Totally True Memoirs of a Metal Producer: Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
It was the early ’90s. I had just finished some time in the UK doing Def Leppard’s Adrenalize and Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark when I got a call from a trust fund baby in Norway. He said his named was Uranusmus and he was in a black metal band called Mayhem and he wanted me to produce their record.
Part of the reason I accepted the gig was because he offered good money. Part of the reason I accepted the gig was because I thought black metal meant Living Colour. Part of the reason I accepted the gig is because I thought Norway was Sweden. You could argue I was doing too much nose candy in those days, I suppose.
One first class flight to Norway later and I learned that no one in Mayhem was black. But they did all wear make-up. They were pretty bad at applying the make-up, though. All their lipstick was black and their blush was white. That must be what Poison looked like to them. I don’t think they had color TVs in Norway at that point.
When we got into the studio I realized their music was actually pretty good. Also Uranusmus said he wanted the album to sound “raw,” and whenever a metal musicians tells me they want their album to sound “raw,” I know they’re either lying or I’m about to have a very easy job.
Uranusmus wasn’t lying, but the job wasn’t easy, because the band members were fuck-ups. There were so many wealthy troubled white kids in Mayhem you’d think they were a Manhattan private school.
The only part of the process that was smooth was working with the drummer, Hellhammer. The drummer was also the only guy in the band with a cool stage name. I offered to get him a real gig, like playing for Slaughter, which I thought he’d like because they also had a cool name. But he wasn’t interested.
The singer’s name was Dead. He was a real downer and he always smelled bad. I wasn’t surprised when Uranusmus told me Dead fired himself. But apparently he left me a necklace, which I guess is Norwegian for “sorry.” It was a pearl necklace but it looked like a kindergartner had made it. Nice gesture though. I think I still have the necklace in storage somewhere. But we had to re-do all of his parts.
Ater Dead quit the bass player, Nick Robishaw, also quit. I think he was upset because he couldn’t come up with a cool stage name. I told him, “Kid, you will never be a rock star with a name like ‘Robishaw.’” I think I offended him. We had to re-do all of his parts.
The new bassist called himself Count Knick-Knack, and he was a real putz. Every time he opened his mouth it was “the Jews this” and “the Blacks that” and “pure white European blood” whatever. Worse, he would go ON and ON about this goddamn Dragons & Dungeons or Dungeon Dragons or whatever the thing is called. For awhile I thought he might be Ted Nugent in disguise, finally getting back at me for that thing I did that time. Anyway we had to re-do all of his parts.
The new singer was named Attila. I really don’t remember him well because I got ahold of some Percocet that week. I don’t think we had to re-do any of his parts.
So we finally finished the record, which Uranusmus told me was going to be called The Mysterious Dom DeLuise. I thought that was a bad name but didn’t tell him that because I didn’t want another Nick Robishaw situation on my hands. Which I thought was a good thing, because Uranusmus told me the band would fly me back to do their next album. But then I never heard from him again. Not that I’m hurting for work. But still. I think that kid lacked integrity.
The Mysterious Dom DeLuise finally came out and was proof that you should always get paid upfront. It sold about a dozen copies. What a waste of time. Still, I understand the album is very popular amongst Brooklyn’s population of carpenters and baristas, so I guess we did something right.