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
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.
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
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 on stage.
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 and art.
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