For a monster, Oderus Urungus is very well-spoken. And his creator, Dave Brockie, is probably smarter than you.
Both—which are actually one—act as frontman for GWAR, the satirical metal band that's been making loud, aggressive, light-a-chainsaw-on-fire music for the past 28 years. They've released records with names like Lust in Space, This Toilet Earth, and America Must Be Destroyed. Next month, the group releases their 13th record, Battle Maximus, an LP that somehow manages to enter another realm of scary. Below, get a taste and listen to our premiere of "Bloodbath," a blazing, twisted single from Battle Maximus.
This is the group's first recorded music since Cory Smoot, the man playing lead guitarist Flattus Maximus, passed away in the fall of 2011 due to a pre-existing coronary artery disease. They've since replaced him with Cannibas Corpse guitarist Brent Purgason, but the hole Smoot left is still raw. In preparation of the album release, Brockie—and Oderus—spoke to Noisey candidly about the obstacles his loss brought, how it affected the recording, and how they moved on. He also talked about this weekend's GWAR-B-Q in Richmond, VA, and how comedy is one of the best tools to get a message across.
But don't worry—he did all of this without "sounding like a fucking hippy."
Noisey: What number of GWAR B-Q is this?
Oderus Urungus/Dave Brockie: There’s been at least ten over the years, but this is the fourth one in a row where we actually brought the concept back. After we’d played at Bonnaroo, and after we’d played at Gathering of the Juggalos, we were like, if a bunch of hippies and clowns can do this, so can we. And it’s getting bigger every year, and we don’t seem to have a hard time getting really incredible bands to play. It's become a music festival. Also with producing our own beer and our own GWAR B-Q sauce, it’s proven that there’s no limit to the depths of prostitution that we will subject ourselves to.
What kind of beer are you guys producing?
I suppose you would call it a pale ale. They say it’s hoppy, whatever that fucking means. It makes me happy that it’s hoppy. It’s 5.5, so it’s stronger than your regular Budweiser piss. That makes me mad about the Europeans, when they’re like, [affects accent] “Oh, you Americans, you drink Budweiser. It does not even have alcohol in it.” Budweiser is fuckin’ 5.0! It will get you drunk, and it does have fuckin’ formaldehyde in it as well, which gets you fucked up in other ways! I don’t even know. [starts shouting] And I’ll tell you, those fucks in Europe who fuckin’ started two world wars, they don’t have fucking Joose—J-O-O-Z-E, or whatever that shit is—I don’t know why, but they should. Maybe they’d lighten up.
Do you have a favorite type of beer?
Oh, of course, Gwar beer. Yes, I’ll be the one to blow my own horn. I can also suck my own dick. It’s not so much of a feat when you consider it’s three feet long. Actually, it’s not a dick at all, but I still enjoy sucking it. Anyway, beer. I love to get drunk, but beer? Can’t get drunk with beer. I just simply cannot drink enough beer to get me drunk. But I like all kinds of shit. I’m a fan of more of the pilsners and the lagers. I like to drink—before I go on stage—I like to drink booze. It gets me battle hot. And lately it’s been Maker’s Mark. There’s been lots of it.
Have you heard of Templeton Rye?
You should check it out. It’s actually from my hometownish in Western Iowa. It used to get bootlegged during Prohibition by Al Capone. Our single claim to fame.
Well believe it or not, I’m actually making a note of that, and I will give this to one of my slaves, and next time they come to me, and they’re like, “Oderus, is there anything I can do for you?” I’m like, [demon voice] “Yes. Get me this. Within five minutes.” And they will fail, and I will punish them for this.
How will you punish them?
Oh God. I’m kind of an old-fashioned guy; I just like beating people. When I’m fighting for my life against Super Cyborg Jesus, I will use my legendary two-handed bastard sword, Lick. And a lot of people, they see the runes on Lick, they writhe like worms, and they wonder what they mean, and translated roughly, it means, one side says, “Billions and billions served,” and the other side says “Thank you, come again.” But when I’m punishing, I like just to do it with my hands. Or a hot glue gun. I find a hot glue gun up the butt is very fucking painful. Oh, also, here’s another good one: fiberglass hardener. Replace someone’s contact lens fluid with fiberglass hardener. That gets ‘em every time, melts their eyes!
You guys have a new record coming out in about a month. How do you feel about it right now? It’s your 13th record. That's a lot of records.
It is the 13th record. It’s a big record for us, because it’s not two years ago, Flattus Maximus, our very talented lead guitar player, returned to the stars to fulfill his cosmic destiny. And Flattus was basically kind of the scum dog of the band that has led us back into the metal fold. A lot of people seem to think that I hate albums like We Kill Everything that have songs like “Fucking an Animal” and “Fishfuck”—they’re very silly. And yeah, I was writing silly records for a while. I don’t hate them, but I saw the need to kinda get back to our metal records. The records were perhaps getting a little self-indulgent. And Flattus led that charge, and the last four records have just been getting increasingly heavier and heavier. Until of course Bloody Pit of Horror, we actually tuned down and did a lot of eight-string stuff, and it’s just super fucking heavy, and the tone is stridently dark for a Gwar record.
Then we lost Flattus, and everyone was like, after Flattus is gone, what’s gonna happen with Gwar? Are they gonna even continue? So we took our time and then we held the Battle Maximus. We blew the ancient Horn of Hate, which summoned all the Maximuses from across the galaxy, all of which just happened to play guitar—really well, by the way—and they fought each other in Antarctica—and do you know how many people cannot spell the word Antarctica? Anyway, Pustulus Maximus emerged as the victor, and then we plunged into the writing of the new album. We did not try to emulate the style of Flattus. We did not try to write in the same style. We let the band go. And it kind of just progressed very naturally, very organically, if you will—I DON’T WANT TO SOUND LIKE A FUCKING HIPPIE—but it just started happening. Pustulus is an amazing guitar player. His bombs, his sweeps, his noodle work—every bit as adept as Flattus, but in a different way. So I’d have to say maybe the sound of the record is a bit more on the thrash metal side, rather than the darker, heavier shit that we were doing on the last record. It’s gonna be up to the fans when they hear it. We’re getting a very good reaction on the first track that we let out, “Madness at the Core of Time,” because of course, the album, we’re trying to figure out what the band is gonna sound like, we’re trying to tell the next chapter in the story of Gwar, which isn’t easy. At the same time, through all of that, we’re also paying homage to Flattus. It’s our deepest conceptual work yet. I’m fucking proud of shit of it now, of course. I say that about every record. But we worked our ass off and we’re happy with it.
Talk to me a little bit about what the last two years was like, what that loss was like, and what it’s been like to pay homage to him.
Well, he’s with us every moment. His face is all over our recording studio, and that was one of the more poignant things about this process is that Flattus had designed the studio, and we were getting ready to record the record there, and all of the sudden we found ourselves without him. But we couldn’t let him down, and we couldn’t let the fans down either. This might sound strange, but when confronted with the most difficult situation that you possibly can deal with, I immediately saw it as an opportunity to rise to a higher level than ever before, to show everyone, all those Gwar naysayers out there who still after 28 years do not recognize the titanic effect that we have had on culture, it’s yet another way to say to them, “Fuck you. We’re better than you. And we’re not gonna let anything stop us. And we’re gonna take this as an opportunity not only to honor our fallen scum dog brothers but to show everyone that the mighty Gwar—I fucking am goddamn serious that Gwar is a band that will last a million fucking years. We have a lot more to do with Beatlemania than Black Sabbath.
That makes sense. Recording in the studio he built had to have been an interesting experience.
Yes definitely, and many of the songs on the record deal directly with the feelings and the pain of that experience. But there was a certain comfort in knowing that we were doing the right thing, and that he would’ve approved. I don’t think any of us could’ve lived with ourselves if we’d folded it up and just said, “Ah fuck it, we can’t do this without him, and we’re gonna go back down to Antarctica and smoke crack for the rest of our lives.” No. We pushed forward, and I think he’d be very proud of us.
What other things did you feel like came out with the new record? As a band that’s been around for 28 years and wants to be around for a million years, it’s gotta be challenging discovering new ways to push and new directions to go.
Well, this year we faced not only the challenge of working in a new band member but also telling, as I said, the next level of the Gwar epic. And surprisingly, this time the threat came from the future—a creature from the future called Mr. Perfect. I don’t know if we can use that, there was a wrestler called that already. But apparently, the story goes that sometime in the future, the near future, an apocalypse rips apart this planet and burns off about the first 50 meters of the topsoil. Now, there’s two types of humans that survive this holocaust: One, the privileged elites who are in there air-conditioned bomb shelters gobbling stem cells and fucking each other, and then there are the workers that just happen to be in mines, or maybe they were spelunking, or they were working at the Wal-Mart underground warehouse, I don’t know—they return to the surface world and reclaim the planet while below, the Perfects, over a course of 500 years, turn into these hideous fucking creatures. So basically, the only thing Mr. Perfect lacked was the secret of immortality. So he creates this hideous machine, travels back in time with the mission of cutting off my balls because that is the biggest concentration of jizzmoglobin in the universe, which is, of course, the very stuff of life. So we told this story as well, and just plunged into it. And we set the number at 16, was how many songs we were gonna write. We didn’t put ‘em all on the record. And at this point, the answer to this question has become so long-winded, I can’t even really remember what the question was.
I was curious what you were exploring on the new record.
Yeah. It’s the concept of the haves and the have-nots. Maybe it’s our comment on Obamacare, which seems so doomed to failure. Healthcare should be a universal thing that all humans have so they can die healthily for Gwar. Instead, basically, much like your justice system, it seems to run on how much money you have. We attack that idea.
Something that’s so fascinating about Gwar to me is how over-the-top yet poignant what the band does is. What does operating in such an extreme way allow you to do as an artist?
Retain your integrity at all times, which is the first and foremost thing. Being godlike beings from outer space who really have no use for money other than wiping our asses with it, it’s never been a motivational factor. A lot of people, they’re like, “Why are you always ragging on Rob Zombie?” Well it’s because, I have nothing against the creature personally, but I do find his work unoriginal, banal and derivative. I can go anywhere and see flashing Frankenstein heads. I can watch Frankenstein and see the original version of it that’s a lot better. But it goes deeper than that. I read a quote from Rob some 20 years ago, and somebody asked him about Gwar. He’s like, “Oh yeah, Gwar. I love Gwar. When I saw Gwar I said to myself, ‘I wanna do that, except I wanna make money doing it.’” And that to me was such a revolting concept. It’s like, do you think Michaelangelo was worrying about money? Do you think Van Gogh gave a fuck about money? Do you think Johnny Rotten gave a fuck about money? Well, maybe Johnny Rotten, a little bit. After all, he was on the People’s Court, and he did damn well. But yeah, we’re unassailable because no one has ever stuck to their guns like Gwar has. We’ve embraced our place as the masters of the underworld. And as they say, it’s better to reign in hell than serve in heaven. It's a beautiful feeling. I don’t care what happens with Gwar. I know that we have got more street cred than any band ever. And that’s a good feeling. Maybe it’s not street cred, more like tundra cred. I’m not sure.
Throughout your lengthy career, how have you seen yourselves retaining that street cred? There’s this quote that I always like to come back to: “Your morals are easy to keep when nobody’s offering to buy them out.”
Yeah, it is easy to keep your integrity when no one’s offering to buy it. And that’s why we’ve always kept our product so onerous because we never made any attempts to sell out. I’ve made a point of going through my career with a three-foot dick, Cuttlefish of Cthulhu, and my ass hanging out as I butt fuck the Pope. It’s as easy to attack the institutions I feel are corrupt, fucked, wrong—it’s as easy to attack them as it is to drag them up on stage and kick the living shit out of them. If there wasn’t a real power to it, if there wasn’t a tremendous amount of talent to it, and dedication, then Gwar would not have been going for 28 years. We wouldn’t have just played at the This Is Hardcore festival in Philadelphia. They stuck us on the This Is Hardcore festival as the headliners, even though we’re not really a hardcore band, and most of the people there are really not Gwar fans. But when we played, there was no doubt who the masters of the day were. And by the end of it we had quite a few extra fans.
A lot of people don’t understand, they just don’t get it. A lot of people involved in the music industry—the smart ones usually go into management or work for labels. A lot of the musicians aren’t too bright. And just because they’re in a band, they start to think that they are. And an idiot on a soapbox is an idiot nonetheless. I’ve always felt, for all the clowning around, that Gwar had something very, very serious to say. And I think everybody feels that. Anyone with half a fucking brain can see that. And it’s really, really difficult to do that in a comedic sense. At the end of the day, Gwar is a comedy act, and metal has a great tradition of comedy. But there’s really not that many comedy metal bands. And Gwar has always just been hilarious. Everything that we’ve done, and everything that we do in front of people, it just makes me laugh, and laugh, and laugh, and laugh. And believe me, I’m not laughing all the way to the bank. We still spend all the money we make on our monster and making sure it’s the best one out there. I see these other bands coming out and putting on some masks, they got some other band to make, got somebody else to make for them, and it’s just like, I get it, it’s cool, been there done that, has no intellectual meat, has no spiritual force, has no revolutionary appeal, therefore it is banal, uninteresting, and ultimately, stupid.
Comedy is such an interesting tool to get a message across. You’re able to channel into this human side while people are laughing or joking around, but still being able to slip in an underlying message of some sort.
Yeah, I’m not talking about Dane Cook comedy, I’m talking about Bill Hicks, I’m talking about Lenny Bruce, but I am talking about the physical comedy of a lot of these more contemporary performers that I’m not really so up on. To me, Kaufman, Steve Martin, Belushi, these were my heroes as I was growing into Gwar, and my inspirations. Something about the Canadians, they’re funny people for some reason. To use comedy as satire, as sarcasm, is actually one of the most difficult ways to make art. And that’s why not a ton of people do it, and the ones that do generally are really, really good at it. And I’m not saying that we’re really good at it, because believe it or not, Oderus tries to be humble—I do—but no one’s taken our crown. And no one ever will. No one would dare to even try because they would be revealed as the complete posers and idiots that they are. When I read these interviews with dudes in bands who drone on and on at the mouth, and they don’t even know—they just toured Europe, but they probably couldn’t find it on a map. They talk about how hot their jumpsuits are, or how some dude stole something from them. It’s just like, why does anyone care about that, and don’t you have anything better to say? It reminds me a lot of sports figures—guys who have all their lives been trained to chase balls, yet they are asked questions by trained sportscasters with college educations who actually did study programs where they actually had to go to classes, and these guys buy into it and ask them the questions: “How did you feel when you caught the ball?” And the dude sits up there in his beautiful $8,000 suit, he’s like, “I felt good when I caught the ball I ran with it.” What tripe! What drivel! What happened to Shakespeare? I don’t know.
I love that, the halftime interviews they do even with coaches too. It’s just like the same damn thing every single time.
Oh yeah, it’s like watching Tiger Woods to talk. Their agents teach them to speak in this certain way. They don’t want them to be controversial. I’m not saying all of these people are stupid. There’s actually people out there that are successful at athletics that are probably very intelligent. But they’re encouraged to keep their views to themselves, and they certainly don’t wanna upset the apple cart, because they know where the money’s coming from.
Thank you for getting real with me, Dave and Oderus.
Yeah, no problem. I’ve learned to transcend Oderus in a way that he’s always a part of me. He’s continued to grow as a cultural icon. I see myself less in terms of a rock-n-roll lead singer, and more in terms of a Mark Twain-like character. Someone that can comment at any level, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity that the human race has given me. But after all, I did create you by fucking apes, so you guys owe me one.
Eric Sundermann wishes he could pull off a monster mask. He's on Twitter — @ericsundy