Before he killed nine people in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday, Connor Betts was deeply involved in the misogynistic, male-dominated “goregrind” or “pornogrind” extreme metal music scene. It has a regional following in the Midwest and is known for sexually violent, death-obsessed lyrics and dehumanizing imagery depicting women.
Over the past year, the 24-year-old shooter occasionally performed live vocals in the band Menstrual Munchies, which released albums titled “6 Ways of Female Butchery” and “Preeteen Daughter Pu$$y Slaughter,” with cover art showing the rape and massacre of female bodies. He also performed with a group called Putrid Liquid.
Now one of Betts’ bandmates, Jesse Creekbaum, 25, is taking the recordings down. He says he’s removing them out of fear the vulgar music he produced will make a cult hero out of the murderer, who was killed by police at the scene. He’s also received death threats online because of his association with Betts.
Creekbaum, who has been writing and recording music under the name Menstrual Munchies for more than five years, says he did it mostly as a joke and now is sickened that Betts apparently took it all serious.
“I feel shitty having let him be in the band, doing those lyrics,” Creekbaum said. “Because I know, like, whereas I saw it as a joke — like, ‘Let's play this and we’ll shock some people,’ and then the people that we know laugh — he didn't see it as a joke. He was like, ‘Fuck, yeah. We're gonna do this.’”
“It's like, Jesus Christ, how much of this was like real life for him?” he said.
In addition to scrubbing the internet of the band’s recordings, Creekbaum is reaching out to anyone who has hosted his songs or videos to ask them to remove those, too.
“It's like, Jesus Christ, how much of this was like real life for him?”
“I took it all down. I'm trying to get everyone I know to take all of it down,” he said. “I don't want to be associated with it. I don't want it blowing up. I don't want him romanticized. I don't want any of this romanticized. I want people to erase him from history.”
The Pornogrind scene
The Midwest pornogrind scene exists in an obscure pocket of the larger grindcore genre and consists of a handful of bands who often play shows to each other or to small audiences. Even better-known bands in the genre writ large, such as Germany-based Cock and Ball Torture, have just thousands of Facebook fans.
Menstrual Munchies often performed with other regional acts like Necro Cannibal Ass Grinder, Bill Nye da Nazi Spy, and Cunt Torch, playing festivals like the Pornfieldz of Illinoise Grindfest or a former venue in Columbia, Missouri, called UPS — Under the Porn Shop, named for its location beneath the Venus Adult Megastore, owned by the mother of fellow scenester Zach Walton, of the band Groin Mallet.
In a phone interview, Walton, who has booked Menstrual Munchies at that venue, said the pornogrind scene is tight-knit and that he and his friends have been devastated to learn what Betts did. But he doesn’t believe the content of the music contributed in any way to his actions.
“It's just the music we love, you know, like, it's fun to play. It's energetic and there's nothing else like it. So we play it,” Walton, 29, said. “And then we get people like this, who, you know, are fucking sick in the head, who get into our scene and ended up killing nine people and almost, you know, putting a bad name on our scene. And that's not fair for the rest of us.”
Betts was not involved in any of the writing or recording and only performed as a live vocalist for Menstrual Munchies. Nevertheless, Creekbaum said he removed the band’s Facebook, Bandcamp and YouTube pages from the web. But a saved version of the Bandcamp page found on the Internet Archive reveals the sexually violent and demeaning album titles and artwork.
Creekbaum says he feels conflicted: On the one hand, he believes music and art do not cause people to commit murder, but on the other hand, he feels guilty for having associated with someone who carried out violence similar to the kind he portrayed in his songs.
Creekbaum said he contacted the Dayton police immediately after hearing the news, but said they hadn’t replied to him, although he said the FBI visited his home on Monday to interview him.
Betts' bizarre behavior
Looking back, there were clues something wasn’t right with Betts. Betts was a loner and emotionally withdrawn, Creekbaum and others in the scene told VICE News.
Creekbaum said Betts once brought a handgun on a tour to Iowa and suggested to others that they rob some gas stations — something Creekbaum said he chewed Betts out for but didn’t take seriously.
He said he and others had recently distanced themselves from Betts over his bizarre behavior, including talking in realistic terms about the violence depicted in the music, telling stories about his past methamphetamine use, and lying about having a criminal record.
He said Betts had also told them about a previously reported incident in which he was suspended from his high school for keeping a “hit list” and a “rape list” of classmates he wanted to commit violence against. And Betts had mentioned to Creekbaum that he was depressed. Still, Creekbaum said he did not think Betts was capable of this kind of slaughter.
“I think he decided that he was going to kill himself, and he was like, ‘I don't have the balls to do it’ and he drew a gun,” Creekbaum speculated.
The band hadn’t been active since Creekbaum found out in July that Betts had contacted showgoers online after a recent gig and asked them to send him money on PayPal, something Creekbaum found obnoxious.
The music was created to be controversial, Creekbaum said, inspired by the work of shock-rock acts like the Mentors and GG Allin. He often played fully naked wearing an executioner’s hood. In a video, they can be seen performing in nothing but Santa Claus beards and hats.
And if the goal was attracting controversy, they succeeded. Creekbaum said even some of his close friends found the misogynistic imagery to be too much. Now, the music is sure to be examined in a national conversation as social critics point to toxic masculinity as a root cause of mass gun violence.
Betts’ apparent political beliefs are also drawing scrutiny. He identified as an anti-fascist and slandered Nazis and gun violence in social media posts that have since been removed from Twitter and Facebook. Some on the political right have seized on that to infer his ideology was part of his motive.
The anti-fascist extreme metal band Neckbeard Deathcamp was quick to distance Betts from their scene.
“OH TURNS OUT THE DAYTON SHOOTER WAS LITERALLY CONNOR FUCKING BETTS,” Neckbeard Deathcamp wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “I DON'T KNOW IF I WOULD USE THE TERM LEFTIST TO DESIGNATE ONE OF THE DUDES IN MENSTRUAL MUNCHIES. ANTIFASCIST SURE. BUT NOT GREAT WITH WOMEN.”
“JUST ANOTHER DIME A DOZEN OHIO GRIND DUDE WHO CAPED PROGRESSIVE POLITICS WHILE TREATING WOMEN LIKE SHIT,” the band continued in another tweet. The band followed up with a thread explaining they did not know Betts, although he did follow their account on Twitter.
Ryan Ward, of the Ohio-based Cunt Torch, a band that regularly played with Menstrual Munchies, likened the coming backlash to how Marilyn Manson and “South Park” were blamed for the Columbine shootings, although he acknowledged that it is somewhat different because a member of a band committed the heinous act, not just a fan.
Still, he says he finds it hard to believe the dehumanization portrayed in the music contributed to an environment in which Betts felt desensitized enough to commit actual violence himself, including shooting to death his own sister and her boyfriend, two of the victims of his rampage.
“Part of the music is you want to figure out ways to portray people as being dehumanized as much as possible or, you know, degraded. And sexual dehumanization and objectification is a big way of doing that,” Ward said. “If for some reason the music he made or whatever, somehow did do that for him, I feel that it's an exception, not the rule when it comes to people making this music.”
“I feel it’s our responsibility to make it a point to let people know that, no, this is not what we actually stand for,” he added. “Our songs aren't prophecies, you know, like, they're not fucking, ominous fucking messages that are supposed to come true. They're just songs.”
Cover: Shoes are piled outside the scene of a mass shooting including Ned Peppers bar, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)