It Happened to Me: Police Crashed My Heavy-Metal Camping Trip | Revolver

It Happened to Me: Police Crashed My Heavy-Metal Camping Trip

Scottish black-metal singer recounts Loch Leven outing with family and friends gone very, very wrong

On April 10th news broke that a group of Scottish heavy-metal campers — teacher David Henderson, Aberdeen University lecturer Panadiotis Filis and his son seven-year-old Andrew Vassiliadis, civil engineer Ross Anderson and his 10-year-old son Jude Anderson, along with 10-year-old family friend Natalia Teo and a dog called Jazz — had been "rescued" by local police, who responded with a helicopter, multiple fire crews and several boats, fearing a suicide pact. Henderson, also the frontman for local black-metal band Nyctopia, recounted the bizarre incident to The Courier: "We've got a large tee-pee and we had a campfire going. It was a nice evening and one of the kids had already gone off to sleep. Then all of a sudden, it was like something from the X-Files." We tracked down Henderson for a full account of the camping trip gone wrong.

We're always looking for different places to camp. Usually our drummer, Pan [Panadiotis Filis], finds a place on Google Maps. We like islands in the middle of lochs, with ruins and castles on them. When you're in the middle of a loch, nobody's going to come and piss you off, so you can make as much noise as you want. You can drink as much beer as you want. You can be as loud as you want, and nobody's going to come and ask you to turn the music down. I love going in my rowboat to places. Sometimes we bring instruments — it depends on how drunk you are, and it depends who we're camping with. If we're camping with good musicians, then we'll make music. If we're camping with shit musicians, we'll just play music on speakers. Pan rows the boat and cooks — he's a multi-functioning band member.

We left for Loch Leven on April 8th, with the plan of spending two days there. We'd never been before. It's about an hour from Edinburgh, so we figured, "Hey, it's not in the middle of nowhere. It's easy to get to." Also, I hadn't hung out with Pan in a year, because we'd had a falling out and didn't speak to each other until recently. First, we rowed to the island where the castle was, in Loch Leven. It's quite a famous castle — Mary, Queen of Scots was a prisoner there back in the 16th century. That was where we wanted to camp, initially.

Unfortunately, we landed there at the same time as another boat. In that boat was a mad woman who worked as an official for an organization called Historic Scotland. She started shouting at us: "Oh, you can't camp here! The island is closed!" We told her "Well, you cannot close an island ... We want to camp here," and she was very angry with us. We were really cheeky to her and gave her a lot of grief. Pan managed to quickly row us over to the next island while the woman wasn't looking, and we hid the boat in the middle of the island so nobody could see us. We put on corpse paint, had a campfire and told ghost stories.

Metal Campers 1, David Henderson
(from left) Andrew Vassilladis (7), Jude Anderson (10) and Natalia Teo (10) strike a metal pose as the adults set up camp and Jazz the dog looks on
photograph by David Henderson

A little while later, Andrew — the youngest of the three kids, who is probably the most metal person in the group — went to bed. That's when we started seeing all these weird lights everywhere. At first, we thought it was a group of fishermen, or a group of people having fun, but then we noticed the lights were getting closer to us. Finally, the floodlights locked on us, leading the way for the loch rescue team. There were flashlights everywhere — probably more than 20 people looking for us.

We didn't want them to see us. Earlier that day, on the island, we'd found probably over 300 shotgun shells — which is really bizarre, especially in Scotland, and on a nature preserve. The thought that we were being hunted down by Scottish maniacs with shotguns actually crossed our minds. We put the fire out, got the kids safe and were ready to evacuate in case of an emergency. As soon as we heard the radios, we knew it was the authorities. Jazz started barking, which is how they found us.

Broken Windshield, David Henderson
The window to Henderson's parked car was broken in the search for a suicide note
photograph by David Henderson

The rescue team took us back to the shore, where we were met by three or four fire trucks, at least two or three police cars, and an ambulance. Our car windows had been smashed because the police thought there was a suicide note in the car. They took very good care of the children, and took steps to make sure everyone was safe and healthy. The police then told us that we were lucky that we weren't arrested for putting children in danger, which is a lot of shit. Pan is a professor at university, and I'm a teacher — we're all good swimmers, and we had a life-jacket on hand. It felt like they were looking to arrest us for something, because they were so embarrassed. But they couldn't — there's a special law in Scotland called the "Freedom to Roam." Basically, you can go anywhere you want in Scotland and you can't get arrested for it, because the land belongs to everyone in Scotland. It's kind of ironic: We took all these steps to get away from the cops and everything, and we couldn't have seen more police than we did that night.

Then the cops left us there on the beach. We couldn't make any fire, because there was no firewood around, and it was foggy and cold — so we spent the night in our car with the smashed windows under freezing conditions. The kids were a wee bit cold. That's the only thing that pissed us off, to be honest. We were taken from a nice place where we'd had everything set up, and the police smashed up our cars — and made us pay for it! — made us feel like we'd done something bad, and left us there without apologizing. The authorities said they cared about the children's welfare, but that clearly wasn't the case, because they willingly put the kids in that environment. They knew that we couldn't drive away because we'd had a few beers — and I know they were probably waiting to arrest us had we tried to drive away. The police put us in a shit situation. Fuck the police!

So to clarify: Nobody wanted to kill the kids. Nobody wanted to kill themselves. In retrospect, It wasn't the music that gave us away, or us putting the fire out as we saw the lights, it was that damn dog's fault. We will sacrifice it next time! [Editor's note: Jazz is alive and well.]

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