Richard “The Grindfather” Johnson signs on as Co-Producer of “Maryland Deathfest: The Movie.”

Holy fuck was I naïve when I first had the idea of making a film about Maryland Deathfest – I had no idea whatsoever what I was getting myself into or the pressure involved with such a project.

Up until 2007 I had never even heard of the festival.  I’m not afraid to admit I was a latecomer to metal.  As a child, my neighbor used to scare the shit out of me with tales of the members of Kiss eating feces off the floor, and Ozzy Osbourne eating puppies and drinking semen at concerts.  Another neighbor, a good twenty years my senior, found Jesus one day and spontaneously gave me his old record collection.  This was in 1984, in the heat of the break-dancing craze.  My first attempt at “scratching” was done on a first-print vinyl edition of Black Sabbath’s ‘Sabotage.’  A record I know consider to be near perfect (minus ‘Am I going Insane (Radio)’ of course.)

My first real exposure to metal came in 1995 when I was hired to write a script that involved Ozzy Osbourne in a round-about way. (That script was actually put in the hands of Sharon Osbourne and we were in talks to maybe start producing.  Then “The Osbournes” dropped and I never heard from the again!) I randomly ordered ten metal albums from Columbia House for research purposes and from that point on I’ve been hooked.

So the point of all this is, prior to releasing the ‘Axis of Eden’ film, I had no idea how protective and serious fans of underground metal could be.  I got a little taste of it on tour with Today is the Day (I screened the film behind the band while the played) – at one show a fan had to be escorted out for heckling the movie so badly! But it wasn’t until word got out that we were making a film about MDF that I realized I had really fucking stepped in it.  When news of the film dropped, the message board lit up with negative and suspicious comments. And ever since that went down, I’ve been extremely conscious of how I approach the film, and making sure I “keep it real.”

Well, one of the best dudes at keeping it real, especially in the world of underground metal, is Richard Johnson, the “Grindfather.”  Agoraphobic Nosebleed was one of the first truly underground metal bands I got in to.  ‘Altered States of America’ was a life-changing record for me, and Enemy Soil is the shit too.  He’s been writing about and creating extreme music for over two decades, and he’s one of the most knowledgeable people you could ever talk to about music.

I first met Richard at MDF 2009.  His band ‘Drugs of Faith’ played on the second day, and our producer Curran Reynolds introduced us.  We chatted a bit, and I later contacted Richard to get his approval for the use of a clip of him from the fest.  That first correspondence began a series of emails that led to phone calls and serious discussion of the MDF film and underground music and music in general.  Richard gave up honest feedback about the various cuts of the film I was showing him, and that feedback began to help shape the movie. As I began to rely on Richard’s thoughts and suggestions, I invited him to co-produce the film and luckily for me, and the people who are going to watch this film, he said yes.

As the fine-tuning of the film continues, Richard and I continue to collaborate on the footage and cut of this enormous undertaking.  We want to make the bands happy, and the fans happy and make a unique and groundbreaking film about the best music in the world.  If you’ve ever been to Maryland Deathfest, you can understand the kind of pressure I feel in creating a film about such a special and important festival.

Honestly, I’m happy just to have gone and filmed and pulled the whole damn thing off.  But if fans can connect with film, and if we’ve managed to even capture ten-percent of the energy and ethos of MDF, I think we’re going to have a really great movie on our hands…and if ‘The Grindfather’ likes it, well, you know it has to be good!


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