Ric Parnell, who portrayed drummer Mick Shrimpton in the classic 1984 heavy metal mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, has died at the age of 70. He also played drums with British progressive/hard rock band Atomic Rooster in the 1970s and recently contributed to solo albums for Radio Birdman‘s Deniz Tek.

In This is Spinal Tap, fictional British rock band Spinal Tap has an ongoing problem of drummers constantly passing away in freak accidents, presumably poking fun at actual drummer deaths like that of Keith Moon (The Who) and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin). One dies in a “bizarre gardening accident”, another chokes on vomit (like John Bonham), and a third dies under circumstances police describe as “a mystery best left unsolved.” Parnell’s character, Mick Shrimpton, meets the same fate as one of his predecessors when he dies from “spontaneous human combustion” onstage.

Parnell said in a 2007 interview with Missoulian that when he auditioned for the movie, “The first question they asked was, ‘What do you think about a movie that’s going to tear your career apart?’ I said, ‘You should have made this movie about 10 years ago.’ They then asked me what other bands I’d been in, and I said, ‘Well, I was in a band called Atomic Rooster.’ They looked at each other and said, ‘Yep, that’s it, you’re our man.'”

Following the success of the film, the band hit the road for a live tour including an appearance on Saturday Night Live. Because his character dies at the end of the movie, Parnell assumed the role of Mick’s twin brother, Ric Shrimpton. He continued in the role through the band’s 1992 reunion album, Break Like The Wind, and on tour.

Known for his drumming and acting abilities and his sense of humor, Parnell was remembered by musical collaborator Deniz Tek in a post on social media:

“Ric Parnell died early this morning.

“From day one, meeting him, I found him to be engaging, warm, and delightfully funny. We hit it off as pals immediately. He had a cheerful spirit that made you feel good, just being around him.

“Ric’s amazing history in the music world is well known. I had the great good fortune to work with Ric on three albums. Studio time was casual, fun, and scattered with stories and humor. Ric never actually prepared for a session, but would come up with the beat and the arrangement on the spot.

“He would say ‘How does this next song go?’ I’d play it to him on a guitar, and he’d think about it for a minute. Then he would say ‘Right! Got something.’ Then he would nail it in one or two takes, and it was as perfect as it gets. Ric was one of a kind. He lives on in his music, and in our hearts.”