By Team Backbeat
By Amber Taufen
By Jon Solomon
By Tom Murphy
By Jesse Livingston
By Alejandra Loera
By Stephanie March
By Tom Murphy
Meet Joe Christ.
Mr. Christ, as the New York Times would refer to him, is a musician and filmmaker to whom the term "notorious" may safely be applied. Communion in Room 410, the 1988 short film that made him a hero to gore cognoscenti, is a case in point. "I was living in Dallas, and I wanted to make a really gross, tasteless, offensive movie," Christ remarks from his Denver home. "And then I started seeing this girl, Mary Leohr, at parties--she's this 500-pound goth chick who'd let people carve the words of Cure songs into her flesh. And I was like, 'There you go.' So I filmed her carving herself up with an X-ACTO knife while this other woman drinks her blood and I sit around telling jokes."
To the dismay of the strong-stomach crowd, Communion will not be a part of Christ's latest show, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, February 23 and 24, at the Asylum Gallery, 4104 Tejon (call 458-6899 for more information). However, Christ will compensate with screenings of three other flicks that don't skimp on nastiness. The first, from a chronological standpoint, is 1991's Speed Freaks With Guns, described by Christ as "my take on the Dallas crystal methamphetamine scene that I basically was a big part of at the time. My character, Joe Speed Freak, is a composite of eight or nine speed freaks I knew--the only thing different between them and him is that the character kills a lot of people and makes home movies of killing them." Speed Freak crops up again in 1993's Acid Is Groovy, Kill the Pigs, in which Christ brings to life the hippie cult that Captain Jeffrey MacDonald (subject of the book Fatal Vision) says murdered his wife and daughters in the Seventies. And finally, there's 1995's charmingly titled Sex, Blood & Mutilation, a documentary on "the body modification scene" that Christ narrates in conjunction with his pet Boston terrier, Scrapple. Highlights include Genesis P-Orridge, best remembered for his work with the band Psychic TV, showing off his three dozen or so genital piercings; hefty David Aaron Clark, former editor of Screw magazine, piercing his eyebrows, his cheeks and folds of blubber on his back; and a man with mutilated genitals who discusses the joys of castration. "The last one is the one that makes people faint," Christ enthuses. "Eyes-rolling-up-into-the-head, chair-over-backwards fainting."
To severely understate the situation, Denver isn't home to many artists with Christ's particular bent--which is exactly why he moved from New York to here six months ago. "New York was so expensive, and it seemed like Denver was wide-open for a gallery dedicated to some of the more extreme things out there," he contends. But he ran into roadblocks when he tried to rent gallery space, especially after telling potential landlords that his first show, entitled "The Art of Serial Killers," would feature the doodlings of people such as convicted mass slayer Henry Lee Lucas. "I was ready to pay a year's lease up front," he claims. "If I'd done that in New York, people wouldn't have cared what I brought in."
A discouraged Christ was making plans to return to New York when Denver's Boyd Rice helped him change his mind. Rice, an internationally recognized musician and cultural bomb-thrower, is plenty notorious himself; he's the official spokesperson for the Church of Satan, and he's been accused (often justifiably) of glorifying racism, Nazism and nearly every other "ism" that comes to mind. Naturally, Christ is a big fan: "What I like about Boyd is that he seems to cut a pretty controversial figure. I like to associate with people who can stir up that much talk."
Although he is focusing on filmmaking right now, Christ (the former lead singer and guitarist for the Texas punk band Healing Faith) remains musically active; he singlehandedly creates and performs the scores for his pictures. So when Rice asked for his assistance on two projects to be released on the World Serpent label, he gladly agreed. Christ will play most of the instruments on Rice's next solo album and a disc by Shaun Partridge (spokesman for the Colorado branch of the Partridge Family Temple) that Rice is producing. In addition, Christ's soundtrack work--including the score for his next film, Satan's Whore--will appear on Hail Satan, Dude, a CD to be issued in March by New York's Reliable Records. The title suggests that the director shares Rice's fondness for satanism, but Christ swears it's simply "a joke that I've carried on longer than most. Whenever anyone has me autograph something, I sign it, 'Hail Satan, dude.'" The cover of the CD, he notes proudly, features Scrapple wearing a set of devil horns.
Right now, Christ predicts that he'll remain in Denver at least until 1997, in part because "we've got a two-year lease on a really nice twelve-room house. It's a little more than we were paying for a one-bedroom apartment in New York." In the meantime, he's looking forward to throwing a shock into the crowd at his upcoming Asylum appearances. When asked if the event will provide fun for the whole family, he laughs good-naturedly. "Oh yeah. It's definitely an all-ages show."
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