roddenberry was obviously a talented, brilliant man, and people were attracted to him for certain reasons because he did something mythic, but when you meet these people it's like, that's where their life begins and ends. You just kinda think “Oh, if you met the Star Trek people first before seeing an episode of the original season of Star Trek, you'd never want to watch that show. You'd say this has to be crap because of all of these idiots. You'd never want to watch that show because all these idiots are into it.
You've mentioned the whole idea that Leonard Nimoy will always be called Spock [andGilligan will always be called “little buddy”, the people themselves won't ever be known for any of their other work]. Do you think that you will outlive the tremors of that whole controversial Nazism/Satanism thing that was going on 20 years ago?
BR: I think most of the people who remember that period of time are really too old to still be caring about me, they should have wives and families and decent jobs by now. If any of those people from 20 years ago are still writing things about me on the internet, they're as big of losers as the people who go to sci fi conventions. I think, for some people, that will always remain, but now there's a whole new audience, and with this documentary out, and these books coming out... Maybe (laughs). Who knows? But people have their bugaboos in pop culture, it's like who else is there for them to point to and say “We're the good guys because he's the bad guy”? There's not a lot of people out there, they can't do that to Jello Biafra anymore.
Do you think any of your upcoming work is going to be controversial at all? Do you think it's going to shock people on any level?
BR: I kind of never think anything is going to shock anybody, because I think I'm a fairly reasonable person. I think, if I've looked at this and I think this is reasonable then... But it's wrong to project your values onto other people, because they often aren't worthy of that, they often have values that are wildly different.
Thanks to Boyd Rice for the interview, Karin Buchbinder for help with the transcript,WLUW for helping engineer the recording as well as hosting the initial interview on my radio show, Clayton Counts for his editing assistance, and WFMU.
This article will be published in two part with exclusive alternate introductions within issues 49 and 50 by way of Roctober Magazine. It will also be published in its entirety inSpecial Interests Magazine #6.