For a number of years now we’ve been absolutely obsessed with GWAR. Seen them live a few times and watched hours on end of their hilarious videos. We got a chance to sit down with Dave Brockie (a.k.a. Oderus Urungus) in the summer and interviewed him for our 4th issue. A must-read if you haven’t already.
BBB: Alright well, we’re from bizarre beyondbelief magazine, an arts and culture magazine dedicated to extraneous sub cultures…
Oderus: Why would you want to have us in that?!
BBB: Because it would be… the greatest?
Oderus: We’re not art or culture, we’re against both, vehemently!
BBB: You hate both?
Oderus :Yes, Arts and culture, they’re both shit!
BBB: Over 20 years ago Slave Pit began in Richmond Virginia, correct?
GWAR: Well, some say that. Yes, the slaves have their filthy hovels there.
BBB: Well, They’ve been spouting this off all throughout the internet.
Oderus: They lie they say all kinds of things. Desperately trying to get the female audience members to have sex with them. Well, I don’t know, they’re allowed to have sex with the corpses, but I don’t know why they feel it’s necessary to have sex with a living creature. They’re much more compliant when they’re dead.
BBB: So what do you do about them spouting off all these evil lies?
Oderus: Hit them, smash them, hurt them, stick them in the eyes, hurt them, smashing like I mentioned the smashing and the hurting. But also give them jobs, which is the weirdest thing. They are slaves but they are payed, payed in worthless objects like half burned candles and ah, you know, rocks bits of wire, things like that.
BBB: Do they enjoy that though?
Oderus: They like it, yes. They’re like “Oh thank you master”.
BBB: Well I guess then that’s the best part about being a slave, little to no pay or just absolutely getting treated like garbage.
Oderus – And every Christmas time they get a bucket of shit.
BBB: Ahhh, well then that’s the icing on the cake.
Oderus: *crying noise* Ahhh well thank you master.
BBB: Well, on top of that, who was first to come up with the costumes? Is there any absolute story behind that, or is what I read just nothing but lies, that they are props being made in a factory?
Oderus: Yes, well if you say the word costumes one more time, I’m going to rip your larynx out. But if you really want to know the behind the scenes story of GWAR then I’m going to have to leave the room and be replaced by my human slave Dave Brockie.
Dave Brockie: Hey, here I am. What was the question again?
BBB: How did it all form, how did everything come to fruition in the beginning years?
DB: Ah, well you know, really we just went through different stages of manufacturing process. The first Scumdogs costumes were very very crude, they were basically made out of foam cushion couches that were covered in would glue. And we would make the shapes by using an old electric carving knifes that you’d find at thrift stores and we’d use those until the fuckin’ motors would burn out as they invariably would. So we were always on the prowl for electric carving knives, like we were always looking in thrift stores like “hey, I’m going thrifting today,” “Oh if you see electric carving knives…”. Like all of our friends knew that, like they were always bring carving knives to us. We had this other way of cutting foam that was really dangerous, which was basically an “L” shaped piece of would and there was a wire that ran from the end of the L to a piece of plywood that it was all built on the wire would have a heating element and the wire would get red hot and then you take hard foam and push it against the wire to cut the foam and that releases Cyanide Gas and we’d just sit there with no respirators just going “doo doo doo dooooo” and we’d wonder why after like 3 hours we’re like “Arghhhh”.
BBB: Well then where did the original design come from?
DB: The original look of the costumes came from a guy named Hunter Jackson, he’s probably known to GWAR fans best, or at all, as Techno Destructo and believe it or not, even though he hasn’t worked with GWAR for many years he’s still doing the Techno Destructo character in a wrestling league out in california. More power to you Hunter. Now that can’t be an easy gig, now being in GWAR isn’t an easy gig either you know? He was the first person to kind of ah, he kind of starting building these costumes, he had a character that had a bear trap jaws as a face and there we have Balsac 28 years later you know, and about a million times cooler looking than the original but still the same basic idea and Hunter was sort of the genius that saw that and I was in a band called Death Piggy, and he used to have this studio and I used to have this practice space in this old abandoned, derelict milk bottle factory. It was a milk bottling facility where they would fill milk bottles up with milk. and they would drive them out to the city in horse-drawn carriages it was like from the 1800s right and a bunch of punks and artists were basically squatting the place and were paying very minimal rent to live in there and work in there and i was practicing with my band Death Piggy and Hunter was working on a movie he wanted to make called “Scumdogs of the Universe” and I was like “Hunter, you should let me borrow these costumes for Death Piggy one night” and we wore them before the show and we went out there and played like 2 songs that were just horrible and we said our name was “Gwarrrrrrghhhhhhhhhh”. But as bad as it was, people thought it was great. It got to the point where we would do “Gwarrrrrghhhhgh” and then we would come back for the rest of the Death Piggy show and no one would be there and we would be like “Fuck, it’s like we have to wear this shit all the time”. But that actually worked out quite well because the next thing we decided to stop calling ourselves “Gwarrrrrghhghhghgh” because you really couldn’t put that on a flyer or a t shirt very well, well trimmed it down to gwar, we came up with a ridiculous backing story and we proceeded to hit the road and attempt our subjugation of the universe. Scumdogs of the Universe The Movie never got made but Scumdogs of the Tniverse The Album did and that’s pretty much the early story.
BBB: So in that regard, did the theatrics come first? Now that you had those costumes did you then write songs?
DB: Exactly, the theatrics completely came first. When I saw the costumes I had and idea for a band and I wrote the two most retarded songs I possibly could. So definitely the look came before the music, that’s for sure.
BBB: And how was that received at that time?
DB: They loved it. Death Piggy was a respected, very silly but fun hardcore band you know where we would usually do like 100 or 200 people. But then we attached this ridiculous “GWarrrrrhghghg” show and then 300 and 400 people started showing up, 500 people were showing up, but as i said as soon as we came on stage to be death piggy, 2/3rds of the audience had left. So that was an unbelievably potent visual symbol of what was to come.
BBB: So then why the transformation of Hardcore to Metal? Why not stick with the original intention of the music?
DB: I wanted GWAR to be a metal band from the very beginning, I mean we kind of fucked around with all kinds of different styles but the only people I could really get to be in the band were punk rockers. Like, I was more of a punk. I was a hardcore punk, I was a skinhead or whatever. Like I grew up in DC, I graduated high school in 1981 and i was lucky enough to be there at the whole birth of hardcore and was a major part of it you know? I certainly wasn’t a poser and I loved metal, even though metal was going through that horrible Glam-Rock phase which was just awful, but i still loved metal but I really got into hardcore and punk-rock for a while that really and that really made me hate everything for a while and then slowly bands like Metallica and Slayer and Exodus started getting me back into metal and so by the time we started writing our 2nd record, which was Scumdogs of the Universe, I was definitely back. I mean Raining Blood had just come out so I was definitely back into metal, but I always stayed at my heart a punk rocker. But to me they’re different sides to the same coin. They really are, there’s so much alike about the two forms of music. They’ve always supported each other really well but it was difficult to get really good metal players to play in GWAR because, I don’t know, it’s harder to play metal than punk rock. I mean, you can be punk rock as shit and be in a band that only knows 3 chords. But if you want to play competent metal, speed metal, thrash metal, you gotta be a little bit tighter quality of a musician and most of those guys did not want to put on 30 pounds bloody great latex. It wasn’t until GWAR started to get some success that people saw that this has a chance of going somewhere and maybe I can get payed for slingin’ my axe. You’ll notice that after “HELL-O” that none of the musicians are the same after it except for me. I sacked everybody ’cause I knew that GWAR was gonna get big and I had a lot more power after HELL-O because it was an underground hit and we were getting out there on the road and people were diggin’ it and so I had a lot more clout when I got the band together after HELL-O. Hell-o was basically made with guys who were basically in GWAR because it was a funny joke, Scumdogs marked the first point where we said “Hey, we can really make a go of this”. So I got better quality musicians for that record.
BBB: We know that you’ve had many roster changes over the years, would you say that the group you have now is pretty much a solidified group?
DB: It was until Cory died. I mean, that’s really really changed everything for us and we’re not sure what kind of band we are any more. Right now, we’re a 4 piece and we’re still killing it. I swear to God we’re fucking killing it. I see people all the time that are saying all the time, “Oh, I just saw GWAR for the 8th time and it’s the best time I’ve ever seen them”. And I’m like “Wowww, how can they even say that without Cory playing with us”, but as the shock lessens and the pain of that, which will always be great, but as the sheer awfulness of it gets easier to deal with and you know only time can heal that kind of a wound and it never will fully. You know, we understand right now that for GWAR the question is “What’s gonna happened to us next” but the good news is we’ve been honour all this year so far to try out a bunch of different people and I don’t know if this like went away from the idea of the question. But yeah, I would say, while Cory was here we were definitely very sure of what we were. Honestly, like, Scumdogs of the Universe was a punk/metal masterpiece. America Must Be Destroyed also was I would say, but was starting to show a little bit of diversity that maybe I kinda didn’t want. I had like a rebellion in the band by that album, everybody had a different idea about what GWAR was about. there was actually a very strong anti-metal sentiment in the band, they didn’t want to be a metal band they wanted to be an industrial punk band with with a weird sense of humour that played parody music and GWAR’s always been an artistic democracy that I couldn’t just say “No, we’re metal band” but would have loved to. But finally my wishes were granted after We Kill Everything, which is like the silliest GWAR album ever but you know like I love it but you know I was getting sick of the silliness and the next record violence has arrived kills the silliness but still keeps the humour and GWAR stayed in that mode for every album since. We’re wickedly heavy. You know we really listened to our critics after we kill everything and our fans were bitching and we’re like, we need some new life in this thing. We gotta kick this thing in the ass and one thing we haven’t tried since Scumdogs was going at it was like a real metal act so let’s do that. So when we got Cory he sort of led us down that road. It was his ability as a guitar player and a song writer and his connection to the new metal scene that schooled us and turned GWAR into that band that kind of re-won over a lot of fans. I mean, most fans are gonna stick with GWAR through anything but i think people were pleasantly surprised and happy to see GWAR sort of re-born hard and it led to way more success. All of a sudden the metal community welcomed us back like they had never supported us before. Metal people can be at time not the most humorous. Especially in Europe they can be very serious about their metal and that’s why GWAR’s never really hit it big in europe. They’re very confused by our very American sense of humour.
BBB: Well that sort of segue way’s into my next question … how do feel that not only the fans but peer metal bands have received you, especially in this rebirth of hard metal sound?
DB: It just depends on what band you talk to. Some guys, like the guys in Slayer, Like Kerry King for some reason has no respect for GWAR whatsoever. At this point i’ve pretty much met everybody and pretty much everybody just gives me massive props and gives GWAR massive props. You know, hell, I was just in New York a few days ago at Alex Skolnick’s metal high school and I fucking sang “The Preacher” with him for a bunch of kids as Oderus, which was fucking hilarious. So to be hanging out with people that I’ve idolized my whole life and then become friends with them is really mind blowing that stays with me. That’s like “we really did something.’ And it’s not just musicians, you know everybody’s heard of GWAR and it’s like I don’t know if there’s an act out there that’s got more street-cred. No one else has been as true and worked as hard for so fucking long and never sold out, never. Never, ever, ever. It’s like unthinkable that GWAR would. It’s like, how could we ever try to sell out? Like get facial surgery and chopped off your dick and that actually almost sounds like a good idea for a fucking GWAR show. Oderus tries to remake himself as an Adonis and completely fucks up and makes it look even more horrible. That’d be awesome.
BBB: Yeah, well that’s exactly what I was about to say. Also, my father’s a professor at a university in South Carolina and he said that there’s a professor in the office next to him banging GWAR and then we also know squeegee kids that are listening to gwar…
DB: Squeegee kids?
DB: Why do you call them squeegee kids?
BBB: Because they use the squeegees to clean the windows.
DB: That’s kick- ass! That’s better than crusty punk. Well, it’s the same thing but it’s better. It’s a nicer way of saying it.
BBB: At least they’re doing something…
DB: At least they’re doing something. YEAHHH. I’ll take a squeegee over a crusty any day.
BBB: So did you ever think that it would hit that range of demographics?
DB: Well, I didn’t really think about it but I’m certainly glad that it did, I mean I didn’t write the lyrics for stupid people. I wrote the lyrics for people that were either fairly intelligent or wanted to be.
BBB: Yeah, totally.
DB: There’s so many levels that you can appreciate GWAR. There’s something for everyone, but the one thing that is required is a sense of humour. You’re not going to get far with GWAR unless you have a great sense of humour and that’s the primary focus of GWAR. Laughter was like, the best. It’s like one of the most consistent joys of life. It really is, it’s probably up there with shitting and blowing loads.
BBB: So as a visual artist yourself, do you have a different approach to making visual art as you do music?
DB: Well, sure. When I make music I stand in front of a microphone and scream and when I draw paintings, I sit in front of the drawing board. But it’s all the same thing. I’m trying to open up my inside. It all comes from somewhere right? That’s the crazy part about it. I’m trying to open a portal to this place and this well spring and depending on what I’m doing, you get a different impression of it. What’s interesting about music is that it’s the most direct contact to that place. It’s coming out of you and your’e doing it spontaneously. Especially if you’re improvising and just going off on stage like sometimes I will. Like I try to stick to the lyrics and I’ve got really into annunciating as well. I was listening to Eminem and I was like, that guy fucking knows how to talk. Shit man, I wanna be as good as the best rappers out there as far as getting words out as far as getting words out and to get people understanding what I’m saying I’ve got to speak clearly. So a lot of times improvisation isn’t always the best, you know. Like I don’t know how many rappers can freestyle for too long without getting confused. So because in music, you’re performing, it’s coming out of you, it’s the most direct it’s the most direct fucking conduit to whatever part of your spirit is opened up when you make art. Now when you’re writing, you can go back and trim it and you can add parts in and take parts out, put it away for a year, pick it back up again and really do all kinds of crazy stuff with it. So you have an editing power. You know, you can’t edit a GWAR show, unless you’re doing it on video tape later. Different levels of refinement, I guess. So the rawest most vital of the art-forms that I like to practice is definitely making music.
BBB: Since your group has been around all throughout the transformation of technology. How do you feel with the internet as a role? Has it helped or hindered GWAR?
DB: It helped us greatly. I don’t think it’s any great coincidence that with our kind of media rebirth with the internet coming on so strong. We were right on top of it. Like I remember when we bought our first couple computers for the slave pit like 15 years ago and the first time we had a website. And yeah, sure, streaming music has definitely taken album sales and at least cut them in half, maybe even less than that. But you never had an ability to pump yourself for free before. So it’s a double edge sort so mostly it’s really fucking great. So what it’s like for a band today is completely different than what it was like when we started. We were armed with things like fax machines and fucking answering machines with cassette tapes inside them. We have 8-Tracks for christ’s sake. Actually i don’t think we’ve ever made an 8-track which is a bummer too, I’d die for a GWAR 8-track.
BBB: So do you feel as if you have a leg up on some of the other bands that don’t tour as much, considering you’ve been a touring band since the beginning of your career?
DB: Well ask any band that’s where you make your money, especially in today’s reality that you’re not selling so many albums. That’s where you make your cash. That’s why I enjoy it the most. I was just thinking to myself, what other job drives you and you wake up and you’re at where you work? And then drives your home. It basically is your home. When I’m on the road and I’m on the bus, I’m actually in my comfort zone.
BBB: Well, it’s like a second home for you…
DB: Oh yeah, it has to be and you have to be and you have to be prepared for a that lifestyle. There’s a tremendous amount of down time. But I choose to not treat it as down time. I always try to be busy whether I’m devouring local history or just keeping up with my reading or my art or my writing. I actually try to draw and do visual stuff when I’m on the road but it’s difficult. It’s hard to spread out. I really prefer to be in my studio at home to work on my visual stuff. So the road is all about reading and writing. Currently, I’m researching for a trip I’m getting ready for next year to Russia. I haven’t been able to get GWAR the band to russia yet but I’m gonna go over there with some friends of mine, one from Amsterdam and we’re gonna go over there and go on a military history tour and go to Stalingrad, so I’m pretty fucking stoked about that, so I’ve been studying all about Russian culture lately. Wow, they’ve got a fucked up history.
BBB: So would you say there’s a difference between the metal communities within Canada and the United States?
DB: Oh yeah they’re so different. The Canadian metal scene, they just really support and the Canadian music scene in general they’re just a lot more supportive. It would amaze us at the beginning of our careers that we would come up to canada that we would have shows that were like twice or three times as big than what we had in the States. I mean we blew up in Canada first really. And you know to this day, when we do those stretch of shows from Edmonton to Vancouver it never ceases to amaze me how many people come to those fucking shows. French-Canada, like Montreal and east has still not been completely devastated by GWAR but we really fucked them up yesterday at the detox fest. I mean people are always like “so many stand up comedians come from Canada”. I think the reason why is because Canadians support the arts a lot more. So these comedians get a lot more support and exposure and they go to America and that confidence comes out in their act and they’re successful. Canadians are funny-fuckers man. I’m from Canada and a lot of people don’t know that.
BBB: Yeah, from Ottawa, right?
DB: Ottawa General. Well I guess a lot of people do know that.
BBB: So does a lot of your family still live in Ottawa?
DB: No, I’m adopted actually. My biological parents actually are Irish. I’ve never had any contact with them, so no, I don’t actually have any family here. No blood connection to the land but I’ve kept my Canadian passport I’ll tell ya what. If Mit Romney gets elected, I might just have to move back.
BBB: Keep a Canadian patch on your bag?
DB: I’ll tell ya if I ever had to leave the states, I’d probably come to Canada. I’m sure I would really really dig it. Come up with some insane project and hunt down Devon Townsend and demand we work together on something. It’d be pretty fucked up.
BBB: Then would you say within those communities, would you say they differ from out west (Canada) to Toronto?
DB: Well, from Toronto to Vancouver as far as GWAR’s concerned they’re really strong and you can’t tell much difference between the GWAR crowd. But when you leave the venues that’s when you can tell the difference, like Edmonton’s a lot different from Toronto obviously. But in general the Canadian scene, people support music up here a lot harder and I don’t know if it’s because it’s colder longer up here. I don’t know what it is. I’ve always said Canada is like mixing the best parts of Europe and America. They got the American can-do spirit but they have benefitted from European wisdom and for some reason it’s really worked for this country and you know, I’d be proud to betray my adopted United States and come back here any moment. US hasn’t done a hell of a lot to make me happy, except for introducing me to the guys in GWAR and giving me a reason to be pissed off enough to make something like GWAR happen for 28 years.
BBB: Yeah, so considering your last album was done during your big long tour, how did you find time to squeeze in this on top of it?
DB: We just work hard and take advantage of it. That was a tough one, I mean if Cory hadn’t already had a lot of that music written for his solo project, we probably wouldn’t have finished the record when we did. But, we had this crazy idea in our big stupid head. That’s this two year long 25th anniversary and we had to get two albums out during that time to show people we weren’t fucking around and we did, somehow. And we never thought we would’ve had to deal with this whole thing to do with Cory so it’s taking a while to put the next record together but we’re already deep into and the songs sound great so I have no doubt in my mind it’s gonna be another awesome GWAR album.
BBB: Well on that note, is there anything more you can give us about that? Is it gonna go back to the punk roots, is it gonna stay metal?
DB: Well people say “A little bit more punk roots”. But I mean the last few GWAR albums have been metal but there’s punk roots in all of them. Like Lords and Masters and Metal Metal Land, like they sound more like punk rock songs than anything so I think the next record is going to stay in the metal vein and stay in the heavy vein and stay in the hilarious vein, but it’s also gonna stay in the conceptual vein. I mean everything that we’ve done for the last 3 or 4 albums have had a story behind them and I really like that and this one is gonna be no exception, except this story is gonna be really crazy, we don’t have a name for it yet but it kind of involved GWAR’s vision of the future. It’s gonna be told from a point of view of about 200 years in the future. After the top layer of the earth has been burnt off by a plasma burst. It’s not really clear as to what happened but at some point in the next 200 years there’s an apocalypse that occurs and the human race is almost destroyed and there’s two types of people after this. There’s the humans that have the money to go underground and live in their air conditioned bunkers and then there’s the humans on the surface that have to fucking fight to survive and those guys in the bunkers stay down there for a couple hundred years inbreeding and eating stem cells and taking drugs and growing new brains and the humans upstairs become more normal and stronger and rest the world back in their control and the humans downstairs have to start coming up to the surface to get resources and they encounter these new humans and chaos ensure. It’s a real horrific future view through the eyes of Oderus he peered into his magic all eye and sees what happens to his children. Because you know, Oderus created the human race with the other members of GWAR by fucking animals and he does feel a certain amount of responsibility or interest in what happens to his children. Even though he proclaims to hate them and destroys them by the million he sees something in himself in them and so he’s still got some amount of love even though he’s such a fucking asshole and self obsessed. So there’s some choice snippets of some concept ideas and so its’ gonna stay heavy. The music we’ve written for it so far is very fucking heavy. We had some old buddies of ours come in and play and we can’t really say much yet, but we had Todd come in he used to play beefcake who’s primarily a guitar player and came in and jammed with us and we had Zach from Rise Against, who used to play Flattus, came in and worked with us for about a week. So we’ve been working around in the GWAR family and seeing what comes up and we’re close to making some decisions as to who our new guitar player’s gonna be but we already know that the new Scumdog is gonna be a tribes member to the Maximus clan. Basically one of Flattus’ fucked up cousins. And he’ll have the same kind of Flattus look, but we’ll have his very own look and won’t look exactly like flattus but he’ll obviously be from the same tribe. The dinosaur skulls for shoulder pads, but it’ll be different because it’s a Mastadon not triceratops and he’s really fucked up looking and we have a name but we can’t release it yet. It’s like Flattus meets john Belushi I guess is the best way I can put it. Flattus was always the quiet and shy more reserved Gwar member, this new maximus is gonna be completely over the top and we’re just trying to find a guy who’s guitar style will represent that. It’s gonna be awesome, it’ll be reminiscent of the great Flattus and will pay homage to him more than be a rip off of him. We’ll always remember flattus but now we’re gonna know my god, there’s all these other Maximis’ out there. Cory’s wife Jamie just had their baby and so there’s already another Maximus, in fact people are already calling her Minimus.
BBB: You want to bring Oderus back into the room for a second?
Oderus: Sure! Suddenly Oderus came back into the room and beat the shit out of Dave and sat down.
BBB: So, we gotta a couple more questions for ya…
Oderus: Well, I might answer them, but I might just sit and stare into space for a while. I haven’t had my crack today.
BBB: Now that you guys have managed to claim hell as your own, do you plan on resurrecting and historical tyrants to aid in your quest to rid the planet of human filth?
Oderus: Funny you should say that because quite the opposite is true. Historic tyrants are being resurrected to fight GWAR. God is pretty much the last mother fucker we have yet to kill. I mean we’ve killed everybody including Jesus we haven’t killed god. Have you ever seen a show where we have killed God? That’s what the fall tour is all about so he’s gonna be resurrecting a bunch of famous assholes from history to try and bring down GWAR and he’s going to fucking fail! But for tonight I think we’re just butt-fucking Snooki. No, we’re making Snooki have a fucking abortion because we can’t stand the fact that she’s going to have more kids. It’s just what we call the “bloody mess fucking show” and that asshole Sawborg Destructo shows up and I get to beat the shit out of him. My head gets ripped off and as usual my foes try to rip my brain out of my head but they don’t know that I had my brain and my balls switched so it’s sort of a camouflage that has led my dick thinking for myself quite a bit. That thing gets me into trouble all the time.
BBB: You’ve also recently discovered the existence of a second World Maggot. How many humans will you have to sacrifice before you can return to space for the epic battle against your master?
Oderus: This second maggot, we call the homeless maggot because he’s just pathetic. He’s falling apart and there’s rumours that he’s been just hanging around the slave pit for all these years and never left earth at all and was just hanging out in the old slave pit prop room. Anyway, this maggot is on its last, I’d say last legs except he doesn’t have legs, he’s on his last, whatever part of a maggot that it uses to get around. So, we’re going to get him through a few more shows. London (Ontario) is one of the last places we’re going to be feeding hot chicks to it. unfortunately, we’ve fed to many fat chicks to it and just beat the shit out of this thing there’s no way it can handle inter-stellar travel anymore so we go ahead and cut its head off and kill it at the end of the show.