Edwin Borsheim was the frontman for a horror themed metal band known as Kettle Cadaver. While he and the band were never household names, Ed quickly became recognized as a cult figure known mostly for his insane stage antics. He would often pierce his own flesh with various objects, staple his mouth shut, and even nailed his penis to a wooden board. For most people, being around someone like this would be frightening but for a nineteen year old filmmaker from Australia who just finished his first year of film school, Jai Love would make Edwin Borsheim the subject of his first feature film, the documentary DEAD HANDS DIG DEEP. The film premiered at Slamdance 2016 and was met with praise, not only for the completed film, but for how Jai handled the dark and controversial subject matter.
Jai could have taken the easy route and just embarked on piecing together another typical rock documentary. Instead, he chose to go much deeper into the life of Edwin Borsheim so he could show the audience who he really was. “I didn’t want it to be just another “Roc-Doc”, says director Love. “I wanted to make it more honest and a tribute to Edwin. I’m very grateful he and his family let us into their lives and I think it makes the film much more interesting. Part of why we didn’t just interview a bunch of musicians, we wanted to go much deeper into their story and they really opened up to us. Musicians were more disconnected from Edwin and the people we did speak with gave us a far more honest look at him.”
In order to make the film, Jai Love would have to jump into the project head first and never look back. In Australia he secured funds for the feature as well as assembled a team who were ready for the task. This was the easy part, getting in touch with Edwin proved to be a bit more difficult. “Edwin doesn’t have a phone or anything so you just have to go out to his property and hope he’s there.” He states, “It actually took us something like four months to even find Edwin, he really doesn’t like going outside or having outsiders around. He has dogs all around his property and we didn’t even know if he was dead or alive. When we did make contact, he didn’t want anyone around for the longest time. It wasn’t until his little brother Danny (who is in the film) got in touch with him and told him what we wanted to do, that we came from Australia, then he actually became really excited about the idea of it.”
Once the crew finally made contact and filming commenced, they would get know Edwin on a more personal basis. With that, they also learned that he could become threatening or unpredictable with his behavior. Jai remembers, “There were moments where you would question what exactly was going on. There were times when Edwin would be awake for days because of the speed and he would go on these rants and sometimes threaten you. I realized later Edwin and I had a special connection and that I was safe and now call him a friend so I have nothing but good things to say. He does however do some questionable things.”
Edwin isn’t the only performer known for his insane and violent stage persona. He’s often compared to the late G.G. Allin who would also mutilate himself on stage, but the type of person G.G. was is far different from Borsheim. “You know, G.G. Allin was just awful, Ed never raped a woman onstage or anything like that. He was more interested in music and accessing a performance no one had done before.” Jai continues, “He was always really, really honest in his art. To me, G.G. was just more interested in beating people up. I can see where the comparison comes from but people just can’t be original anymore without being judged. People have to find someone to be compared to or compare others to. Part of why I wanted to do the documentary was because the stuff Edwin was doing to himself was so captivating and scary.”
The documentary was never an easy project. Having to deal with Edwin’s strong personality was always an issue but his family proved to be interesting and unique as well. Edwin and his younger brother Danny both have a difficult relationship with their mother. It was never more evident than when she was interviewed for the film. “It’s a very difficult subject, their mother. They all really don’t get along, lets just say that. While we did the interview with their mother, Danny was actually there in the room.” He continues, “It was very strange because she was sitting there talking about Danny as if he wasn’t even there in the room. At first I just thought it was something you Americans could do. I had never seen anything like that before in Australia. She was getting very personal, airing out their skeletons in the closet and Danny was just sitting there in the corner. It was bizarre and surreal.”
The film has spent the last year making the rounds on the festival circuit and audiences have been exposed to Edwin’s world. “In the end, everyone will form their own opinion about him. The film tries not to make any judgments about him. I wanted it to leave you questioning how you felt about Edwin or how this suburban landscape can affect people. He’s a good guy who got caught up in some really bad stuff.” Jai adds. “He says he’s not mentally ill and that it’s shell shock. Well that still is a mental illness but he’s not mental if you know what I mean. Some of it is genetics from his parents because it definitely runs in the family. It’s funny, he really does have two sides to him. People don’t really get to see that he’s just the nicest guy and he’s very honorable.”
In the end there was only one person’s opinion that would really matter to him: Edwin’s. “We were happy that Edwin really valued how we told his story. He was very happy with the film. Lots of people have now been able to hear his story and as a filmmaker that’s really all you can hope for,” says Jai. Then tragedy struck. Edwin Borsheim passed away in June of this year. It’s been a very difficult time for Ed’s family and friends, including Jai. With Ed no longer with us, DEAD HANDS DIG DEEP is more significant now than it ever was. He offers these last words, “It’s important to remember everything about him. His art, his music, everything. He was a great person and a good friend. I am very grateful to have been a part of telling his story and I hope that people remember him for a long time. Everyone should know the name, Edwin Borsheim. I hope he has found peace.”
Rest in Peace Edwin Borsheim
DEAD HANDS DIG DEEP is available today on iTunes..