Not many people have heard of the death rock band Kettle Cadaver, but it is a name you won’t ever forget if you have. Rock stars are no strangers to controversial antics which go against the grain of social norms, but the extremity of Kettle Cadaver’s stage antics wouldn’t feel out of place in a torture porn film. During the ‘90s, their shows were notorious for the extreme body mutilation of their frontman Edwin Borsheim, which tended to involve him piercing rusty nails through his own genitals. While the mass media was trying to portray Marilyn Manson as the next coming of the Anti-Christ because he kissed a fan’s exposed member on stage, Borsheim was wedging his own to wooden boards to no media coverage whatsoever. Some would call it shock value, but there’s a darkness in Borsheim that made it more than disturbing theatrics.
Dead Hands Dig Deep, the brilliant documentary from 19-year old director Jai Love, enters the mind of Borsheim in a bid to understand his motivations, as well as the man behind the persona. While watching the documentary, you’ll find that nothing about Borsheim is an act, though there is much more to the man than bloody self-harm. It’s a fascinating watch, but it’s a challenging experience and not for the faint hearted. That said, it’s a rewarding exploration of one of rock ‘n roll’s most intriguing figures, and all fans of macabre music owe it to themselves to check it out.
Recently, Diabolique got to speak with Jai following its screening at Monster Fest to discuss the film and more.
Diabolique: Prior to Dead Hands Dig Deep you worked on Fury Road and The Homesman. What was it like to work alongside icons like George Miller and Tommy Lee Jones?
Jai Love: It was very much a dream come true. I grew up on the movies of those two and I learnt so much about filmmaking from both of them, as they are two very different styles of directors.
Diabolique: What are some of your favourite movies?
JL: The Night Of The Hunter (1955), Grizzly Man (2005), The Decline Of Western Civilisation (1981), and Wake In Fright (1971).
Diabolique: I really loved Dead Hands Dig Deep. I’ve always found Edwin Borsheim to be a fascinating enigma. How did you become aware of him?
JL: I learnt about Edwin through Spencer Heath, who appears in the film and helped me get it off the ground. He introduced me to Edwin personally but first he gave me [the band’s DVD] A Taste Of Blood and that was the moment I knew I wanted to make a film about him.
Diabolique: Did you always have him in mind as the subject for your first film?
JL: No. I didn’t even think I would be a documentary filmmaker. I always loved documentaries and wanted to work in both fiction and documentary but I thought I’d do a fictional piece first. This just so happened to come up at the right time in my life and I felt it was the right decision. I’m glad it is my first film.
Diabolique: I really appreciate the nonjudgemental approach you took and the way you humanised him. In the past, he’s primarily been portrayed as shocking figure and a subject that could easily be exploited. How have you found the response so far? Do you think audiences have gained a better understanding of the man?
JL: I hope so. I really appreciate you saying that. I never want to exploit anyone. I wanted this film to be the way that I see Edwin and I think that a lot of people who know him personally see him. It is like hanging out with Ed. Through this approach I find you unlock another part of a character’s personality and can really get deep into their story. The response has been great. It’s been really cool to travel around the world and talk to people about Edwin and his influence on that world.
Diabolique: Is Edwin happy with it? It must have been difficult for him to let his guard down, so to speak, given how elusive he is…
JL: Yes, he is. I have no idea how difficult it was for him but I will say that I think it was therapeutic for both he and I. It was a very surreal experience.
Diabolique: So, what music are you into?
JL: I have a very eclectic music taste – there’s not a lot of music that I don’t listen to. In Australia I run a record store with some mates called ‘Urge Records’ – it sells all kinds of underground music and even some cult movie soundtracks. I love music, to me it’s one of the most important things in my life (apart from cinema).
Diabolique: What would your desert island album be?
JL: I can’t pick one album but I’ll say David Bowie’s entire discography.
Diabolique: Do you have any other projects in the pipeline you can tell us about? Do you intend to keep making documentaries, or will you be branching out?
JL: I will make more documentaries but I’d like to make a fictional piece next. I have a couple of short films in the works as well…