Biography

Christian Death is an American deathrock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1979. The band was fronted and founded by Rozz Williams and featured guitarist Rikk Agnew. Christian Death is most notable for their album Only Theatre of Pain, which was a major event in the birth of the Goth and Deathrock subculture within the United States and beyond.

After many line up changes, at one point during the 1990s there were two bands with the name Christian Death. One featured Williams, and the other featured Valor Kand. Kand has been the lead guitarist since the second album “Catastrophe Ballet”, and later became lead vocalist as well.

HISTORY:

Original group:

Rozz Williams founded Christian Death in October 1979, at the age of 16, with bassist James McGearty, drummer George Belanger and guitarist Jay. The band name was a satirical play on words derived from the designer brand Christian Dior. The first Christian Death performance in front of a live audience was at a Castration Squad gig in 1980, when Castration Squad invited Christian Death on stage to play a couple songs. In 1980 and 1981, the band played many shows with 45 Grave, another L.A. deathrock group, though they also played shows with punk bands like Social Distortion and The Adolescents.

Despite being in the same area as the emerging West Coast hardcore movement, by the beginning of the 1980s, the group was not happy with the local scene, especially the crowd that liked Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, given the crowd’s penchant for becoming punks after punk became popular, and beating up hippies, when only a few years before much of that audience hated punk rock and beat up punks. Christian Death dismissed the followers of this movement as “hillbilly punks” in an interview.

In February 1981, the band went on hiatus. Williams concentrated on a side project with Ron Athey called Premature Ejaculation, but Christian Death got back together that summer with guitarist Rikk Agnew (formerly of The Adolescents) replacing Jay. A compilation album featuring several local punk and deathrock acts called Hell Comes to Your House was released in 1981. The track that Christian Death contributed, “Dogs”, came from studio sessions financed by McGearty. The songs from those sessions would be released in France as the Deathwish EP three years later.

Christian Death’s Only Theatre of Pain
Only Theatre of Pain
See also: Only Theatre of Pain

Their appearance on the Hell Comes to Your House compilation helped to get Christian Death signed to Frontier Records, which released their debut album Only Theatre of Pain in March 1982. This album featured deathrock anthems such as “Spiritual Cramp” and “Romeo’s Distress”. In England, despite the album’s initially limited availability, Only Theatre of Pain would have a strong influence on many gothic rock groups who had come after Bauhaus appeared, including Sex Gang Children and Death Cult, the latter of which was the precursor to The Cult.

Drug use and internal fighting started to lead to the band’s decay. By late 1982, George Belanger and Rikk Agnew were gone from the band and were replaced by Eva Ortiz on guitar (she had previously taken part in Only Theatre of Pain as a backing vocalist) and a new drummer, Rod “China” Figueroa from Oxnard, California. After their first gig with a local band called “Pompeii 99” and their regular support band Psicom, the first band of Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction, Michael Montano replaced Eva on guitar. Johnnie Sage (Ammentorp, The Joneses, The Mau-Maus) on second guitar, completed the new line-up. It was not to last. Williams didn’t like the “Punk Rock & Roll” influence China and Johnnie Sage brought to the band. Although demo recording continued with McGearty, the sessions known among band members as “The Last Gasp,” Williams distanced himself from the project. Christian Death and Pompeii 99 had planned to tour together in Europe, occasioned by the continental release of Only Theatre of Pain on French label L’Invitation au Suicide, and then Japan, but by the end of 1982, Christian Death had broken up.

Rozz Williams and Pompeii 99:

By mid 1983, the issue of the Christian Death and Pompeii 99 European tour still stood. While living at his mother’s house for six months without a band, Williams met Valor Kand and David Glass of Pompeii 99, and found certain common artistic ground with the band. Williams was open to the idea of possibly collaborating with the band in the future.

Around this time, Cram Netod and Poli-Sci quit Pompeii 99, leaving the group without a bassist and a keyboard player. A friend of Kand and Gitane’s named Mimi introduced the couple to a female bassist named Shayn Taylor-Shubert, who had just quit playing bass for the popular Los Angeles all-girl rockabilly group The Screamin’ Sirens.

Shayn was in the band for several months, when Valor called a meeting, stating that the group was going to travel to London, England. Valor explained that he had information that the band, “Christian Death” had a hit album in France at the time; he added that the band had also already broken up. At that point Valor shared his idea that he wanted Pompeii 99 to join forces with Rozz Wiliams and reform Christian Death, and tour. Valor suggested that Rozz would benefit from such an arrangement. Rozz was undecided at first, reticent about the plan, as his previous years under that name had left a bad taste in his mouth. Valor insisted that Rozz listen to Pompeii 99, playing the music of his former band?before he made a final decision.

After two weeks of intense rehearsal at Lillian Way Studios (then run by former “Code Blue” guitarist, Dean Chamberlain), Valor had Rozz attend a performance of the songs, “Romeo’s Distress”, and “Cavity, First Communion”, and “Spiritual Cramp. Rozz was impressed, and relented, joining forces with Pompeii 99, who were formally dubbed, the “new” Christian Death. Around the same time, Gitane announced she was pregnant with her second child, Savan, whose father was again Valor Kand.

Deciding she didn’t want to perform in a band that was going to be dragging an infant along for the ride, Taylor-Shubert decided to leave the band, seriously throwing a wrench into the situation. Taylor-Shubert was then replaced by Constance Smith. The plan was to do a handful of shows from California to New York on the way to London, where Kand had negotiated proposals for several possible shows. Meanwhile, Yann Farcy, a small French record label owner, heard about the union of Williams with Pompeii 99. Discussions began about a new album deal and a follow-up tour in France. Farcy had recently licensed all Christian Death songs for release in France, so having Rozz able to tour with Pompeii 99 as Christian Death was in everyone’s best financial interest. Williams, Kand and the other members of the group were penniless, and the allure of a cash advance and an all-expenses paid trip to Europe to play shows and to record an album at the legendary Rockfield Studios proved too inviting.

Before their departure for Europe, the band appeared on a low-budget community cable TV show “Media Blitz” where they mimed to a couple tracks from Only Theatre of Pain. The first performance of the “New” Christian Death was in December 1983 in Los Angeles, supporting UK band Specimen.

The band then flew to New York and Boston to do shows that had originally been booked as Pompeii 99. The first show in Europe was in Paris at ‘Les Bain Douches’, then before actually going into the studio in Wales, Kand quickly organised a show at The Batcave in London, run by new friends Specimen.

Unfortunately, very few shows followed the recordings. Farcy reneged on his promises, and the band found themselves destitute and stranded in Europe, once again penniless. According to Kand, Williams was driven to several attempted suicides, two of which were foiled by Kand in the south of France. Toward the end of the remaining dates, Constance became frustrated and quit the band. Dave Roberts, bass player of the UK band Sex Gang Children, filled in on bass for the remaining dates. Williams convinced his parents to pay his airfare home to L.A., leaving Kand, Demone and Glass stranded in Europe, unable to honor proposed optional shows…

Christian Death’s Catastrophe Ballet:

Catastrophe Ballet, which was recorded in Wales, was a continuation of the Armageddon theme used in all previous Pompeii 99 songs; in fact, the music to several of the songs was actually written by Kand for Pompeii 99. These songs featured a change in Williams’ vocal delivery. While Only Theatre of Pain and the Deathwish EP had Williams presenting a rhythmic spoken word style with an almost androgynous pitch to his voice, Catastrophe Ballet showed a richer, less harsh side to his vocal stylings, with more influence from David Bowie and Lou Reed. Rather than the occult-oriented lyrics from the first album, the singer showed a new-found interest in Surrealism and the Dada movement. Kand, Demone and Glass shared these interests, and the synergy between them helped cultivate the musical change from the old band’s murky, dark punk to a more elegant, romantic strain of guitar-driven rock, though a tribalistic drumming was also added into the mix.

Ashes:

The rest of the group returned to L.A. in the autumn of 1984, reunited with Williams and recruited Randy Wilde (a one time member of Pompeii 99) on bass to record the third studio album called Ashes (1985). The album was a further continuation to the apocalyptic theme in the tradition of Pompeii 99, and featured many guest musicians, including bassist Randy Wilde, violin player and accordion synth operator Eric Westfall (former keyboardist of Pompeii 99), tuba player Bill Swain, trumpeteer Richard Hurwitz and Michael Andraes on the clarinet.

The band played gigs in 1985 to promote Ashes with bassist Jeff Williams; later, bassist Barry Galvin joined the lineup. The tour ended with the “Path of Sorrows” extravaganza at Los Angeles’ Roxy Theatre on .

The live album “The Decomposition of Violets” documented a Hollywood performance from this period, and was one of Williams’ last with the band.

The Wind Kissed Pictures:

By 1985, after the release of “Ashes” and a few L.A. shows, the band was preparing to embark on their second European tour. Only weeks prior to the tour, Williams announced that he was quitting the band, claiming he could not cope with another tour and that he had a new lover he did not want to leave. The other Christian Death members who were looking forward to the tour as salvation from their dire financial situation were devastated. Their solution was to not cancel the tour. Kand would return to vocals, bassist Barry Galvin would assume guitar, guitar technician Johann Schumann would assume the bass guitar, and Demone and Glass would keep the status quo. Although Williams was the one to quit, he insisted they not use the name Christian Death. To ease tension, the remaining Christian Death members suggested adding the prefix “Sin and Sacrifice of Christian Death”, which was labeled on the mini album entitled The Wind Kissed Pictures. However, it was during this second European tour that the remaining Christian Death members all agreed to return to being known as just “Christian Death”.

Believers of the Unpure:

The first record returning to the Christian Death name was with Jungle Records of London. “Believers of the Unpure” was an extended single from The Wind Kissed Pictures that included several new songs as well.

Atrocities:

The band managed to make enough money off The Wind Kissed Pictures and “Believers of the Unpure” to move into a small two bedroom place in England. After arranging for a couple of concerts, the band signed to Normal Records of Germany. The label sent them back to Rockfield Studios in Wales, where they recorded Atrocities.

Released in 1986, this was the first full length Christian Death album without Williams. Atrocities, a concept album, lamented the atrocities and suffering of the Holocaust victims of World War II Nazi Germany. The band went on to do numerous European tours with the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Shortly after the recordings of Atrocities, Johann and Barry departed the band and returned to Los Angeles.

The Scriptures & Church Of No Return:

Released in 1987, The Scriptures was a concept album that attempted to make comparisons and correlations between world religions and mythology. Side one featured somewhat more conventional Christian Death songs, including “Sick of Love(Song of Solomon)”, while side two featured experimental, ambient and apocalyptic themes derived from the biblical Book of Revelation.

After the recordings, since his wife was pregnant, Glass decided to quit the band and return to L.A. to settle down.

Late in 1987 they released the stand alone single Church Of No Return which gave them their bigest ever success. It was featured on TV shows such as The Chart Show and Night Network and gave them much needed exposure.

Whats The Verdict & Sex and Drugs and Jesus Christ:

Without a drummer, the band went into the studio to record “Sex and Drugs and Jesus Christ” and its associated single What’s The verdict, released in 1988.The single failed to capitalise on the gains made by Church Of No Return after the label accidentally pressed it with the wrong rough mix version as the A-side. The album cover and T-shirt depicted the image of Jesus shooting heroin. Banned in many locations, this album outraged Christian fundamentalists throughout Europe and America, and led to protests outside Christian Death shows, bomb threats and record burnings on Christian television stations in America.

Zero Sex:

The band then released the top 20 UK indie single/video, “Zero Sex” which was the last studio recording released with Gitane still in the band.

The Heretics Alive:

June 10, 1989 was the live performance at the London Marquee where the live album “Heretics Alive” was recorded. Shortly after its release, Demone left the band to pursue a more jazz-oriented solo career. Shortly after this and after being deported from England for visa violations, Kota returned to Japan. James Beam mysteriously disappeared, but later joined for the 1999 USA tour with MortIIs and Godhead.

All the Love, All the Hate:

Later in 1989, Kand collaborated with guitarist Nick the Bastard to release the double album All the Love and All the Hate. “All the Love”, disc one, and “All the Hate”, disc two, was a concept album exploring the juxtaposition and extremes of love and hate. This release featured the videos “We Fall Like Love” and “I Hate You”. The vocals and lyrics for the latter, from All The Hate, were provided by Kand’s son Sevan (who was about five years old at this time), and was inspired by a fight with a boy twice his age who had pushed him into a bed of stinging nettles. Also at this time, the band toured with Dutch born drummer Jean-Victor DeBoer and UK bass player PJ Phillips (from the Nina Hagen Band). Their Dutch tour manager Jack Noordhoek also played guitar on the tour. The extensive European tour was called “All The Love…All The Hate” and finished at London’s Astoria Theatre.

Insanus, Ultio, Proditio, Miseracordiaque:

Insanus, Ultio, Proditio, Miseracordiaque was released in 1990, with songs intended to provoke a trance-like dream state, with drug-oriented, ambient and subtle pop. Valor toured this album with members of UK metal band Satan as his backing band throughout 1991.

In 1992, Valor incorporated UK guitarist Adam E, Italian drummer Max Corraddi, and the London Chamber Orchestra into the band to tour the U.S. and Europe until 1993.

Prophecies:

Prophecies was a limited 1993 release that focused on sooth sayers of doom and gloom. In 1994, Kand teamed up with Maitri, former girl friend of Kota, and Christian Death also hired Gunter Ford, manager of Morbid Angel, Nile and Grip Inc. as the band’s manager.

Sexy Death God:

1995 saw the release of Sexy Death God, featuring Maitri on bass and backing vocals. The album fused the elements of religion and morality in their darkest elements. Joining the band and subsequent tours with Type O Negative to promote this album were Steve “Divine” Wright on drums and Aaron Weinstein on guitar, who was replaced by Flick on the following tour.

Amen:

Amen was a live recording made in Mexico City featuring Kand, Maitri, Wright and Flick. Originally released on Century Media, this album was pulled off the shelves due to a lawsuit by the Seventh Day Adventist Church over the controversial cover art.

Pornographic Messiah:

Pornographic Messiah featured explicit sexual and religious imagery, and featured elaborate triple gatefold packaging, three booklets and full-color glossy textured packaging.

Born Again Anti Christian:

Born Again Anti Christian features performances by members of Cradle of Filth on several songs. Christian Death later toured with Cradle of Filth to promote this album in 2000 and 2001. Cradle of Filth drummer Will “WAS” Sargenson and guitarist Gian Pyres later joined Christian Death on several tours in 2002 and 2003.

Before the break with Candlelight Records, Maitri released her metal solo project album, Lover of Sin. Much controversy ensued as it was misrepresented by the label as a Christian Death release, leading to the confusion of many fans. Maitri’s Lover of Sin was the main support for the 2003 Christian Death tour featuring Gian Pyres.

American Inquisition:

American Inquisition is so far the latest studio release by Christian Death. Released in 2007, the album is a critique of American society and the role of religion in society. Its cover depicted a Klansman being burnt on a cross, in front of the American flag.

Rozz William’s reformed Christian Death:

During the late 1980s to mid-1990s, Rozz Williams and Rikk Agnew played some reunion shows using the name Christian Death. An interview with Rikk Agnew in 1989 documents how even though he had nothing to do with Christian Death for more than seven years and was aware that Kand had continued Christian Death for all that time, he admits that he used the name because he was made a financial offer that he could not refuse. One of the shows featuring Only Theatre of Pain-era members Williams, Agnew and Belanger, along with bassist Casey Chaos who would go on to front the band Amen, performed live from Los Angeles’ Patriot Hall, was recorded and later released in 2001 as a DVD by Cleopatra Records.

Williams also put out new albums on Cleopatra Records under the Christian Death name with his wife Eva O, supplying guitar and backing vocals during the 1990s. This was after the release of the two Shadow Project studio albums featuring the couple. The first of the albums where the name Christian Death was used by Williams was The Iron Mask, a reference to the Alexandre Dumas, p?re novel about an usurper who imprisons the rightful heir to the throne. This was a clear jab at Kand, who Williams now viewed as a thief for using the name “Christian Death”.

After recording two more studio albums under the Christian Death name with Eva O, titled The Path of Sorrows and The Rage of Angels, Williams committed suicide by hanging on . Found dead in his home in West Hollywood, California, Williams was 34. He did not leave a suicide note.

CD 1334:

During the latter part of 2006 it was announced that some of the members of Christian Death (minus the deceased Williams) from the Only Theatre of Pain era were to reunite as a new band, originally called Christian Death 1334 but now referred to as CD 1334 due to trademark infringement issues. The line-up consisted of Rikk Agnew (guitar), James McGearty (bass), Christian Omar Madrigal Izzo (drums), Eva O (vocals), Jaime Pina (guitar) and Le Rue Delashay (keyboards). The number “1334” was frequently used by Williams in reference to the year of the first outbreak of the black death in areas of China.

The band is currently preparing new material for a future album release and playing local Los Angeles shows in support of a 25th anniversary remaster of Only Theatre of Pain. A portion of the material the band is working on consists of unused and unfinished pieces of music from the band’s early history. The band’s first original track, named “Rites”, has been mentioned by name in the band’s official MySpace blog and uses bass riffs from an unreleased track called “Awake at the Wall” (unrelated to the track of the same name from the Catastrophe Ballet album). The current setlist for the band includes the entire Only Theatre of Pain album and the track “Sleepwalk” from Catastrophe Ballet.

Edited by injustice666 on 2 Jul 2014, 15:26

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