Dave Brockie sounds like a reasonable enough guy. The lead vocalist for GWAR was busy getting ready for the second leg of the band’s “Fate or Chaos” tour, and said he would have to get back to me for our interview.
“I’m running around like crazy,” Brockie told me by phone. He sounded like a suburban soccer dad with a van-full of kids waiting outside. “Can you call back in an hour?”
I called back at the appointed time. “Give me 10 more minutes, dude,” he said. “I’ll call you.”
Thirty minutes later, the phone rang. The voice on the other end was lower, ominous sounding: as if he was calling from the pit of hell, or New Jersey.
“Human scum, it is I, Oderus Urungus, lead singer of the sickest band in metal history, Earth’s only openly extra-terrestrial rock band, GWAR.”
It was as if Brockie has spent the entire 30 minutes getting into character, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that included putting on his costume.
“We‘ve been to Reno many times,” Oderus said. GWAR is playing the Knitting Factory Concert House on Sunday, April 14. “We’ve seen your TV show about your police department. You have a lot of angry cops, weird cops. I like it.
“I can’t think of any bad things to say about Reno. There are many GWAR freaks there.”
Oderus, as you can see, is a mutant, horned barbarian whose primary enemies are cosmic death-ray beasts and airport metal detectors. Brockie founded the band in 1985, first calling it Death Piggy, and they’ve been slaying the mortals with their unique brand of heavy metal/shock rock/comedy/satirical costume performance music ever since.
Having produced albums with titles such as “America Must Be Destroyed” (1992), “This Toilet Earth” (1994) and “Lust in Space” (2009), it’s kind of a surprise that GWAR has actually made tentative forays into the mainstream. The band has made two appearances on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (the latest in 2011), has been nominated for two Grammys, and even made a cameo in a major motion picture: “Mystery Date” (<a href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5GnAjCcvog>here’s a clip</a>).
But mostly GWAR still operates on the fringes, as their costumes and song titles suggest. Have they slowed down, now that the band is approaching its 30th anniversary? Not really: the current leg of their concert tour involves concerts in 11 cities in 11 days, and a tour last year had them playing in 16 cities in 16 nights.
But if GWAR still looks the same in their costumes, their most loyal fans do not. Many are themselves in their 50s, or even 60s.
“A lot of them are wearing Depends diapers,” said Brockie … sorry, I mean Oderus.
“We don’t really understand it, being practically immortal ourselves,” Oderus growled. “The only way you can kill us is to best us in battle, then eat our hearts out of our chest in a long and complicated ceremony. We’re rather young for our kind, really.
“Our older fans come to our shows and think they’re in our inner cadre, and they approach us and ‘Ahhhh! I thought we were cool?’ And now you’re dead.
“Even worse: dudes in their 50s in the slam pit. They can’t take it. You see heads jammed between monitors; guys slamming into railings; huge guards beating them senseless. Bad stuff: much worse even than what we’re doing on stage.”
Oderus claims that GWAR invented heavy metal, even though bands such as Metallica and the Ramones predate them by about a decade.
“We invented heavy metal through our dreams,” he said. “We prepared the planet for this music as we slept, creating slayers like the Butthole Surfers and the Ramones. When we awoke, we decided to let these badasses live. And we will not talk shit about Metallica, because that is the easiest thing you can do.”
Oderus then went into a riff about “Breaking Bad,” 9/11, and the movie “Transformers”, which he didn’t care for except for Megan Fox.
He then said that the band was based in Antarctica, and I made the mistake of asking him, “What part?”
“What part?” he bellowed. “Antarctica doesn’t have parts. It’s all one part: we call it the plain of Arabus. There ain’t shit down there, it’s a 14-day walk to anywhere, and you ask ‘What part?’ Just call it the South Pole.”
And so, the interview having taken an ugly turn, it was time to go. But not before Oderus gave up a few details on their Reno show. He said that the theme would be “GWAR vs. God.” Then:
“It will be formal attire, please,” he said. “Tuxedos for the men, ladies will wear hoop skirts. Think ‘Gone with the Wind.’ Ventriloquist dummies are not only welcomed, but encouraged. There is nothing scarier than a ventriloquist dummy.”
Or a 50-something heavy metal fan being roughed up by a security guard in a slam pit.