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Boyd Rice - love him, hate him, don't know what to think?

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Jun 10, 2004
I just recently discovered this man's music and then became really interested in what he's all about. I still can't quite figure him out but he's certaintly amusing to read on. Anyone care to share their opinions?

Here's a very informative biography of him from Boydrice.com:

These days, it’s hard to find anyone more prolific, influential – and hated – than counter-cultural demiurge Boyd Rice. The man is a legend. He’s had a hand in nearly every significant sub-cultural phenomenon of the last twenty-five years, and as might be expected of a person of such caliber, he’s left nothing but innovation and controversy in his wake.

In the mid nineteen-seventies, under the moniker NON, Rice all but single-handedly spawned the genre known as “noise music,” subjecting audiences worldwide to ear-splitting, speaker-destroying walls of abrasive, pulsing noise. His musical and conceptual innovations of the period included pressing the first record with multiple tracks of locked/looped grooves (for endless playback), as well as the first record with multiple center-holes (for additional playback possibilities). In addition to also playing a major role in starting the subculture now known as “industrial,” music-geek pundits might also note that Boyd Rice released a “Black Album” long before AC/DC, Spinal Tap, Prince and Metallica had ever conceived of the idea. Around this same time, Rice was busy curating the first gallery shows composed entire of found photographs and thrift store paintings (much to the chagrin of local Art lovers), as well as perfecting his own technique of photographing things that "don't exist" by employing some of the same conceptual strategies to photography that he'd previously used to create his noise music.

In the early eighties Rice was no less prolific. In his interviews for Re/Search Publications’ now-legendary counter-cultural surveys, the Industrial Culture Handbook and Pranks!, Boyd raised pranking to a veritable art form, ushered in a major resurgence of interest in “cult” B-grade films, and helped to spark both the retro-revival of tiki culture and the re-popularization of lounge music. Rice became known for being a master of unearthing forgotten cultural gems of all sorts, having helped raise critical awareness of overlooked directors such as Ray Dennis Steckler and Hershell Gordon Lewis, as well as bygone composers like Martin Denny, Les Baxter and even Tiny Tim. Since then, as part of his “Boyd Rice Presents:” audio series, Boyd has released a compilation of forgotten nineteen-sixties Girl-Pop hits, a retrospective anthology of the work of ignored rockabilly singer/songwriter Ralph Gean, a 'best of' collection from eccentric spazz-rocker Little Fyodor, and even a collection of ancient Transylvanian military dirges. Rice even played a part in reacquainting the world with the obscure Social Darwinist manuscript, Ragnar Redbeard’s Might Is Right (postulated to have been penned by Jack London and/or Arthur Desmond).

By the mid-eighties, Boyd Rice had also achieved regard for his writing. He co-edited The Manson File with Nikolas Schreck, contributed profusely to Re/Search Publications’ Incredibly Strange Films, and in the years since, has written essays for both volumes of Adam Parfrey’s Apocalypse Culture, as well as Martin McIntosh’s Taboo: The Art of Tiki. Additionally, Rice has written and conducted interviews for magazines such as EXIT, Panik, Seconds, Answer Me!, Rollerderby, The Black Flame, Modern Drunkard, Dagobert’s Revenge and numerous others. He himself has been interviewed for dozens of magazines – from the likes of Ben Is Dead and Bananafish, to Sassy and Hustler – as well as for books such as Tape Delay, Cinema Contra Cinema, Book Of Lies and Lucifer Rising.

Rice has even had a hand in filmmaking. In addition to his own experimental short films, “Black Sun” and “Invocation”, and cameos in the films “Grace of My Heart,” “Nixing The Twist,” and “Modern Drunkard,” Boyd also played the starring role in Australian filmmaker Richard Wolstencroft’s feature film “Pearls Before Swine,” which was screed at The Stockholm International Film Festival, The Puchon International Fantasy Film Festival, The Sitges Fantasy Festival, and The Melbourne Underground Film Festival, and has since been made commercially available on DVD.

Aside from his solo noise work as NON, Rice has also released a number of spoken-word albums with a host of noteworthy and infamous collaborators, recording variously as: Scorpion Wind, Boyd Rice & Friends, Spell, Sickness of Snakes, S.W.A.T., The Boyd Rice Experience and The Tards. In fact, the list of Boyd Rice’s musical collaborators over the last twenty-five years reads like a “who’s who” of the international Gothic and Industrial music scenes, as well as the “darker” side of counter-culture in general. He’s worked with members of: Coil, Death In June, Strawberry Switchblade, Der Blutharsch, Current 93, Combustible Edison, Throbbing Gristle, Fad Gadget, Blood Axis, Psywarfare, The Dwarves, Sol Invictus, SPK, People Like Us, and Luftwaffe, as well as with legendary personas like Anton LaVey (The Church of Satan), Adam Parfrey (Feral House Books), Jim Goad (ANSWER Me!), Shaun and Giddle Partridge (The Partridge Family Temple) and Daniel Miller (Mute Records).

Amid all of this, Boyd Rice has continued performing and exploring new sonic territory as NON. His latest full-length release, 2002’s “Children Of The Black Sun” (Mute Records), is a two-disc set, the second of which is actually a DVD, which utilizes the full potential of the medium’s 5.1 “surround sound” possibilities.

All told, that’s a pretty impressive list of achievements, for a high school dropout from the small southern California town of Lemon Grove, no?

Ah, but Mr. Boyd Rice is a misunderstood and oft-maligned guy. Oh, is he ever so misunderstood and ever, ever so maligned. Mention his name in polite conversation, and the response you’re likely to get is: “Boyd Rice? – Oh I hate that guy, that guy’s an asshole – he’s a Nazi!” And many people seem to be under the impression that he actually is. A major German newspaper even went so far as to dub him: “the foremost leader of right-wing extremism in the world today,” a statement Rice has neither confirmed, nor denied…

Founder of “Social Darwinist think tank,” The Abraxas Foundation, and member of The Church of Satan’s exclusive cadre, The Council of Nine, as well as the infamous Partridge Family Temple, Mr. Rice is certainly up to his ears in decidedly unpopular, anti-social ideology – and has never pretended otherwise. An outspoken misanthropist, Social Darwinist and self-proclaimed aesthetic fascist, Boyd always gives people something to talk about, and more importantly – someone to hate. When questioned in interviews about his relationship with such widely unpopular ideas as “fascism,” Boyd has explained, “I find the extremist stuff of whatever bent stimulating and interesting…It provides more grist to the mill than normal mainstream opinion. I don’t necessarily adhere to it as a political agenda. I sometimes err on the side of excess, because it if ends up being incorrect at least it’s more interesting and colorful.”

And Rice is colorful – He’s known to have been one of Charles Manson’s regular visitors at San Quentin, is said to have ostensibly inspired (and received death threats from) deranged serial murderer Jonathan Haynes, and has had two run-ins with the U.S. Secret Service; first having been detained in the nineteen-seventies (for attempting to present First Lady, Betty Ford, with a skinned sheep’s head), and again in the nineties, when Secret Service officers attempted to enter his Denver home.

In the later half of the eighties, Rice developed a close personal friendship with Anton LaVey, founder and leader of The Church of Satan, soon after which Boyd became the church’s public mouthpiece, promoting the Church’s doctrine at universities, on TV talk shows and in on-air radio debates. Rice played a pivotal role in advancing Satanism as a legitimate religion/philosophy, famously initiating the likes of Marc Almond (of Soft Cell) and Marilyn Manson into the church’s ranks (the latter of which considers Rice his mentor), as well as introducing Feral House Books’ owner Adam Parfrey to the church’s doctrine (Feral House now publishes a number of titles relating to the Church of Satan and Anton LaVey).

Despite Rice’s involvement with Satanism in the eighties, he didn’t incur the degree of far-reaching public loathing that he now enjoys until the early nineties. Around this time, Rice’s proclivity for performing on stage as NON dressed in a black paramilitary uniform, and his use of what many consider to be distinctly Nazi-esque aesthetics, raised many a liberal-minded eyebrow, but it was his spoken-word releases of the period that seem to have caused the most ruckus. On loungy, easy-listening albums like “Music, Martinis & Misanthropy” and “Hatesville!”, the soft-spoken Rice calmly bombasts the fallacy of love-based ideologies, posits that the very concept of “equality” is absurd, and espouses the world’s need of a “brutal gardener” to prune humanity’s excess masses, which he refers to as: “a lifeless, shuffling horde – without souls, without imagination, without worth and beyond redemption.”

Not surprisingly, at a time when watered-down Punk Rock dominated Mtv, whiney, post-Grunge Indy-Rock ruled the underground, and the Pacific Northwest’s “Riot Grrrl” contingent was at its man-bashing apex, Boyd Rice’s misanthropic, fascistic, misogynistic antics weren’t exactly met with open arms; even when interpreted as an “ironic” retort to the ideological hypocrisy of an almost totalitarian Political Correctness which was dominant at the time. In the early eighties Rice had won the affection and admiration of aspiring counter-cultural wannabes everywhere (due in no small part to his interviews for Re/Search Pubs.), but by the mid-nineties, he had – finally – earned their distain; and he’s been America’s counter-cultural enfant terrible ever since.

Boyd is no stranger to controversy or confrontation, and his performances as NON have occasionally been protested and sometimes even cancelled due to pressure from “anti-hate” groups and other assorted do-gooders interested in limiting free speech and policing independent thought. Naturally, such knee-jerk libel hasn’t deterred Rice in the slightest, as he has continued touring regularly over the last couple of years, mainly with the seminal apocalyptic-folk band, Death In June (with whom Rice released a mostly acoustic collaborative album, "Alarm Agents," in 2004).

Needless to say, a lot of people have quite a bit of trouble getting their heads around Boyd Rice. As many interviewers have noted over the years, he’s quite the enigmatic paradox – one of the most despised figures in underground music, worldwide, yet a thoroughly affable, friendly, personable, and just plain nice guy. He’s known for his extensive collection of Barbie Dolls, his expert knowledge of sixties girl groups and Bubble Gum music, as well as his tendency for using the phrase “okey dokey.” He’s got a soft spot for cats, his favorite places are Disneyland and Denver's Casa Bonita, and he puts a great deal of importance on having fun. That’s right – fun.

Rice has described himself as having a “Peter Pan syndrome,” i.e. the inability, or refusal, to “grow up” – a quality often noted in such creative and prolific individuals. Much like the ancient Gnostic deity, Abraxas (of which Rice is an outspoken proponent), Boyd Rice is himself a union of seemingly polar opposites – a mix of Norman Rockwell-esque, clean-cut wholesomeness, and sardonic ill will. In the liner notes of his albums, Rice’s dedications and “thank you” lists have included everyone from Lee Hazlewood and Walt Disney, to Jean Cocteau, Carl Jung, Vlad the Impaler, Nero, Ghengis Kahn and even Ayahtolla Khomeni.

In person, Boyd Rice a charming, charismatic fellow, to be sure. His voice is smooth, soft… almost comforting, even – yet it’s tough to find a figure as all-but-universally reviled as Mr. Boyd Rice. During an on-air debate, Christian radio evangelist, Bob Larson, famously proclaimed: “Boyd… you are Satan!”

Well... maybe so?

In the latter half of the nineties Boyd shacked up with the eccentric ‘zine heroine Lisa Carver, of Rollerderby and Suckdog fame, and the two had a son, Wolfgang, before going their separate ways – on less than ideal terms. Carver isn’t the first of Rice’s friends and associates with whom differences became irreconcilable – he’s had falling-outs with Jello Biafra (Alternative Tentacles), V. Vale (Re/Search Pubs.), Frank Tovey (Fad Gadget), and the folks at World Serpent Distribution and Dagobert's Revenge Magazine, among others.

So maybe Boyd Rice really is Satan? Or maybe, as one slanderous anti-Rice website states, he’s just “a spineless neo-Nazi creep.”? Perhaps both are possible, though the discerning reader must surely have some doubts...

Commenting on his tendency for being misunderstood by the press, Rice said in an early 1990s interview, "Every time something has come out that is related to me, people's perceptions change. Like the Industrial Culture Handbook, there was a certain amount of time where I was seen as this kind of avant-garde noise guy, this king of noise, and people saw me as, 'This is what he is, this is all he is, he's the guy that does the noise stuff.' And then the Pranks! book comes out and then all of a sudden it's like, 'Oh, this is the funny guy, this is the guy that goes around doing goofy stuff and he's this wacky person.' And then the Geraldo Satanism Special comes out and I was on that, and then it was like, 'Oh, Boyd is this guy who goes around killing babies and cats.' People called up my mother and said, 'Oh, we're so sorry that your son is involved in a cult.' Then I was in this magazine, Sassy, a teenage fashion magazine for girls... Now there are these pictures of me and Bob Heick that are still being republished today, pictures of us with knives. So when that came out, it was like, 'Oh, Boyd is a Nazi.' I used to say, 'Jeez, are people so damn stupid and one-dimensional that they think you're as much of a cartoon as they are?'"

While statements such as this do highlight the varied nature of Rice's persona and work, they've done little to quell the rumor-mongering and speculation by various parties about the nature of his beliefs and intentions. After all, in a culture obsessed with 'outing' ideological deviants, Boyd Rice's role as an overtly iconoclastic artist has always made him a very convenient villain, and as such he's never had a shortage of detractors waiting to accuse him of being whatever it is that society as a whole fears most at any particular point in time. But while Rice has always been quick to court controversy, he's also been just as quick to point out that much of what he does that upsets some people is intellectual and artistic provocation, not crime. Addressing the subject in a mid-nineties interview, Rice commented, "People need their heroes and villains. Most of the heroes people have aren't really that heroic and most of the villains people have aren't really that villainous. People compare me to Hitler, like I'm this person who's committed horrible crimes. But what the **** have I done? Brought a few unpleasant truths to people's attention?" and further went on to say, "Certain individuals get angry if you state a fundamental truth like, 'Some people are weak and some people are strong.' I don't feel any sense of moral obligation to most people, which allows me to be honest and frank and say things that a lot of people think, whether they want to admit it or not." And it's that sort of uncompromising emphasis on like-it-or-not truth that just rubs many people in entirely the wrong way.

Of course, regardless of his work's various interpretations, Rice doesn’t seem to care much what anyone thinks of him. Now in his late forties, Boyd remains as busy and prolific as always - in the last few years he's co-founded an art movement (UNPOP ART), traveled to France to host an episode of Fox TV's "In Search Of" series, published a book-length series of essays about the mysteries and secret societies associated with the Holy Grail (The Vessel Of God), released a thirty-year retrospective album of his more ambient recordings as NON, ("Terra Incognita"), spoken and performed at The Massachussets Institute Of Technology's "Regarding Evil" conference, exhibited his abstract paintings in New York City and even designed a tiki bar in his home town of Denver, Colorado.

It would appear that few public figures have had such a far-reaching and multifaceted influence on the last several decades of counter culture as the inimitable Boyd Rice, and he seems to be showing no signs of slowing down any time soon...

Brian Fellows

Pete Carroll Owns Me
Jun 7, 2004
Well he sounds like a douche bag. But since I'd not hear of him until 5 minutes ago he's not nearly important enough to hate.
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