The late and great Monte Cazazza passed away 29 June, 2023. The man takes with him many years of profoundly important contributions to first wave industrial music which would influence everything that subsequently followed.
Among the more notable of achievements is his invention of the term “industrial music” which centred around the notorious Industrial Records. As formative as this little slice of trivia is, it belies the true scale of his contributions.
Monte Cazazza was known to be continuously active, but was less scrupulous with the documentation of his work. As a result, coherency and linearity can be troublesome to come by when looking into his work.
According to one of Cazazza’s contemporaries, Boyd Rice, he had the following to say about his work and persona:
“No one will ever know about his life unless they were there at the time. His recorded work was the least of it. He was one of those people who was an influence and inspiration to so many because he seemed to embody something that can’t be quantified… But you know it when you see it“
So, in the spirit of breathing life into Monte Cazazza’s oft overlooked and misunderstood back catalogue, we bring you a retrospective of the work, quirks and life that made Monte Cazazza such a pivotal figure in the formation of industrial music, and experimental culture more broadly.
Monte Cazazza - A Retrospectrive
Monte Cazazza was a very introspective artist. Deeply inspired by philosophy and the current state of the world. Monte Cazazza’s work feels very childish, juxtaposed with confronting themes, with his earliest work being more vocal based. Some songs were nursery rhymes, or a capella vocal tracks. He has the aura of a very depraved man.
Monte Cazazza had many art showings that are unfortunately now lost. These shows served mostly as a showcase of his insane vision of art. He tackled many taboo and extreme subjects, and made great and surreal art while doing so.
Monte Cazazza was very rebellious in his early years, screaming in class, until his voice gave out. In a Catholic school, a nun would make an example out of him for his outbursts. He was hated by one such nun, and he claims he was an example of “God’s Retribution”. During one thrashing from the nun in question, he allegedly ripped her hood (Habit) off, revealing what looked to be a bald head due to her hair being tied back. He was subsequently sent to a priest where they believed he was possessed.
He started to run away when he was 9, where he would hide in museums, libraries, and once slept in an expensive hotel. He’d get caught, and they’d demand information. Like why wasn’t he in school.
He moved to the suburbs during High School where he hated everyone. He didn’t talk to anyone at High School for a year. He was mostly quiet and did not tell anyone about himself. He sold cigarettes out of his locker, cigarettes he shop lifted, and police came to arrest him. They were confiscated, and no further discipline happened.
Monte Cazazza started getting a reputation in Oakland College of Arts And Crafts, after his first sculpture assignment, a cement “waterfall”. He put it down the main stairwell of the building, and it became impassable.
After his education completed, he began working on rubber dolls for a short period, before disappearing with rumours of going in and out of hospitals and jails. When he returned, he exhibited pornographic collages in San Fransisco galleries, which featured orchards with penises sprouting out of them. He was contacted by an older countess, trying to be a possible benefactress, but she died two weeks after.
Monte Cazazza is an avid reader, to an extent his recommendations and interests are very relevant in his interviews. He read a book on Mary Bell, after he visited England, and Mary Bell escaped from prison. He wrote the nursery rhyme after that. He imagined for the song, it would be sang by little girls jumping rope. So the legacy would live on, and no one would know where it came from.
Monte Cazazza was interested in Charles Manson, as well as Jim Jones, even sampling the Jim Jones tape on California Babylon and reissuing the Jim Jones Choir album.
Monte Cazazza based his work on his dreams and dream images. He kept journals and enjoyed reading the dreams of others. He was deeply inspired by filmmakers such as David Lynch and Kenneth Anger. At one point, Monte Cazazza burned his dream journals in anger and despair.
He was involved in mail art, a very personal endeavor that he made specifically for artists whom he was friends with. He was also known for his collaborations with with other artists, such as Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle.
He did pornographic collages, and in 1971 or 1972, he was invited to a weekend of art conferences in the woods, where he brought along an armed bodyguard and “garnished the food with arsenic” (from his short biography). At breakfast, he dropped bricks painted with the word Dada on the feet of people who were trying to eat. At dinner, he burned the partially decomposed body of a cat that was infested with worms. His bodyguard blocked the exit, and several guests fell sick from the awful smell. He attended wearing paint-splattered jeans, covered in pine needles, while cooking marshmallows, making s’mores. (There are surviving photos somewhere based on interviews.)
His exhibits/shows started around 1970 and ran to 1979 in the Re/Search Industrial Culture Handbook. Also in the Handbook, it mentioned that on Halloween, he went out in a cheap plastic mask and a green army bag filled with livers and hearts, as well as the head of a bloody CPR mannequin. He based this off of Kearney, the trash bag murderer.
In 1974, Monte collaborated with Genesis P Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti on the magazine Vile. He held a cow’s heart on the cover that was visually ripped from his chest. TG and Monte’s fascination with fascism led to a performance in California where Cazazza constructed a massive Swastika, a 15×15 silver screw swastika, that could be quickly dismantled in case of an issue.
During the Gary Gilmore case, they all got blindfolds, and loaded guns pointed at their heads from an actual firing squad. They made postcards and mailed them after Gilmore’s execution, sending them to the Warden of the Utah Penitentiary, as well as several newspapers. Over 6000 t-shirts were sold with the photo in England, and one of the mock photos was used on the front page of the Hong Kong Daily News. Genesis P Orridge added that they mistook the photo for the actual execution.
In 1977, t-shirt sales funded Monte’s trip to England where he record his earliest material: Plastic Surgery, Busted Kneecaps, Fist Fuckers Of America, Hate, and To Mom On Mother’s Day. He had a studio with an engineer, a chainsaw, the innards of a piano that was played with hammers and violin bows, as well as multiple other musical instruments.
He had a sizable filmography, most being lost or stolen. Recently, his collaborations with Michelle Handelman were found and archived (Perverse Nature collection). Throbbing Gristle made a movie called Umbrella Corporation, where Cazazza and a 14-year-old boy are electrocuted. Monte Cazazza was also in the movie Decadance by Kerry Colonna, where he wore a suit of rubber tubes and razor blades.
He was also involved in many performance art events and concerts, many undocumented, but I believe the live shows were documented. It would be hard to find all the information, but he was a frequent collaborator with Psychic TV and recorded various live Throbbing Gristle performances. He also played live with Factrix.
His compilation, “The Worst of Monte Cazazza,” was organized by Lustmord and was a collection of all his earliest works. Monte Cazazza once said when he was collaborating with Throbbing Gristle on “To Mom On Mother’s Day,” he couldn’t hear himself because Throbbing Gristle was playing too loudly.
A project that he was also affiliated with was Deviation Social, a project that almost feels like a continuation of his own work, which is a good recommendation for fans of Monte Cazazza.
In 1981, Monte pranked police by saying a Space Shuttle crashed in his yard and had Genesis P Orridge defuse the situation.
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Monte would work alongside Psychic TV, playing guitar on releases. In 1985, he did a vocal performance without Genesis P Orridge (bootleg titled Southern Comfort). In January 1985, Monte performed alongside (possibly danced?) Psychic TV, which would be released as “In The Mouth Of The Night.” “Iron Glove” is a Psychic TV track that was written and sung by Monte Cazazza.
RiP Monte Cazazza
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