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Rozz Williams
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Rozz Williams

Rozz Williams (1963-April 1st, 1998) was the lead singer and founder of Christian Death. He was born Roger Alan Painter, on 6th November 1963 in Pomona, California. He, his two brothers and elder sister endured a strict Southern Baptist upbringing.

He took an interest in music from an early age, listening to David Bowie, Roxy Music, T-Rex, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, The New York Dolls and many others - all artists that would later come to influence his own music and style. When he reached adolescence he was attracted to the American Punk scene and even shaved his head.

At the age of sixteen, he decided to start making music rather than just listening to it. He took the name of Rozz Williams from a gravestone he found in his favorite cemetery. His first band was called Crawlers to No who then became known as The Upsetters. Rozz sang and played the guitar, though the band never performed on stage. Rozz then went on to form The Asexuals. He sang, played guitar and the organ, Jill Emery played bass and also sang and Steve Darrow played drums. They performed at a few parties but played no real concert dates. Another project named Daucus Karota had Rozz singing, Jay on guitar and Mary Torciva on percussion.

Christian Death was formed in October 1979 when Rozz was 16. The name was a corruption of fashion designer Christian Dior's name. Rozz sang, Jay played guitar and James McGearty was on bass. McGearty then introduced George Belanger to the band as drummer. Their first show together was with 45 Grave at the Hong Kong Cafe, in the China Town section of Los Angeles, California and soon built up a good following.

In the summer of 1981, McGearty and Belanger introduced Rozz to Rikk Agnew who had been a guitarist in the Adolescents. Jay had agreed to leave the band as he had begun to get bored and lose interest; Rikk took his place. McGearty financed studio time and the sessions produced songs, which later appeared on the Deathwish EP. Also the song, 'Dogs' was included on the now infamous Hell Comes to Your House compilation LP.

The release of the Deathwish EP and their contribution to the Hell Comes To Your House compilation raised the interest in Christian Death to a higher level and Lisa Fancher signed the band to her Frontier Records label. The debut album, Only Theatre of Pain, was released in March 1982. Ron Athey and Eva Ortiz provided backing vocals and Rozz designed the hand-drawn cover himself. The album was critically acclaimed by the music press, but did cause some controversy.

Rikk Agnew and George Belanger left the band towards the end of 1982. Eva Ortiz (guitar and backing vocals) and China (drums) join the band as their replacements for the live shows. Another guitarist, Michael Montana, went on to replace Eva following the first show that Christian Death and Pompeii 99 played at together.

It was around this time that Rozz was invited to a Pompeii 99 record release party and met Valor Kand and David Glass. They discussed the possibility of Pompeii 99 and Christian Death performing shows together, but by the end of 1982 Christian Death had split up. This had mainly to do with feuding and drug problems within the band.

L'Invitation Au Suicide decided to release the LP Only Theatre of Pain in France in 1983 and Yann Fancy wanted Christian Death to support its release by performing in Europe. Rozz, without a band at the time, agreed to join up with Pompeii 99. He wanted the new band to be called Daucus Karota, taken from a character from a book called The Drug Experience, although Valor was happy to use the name Christian Death. Rozz was the singer and Valor provided guitar. Gitane DeMone (keyboards, backing vocals), David Glass (drums) and Constance Smith (bass) completed the line-up. They performed concerts around Los Angeles at such clubs as The Roxy and Fenders Ballroom. Towards the end of 1983 they were invited to appear on a US music TV show called 'Media Blitz' where they mimed to 'Cavity' and 'Romeo's Distress' and gave a short interview.

The second album, Catastrophe Ballet, was recorded at Rockfield studios in Monmouth, Wales in 1984, and the lyrics reflected Rozz's newfound love of Surrealism and Dadaism (the album was even dedicated to Andre Breton). Rozz was living in France at the time but in autumn that year the band returned to the US to record the Ashes LP which was released the following year.

Rozz officially left Christian Death after the American shows in April 1985, leaving Valor to take the rest of the band to Italy as part of the European tour. Rozz wished to move onto more experimental projects rather than work with the conventional rock band the Valor wanted. Rozz had asked Gitane not to continue under the name Christian Death, and Valor had agreed to change the name of the band to Sin and Sacrifice. Instead he decided to keep the Christian Death name, much to the annoyance of Rozz. Rozz considered Christian Death to be his creation and felt that it was his decision, not Valor's, whether the band continued or not. Although Gitane felt guilty about this, she remained faithful to Valor. Rozz did not fight for the right to the Christian Death name until a few years later, by which time Valor had effectively won the right to perform under that name.

Rozz released various material under different project names following his departure from the band; first with Premature Ejaculation and then Shadow Project with Eva, whom he married in San Francisco in 1987. The band lineup included Barry Galvin, David Glass and Johann Schumann (bass); the name, Shadow project, was taken from the tests in Hiroshima following the nuclear bomb which left impressions or ‘shadows’, but no bodies.

Rumors had been circulating about Rozz's death or his being detained in a mental asylum for some time, and in 1988, to help stop the rumors, he reformed Christian Death. The Christian Death reunion shows carried on in 1989 and into the beginning of 1990. The line-up consisted of Rozz, Eva O, Rikk Agnew, Casey (bass) and Cujo (drums).

After the reunion tour Rozz and Eva moved back to Los Angeles and joined up with Jill Emery (bass) and Tom Morgan (drums) to complete a new look and direction for Shadow Project and play a few clubs in California. Later, Paris was added as keyboardist and their first, self-titled album was recorded. Rozz was, at the time, becoming increasingly influenced by Charles Manson.

Jill Emery left the band early in 1992 to concentrate her duties on Hole, and Aaron Schwartz was brought in to record 'Dead Babies/Killer' for the Welcome to Our Nightmare compilation CD consisting of cover versions of Alice Cooper songs. Chuck Collison also contributed samples to these tracks. Rozz, Eva, Listo (bass) and David Melford (drums) started recording new versions of classic Christian Death songs for The Iron Mask album in February 1992. The album was made, in part, to finance the Shadow Project European tour of February and March 1992, when they were supported by Mephisto Walz. Peter Tomlinson had replaced Tom Morgan on drums for this tour.

To escape from the chaos of life in Los Angeles, Rozz and Eva decided to move to Las Vegas. They lived quietly in a house in the desert near the mountains. However, this was not enough to keep their marriage together.

Later in 1992 Rozz, Eva, Jill, Tom and Paris were joined in Hollywood by Ace Farren Ford on saxophone and mussette to record the Dreams for the Dying album. It was recorded during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. They toured America in October 1992 with William Faith (bass) replacing Jill and Stevyn Grey (drums) replacing Peter Tomlinson.

Even later in 1992, Rozz recorded his first spoken word album, Every King a Bastard Son, with assistance from Paris, Ace Farren Ford and Donato Canzonieri. With the help of Eva (guitar), Paris (keyboards), William Faith (bass), Scat Elis (bass), Stevyn Grey (drums), Kris Kohls (drums), Brian Virtue (samples), Wayne James (guitars), Armon Christoff (piano and acoustic guitars) and Aaron Schwartz (harp), Rozz recorded 2 new Christian Death studio albums entitled The Path of Sorrows and The Rage of Angels. Rozz had been quoted as saying; "The Path of Sorrows is probably my favorite Christian Death album." One song on The Rage of Angels was written for Jeffrey Dahmer, the American serial killer and for whom Rozz had a major fascination.

Christian Death regrouped for the last time in June 1993 at Los Angeles' Patriotic Hall for a one-off show, which was released on CD as Iconologia and as a live video. Rozz was joined by Rikk Agnew, George Belanger, Casey (bass). Following his brother's decision not to come back on stage to play the encores, Frank Agnew was credited as additional guitarist on the recordings.

In the summer of 1993, Shadow Project toured America. The band consisted of Rozz, Eva, Paris, Mark Barone (bass) and Christian Omar Madrigal Izzo (drums). After this American tour, Eva O and Paris left the band to work on the Eva O Halo Experience CD 'Demons Fall for an Angels Kiss'. Shadow Project had come to an end, but a German tour for October had already been booked. Although all tickets, flyers and publicity for this tour would show Shadow Project, Rozz had decided that the band name should change to Daucus Karota. Rozz sang on the tour, Brian Butler was the guitarist, Mark Barone played bass and Christian Omar Madrigal Izzo was on drums. For one show Gitane DeMone drove from her home in Amsterdam to Germany to meet up with Rozz backstage. The Shrine EP by Daucus Karota was recorded in January 1994 with Mark Barone (bass), Chistian Omar Madrigal Izzo (drums) and Roxy (guitars).

Daucus Karota returned to Europe for a month long European tour in November 1994, with Gitane DeMone filling the support slot. The tour had Todd Dixon on drums, Mike Saavedra on bass and Brian Hansen on guitar. Brian had replaced Rolf Donath, who had been the guitarist for the band at shows in Los Angeles and Mexico during that summer. After learning that Jeffrey Dahmer had been murdered in prison the band dedicated the concert in Amsterdam that evening to his memory.

Later in 1994, Rozz released a CD entitled Neue Sachlichkeit under the name of Heltir. Additional musicians included Ace Farren Ford, Christian Omar Madrigal Izzo (percussion) and Aaron Schwartz (harp).

The Dreamhome Heartache CD was recorded by Rozz and Gitane Demone in Gent, Belgium between 28 March and 5 April 1995 with help from Pieter Rekfelt. The producer was Ken Thomas who had previously worked with David Bowie on 'Hunky Dory'. Rozz and Gitane played a few shows together in April 1995 and again in December 1995. They toured the UK in April 1996.

Rozz's second spoken word album, The Whorse's Mouth was recorded in 1996 featuring Rozz (vocals, bass), Paris (keyboards, clarinet), Ryan Gaumer (backing vocals), Christian Omar Madrigal Izzo (percussion) and Anne Marie (violin). The CD was influenced by Genet and was written with Gaumer, Rozz's roommate, while they were both heavily addicted to heroin. Rozz provided bass on the EXP CD, also recorded in 1996 and which featured Paris, Ryan and Ace Farren Ford.

Erik Christides, one of Rozz's closest and best-loved friends committed suicide in 1997 and a special commemorative show was put together at Perversion in Los Angeles on 6 January 1998. This would prove to be the last time that Rozz performed on stage.

Rozz was found hanged on 1st April 1998. He was found by Ryan, his roommate in their West Hollywood apartment. He did not leave a suicide note and it is not known why Rozz would have wanted to take his own life. It is known that his alcoholism was beginning to affect him badly, but like his drug addictions, he had always managed to get through any physical and emotional problems that he had. Many of his friends believe that the date had a deeply personal significance for Rozz. A memorial was held at the El Rey Theatre shortly after his death, and a small gathering of family and friends offered his ashes to the earth at Runyon Canyon.