As many of you know, I wrote an article “Church of Satan is dead” some time ago. That article got me in touch with a documentary movie maker Larry Wessel, who’s interview “Larry Wessel speaks!” I then made. Wessel’s latest movie, Iconoclast, was six years in making. The result is a four hour long ride that goes through Boyd Rice’s life in three parts. This includes a good deal of history of pop culture and art too. After watching the movie I knew I wanted to write a review of it. However, after reading Carl Abrahamsson’s excellent review I thought I would have nothing to add to what he had said, because he put it all so well. You can find Abrahamsson’s review from here. Well, I thougth I could still write something about the documentary. If nothing else, I could write down my notes of the contents of the film and some of my rambling notes in between. What follows might be boring reading as it pretty much just lists the contents of the film. For those who are interested in Boyd’s art, life, and persona and have not seen the film yet, my notes and ramblings might still be interesting. So, with this note, or warning, let me begin.
Part One: Lemon Grove
Part one of the movie starts with Boyd reading his poem Secrets:
That is most powerful which remains unknown
Except unto you, and to you alone
There are secrets that slumber behind these eyes
And I stand by my secrets, my truths and my lies
There are secrets that soar where the eagle flies
Above man’s truths and beyond his lies
There are secrets that slither like snakes in the night
Coiled in shadows, far distant from light
There are secrets that confront you in the midday sun
Yet remain unknown to everyone
A secret burns bright when its law is obeyed
But is doomed to fade when that law is betrayed
For that is most powerful which remains unknown
Except unto you, and to you alone.
It seems to me that in some poetical way the ethos of this poem carries through the whole documentary. I don’t know Boyd but it seems to me that the poem carries the spirit that is present in all that Boyd has done and what he is like. He is difficult to label, he is multidimensional. He is often labeled this and that, often as something sinister and suspicious. But the truth probably lies somewhere between the lines, one could say between the opposites. I was reminded already at this point of the film of the wolf’s hook rune and how it really well seems to symbolize the essence of Boyd and his work.
After that Bob Larson does exorcism, Boyd goes to a tobacco store and buys a whole box of Samuel Gawith snuff. Wait! Is that that nasal tobacco? Yes it is, you can see Boyd taking it later in the film, in part three of the documentary, at the Absinthe studios. I have never tried nasal snuff, but I enjoy a lot the kind of snuss (especially portioned General) that you can buy in Sweden (I am having one portion under my lip right now while writing this).
A family history follows. A whole bunch of old pics. A story of a neighbohour average man’s everyday routine and how Boyd decided he will never be like that. We hear of a tv prank and a good deal of a tiki-culture. Already at this point my idea of Boyd starts to get new dimensions. I did not know that much of his interest in tiki and of things related. My idea of Boyd had previously been formed pretty much through some of his NON-recordings and his association with the Church of Satan. I think I am not the only one like that. Much more interesting new dimensions to Boyd and his works is about to follow. This is getting really interesting.
We hear what happened in 1969. We hear of a Dark Shadows character who said: “Two natures have always existed in man, one good the other evil, perhaps with this we can bridge the gap in man’s divided nature”. Boyd comments on this: “And like a portal opened in my soul”. I am again reminded of the wolf’s hook rune and its essence. It is becoming apparent that the symbol has found a resonance within Boyd very early and that he has ever since worked to unfold the symbol’s mystery.
“Two natures have always existed in man, one good the other evil, perhaps with this we can bridge the gap in man’s divided nature”.
We hear of Strange paradise. We hear of Anton LaVey, Charles Manson, and Tiny Tim – how they were totally different and still much alike. We hear a story about Martin Denny. We hear a story about a man who lost his keys in Italy and found them from Florida. We hear about decadent Hollywood and its coolness. Rodney Bingenheimer. Glamrock. Principal in a nazi uniform poster prank. We hear a story about Boyd making a life size cross in high school and his work at Taco Bell – and of eating a moth there every now and then. Bean-qhr-qwr-qhr. We hear about how to make photos of things that does not exist, St. Jean Cocteau and Captain Beefheart’s nightly calls. Then Boyd tells about dada, surrealism, alchemy. I like it all, I can totally relate to what I hear. An image of Boyd as an artist starts to surface, an image that is new to me. The guy starts to get more and more interesting, minute by minute.
Boyd tells us how “women like it weird”. He tells us of his open-ended paintings, and again the wolf’s hook rune comes to my mind. The principle is there again. Skinned sheep’s head gift to the first lady is pure gold. A priceless prank, instant art performance. Next we hear how Boyd was living dada real. Steve Hitchcock illuminates us about how magic and alchemy is part of what Boyd does: “Boyd was someone who introduced me to the idea of alchemy of thought, where by you take negative or valueless proposition and turn it to your own advantage, by sort of inverted perception of it, which can be done, it takes a disciplined mind, a disciplined mentality if you want to make use of that, but it certainly is a valid principle”. Do you see the wolf’s hook and its principle at work again here? I do.
We hear of Boyd meeting Genesis P-Orridge. We hear of 1977 and the famous The Black Album, Boyd’s deal with Mute records, the birth of NON, and why punk was just glam rock with harder edge. Next we hear of something in which Boyd was again ahead of the time: Pagan muzak record that can be played with different speeds. This happened years, years ago. The first time I heard of such a record was when Butthole Surfers’ Hairway to Steven came out in 1988. Before of that I had for my own amusement listened to lots of records with different speeds – pretty much with the perspective of “open-ended paintings” of which Boyd spoke about earlier in the documentary. You can find the same thing interesting with different angles, perspectives. Things are most of the time not black and white, but composed of many colors and shades.
Who invented tape-loops? It was Boyd. He tells us how nothing in the world is fixed. We hear of “the world’s weirdest record”. We hear of the first NON show, which was “louder than Led Zeppelin”. There is a note of music as sounds, not so much as songs. Iitywimwybmad. Roto-guitar. Stuff ahead of the time. Live sounds from that part of the documentary remind me of some amazing underground noise gigs that I attended at Some Place Else in Turku, South-West of Finland around 2004 and 2005. Boyd did that kind of stuff about 30 years earlier. I find that rather impressive.
Part two: San Francisco
Part two of the movie deals with Boyd’s years in San Francisco area. We hear of Incredible strange films and research involved. Director Ray Dennis Steckler is revealed to be also actor Cash Flagg. The amazing scopitone machines are introduced. Boyd tells us of “close-ups of tits shaking a few seconds too long” and girls doing dances in bright colors. Sounds and looks good to me.
Then comes something I knew there was going to be covered, Boyd’s association with Anton LaVey. “Living in San Francisco it was inevitable that our paths would cross”. Blanche Barton tells about getting to know Boyd and why Boyd and Anton got so well along. “Role of the Devil has to be… one that challenges”. Barton also tells that Boyd also understood the trickster, prankster side of satanism… which is something that not everyone understands. Coop, the artist, tells about “making it hot for them”… and that “of course that applies to Boyd, perfectly”. We hear of Blinky the friendly hen’s funeral and resurrection. Vampire aesthetics. There is a note about romance and cultured gentleman in a vampire – and how below that side is a beast. A perfect wolf’s hook principle at work again.
Stanton LaVey, Anton LaVey’s more known daughter’s son, appears briefly in the film too. His first sentence in the film is “Boyd did fuck my mother!” which is followed with a warm laugh. He clearly has positive thoughts of Boyd. It seems that Boyd has had much warmer relationship with Zeena than I had. Back in the late 90’s and early 2000 I met Zeena few times, corresponded with her and it was an ongoing argument. Zeena and her husband Nikolas thought that I was trying to put too much love into the left hand path. They even called me “Jesus of darkness”. But that is another story.
Beth Moore-Love is an artist who I was not familiar with earlier. We see some of her amazing paintings. She says of Boyd: “He’s very intelligent. I like people who not only think outside of the box, but outside of the entire packeting industry… Boyd is one of them”. Boyd tells a chilling story of San Francisco’s Chinatown and its rats. It is very easy to believe. I lived in the city for some time in 2004 and Chinatown was one of my favorite places there. I visited it quite often and wondered about the smell of the place. Rats fit in the picture well.
“He’s very intelligent. I like people who not only think outside of the box, but outside of the entire packeting industry… Boyd is one of them”.
Next Boyd tells us how all the women who he brought to LaVey’s house had the next night a dream of having sex with LaVey. Boyd tells of LaVey’s different alter egos, the crime boss, the china man, and how LaVey could keep with a role for hours. The stories are hilarious and Boyd cracks up telling them. To readers of LaVey’s works it comes as no surprise that LaVey was living in a sort of alternative reality or realities he chose to live in. We hear very interesting angles on the subject. The famous Johnson & Smith’s catalogue is covered, and how “consternation” is the word related to it. Whoopee cushion. Remote controlled fart machine. How Anton programmed his keyboard with different fart sounds. The movie has been very fun already from the beginning, not just at this point. Barton tells how she and Boyd got Anton to record his music. It is very much likely that without them there would be no recorded music of LaVey.
Then comes the part dealing with Charles Manson. “Two minutes after meeting him he is giving me this you-are-me-and-I-am-you -routine”. Boyd tells us how Manson has one feet in the world of a fantasy, another in reality. We hear a story of Charlie telling to Boyd about taking a helicopter and visiting Ajatollah Khomeini. We hear that there are secrets Manson has told to Boyd – and which Boyd has promised to not tell to anyone while Manson is still alive (this reminds me of Boyd’s poem Secrets, with which the movie begins). Why Boyd got in touch with Manson in the first place? Why he seems to have interest in individuals who have been labeled very “sinister”? Some of Boyd’s associates gives a perspective on this: “Boyd has always been sort of attracted to those people who disrupt society in some way, that cause, that show the limitations of what we pretend to be civilized, I don’t want to put words into Boyd’s mouth but I know that’s part of what attracts him to this stuff”. I think this is a good angle to the question. The documentary gives a broad context where one can reflect on that. I think the documentary also gives an idea of the wolf’s hook rune, its essence and principle in artistic action – pursued by a questioning mind that does not see things in black and white but as “an open ended paintings”. Things are not fixed. In his pursuit Boyd is not afraid of putting himself in positions where he can easily get misunderstood. He is not so much afraid of social pressure as most of the people are. Such a courage in looking at the human equation is hardly a bad thing. I would rather argue that seeing things in black and white is a bad thing. Finally, we hear of how Manson got into a solitary confinement for two weeks because of a bullet that happened to be in Boyd’s pocket – and how that ruined their relationship.
“Boyd has always been sort of attracted to those people who disrupt society in some way, that cause, that show the limitations of what we pretend to be civilized, I don’t want to put words into Boyd’s mouth but I know that’s part of what attracts him to this stuff”.
Then the documentary comes to the symbol that I’ve already mentioned few times, the wolf’s hook rune. We hear of the balance point between creation and destruction, “exactly the meaning that has been the guiding force in my life”. Adam Parfrey enters the picture – the guy is “on the same wavelenght “with Boyd. We are informed about the Apocalypse culture, 8-8-88 at Strand Theatre, San Francisco. We hear of the nazi accusations Boyd has been thrown with. “Boyd was not, is not, and will never be a nazi… you could take it as seriously as the Producers movie”. Anyone who has watched the documentary thus far must agree with that. To say that Boyd is a nazi is absurd. We hear about the victim culture that likes to whine about everything. We learn of a mexican poster and ABBA-book that was stolen from Boyd (whoa – I did not know that Boyd likes ABBA. I have always liked them too. In my article “Church of Satan is dead” I pondered how much common ground I might have with Boyd. It seems there is much more than I thought). The San Francisco part of the movie ends with a story of Boyd moving to Denver. We hear why the place is cool. We hear that the building Boyd lives in was built in 1890. We hear how Boyd had a Carnival of souls welcome to Denver.
“Boyd was not, is not, and will never be a nazi… You could take it as seriously as the Producers movie”.
Part three: Denver
Part three deals with Boyd’s time in Denver and the stuff he has done since moving there. There is a recording session at Absinthe studios. Fredrik Nilsen gives another perspective on Boyd that tells of his wolf’s hook nature and approach to things: “He is a scholar of evil. He’s not evil. In fact, he’s a very sweet, loving, guy. But he seems to have an incredible knowledge of the nature of evil and he seems to be willing to chronicle and look at it in a sort of… empirical way, I’m not sure it is empirical… aesthetic way. And I think he is pretty great”. We see a footage of Boyd’s guest lecture “Regarding evil” at Massachusetts institute of technology. We hear of Oswald Mosley and his ralleys – and how his symbolism influenced Throbbing Gristle and David Bowie. We hear how Marilyn Manson (who has called Boyd his mentor) also used the Mosley symbolism after Boyd noted to him about it and about “a cross between glam rock and Nürenberg rally”. We hear about how to manipulate archetypes – how to step into a role you want to be in and how it then flows into you. There is a funny anti-fascism demonstrators talk with Boyd. After that there starts a really interesting part where Bob Larson talks with Boyd. He says with a big smile: “Bob has been working with me for the past 14 years… he doesn’t give up”. Boyd’s sense of humor is great and a watcher of the documentary is blessed with tons of it.
“He is a scholar of evil. He’s not evil. In fact, he’s a very sweet, loving, guy. But he seems to have an incredible knowledge of the nature of evil and he seems to be willing to chronicle and look at it in a sort of… empirical way, I’m not sure it is empirical… aesthetic way. And I think he is pretty great”.
We hear of the Partridge family & Partridge family temple: “Our religion is based on fun”. We hear of archetypes on TV. Giddle Partridge speaks. A story of Boyd as a catholic priest “blessing” kids rosery beads is pure prankster Boyd. Gidget Gein speaks how his idea of Boyd went up and down. The subject of social darwinism is touched upon. Another angle to wolf’s hook is given: Abraxas – an entity that is good and evil at the same time. We learn that Boyd has Charles Manson’s copy of the Bible. Bob Larson tells Boyd that “maybe you need an exorcism”. Boyd and Bob talk about paradigms of reality, good and evil. All in a very good spirit, pretty different from what it was like in Bob Larson’s radio show in the early 90’s. Boyd tells about Might is Right by Ragnar Redbeard and about Lions Lair and women who got spontaneously naked for him there. We hear of Tiny Tim and his phonecalls, talk about women. Nutcase letters LaVey got. LaVey’s guns. We hear a hilarious prank that Boyd did with “Got milk?”-campaign’s billboard that featured David Copperfield. The billboard had a picture of Copperfield’s face with some milk on his upper lip and a text saying “What’s the magic word? Calsium”. Boyd changed “Calsium” with some paint into ”Cum”. I once made a similar prank with Canal plus billboard… maybe you guess what I painted it to be? Margaret Radnick tells about Boyd’s love letters to her. Boyd’s friendship with Rozz Williams is covered. Douglas P. tells an amazing story about nazi-monkeys attacking old German men with bananas. Boyd’s bar Tiki-Boyd as an alternative reality is covered.
The talk between Boyd and Bob Larson continues. If there has been lots of interesting, even surprising turns in the film thus far, it gets even more such at this point. Boyd and Bob talk about some kind of possibility to survive death, and Boyd even tells that he nowadays thinks that some kind of reincarnation of consciousness might be possilbe. Bob comments: “You may have to turn back your Church of Satan card!” Boyd: “I tried and they wouldn’t take it!” Bob: “What happened to your old misanthropic idea of things? Obviously you must have mellowed in your hatred for humanity”. Boyd: “I’m still fairly misanthropic, I just don’t think I’m not actively misanthropic. Because I’m a very happy individual and I just find it if I treat everybody with a certain degree of civility they usually treat me with civility so generally they’ve used to people treating rotly and when somebody comes along who is nice to them it is big change for them and I gotta see the best sides of everybody if I treat everybody decently and they in turn are nice to me”. Bob says back in amazement: “Do you realize what you just said? You have just recited a part of Sermon of the Mount. You have just articulated one of the most important ethics that Jesus taught! Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you”. Bob continues: “At least you’re not at this point trying to bring back Thor and declare total war!” Boyd says smilingly: “Yea, I need to change the lyrics…” We hear “People” with improvised lyrics. The movie ends with Boyd’s poem, just like it started. The ending poem is Boyd’s Gift:
On my own
Hour after hour
And reading Schopenhauer
Living in a world
I see that hope
Is a lack of information
I turn my back
I shut the door
I lock the key
A prisoner in my home
But it’s lovely to be free.
After that we hear Boyd singing Terry Jacks’ Seasons in the Sun. The film ends.
As I said, the movie is multidimensional. It covers a lot. It is funny as hell. It is thought provoking. It is surprising. It gives a picture of Boyd that one might not expect. Anton LaVey said once that “Boyd is a true iconoclast” and one cannot but agree. As it has most likely become clear, I would like to add that Boyd is an embodiment of the wolf’s hook rune, the symbol he has carried with him since his childhood.
Larry Wessel has made one hell of a film and I highly recommend it to everyone who is even cursorily interested in Boyd and his art. This documentary is a classic.