There are band profiles and there are Gwar profiles and then there's this: The first part of J. Bennett's monstrous, satisfyingly disturbing Gwar piece, "Slay Bells," is after the jump, courtesy of Decibel. Prepare for words that haunt.
Don't ask how it came to this. It's a long and painful story. But the bottom line is this: It's 2pm on a Thursday, and Decibel is in Richmond, VA, smoking crack behind a Dumpster with GWAR front-cretin Oderus Urungus. His giant rubber cock, which he calls the Cuttlefish of Cthulhu, grazes our leg as he leans in to make sure we're not burning his rocks. "The first time I smoked this shit, I locked myself in a men's room and proceeded to drink all the water out of the toilet," he croaks as green spittle drenches our face with what is almost certainly a hideous disease of some kind. "Smoking is a waste of butane, though. Now I eat it, like an apple-or maybe a baby's skull. But you get way higher using it as an anal suppository."
We'll spare you the visuals on what happens next, except to say this: When a member of GWAR bends over, you best step aside. And fast. But really, Oderus' formidable ass-cannon might be the least-destructive weapon in the band's ultra-violent arsenal. For the past 26 years, these intergalactic mutants have been drenching and delighting audiences with untold gallons of blood, slime and jizz-all in the name of maximum entertainment and slaughtering the human race. Onstage among a chaotic miasma of heavy metal thunder, the band dismembers, disembowels and mock-murders a parade of celebrities, tabloid trash and political figures played by a host of support artists and crew members known in the GWAR vernacular as the Slaves. "I always come up with the awful ones they don't wanna do, like Laci Peterson back from the grave," says Dave Brockie, who co-founded GWAR back in 1984 and has been playing the character of Oderus ever since. "That was fuckin' horrible. She comes onstage all eaten up by fish, and I ram my hand up her pussy and pull another fish out of her, but her baby is still in there as well. And the fish has a cigar. She's saying shit like, ‘Scott, I thought we were going fishing! It's wet, it's wet!' Oh, it's so terrible, man, but I love doing that shit, the really wrong stuff-like JonBenét Ramsey. We had her come out in her little fairy outfit while Oderus is jacking his dick off. She touches him with her magic wand and he blasts this huge load all over this little dead girl. It's very, very fucking evil. Sometimes people complain, but we just let 'em have it."
A dozen albums, 20-some-odd video collections, and at least one obscenity arrest into their messy existence, GWAR remains the only "openly extraterrestrial band" on the planet. Their individual names strike fear, or at least knowing amusement, into the hearts and minds of headbangers everywhere: Flattus Maximus and Balsac the Jaws of Death on guitars; Beefcake the Mighty on bass; Jizmak Da Gusha on drums. And of course the king-shit scum-daddy of them all, Oderus Urungus, that foul-mouthed, drug-addicted, horrible-smelling space monkey, on vocals. Collectively, they're managed by one Mr. Sleazy P. Martini, a greasy, tax-evading shit-pimp with a huge Dog Boy pompadour and no scruples to speak of. Behind it all are the Slaves, who not only do GWAR's bidding, but are basically the dudes responsible for keeping the whole eye-singeing spectacle afloat.
Much of this work gets done at the Slave Pit, a gigantic cement bunker in the steaming ex-Confederate capital of Richmond, VA. A dizzying array of latex headgear and oversized foam prosthetics line the workbenches in various states of disrepair as costume designers and special-effects artists Bob Gorman and Matt Maguire repaint and reattach limbs, rewire spew tubes and generally whip shit into working order for GWAR's upcoming North American tour. It's an impressive operation, occupying roughly 5,000 square feet of real estate in what used to be a gay dance club. And nearly every inch of it has been taken over by 26 years' worth of GWAR props, costumes and works-in-progress. When we catch up with Gorman, he's putting the finishing touches on a brand-new codpiece. "We actually have one of these already, but we were recently able to cannibalize some old stuff for a second full set of costumes that are permanently in Europe," he explains. "In the past, we've had to turn things down, festivals and stuff, because it's just so expensive to ship all the props. So, now we've got a full set in dry storage in Germany, but it's actually slow-boating over to Australia to meet us there in January. Eventually, we wanna have a third set of costumes for Australia and Japan."
This isn't the first Slave Pit location, not by a long shot. In fact, GWAR and the Slaves have been operating out of their current workshop for just a few months. Back in the '80s, before it was a gay bar, the space housed a punk rock venue that played host to bands like Hüsker Dü, the Butthole Surfers and the Minutemen. "I saw the Butthole Surfers here right when they started to do fire and had the penis reconstruction movies playing," Brockie recalls fondly. "There were strobe lights and smoke everywhere. I was frying on mushrooms, and that show had a profound effect on me. We were kinda doing GWAR as a joke at that time, but that's when I knew we had to step up our game."
Which is exactly what they did: By the early '90s, GWAR's touring entourage-band, crew and Slaves-numbered 24 people. The stage shows were legendary. "About the time that we really went past the punk rock art-school kids who understood us to the crazy meathead crowd, we were playing 1,500- and 2,000-seaters, but we still didn't have barricades," says Gorman, who's been a key Slave and GWAR's resident historian since 1988. "And the whole GWAR show gets people so excited that there's this suspension of disbelief, like, ‘They're really killing people! This is awesome!' So, people would get up there and fuck with us. By '92, it turned into a wave of people getting onstage to try and steal props, to knock the guy in the dinosaur suit over, or whatever. Instead of us doing what normal people do-which is, you know, pay for barricades-we decided to fight 'em. But really, we didn't even know there was a choice. We thought it was our job to stop people, when in reality we could have paid for security. So, it was ugly. It was fights, every night, all night long. We didn't get barricades until '94."
"We punched a lot of people," adds Don Drakulich, the 6'4" special-effects artist who has played Sleazy P. Martini since 1986. "Everyone in this band has punched a lot of people."
THE DAVE BROCKIE EXPERIENCE
As one enters the Slave Pit, the first office on the left is occupied by a man who isn't wearing any pants. Or a shirt, for that matter. He's also got black makeup smeared around his eyes and mouth. He sits in a standard office swivel chair and monitors three computer screens simultaneously. To his right, a pile of gruesome-looking foam and latex costume gear threatens to collapse a nearby table. The Cuttlefish is present and accounted for, standing tall and proud above the rest of the carnage. Two transformations have taken place here in the last few hours. First, Dave Brockie strapped all this shit on and became Oderus Urungus for Decibel's photo shoot. Then Oderus went back into the office, stripped everything off, and became Dave Brockie again. Which is a lot more difficult than we just made it sound. "I always looked up to people like Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and the guy in the Godzilla suit," Brockie says. "I thought being Godzilla was the coolest job in the world until I actually put on a full rubber costume and realized that it really took some energy. Generally speaking, the marathon costume-wearing sessions for a photo shoot aren't that bad. It only gets bad when we're doing a show and it's really, really hot onstage. We've done everything from having big fans around us to filling our masks up with ice. We even had an oxygen tank on the side of the stage during one tour. I'll tell you, though-after a show like that or a really long video shoot or something, when you go backstage and take the costume off, there's this awesome sense of relief and accomplishment. It's like coming up out of the depths of hell and being reborn in a field of Super Big Gulps and Slurpees. If there's a shower backstage, it's even better."
Truth be told, heat and discomfort are actually pretty low on the list of consistent problems that the members of GWAR have with their costumes. "Most of this stuff doesn't last more than two or three tours before it starts to go nuclear," Brockie explains. "Latex is tricky stuff. You're never sure what it's gonna do, especially when you put pigments in it. It gets this shit called latex disease, where it gets all gummy and scabby. I'll have masks that'll get this little spot that's kinda goopy, and then over the course of the month it'll literally turn into a puddle of chemical goo.
"This codpiece has been around for a while, though," he says, gesturing toward his crotch. "And that's easily a 10-year old cock."
But while the masks and lizard feet and spiky foam shoulder pads may have to be switched out every couple of years, the Oderus persona remains consistent. "I've always tried to make him a real train wreck of every possible archetype that's been associated with the rock n' roll lead singer," Brockie says. "He's completely self-centered, narcissistic, super-talented but incredibly vain; very creative but very chaotic, very destructive. He's a fun character to play because I can pretty much do whatever I want with him. Sometimes he's out of his mind; sometimes he's a little more thoughtful; sometimes he's cruel, sometimes he's kind. It all depends on that kind of mood he's in. But he generally always wants to get high."
If there's anything Oderus has in common with his creator, it's chaos. At least that's the word that GWAR drummer Brad Roberts, a.k.a. Jizmak Da Gusha, uses. "I've known Brockie since we were little kids going to hardcore shows in the early '80s," he explains. "He was always the guy with his shirt off; he always had pit grime all over him. Nobody would drink out of pitchers of beer after he'd been drinking out of them. He would slam dance the wrong way, and everyone fucking hated him. He was chaos incarnate-that was my first impression. But I remember thinking, ‘He's nuts. I gotta get in a band with that guy.' I was probably like 14."
If there's some sort of analysis that seems like it should go here, some lengthy exposition in which we couch the entirety of GWAR and the psychological motivations of its mouthpiece and maker, you wouldn't need to read it. It's better to just yank Brockie's ripcord and let him go to town. The cow says moo, alright, but Brockie says this: "I wanna have a fuckin' GWAR haunted casino in Vegas with GWAR as the house band. It's a natural, I think. This Halloween thing is getting bigger every fuckin' year. Or a GWAR zombie-hunting theme park. And we wanna do a GWAR bar here in Richmond, a dive bar where you can hang out and all the old GWAR props will be on display."
And this: "We wanna have a GWAR cemetery. We wanna buy a hill or a mountain somewhere and start selling plots. And we will all pledge to be buried there in our costumes. Or at least, you know, the costumes will be buried there. But we'll sell plots to our fans and we'll start planting people up there. I mean, if we really had serious backing, Salvador Dali would have nothing on us. We'd just go crazy in a way that's never been seen before. No band has the fucking attitude that GWAR has. Some bands look scary, but they're the stupidest people. And nobody around here is too fucking stupid. Well, they're stupid enough to keep working for GWAR, I suppose."
And this: "I left my main Cuttlefish behind a Dumpster in Boise once. I was unpacking my costume in Denver the next night, and I didn't have my cock. So, we called the club and they were like, ‘Yeah, we've got it. We'll FedEx it to you tomorrow.' We still needed something for the show that night, so I sent someone down to the local dildo store and had 'em get this thing. I split it open, ran the spew tube in and sewed it back up. The sewing didn't take too well, but it did give it these weird whiskers, which are kinda cool. It works pretty well with the Mangina, I think. That's what I use to cover up the Oderus cock when I'm on Jimmy Fallon or something."
THE EXECUTION WILL
NOT BE TELEVISED
Right off the bat, we should probably point out that the phrase "on Jimmy Fallon" is considerably more innocent than it might first appear. In fact, GWAR appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on October 28, when they performed "Zombies, March!", the opening track from their 12th and latest album, Bloody Pit of Horror (Metal Blade). That this happened in 2010 is a testament to the massive resurgence in popularity GWAR has enjoyed over the course of the last five years-a far cry from their 2002 appearance on an episode of VH1's Where Are they Now?, in which the band was featured alongside the dudes from Firehouse, White Lion and Enuff Z'Nuff. "The end of the '90s and the beginning of the 2000s were pretty rough for us," Gorman admits. "I thought it was pretty much over. We were really close to packing it in. We had no record label, not a lot of interest, no touring. It was hard. But then people started telling us that metal was scheduled to come back. Lamb of God was telling us that in 2002. They were meeting with people and told us about Headbangers Ball coming back before it was announced. It was being calculated like a year in advance. Luckily, we were able to get out of the hole we were in and get a second wind of popularity."
Late Night hasn't been GWAR's only witching-hour national TV presence. Oderus has appeared on the metal-friendly 3AM Fox News show Red Eye no less than 13 times and has become the program's official "interplanetary correspondent." "GWAR is rewriting rock n' roll history," Brockie offers modestly. "Generally, a band comes out, gets big quick, they have an apogee, and a slow decay. Whereas GWAR has been up and down, shudders and fits, and we're at the highest point right now in terms of visibility all over the world. But it took 25 years to get to this point, so I don't think there's any limit to how big it can get."
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