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|Also Known As:||Richard Bioni,Richard J Bioni||Died:|
|Born:||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Profession:||Film Production - Construction/Set ...|
In a 1999 promotional interview, singer-producer Seth "Shifty Shellshock" Binzer billed himself as a combination of "Sid Vicious, Kurt Cobain and Biggie Smalls in one body." Sadly, Binzer, who fronted the rap-rock group Crazy Town, seemed hell-bent on recreating not the achievements of those doomed music figures, but rather their tragically short life spans. Cocaine was Binzer's bête noire for most of his adult life, landing him in rehabilitation facilities both before and after his brush with worldwide success when the Crazy Town single "Butterfly" reached No. 1 in 2001. The band collapsed after the failure of their second record in 2003, and while Binzer enjoyed sophomore success by lending his raspy vocals to Paul Oakenfold's song "Starry Eyed Surprise" that same year, he was soon gaining more notoriety as a cast member of "Celebrity Rehab" (VH1, 2008- ) than for any musical efforts. His four stints on the reality series were marked by frequent relapses, followed by firm commitments to sobriety that were often undone by the following season. By 2011, he was back in the news for arrest warrants; within a year's time, he was hospitalized in an unresponsive state after an apparent overdose. Binzer's struggles served as one of the more unfortunate cautionary tales about fame, celebrity and their connections to addiction.
Born Aug. 23, 1974 in Los Angeles, Seth Brooks Binzer was the son of Rollin Binzer, an art director for Chess Records, advertising executive and occasional documentary filmmaker whose titles included the concert film "Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones" (1974). The younger Binzer's initial interests hewed closer to graffiti, skateboarding and shoplifting, which allegedly preceded a lucrative if dangerous stint as a drug dealer. The latter came to an ignominious end when he was sentenced to three months in prison following an attempt to rob another dealer. Upon his release, Binzer directed his focus toward music, a passion he had cultivated since discovering the Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill (1986). He soon began recording his own music while performing with the hip-hop act the Whooliganz and on occasion, contributing to albums by other artists.
While working on one such project, he became acquainted with Brooklyn, New York-born Bret "Epic" Mazur, a producer-performer and DJ who had amassed credits with the likes of Prince, Eazy-E and House of Pain while still in his teens. The pair bonded over their mutual love of hip-hop and began collaborating as the Brimstone Sluggers in 1995. However, the duo's commitments to other artists prevented them from completing their own album for several years. Their appetite for drugs also impeded their progress, as both were required to spend time in various rehabilitation clinics. It was during one such recuperative period that Binzer and Mazur hatched an idea for a group that featured rappers and a DJ backed by a rock band. Inspired in part by such previous efforts in that vein as Run-D.M.C.'s "Rock Box" and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, they formed a group that included DJ Adam Goldstein, a.k.a. celebrity DJ AM, guitarist Charles Lopez, who performed under the stage name Rust Epique, and veteran drummer James Bradley, Jr.
The band, called Crazy Town, recorded their debut album, The Gift of Game, in early 1999. Its first single, "Toxic," was released that same year, but failed to make any impact on the world charts. For the next two years, Crazy Town worked tirelessly in support of the record, gaining opening slots on tours with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and an appearance at Ozzfest 2000. But even these high-profile appointments failed to reverse the band's fortunes; a second single, "Darkside," sank upon release in 2000. The band itself began to fragment due to rampant drug use and wanton destructiveness. Rust Equipe's out-of-control behavior resulted in his dismissal during the album's final mix; his notoriously self-destructive ways would result in a fatal heart attack at the age of 36 in 2004. Binzer's own drug and alcohol problems would hamper the band's progress on numerous occasions, most notably in 2000 when they were removed from the Ozzfest lineup after he threw a chair through a window while intoxicated. To most observers, Crazy Town seemed destined to become the next band to burn out before ever reaching their true potential.
But in 2001, the third single from The Gift of Game, a hazy, semi-psychedelic tribute to female pulchritude called "Butterfly," caught the public's attention. It vaulted to the top of the Billboard 100, which helped its parent album sell over 1.5 million copies. Crazy Town returned to the Ozzfest lineup in 2001, though now as main stage performers. However, the festival audience, whose tastes ran towards harder material like Black Sabbath, rejected the group, whom they regarded as pop-oriented one-hit wonders. Relentless radio airplay of "Butterfly" soon wore down listeners' good will toward the group, which had even themselves tired of the song. Unfortunately, the band failed to dismiss that image with their subsequent releases. A fourth single from The Gift of Game, "Revolving Door," failed to repeat its predecessor's success, and their sophomore album, Darkhorse (2002), peaked at No. 120 on the Billboard 200. A year later, the band had called it quits, citing among other reasons their record label's lack of support after the group failed to deliver a single like "Butterfly." Binzer, however, had struck gold on his own by contributing vocals to "Starry Eyed Surprise," an ebullient single by British trance DJ Paul Oakenfold. The single reached No. 41 on the Billboard 100 and was featured prominently in television commercials for Diet Coke and Apple. Binzer would later add the song to his 2004 solo effort, Happy Love Sick, which found moderate chart success in Europe.
Binzer re-formed Crazy Town in 2007 with the intent to release a new album the following year. The record never surfaced, though the band performed sporadically on the Los Angeles club circuit in 2009. The following year, Binzer fronted a new group, Shifty and The Big Shots, which released a pair of singles that failed to secure chart positions. By this point, Binzer was more famous for his addictions than for any musical efforts. He was one of nine public figures who sought treatment for their problems on Dr. Drew Pinksy's controversial reality series "Celebrity Rehab" (VH1, 2008- ). His tenure on the first two seasons of the program, as well as the first two seasons of a follow-up called "Sober House" (VH1, 2009- ), was marked by frequent, dramatic relapses, including an elaborate game of cat and mouse waged via his Myspace account which clued in his fellow participants on his whereabouts after leaving the facility to smoke crack cocaine. Binzer appeared to gain some control of his life at the end of the first "Sober House," only to again fall prey to his addictions on "Sober House 2." Pinsky hoped that the death of former Crazy Town bandmate Adam Goldstein from an accidental drug overdose would have a chilling effect on Binzer, but by 2011, he was back in the news for a domestic disturbance arrest, as well as a warrant for assault against a club bodyguard. The following year, Binzer was admitted to a Los Angeles area hospital in an unresponsive coma state. Causes were not made upon his admittance, though most in the press speculated that the condition was drug-related.
By Paul Gaita
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