After over 25 years of wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting human population, GWAR has faced a tragedy of their own. Although the intergalactic band of heavy metal space barbarians has spent the last 25 years brutalizing the human populace, just over a year ago, their guitarist Flattus Maximus was called back to the stars and one of their most favored servants, Cory Smoot, suddenly passed away due to a previously unknown genetic heart defect. The loss came at a particularly harsh time for the band, for over the past six years, they had been steadily increasing in artistic expression and popularity. It even seemed like that they might finally break from an underground act into one that could actually pay its bills!
In order to see how the band was handling the loss, and to see why GWAR's slaves continue in their wretched servitude, staff writer John Gentile met up with both the bands fearsome vocalist, Oderus Urungus, and the band's longest surviving slave, Dave Brockie to talk about the loss of their members, mortality itself, and of course, the debauchery of San Francisco.
Two years ago, in a lapse of good judgment, I decided to travel up to the Arctic to interview GWAR in their own Ice Fortress. In a bit of unique fortune, I was able to get an unprecedented interview with GWAR's longest surviving human slave, Dave Brockie. However, during the interview, GWAR vocalist Oderus Urungus kicked down the door and proceeded to beat Brockie into unconsciousness while I barely escaped with my own life.
I've felt bad about that ever since. It would seem that on that day, at least, I thought only of my own well being. Had I been not so timid, perhaps I could have rescued Brockie from Urungus' dreadful claws instead of simply fleeing for my own self.
But, when I found out that GWAR would be playing a show in San Francisco, my own back yard, I realized that I had a chance to rectify my wrong. I then devised a plan to draw out Urungus from the enclave of his touring caravan, who would no doubt have Brockie in tow. While I mollycoddled Urungus with an indulgent interview, Brockie would be able to sneak away unnoticed, thereby freeing himself from the chains of his captors!
On the day of the show, I stalk out the War Caravan's location. I identify Urungus' vehicle by the number of dog and infant carcasses littered around its general location and put my plan into effect. Similarly to the famous scene in E.T. where Drew Barrymore leaves a line of Skittles for her alien friend to follow, I leave a trail for Urungus leading from the vehicle to a room reserved at a local flop house in the Tenderloin district (except, in lieu of Skittles, I use crack rocks). With my plan engaged, I sit back and wait for my subject to arrive.
Within the hour, the door to my dingy room bursts off the hinges and falls forward onto the floor. At the door-well is the beast himself, Oderus Urungus. He takes two last deep puffs on his crack pipe, sees that its contents are extinguished, stares off into space, and then finally stumbles into the room.
It is then that I notice that in the fearsome alien's left hand is a heavy chain that leads to a thick collar tied around the neck of my objective, Dave Brockie himself! Urungus drags Brockie, who was on all fours, inside like an exhausted canine.
Seeing that Urungus is in a state of diminished clarity, I begin my gambit and bluff, "Ah, Yes, Mr. Urungus, it is nice to meet you. Thank you for agreeing to do an interview with us."
Unable or unwilling to exercise the effort to determine if my claims were true, Urungus plops down in the chair opposite from me while Brockie slinks off into a corner, and begins to rock back and forth.
I then open my notebook, but Urungus became unresponsive. Again, he looks off into space, staring at an empty wall for minutes. He then mechanically rises from his chair, walks over to the prone Brockie, and delivers a kick to his human slave's torso that sends the poor man rolling across the floor. Urungus then nonchalantly returns to his chair, folds one leg over the other, titls back his head, and announces, "I am now ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille."
No matter how fearsome Urungus is on stage, up close he is ten fold worse. His horrible face has a burnt/boil complexion. A pig like snout functions as his nose while his beady, coal black eyes peer from over the ridge. A series of devil-like horns jut up from the crown of his skull, while an enlarged dome, which seems to be a soft carapace containing a loosely grafted brain is on the top. Indeed, tell tale surgery scars wrap around his head, leaving evidence of the alien's hundreds of brain grafts.
But, while his countenance is terrifying in of itself, the effect is amplified by his clothing. Massive iron shoulder-pads, each with a four foot blade, rest upon his shoulders, while a protective breastplate featuring a medusa like character hangs around his neck. Meanwhile, his massive hands and feet end in heavy black nails, which are constantly clacking and dragging themselves along nearby surfaces, leaving ruts that would be similar to the damage left by an axe.
And of course, the most ghastly aspect of his appearance is the two foot long "penis" that hangs from between his legs. A different color than the rest of his skin, the organ has its own set of eyes and mouth. Named the "Cuttlefish of Cthulhu," it is in a constant of arousal, perpetually slithering back and fourth, and making the most repulsive "slurping" sound- an effect that is likely similar to if one amplified the noise of a maggot feasting by 1,000 times.
Oderus stares back at me and begins to grow impatient, so I begin my plan to distract him enough for Brockie to escape the clutches of his captor.
"Recently, your long time guitar player Flattus Maximus left the band for his home planet," I ask. "What happened?"
"He stole our space ship!" Oderus growls. "He left us here‚?¶ I don't know why he was called back to the home-world. We'll continue to do what we do!"
Flattus' departure came at an especially tragic time for the band. Worse, nearly simultaneously with Flattus' departure form the band, long time GWAR slave, Cory Smoot, tragically passed away while on tour due to a previously unknown genetic heart defect.
"We will give people a chance to say goodbye. It's been an intense period. It's been the most intense thing a band could go through," Oderus states mournfully.
Both GWAR's fans and their surviving slaves have taken the loss especially hard. But, to understand why the death of one mortal was so devastating to a collection of aliens and human slaves who have annihilated thousands, it's important to first understand GWAR's history.
Hundreds of thousands of years ago, GWAR was a group of intergalactic marauders, unleashing havoc on the universe. Yet, after trying to revolt on their "Master," an amorphous ageless creature, the band was trapped on earth. Somehow, while on exile on earth, the band became encased in polar ice caps.
By mere coincidence, New Jersey "promotor" Sleazy P. Martini stumbled on the imprisoned band, freed them from their glacial prison, and got them addicted to drugs. He then began to parade them for profit as a heavy metal band.
GWAR's first three LP's, 1988's Hello-O, 1990's Scumdogs of the Universe, and 1992's America Must Be Destroyed were classics of thrash metal. Each detailed GWAR's never-ending crusade of destruction to muscular, vicious metal riffs. And, if you ask a few particularly damaged critics, the band even managed to slip in some social commentary on censorship and the human race as a whole if you listen carefully enough.
It was also this time when GWAR developed their unparalleled live shows. More passion plays than mere concerts, the band would regularly bring racist rednecks, pedophile priests, and corrupt cops on stage only to rip them to shreds and spray the blood on the eager audience.
But, after their initial success, they seemed to loose their focus, releasing a string of goofy albums that contained numerous novelty, or joke songs, with their ebb being 1999's We Kill Everything, which instead of featuring the band as a group of fierce killers, found them dallying with the unfortunately named "Scroda Moon," who had a chin resembling human testicles.
But, just when it was seemed that GWAR, who had once roamed the galaxy as its most terrifying warlords, would end as nothing more than a group of aliens that sang about talking toilets, an eager young GWAR fan named Corey Smoot had found his way into GWAR's clutches. Now a part of GWAR's slaves, it turned out that, like Flattus, Smoot was also a guitar player.
It seemed that Flattus had taken a shine to Smoot, because just after Smoot joined the group, the band released their comeback LP, 2004's War Party. Gone were the silly songs about Billy Joel and Elton John set to third wave ska. In their stead were massive riffs and crushing instrumentation. GWAR was nasty again‚?¶ and really, really, really good.
It had seemed that with GWAR's instrumentation beefed back up, Urungus' himself was re-energized. Instead of wasting his days with the "Nitro Burnin' Funny Bong" leftover from 1999, he formed the "War Party," a political party and Super-PAC whose sole intent was to destroy the world through nuclear warfare.
Although Urungus' plan for nuclear annihilation failed, it sent a chain reaction for all successive albums up through their most recent release, 2010's Bloody Pit of Horror to have that classic GWAR thrashing, but also modern sound and some of their most biting lyrics to date. GWAR was again gaining popularity and it was at a time of creative fruition for the group. Simply put, they were making the best music of their career.
But then, as seems to be the cycle for the band, just as they were once again breaking through, tragedy struck. Guitarist Flattus Maximus left for his home-world and the creative force that seemed to revitalize the band, Cory Smoot, was found lifeless on the tour bus.
Urungus looks back to the day he learned that both Flattus had departed the group and one of his favorite minions had suddenly passed. He comments on how the group threw a benefit in Smoot's honor and how after each show for a year, they ended with a spotlight on Flattus' guitar, "It has been intense. But, not only did we come through with honesty and class, we wrote the book on how to handle it."
"You guys have been an amazing supporter of GWAR and we really appreciate it," he continues. "It has been a real difficult time and we've been able to get through the most difficult thing to get through, and the fan support has been amazing‚?¶ I just wish Flattus and Cory were here to enjoy it‚?¶"
Remembering that for the last eon, Urungus has been an unstoppable killing machine, dispatching thousands, I wonder "does that mean that GWAR has feelings?"
Urungus nods, "To the fans, it has exposed a side of GWAR that would never have otherwise occurred‚?¶ a side that has feelings. We actually do have feelings. Flattus would want us to continue."
So then, what does continue mean? Will GWAR remain a four piece? Will they clone another Flattus? "Flattus will not return," Urungus announces. "We are not going to continue as a four piece, either. We want to be able to play our entire back catalogue. After this tour, we will begin our search for a new scumdog. We're not sure how long that will take."
I find that to be interesting, because not one month prior to the interview, Urungus tweeted a picture of the band recording the new album in the studio. "We actually have started it," he acknowledges. "But, really, it will take a while. We can't do it without a new guitar player. At this point, I think we will shift gears and try to find a new guitar player. Hopefully we will have an album by early next year."
Intrigued, I reply, "It seems that Flattus' departure and Smoot's passing seems to have hit the band quite hard. Even though you are an ageless intergalactic killing machine, has this brush with death caused you to contemplate your own mortality?"
"Well, no, not really," Oderus grunts. "I've been trying to kill myself since I was born. My brain has been transferred to my balls. When people try to rip out my skull, it's empty. Flattus went back to outer space with our ship‚?¶ I do suppose the same thing could happen to any of us, but we would still continue to do what we do."
One of the things that GWAR does, namely, is drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. So many drugs. Urungus frequently will bring out a nine ton crack boulder on stage and smoke it, though the effects on his alien physiology seem to be far less severe than on our delicate human bodies. But, being that we are in San Francisco, I can't resist asking, "Oderus, what do you do for fun in San Francisco, the Sodom of America?"
His eyes light up, "We just love to go to San Francisco! You don't try to do anything. San Francisco happens to you. San Francisco itself is a drug!"
I believe that in his answer, Urungus has caught himself in a contradiction. One one hand, he lauds San Francisco for its debauchery, but for the past 25 years he has been ranting about how he can't wait to escape earth's confines. "You know, you haven't been able to escape from earth for the past 25 years," I challenge the beast. "I think you like it here."
"Yeah, it does have its advantages," he says absentmindedly, seemingly called to a another place. "We are stuck here for the time being. The drugs, the rock and roll, the hot chicks, and my new TV show, Holliston, I like that. Besides, we do rip off the world maggots head every night, but it does have its charm."
In his explanation of the contradiction, Urungus catches himself in another contradiction. For the past 20 years, off and on, the band has been releasing the "World Maggot" near the end of their shows. Just before their encore, the band allows the giant worm to slither on stage and they force nubile young women into its mouth where the girls are ground into meat and digested by the gross creature. The purpose of which, is that upon maturity, the maggot will serve as a beast of burden that the band can ride into space and away from earth's pull. However, without fail, after the band feeds the world maggot its nightly meal, the band themselves battle with it, and usually end up ripping off its head.
"So, if the world maggot is your only current method of escape from earth," I ponder, "then why do you rip off its head every night."
Urungus shrugs, "I really don't understand it, We just love violence. I just can't help it."
Then suddenly, without warning, the massive alien stands up, looks at the wall across the room, and smashes through it into the adjacent hotel room, leaving an Urungus-shaped hole, not dissimilar to the effect seen in classic Loony Tunes Cartoons.
Now, just Brockie and I are alone in the room. By now he has shaken himself into consciousness, and I motion to the door, signaling that now is the time for him to make his break.
But instead, he looks at me and declares, "Oderus would be completely lost without me! As much as he pretends to be some big, cool rock star, he's not shit!"
Confounded, I ask why Brockie seems to think that GWAR needs him, despite the continuous beatings, torture, and other unmentionable horrors inflicted upon him. "I dunno," Brockie shrugs. "GWAR is the hardest working band in show business and without the slaves, the whole thing would fall apart. I can't imagine it happening any other way."
So, then, it seems that GWAR has organized their human pets to actually run the gears of the operation why the band themselves lounges in decadence. Equally intrigued and horrified, I ask "So, what is a typical day like for a GWAR salve?"
"We get up around eleven AM, load into the club, and spend the day setting up the shows," Brockie explains. "Then GWAR does their interviews, we do a soundcheck, grab some dinner. There's a lot of free time. You just have to keep yourself busy. Hobbies help. Then, it's show time!"
Brockie's eyes disturbingly light up as he describes in detail what exactly occurs at a GWAR concert. The content of which is too profane to print here, but it suffices to say, a typical GWAR show involves dismemberment of celebrities (Snookie for example, on this tour) the spraying of bodily fluids on the audience, and of course, a LOT of muscular, energetic heavy metal.
"Afterwards we break down the show," Brockie concludes. "We drive off to the next city, I fall asleep in the bus, and the next day I wake up in a city 500 miles from where I went to bed."
I notice that even Brockie's description of the band's live show centers on their physical presence. But, I wonder if Brockie ever gets frustrated that the theatrics are all most of the audience sees. Despite the explosive visual component, GWAR has been sly enough to tackle subjects in a nuanced manner. They did mock the American political process during the 2008 election. During the rise of the PMRC, the band eviscerated Tipper Gore, and the concept of censorship on a nightly basis. In their epic "Whargoul," the band pondered the lasting effects of WWII on civilization and the individuals involved.
"Do you ever get frustrated that some people focus only on GWAR's violent aspects and neglect to see the band's other messages and references?" I wonder.
"Oh yeah, not everyone is going to get all the references," Brockie maintains his elevated interest. "We have historical metaphors and symbolism and other stuff that we do. A lot of people are going to appreciate GWAR for the obvious reasons, and that's a lot of fun. But, there is a different level of people that are really into GWAR, and they can take it further. It is the biggest leveled onion ever."
"So, does it bother you when people fail to see GWAR's less obvious messages?" I query.
Brockie quickly rebuts my question, "It doesn't bother me if people don't appreciate GWAR a certain way. It's not up to me to tell people how to appreciate art. Anyone can get anything out of it- it doesn't matter."
Admittedly, I am somewhat horrified to learn that Brockie refers to GWAR's endless campaign of slaughter as "art." Believing that he may have been damaged or traumatized from two and half decades of brutality, I ask whether he feels he has been warped beyond recovery.
"Oh completely!" Brockie responds with an unsettling enthusiasm. "I'm just a broken travesty! I have been completely enslaved. I have no family. A few fans. No off spring. No girlfriends. No pets. My life has been a constant servitude and I have no choice!"
"But considering the alternative," Brockie asserts. "I expected to do construction. It gives me so much freedom. Sure there are days where I say, 'what the fuck am I doing?' But, I really couldn't imagine doing anything else."
Just then, Urungus smashes back through the wall, merely a foot a way from his previous hole, and on the other side of him, just two feet from the adjacent door. However, now he is carrying what appears to be the bloody remains of a human arm.
Brockie and I stare at awe at the massive extraterrestrial, and I realize, just then, that in my own interest in Brockie's warped psyche, again I have cost Brockie his chance of escaping the manacles of GWAR!
Urungus pauses, noticing both Brockie's and my own surprise. The alien asks, "Oh, is there something on my face?" He then uses the fingers of the severed limb to wipe his face.
Still Brockie and I remain silent, so Urungus then asks, "Oh! I get it! My fly must be down!" He then looks down at his waist and realizes, that as per usual, he is not wearing pants and his genitals are perpetually swinging out in the open.
The alien savage shrugs, walks over to Brockie and grabs him by his ankle. Brockie doesn't seem to resist as Urungus pulls him out the door and down the hotel's hallway.
For a moment I think to make one last dash to try and save the broken man before he again disappears. But I realize, Brockie was gone long before I ever met him.