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Smut Circus

Think of industrial Bozo Porno Circus as horny exhibitionists given free rein to act on their sexual/musical urges in public. On stage at a Bozo show, female dancers in bondage gear writhe and cavort to the delight of gawking young males while the entire crowd bobs en masse to the mechanized rhythms. Meanwhile, the band itself -- made up of six guys almost as scantily clad as the women -- churns out a nasty sonic gruel of heavy guitars, snarling bass and punishing drums. Actually, it's all quite shocking, coming in somewhere between erotic satire and gritty rock spectacle -- further evidence, perhaps, that civilization is in irreversible decline.

And yet, the mime shooting silly string into the audience would have you believe that none of this is particularly threatening, let alone the end of the world. It is entertainment, after all.

"We're not just standing there playing music," explains singer Ken Gerhard, who co-founded the band with vocalist/guitarist/sample hog Chris O. "We're actually trying to go beyond that -- whatever we can think of to visually stimulate the audience, on top of the music. That's not to say that we neglect the music, because that comes first."

Indeed, the band's debut album, Cybersmut, on the local Tone Zone label, is a twisted trip made all the more disorienting by barking vocals and relentless, military-style percussion. Adding to the intensity are lascivious lyrical snippets such as, "The blood in your veins is my food" and "I want you to beg / It's payback time." Gerhard explains that Bozo's depravity stems from extreme open-mindedness.

"It's not that we are evil or bad people," he says. "We just have a fascination with the dark side, and it comes out in our personalities. There is a humorous side. It's a very dark humor. We'll say something and start laughing about it. Then the joke becomes part of a song, because we think it's funny."

These days, that warped silliness belies a newfound work ethic. Though the band has been performing since 1991, only recently has it made serious strides to move beyond the local underground scene. As the winner of this year's Best Industrial Band honor in the Press Music Awards, Bozo might finally reap the rewards of a yearlong respectability push.

"We've really made an effort over the previous year to really just take the show to the next level," says Ador Charming (a.k.a. Bobby Joe Rose), the band's percussionist and manager.

Longevity isn't always a benefit. But in Bozo's case, it took all that time just to get everyone to commit. "Bozo was always sort of a revolving thing; people came and went," Gerhard says. "Bozo was always a secondary project for Chris and I. We finally said, 'We've been doing this for a while; it's time to get the CD out.' Everything is just more focused [now] on what we are trying to do."

Chris O affirms that Bozo has only gotten better now that everyone has committed. "Being that there are so many of us, it's amazing that everybody pulls their weight," he says. "I mean, we have 14 people on stage at a show sometimes. We pull it off because everybody is so focused. The main thing we want to do is entertain people, give them something to look at, also, and have fun with it. People know if they come to our shows they can practically join in -- if they have the balls."

Sometimes, things do get out of hand for that very reason. Although the chaos on stage isn't orchestrated, the members understand the limits of what they can get away with, even though there is very little they won't do. Occasionally a line is crossed, and it's often an overzealous audience member who's the problem. Then again, eyeing exposed flesh is all the impetus some people need.

"We got a lot of criticism early on because of the girls we used in the past," O says. "It's much different now. The girls have been with us a long time, and they are more in tune with what we're doing. In the old days, we used to just find girls and throw them on stage. A lot of times, I felt that the female side of the audience was very resentful toward us, because we were being very trite and exploiting them. I think now people understand how much the girls are involved. And there are always those people from the audience who just decide to go for it. That used to happen a lot."

O cites an especially juicy example: "One time in Galveston, we were playing at this club, and a cruise ship came in, and the people from the cruise ship came into the club. They were all dressed in tuxedos and nice evening gowns, and they were actually digging it and dancing. And some guy from the audience just walks on stage, buck naked, with a sock on his dick."

In the end, Charming was forced to take action and remove the gentleman from the stage.

"He was making a bee line for one of our dancers," Charming recalls. "She was doing her thing, and he was going right for her. I leaned over the drums and just grabbed him."

Where exactly do you grab a man wearing only a sock?
"His scalp."

Bozo Porno Circus performs with Bamboo Crisis, Violent Blue, and Flowers and Machines on Saturday, October 31, at Vampire Ball VI, at Numbers, 300 Westheimer. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12$15. For info, call 526-6551.

 
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