Boyd Rice Vs Bob Larson

The strange relationship between two of the most controversial figures in American popular culture.

Back in the 1990s, I would receive preview copies of new CDs on tape from Mute Records – advance listening copies for review, even though the publication that I was writing reviews for only came out three or four times a year and so time was rarely of the essence. Still, it made sense for other music publications.

In 1994, Mute also sent out a tape called Boyd Rice and Bob Larson, as part of the promotion for the new Non LP and the limited live appearances of Rice in the UK. These were rather more limited than initially planned, as even back then, Boyd Rice was a somewhat controversial figure, and the protests against him had successfully intimidated at least one venue into cancelling the planned show. Of course, we can look back on those days as a halcyon free speech era now. Mute has historically drawn a line between Rice’s beliefs and his music, despite calls to kick him off the label, though it would be interesting to see how he would be treated now, should a new album emerge.

Rice has long been a provocateur. Be it through his connections with the Church of Satan and Anton LaVey – connections that would splinter through cultural disagreements in the wake of LaVey’s death – or because of his much-discussed socio-political beliefs, he is a figure that is loved and hated, often misrepresented and the very antithesis of Woke culture. Oddly, this interview is one of the few with an opponent that actually allows him to explain his beliefs without too much howling down. Rice, of course, has long taken pleasure in provoking those who take such provocations literally, but in Bob Larson, he may have met his equal.

Larson is one of America’s more shameless religious fanatics, as much the showman as LaVey (or, indeed, Rice) ever was – a huckster who peddles theatrical claims of exorcism and salvation through his radio show and ministry. For someone appalled at the very idea of Satanism and a believer in possession, Larson has been only too happy to have ultimate evils like Rice on his show several times, probably because he knows it creates hugely entertaining culture clashes. Even more than with Rice, it’s hard to work out what Larson really believes and what he just sees as a way of grabbing attention, or if the two things have become so intrinsically entwined that no one can really draw the line any more.

Anyway – the tape that Mute sent was one of their radio show confrontations, and it was hilarious listening. I’m not sure that listening to it would’ve changed the minds of any of Rice’s critics (or for that matter, his supporters), or indeed that it was intended to – but as a promotional gimmick for the Might is Right CD, it was mightily impressive. It’s a fantastic slice of hucksterish cultural clash and a defiantly unapologetic performance piece by both men, where no friendship is left intact, no bridge left unburned and never the twain shall meet in terms of personal philosophy. The oddest aspect of it all is that behind the bluster, you can tell that both men actually get along – there’s a curious friendship between the pair, though I suspect Larson, in particular, would never admit to that. They really should’ve taken this on the road as a G. Gordon Liddy/Timothy Leary or Gore Vidal/William Buckley style clash of the titans for audiences to marvel at in the flesh, as two arch provocateurs go at it in highly theatrical style.

Anyway – the easily provoked should approach with caution, but everyone else, dive right in.

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