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Ozanix never let national exposure go to his head, and through it all, Skitzo have remained focused on their ferocious, pummeling music. Since forming, the band has first and foremost been a force of thrash metal, a lightning fast and double-bass-blasting form of heavy metal that features Ozanix shredding on guitar and shrieking like a demon on songs about Ted Bundy and Dungeons & Dragons.
With his long hair flowing, Ozanix keeps the sound old-school, and Skitzo still rock an abrasive and rhythmically uncompromising sound that exudes pent-up angst and aggression with cathartic, complex, head-banging intensity. Skitzo's latest album, 2015's Dementia Praecox, is one of its best yet, featuring an array of reimagined '80s death metal and hardcore classics with accomplished metal guitarist Tony Rainier, best known for his work in San Francisco's Blue Cheer, guesting on several tracks.
"The thing about Lance is he was playing metal then and he's playing metal now. There's no doubt about it," Gaffey says. "That guy is the preeminent metal player in Sonoma County and the Bay Area. He's an incredible player and so dedicated to his craft."
"He's also one of the nicest metal heads you'll ever meet," Gaffey says.
"For me, Lance is the real deal when it comes to metal. He has managed to surround himself with solid players. He's been through several iterations of Skitzo, and I've liked them all. He's always been able to put together one hell of a metal band. And, boy, is it in his blood."
SKITZO AT 35
Ozanix and Skitzo have gone through an estimated 175 members in 35 years. The current five-part lineup is a strong mix of old friends and new collaborators. Bassist Nate Clark has been in Skitzo for 15 years, following time in cult band PCP. Sherri Stewart also plays bass, an on-again, off-again Skitzo insider since 1997. Drummer Liz Say cut her teeth in the all-female metal band Outrage throughout the '90s and 2000s. Lead guitarist Jason Wright is the newest Skitzo member, a Sacramento native who is also a flamenco virtuoso.
"I think he's a genius," says Wright of Ozanix. " I think if you look at the timeline, he was doing first what people like Rob Zombie would do later on, mixing in B-movies and using theatrics to that extent to promote music."
Clark met Ozanix in 1989 while he was still in high school. He says that seeing Skitzo perform live was surreal. "I was a fan from then on out," he says. Now a full-time member of Skitzo, Clark describes it as a working-class band. "It's been quite a ride, to say the least."
Clark also says that Skitzo is currently creating a new wall-of-sound. "I think that we're going to be coming out swinging in the next year. We're going to tear people's heads off with this sound."
"Lance is a pariah," Clark laughs. "Really, he's the most non-egotistical person in the world, and he really deserves so much more. But he's also a practical joker; he doesn't take himself too seriously. It's a very endearing quality."
Ozanix credits Clark in particular for keeping the band on track the last time he thought of hanging it up, in 2010. Clark, a towering figure whom Ozanix compares to actor Gunnar Hansen—Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre—had just gotten a huge Skitzo tattoo on his leg, and simply had to show Ozanix the ink.
"I don't think I'll ever be able to quit now," Ozanix laughs.
DON'T MESS WITH JULIE
Through three decades of shows and tours, one of Ozanix's favorite concert stories happened only a few weeks ago, when his current Black Sabbath cover band, Electric Funeral, played a lounge in Santa Rosa.
"We cleared the place out almost immediately; people there wanted to boogie and we freaked them out," he says. "So there are 20 people of our friends left. There's Julie [not her real name], who comes to our shows all the time, down in front. There's this guy in camo shorts and a titanium leg, one leg, coming up to her twerking and humping on her. And she's pushing him back, and we see it from stage and know it's not going to end well.
"The third time, that's it. We're looking down; they're the only two on the dance floor. She bends down and rips off his titanium leg. She takes his leg, she's playing air guitar on his titanium leg like Chuck Berry," Ozanix says. "My band falls apart, we cannot function. She gives him back the leg, he runs off. The manager comes over to us, and goes, 'Here's your check, get out.' I think it was the best gig I've ever played."