Dead Hands Dip Deep is the stuff that urban legends are made of but for the fact that this urban legend is a living breathing being, now living in seclusion.
Austinmer filmmaker Jai Love was introduced to Edwin Borsheim, the lead singer of South California’s 90s death rock band Kettle Cadaversome, by a mutual friend.
Borsheim was notorious for his brutal and often outrageous onstage antics 20 years ago before falling into a life of seclusion. So what happend to him?
Intrigued by Edwin’s past and reputation for pushing the boundaries in his on and off stage life, Jai set out to tell the unbiased story of Edwin’s life as it is now.
How did you come into contact with Edwin?
My friend mentioned he had this friend who, back in the ’90s, used to do all this crazy shit but is now living out in the middle of nowhere on his own. My friend thought it would be an interesting subject for a documentary.
I met Edwin and watched a lot of the footage of all the stuff that used to happen. I was like, “Wow, this would be a good documentary.”
What was your reaction to Edwin on that first meeting?
I’ve always been a fan of heavy music, black metal, punk and stuff like that but I hadn’t seen anything on stage quite like what Edwin was doing.
That was one of the big reasons I was like, “Well this has to be documented.”
How did Edwin react when he was approached about the idea of making a documentary about his life?
He liked it. He wanted to do it. At first, he was a bit hard to track down but then his brother Danny convinced him.
I think he really liked it because we were from Australia. Edwin’s always had a fascination with Australia, Australian culture, music, and movies.
Were there any conditions from Edwin?
No, never anything like that. It was purely us just showing what he is like today.
The film delves into controversial topics such as self mutulation and drugs. Did you find it difficult to dig deep into these topics?
Yeah, I think I became quite desensitized to a lot of that stuff, just because I’d watched it so many times.
I tried to not think too deeply about it until the editing stage so that when I was talking to Edwin about it I could get his honest opinion, as apposed to trying to really break him down or anything like that.
It was more to get him to speak honestly about all that stuff. Edwin being Edwin, he talks about it is so off-the-cuff.
Do you have any thoughts on where Edwin’s psych or mindset have come from?
I think part of it is genetics, part of it is completely from society, and more specifically from the environment that he grew up in.
He came over from Norway when he was a teenager to this small suburban American town and the underbelly of it was very rough.
It was this white collar town with a huge drug problem underneath the surface. I think being around that together with friends and family members dying from drugs, it all took its toll.
Edwin is somewhat of an urban legend. Did you find it hard drawing out the real Edwin?
He was quite forward with that because later on in his life he has left a lot of that stuff behind.
At the same time he still lives through his art, like his whole life. But it definitely changed when he became a lot more relaxed with himself, more than he ever was say 20 years ago.
You visited with Edwin whilst he was living in seclusion. Do you think the seclusion has done him any good?
I think there was some comfort in it for him.
I don’t know, I guess that’s a really hard one for me to answer.
I’m just a film maker, I’m not a psychologist. I don’t exactly know what’s going through his head at any time because he is so unpredictable.
The subject matter around Edwin would make many people uncomfortable. Were there parts where you though ‘No, I’m not doing that’ or ‘I don’t want to know about that’?
There was never anything that I didn’t want to know about but there was definitely a lot of stuff that couldn’t be cut into the movie. There’s only so much time you have in a documentary and we had to leave a lot of stuff out.
With Edwin’s life, and with anyone’s life really, there is so many little tangents you can go down. So, when it came to leaving stuff out, a lot of the time it was probably just to do with time and audience.
We wanted to make sure people could understand the story and to keep it as honest as we could to Edwin today.
It was about how we saw Edwin as opposed to it being like this giant saga of all this other crap.
Do you think Edwin was being authentic during the making of the film or was he putting on a performance?
Oh he changes and flip-flops. Some days he would be really honest, and he would speak his mind, and then other days he was performing.
I think when anyone is doing this sort of a thing, no matter what kind of documentary it is, people want to be perceived a certain way. So, they act a certain way on camera. It’s about trying to get past that and trying to just make them comfortable so that everyone can just be honest.
Did you come up against any barriers whilst filming the documentary of Edwin?
Yeah many. He could be very difficult but so can anyone in this field of work.
Before I made the documentary, I’d worked on a lot of film sets. It was funny because it’s the same thing. Dealing with Edwin was like dealing with any actor, where they can throw temper tantrums.
It’s just humanity, I guess. People have moods, and emotions, and they freakout.
I’m pretty understanding. I wouldn’t say it was a barrier, or anything like that. It was just something that you have to overcome when making a film.
Even amongst crew, it’s hard to organize people. It’s hard to organize someone that won’t even answer a phone, or answer emails, or turn on a computer.
All that sort of stuff can be tough, but you’ve just got to go through it.
How did your thoughts on Edwin change from your initial contact with him to the end of the documentary? Do you think you had a better understanding of him?
Yeah absolutely. I would say that I completely did a 180, and we ended up becoming quite good friends.
We emailed for a long time after the finished product of the film. Edwin came to a lot of the screenings in LA, and stuff like that, which was good.
The film is controversial. What reaction have you had so far?
We’ve had a lot of positive reviews, people have really appreciated it.
I think it’s just about getting it out into the world, like with any underground film that doesn’t have a big budget, or big studio with a big marketing budget.
We’re in the stage now where it’s just about getting people to talk about it. Tell their friends, and just spread the word through the community.
Are there any messages in the film?
I think that kind of thing can only really be applied to certain kinds of film.
I think with this film it’s really about the reaction of the audience member and it’s going to be different person-to-person.
When making the film, what we wanted to do was for someone to have a personal connection with the film, or with Edwin.
Some people will walk out and hate Edwin, and sometimes, in turn, hate the film because of that. I really like films that do that, where there’s not this really clear message of, ‘this is bad‘ or ‘this is good‘. The world doesn’t really work like that. It’s very gray.
Without saying, “No, there is no message“, it’s not as black and white as that. It’s about each person’s response to the film, or their relationship with it and that’s what I’m interested in.
Dead Hands Dig Deep will screen at the Wollongong Fringe Festival on Friday, 22nd September 2017 at 7.30pm.
The screening with include a live Q&A with filmmaker Jai Love and Sound Recorder, Corey McCrossin.
UOW Innovation Campus
Squires Way, North Wollongong
All tickets $12.80