Born in Pomona, Southern California on 6 November 1963, Roger Alan Painter
was the youngest of the family. His parents were both Southern Baptists so he
and his 2 brothers and an elder sister endured a strict religious upbringing.
He first began to take a keen interest in music at the age of 9, listening to David
Bowie, Roxy Music, T-Rex, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, The New York Dolls and many
others. He knew even then that he wanted to be a musician. When he reached
adolescence he was attracted to the American Punk scene and even shaved his
head. By the time Roger was turning 16 years of age, he decided to start making
music rather than just listening to it. Deciding to take the name of Rozz Williams from
a gravestone he found in his favorite cemetery, his first band was called Crawlers to No
who then became known as The Upsetters. Rozz sang and played the guitar, though
the band never performed on stage. Rozz then went on to form The Asexuals. He sang,
played guitar and the organ, Jill Emery played bass and also sang and Steve Darrow played
drums. They performed at a few parties but played no real concert dates. Another project
named Daucus Karota had Rozz singing, Jay on guitar and Mary Torciva on percussion.
Christian Death was formed in October 1979. The name was a corruption of fashion designer
Christian Dior's name. Rozz sang, Jay played guitar and James McGearty was on bass.
McGearty then introduced George Belanger to the band as drummer. Their first show together
was with 45 Grave at the Hong Kong Cafe, in the China Town section of Los Angeles, California
and soon built up a good following. The band broke up for a short time in early 1981 and Rozz
teamed up with Ron Athey to form Premature Ejaculation. At the time they were living off and on
at Rozz's parents house. They had first met in a garage in Claremont, California where Christian
Death was rehearsing for their first concert. They hit it off straight away. Ron remembers that
"they were true punk romantics - he pierced my nipple, I tattooed his name on my wrist and
slashed his palms open with a straight razor". They performed a few shows in Los Angeles.
At one of these performances, Ron started eating, and regurgitating, a dead cat. They found
it difficult to get gigs, as clubs were not too keen to book them, so Rozz and Ron began
experimenting at home with tapes.
In the summer of 1981, McGearty and Belanger introduced Rozz to Rikk Agnew
who had been a guitarist in the Adolescents. Jay had agreed to leave the band
as he had begun to get bored and lose interest; Rikk took his place. McGearty
financed studio time and the sessions produced songs, which later appeared
on the Deathwish EP. Also the song, 'Dogs' was included on the now
infamous Hell Comes to Your House compilation LP. The release of the
Deathwish EP and their contribution to the Hell Comes To Your House
compilation raised the interest in Christian Death to a higher level and
Lisa Fancher signed the band to her Frontier Records label and their debut
album, Only Theatre of Pain, was released in March 1982. Ron Athey and
Eva Ortiz provided backing vocals and Rozz designed the hand-drawn cover
himself. The album was critically acclaimed by the music press, but did cause
some controversy. A presenter on a religious television program special about
Satanic Influences actually broke a copy of the record on air.
The Christian Death stage shows became more elaborate. Rozz would
sometimes perform in a wedding dress, perform mock communications or
be tied to a cross in a re-enactment of Christ's Crucifixion. These antics,
among others, led to Christian religious groups burning their records
outside shows and even led to them being banned at certain venues.
Rikk Agnew and George Belanger left the band towards the end of 1982.
Eva Ortiz (guitar and backing vocals) and China (drums) join the band as
their replacements for the live shows. Another guitarist, Michael Montana
went on to replace Eva following the first show that Christian Death and
Pompeii 99 played at together. It was around this time that Rozz was invited
to a Pompeii 99 record release party and met Valor Kand and David Glass.
They discussed the possibility of Pompeii 99 and Christian Death performing
shows together, but by the end of 1982 Christian Death had split up. This had
mainly to do with feuding and drug problems within the band.
L'Invitation Au Suicide decided to release the LP Only Theatre of Pain in France in
1983 and Yann Fancy wanted Christian Death to support it's release by performing
in Europe. Rozz, without a band at the time, agreed to join up with Pompeii 99. He
wanted the new band to be called Daucus Karota, taken from a character from a
book called The Drug Experience, although Valor was happy to use the name
Christian Death. Rozz was the singer and Valor provided guitar. Gitane DeMone
(keyboards, backing vocals), David Glass (drums) and Constance Smith (bass)
completed the line-up. They performed concerts around Los Angeles at such clubs
as The Roxy and Fenders Ballroom. Towards the end of 1983 they were invited
to appear on a US music TV show called 'Media Blitz' where they mimed to 'Cavity'
and 'Romeo's Distress' and gave a short interview. Their first European show was
at Les Bains Douches, Paris on 12 February 1984 and they continued touring
Europe until June. Catastrophe Ballet was recorded at Rockfield studios in Monmouth,
Wales around the same time. It was a departure from the religious overtones of their debut
LP and the lyrics reflected Rozz's newfound love of Surrealism and the Dada
movement (the album was even dedicated to Andre Breton). Rozz was enjoying
living in France, home of many of his artistic and literary heroes - Rimbaud, Genet,
Lautremont, Marcel Duchamp and Rene Magritte, among others. Constance Smith
left the band following the recording of the album and, in live shows, was replaced
by Dave Roberts.
In autumn 1984 the band returned to America and they recorded the Ashes LP,
which was released the following year. Rozz, Valor, Gitane and David Glass
provided much of the music for the record; however, guest appearances were
made by Randy Wilde (bass), Eric Westfall (violin, accordion synth), Sevan Kand (crying),
Bill Swain (tuba), Richard Hurwitz (trumpet) and Michael Andraes (clarinet).
The band performed shows in America to promote the Ashes album, climaxing
with The Path of Sorrows extravaganza at Los Angeles' Roxy Theatre on
6 April 1985. This multi-media extravaganza featured films, a banquet, and
a program. Kristina Fuller coordinated and supervised the visuals, film
sections and Rozz's four costume changes. Their performance at Hollywood
Berwin Entertainment Centre a few days before was recorded and released
as The Decomposition of Violets cassette. These shows saw Rozz, Valor,
Gitane and David joined by Jeff Williams and Barry Galvin. However, because
he wished to move onto more experimental projects rather than work with the
conventional rock band the Valor wanted, Rozz decided to leave Christian
Death right on the eve of an Italian tour in June 1985. He telephoned Gitane
and said "I can't do it anymore. I'm leaving".
Rozz officially left Christian Death after the American shows in April 1985,
leaving Valor to take the rest of the band to Italy as part of the European
tour. Rozz had asked Gitane not to continue under the name Christian Death,
and Valor had agreed to change the name of the band to Sin and Sacrifice.
Instead he decided to keep Christian Death name, much to the annoyance
of Rozz. Rozz considered Christian Death to be his creation and felt that it was
his decision, not Valor's, whether the band continued or not. Although Gitane
felt guilty about this, she remained faithful to Valor. Rozz did not fight for the
right to the Christian Death name until a few years later, by which time Valor
had effectively won the right to perform under hat name. Rozz had already
recorded 2 more songs, 'Haloes' and 'Spectre (Love is Dead)', with Eric
Westfall but these were not officially released for 5 years. The songs
appeared on the Heavens and Hells cassettes, which also included live
performances selected by Rozz from his own tapes. A third, unfinished,
song from the session with Eric Westfall was called This Mirage. This was
only completed many years after, with assistance from Erik Christides, and
released for the first time in 1998.
When Rozz left Christian Death, he teamed up with
Chuck Collison and began working under the name
The Happiest Place on Earth. Rozz described this as
"street performance installation". Rozz wanted to start
making music again so, together with Chuck, he revived
Premature Ejaculation. They worked first on tapes and
then played some live shows, starting at The Krypt, using
various noises and video images. The audiences were
often hit by the flying meat or eyeballs that were thrown
at them from the stage. One performance took place
under a freeway in front of a selected group of friends.
In 1987 Rozz and Eva moved to San Francisco and were married. It was here
that they started a new band that they called Shadow Project. The line up
included Barry Galvin, David Glass and Johann Schumann (bass) and the
band played at the Cover Wagon in San Francisco and The Club with No Name
in Los Angeles. The name, Shadow Project, was taken from the tests in
Hiroshima following the nuclear bomb, which left impressions or ‘shadows’,
but no bodies. Rumors had been circulating about Rozz's death or his being
detained in a mental asylum and, in 1988, to help stop the rumors; he reformed
Christian Death and reclaimed what was rightfully his - his band. The Christian
Death reunion shows carried on in 1989 and into the beginning of 1990.
The line-up consisted of Rozz, Eva O, Rikk Agnew, Casey (bass) and
After the reunion tour Rozz and Eva moved back to Los Angeles and joined up
with Jill Emery (bass) and Tom Morgan (drums) to complete a new look and
direction for Shadow Project and play a few clubs in California. Later, Paris
was added as keyboardist and their first, self-titled album was recorded.
Rozz was, at the time, becoming increasingly influenced by Charles Manson.
Jill Emery left the band early in 1992 to concentrate her duties on Hole, and
Aaron Schwartz was brought in to record 'Dead Babies/Killer' for the
Welcome to Our Nightmare compilation CD consisting of cover versions
of Alice Cooper songs. Chuck Collison also contributed samples to these
tracks. Rozz, Eva, Listo (bass) and David Melford (drums) started recording
new versions of classic Christian Death songs for The Iron Mask album in
February 1992. The album was made, in part, to finance the Shadow Project
European tour of February and March 1992, when they were supported by
Mephisto Walz. Peter Tomlinson had replaced Tom Morgan on drums for this
tour. To escape from the chaos of life in Los Angeles Rozz and Eva decided
to move to Las Vegas. They lived quietly in a house in the desert near the
mountains. However, this was not enough to keep their marriage together.
Later in 1992 Rozz, Eva, Jill, Tom and Paris were joined in Hollywood by
Ace Farren Ford on saxophone and mussette to record the Dreams for
the Dying album. It was recorded during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.
They toured America in October 1992 with William Faith (bass) replacing
Jill and Stevyn Grey (drums) replacing Peter Tomlinson. Even later in
1992, Rozz recorded his first spoken word album, Every King a
Bastard Son, with assistance from Paris, Ace Farren Ford and Donato
Canzonieri. With the help of Eva (guitar), Paris (keyboards), William
Faith (bass), Scat Elis (bass), Stevyn Grey (drums), Kris Kohls (drums),
Brian Virtue (samples), Wayne James (guitars), Armon Christoff (piano
and acoustic guitars) and Aaron Schwartz (harp), Rozz recorded 2
new Christian Death studio albums entitled The Path of Sorrows and
The Rage of Angels. Rozz had been quoted as saying; "The Path
of Sorrows is probably my favorite Christian Death album." One song
on The Rage of Angels was written for Jeffrey Dahmer, the American
serial killer and for whom Rozz had a major fascination. For the last
time in June 1993 at Los Angeles' Patriotic Hall, Christian Death
regrouped for a one show, captured on the Iconologia CD and
live video. Rozz was joined by Rikk Agnew, George Belanger,
Casey (bass). Following his brother's decision not to come back
on stage to play the encores, Frank Agnew was credited as
additional guitarist on the recordings.
In the summer of 1993, Shadow Project toured America. The band consisted
of Rozz, Eva, Paris, Mark Barone (bass) and Christian Omar Madrigal Izzo
(drums). After this American tour, Eva O and Paris left the band to work on
the Eva O Halo Experience CD 'Demons Fall for an Angels Kiss'. Shadow
Project had come to an end, however a German tour for October had already
been booked. Although all tickets, flyers and publicity for this tour would show
Shadow Project, Rozz had decided that the band name should change to
Daucus Karota. Rozz sang on the tour, Brian Butler was the guitarist, Mark
Barone played bass and Christian Omar Madrigal Izzo was on drums. For one
show Gitane DeMone drove from her home in Amsterdam to Germany to meet
up with Rozz backstage. The Shrine EP by Daucus Karota was recorded in
January 1994 with Mark Barone (bass), Chistian Omar Madrigal Izzo (drums)
and Roxy (guitars).
Daucus Karota returned to Europe for a month long European tour in November
1994, with Gitane DeMone filling the support slot. The tour had Todd Dixon on
drums, Mike Saavedra on bass and Brian Hansen on guitar. Brian had replaced
Rolf Donath, who had been the guitarist for the band at shows in Los Angeles
and Mexico during that summer. After learning that Jeffrey Dahmer had been
murdered in prison the band dedicated the concert in Amsterdam that evening
to his memory.
Later in 1994, Rozz released a CD entitled Neue Sachlichkeit under the name
of Heltir. Additional musicians included Ace Farren Ford, Christian Omar
Madrigal Izzo (percussion) and Aaron Schwartz (harp). The Dreamhome
Heartache CD was recorded by Rozz and Gitane Demone in Gent,
Belgium between 28 March and 5 April 1995 with help from Pieter Rekfelt.
The producer was Ken Thomas who had previously worked with David
Bowie on 'Hunky Dory'. Rozz and Gitane played a few shows together
in April 1995 and again in December 1995. They toured the UK in April 1996.
Rozz's second spoken word album, The Whorse's Mouth was recorded
in 1996 featuring Rozz (vocals, bass), Paris (keyboards, clarinet), Ryan
Gaumer (backing vocals), Christian Omar Madrigal Izzo (percussion)
and Anne Marie (violin). The CD was influenced by Genet and was
written with Gaumer, Rozz's roommate, while they were both heavily
addicted to heroin.
Rozz provided bass on the EXP CD, also recorded in 1996 and which
featured Paris, Ryan and Ace Farren Ford. Erik Christides, one of Rozz's
closest and best-loved friends committed suicide in 1997 and a special
commemorative show was put together at Perversion in Los Angeles on
6 January 1998. This would prove to be the last time that Rozz performed
Rozz was found hanged on 1 April 1998. He was found by Ryan, his
roommate in their West Hollywood apartment. He did not leave a suicide
note and it is not known why Rozz would have wanted to take his own
life. It is known that his alcoholism was beginning to affect him badly,
but like his drug addictions, he had always managed to get through
any physical and emotional problems that he had. Many of his friends
believe that the date had a deeply personal significance for Rozz.
A memorial was held at the El Rey Theatre shortly after his death,
and a small gathering of family and friends offered his ashes to the
earth at Runyon Canyon.
The last project that Rozz had been involved with before his death, was a film
called PIG, which was released at the beginning of 1999. Nico B. directed the
film, and Chuck Collison completed the soundtrack. In 2000, the book The Art
of Rozz Williams was released, which gives a detailed history of Rozz’s life
On April 1st, 2001, the three-year anniversary of his death, there was a
public memorial at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in West Hollywood,
California. The memorial drew family, friends, and fans from around the
world. There is now a permanent memorial niche in the columbarium
section of Hollywood Forever Cemetery.