‘Shifty Shellshock,’ Crazy Town’s Lead Singer, Dies at 49


Shifty Shellshock, the lead singer of the late-1990s rap-rock band Crazy Town known for the hit song “Butterfly,” whose legal name was Seth Binzer, died at his home in Los Angeles on Monday. He was 49.

The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner confirmed his death, the cause of which was still being investigated.

Crazy Town rose to prominence after the band released its debut album, “The Gift of Game,” in 1999. In 2001, the record reached No. 9 on the Billboard album chart ranking the most popular albums, in large part because of the success of “Butterfly.” The song, which Rolling Stone magazine described as “a sweetly floating ballad that’s atypical for these hard-rocking B-boys,” gained wide acclaim, holding the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 ranking for two weeks.

Mr. Binzer was open about his struggles with substance abuse. He appeared on two seasons of the VH1 series “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” in 2008 and also on the spinoff series “Sober House” from 2009 to 2010.

Seth Binzer was born on Aug. 23, 1974, in Los Angeles to Rollin Binzer, who designed album art and directed films for rock bands, and Leslie Brooks, who was a model and script proofreader. He was raised in Southern California and spent part of his childhood in Marblehead, Mass.

He was a creative child but also had a wild streak that got him into trouble, according to his mother, and sister, Aubrey Binzer. When he was about 10, he would break dance on the pier in Marblehead for tourists, Ms. Brooks said.

After his family moved back to Los Angeles when he was 12, he quickly made many friends, his sister said. He would bring them over the house, including many who became prominent in the music industry, such as Scott Caan and Alan Maman, who were in a hip hop group called The Whooliganz.

As a teenager, Mr. Binzer was often found at Venice Beach skating with friends, including during school hours. He eventually dropped out of high school to pursue music. He revealed on a podcast in 2020 with Brittany Furlan that after dropping out he got involved in drug dealing and gangs.

He formed Crazy Town with Bret Mazur, known as Epic, in 1995, but the band was initially known as the Brimstone Sluggers. The idea to form what became known as Crazy Town was sparked when the two began writing letters to each other from rehabilitation clinics, according to the band’s Spotify biography.

In 1999, the band added Doug Miller, known as Faydoedeelay; Charles Lopez, known as Rust Epique; Anthony Valli, known as Trouble Valli; Adam Goldstein, known as DJ AM; and James Bradley Jr., known as JBJ. The group broke up in 2003.

“Butterfly” has taken new forms in recent years, making its way into films including the 2016 animated feature “Sing.” It was also rewritten and sang by the singer Gayle for Greta Gerwig’s 2023 “Barbie.”

In 2002, Mr. Binzer married Melissa Clark, with whom he had a son, Halo. They later divorced. Mr. Binzer had two additional sons, Gage and Phoenix.

In addition to his parents, his children and his sister Aubrey, he is also survived by his sister Mieke Dumont.

Mr. Binzer openly shared his rehabilitation stories in recent years, including on Ms. Furlan’s podcast in 2020. At that point he said that he had been sober for two years and was hoping to tour again.

In late April, Mr. Binzer posted about his sobriety on Instagram. “The one I need to love more, instead of fight with,” he wrote, “is myself.”





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