Boyd Rice

Introduction

Executive summary: Boyd Rice is and has been a mainstay of the American industrial/noise music scene for nearly three decades and is also prominent for his involvement in several neofolk projects. He enjoys testing his audience's threshhold for pain; a recent Boyd Rice show consisted of his setting up several miniature barbecue grills in front of seated "audience" members with a pane of glass separated each chair from each grill. After lighting up the grills, Rice put live bullets on the grills and they exploded, many of them firing shrapnel off into the glass and mortifying his guests.

Trying to describe Boyd Rice to somebody who has never heard of him before is a bit like trying to describe what a fiery car crash looks like to a blind man. To be honest, I don't even know what that analogy is supposed to mean, but it gives you a good idea of the type of man we'll be dealing with. Boyd Rice is a controversial if not divisive figure seemingly full of personal contradictions. I'd like to tell you that I'm going to be able to reconcile all of them for you in this write-up, but the fact of the matter is that I'm not. Not because I don't want to, but simply because I can't, and I think Rice would prefer it that way. The last half-century has been quite a strange journey for this strange, strange man, and we've been along for the ride this whole time.

Early Life and Career

The self-described aesthetic fascist was born in 1955 and lived most of his early life in a trailer park in Lemon Grove, California. Boyd Rice first appeared on the national radar in 1975 with a mention in the San Diego Union newspaper in an article entitled Agents Halt Goat 'Gift'. Instead of giving you the background about what happened, I'll let the article explain:

A young man dressed in a green hospital gown tried to present Mrs. Betty Ford a mounted goat's head but was whisked away by Secret Service agents before the First Lady saw it. {...} Miller said the youth, identified as Boyd Blake Rice, 19, was questioned and later released by one of his agents and San Diego police. {...} "The only reason we stopped him is because he took the head off (of its mounting) and looked like he was approaching her. That's not the kind of thing you should present a lady." Rice told agents he was a follower of dadaism, a European art movement of the early 1920s. He said he bought the mounted goat's head in a store.

Around that same time, he began his first experiments with music. I think it's somewhat inaccurate to refer to Rice as a "musician' himself, per se, since most of what he records is noise that bears little resemblance to music in the traditional sense of the word. Apparently, his first musical endeavor was a bizarre loop comprised solely of the word "cry" taken from various Leslie Gore songs and tossed together in one place. Soon after, he founded the "band" NON.

Sound

Basically, it's impossible to write a chronological description of Boyd Rice with any level of consistency, so instead I'm going to go in a topical fashion. Since his audio works are the things for which he is best known, I'll start there. Formed in the late 1979s, NON is the Boyd Rice flagship; i.e., it's his main project and it's the one that earned him his "fame" in the first place. NON made waves with 1978's Pagan Muzak not so much for its content (which consisted of loops of sounds like metal grinding against metal) as for its features. Pagan Muzak was a 7-inch single with 17 looped/locked grooves, and multiple spindle-holes. The company that produced Pagan Muzak was bummed out by the expense involved in taking the time to put extra holes into the record, so Rice took it upon himself to drill multiple holes into every single copy the record company failed to (meaning that some will have two holes, some will have four, etc.). Billed as being "playable at any speed," this sort of thinking-outside-the-box typified NON's material and Boyd Rice in general. Other sonic outings under the NON monicker include Might!, a series of readings from Ragnar Redbeard's famous one-shot tract Might Is Right played over loops of things like (surprise) metal grinding against metal and strange musical interludes hopelessly distorted by reverb, and an incredibly minimalist ambient/electronic album Children of the Black Sun. (If you want a good idea of what a watered-down NON show might have looked like 5 or 10 years ago, check this out: http://www.boydrice.com/downloads/TotalWarVideo.mov)

In the mid or late 1980s, Rice made contact with the three biggest names in the neofolk scene: Douglas Pearce of Death In June, Tony Wakeford of Sol Invictus, and Dave Tibet of Current 93. He also began associating with Rose McDowall of Strawberry Switchblade (among others) and a young Michael Moynihan (then in an electronic solo outfit called Coup de Grace). Rice collaborated with Death In June on their album The Wall Of Sacrifice, bringing a harder, noise-driven edge to the hitherto demure acoustic band. 1990's Music, Martinis, and Misanthropy was recorded under the name Boyd Rice and Friends and featured Moynihan, Pearce, and Wakeford playing acoustic guitars (the first time the latter two had worked together in years) while Rice and McDowall sang. Actually, Boyd Rice doesn't so much "sing" as he speaks in a calm, soothing tone about issues important to him, such as the utter extermination of every human who pisses him off:

Unless these weeds are dealt with, they'll poison everything. They are poisoning everything. We need a gardener. A thorough, thoughtful gardener. An iron gardener. Whatever happened to Vlad the Impaler? Where's Genghis Khan when you need him? Ayatollah Khomeini? Adolf Hitler? Benito Mussolini? Nero? Diocletian? Ceausescu? Come back...COME BACK!
- Boyd Rice and Friends, "People."

Later, in a nod to his first musical love (girly love ballads from the 1960s) he and McDowall formed the band Spell and recorded covers of songs like Seasons In The Sun and Johnny Remember Me. In the mid 1990s, he joined with Adam Parfrey, Jim Goad, and Shaun Partridge to form the Boyd Rice Experience. The Boyd Rice Experience released one album, Hatesville!, in 1995. With "songs" like Race Riot, Let's Hear It For Violence Towards Women!, and Mr. Intolerance, it's clear where Boyd Rice stands. Or is it? Is the album satirical and sarcastic? Is it dead serious? Is it a little bit of both? Neither? The fact of the matter is that no matter what the truth of the content, it certainly accomplishes its goal: that is, to induce a complete mindfuck. In 1997, Rice teamed up with Pearce again to form Scorpion Wind and released the one-shot album Heaven Sent. This album is a serious work, the logical progression from Music, Martinis, and Misanthropy (with the same relative roles between the two men), and features Boyd Rice's more contemplative, esoteric side:

Complete isolation of soul brooks no imitation of creatures, no self-humiliation, nor self-elevation, and strives to be neither below or above, wanting only to rest in itself, reaching neither towards love nor towards suffering. It does not consider its equality, or inequality, with other beings. It wants neither to be the one, nor the other. It wants only to be at one with itself.
- Scorpion Wind, "Preserve Thy Loneliness."

Around this time, Rice also began the Boyd Rice Presents movement. Rice doesn't actually perform under this name, he merely sponsors or "discovers" other performers and releases their music. The first edition of Boyd Rice Presents was Death's Gladsome Wedding, a compilation of hymns sung by the Romanian Iron Guard from the 1930s (also known as the Legionari Movement, this was Romania's primary pro-Axis, fascist organization before and during the War). Other Boyd Rice Presents releases have mainly been compilations showcasing "forgotten" rock/pop acts, including a compilation of old no-hit-wonder girly bands from the 1960s called Music For Pussycats. Sometime in the late 1990s, Rice had an incredibly acrimonious split with Michael Moynihan, prompting the two men to virtually pretend the other did not exist, with the latter simply saying "for personal reasons, we will never work with Boyd Rice again." Undeterred, 2002 saw the release of another Boyd Rice and Friends album called Wolf Pact, again featuring Douglas Pearce. Albin Julius (from the Moon Lay Hidden Beneath A Cloud, Der Blutharsch, and also Death In June) appeared as well, and while Wolf Pact is not the fan-favorite that its predecessor is, it's still an interesting listen. In a move that I'm sure nobody anticipated, Boyd Rice recently teamed up with Douglas Pearce again to record a collaboration album called Alarm Agents under the appropriate name Death In June & Boyd Rice, which carries on in the style of Heaven Sent.

FUN FACT: Boyd Rice is indirectly responsible for the gratuitous use of surf music in the film Pulp Fiction. It's not clear how they met, but Rice sent Quentin Tarantino a mix tape of old surf guitar songs for consideration. Tarantino enjoyed them so much that he put a few of them on the soundtrack.

Beliefs

To say that Boyd Rice has some unorthodox ideas is a bit like saying Bill Gates probably has some spare cash lying around. The easiest way to describe Boyd Rice's beliefs (or at least those he formerly professed) is to let him do the talking:

RICE:I'm a Satanist, a Social Darwinist, and a whole lot of other things.
LARSON: You're an occult fascist.
RICE: Yes.
LARSON: You are...a Satanic neo-Nazi.
RICE: No, not precisely, we don't use "fascist" in terms of it being, uh, political. It's more to represent it being the polar opposite of democracy. We see democracy, basically, as being the twin of judeo-christian values and we see that they've both reached this point of critical mass and they're both falling apart. It's time to bring back a more bestial set of values.
- Boyd Rice, circa 1991.

That was an excerpt from an interview (one of three) that Rice conducted with radio-evangelist Bob Larson, who is famous for his televised exorcisms. The "we" referred to in the excerpt is Rice's now-defunct Abraxas Foundation, which he defined as "a Social Darwinist think-tank." The group's motto, he stated, was "the strong dominate the weak, and the clever dominate the strong." He was also an important member in the hierarchy of the Church Of Satan up until Anton LaVey's death in 1997, and it's even rumored that LaVey had wanted Rice to succeed him as the head of the Church until Rice refused. Boyd Rice introduced his one-time friend Michael Moynihan to the Church as well as Soft Cell frontman Marc Almond and Marilyn Manson (!). According to some sources I don't particularly trust, Rice has abandoned Satanism and instead embraced Gnosticism. While it's true that he's always been interested in Gnosticism, I don't think it's fair to say that he "embraces" it. Still, it's clear that Rice has moved away from Satanism since 1997 and has focused more on Spenglerian philosophy.

Boyd Rice has also been a prominent figure in the Charles Manson movement. In the 1980s, he held a demonstration of some sort petitioning for Manson's release/parole and (needless to say) it had little effect. He visited (visits?) Manson frequently, and at one point, Manson tasked him with co-opting the skinhead movement and turning it into the Charles Manson movement. Rice made contact with Robert "Nazi Bob" Heick and (needless to say) this didn't go very well. Out of this meeting, however, came one of Rice's most infamous moments in which he appeared in Sassy Magazine with Heick dressed in American Front brown-shirt uniforms. He gets a lot of shit for this picture (taken in 1988) to this very day, but he considers it a joke and (needless to say) refuses to "apologize" for it. Rice has stated in the past that although he isn't a "Nazi," he doesn't have anything against National Socialism in as much as it promotes his aims. Then again, he takes this approach to most every ideology/philosophy, although he is a committed enemy of humanitarianism as well as modern liberalism as a whole. He claims to have voted for George W. Bush in 2004 just for the purpose of aiding in the annoyance of American liberals. Ironically, despite having NON shows canceled at venues in France and Chicago and despite being repeatedly referred to as a "neo-Nazi," Boyd Rice is detested by most segments of the white supremacist movement.

Conclusion

Boyd Rice has certainly led an unusual life, but he can never be accused of not living life to the fullest. He works and travels frequently and enjoys playing practical jokes on people. He has a son named Wolfgang and he apparently parties with a bunch of celebrities, including Andy Dick, Crispin Glover, and Jello Biafra (?). Someone (possibly Rice himself) started a rumor that he is the owner of the world's largest Barbie collection, but he recently revealed he only has a couple of them. At one point, Rice considered taking legal action against Trent Reznor for the perceived similarity between the NON and NIN logos, but later declined to do so. Boyd Rice is a flawed individual whose unapologetic, uncompromising philosophy makes him a polarizing figure. At the same time, however, it makes him a highly fascinating figure who, like the fiery car crash, draws your attention in an indescribable fashion that you can't quite bring yourself to acknowledge or repeat later on, but that will always gnaw at the back of your mind.

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