Neill Jameson of Krieg on Blake Judd, Nachtmystium, and the Sad Realities of Addiction
Collaborator and former friend talks firsthand about the drugs, lying, and theft that lead to the end of his association with Blake Judd.
You may know Neill Jameson as the frontman/honcho for black metal favorites Krieg, who have a new LP Transient for Candlelight Records, or via his involvement in Twilight, the supergroup headed up by Blake Judd of Nachtmystium and featuring members like Thurston Moore, Aaron Turner, Jef Whitehead (Leviathan), Stavros Giannopoulos (The Atlas Moth), and more. But Neill's involvement with Blake Judd goes much deeper than that: Theirs is a friendship that was initally forged based on a mutually shared interest in music many years ago. In the following firsthand account, Neill recalls the history of some of the darker moments of his friendship with Blake Judd, ones that eventually lead to him severing his ties with the celebrated black metal musician, and the stark reality of drug addiction.
The last correspondence I received from Blake Judd was an email titled "On the Subject of Honesty and Money" that was sent some time in January of this year. I never noticed it until the other day when I checked an address I hadn't used in months. The next day Century Media announced they would honor all pre-orders that Blake had accepted for his newest Nachtmystium record. The irony of his message and this action by the label did not go unappreciated. This was just another piece of the continuing saga of Blake Judd—one which started as a soap opera but is ending as an after school special.
For the unaware, I'll be happy to learn you with some backstory: For the last decade or so Blake Judd's black metal project Nachtmystium was at the forefront of success in terms of US metal. Each record seemed to outpace the previous, and Blake was a critical and commercial darling with the whole "tortured genius" persona at his disposal. When Nachtmystium's last album, Silencing Machine, hit Billboard, he received better and better offers for tours, recording, merchandise, etc. He held court over an enormous and rabid fanbase. The cliff notes version: Blake held the world by the balls and was poised to do incredible things. Instead, he pissed it all away because of a crippling drug problem—and years of solipsism way before he ever even held a needle.
For the last few years, Blake has been accused by dozens, if not hundreds, of fans regarding theft and Paypal fraud. He would post a list of dozens of rare black metal vinyl for massive collectors' prices on his now defunct Facebook page. He also put up his own band's new record as a "pre-order bundle" that included shirts and other nonsense. He collected thousands of dollars from people for these items. What's the catch? Easy: The fucking items did not exist. When confronted about where these items which people paid him for were Blake would get defensive, delete their comments, and then ban them from the page in order not to deter the next round of rubes eager to send a paycheck and a message of support.
In autumn of last year Blake was arrested and went to prison for theft. A lot of people speculated it was over his scamming of fans for merchandise, but the sad truth of it all is he went to the pokey because he stole a guitar from his roommate—someone he had just reconnected with and manipulated into allowing him to move in to the roommate's small apartment—and sold it for drugs. One of the many record labels that Blake fucked out of money created the "Blakecrush" t-shirt design featuring the motif of the old Deathlike Silence logo with his mug shot. The forum for the record label Nuclear War Now erupted into a massive thread recounting rip-off stories including from NWN themselves.
Blake Judd's Mugshot
After emerging from jail, Blake remarked publicly that it wasn't a "big deal" and almost instantly began the same scam as before. He remarked about the labels to which he owed thousands that they would not get their money because, in short, they were "immature" about the entire ordeal. Blake continued his scams and was successful until the Facebook page "Blakecrush: the Anti Blake Judd & Nachtmystium Page" sprung up a few weeks ago, organizing people who Blake had stolen from into taking some sort of action. As of today the official Nachtmystium page and Blake's own personal page have been deactivated.
I've known Blake for close to 15 years. He was in my band Krieg for a short time, and I was in Nachtmystium for a time. We both were involved in the so called "supergroup" Twilight. I was in the fucking guy's wedding. It's safe to say we were pretty close. Which is what makes this all both terribly depressing and terribly aggravating (to put it mildly) to me. For the better part of ten years I've watched Blake lie and manipulate himself to the top and then to what most people would consider rock bottom. These behavior traits that are proving to be his legacy aren't new. I'm here to share my personal experience with him because I do not want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. If history is any indication, he will have a much-welcomed "phoenix" moment in a few months.
I'm no angel, and I live in a glass house in many respects. In 2005, I had basically destroyed my record label, band, and reputation, all due to a complete nervous breakdown. I withdrew from the internet world of forums and talked to only a few people, Blake being one of them. Krieg's album Blue Miasma was released, and I was nowhere to be found. So you can imagine how I felt when years later I found out that Blake had been telling whoever would listen that he wrote the entire album. Around this same time he licensed the first two Krieg records to a label for vinyl release. I was only tangentially aware of this, but what I wasn't aware of is that he sold the rights to the records and kept the money without telling me it even existed. He did the same in 2009 when Krieg signed to Candlelight and he sold them the CD rights to the first two albums. Rights he did not own. I never saw a dime. The CD reissues remain unreleased.
As I was finishing with my label in 2005, we had both agreed to split the costs of Archgoat's Angelcunt picture disc. I ended up paying substantially more than my share and in order to even receive my copies I had to drive to Chicago to mail them to myself. He never sent the band their copies and in correspondence put all of the blame on me. I had to pay to send the copies from Chicago. He did not put up one dollar on the shipping but took the credit for it. He was also given the Xasthur/Leviathan split CD that I was to release but didn't have the money to do it. I paid for the release of the CD with the promise I would be paid back once half the pressing sold out. I wasn't.
Neill (Second from left) at Blake's Wedding
I'm bringing these examples up because I need whoever is reading this to understand that this behavior wasn't completely drug induced, nor was it new. While this was going on with me he was doing similar shit to customers who ordered from his Battle Kommand Records distribution. Whether or not it was being naïve or just an inability to deal with life, I continued to do business with him. In 2007 my band Nil had recorded a CD, which I sent to both Blake and another label. The other label was very interested, but when Blake heard this he called them and asked them NOT to sign the band. He talked me into signing with BKR and told me he would pay my studio expenses. He never came through with that either.
In 2010 I was in Chicago recording Krieg's "comeback" record. I had tried my best to avoid him during this trip, but on the night I was meant to leave there was a terrible snowstorm. Blake offered to put me up at his place until the weather cleared and I could fly back home, so I decided to stay in and get some sleep. He woke me up around three in the morning by sitting on my chest and holding me down. I was aware he was fucking around with heroin under the misguided idea that it would help him with his music. His idolatry of Kurt Cobain was very well known among his friends. He told me when I woke up that we were going to take a cab (in a fucking blizzard) to the ghetto to buy heroin. He told me that I was a "poser" for covering the Velvet Underground without ever shooting up. We got into a somewhat physical altercation, and he told me "You need this. It's time you had another tragedy in your life" before calling me a "faggot" and leaving. By the time he got home with the drugs I was asleep on the floor of O'Hare. That was the last time I saw him in any kind of good physical shape.
Fast forward to 2012. Blake offers Krieg an opening slot on the Nachtmystium summer tour. He tells me he will assemble a lineup and all I need to do is send over a setlist and cover my flight out to Chicago. I was to spend some extra time out there as well so we could work on writing the third Twilight record, set to be recorded a month or so later. Upon landing in Chicago, Blake informs me that all but two of the shows of the tour have been cancelled. We spend more time waiting around while he checks his Paypal so he can go to the ATM and then force me to tag along as he goes to his dealer. His marriage was in shambles, and their apartment looked like a squalor.
I came to find out that none of the promoters knew we were canceling, but he was trying to blame it on me not being in Chicago. I had to write each one individually and cancel and apologize on behalf of both bands. He was already selling "tour exclusive" merch that didn't exist online. We ended up doing two shows: Boise and Chicago. The setlist I had sent him was entirely ignored in favor for songs he remembered from ten years prior. The rest of the lineup knew the songs I had sent, but Blake, who for years had made fun of my songwriting skills, said they were "too complicated," so we had to go along with his set or not play at all.
For the Boise show, we had to drive back as soon as he was off the stage because he did not have any heroin. Four or so hours. Twice in one day. Krieg magically did not get paid. The Chicago show was similar, except that when Blake left right after the show he forgot that I was staying with him and left me at the venue. It was there that I heard he had told people I was "industry poison" and that he was trying to have me removed as singer for Twilight in order to get more money. It was also stated that no riff I wrote was to go on the third record. He somehow believed that the people he told wouldn't let me know that he said these things.
I decided to do the third Twilight record simply because of the other musicians in the band. By this point, I was fed up with the Blake-circus-shitshow but went ahead anyway. The night before I was to fly out to record, Blake called me in tears. He told me that the money that was sent to cover my expenses and my cut of the publishing advance (totaling around $1500) was gone. He told me that his wife had left him (no shit, Helen Keller saw that coming) after they got into a fight; he threw her, and she broke her leg in several places. When he took her to the hospital they would only accept cash because they didn't have insurance. He fucking sobbed and said everyone in Chicago wanted to kill him and he couldn't leave his house, and he hoped I didn't hate him. What the fuck was I supposed to do? I already had paid for the flight and was in the hole from the "tour" a few weeks before.
When I got to Chicago, Blake's place was a shithole, sort of like the den from the opening of "Trainspotting." I didn't enjoy it for a second, but I was there to work. Every morning I would wake up, move his needles out of the way in the bathroom so I could brush my teeth, and clean blood out of the shower so I could bathe. I have never been more psyched on the decision to bring my own towel anywhere ever. Sometimes I'd come out of the bathroom and there would be a dealer in the kitchen, always courteous enough to ask me if I too wanted some heroin. Blake barely did anything except check his paypal and smoke my cigarettes.
Every day I would try to motivate him to go to the studio with us. Each day he'd stay at home. The only time he would come out to the studio was if he knew a photographer would be there or once or twice to talk to Thurston Moore, mostly about Nachtmystium and somehow relating everything to it. The joke became "Well you know Thurston, it's funny you mention that because in Nachtmystium.." which was sort of pathetic. You're supposed to be recording a fucking record with the guy; you don't need to throw up this façade and try to impress him with your past deeds. Let your current ones do the talking.
Neill, Jef Whitehead, and Thurston Moore
And they did. Every day I ended up "loaning" Blake ten bucks just so he would fuck off and stop asking. Finally I decided I would help him out with my day job of working at a record store and buy his record collection from him. I had my boss Paypal out the money for it, and he also sent me $50 on top of that because he knew the situation and knew I was fucked for money. Blake would call my phone every few minutes asking where the payment was. I told him I expected my $50 in hand from it. He showed up to the studio later and handed me $40. When I asked where the rest of it was he told me "But I need money!" like this was an acceptable excuse. He was stuck in a fantasy world and did not understand anything that was going on around him. He was barred entry into the studio until all of the money was accounted for. It was the first time in our decade of knowing each other that he wasn't trying to act like the alpha. He was broken, and for some reason it made me incredibly sad.
Blake's contribution to the record were three songs. One of them he wanted to be about his divorce. He would call it his "opus" and gave that as the reason none of the riffs I wrote for the record were put on it. He said it was the most important song he would ever write, the most personal. It was also holding up the fucking record big time because in order to record a song you need to be physically fucking present to do so. I don't care how good at bullshitting you are. This song was taking forever, and he didn't have any lyrics. None. So who wrote the lyrics to the "most important and personal song" ever? I did. I wrote about his divorce from his perspective. When I showed him the lyrics he fucking bawled. He also missed the session where he was supposed to record the vocals for it. So I ended up doing it. And then I flew home the next day and decided I would never work with him again and focus on proving the whole "industry poison" thing wrong.
A year goes by. Nothing has been done about putting the record out. A year and a half. Blake is doing all the communicating with Century Media. I got the distinct impression that I was the one member out of all of us who they wanted to deal with least. I have the least name recognition, and I'm probably the most obnoxiously verbose. Around this time the reissue of Krieg's Blue Miasma was released, and Blake calls me to ask about it. Seeing that he was on part of the record on some guest vocals and guitar I tell him I'll send him a few copies. He answers with "Good, because I already sold Amoeba 15 copies of it so if you could overnight that to me so I could get it to them that would be perfect." He was only going to get five copies in the first place. I never sent any of them. He never noticed because he had already received the money for more copies than he would have owed in the first place. A few weeks later he calls and tells me that I need to sign some paper so that we can get money from the European office for publishing. That paper never surfaced. Time kept passing; the record still had no release date.
The final straw should have come years before, but Blake called up my store a month or two before his arrest while he was in the studio working on the "final" Nachtmystium record. He told me while he was waiting to get paid for it that he couldn't afford to eat and asked if I would buy some Hate Mediation (his other project) CDs and vinyl for my store. He went on and on about being clean and sober, and for some reason I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He had been to rehab fairly recently, and he sounded more together over the phone than I'd heard him be in years. So I Paypal'd him money for an order for the store—around $50— and waited. And waited. By this point I was having to answer questions about why money had been taken out of the store Paypal with nothing to show for it. Blake began to dodge phone calls. Eventually he texted me that he had sent the package weeks before and it must have gotten lost, but unfortunately he no longer had anything to send me. I ended up having to cover the $50 myself because I like being employed. He tried again a few times to get money from me, but I ignored it.
When the news of his arrest hit, I honestly wasn't surprised in the least. Blake was frantically trying to get anyone who still spoke to him to help bail him out. This is when people began to come forward and publicly discuss Blake ripping them off by never sending merchandise or by actually stealing items from their homes. It's also when I decided to investigate what was going on with Twilight and saw just how deeply he fucked us. He had taken me for the aforementioned few thousand, but he had fucked Jef Whitehead out of a substantial amount of money as well. He sold Century Media the rights to reissue the first Twilight record and sent them instrumental Leviathan demos as "bonus tracks" without Jef's permission. The money from this licensing deal, which was to include publishing money to all members involved, was sent directly to Blake. Blake had every dollar that wasn't meant for Thurston or for the studio itself for the third album entirely sent to himself. He kept us in the dark regarding all business dealings, but he also kept Century Media in the dark about us.
I was already planning on ending my involvement with Twilight after this record, but in order to preserve some kind of band integrity we came to the decision that Blake had to be relieved of his "duties." As I began to take over the social media aspect I saw that he had somehow put several people none of us had ever met under some kind of payroll to maintain the Facebook page. I'll say this again because of how monumentally stupid it is: He was paying three people to update the Facebook page once a month, generally with Nachtmystium updates. I removed all of them. Apparently he owed them money. Go figure.
While Blake was in jail, I penned him a letter that basically stated I wanted nothing to do with him ever again and that we had come to the decision that he needed to go. Upon his release he began sending threatening emails to all members speaking about how he was going to sue us and/or assault us. Then these letters turned to ones of how he was a victim in all of this and how we "broke his heart" by this betrayal. When the subject of "where the fuck is all of our money?" was brought up, he stated that none of us knew anything about money or the industry. After a lot of back and forth, an agreement was reached where we would remove his songs from the record, and he would keep all the money he stole, and the rest of the band could sit with their dicks in our hands. Looking back on it while I type: Not really a good deal, huh?
Stavros and I took over as mouthpieces for the band, and things finally got moving. But when the record's press cycle began it was very murky as to what happened; there was no mention of Blake being removed in the press release. We were under the impression we were to not discuss it in great detail and that the label did not want a lot of negative press on either Twilight or Nachtmystium. Blake had just completed a very expensive recording at the same studio I had recorded a Krieg album years prior, except for 200 percent more. We complied, and I washed my hands of the whole thing. In the end I put up about a grand of my own money for expenses and to record the LP, and all I have to show for it is two copies each of the CD and the vinyl. Blake made several thousand dollars for a record he was not even on.
Earlier this year I received an email asking if I knew about the Nachtmystium and Krieg split 7 inch being reissued. I did not, so I immediately contacted the label and was told that Blake was going to sell the rights to the split, that he had assured the label that I approved, and of course, that they should send my copies to Blake. He was also reissuing the Nachtmystium split with Xasthur, and I contacted them to make sure that they were aware of it. Thankfully everything was legitimate; Blake had actually reached out to Xasthur about it, and everything seemed somewhat legit. I put a stop to the Krieg split being reissued and decided that my Facebook page would be an appropriate place to air out my grievances regarding Blake again attempting to sell music that belonged to me. This is when others picked up on the message and began to air their own.
Blake posted, on both his personal and the Nachtmystium page, a list of rare records he was selling, some for upwards of $300. He did not own these records, as I personally purchased the entirety of his record collection some time earlier. And people also started noticing this when their order for hundreds of dollars of rare items never showed up. Instead of dealing with it like a man, Blake would hide behind his computer and ban people from his page when they inquired about their purchased goods.
Then Blake made the move that would prove to be his largest public fuckup: the "bundle" packages. He claimed to sell a preorder for the vinyl and/or CD of his new record with an exclusive shirt. He began this preorder campaign two months before his record was set to hit shelves. Enough people realized they were out money, and they took to his pages—where other Nachtmystium fans would defend their idol until Blake would ban whomever was complaining they never received their merch. During this fiasco someone on behalf of Xasthur contacted me regarding the split. Apparently Blake had contacted the label and told them to send Xasthur's copies to him and he would send them right over. This was discovered quickly enough that it was blocked. And then all went silent. Blake removed his internet presence. The "Blakecrush" page grew to almost a thousand people, who all began to file Paypal complaints. He moved to Western Union, but then talk of wire fraud came up. The money ceased flowing in. Blake vanished.
At the peak of their popularity, the Nachtmystium Facebook page had around 33,000 fans. He had only ripped off about 1 percent of them, and in process he made more than most blue collar workers do in a year. Blake has been attempting to sell the rights to his back catalog to various labels, and the rumor is he found one willing to give him $17,000 for it. Only he doesn't own the rights to any of it. Candlelight Records does—from the last time he licensed his back catalog—but they don't want anything to do with him.
Century Media is doing their best to make up for his mistake with fans and fulfilling orders. My problem with this is both petty and also somewhat larger. The petty part comes from wondering why Twilight never got shit for what we had to put up with because of him. But the other part of me worries that this basically shows him that he doesn't have to worry about consequences. Someone will always clean up his mess for him. And in a few months after this new deal pays him he's going to pop back up and try to convince the world that he's sober and to start sending him money again. He's following the Hollywood path of remaking the same fucking movie over and over again, with weaker results each time. And people will welcome him back with open arms. Because, like I said, he's only fucked over about 1 percent of his total fanbase. There's still 99 percent of you out there who post shit like "well he never fucked me over, you guys are all haters" etc when the subject gets brought up. And you'll keep enabling him to continue to hurt people, to fuck people over, and to treat people like refuse because beyond being a junkie he's also a solipsist. He doesn't care about anyone but himself because to him that's all there is.
Earlier in the year he actually began telling people his drug addiction was all caused by Jef Whitehead, throwing one of his only real friends so far under the bus that I can't think of anything clever to finish this sentence. And it's complete bullshit. He's also blamed it on when he broke his leg and doctors gave him opiates as a reason. Also bullshit. You, the public, or even Blake himself can argue all you want, but I was there for all of this. And it was all caused because he romanticized the rock and roll lifestyle and thought that heroin was the only way to achieve it entirely. I watched him shoot up into his hand and then tell his wife five minutes later that a box fell on it and then show her his injection site like somehow cardboard could do that. This is an eternally self-perpetuating cycle if you allow it. Blake spends his time between a notable drug motel and the streets these days, just waiting for that check to come and clear.
I can't have a music conversation these days without someone asking me about him. Do I want him to die? No, I don't give enough of a shit about him for that. I'd say I would want him to get help, but I've seen him through at least two stabs at rehab, both of which he didn't pay for and both of which he left early. The best possible thing that could happen to him would be for the police to pick him up and put him away long enough that he dries out and has time to reflect on everyone he's hurt. He should lose his musical privileges because he will just try to scam a whole new crop of suckers who truly believe he's responsible for writing the majority of his music and not others. He should have to face consequences for his actions for the first real time in his life. Because the Chicago winter is unforgiving, and I'm sure life in the cold reality is even worse.
Neill Jameson is a musician whose bands include Krieg, Twilight, and N.I.L.
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