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I, Oderus: Gwarís Dave Brockie on 25 Years of Monsters, Metal and Mayhem

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 @ 2:23 PM


ďThe era of doing four decapitations in the first song and having Sexecutioner, Slymenstra Hymen, Techno-Destructo, Sleazy P. Martini and all these extra characters just assaulting you every five seconds, unfortunately thatís over."

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By now, Gwar really shouldnít need much introduction. The marauding intergalactic horde ó by way of Antarctica, by way of Richmond, Va. ó have been wreaking havoc for more than two decades: leaving stages strewn with body parts and viscera, and audiences awash in blood, vomit, piss and semen and pummeled by thrash metal show tunes where pillaging, mass murder and violated orifices are worshipped and glorified. Shock rock doesnít even begin to describe the groupís maniacal antics, with their equal parts pro wrestling/carnival sideshow/performance art/splatter movie and metal show.

It all began with a group of bored college students, as these things often do. Yet even now, in middle age, Gwar are still going strong ó buoyed by fresh cast members, a seemingly endless supply of Grand Guignol ideas and more formidable, genuine music. As the man behind frontmonster Oderus Urungus, Dave Brockie has been there from the beginning, and has stuck with it, for better and for worse, as leader of a three-ring circus of chaos that has seen more than 40 people play some sort of role ó musicians, slaves, victims, monsters, managers or foes ó over the years.

Gwar are now in the midst of a "Slay-A-Bration" of their 25th anniversary that has included box sets, constant touring, hosting a "Crack-A-Thon" in Brooklyn and a "Gwar-B-Cue" in Richmond, performances at the Bonnaroo hippie music extravaganza and on the Jimmy Fallon Show, two new albums - 2009ís Lust In Space and the just released Bloody Pit Of Horror - induction into the Harvard Lampoon and more than a dozen guest appearances by Oderus on Fox Newsí late night Red Eye program where he is billed as Intergalactic Correspondent. On the phone from a hotel in Quebec City "where everyoneís speaking French and itís very irritating," Brockie ó a Canadian native, though from Ottawa where English comes first ó talked about the past, present and future of Gwar, the never-ending suckiness of Finnish frauds Lordi and his desire to spawn the Son of Oderus.

KNAC.COM: Iíve spoken to you guys in character a few times, but since this is Gwarís anniversary I wanted to find out what it was like to dress up like a monster and spray shit all over people for 25 years.

BROCKIE: Because we all decided we were going to make this a two-year-long 25th anniversary, itís actually the 26th anniversary already. But weíre still insisting itís the 25th. Youíll find that the characters behind the characters are just as obnoxious as the characters. So thereís not a lot to distinguish between me and Oderus at this point.

The clothingís about the only real difference, when you get right down to it, or the actual wearing of clothing. I, myself, would rather be considered a sexual god so I keep my real penis behind clothing so people donít see how completely inadequate it is in comparison to the Cuttlefish of Cthulu [as Oderusí penis is known].

KNAC.COM: Since youíve been arrested because of the Cuttlefish, itís probably just as well to keep the real thing out of public view, at least in polite society.

BROCKIE: Well that depends on the social situation (laughs). Thereís social situations where pulling out my dick is perfectly appropriate. At least I know when that is, Oderus just lets his hang out all the time.

KNAC.COM: I canít imagine when you first got the idea for Gwar you thought youíd actually end up making a career out of it?

BROCKIE: No, we had no idea. I had no idea, I was pretty sure Iíd be dead by the time I was 30.

KNAC.COM: What was the basic idea behind Gwar when you were getting it going?

BROCKIE: We were really just trying to have fun. We were a bunch of artists and musicians who had been a part of a bunch of different crazy projects. We were all going to school or starting our lives. Nobody had a lot of money and we were all pretty crazy people. So we started doing stuff like that pretty much just to amuse ourselves.

People who are bored will either get more bored or theyíll try to think of things to occupy their time, so were always doing crazy shit like that, whether it was Death Piggy or setting up an assassin game or arranging big D&D [Dungeons & Dragons] tournaments or hack-and-bash tournaments which we do with big padded swords and Gwar was almost the perfect mushing together of all our habits into one thing.

Right from the beginning, right up to the present time, it was primarily motivated by the dissemination of fun and as we got older with it and started to actually make a living off of it, I think we really stayed true to that original thing. Youíre never gonna get rich off of something like Gwar, and I think thatís the reason why it had lasted so long, weíve never been motivated by what most bands and a lot of people are motivated by, which is the accumulation of wealth and getting rich and being rock stars, that was always very odious to us, very repellent.

One of the big reasons for doing Gwar was to skewer that whole bullshit rock and roll lifestyle. Itís a lot of fun, sure, but it doesnít mean youíre any better of a human being than anyone else. And thatís the problem with these fucking rock stars, they get some success in a band and all of a sudden they think that theyíre like these omnipotently intelligent, culturally aloof snobs, ego-centric assholes that I hate. Weíll never become that as long as weíre in Gwar. I donít care how good the catering is, how nice the venue is, Gwar will find a way to bring it down to their level (laughs).

KNAC.COM: What brought you to a place like Richmond in the first place?

BROCKIE: I went there for VCU [Virginia Commonwealth University] for art school. I grew up in the D.C. area and as soon as I got out of high school I just bailed to the first college that would accept me. My grades werenít all that super great, I knew I wanted to study art so I ended up at VCU. Richmond was kind of like the cultural magnet for all the kids who couldnít afford to go to Pratt or NYU or California School of Design, any of the really nice art colleges, or RISD [Rhode Island School of Design], but still wanted to go to a pretty decent art school. And where any decent art school is, especially in an urban setting, youíre going to have a music scene that pops up around it.

So a lot of the people who got Gwar together werenít from Richmond originally, but came there to go to school and end up staying there. Itís got a long, twisted, pretty fucked up history, itís kind of off peopleís radar, I guess because of the shame of the Civil War or something, and it really is like the bastard child of D.C. It is kind of a fucked up town, but itís cheap as hell and after Gwar started getting a life of its own we realized there was no way we were going to be able to take Gwar to another city because itís too fucking expensive. We needed space, we needed a lot of space to build all the Gwar stuff, the sets, the props, the costumes and do the rehearsals, much less practice space, offices. So we stuck with it.

Whatís really kind of good about Richmond is it such a nowhere city, thereís really not a heck of a lot going on, it really kind of encourages you to stay in the studio and work hard, work on the next Gwar album or the next Oderus sword, because thereís just not a whole lot of diversion out there. So, honestly, itís a very enjoyable lifestyle. And it looks like Richmond is going to stay our home base for a while.

KNAC.COM: The level Gwar has reached and has been able to maintain seems to be just about right, because even in the bigger places you play, if you stand at the back thereís still a chance youíre going to walk out some sort of Gwar fluids on you.

BROCKIE: (laughs) But you know, I think that Gwar could play in coliseums easily. Obviously the bandís perception around the world would have to be a lot bigger, and there would have to be a lot more money behind us, but weíre every bit as capable of producing an amazing show that could go into a fucking coliseum. I canít guarantee you that if Gwar does get into the coliseums people up in the rafters will be able to get drenched, but Iím pretty sure I can get everybody on the floor and down low good and soaked, and thatís got to be a couple thousand people. Thatíd be pretty cool.

Weíve played some pretty big gigs. We played at Wacken, which is two huge stages right next to each other. Those two stages were joined in the gigantic fucking mass of metal and steel and huge skulls, crazy shit all over the place. And the Gwar show that weíre doing in big halls now translates great to much bigger places and I think it would be a shame if Gwar didnít get to that level, and least at some point.

Weíve changed our way of thinking about it, now weíve gone from seeing our monster kind of be like a surprise underdog hit to seeing it in a grander scale, like "Wow, maybe this idea is so good so that it can go on for years and years and years and years and when we get too old to do this we can have our kids come in, or have replacements bred in some hideous Gwar clone womb." And now our ideas for Gwarís future are getting more and more insane.

Weíve always wanted to have a Gwar bar, which would be some kind of dive bar in our hometown of Richmond, which would also be kind of a Gwar museum and kind of a performance place for smaller bands and Slave Pit [Gwarís production company] side projects. But thatís turning into not just a Gwar museum but this idea for a whole underground museum of counterculture art, stuff like tattoos and hardcore music and metal music and wrestling and drag racing and all this crazy stuff everyone has been gobbling up for last 30 years. And it would also have all the Gwar shit and Gwar should be the curators of it.

So we have these huge ideas for what the future of Gwar is. I used to say "oh, maybe one day weíll do a Gwar movie and a Gwar video game," now I see that as inevitable. Now Iím think more bigger and bigger stuff, like the haunted casino. Why doesnít Vegas have a haunted casino, a casino modeled on horror movies and Halloween, where itís Halloween every single fucking day and the wait staff are all a bunch of monsters and Gwar is the house band. Why canít that be a reality? It should be. Weíve gotta make that happen or weíll end up with the lame-ass Rob Zombie haunted casino. Oh no! And Lordi will play there. Gag me with a fucking spoon.

KNAC.COM: I was meaning at some point to get your take on Lordi. I guess you donít find imitation to be the highest form of flattery where they are concerned?

BROCKIE: Zombie I donít mind so much because he is kind of a kiddie rock thing. He is a carnival huckster, he reminds me of the guy out in front of the titty bar trying to get people to come in, yelling "Naked, Naked, Naked" (laughs). I donít see anything that is particularly awesome about it, but Lordi just takes it to a whole new level of awfulness.

These guys are such a Gwar ripoff, itís so obvious and they wonít give us any recognition. They came right out of the gate, especially as soon as people started seeing them in America and going, "What the fuck do you think youíre doing? Havenít you ever heard of Gwar before?" And they were like, [in a bad Finnish accent] "No, weíve never heard of them." Now, anytime people bring up Gwar, not only do they stick to that lie, theyíll go, "In Finland, we donít have the Internet so much, so we didnít know about them." What? You fucking putz.

These guys are shameless enough that their management company calls us all the time. Theyíre always putting out feelers, "Maybe we can work something out with Lordi and Gwar in America." Because theyíre sucking ass in America, nobody will buy their records. Theyíve been on Ozzfest and all these huge tours and everyone still fucking hates them. The music sucks. It does make you want to work harder to ram it down the collective throat of the world.

KNAC.COM: They were in that Eurovision song contest in Europe, so if all things are equal you guys should do American Idol.

BROCKIE: (Laughs) I could totally see Oderus showing up for an audition for American Idol, Iíve always thought it would be really fun to do that. Oderus has been on Fox News for the last year and weíre getting on Jimmy Fallon next month, so weíre getting indications that Gwar is slowing cracking through into the mainstream, but itís a very slow process.

KNAC.COM: No fooling, 25 years just to get on TV.

BROCKIE: Yeah, weíve really rewritten the rules about how a band develops, and not necessarily in a great way because weíve really worked so hard over these years to just keep Gwar going. And thatís just a tribute to how awesome an idea Gwar is. All of these awesome talented people have poured their hearts and souls into this, poured their lives in this.

KNAC.COM: You mentioned a little earlier about having your kids pick up the torch when you guys get too old, thereís some long lists of people who have played the various characters over the years and it seems like it really could keep going as long as the characters live on.

BROCKIE: Thatís what I think. We used to joke about that back in the day but I think we all kind of realize that itís true. Every single year things have gotten a little bit better for us. We came out of the gate hot, Hell-o made us underground gods, the Scumdogs era we became metal kings, then we got to fart around in comedy music land for a while while we figured out whether the band was good enough to continue or whether it was gonna die and we didnít. We were reborn as a fiery phoenix and blasted into the new century with a horrific fusillade of highly crafted, very skilled heavy metal records.

A lot of people who didnít really support Gwar for a long time have gotten into our corner. I think we started to appeal to a lot more metal people, serious metal people, after weíd gone back to the metal we were doing in the Scumdog/America Must Be Destroyed era, but did it a lot better. We had to trim it down a little bit, make it a little leaner, meaner, be a little more smart about it. Not so indulgent of all our ideas.

For years, weíd come up with the craziest, most retarded ideas, and we would do them. The era of doing four decapitations in the first song and having Sexecutioner, Slymenstra Hymen, Techno-Destructo, Sleazy P. Martini and all these extra characters just assaulting you every five seconds, unfortunately thatís over. Gwar couldnít have survived if we had gone on like that. But people donít seem to have a problem with the new Gwar, and itís doing better than ever.

We get closer every day to where we need to be. I know the new record is going to be huge and weíre moving into new territories all the time. Weíd been spinning our wheels in America and Canada for a while, doing great shows and building up our audience, but we really werenít hitting well overseas until the last two or three years. But finally these barriers are starting to break down, weíre starting to go to Australia, New Zealand, weíll probably be in Japan by the end of the year. So we have every indication that this shit is about to just explode, and thatís really an exciting prospect. When I wake up in the morning, I canít wait to get at it. Itís like playing with fire, as an artist you couldnít hope for a better thing to happen.

KNAC.COM: I canít begin to imagine how difficult it must have been trying to be the ringleader of this thing for all these years.

BROCKIE: Oh fuck yeah, dude. It was so hard to keep everybody happy and motivated, especially when we didnít have a lot of money, everyone was on a slave wage and we were pulling it together any way that we could. Plus, we were all dealing with the trial of life itself. We were all kids, trying to turn into adults. Trying to run our own business, trying to be Gwar. It was an unbelievably difficult road to go down, and thatís what makes every little bit of success that we have so gratifying. But the thing is weíre not there yet. We have to keep hammering away at it until we get Gwar to where it really deserves to be because I would hate to have to walk away from this project. I really want to see Gwar become so successful that I can just go with it for the rest of my life. But the thing is, Iím worried Iím going to get to a point where Iím like, "OK, Iím going to have to give up on anything in life like owning a house or paying my taxes or having children or having health care and either stick with Gwar to the bitter end and realize that Iím probably never going to have those things in my life, that I want. Or Gwar is going to be successful enough where Iím going to get there. Or Iím going to have to stop doing Gwar because I decide wanting those things is more important than doing Gwar." And the only one of those things I really, really care about is I would like to have a kid. I want to leave the son of Brockie. If you ever wanted a reason to donate all your money to Gwar itís to help me to have a kid. We have to have son of Oderus, we have to.

KNAC.COM: Son of Kong. Son of Godzilla. Son of Oderus has a nice ring to it.

BROCKIE: I guarantee you he wonít be like Son of Kong, he wonít be like any of those other lame monster sons. Son of Godzilla, oh my god. That thing was such a pathetic little shit. I guarantee you, son of Oderus would be 10 times worse than dad. And people could see the sex act where he was conceived and the birth all live at a Gwar show.

KNAC.COM: You just need to get a woman back in the act, itís been a while since Slymenstra left.

BROCKIE: Weíve had plenty of guest stars who were women, but theyíve always been savaged and brutalized. Slymenstra left us to go to Hollywood and be a big movie star, so maybe disemboweling Paris Hilton is our way of avenging that betrayal (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Have any of the celebs youíve abused onstage ever complained?

BROCKIE: Never. I thought for sure Marilyn Manson would say something about it, I was hoping he would. Either they didnít notice or they donít give a shit or their too smart to get into any kind of verbal war with Oderus because chances are Oderus is gonna win. The guy from Slipknot found that out. Every time I call somebody out in the press I will just be greeted with deafening silence (laughs). It still amazed me that some people donít get the joke, or are like against Gwar because they think itís not serious. There are a lot of close-minded people, and unfortunately a lot of them are in the metal and punk rock community. Just because your movement is more enlightened than most doesnít mean you still donít have dumb-asses as a part of it who are attracted to it for all the wrong reasons.

I like to think that the Gwar fans are the most intelligent, the best humored, the best educated fans there are. Anyone who reads Gwar lyrics, anyone who follows our interviews, anyone who knows what Gwar is all about knows that the people behind this band are not stupid. And in many ways weíve become more than just a little freak show, we are the voice of a lot of people. In a sick way, Oderusí politics make a lot of sense.

KNAC.COM: Especially with all the shit thatís been coming out of peoplesí mouths during this election. Oderus almost sounds like the voice of reason.

BROCKIE: Thatís pretty fucking sad but true.

KNAC.COM: Howíd the Harvard Lampoon induction go?

BROCKIE: We just did it last week and Iím not allowed to relay any of the details because it was a completely secret ceremony that was done in the Harvard Lampoon castle in Cambridge [Mass.]. Itís a huge honor, everybody from William Randolph Hearst to Conan fucking OíBrien has gone through this society and to be honored by them is pretty mind-blowing, really.

KNAC.COM: Now all you gotta do is win that elusive Grammy.

BROCKIE: Yeah, two Grammy nominations and we have yet to bring home the bacon (laughs). But weíre getting there, they say that three is the charm, so maybe next time.

KNAC.COM: Thereís always the new album?

BROCKIE: Sure. Why not?

Bloody Pit of Horror comes out Nov. 9 and I think itís gonna be huge. A lot of people last year were like "what the fuck is Gwar doing cracking the Top 100?" And I think this year, since there has been a steady stream of Gwar propaganda ever since then, I think weíre gonna roll right into this one and I think itís gonna do even better. What better way to cap off our big 25th anniversary that putting out another album hard on the heels of the last one?

Not many bands would put themselves in that kind of position, thatís how confident we are in our abilities. Not many bands could write another album that quickly and have a fucking remote chance of it being decent, much less as strong as it has to be to hang in there with what we just did with Lust In Space. I think the new album is really, really awesome. And Iím thinking some time here in the next couple years somethingís really going to happen for us thatís really going to take it to the next level. I just hope weíre not getting cocky (laughs).

KNAC.COM: You guys are wrapping up your tour with some shows right around Christmas, including one near me in D.C. Last time I saw you, you sprayed a lot of jizz on the crowd in some sort of perverted take on "White Christmas." What do you have in store this time?

BROCKIE: I donít want to spoil the surprise, but I will say that you might see the Obama girls there, so come early and get a good spot.


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