My friend Justin was the one who told me Blake from Nachtmystium had been arrested on Saturday night, via text on Sunday morning: “Blake Judd in the slammer,” wrote Justin.
“Possession?” I texted back.
I was stunned to hear the news — that Judd had been arrested in Chicago on misdemeanor theft charges, with bail set at $25,000 — but it didn’t come as a surprise, exactly. Sure, Judd’s a talented guy. Among other things, he’s the sole constant member of Nachtmystium, one of American black metal’s most important bands, plus he’s the primary figure in the supergroup Twilight (the black-metal band that Thurston Moore joined last July). But there have long been allegations of him ripping off his fans and colleagues. And we’re not talking a handful of allegations, here. This 32-pages-and-growing thread on the message boards of independent metal label Nuclear War Now Productions contains the most extensive list of complaints I’ve found online (though there are numerous others out there). It was started in February of this year, by user “NWNProd,” aka Yosuke Konishi, the owner of Nuclear War Now. The thread is titled “BLAKE NACHTMYSTIUM SCAM WARNING!!!,” and in his original post, Konishi writes:
Back in early Jan  Blake approached me and offered to sell me his deadstock CDs for very cheap. I had no reason to doubt his honesty at that point because I had known the guy since the beginning of Nachtmystium. I even visited him at his parent’s house when i traveled to Chicago for a Morbosidad gig. I paid a total of $370 for several hundred CDs and two Archgoat LP test presses. It’s now over a month later and I am left empty handed and all I get from Blake are empty promises to refund the payment. All payments were sent as Personal/Gift so there is no way to get help from PayPal.
I also found out recently that Chase [Horval] from [Ohio-based independent metal label] Hells Headbangers had fallen victim to Blake’s scam back in September 2012! He even “bought” the same deadstock CDs for about the same price. Of course he hasn’t gotten anything as of today and Blake is no longer replying to his emails.
Let this be a warning to all underground labels. Do not trust this parasite of the underground.
We are now looking into taking this rat to court!
It wasn’t just a warning to independent labels, though; the thread became a(nother) opportunity for fans to share their own, very similar-sounding allegations. To be clear, these were only allegations, most of them coming from pseudonymous handles — but they were legion. In the words of a NWN commenter who posts as “eighthplague”:
Realistically, why is anyone trusting him in 2013? He’s been totally ripping people off for well over a decade now. It’s a well-known fact. He rips off his friends for fuck’s sake.
It wasn’t really a “well-known fact,” though. Nachtmystium were one of black metal’s biggest bands for some time, signed to metal’s biggest label (Century Media Records), and recipients of prominent and very enthusiastic praise everywhere from Decibel to Pitchfork to Stereogum. But even that’s not that big. As Judd told me when I interviewed him in 2010 — soon after the release of Nachtmystium’s fifth album, Addicts: Black Meddle, Part 2, and arguably at the height of the band’s popularity — “[We] get paid enough these days to keep gas in our van, and the wheels on it turning, and maybe pay a month or two of rent each after a tour.”
That’s just the economy of black metal. The scene is small, but diffuse. The allegations against Judd may have been “well-known” by “eighthplague” and friends, but even if that were the case, that’s a tiny subsection of a tiny subculture. Prior to Saturday night, there were lots of suckers out there, people who had no reason to believe Blake Judd wouldn’t deliver the product he promised: people like Yosuke at Nuclear War Now and Chase at Hells Headbangers, and, um, me.
In January of this year, I gave Blake $48 for a Nachtmystium hoodie, size large. I wouldn’t wire it to him “via Moneygram,” as he requested (“to pay some bills”), but I was comfortable transferring it to him via PayPal, “as a gift,” also per his request. Months passed, no hoodie. In March, Blake and I talked via email about his then-new band, Hate Meditation. I never mentioned the hoodie (I never even sent him a follow-up on the original order, in fact, as I had pretty quickly sussed out what was going on and didn’t want to waste my time along with my money), but at the end of our conversation, without prodding, he brought it up:
PS – did you ever get the hoodie you ordered from me?? If not, I apologize..I was moving during the month of January and it got really hectic and I got all disorganized with orders. If I still owe you something, get me the specifics (design, size) and your address and I’ll get that out asap.
I gave him the information he requested, but by that point I was pretty confident I was never gonna see that hoodie, no matter what. And as of today, October 10, nothing has occurred (or arrived in the mail) to shake that confidence.
It’s a shitty feeling when someone you respect lies to you, steals from you, betrays your trust, and shittier still when they continue to do it. I’ll still write about Nachtmystium’s music (as I did in last month’s Black Market) because I still think Blake’s a talented guy. But goddamn, even if that sweatshirt were in my mailbox today, I don’t think I’d wear it.
Understand, Blake didn’t title that Nachtmystium album Addicts by accident; he’s open about “having struggled with addiction on and off in [his] life,” as he told me in our 2010 interview. When Stereogum contributor Joseph Schafer interviewed Judd for metal blog No Clean Singing in 2011, the Nachtmystium frontman explained this in detail:
Every record with us is a drug record. Addicts is the record I made while I was a heroin addict — which I have kicked … I only [quit heroin] so [Nachmtystium's then-new, since-departed members] would come on tour with me, and I’m not kidding. That album is about hard living. I want to live hard. I don’t want to skip a beat ever. If I can have a good time I will have it, if I can have an experience I am going to indulge in it, and if I die tomorrow I never had a dull moment. That’s how I want to live my life, and how I have done so since I was eighteen years old.
And with that decision-making process comes a series of ups and downs that you need to be prepared for, but I’ve never let that shit allow me to treat my friends like crap. The issue of keeping yourself under control — behavior, finances … don’t live beyond your means. I’ve tried not to do that. I’ve floundered here and there, but I’ve never walked out of [producer and former Nachtmystium member] Sanford [Parker]’s studio in the middle of the night with a $2,000 piece of equipment to go buy dope.
Obviously it’s impossible for anyone who doesn’t know Judd intimately to assess whether the scam allegations are related to his “on and off” struggles with addiction, but it’s certainly tempting for outsiders to make assumptions, especially when Judd’s limited responses to those allegations have been confusing and cagy. In an April interview with Metal Injection, Judd said he would be “personally addressing the issues of orders that have been made to us in the last year where the item(s) purchased were not received.” He claimed that much of the blame belonged to a former Nachtmystium manager (whom Judd declined to name) who supposedly failed to deliver a shipment of Nachtmystium cassettes. Over the course of a very long explanation, Judd claimed:
[The unnamed manager] took our money to have the cassettes made, claims to have sent the tapes to press and then for the following six months offered us story and after bullshit story of where these tapes were.
Finally, after learning he had fucked over numerous other associates of mine, I realized we were never going to be getting our cassettes and that we’d been scammed by our own manager, at the expense of our fans, which in my opinion is the worst thing a musician could do to his/her fans. This piece of shit was immediately fired and I’ve advised any fellow musicians I’m in touch with to steer clear of this rat, as his actions have resulted in making us (specifically me) look like we’re cheating out fans, something I could never do and sleep at night with that on my conscience.
It’s a compelling enough story, although it doesn’t do much to explain the status of the missing merch. It also doesn’t explain the status of those deadstock CDs promised to Nuclear War Now and Hells Headbangers. Needless to say, some of the affected parties have expressed feelings of vindication since Judd’s arrest, but none more openly than Hells Headbangers, who yesterday made available for order the limited-edition Blakecrush shirt (pictured above), which mashes up Judd’s newly snapped mugshot with the iconic “No Mosh No Core No Trends No Fun” logo of Deathlike Silence Productions, the seminal black-metal label run (very briefly) by genre architect Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth. The shirt revises Euronymous’s eight-word mission statement to “No Reply No Package No Refund No Shame.”
Make no mistake, it is a brutal, perhaps even cruel joke. But it’s hard to say Judd doesn’t deserve it. At this point, if the allegations are true, he’s ripped off just about everyone in the entire scene, and tried to rip off literally everyone in the entire scene. No one has been left penniless — $48 here, $370 there — but no one trusts him anymore, either. Even his own (new) bandmates have distanced themselves from Judd. In a statement released on Tuesday, guitarist Timothy Preciado — whose membership in Nachtmystium literally had not yet even been announced to the public! — said the following:
There has been a lot of buzz around Chicago about Blake’s situation regarding his recent run-in with the law. The rest of Nachtmystium asks that everyone be patient with all things considered. I also want to openly say that [new bassist] John [Porada] and myself had zero knowledge of Blake’s personal decisions in life, as this comes as a surprise to us as well. As a brand new member of the band, I definitely hope this recent speed bump does NOT tarnish mine nor any other member of the band’s reputation, as we do not conduct ourselves in such a manner. My only regret is to apologize to any of the fans that might not be able to see us at the planned upcoming performances.
I’m not sure I believe Preciado here — the allegations against Judd may not be a “well-known fact,” but I gotta think those in his immediate circle had an inkling by this point — but what else is the guy gonna do? Metal fans are largely loyal people, and they (we) respect and reward loyalty in return, even though those rewards might amount to nothing more than a tank of gas or a couple months rent or $48 via PayPal. In fact, you might say metal fans are loyal to the point of delusion. Varg Vikernes is a proud and vocal bigot and a convicted murderer. And as of this writing he has successfully crowdfunded €14,763.81 ($19,981.34) to pay for his lawsuit of French authorities, who arrested him in July on (since-dropped) charges of plotting a terrorist massacre. You can literally get away with murder! But you can’t get away with stealing from — and lying to — metal fans.
The more I think about Blake, the more I’m convinced he would have been better off robbing a bank than doing what has been alleged of him. He still wouldn’t have gotten away with it, but at least the potential payoff would have been worthwhile. More importantly, in the eyes of fans, he would have been a tragic hero, if not a legend. Instead, if the rumors are true, he betrayed nearly every single person in the world who might have cared about him, the people who might have just given him the money, if he’d only asked.