The Brooklyn comedian wrote a Scandanavian black metal band leader as a full-of-himself midwestern teen, and is now performing the resulting correpsondence.
In 2004, comedian Dave Hill sent odd, sometimes confrontational emails to black metal record labels around the world for the low-rent adventure. It was an extension of a fascination he had as a kid, when as a 10 year-old he’d call the phone number he saw on a car dealership commercial to see if the guy in the ad would answer the phone. When he wrote black metal labels, he was in his early 30s and old enough to know better, but “it’s just something I would do late at night,” he says. Hill wasn’t exactly trolling because he liked black metal and had no smartass end game beyond seeing who’d respond and what they’d say. He had no ulterior motives for those emails and any responses that might come, and he had no audience beyond himself and two friends that he knew would appreciate the correspondence.
The email he sent to Planet Satan Revolution Records hit paydirt. Saiihtam of the band Mysticum responded and kept responding for six months, but he wasn’t talking to Hill. Hill wrote not as comedian from Brooklyn but as 19 year-old Lance, the self-proclaimed King of Black Metal from Gary, Indiana. His first email to Saiihtam began, “i got your e-mail off the internet. i was surprised someone in a black metal band would use e-mail but whatever i guess we can't expect you guys to live in caves all the time (if you were serious about black metal you would though).” He went on to call Mysticum “pussy metal,” and remarkably, Saiihtam responded, seemingly not tipped off by Hill’s email address at the time: MrLouRawls@aol.com.
In the email exchange, Lance talks about his own extreme black metal band, Witch Taint, and those emails provide the text for “Witch Taint: The Black Metal Chronicles,” which Hill and his friend Phil Costello will perform at One Eyed Jacks Friday. For Hill, this has been the project that almost wasn’t—an idea that had been laying around for 13 years that he said no to again and again. Friends that read the emails thought he should publish them right away, but Hill held off for a few years until the conversation had truly and finally run its course. He resisted doing anything with the email for so long because in his mind, “it was just for fun, just to be an idiot,” Hill says.
When Hill started the correspondence, black metal had only recently become part of the international consciousness with its theatrical, somber, sober notion of evil—as expressed through heavy metal, of course. His first targets were American labels since in his mind, black metal was so quintessentially Scandinavian that there was something absurd about them, but anything that came back from anyone he wrote to amused him.
“I always think it’s the funniest thing in the world when someone is so intense about something that they see no humor in any of it,” Hill says.
Had Saiihtam come off as more of a fool or an asshole, Hill wouldn’t have gone forward with the publication or performance of “Witch Taint: The Black Metal Chronicles,” but in 2005, a friend made a Witch Taint website emulating an old Angelfire website to house the email correspondence, complete with the flaming logo “Feel the Taint” bordering the email. There readers can see that Saiihtam seems like the sane one. “I think he comes off as a surprisingly patient, thoughtful guy,” Hill says. “He eventually says, Look dude, life isn’t all about Satan and tries to talk some sense into me.”
In that respect, “Witch Taint” is consistent with Hill’s comedy. “The thread in everything I do in comedy is add this idiot into this situation,” he says. “The joke in each situation is me. In this case, the idiot is completely manufactured instead of half-way manufactured. Usually I play an idiotic version of myself.” That was the case when he appeared in Metal Grasshopper, the web series directed by Supagroup’s Chris Lee. In it, Hill plays an awkward, flinchy guy who drank the heavy metal Kool-Aid far too deeply and wants a reluctant Phil Anselmo to be his rock ’n’ roll sensei.
Playing an idiot has had consequences, though. After he published the correspondence, angry metal fans who thought they were talking to 19 year-old Lance sent him angry email, and Mysticum wrote Hill through Witch Taint’s MySpace page. “They completely missed that it was all a joke,” he says. “I don’t know how people didn’t get it. By the time it came out, you could easily figure out that I was a grown man living in New York.”
Today, he still loves some black metal, just as he loves a lot of music. “Most of it’s horrible, but that’s true of any genre,” Hill says. Witch Taint has got him, not Lance, in the black metal business, though. He performed the show at SXSW, has a date in Los Angeles’ Viper Room, and is now booking additional shows. He has been selling Witch Taint merch for years and thinks he’ll record an entire Witch Taint album this year. “The joke’s on us now,” Hill says, laughing. “Now we’re taking it too seriously.”