Faux red blood and green alien cum smattered all over the audience, elaborate monster costumes, and comically brutal metal music. Yep, that could only mean one thing… GWAR is in the house! This gang of alien musical misfits fits so perfectly into the epicness of metal’s over-the-top nature that one would be hard pressed to find a better example of how much one band can put into a live show.
However, Gwar’s members are all (actually) human, very recently losing their long-time axe-wielder at the tender age of 34 (R.I.P. Cory Smoot.) But the band goes on…
Continuing a legacy of musical debauchery and visual perversity that might make your parents force you to go to church more often (if it isn’t already too late,) I sat down with Dave Brockie a.k.a. Odorus Urungus during their recent stop at Syracuse’s beloved Westcott Theatre, where anxious employees dreaded the post-performance cleanup that would surely keep them busy late into the evening.
G- Hey guys and thanks for taking the time to speak with Upstate Metal! To me, Gwar is one of those bands everybody needs to see once, preferably in old clothes. You probably have as many first timers at your shows as you do long time…
D- Aaaaaatttt least once I have to interject… Jeeeeeez!
G- That is just fine… I am trying to be as mellow as possible here.
D- Oh mellow, ok. Wow, that should be a different kind of interview for me, then… I’m looking forward to this!
G- Well, tonight I’ll be in the middle, so aim for me!
D- I didn’t know you were coming here from work, so it’s like you show up in a suit and everything and it’s like I’m getting interviewed by the cops!
G- No, nothing like that. So as I was saying you probably have as many first timers at your shows as you have long time fans. How have the responses been at your performances this tour so far?
D- As usual, the awe and amazement…. And honestly, I read the most incredible review of a Gwar show ever yesterday. It was done by a guy… I guess in his mid-50’s, so obviously very schooled and intellectual, and he just talked about hearing so much about Gwar as a pop culture art phenomenon and how he’d resisted going to see it for so long… He wasn’t quite sure why. And when he finally did, he was up there comparing it to the same way he felt when, you know, he saw the Vienna Philharmonic do fucking Stravinsky’s, you know, “Rites of Spring” or fucking, you know, some deep shit! I was like ‘Holy Shit!’ So, yea, you know… I’m astounded at the power we wield over the audience and… The suspension of disbelief everybody mutually enjoys. And, uhh, kinda they pretend we’re from outer space, and we have a great time!
G- Excellent! So, who are you killing tonight? Tebow? Romney? The entire Kardashian Family, perhaps?
D- I’d like to kill them all but, you know, this is the second leg of the first tour so we’re still wailing on Snooki. And what’s cool about that is, um, she’s pregnant now, so it’s not just a death scene, but also a hideous abortion. So you should enjoy that!
G- So, you have made it a point to “kill” all types of people onstage… Terrorists, presidents (same thing perhaps?), pop-celebrities, celebrity criminals, religious figureheads, and just people who most in the metal community get a kick out of seeing eviscerated and decapitated… How do you select your victims?
D- We definitely get together about it a few months before tour. You know, we try to wait as long as possible so the victims are as timely as possible. And we just basically discuss who deserves death the most, or who would just absolutely be in the worst bad taste to bring out there onstage and do something awful to. And then you just throw in some ridiculous monsters that make no sense whatsoever, and there you’ve got a Gwar show.
G- We have to give credit where credit is due to your costume designers, because they are working overtime overtime plus
D- They’re super talented. Bob, Matt, Scott, and Davis… They’re a solid 4-guy crew that we implement. The musicians will hop in there sometimes, but they’re some amazing artists and, you know… We’ve never been such a commercial success, so it’s really a testament to the idea that these really amazing talented artists, who probably could’ve gone on to do anything in their lives, have stuck with it all these fucking years.
G- So, Gwar has been brutalizing famous people and making records since 1984. 27 years and still going strong is quite a task for ANY band. Was this the intention way back when it was “Death Piggy?”
D- Certainly not. At first, Gwar wasn’t even Gwar… It was “Gwarararararagharaghg.” It wasn’t even a word… It was just this stupid band the would stumble out there before Death Piggy’s show and wear these costumes Hunter Jackson, this artist that I knew, was making, and slowly more people just started getting into it to the point where we would do the Gwar part of the Death Piggy show and no one would stick around for the rest of the show. So we’d be like Uhhhh?
On one hand, I was pissed because I’d worked really hard on Death Piggy and it was a really funny band. And there was only 3 people in it, so if we ever made any money, I’d get a whole 3rd! But all the sudden we ended up doing Gwar and there was 12 blood soaked maniacs running around the country in an old school bus and it took about 5-6 years to get Gwar to the point where we could pay our own bills and sustain employees, and we’ve been rolling strong ever since.
And it’s honestly… there’s been a few dips, hills and valleys, but it’s been getting a little bit better every year. We do something that gets a little bit bigger every year and a bit more exciting. So unlike most bands that kinda come and go and peak and totally fade out, I think Gwar is getting stronger all the time.
G- So, on a slightly somber note, Gwar has very recently seen some unfortunate turns of events, beginning with The Return of Flattus Maximus to a far off land (Corey Smoot’s passing mid-tour), followed by Europeans struggling to find good things to do with their money (The tour was cancelled due to poor ticket sales.) Gwar has been very honest about their circumstances and told their fans “What is What” every time. When life gets tough, how does Gwar pull through?
D- The tough get going! I mean, we’re not gonna let anything slow us down. The only thing that’ll take us out is the end of the road. It’s what we’ve done our whole lives.
We’ve been through about the hardest tragedy that a band could possibly go through and it’s really the fucking worst thing that could happen to you, unless you’re Corey (Smoot.) But somehow, we came through it, and we’re stronger for it… We love each other more. And so, now we have Corey’s family to take care of in a way we’ve never had before and in a way, it’s really solidified our commitment to Gwar. And the way that our fans have helped us through the whole proceeding… We are still playing as a 4 piece until this tour is over, you know, to give them a chance to say their final farewell to Flattus… It’s made me appreciate them a lot more as well.
It’s strengthened the whole. Even though we’ve lost the hottest guitar player we’ve ever had, with the possible exception of Ballsack The Jaws of Death, who never gets the guitar credit he deserves, but he’s been able to stand up and make a synthesis of his style of playing and Corey’s and get us through this whole thing, which is brilliant. So, it’s definitely… If we can get through that, we can fucking get through anything.
G- And there is a website for Corey at www.metalblade.com/smootfamilyfund for all of you fans out there and friends who want to help support The Smoot family during this difficult time.
Gwar has had many, many members come and go during its tenure. What does it take to be in a band like Gwar, and what is it like on the road for the band, especially when new member comes onboard? Any initiation rituals you can tell us about?
D- We got rid of the rituals when we figured out, like, you don’t know people well enough when you’re starting out with them to do something as fucked up as initiation rituals to ‘em. You can mess them up for life (Laughter)! Just being in the band was enough of a ritual. It’s a tough band to be in, you know? You have to wear a stinky rubber costume and still somehow play the best fucking music in the business, cuz our band has to stand up against the other bands that are out there, you know? We’re not a high school garage rock band… We’re a professional metal outfit and it means we always have to be on our A game, and you have to do it while you’re wearing 50 pounds of rubber slop. For a lot of musicians, that is not their idea of fun.
And you also have to be able to get along with these guys, as well. Not just physically stand up to the duress of being a Gwar member, but you have to be able to handle living on a submarine (tour bus). A lot of people think these things are rolling pleasure palaces… They’re not, but they’re comfortable enough, and honestly I think the lifestyle is terrific… I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
G- Are you currently planning any new releases for 2012/2013? Can you give us an idea of a possible release date, title, producer, etc?
D- I’m thinking early 2013. I already know the concept of the album and what it’s going to be about and how we’re gonna do it, but we’re just kinda waiting for the right time to release the details.
One thing I can say is that we’re not going to be adding any full time members before this new album. We’re going to go through it pretty much the same way as “Amercia Must Be Destroyed,” as a 4 piece with guest guitar players coming in. The guest guitar players will be players that have had direct connections to Corey, either doing a project with him, or played in a band with him, or were just really good friends. And Corey mixed with the biggest in the business, so you can imagine who might end up on that list. We’re in the process of sorting out these guys right now and as soon as we know exactly what’s going on, we’ll make a full release. But I know it’s not gonna… Even though we’re 3 songs deep into the next record already, it’s gonna take a whole year to do it. So I’d say early next year.
G- As a very traveled and experienced group, with an even more storied stage show, can you tell me the absolute CRAZIEST show experience Gwar has ever been a part of?
D- Dude, I don’t know. I was just reminded of one the other day. There are so many… I’m trying to think of a good one for this one… A dude in a wheelchair was in the slam pit in Vermont, like rolling around, and fuckin’ they picked him up in the wheelchair and passed him around all over the crowd in the fucking wheelchair. That was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.
But the worst part is, you knew… They weren’t just going to let him down nicely and it kinda went out of control and the dude kinda just like flew across the surface, hit the barricade, and the wheelchair went one way, he went the other way, but he was still just the happiest motherfucker in there, you know what I mean?! That’s pretty bad.
G- That’s ok, it happens (more laughter… sorry wheelchair dude.) It’s a good memory!
D- When you take your wheelchair into the pit, you’re taking chances.
G- Lastly, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands out here in Syracuse and in NYS who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
D- Don’t waste time in bands where the other people in the band are dicks. Fuck rock stars! Never negotiate from a position of weakness… You never get what you want by telling people how pathetic you are. And work your fucking ass off! Get in there and practice, practice, practice.
If a band is not working out, you’ll know in the first year. If you start playing shows and people start coming to the shows, that’s a good band to stick with. If you’ve been playing for 2 years and still no one is coming to see you play, or just your friends are still coming to see you play, put a fucking bullet through its head.
Smoot Family Fund: