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Interview with Monte Cazazza (Slash,1979)

SLASH Magazine (Vol. 2, #3) | January 1979

"From Oakland to England, from obscurity to being "very widely unknown", Monte Cazazza has a past. One of our finest investigative reporters lays it bare...

Next record due for release from Industrial Records is from Monte Cazazza, a reclusive Oakland artist whose performances have violated the sensibilities of indignant art critics, the entire acid-damaged Bay Area Avantgarde and jaded art-cliques from Menlo Park to Venice (Italy). He's been described as a "brilliant monster," "art gangster," and "a real sick guy," but one thing is unanimous: his personal appearances really rile people up.

His detractors just don't seem to get the point. Genet says it best: "To escape the horror, bury yourself in it." Like other artists who are obsessed with violent images, Cazazza's early life was riddled with hideous events and accidents, including witnessing a necrophiliac in action. Rather than choke down those nightmares, he spat them back out at the world.

Cazazza's reputation was spawned at Oakland College of Arts and Crafts when for his first sculpture assignment he created a cement "waterfall" down the main stairway of the building, making it permanently impassable and got the boot on the second day of school.

His formal education completed, he passed quickly through a mutilated rubber doll period then disappeared among dark rumours of hospitals and jails. He resurfaced with a blatantly commercial attempt to woo the whims of the wealthy with tasteful pornographic collages of orchids sprouting penises at a San Francisco exhibit. He was contacted by an ageing countess as a possible benefactress and lunched at her famous Oakland mansion while visions of dollar signs danced drunkenly around the plates. The Contessa died two weeks later.

Shortly thereafter in 1972 he achieved infamy when he was invited to attend an arts conference weekend-in-the-woods to share transcendental conversations on perspective and grant-writing while nestling paint-spattered jeans in pine needles and toasting hand-dyed marshmallows for "S'Mores" in an ultimate artsy outdoorsy atmosphere. Cazazza arrived with an armed bodyguard and sprinkled arsenic into all the food. At lunch he dropped bricks with the word "dada" painted on them on artistic feet. At dinner he burned a partially decomposed, maggot-infested cat at the table. His bodyguard blocked the exit, and several participants fell ill due to the stench. Photos and stories of this event were published as far away as Holland.

Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti of Throbbing Gristle read of Cazazza in Vile Magazine in 1974 when he was a classic Valentine's Day cover boy holding a dripping bloody heart that looked torn out of his chest. The Gristle's and Cazazza's mutual fascination with pornography and fascism prompted the limeys to pay a call to California to view in person the 15'x15' silver screw together swastika Cazazza constructed which could be rapidly dismantled in case of police raids or guerrilla JDL attacks.

Since their visit was at the height of the Gary Gilmore furor, they all photographed each other in blindfolds as though they were in front of a firing squad, complete with a real loaded gun pointed at their hearts to get better reactions. Postcards made of the photos were mailed immediately after Gilmore's execution to the warden of the Utah penitentiary and several newspapers. Over 6,000 T-shirts with the same photo were sold in England, and a picture of one was on the front page of the Hong Kong Daily News. Their mock photo was mistakenly considered the official execution photo according to P-Orridge.

T-shirt sales financed Cazazza's 1977 trip to England where he was let loose in Industrial RecordsP.S. (PLASTIC SURGERY), BUSTED KNEECAPS, F.F.A. (FIST FUCKERS OF AMERICA), HATE, and TO MOM ON MOTHER'S DAY. A Cazazza single will be released in March. studios with an engineer, a chainsaw, the innards of a piano which was played with hammers and violin bows, and other musical instruments. Ten songs were recorded with titles like

Also soon for release from the Throbbing Gristle umbrella corporation is a movie in which Cazazza and a 14 year-old boy are electrocuted. Monte also appeared in Kerry Colonna's DECCADANCE movie in a suit he made out of rubber tubing and razor blades.

Cazazza edited a fanzine NITROUS OXIDE in 1971 (far preceding Sniffin' Glue). He co-edits WIDOWS AND ORPHANS, a colour Xerox picture magazine. He also gives shows and illustrated lectures on Siamese Twins that he researched in medical libraries.

But still his reputation is so nasty that he rarely leaves his house, although he did go out on Halloween dressed as Kearney, the trash bag murderer. He wore a cheap plastic mask and carried a green garbage bag filled with animal livers and hearts (like Hermann Nitsch) and a bloody mannequin head used by medical students for practice in giving mouth-to-mouth respiration. Definitely the life of the party.

Cazazza's pet money-making project for the future is further exploration of "murder junkies" via a double bill of the stories of Edmund Kemper (a cannibalistic necrophiliac) and Dean Coryl, the Texas "candy man" whose brutal sex murders peaked at a chronic one-a-day habit until he had killed 27 teenage boys (before authorities stopped counting).

For artists who think their work is daring, Cazazza's is a double-dare. Those avant garde artists who use sex and violence as a chic intellectual playground for "art theory" are the first to head for the exits when confronted by Cazazza's work. His scientific expose of voyeuristic urges for sex and violence is no-holds-barred. And it is all done with a comic edge that amplifies the sounds of skeletons being yanked from the most repressed closets.

Cazazza never gives personal interviews. He bought a hot Ansa-phone and keeps it hooked up 24 hours a day. When he returned my call, I asked him if he wanted to make any statements for Slash. "NO, NO, NO," he said, "I don't need to talk, I don't need to make quotes. You see, I'm already VERY WIDELY UNKNOWN."  - by JB  *This article was reproduced by Industrial Records and included with Cazazza's "To Mom on Mothers Day / Candy Man" 7-inch single)." 

((Republished here, without permission, orig. found at the Axis Archives, on ))
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Interview with Monte Cazazza (Slash,1979)


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