From Keith Richards' blood transfusion to Ozzy Osbourne's bat-biting, rumor and lore have been critical to rock music's appeal, and no act maintains a more infamous collection of legends than Norwegian black metal pioneers Mayhem.
To make a long and bloody story short (but still bloody): In 1991, Mayhem singer Dead (named Per Yngve Ohlin by his mother) committed suicide by shotgun in the band's cabin deep in the Nordic woods, where his body was discovered by guitar player Euronymous. Two years later, Euronymous himself was fatally stabbed by Ohlin's replacement, an angry fella named Varg Vikernes, in an act Vikernes testified was in self-defense.
The rumors surrounding Dead's suicide are particularly staggering. Upon finding his singer's ruptured cranium, Euronymous supposedly gathered Dead's skull fragments to make jewelry that he passed around to select members of the Norwegian black metal scene. Another myth alleges he cooked a stew of Dead's splattered brain matter.
Mayhem is scheduled to perform Monday, November 28, at The Clubhouse Music Venue in Tempe.
Vikernes, no longer with the band, was released from prison in 2009, and the current Mayhem lineup still is recording and touring. In keeping up appearances, original Mayhem bassist and current member Jørn Stubberud, best known as Necrobutcher, flew to Phoenix in September to have his demons exorcised by Scottsdale televangelist and self-anointed "demon hunter" Bob Larsen, the whole thing to be aired on Norwegian-run TV station NRK.
The exorcism was featured in an episode of an Anthony Bourdain-style travel show called (no joke) Folk i Farta and can be seen on YouTube. The actual exorcism segment is rather disappointing. Larsen doesn't even recite any wacky mystical incantations; he mostly beckons Necrobutcher to accept the will of Christ in a hotel ballroom while menacingly holding a plain-looking plastic bottle of holy water.
The most entertaining part of the show is the footage of Necrobutcher on a motorcycle and walking like a badass in an Old West showdown with a crew of mean-looking metalheads. One of the dudes in the crew was a self-anointed metal diehard who'd hoped to get to the bottom of rock music's blackest rumors: a guy named Spanky.
Anthony "Spanky" Pranke is a local sports radio producer who can be seen in the hilarious segment wearing a Zia Records T-shirt, walking alongside Necrobutcher and then throwing up the devil horns with three of his buddies as the legendary bassist drives away in a shiny sports car.
Pranke and his fellow metalheads endeared themselves to Necrobutcher and the Norwegian TV crew after going on a mission to get into the exorcism. "It was sheer luck that we pulled up to the right hotel just as [Necrobutcher] was stepping outside for a cigarette," he said. They were invited to help out with shooting some OK Corral-style B-roll, and after getting the footage, Pranke said the whole posse partook in vodka and sweet greenery back at the hotel.
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Pranke then got to business and asked Necrobutcher about the truth behind the rumors. "I know the history of it," Pranke said. "I had read all about the legend in magazines and books, and it just seemed insane."
Pranke said that despite the consumption of many tongue-loosening agents, Necrobutcher was disappointingly mum about brain stew and skull neckwear, mostly because the bassist was so distraught by Ohlin's suicide that he left the band in 1991 only to rejoin a few years after Euronymous' murder and Vikernes' prison sentence. "He was actually surprised by the questions and starting asking us, 'How did you guys hear about this stuff?'" Pranke said.
Apparently, Necrobutcher did make a point to express his offense at being unfairly associated with a rash of church burnings in the early 1990s, of three of which Vikernes was actually convicted. In addition to, you know, stabbing an unfortunate guy named Euronymous 23 times. Brutal.