Lucifer, Arisen

A quintessential San Francisco story, starring charismatic musician/murderer Bobby BeauSoleil*

*with underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, cult leader Charles Manson, Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey, and the Straight Satans motorcycle gang in suppo

Then, in 2000, BeauSoleil was contacted by a DVD producer who wanted to interview him for a compilation of Anger films. Though the film part of the project stalled, one of the producers struck a deal with BeauSoleil to release the Lucifer Rising soundtrack on his music label, Arcanum Records. This past summer a remastered double CD of the soundtrack, paired with recovered bootleg recordings of the Orkustra and the Magick Powerhouse of Oz, hit national record stores.

"There are so many archival projects being reissued and dug up, and a lot of them don't deliver," says Bob Mehr, music critic at the Chicago Readerand contributor to Mojo magazine. "This one is one instance of a pretty evocative piece of music. ... It was a project that had been festering in BeauSoleil's head for a long time, and it definitely shows."

Dave Tompkins, a critic at the Village Voice, declared, "It's nuts! It's evil in parts, but it's not just pure evil, where you're limited to that one emotion or feeling. It's also like walking down autumn roads, alone. That kind of vibe."

BeauSoleil in the 1990s.
Courtesy of Barbara BeauSoleil
BeauSoleil in the 1990s.
BeauSoleil in the 1970s.
Courtesy of Barbara BeauSoleil
BeauSoleil in the 1970s.

Vice magazine proclaimed Lucifer Rising "the reissue of the year" and called it "a scary and loose free rock soundtrack."

A British music magazine, The Wire, described the soundtrack as "a wide-ranging hybrid of Prog rock, hippie jam, shimmering Terry Riley-esque keyboards, and bombastic swellings ... a cloudy musical mystery grown organically from simple sources." It went on to say that the CD proved that "wherever fate led him, BeauSoleil's creative powers persisted."

Jay Babcock, editor of the Los Angeles music magazine Arthur, writes in an e-mail that the CD is an office favorite. "It's the dark clouds," writes Babcock, "plus the silver lining."

Twenty-four years after the fact, BeauSoleil's attempts to redeem himself had finally panned out, at least in his mind.

BeauSoleil says he's "certain" he'll get out one day, and it's clear, at least, that he has behaved in prison.

According to California corrections officials, who share BeauSoleil with the Oregon Department of Corrections through something known as an "interstate compact agreement," BeauSoleil has been a model prisoner for years. BeauSoleil's death sentence was commuted to life at a time when there was no provision for life in prison without parole. His disciplinary record is clean, and many who've worked with him feel he's been rehabilitated.

"[BeauSoleil] readily accepts responsibility for his role in [his crime] without equivocation," wrote his prison counselor in a report submitted at BeauSoleil's 2003 parole hearing. In that same report, a former supervisor called him a "remarkable inmate." Besides starting the music program at Dueul for the purpose of his Lucifer Rising project, BeauSoleil went on to create a video program at a subsequent prison, where he made documentaries about prison life. He has counseled disadvantaged youth and is a visual artist who has (besides his tattoos) produced a body of painstakingly detailed paintings and drawings.

A psychologist wrote that, "His behavior has become increasingly oriented toward art and creativity, rather than destructiveness. ... There would not appear to be any psychiatric contradictions to parole of any kind."

In 2003, however, as in times past, BeauSoleil was denied parole.

His lawyer, Carrie Hagin, says, "They're hung up on the whole Manson thing."

Others, however, have a decidedly less sympathetic view of BeauSoleil.

"Victim Hinman was tortured over a period of two days ... before BeauSoleil finally stabbed him," said Frank Merriman, then-captain of the Homicide Bureau for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, in a letter to the parole board in 2003. "It's the opinion of this department that parole is inappropriate and should be denied."

BeauSoleil is aware that the release of the Lucifer Rising CD and its attendant publicity may not do much to rehabilitate his image in the eyes of the parole board.

"I know some people think that Lucifer Rising, because of the title, has something to do with the devil, and that invites certain perceptions," he says. But, says BeauSoleil, the soundtrack, its history, and even the archetype of Lucifer are all a part of him. He has made a life for himself in prison the only way he knows how.

"I've tried to be conformist ... but deep down I was not empowered within myself," says BeauSoleil.

During our visit at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute, BeauSoleil has been unflaggingly chipper. But when I ask him why he wanted, so badly, to do the Lucifer Rising soundtrack, he suddenly looks distressed.

"I was using Kenneth," he says. "I needed something to work on."

I'm surprised to see this 57-year-old man, 35 years in prison, begin to tear up. He makes a fist and hunches forward, his entire body vibrating with sorrow and frustration.

"I'm an artist," he sputters hoarsely. He pulls his fist to his heart for emphasis and in doing so accidentally slams the wall behind him with his elbow. He seems oblivious to the guards hovering around us.

"They ... can't ... do me."

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