Life or Art?

Two local bands put divergent spins on their metal theater


"We nnnnnnnever heard from them again." Kelly shakes his head, laughing. "Epic had made us an offer, but at the time we had a lawyer and things were happening and he said No, no, no, we can get a better deal than this' and there was no reason to think we wouldn't. I look back and think I would've taken whatever. I just wanted someone to throw me out on the road and give me the kids."

The bulk of recordings commissioned by the labels formed the basis of the group's second CD, The Divine Blasphemy, a tighter, more structured but still hedonistic collection. By that time, keyboardist Swai and guitarist Ringgold decided they wouldn't be able to stick it out in the long run. "It's understandable because it can be rough," says Kelly. But timing is everything, and with the exodus of his mates, proposed record deals going south and a complicated personal life, it was only a matter of time before the demons, which Kelly goes as far as thanking in the acknowledgements for The Divine Blasphemy, caught up with him.

Eddie Kelly of BLESSEDBETHYNAME – and a friend in darkness.
Emily Piraino
Eddie Kelly of BLESSEDBETHYNAME – and a friend in darkness.
"So it's apparently not our turn": Opiate holds out for a break.
Mark Weiss
"So it's apparently not our turn": Opiate holds out for a break.

"It was over a girl," he confesses of his meltdown. "What else will push you into the devil's hand with a broken heart? I was also wasted on drugs and alcohol when I shot myself. I looked into the mirror and it was between him and me. And I just remember saying, Let's dance, let's see what you've got.'"

Luckily, Kelly's inexperience with firearms altered trajectory of the .38-caliber bullet – it missed his heart but punctured his subclavian artery, which controls your arm movement, before exiting out his back. "I was 90 seconds away from bleeding to death. I don't advocate it to anyone, but for me, I was glad to get it out of my system. That option was always there. After we played Boston's going-away show, I had problems with my significant other. I went to Safeway and purchased a bottle of extra-strength sleeping pills with the currency from the show, came home and ate the whole fuckin' thing. I was messed up for weeks after that but it didn't do me in." Later, he says, "I didn't want to die, but I wanted to kill myself."

While pulling the trigger may have gotten self-destruction out of Eddie Kelly's system, the system wasn't quite through with Eddie Kelly. "In this goddamned state, which I've always felt was one of my best friends, we have the most atrocious laws. The second day I was in the hospital in critical condition, the police came and arrested me and took me to a jail wing of the hospital until two days later when my parents bailed me out."

Although Kelly can't recall if the beds in the jail wing of the hospital had more bars than usual, he does remember each of the 300-plus people who came and visited the hospital the second day he was there, including his good friend Jim Kaufman from Opiate for the Masses. "Jim took what I did to myself so hard that he said it changed his life forever. I remember going in and out, in ridiculous pain. Every time I woke up, he was there holding my hand. Those are the types of things you don't forget. Ever."

Discharging a firearm in Maricopa County carries a five-to-seven-year prison term, and if Kelly agreed to sign a plea of aggravated assault, they would leave it open sentence, meaning it would be up to the judge to decide. "He was going to give me four years probation, six months in jail," Kelly says. "But after I made a crying, bawling Shakespearean speech about saving my own ass, he said that more jail would be counterproductive. But for attempted suicide, the state of Arizona gave me a Class 3 felony."

Since being released from the hospital last September, BLESSEDBETHYNAME, with two new members in tow, has played two sold-out shows, the latter with Opiate for the Masses. Jim Kaufman heard the group sound-check an intensely moving new song called "Empty," and insisted they record it at his studio. A slow rock song like something from The Wall, it was the first song Kelly wrote after his hospital stay. It's also the first BLESSEDBETHYNAME song in which another band member, guitarist Sage Gonzales (Acid Bath, Factor80 Master), wrote all the music.

A new BLESSEDBETHYNAME album is slated for completion in June. "With what we're about to record, this is it," says Kelly assuredly. "All the bullshit is gone. All the experiences have been experienced. This is gonna be the one to throw us on the bus and see what we got."

Opiate for the Masses

The week has barely gotten started and Opiate for the Masses has already turned down a record deal. And how was your Monday?

Normally, you'd think a band in that situation might be more than slightly crestfallen. Not so, says Jim Kaufman.

"Our manager went back and forth with Lava/Atlantic and they came back with a final deal that was less than the last final deal they offered us," Kaufman says. "In the past, we've dealt with Maverick, who were simultaneously signing and dropping a lot of bands last year. We want to be with a label that's not just looking to fill out their roster. We want someone to be happy with us as artists, whether they make money or not."

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