The Rozz Williams Tribute Site
1963 – 1998 Rest in Peace It’s been 10 Years since Rozz passed away…Rozz, we still remember you and your amazing music!!! Sincerely, your Fan. March 2008
The lead singer of the seminal rock band Christian Death and Shadow Project, Rozz Williams, died on April 1 of 1998 by a suicide hanging in his West Hollywood apartment. This is a brief tribute to this man who was both poet and prophet, demon and angel, and one of the most talented vocalists the undergournd world of music has ever known.
Rozz Williams was born under the name Roger Painter in 1963 in Pomona, California into a strong Christian family with one sister and two brothers. In the early 1980’s in Los Angeles Rozz, at the age of 16, formed a rock band of 4 members which was influenced by both West Coast punk, Bowie and T-Rex. This band would eventually be named Christian Death.
Rozz developed his own Gothic music and imagery, seperate from the UK gothic scene of bands like Sex Gang Children and Bauhaus. This was the American-West Coast Gothic. Rozz developed a vampiric image by wearing black dresses, heavy makeup, fishnets, silver jewelry and long dyed black hair. His music combined the morbidness of Edgar Alan Poe with the poetry of Baudeliere and presented the listener with the dark, macabre aspects of the human experience. In 1982 “Theatre of Pain” was released and features some of the classic Christian Death songs such as “Romeo’s Distress” and “Spiritual Cramp”. As an album it is a quintissential gem amongst the Gothic Music scene, yet the sound was very distinct–the street sound of Los Angeles vampire rock. In late 1982 the members of Christian Death went their own seperate ways. In 1983 a band called Pompeii 99, which featured a guitar player and vocalist named Valor, a keyboardist named Gitane Demone, and a drummer named David Glass, asked Rozz to join them on a European tour, and hence the bands merged under the name Christian Death. This union was a superb match with Rozz singing the vocals over the haunting more surreal sounds of the new band. “Catastrophe Ballet” and “Ashes” were created from this combination of talents, but in 1985 Rozz left to pursue his own path.
Rozz worked on some experimental music in a band called Premature Ejaculation. In the late 80’s he joined with Eva O of the Superheroines and keyboardist Paris to form the experimental, slab-guitar band Shadow Project. In the early 1990’s the label Cleopatra Records developed an interest in Rozz’s cult status and used his name to help promote their label. It worked. Rozz reformed Christian Death, a rival to Valor’s band of the same name, and would release several albums on the Cleopatra label. This later Christian Death combined the guitar sound and vocals of Evo O with Rozz’s own stunning vocals and powerfully enriched voice for music that seemed to exude the effervescence of a modern Dante trapped between Heaven and Hell.
Rozz would produce numerous works during the 1990’s, his most creative period–everything from spoken word albums to Daucus Karota, a more rock-based, less death-obsessed project, to a joint album with soloist Gitane Demone. In 1998, just after completing an acoustic Shadow Project album with Evo O, Rozz committed suicide at his West Hollywood apartment by self-hanging. Such a strange yet somewhat moridly expected turn of events for this creative and artistic genius who was so fascinated by the Macabre.
“I think, having been burned by religion, Rozz was searching for something to believe in; maybe some kind of sign or revelation. My impression is that he was weary enough not to expect anything, but, perhaps, a little open to the possibility that life could show him something truly wonderful. That touches me. The heart of the poet touches me. Whether it is great poetry or not is irrelevant. It’s more about the thought and yearning behind the gesture. Maybe the soul itself.” – Em
One year after Rozz’s untimely demise in 1999, I myself ventured up the Runyon Canyon trail in Hollywood, walking past an old desecrated tennis court to a hill overlooking the hazy vista of Hollywood, California. It was here that Rozz’s ashes had been scattered. For a moment I stood there in silence, remembering Rozz’s spirit and his power to change us through his artistic vision, and I honored in my heart this gifted man and his incredible musical and poetical talents. In March of 2003 I was able to visit the Memorial for Rozz Williams in the Hollywood Forever Cemetary in Los Angeles. It is a peaceful and soothing place, and his memorium is an apt tribute to both his artistic and lyrical talent. If you happen to visit, please be sure to treat it with respect and thoughtfulness too.
Now, as a fan, it seems I miss him more than ever. I wonder just how Rozz would interpret the chaos and terror of a post September 11th-world. Would he have seen some of his lyrical prophecies fulfilled? What other songs and concept albums would Rozz Williams have been inspired to write? We can only wonder and regret his early passing…
The Poetry and the Philosophy…
“Through it all Rozz has retained his evil personified stage persona, singing hair raising lyrics with feline, seductive theatricality. His charismatic delivery challenges you to listen, even when the material could be deemed distrubing, offensive, or downright sacrilegious. This unflinching contemplation of life’s darkened underbelly isn’t unusual in Gothic Rock, but Rozz never leaves doubt as to the absolute sincerity of his words.”
B-Side magazine 1995
Rozz Williams can be viewed as a poet, a vampire, a prophet, a demon, a fallen angel, an anguished soul, a voice that literally describes the spires of burning hell, the longing for the golden vaults of Heavenly perfection, and the recesses of man’s darkest thoughts. His religious point of view, which still remains mysterious, seems to condemn the Church itself as Institution, yet not the original teachings of Christ. The Church, in Rozz’s eyes, has perverted the original teachings of Christ.
Rozz promotes the freedom of religion, of individuality, and the spiritual exploration of the soul, but most of all the utter rejection of any institutionalized rhetoric and dogma. As poet, he is a fluid, magical and inspired writer in the morbid spirit of Dante or Poe. Rozz is perhaps the most genuine modern Gothic artist in the sense that his meloncholia and agitation mirror the pangs of the original 1800’s dark-romantic artists such as Shelley, Baudelaire and Goethe.
Rozz inhabited a darkened world of pain and deep personal suffering, and his agony transcended to his music, creating a frightening mirror of a profoundly sensitive human spirit trapped amidst the terrors of a living Hell. Sadly the wounds of Rozz’s own tormented soul led to his own suicide.
The music and poetry Rozz Williams left behind is a testament, a living diary of a mind that literally descended into Hades. He paints a musical picture of Heaven and Hell as vividly as that which Milton created in his epic poem Paradise Lost, Paradise Found.
We must listen to what Rozz said in his music, and learn from it what we can so as to avoid the same kind of tremendous agony and despair that seemed to haunt Rozz throughout his life. Rozz is himself a human link to the Dark Side, an artist who can take you to the brink of Death, or to the vaults of Heavenly acsension. His music allows you to peek inside the frightening yet alluring depths of the greatest of all mysteries–man’s own cosmic end. As Gitane Demone mentioned in a recent article, “Rozz Williams was a man frustrated by the limitations of being human.” Rozz ventured to heights and valleys of horrific imagination that very few people ever dare to step near, and very rarely return from.
Below are some of Rozz’s most striking song lyrics…you can read them as poetry alone. Simply stated, Rozz’s music is much more than just that. It is philosophy — biblical, controversial and poetic, all weaved within a lush and complex musical landscape. Gothic yet modern; dreamlike yet painfully real; seraphic yet vampiric; horrifying yet uplifting. Discover for one’s self.
“Half way along the road we have to go, I found myself obscured in a great forest
Bewildered…and I knew I had lost the way.”
Dante’s Inferno, Canto 1, lines 1-4
The true revolution is in mind
Remember that and all else shines
(Book of Lies…from Path of Sorrows)
Soft blood dances clothed in sunlight
Guide to the labyrinth, night of sin
Voice of the serpent draped with diamonds
Hour of the wolf is drawing near
Soft blood flows in emerald starlight
Host of the labyrinth, fool or seer?
Prophet of wisdom, bathed in glory
Hour of the wolf is drawing near….
King of the labyrinth, king of fear
Vision of life’s end, dream or nightmare
Hour of the wolf is here
(Hour of the Wolf…from The Path of Sorrows)
Gentle Branches made of Gold
A whirl of white, of Night entombed
Be not sad in thought,
Your thoughts one day will cease
It does not matter how or why
Gentle branches shall enfold thee
(Thy Kingdom Come…from Dreams for the Dying)
I am sacred, I am crowned
I am bound by the robes of freedom
I bequeath the Dream to those who still feel it
And God’s eye is as one with Satan’s
In the Twinkling of an Eye the Dream is Born
Dreams carry Death in blood stream awareness
Fear not, for Death is but a Dream
(Zaned People…from Dreams for the Dying)
We hide from sound paintings on distant walls
We hide from cold still lives on empty floors
We hide our bent husbands behind slamming doors
Don’t run to the window, cause burning glass warps
We stand still
We stand like whores
We are alone
(Sleepwalk…from Catastrophe Ballet)
Yes, this has been quite a bad year
A brittle twig at the end of the branch cracks
This had been a bad year, conducted quietly from both sides
I predict people will die and new ones shall arise, they shall arise
Acceptance as prophecy
And that only to smash my sheltered childhood
A world which I loved
(Bad Year…the Rage of Angels)
Death of man, woman, child
The marked beasts born to die lead all,
They follow down
God, hold on to something
My hands have lost their shape
Why do you let me suffer such disgrace?
Brush the weathered, fetish costume
Dressed in red
Rampart of bones, loosely constructed
The absence of heads
(Procession…the Rage of Angels)
“Devils are Holy–Holy for suffering the sins of man…”
(Trust (The Sacred and Unclean)…the Rage of Angels)
I move to take your hand and the sun comes out
Though I walk through barren lands still the sun comes out
I seek to share your grace and the walls come down
I bask in your embrace as the walls come down
I’m moved by your hands so blindly unkind, still they are entwined
Forever came today…
(Forever Came Today…From the Heart (Shadow Project))
Eva O and her brooding companion, Rozz Williams.
The Music-A Discography
CHRISTIAN DEATH lineup: Rozz, Rikk Agnew, George Belanger and James McGearty (Eva O of the SuperHeroines :backup vocals)
Theatre of Pain 1982
CHRISTIAN DEATH lineup: Rozz, Valor, Gitane Demone, David Glass
Catastrophe Ballet 1985
Decomposition oif Violets(live album) 1985
Invocations* (compilation live/studio) 1993
Insanus, Ultio, Proditio, M…. 1990
CHRISTIAN DEATH lineup: Valor, Gitane Demone, various other musicians
Sex, Drugs and Jesus Christ 1989
The Scriptures 1990
Jesus Points the Bone at You 1991
The Heretics Alive (live) 1991
CHRISTIAN DEATH lineup: Rozz, Eva O, Paris,
various other musicians
Sleepless Nights* (live) 1990
The Iron Mask* 1992
Skeleton Kiss* (cd Single) 1992
…iconologia+ (live reunion show) 1993
The Path of Sorrows* 1993
The Rage of Angels* 1994
Death in Detroit* (industrial mixes) 1995
Death Mix* (industrial mixes) 1996
The Best of Christian Death featuring Rozz
Williams (compilation)* 1999
SHADOW PROJECT lineup: Rozz, Eva, Paris,
various other musicians
Shadow Project + 1991
Dreams for the Dying+ 1992
In Tuned Out (Live 1993) 1994
From the Heart+ 1998
Every King a Bastard Son* 1992
From the Whorse’s Mouth* 1997
Live in Berlin 2000
DAUCUS KAROTA lineup : Rozz and various
Daucus Karota+ 1994
ROZZ WILLIAMS AND GITANE DEMONE
Dreamhome Heartache+ 1995
*Cleopatra records release
+ Triple XXX release
Not much available in the least. The only official release is a Cleopatra video called Christian Death LIVE, which is a live show from 1993. Another rare bootleg video from 1989 at Helter Skelter is also floating around out there. Rozz also makes a brief interview appearance on the Eva O Halo Experience video release. Hopefully a fully comprehensive video will be released post-Rozz’s death. A hard-to-find book called THE ART OF ROZZ WILLIAMS was published shortly after Rozz’s death which is very interesting if you can find a copy.
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