A Date With The King

I had been living in Chicago for 2 ½ years at this point. While I had done a couple of high profile projects that had played on MTV, my career as a music video director was spotty at best. I had fucked up big time. A costly two-video job in Texas, I lost it in Fort Worth, yelling at the crew, melting down under pressure. The videos came out pathetically; my company gave me big time shit, and a warning. So, I was stewing in self-pity when I got a call from Metal Blade Records.

I had done a video for the Metal Blade band Cannibal Corpse, the previous year, “Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead.” It was pretty successful; the band had called it ‘the greatest death metal video ever made.’ I was proud. This time Metal Blade was offering me a two-video deal for the classic operatic death metal band, Mercyful Fate.

I originally got into music video production because of friends I

had in punk rock bands. I had been a young fucking punk with dreams, and all of a sudden I find myself in my mid-20’s doing this metal shit. I told myself, at least this is weird, and outside the mainstream. I was interested in the schlock factor. King Diamond, the lead singer, painted his face up KISS-style with an upside down cross on his forehead. He’d let out piercing falsetto shrieks praising Satan, over bombastic dirges of theatrical Scandinavian heavy metal. The project was low budget, $20,000 for two complete music videos, to be shot in L.A.! I was in no position to be choosy, I agreed.

I spoke with the King via telephone; he was currently living in Dallas, Texas. He had been a Swedish soccer star in his youth, and was now a cult icon in the swampy genre of death metal. He was very affable, and we spoke of surreal imagery, and ideas for the videos. He didn’t really care about one of the songs, “Nightmare be thy Name,” so we just talked about that one being a performance video, shots of the band doing air guitar. For the other song, “Witches Dance,” he had a pretty intricate storyline in mind. A young man goes to bed, and has a nightmare of 12 witches performing rituals around a ring of fire. Other elements included dancing dwarfs, a bedroom turning into

a jungle, etc. I agreed to it all, knowing full well there were too many elements to be filmed for a cheap ass video.

A good friend of mine had moved to Los Angeles years earlier. Nick was one of my close punk rock friends from high school. He had been working in the film business out in L.A. But he had also attached himself to the Devil’s Disciples motorcycle gang, as a warlord. I felt he could be an asset, and gave him a call. “It’s pretty fucking low budget,” I told him, “I’m not sure how much I can afford to pay you.” “Don’t worry about it man,” He assured me, “I’ll help out however I can.”

We flew to L.A. David the producer, Greg the cameraman, and me the directing Shemp! We set about to the process of pre-production, securing locations, paying for permits, all the banalities of film work. I had to drive to Simi Valley to the offices of Metal Blade to pay my