Archive for christian death

Music For a Monday: Christian Death

Posted in Culture, Music with tags , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by vprime

Christian Death is a band that evades simple description. Partly, this may be due to their history of lineup shifts, legal battles over the right to the band’s name and the horde of associated side projects. For most people, Christian Death is Rozz Williams. Williams formed the band in California in the late 70s. Punk’s influence is strong in the band’s early work. There’s something I can’t quite put my finger on about CD that makes them sound so . . .  American. Williams’ vocal style is histrionic, emotional and dramatic. His voice is not the cold, controlled Bowie-eqsue Goth style used by Andrew Eldritch or Carl McCoy. If anything, it reminds me of the punchy voice of Johnny Rotten. The entire enterprise of Williams’ cult of personality is the morbid drama of Goth cranked up to 11. Williams was rumored to have had several bisexual affairs. He was, for a time, romantic and creative partners with Eva Ortiz–a woman who had previously been involved with serial killer Richard Ramirez.  There’s something in Christian Death’s work that that strikes me as so very American. The preoccupation with a certain vision of religion seems to come in response to the particularly American strain of Protestant religion. Christian Death shares much of the 80s hair metal (another product of California) obsession with Satan, demons and sacrilege. In that sense, it seems much more American in that America still takes it Puritanism seriously, and anything that directly challenges that is still seen as subversive here.  The name Christian Death was picked up by remaining band member Valor Kand after Williams left the band in 1985. There are conflicting stories on why the band split. Some say Williams abandoned the rest of the band while on tour in Italy. An alternate story posits that Williams took a break from the band and Kand entered contract negotiations for a new album in Williams’ absence. Frankly, I don’t find this sort of inside baseball very interesting. Just know that there are basically two Christian Deaths, one with Rozz Williams and one with Valor Kand. I don’t really have an investment in the Valor vs. Rozz hate. I have come to prefer the music they worked on together to either’s solo work.

Ok, Valor anecdote here. As a baby bat, I’d heard plenty of Christian Death but never really investigated why some of their albums sounded so radically different. Honestly, they were never one of my favorite acts. I thought they were okay, but not interesting enough to go all geek on. I had the opportunity to see Christian Death with Switchblade Symphony sometime in the early 90s. At the show, I was somewhat underwhelmed when Valor and crew took the stage (“stage” here being a spot on the floor of this dive bar that had been taped off so people wouldn’t stand there) in bizarre leopard print workout gear. I think Valor himself was in a teddy sort of thing? He looked like a transvestite wearing a costume out of a Boris Vallejo drawing. His hair was super permed 80s style and was doing a sort of Donna Summers sexy disco thing. As the band started playing, the lights went out in the bar. At this point Valor whipped out two flashlights and began swinging them around as he sang. People in the crowd booed and shouted. I felt terribly embarrassed for everyone.

Williams hung himself in 1998. He had substance abuse issues, which likely contributed to his choice to commit suicide. There is an extensive bio of Williams available at Rozznet.com. Kand is still working under the name Christian Death. If you’re interested in his work, it can be found here: christiandeath.com

Valor sings on this one:

 

Rozz live:

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Music for a Monday: Venus in Furs

Posted in Books, Culture, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2011 by vprime

I’m devoting this Monday’s music post to a song rather than a band in honor of my forthcoming review of the novel Venus in Furs. This song describes much of the thematic content of the novel. In the book, Severin, troubled by his desire to submit to a cold, unattainable woman, finds a willing accomplice in the headstrong widow Wanda. He persuades her to take him on as a servant and to wear furs in honor of a Titian painting that he believes expresses his ideal of womanhood. Wanda treats Severin as a slave, including meting out corporal punishment as part of their agreement. The book resulted in Sacher-Masoch’s name becoming forever associated with a desire for pain.

The Velvet Underground opened the door for much of the dark music that came to be known as Goth. In the book Goth Chic, Gavin Baddeley credits Nico with inspiring the cold, seductive persona refined by later Goth women. The slow, droning sound and taboo subject matter have made this song a favorite cover for Goth bands. If you have the opportunity to read Goth’s Dark Empire by Carol Shields, I highly recommend you do. In this book, Shields explores in detail Goth culture’s interest in masochism and submission. That I’ve heard this song covered at scores of Goth shows testifies to its influence on Goth culture.

I find it interesting that this song encompasses an ambiguous perspective. It’s Lou Reed who sings the original, and the song seems to slide in and out of the perspectives of Wanda and Severin. Reed describes the scenes from the book as an impartial observer, though the chorus beginning with “I am tired, I am weary . . .” appears to be from Severin’s perspective. It makes  no sense that an observer would express this ennui, though I don’t rule that possibility out entirely. The lyrics ” Taste the whip, in love not given lightly. /Taste the whip, now plead for me” seem to be Wanda’s words to Severin, though again, I think it’s possible that the entire song is from the perspective of a reader who identifies with both characters, whose emotional investment in the book provides a deep catharsis.

The original:

Christian Death (Rozz Williams):

Boring video, great cover by the sadly underexposed Rosetta Stone:

Her Majesty Siouxsie Sioux. If the “Wanda” portion of the song as done by Siouxsie here (especially her unheimlich wail on “plead for me.”) doesn’t give you goosebumps, check your pulse :

The Eden House is former Fields of the Nephilim members Tony Pettitt and Stephen Carey. I believe the vocals here are by Faith and the Muse’s (and formerly of Strange Boutique) Monica Richards:

Remember Gary Numan? He’s back, in pog form!:

And most bizarre of all, a commerical for tires (or, shall I say ‘tyres’?):

See you in a thousand years (after my nap).