Still Scummy After All These Years

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Could you imagine the world without GWAR? Seriously: imagine that GWAR never existed and their legendary stage shows never happened. How scary of a thought is that? The Virginia-based veterans of everything gory, vile and flat-out wrong have been soaking concert hall patrons with blood and semen for decades and there doesn’t seem to be any quit in the band at all. They’ve released countless full-length albums, even more VHS/DVDs, comic books, action figures… You name it and GWAR has done it. With a new album on the horizon – their first in three long years – and currently trekking across North America, the mighty GWAR have endured quite a bit throughout their history, but the group remains as strong as ever. In fact, it can be argued that GWAR hasn’t been this powerful since their “glory days” of the early ‘90s. Luckily for this scribe, GWAR came through Las Vegas and performed at the Hard Rock Café on the Strip. was fortunate enough to sit down and chat with GWAR mastermind Dave Brockie, aka vocalist Oderus Urungus, several hours before their show.

To say the interview was a blast would be a monumental understatement. But in the words of the interview subject on the glorious live version of “Have You Seen Me?” on their The Road Behind EP: You go to see GWAR, people die, it’s as natural as rain on a goddamned Sunday morning but let me tell you one thing – Nothing has changed with GWAR. Nothing has changed here. We’re still the wonderful, down-to-earth, kind of motherfucking homosexual, butt-raping, dog-fucking kind of motherfuckers you love. Now, without any further ado, take it away, boys:

It’s about seven hours before the show tonight. You guys have been doing this almost 30 years but even after thousands of shows, do you ever get nervous before you hit the stage?

Dave Brockie/Oderus Urungus: Ha! No, no, no! This is a way of life for us. Nervousness? No, no, no. There’s no nervousness. We’ve done so many fucking shows at this point that it’s just second nature for us. We just go out there and do it. Doing normal things in life is far more difficult than playing GWAR shows. Everybody else does that stuff. We just show up at the club, we walk onstage, they hand us guitars, we play the show, we walk off the stage, and then it’s over. It’s easy. 

What about when you come to a city you’ve never before played, or one you rarely ever play? Do you ever get a vibe of this could be a shitty show for us?

Yeah, shit like that will happen from time to time, especially in the weirder, more out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere places. Sometimes we’ll hear things about the local police setting up dragnets or local officials will send out their law enforcement agents to come to the venue to inspect our props and make sure our dicks aren’t hanging out. And of course they are. Then we’ll tell them that we will change our show to appease their idiotic laws, but when the show starts we ignore it all and do what we want anyway. They never stick around the see the entire show, anyway. GWAR sets its own agenda pretty much anywhere it goes.

After all these years that nonsense still happens?

Oh yeah. Well, it’s not as much as it used to but every now and again you’ll run into something like that. Places like Boise, Idaho and I believe it was Sioux Falls, too. That place is out in the middle of nowhere and you wouldn’t believe how backwards they really are. It’s still comforting to know that we still have the power to shock people because after you’ve been doing it for so long, how do you keep upping the ante where people are like – gasp! – but we’re still doing it. People keep getting pissed off about it.

Walking through the venue here, all the walls are covered with the plastic tarps, per the norm. I remember around ten or so years ago you guys came through Vegas with the Misfits.

Oh yeah! That was such a great tour!

The show was at the Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel, but the managers of the Joint didn’t want GWAR to do what you normally do and you guys pulled out.

We didn’t play?! 

Nope. There was an issue with GWAR and the Joint.

That’s right! I forgot about that night! Of course it was the venue that made it sound like we didn’t want to play. What happened was basically they told us that they didn’t want us to squirt any blood around. We told them that that was an integral part of a GWAR show and the fans will be extremely upset. We told them we’d tarp the walls but things just sort of fell through at that point. That was a long-ass time ago and it’s straining my memory bank [laughs]! God damn, the Misfits tour. That was fucking years ago!

Many of the fans were pissed and because a large portion of the crowd showed up to see GWAR instead of the Misfits, they/we got refunds.

You were all mad and got refunds [laughs]. They actually gave you a refund?

Yeah. A full refund because there were so many people there to only see GWAR.

That’s fucking great! I had no idea they gave refunds.

Yet you guys came back through Vegas a year or two later and played the Joint with your typical GWAR show.

Yeah. It was some idiotic promoter who didn’t know what he was doing, no doubt.

With that said, what does GWAR have to go through in order to play a venue you’ve never played? How do you convince the venue managers/owners to allow you to play? Is there some sort of protocol or a ton of hoops to jump through?

They want us to play there. We have a booking agency that handles everything and they call them and say we’ll give you X amount of dollars to play here. They want it to happen; it’s not like we have to convince these people to play at their club. They need the business. They need people to come in and buy the tickets and they especially need people to spend money at the bar. That’s especially what GWAR fans do very well. GWAR fans like to be drunk as shit and the clubs owners know this. They know their club is going to get fucking trashed but they’re going to do it anyway because they need to make the money.

Does GWAR have to carry extra insurance because of how your shows are?

No, no, no. We have the basic insurance that covers the band members for any catastrophic loss of limb or life, but there’s never any extra insurance. Well, occasionally we may need to get some extra insurance when we’re flying to Europe or something like that, but generally no.

Considering how crazy the typical GWAR fan is, they are always trying to get onstage with you guys, at least I’ve seen that many times. When the whole thing happened when Dimebag got murdered, did that make GWAR more conscious of what’s going on? Did you tighten your own security or make you more leery of the crowd?

No. We didn’t change anything. If that shit’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. If some maniac wants to lurk in the backroom and then pull out a gun and start shooting people, chances are they he’s going to be able to do that. I’m sure it made the club owners much more security-conscious and there are more stringent procedures at the door. They tend to pat people down much more and you’ll see some metal detectors from time to time at the clubs. I think there definitely was some fallout from what happened to Dimebag but a lot of that is bullshit.

If society was really serious about protecting the people, they wouldn’t make it so easy for someone to own firearms. The guy who killed Dimebag and the others was discharged from the Marine Corps, dishonorably I believe, for acting like a fucking psychopath. When the Marine Corps discharges you for acting like a psychopath, there’s obviously something wrong with you [laughs]. However, he had no problem obtaining a firearm, legally or illegally. There’s really nothing we can do about it and we’re not going to go through life being afraid of what could happen. We just go through life as fearless as possible and go forth and if something like that happens, well, your place is certainly set permanently in the annals of rock & roll history. It’d be nice if it happened much later in your career but what happened to Dimebag was just so fucked up. He was right in the prime of his career. Ugh…

We were actually on tour when it happened. We were a couple of days behind Damageplan/ they were a few days ahead of us. We were scheduled to meet him at this guitar factory – we had met him before – but it was supposed to be this thing where we were going to work on this guitar together. It was just such a fucked up thing. We were actually onstage when we heard about it. We were right in the middle of a show in Denver in front of, like, 1200 people. I felt like I had the responsibility to break it to the crowd and it was really fucked up. We took our costumes off and played the encore in just our underwear. It just seemed like the proper thing to do at the time. I’m not quite sure why [chuckles] but, [groans] it was a bad night, man.

If you can, take us through the events that unfolded when you found out.

Our tour manager, Eddie (Oertell), the guy who doesn’t seem to know his own name [much laughter ensues {side note: when I walked into the dressing room area before I sat down with Dave, I introduced myself to Eddie and asked if he was, in fact, Eddie who set up the interview. He said, “no, are you…- I mean, yes I’m Eddie. Are you Mike?” Dave was standing at the table and witnessed the brief, comical conversation}]. He obviously wanted us to know what was going on. I was up onstage and he was on the side of the stage, motioning to me. I knew something was up because he’s usually out by the soundboard. When I got off the stage, he told me and I was just devastated.

We had just left the stage and were getting ready for the encore. So we got out of costume as a tribute to him. I informed the crowd as to what happened and we did our encore. It was horrible. People, I could tell, were already starting to find out. I could tell by the looks on their faces because they were getting texts and phone calls. It was just so fucked up. Word was slowly getting out and then I guess I confirmed it to those who didn’t know. They knew that if we were coming out with our costumes off, something was up. People believed it because I guess my delivery of the news was pretty convincing. They knew I wasn’t kidding around like I would normally do onstage.

Everyone kind of knows exactly what they were doing the night Dime got shot. It was kind of the metal/punk scene’s own 9/11, if you will. We all remember what we were doing when we heard that news.

You’ve been asked this many times before, but how long do you expect to keep GWAR going? Almost 30 years is a long time, yet GWAR is still going strong after all these years.

I’ve said a million times that GWAR is a band that can literally last forever because they are characters and we have more of a Broadway show kind of attitude about it. I would love to one day hand down the moniker of Son of Oderus to a talented enough recipient. The band and the business keep getting stronger and we’ve kind of outlived that period where the first ten years of a band’s existence usually determines whether a band will keep playing or not. You’re either going to crash and burn gloriously or you’re going to be able to continue to do it. We made it through those years and we’re kind of reaping the glory of it. Not just with the touring but lots of other stuff as far as art, writing, making music, being in films and television shows, doing horror conventions. There’s just a nonstop amount of stuff that we can do. We could work every single week, seven days a week if we wanted to. That 25-year career has really exploded in our faces these past few years. We’re getting a whole new level of respect and business. I think we can do this forever as long as I can keep finding people to come in here and do this. I still got a lot of the guys from the original core that formed GWAR. I know that we (the individuals) are not going to last forever and it’s hard to see the future. But right now it’s going strong and it’s getting bigger and bigger and I’m going to keep doing this as long as I can. When it’s time to move on to something else, I hope I know.

Considering all GWAR has done with the music, the tours, the art, the BBQ sauce, the action figures, the videos, the comic books, etc. Is there anything that GWAR wants to do but for whatever reason just hasn’t been able to?

Oh yeah – a video game. Either a console game or a computer game, there has to be some sort of game at some point on GWAR. We’ve had a lot of people get in contact with us about it and we’ve talked about it, but it’s never gotten anywhere. I know these things cost a lot of money to produce, but maybe one day it’ll happen.

Another thing would be a really good full-length feature film about GWAR and what it’s all about. That would be really awesome. But once again, the budget doesn’t really exist for such a thing so we’ll see what happens.

Would the movie be a feature film where you guys are all acting through a story or would it be more like a full documentary on GWAR, but with you guys all playing yourselves?

It’d be a full-length feature film on GWAR. The beginnings of GWAR, GWAR in outer space, GWAR coming to Earth, our struggles here on Earth, becoming a heavy metal band, and then into the future. That would be an amazing movie or a series of movies.

The new album GWAR is working on: is it still called Mad at the Sun and what’s the status on that?

Oh no, that was just a working title. The new album has a title but [laughs] I’m not allowed to tell anybody yet. It actually has a real title now and we just recorded it at Slave Pit Studios. It’s being mixed by Glen Robinson who also did America Must Be Destroyed and War Party as well as some Voivod stuff and a million other great albums. We’re all done with it and it’s in the hands of the mix gods now. It’s fucking amazing and it’ll be out in September, I think, right after our GWAR-B-Q in August. And then we’ll hit the road again after that.

Talk about Brent Purgason/Pustulous Maximus. How has his transition into GWAR been over this past year and a half and what has he brought to the table for the next GWAR record? Obviously his human form in Antietam 1862 is different from what GWAR typically does.

He’s got his own style, definitely. He’s very aggro… Brent can play just as fast as Cory (Smoot) but we never really wanted to simply replace Cory’s style. Cory had his own thing and it was folly to try to emulate that. We wanted to use Cory’s style to inspire you but find a person who would take that sound in a natural progression and Brent totally does that. He’s got his own style where it’s a little dirtier but it’s just as fast.

The story is Pustulous is a member of the Maximus tribe, as was Flattus, and they all happened to play guitars. Pustulous and Flattus were rivals as to who played the baddest guitars over the years. They (the Maximus Tribe) were all called to Earth when Flattus made his journey to the stars and all the Maximuses staged the Battle of Maximus for the right to dominate the new position in GWAR’s band. After a mighty battle, Pustulous emerged supreme and the rest is history. He’s been completed accepted by the fans; they all love him.

Brent was one of the first guys we auditioned and we came back to him. He was a real good friend of Cory’s and he’s a Richmond homeboy. He’s part of the family already. Somehow we took that rigorously awful experience and turned it into something good. The new version of the band is – it’s not the same band – but it definitely rocks the fucking ass so we’ll see what happens.

I’ll assume time has been a terrific healer for you all, but how is everybody doing these days since Cory passed away?

Yeah it has. Everybody is doing a lot better now. At the end of this year it’ll already be two years since Cory died. I’m amazed at how we’ve all (coped) with it and it would have killed a lesser band. But instead we were able to find a new guitar player, move forward, and record a new album. On the new album, I think a lot of people will be able to see what we all went through in using the GWAR characters in a metaphorical way. I think people will kind of be able to understand the struggles we had there. I was really amazed with these guys in the band and really amazed with our fans. We got a lot of strength from them and we were able to keep it going. It finally feels that now, after all that time spent mourning and healing, I feel that we are able to step back out into the light now and good things are going to start happening again.

Over the years GWAR has slaughtered virtually everybody of importance or fame. Mike Tyson, Presidents Bush, Clinton and Obama, Hitler… You name them and GWAR has killed them. Has there ever been a time where you or somebody else in the band turned down an idea or said something like, dude that’s going too far. We can’t do that!

The only time we did was when we were in England on our European tour. It was when Princess Di died in that fucking car crash. The guys in the band wanted to do some sort of Princess Di thing that night while we were still in England. They were like we gotta fucking do something right now! Let’s throw something together, man! Now, my mom is from England and my dad is from Scotland so I knew much better than the rest of the guys how much people loved Lady Di. Even GWAR fans, to a certain extent (know that). But I guess I was the one that chickened out and cautioned against it [laughs]. It was that night or the next day and I was like dudes we would be really asking for trouble if we did this. But looking back, I’m like why were you such a fucking pussy, bro?!

Yeah, but with you guys being in the UK at the time, if GWAR did something who knows what would have happened to you?

Oh yeah! Our bus would have flipped over, rocks would have been thrown at us, people would have used torches and set fire to us and everything else. Or we could have gone to jail. It could have been really, really bad. The people of England were really pissed and we would have given them a perfect target to unleash their anger on. That was the only time; everything else (ideas) has been completely fine.

GWAR set the standard a long time ago with the costumes, the crazy stage show, etc. Over the years there have been the likes of Green Jellö, Slipknot, Mudvayne, etc. who have the masks, the stage show, the craziness. With that said and considering the success some of those bands have had, has it become more difficult over the years to stay relevant?

Not at all. A lot of bands are far more successful than us anyway. They sell more records, have bigger tours and whatever, so it’s really not a competition. If you’re going to judge it as a competition in terms of how much money we make, then they’ve won. GWAR has always been about doing the kind of performance, the kind of art that we’ve always wanted to do. We’ve never set out to be – and I don’t know if any of these other bands have – set out to be a “hit rock & roll band” or whatever. What other bands do doesn’t really have an impact on what we do.

What GWAR did and what we’ve always done is that theatrical rock thing where a lot of other bands weren’t doing it. So when bands like Slipknot and Marilyn Manson and Ghost can come around years later and take it to the next level, we were a part of that chain. But no one in my mind has really touched what GWAR has done. GWAR fulfills this certain niche because GWAR is basically a comedy act, you know? We are trying to make people laugh at the most heinous shit out there. So I don’t think anybody tries to do what we do at the level that we do and nobody works as hard at getting the message out there as us. There’s really nothing you can really compare GWAR with. There are bands that have elements of what we do, but we’re pretty much a singular monstrosity.

Back when you started GWAR, did you ever envision staying around this long and achieving the sort of stature and success that you have?

No, not at all. We started out basically as a joke band in Richmond, Virginia. We did it just for fun but then it rapidly started to explode but now nothing surprises me anymore. A long time ago it blew all the preconceptions of what I thought GWAR could do. I’m constantly surprised at what we can do as artists and musicians. The future is wide open and it can go anywhere from here.

How many celebrities – actors, non-metal musicians, athletes – have you found out to be GWAR fans?

Ah, not too many. John Cusack used to hang out with us and we have a couple of football star friends. I think a lot of people know about GWAR but don’t necessarily know us. We’re just a bunch of Richmond rednecks; we don’t really know too many famous people.

When you’re performing, what is the most annoying: instrument malfunction, the fake blood/jizz not squirting out properly, or one of the slaves/victims forgetting to come onstage when he’s supposed to?

Oh, when the piss or the jizz doesn’t come out, or when we knock the dude’s head off and the blood doesn’t squirt out, that’s the most annoying. They do the best job they can but when something like that happens, I’ll go backstage and start yelling at everybody. [laughs] It’s terrible.

What about when one of the slaves or victims forgets to come onstage at a specific time?

Yeah that’s annoying as fuck, but those things are going to happen because it’s such a chaotic performance. But you just got to roll with it and I’ve gotten really good at improv-ing over the years.

How much pressure do you put on those guys?

We run a pretty loose ship, really. We expect so much from our people that we try to give them as much freedom as possible. And we give them as much responsibility and initiative as they can handle. It seems to function pretty well. I’m not sure how we do it because there’s no real chain of command and I don’t ride people. I learned a long time ago that you don’t really get a lot out of people by yelling at them. Everybody takes care of each other; we’re like a big, weird dysfunctional family and we all have each other’s backs. It’s our little pirate ship and we all take care of each other.

How often do people try to get hired on to help GWAR on tour?

Oh, all the time.

How many times do people contact you? Is it hundreds a week?

Oh no, it’s more like ten to twenty a month. Something like that. But constantly we’re reviewing resumes because we want to check these guys out and occasionally, sure, they’ll wind up working for GWAR.

How do these people even apply? Do they send you videos of them being crazy? Do they come to the Slave Pit? How does that application process work?

Everything. It’s so easy now with the Internet and all the technology. People will send us pictures of work they’ve been doing, shit like that. But we’ve got so many people working for us now that we generally don’t hire new people. Generally if we can get people to work for free, we’ll hire them.

How often does Lordi pay GWAR royalties?

[laughs loudly] They should be doing that all the time [laughs]. We’ve gone back and forth with Lordi all the time. They were going to open up for GWAR over here and we were going to open up for them over there (Europe) and every night Lordi and Oderus were going to fight but we never got it sorted out. They were too wimpy.

On a serious note; are you guys cool with Lordi?

Oh yeah, we have no problem with them. Once again, there’s a band that kind of has elements of GWAR in it, but it’s just like we have elements of KISS and Alice Cooper in us. They (Cooper and KISS) inspired us. We are all members of the same tribe but we’ve just taken it to a more underground, more fucked up level.

Autopsy, Carcass, Atheist, Black Sabbath… All these great old bands are reforming all over the place. So when is X-Cops going to reunite?

[gives a sly smile] There are rumors that there might be an X-Cops performance at this year’s GWAR-B-Q and if that happens, the possibility of an album and a tour are strong.

Talk about the GWAR-B-Q. This is the fourth year you’ve done it and you’ve got some solid bands like Municipal Waste, Corrosion of Conformity and Pig Destroyer, among others.

It’s going to be awesome. Every year it gets bigger. We have our own barbeque sauce – GWAR-B-Q Sauce – and we have our own beer – Impaled Ale – and we’ve become quite the corporate merchandising powerhouse. We’ve been prostituting ourselves at every level. So, yeah, last year’s GWAR-B-Q had about 2000 people and this year we expect about twice that. It just gets bigger and bigger every year and to see these things like Bonnaroo and Coachella become these institutions of music, I don’t see why the GWAR-B-Q can’t do the same thing.

If it became big enough, do you envision seeing it becoming a travelling GWAR-B-Q?

Oh yeah! We are already getting offers to bring the GWAR-B-Q to different cities and I can definitely see that happening. I’ll tell you this: I can also see the GWAR Bar happening here in Las Vegas, too. A bar that is also a museum of all things GWAR. That’d be so cool.

It’s funny because bands like Iron Maiden, Slayer, Anthrax, Opeth and countless others have released various items like blankets, model airplanes, beers, shot glasses, socks and so many other things. When these bands do it, a large chunk of the metal community cries out that they are becoming too corporate and/or are just money-hungry posers. However, whenever GWAR releases something that is not a video or album, it’s always cool. Everybody loves it and supports it. Why do you think this is?

[laughs] I don’t know. I think it’s because people see how dedicated we are to what we’re doing. There’s no doubt that when you see GWAR in action, the people in those costumes are serious and they’re going through hell. You have be half crazy to want to do that to yourself. I don’t know! For some reason we get unlimited cool points from people. We can get away with murder but it doesn’t matter. Whatever we do, people are cool with it. I think when people look at what we’ve done over the years, they’re like GWAR, a long time ago you proved that you were for real. You go ahead and do whatever the fuck you want!


  1. Commented by: Jono

    Great interview. I was won over by Gwar back when America had to be Destroyed, and their albums have gotten better and better – Beyond Hell is a favorite.

    I remember going to their gig a few years back when my parents were staying with me in London…and I got a few funny looks coming back home covered in blood. I think my mum thought I got attacked on the Tube.

    Hope that Gwar movie gets made….

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