Goth Pioneer Rozz Williams Hangs Himself

April 9, 1998 12:00 AM ET

An idol of early American goth-rock fans, Christian Death founder Rozz Williams hanged himself on April Fool's Day in his West Hollywood apartment. He was 34.

The forefather to artists such as Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor, Williams recorded the first Christian Death album, Only Theatre of Pain, at age 16. He worked on five albums with the death rock band before 1985, when he backed out of the group for personal reasons.

"He left the band for the same reason he left life: love situations," said Valor Kand, a former Christian Death band mate who took over as lead singer and copyrighted the band's name after Williams' departure.

Born Roger Allen Painter on Nov. 6, 1963, the flamboyant singer was raised in Pamona, Calif., by two born-again Christian parents. Williams battled alcohol and heroin addiction since his mid-teens, and perpetually struggled with his overt bisexuality and androgyny, Kand said.

"He was a manic depressive," he said. "There have been more times than I could count that I have yanked razor blades from his hands and ropes from around his neck, and stopped him from killing other people with knives. I think this was the way he wanted to go, it was his destiny."

A tarot card titled "The Hangman is a Fool" was reportedly discovered near Williams' body by his roommate and musical collaborator Ryan Gaumer last Wednesday. Williams left no suicide note, but Kand said he believed heartbreak and alcohol played a large part in his death.

However, Bruce Duff, who worked closely with Williams at Triple X Records, said his suicide came as a complete surprise.

"I saw the guy 10 days before he died and he was laughing and having a great time," Duff said. "Obviously there was something wrong. Rozz had a tendency to not think his actions all of the way through."

During the early 1990s, Williams performed with alternative hard rockers Shadow Project and Premature Ejaculation before launching an eclectic solo career. Within the last few years he had released a bluesy cabaret album with singer Gitane Demone called Dream Home Heartache, as well as Whorses' Mouth and Every King a Bastard Son, two brooding spoken-word albums inspired by his personal and musical hero, David Bowie.

At the time of his death, Williams was awaiting the release of From the Heart, the next Shadow Project album due out this month, and organizing a hard rock band with Triple X Records.

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