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Standing In Two Circles

The Collected Works of Boyd Rice, edited by Brian M. Clark

Without doubt Boyd Rice is the most divisive of acts from the industrial music era. To some he's an acclaimed noise musician from the first wave of industrial music. To others he's an arch prankster and cultural scavenger whose writings were key to the appeal of the Re/Search publications on Pranks, Incredibly Strange Films and subsequent Incredibly Strange Music volumes whose influence would eventually filter through into mainstream. And over the past few years he's proved to be an adept historian researching the Grail mysteries. However to most he remains tainted by his predilection and proselytising of a might is right philosophy, in writings, numerous interviews and through his martial industrial noise released under the name NON.

Standing In Two Circles compiles most of Boyd Rice writings. They range from illuminating essays on Mondo films, entertaining appraisals of celebrity pop records, and tiki culture, to quirky travelogues, including Lawrence Welk's Country Club, a community of elderly residents set-up by the veteran television actor, trips to Disneyland's exclusive Club 33, and the bizarre Christian amusement park, the Holy land Experience in Florida.

Recollections of friendships with notorious figures such as Charles Manson and the late Anton LaVey, the Church of Satan founder, are discussed. Here Rice speaks with candour about his prison visits to the notorious cult leader, his discussions and how Manson named Rice Abraxas, in reference to the Gnostic deity representing balance between good and evil. Rice's initial fascination with Manson waned as the reviled "cult leader" increasingly displayed a contradictory personality. Rice recalls the bullet incident that resulted in him being removed from Manson's visit list. Rice's relationship with Anton Szandor LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, never floundered and Rice writes with a fondness for his mentor and friend, The Doctor, regaling the reader with short anecdotes about their enduring friendship cut short by LaVey's unexpected death in 1997.

But by far the most controversial are the numerous essays that expand and detail his Social Darwinist viewpoint, a philosophy based on the Warrior ethic and Nature's Eternal Fascism - themes that would become standard fare amongst the neo-folk and Satanic fraternities. Many of these are taken from 'Physiosophy', an unpublished collection of essays elucidating Boyd Rice's worldview in the mid-nineties. These writings on 'God and Beast', 'Power, Nature, God and Man' and 'Attributes of God' read like treatises in the tradition of Ragnar Redbeard, one of Boyd's revered men of steel. Much better is Rice's 'Dystopia' essay where he applies his take on evolution to contemporary America in a bold, frank and frightening essay that posits a convincing argument where, as Rice states, "we are presently witnessing rampant dysgenics and ever-increasing dystopia".

In recent years Boyd Rice has become an obsessive researcher of the Grail mysteries. Standing In Two Circles doesn't include his investigative essays on his research - for that you'll need to get hold of The Vessel of God that compiles his essays first published in Dagobert's Revenge - it does include short pieces on blood mysticism and ancestral recall and Boyd's own quest to discover his genealogy that dovetails with his Grail research.

Brian M. Clark's extensive biographical essay covers all Rice's artistic endeavours from his experimental noise output as NON (Rice was, in fact, the first signing on Daniel Miller's Mute label), his extensive involvement and subsequent fallout with the editors of Re/Search, largely due to his dubious associations and increasing interest in Satanism and fascism. In between times he became a vociferous spokesperson for the Church of Satan, and founded the Social Darwinist think-tank, The Abraxas Foundation. These streams all seeped into his work as NON, which picked up on the aesthetics of fascism with Rice attired in military garb, flanked by kettle drums and banners emblazoned with the Wolfsangle rune, an ancient symbol that symbolised the polar opposites of his philosophy, to represent NON. Rice also began working with like-minded artists such as Death In June and Blood Axis.

He remained difficult to pin down though. With Rose MacDowall of Strawberry Switchblade, as Spell they recorded 'Seasons In The Sun', a wonderful collections of songs about love and death. He became a member of the Partridge Family Temple, a colourful bunch dedicated to the worship of the characters of the 70's TV show. While in Denver he designed and furnished a tiki bar, Tiki Boyds, which became the preferred drinking den of Rice and his Modern Drunkard colleagues until it was dismantled by Boyd and friends following objectionable treatment from the establishment's management.

Rice was also a sometime actor with roles in the independent film Nixing The Twist, and a major role in the Australian independent movie Pearls Before Swine (alongside Douglas P. of Death In June). He appeared in Allison Anders' Grace of my Heart but his scenes were deleted from the final cut. His own film shorts Black Sun and Invocation were abstract and experimental boasting NON soundtracks.

Rice was a contributor to many publications, including Seconds and the Modern Drunkard magazine, and especially Dagobert's Revenge which published his numerous essays on the Grail mysteries before ceasing publication after an acrimonious fall-out.

More recently he co-founded the UNPOP ART movement with Shaun Partridge and Standing In Two Circles editor Brian M. Clark. The UNPOP ART group involves a disparate group of American artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers - including Jim Goad, Nick Bougas, Adam Parfrey - who deal with "the application of decidedly unpopular concepts via popular - often fun - media." Currently he is working with Giddle Partridge, as Boyd and Giddle, the glam-pop outfit who in their manifesto, 'Toward The Plastic', state that "Glamour and fun are revolutionary principles tools of the new alchemy and keys to a parallel reality..."

Brian M. Clark doesn't flinch from the more dubious aspects of Boyd Rice's career. Space is allocated to discuss his appearance in a Sassy photoshoot with the leader of the American Front, and his volatile relationship with Lisa Carver, editor of the zine Rollerderby, with whom he sired a child. Clark also manages to put forth a balanced account surrounding the accusations of fascism that are forever levelled at Rice.

Neither does Rice shirk from his own unsavoury antics. 'Burning The Ice' recalls a predation ritual which traverses a fine line between the sinister and prankish. While in 'After Hours With Boris' Rice relates several escapades of adolescent hooliganism with a bunch of criminal friends.

He's funny too. There's a diary of on-tour antics with Albin Julius that reads like an itinerary of the homes of three fascist leaders: Hitler, Mussolini and D'Annunzio, and 'One Night In Barcelona a hilarious account of bullfighting, bourbon and absinthe resulting in Boyd's involvement in a live strip show!

Outside of music Boyd Rice has been active in the visual arts. A number of his surreal and abstract photographs and paintings from the seventies, including examples of his experimental, manipulated halftones and documentary photographs, are displayed alongside his fetish photography produced in collaboration with Sean Hartgrove that appeared on his Receive The Flame CD. With the exception of his obscured fetish photography, they unlike his music are relatively pedestrian and are of historic interest only.

The final section of Standing In Two Circles compiles Boyd Rice's lyrical output from his recorded output as NON, with his friends, his collaborations with Death In June and his numerous guest work with artists such as Current 93, Blood Axis, and Luftwaffe. They range from the misanthropic to the whimsical, the Gnostic to the nasty with many adapted from the philosophical writings of Ragnar Redbeard, Carl Jung, Marquis de Sade to the poetry of Rod McKuen amongst others.

Whatever your opinion of Boyd Rice there's no denying his cultural scavenging has had a subtle influence on popular culture, resulting in a renewed interest and reappraisal of tiki and exotica culture, girl groups, Mondo and cult films and much besides. The essays in Standing In Two Circles illustrates Rice's unique take on these neglected and forgotten gems of a bygone culture. Standing In Two Circles is indispensable to those with an interest in Boyd Rice. It is unlikely to cause his detractors to reappraise their opinion or make him a household name but as Standing In Two Circles demonstrates Rice has produced a compelling and disparate body of work that continues to exert a subtle influence on both the so-called underground and popular culture. Ultimately he remains both God and Beast. For more information go to www.creationbooks.com or www.boydrice.com