On the eve of the release of his first album in a decade, Back To Mono, FACT talks to noise pioneer, artist, author and self-proclaimed leader of the Church of Satan, Boyd Rice.
“I don’t know if you read my statement…? You can look it up. See what you think. . . “
In the back offices of a cinema in the centre of Paris, the previously jovial, effusive Boyd Rice has suddenly adopted a hushed sotto voce. The “statement” he is referring to was issued in 2010 on Rice’s website. In it he announced himself to be Anton LaVey’s successor as leader of the Church of Satan and promptly declared that the organisation “no longer exists”.
“I’ll just say that it’s very true and I stand behind it. And it wasn’t meant to be ironic or paradoxical. People in the Church of Satan are saying this is tongue in cheek. I’ll surprise you.”
By Rice’s account, Anton LaVey, the Chicago boy who ran away to join the circus before turning his line in carny hucksterism into an individualist cult of carnal indulgence, repeatedly pressed him to assume the mantle of high priest but Boyd refused. “I’m not a leader,” he avers, “I’m not an organisation type man.” So instead LaVey announced the creation of a Council of Nine to take over Church operations upon his death, and made Rice a member.
“Nobody ever called me up and said, uh, Boyd, do you think we have too many pinheads in the organisation that are dressed in black and going around saying ‘hail Satan’ all the time? I would have weighed in on that…”
“Absolutely nothing.” And with that the spell is broken and Rice erupts into sudden uproarious laughter. “Nobody ever asked me for my opinion. Nobody ever called me up and said, uh, Boyd, do you think we have too many pinheads in the organisation that are dressed in black and going around saying ‘hail Satan’ all the time? Because, you know, I would have weighed in on that. . .”
I met Boyd Rice at a festival of weird cinema at the Forum des Images in Les Halles. Dressed all in black with a Maltese cross on his chest (Rice has a website dedicated to research into grail mythology) and a biker’s cap by his side, he exudes at all times an easy boisterous charm: laughing at my jokes, even complimenting at length my little digital recording device. Later that night, he would perform a live soundtrack to the 1955 cult film, Dementia – one of the Incredibly Strange Films in the RE/Search volume Rice edited with Jim Morton – so we’d been talking exploitation b-movies and the ‘mondo’ films of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi.
Would you say you were drawn to extremes in all things? I ask.
“Probably,” he replies. “Probably things that people would call extreme. I don’t know if I would call any of these things extreme.”
In the 1970s, Rice was one of the first musicians outside the academic avant-garde to pioneer a whole cluster of techniques that would prove cardinal to the nascent noise, industrial and electronic music scenes. He has credited himself with making “sample-based music about a decade before the advent of samplers”. From his earliest recordings as NON, he was experimenting with locked grooves and records with multiple holes which encouraged listeners to play them at any speed they chose. Intriguingly, he claims such experiments preceded any knowledge of a history of turntable manipulation by composers such as Pierre Schaeffer and John Cage. The avant-garde legitimation comes later.
“When I was a kid I would play records off-centre…I would play them at all different speeds, and make the Shangri-Las sound like a group of gay men.”
“When I was a kid I would play records off-centre,” he says, “I would play them at all different speeds, and make the Shangri-Las sound like a group of gay men.” This elicits a fulsome laugh from Rice. “And then, I was very much struck by a quote by John Cage where he said, I don’t like making records because records are too fixed a medium. So that brought back my childhood memories and I thought: nothing’s fixed. At that point I just thought, I want to release a record that can be played at four speeds; I want to release a record with a second hole in it so people will be forced to play it off-centre. And then coming up with the locked groove was sort of an obvious next step.”
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