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The work of controversial performance artist Monte Cazazza has been sampled in numerous books, films, and recordings over the years. Hailing from Oakland, CA, Cazazza spent the early '70s experimenting with his art, often indulging in such gross-out acts as burning a partially decomposed, maggot-infested cat, which would often shock his audience to the point of physically illness. Cazazza caught a break when members of industrial rock groundbreakers Throbbing Gristle came across an issue of the appropriately titled Vile Magazine in 1974, a Valentine's Day edition which modeled Cazazza on the cover, holding up to the camera a bloody heart that was made to look as if it was torn out of his chest. The up-and-coming artist befriended industrial rockers Throbbing Gristle, as it was Cazazza who supposedly coined the band's now-trademark phrase, "Industrial Music for Industrial People." In 1977, Cazazza traveled to England, where he recorded several songs (which featured the sounds of roaring chainsaw, as well as hammers beating on the insides of a piano), including such titles as "Busted Kneecaps," "Hate," and "P.S. (Plastic Surgery)." Cazazza also starred in several obscure films around this time as well (including one in which he and a young boy are electrocuted), and contributed to such books as Pranks, Modern Primitives, and The Industrial Culture Handbook, all of which explore his outlandish antics. In addition, Cazazza was an early member of the Throbbing Gristle off-shot group Psychic TV, and has issued several full-length solo albums over the years, including the 1996 compilation, The Worst of Monte Cazazza.
Monte Cazazza is an American artist and composer best known for his seminal role in helping shape industrial music through recordings with the London-based Industrial Records in the mid-1970s.
Cazazza, based primarily in San Francisco during his early career, is credited with coining the phrase "Industrial Music for Industrial People". This was later used to encapsulate the record label and the artists representing it. Later, the noise collages and experimental sound manipulation coming out of Industrial records came to be known as industrial music. Cazazza had built up an underground reputation as a particularly volatile performer with a potentially dangerous and antisocial aesthetic. Re/Search Magazine's Industrial Culture Handbook described his work as "insanity-outbreaks thinly disguised as art events". The Futurist Sintesi show near the end of 1975 was heralded on a promo flier as "Sex - religious show; giant statue of Jesus got chainsawed and gang raped into oblivion".
Cazazza did not limit his "performances" to the familiar dynamic of stage, audience and audience reaction. Much of his work involved acts designed for maximum shock value. In a well known incident, while a student at the Oakland College of Arts and Crafts, Cazazza created a cement waterfall that permanently disabled the main stairway of the building. He once created a 15'x15' screw-together metal swastika and was known to visit his friends with a dead cat and formaldehyde that he would use to set the cat alight.
Much of his early work is considered obscene and virtually impossible to find. He worked with both print and sound collage, film, performance, and presentation. He was also heavily involved in the Mail art movement of the mid-1970s to early '80s. His recordings with Throbbing Gristle in early 1977 are highly regarded among collectors and continue to be esteemed as some of the most significant to come out of that period. Some of his early output was collected and released by The Grey Area of Mute in 1992 under the title, The Worst of Monte Cazazza.
Cazazza worked frequently with Factrix, an early industrial and experimental group from San Francisco, and recorded soundtracks for Mark Pauline and Survival Research Laboratories. More recent activity has included co-creating the independent distribution and film company, MMFilms with Michelle Handelman and various soundtrack recordings.
Cazazza sent out photos of himself in an electric chair on the day of convicted murderer Gary Gilmore's execution. One of these was mistakenly printed in a Hong Kong newspaper as the real execution. Cazazza was also photographed alongside COUM Transmissions/Throbbing Gristle members Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti for the "Gary Gilmore Memorial Society" postcard, in which the three artists posed blindfolded and tied to chairs with actual loaded guns pointed at them to depict Gilmore's execution.