GWAR Talks "Fate or Chaos" Tour, Addition of Pustulous Maximus, Next Album, and Look Back on "Scumdogs of the Universe"
Mon, 15 Oct 2012 11:47:45
"We just packed the truck," smiles Dave Brockie a.k.a. Oderus Urungus of GWAR. "The first show is tomorrow night, and you caught me at a very happy time. Everything is finished, and we're ready to hit the road. It was such a labor to find a new guitar player and build this show. Somehow, we did it. Now, we get to share that hard work with our fans. They've supported us for 27 years now. They're the greatest."
There's a reason why those fans have stuck around for so long. GWAR fucking rule.
They've been consistently crushing and rapturously engaging since they first clawed their way through heavy metal. In many ways, the beast has only gotten bigger and better with time. Their current jaunt with DevilDriver and Cancer Bats, the "Fate or Chaos" tour, sees them drastically raise the stakes again. Welcoming Pustulous Maximus [Brent Purgason] to the fold after the tragic passing of guitarist Flattus Maximus [Cory Smoot], there's a new stage show, fresh adversaries to murder, and a different set list. When "Fate or Chaos" hits your town, dive into the pit and experience just how majestic and malevolent the Scumdogs are.
In this exclusive with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, both Dave Brockie and Oderus Urungus of GWAR give the ultimate tour of "Fate or Chaos" and talk what lies ahead…
What's the art to making a GWAR setlist?
Oderus Urungus: Sequencing? We're trying to get up there and fucking play mind-melting fucking heavy metal music, which any musician will tell you is a very difficult thing to fucking to do. Unless, of course, you're just a loudmouth lead singer like me who basically mouths off and gets all the pussy. I don't want pussy. I find human vaginas completely disgusting. I'm much more of the "drill-your-own" school, basically. Maybe being raped at birth had something to do with it. My mother was a petri dish, and my father was a super computer. I was plunged into gladiatorial combat at the age of one-second—fully grown by the way. I don't really think about the plot or the story or anything. I'm trying to perform as a musician. The next thing you know, "Undead Hitler", "Gor Gor", or fucking Sawborg Destructo is trying to saw my nuts off. The rest of the guys in the band are yelling at me to try to stay on time with the songs. It's pretty much a disaster every night because we never know who's going to fuck with us. That's the reason a different show every time you see us. GWAR has got so many enemies out there that we never know who's going to show up in time to fuck with us. You'd probably get a better answer from my personal slave Brockie so I'll give him the phone for a second.
Dave Brockie: We try really hard to have a brand new show every time we go out on a new tour. We're very aware that the big draw of the band is the show. We could get out there and play Tchaikovsky, and people would say, "GWAR is a show band". The musicians are fucked in a way because the show is so awesome [Laughs]. We could be the best metal band in the world and not get the credit we deserve. It's not like we have a chip on our shoulder. In fact, it drives us even harder to write really good music because we know how hard it is to play good music anyway. To do it while you're wearing all of that shit is insane. It really is. That's why it's always been so attractive and compelling to me. It's certainly not to make money. None of us are rich, wealthy, or even middle class by our wildest dreams. I'd say, "Lower middle class". That same spirit which drives the band drives the artists as well. They don't want to just have a couple of guys walk out there, get their heads knocked off, and bleed all over the place. They want to have new characters and situations. They want a plot of sorts. It can be simple, but there's got to be some kind of plot, theme, or reason why these creatures are there and fucking with GWAR. We're trying to basically keep it fresh.
There's a musical intricacy underneath all of the blood and guts.
Dave Brockie: Well, I remember when I was a kid and I was really into bands, I'd dissect them and tear every single, element, and aspect of them apart. I always remember that kid in GWAR. GWAR was born because we were bored to death. There weren't any bands out there that were really lighting us up anymore. If we could go see the ultimate band tonight, what would it be? That was the question. We were literally sitting around one night bored as shit. There was some lame hardcore show going on or a crappy hair metal band. Right there, we thought of GWAR. The thought was, "It'd be giant monsters from outer space. They'd have all of these enemies and play this fucking crazy music". It ran from there. Once we created that framework, it was so easy to start building from that. You get all of the different planets the characters come from, how they were born, why they were banished to earth, and what struggles they went through in life. We wanted to create a mythos that Stan Lee didn't have anything on. We wanted to create a story that Roman and Greek legends would pale in comparison to [Laughs]. We've been running with it ever since. You've got an entire universe of possibilities. The reason GWAR's on Earth is we were put here since Earth is the most out-of-the-way planet in the universe. Otherwise, we'd destroy the rest of the universe. We need to be isolated [Laughs]. On top of that, I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons forever. I've been a "Dungeon Master" since the first day D&D started. We played good, fucked-up "D&D". I kept building on these characters, and I soon created a huge imaginary world. I always looked up to guys like J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft. Those guys built entire civilizations, cultures, worlds, mythos, gods, societies, and languages all out of thin air. Since we started GWAR 27 years ago, it's been growing ever since. It's never been a problem to come up with new characters for the shows because we've got some really great artists with overactive imaginations. If there's a problem, sometimes there are too many good ideas, and it becomes a clusterfuck. That's kind of what happened with Skulhedface. I'll be proud of that until the day I died. Making that movie almost killed us, but writing it was even worse. Everybody had so many ideas. At one point, we actually decided to let everybody write six pages of the script and we were going to put it all together [Laughs]. Luckily, Oderus has a really big sword and he manages to keep us in line somehow.
The initial spark always remains though. The foundation of GWAR won't ever change even with all of the evolution.
Dave Brockie: It's funny a lot of bands look at GWAR and go, "That's so stupid. I'm glad I don't have to do that". Or, they really love GWAR, but they think, "God, it must suck so bad to put that costume on and play in it every night. It must get so old". To me, it's completely the opposite. Don't fool yourself, kid. Just because you're not wearing a costume, it doesn't mean you're not wearing a costume. You're dressing up every single bit as I am when you go out there on stage with your carefully though-out t-shirt, bullet belt, and biker boots with the special studs or whatever rockstar persona you're trying to portray. I always thought those were the guys who were limited. They go on stage, come off stage, and they're still the same person. I get to go up on stage, pretend I'm a superpowered monster from outer space for an hour-and-a-half, then I go back stage, take my fucking costume off, put it in the costume box, and I'm Dave Brockie again. I'm not saying there's no overlap between Oderus and myself. Oderus is completely based on my character. I always thought the fact we could present ourselves anyway we wanted to was what gave GWAR so much ammunition. We're not bound by any rock 'n' roll stereotype. If anything, we have the ability to be so much more creative than a regular band. The trick is to always keep your music at the same level of your visual performance. We've done that. I would put the guys we have up against the top bands in metal. I can't sing like Geddy Lee, but I can hold my own [Laughs]. At the end of the day, I'd rather be me. I never considered myself a singer, but I'm certainly a vocalist. I think I'm a damn good one. The guys I play with are the ripping-est. They're fucking great. It's easy to come up with the ideas. The hard part is actually building it, getting it work, and putting out on stage and actually doing the show. The art department has to keep up with these insane ideas constantly bubbling up out of our diseased brains.
Is the creative process for the music something that happens over a long period of time? Or, do you go into "album mode" and just focus on recording?
Dave Brockie: It depends on what the situation is. We setup a weird path for ourselves on Bloody Pit of Horror. We decided it was GWAR's 25th anniversary and we wanted to celebrate it with a two-year-long anniversary party that had Lust In Space released in the beginning and Bloody Pit of Horror released at the end. The fans would know party started with Lust in Space and was over with Bloody Pit of Horror. We took a good three or four months to write Lust in Space and another three months to record and mix it. Then, we were running out of time on Bloody Pit of Horror. We wanted to stick to our promise. That's when Cory Smoot stepped up. On the side, he had written another entire album for a project he was calling Religion is Fiction. Randy Blythe and I were going to do the vocals for it. He played me the songs, and I was like, "Dude, these riffs are amazing! This can't be a side project. This is the next GWAR album!" He said, "Really?" I responded, "This is the most insane shit I've ever heard you write". People were amazed we did that album so fast, but it was written on the Lust in Space tour by Cory, almost singlehandedly. It became a GWAR record. That didn't take more than a couple of months to put together. The optimum situation for me is to have half a year to conceptualize. Then, I need a good part of the half a year to get everybody on the same page and have them know what the theme and concept will be. The first thing that happens is the songs and lyrics are written. You've got to have the artists involved in the writing process though so the show is coherent. We've figured that out the hard way [Laughs]. It's paramount that the art department knows what a record is about before we record it. A year is the perfect amount of time to work on a record. You never have that much time.
Dave Brockie: This year has been weird. Cory who played Flattus Maximus passed away last year. We had to soldier on for him and a million other reasons. We ended up actually playing as a four-piece for a long time. We had a lot of people try out for the part. We settled on Brent Purgason who is playing Pustulous Maximus—a far-flung cousin of Flattus. Apparently, all of the Maximus's are a bunch of badass. The story of his character will continue to evolve. We played the Bloody Pit of Horror show for a long time to the point where people were like, "When are we getting a new show?" He fucking rocks. He's a great guitar player. He's a local guy, and he was a good friend of Cory's. He's part of the family already. I was out at his house this weekend, and he was showing me an amp he and Cory were building together. We're a two-guitar fucking punk metal band. That's the way it will always be. The tour is named "Fate or Chaos" because this whole last year has been a mixture of fate and chaos. Flattus met his fate, and we were plunged into chaos. We knew we couldn't go out on the road with Bloody Pit of Horror again so we did something we never did before. We built a whole brand new show that doesn't have an album supporting it. It introduces the fans to the new guitar player. GWAR is also fighting yet another superpowered adversary. GWAR is fighting God. It's God calling out GWAR. For most of the show, he's a disembodied voice who sends his servants out against us. He confirms that the upcoming Mayan apocalypse, rapture, or whatever you want to call it is true. Before the apocalypse wipes out everything, God has got some scores to settle particularly with GWAR. He never appreciated Oderus beating Jesus at basketball during the "Meat Sandwich" video. God sends forth a bevy of some of history's greatest mass murderers to do his bidding. At the end, he must manifest himself in physical form. You might as well call the new tour, "GWAR Versus God". We've even got a trick ending that's so fucking ridiculous. When I first explained it to the guys, they stared at me like I was crazy, and I knew it was a good idea. We have a completely brand new show. It's going to look fucking great. Then, we'll come back here, work on our new album, put it out, and be back on tour next fall.
Is the moment when you're about to leave for tour one of the most gratifying?
Dave Brockie:Yeah, it's one of the most supremely awesome moments. You've been working so hard for so long to try to get this shit done. Then, you've got to go through the whole rehearsal process. When you finally have everything packed, on the truck, and ready to roll to the first show, it's an amazing, awesome and deeply gratifying feeling. It's so fucking beautiful. It's over all too quickly. Before you know it, you're pulling up to the first gig and you have to load all that shit in.
What's the first thing that comes to mind now when you think of Scumdogs of the Universe?
Dave Brockie: Oddly enough, the first thing that comes to my mind is I wish we made the guitars louder. I wish we spent more time on our guitar sound. The guitar sound is the only thing I don't like about that album. I don't think they're as thick and chunky as necessary. America Must Be Destroyed is the perfect-sounding GWAR album. Bloody Pit of Horror sounds great. Then, there's Violence Has Arrived. Scumdogs is a true group effort, and we had a producer in there. Ron Goudie is a great fucking producer, and he produced what is arguably the greatest GWAR album ever made. It's fucked up that the first thing that comes into mind when I think of that record is, "Goddammit, I wish the guitars were louder". Once you get past that, it's a great album. We wrote Scumdogs of the Universe much in the way we were writing this next album over a long period of time when we were doing all different kinds of projects and changing up members. The songwriting process has been very similar between the two. That's got to be a good thing. The longer you have to work on something the better it's going to be. None of Scumdogs was hurried or rushed. We played all of those songs live 100 times before they were recorded. That's one of the reasons that record is so good. As you have success and you get really busy, it's hard to stay on that schedule. You don't get as long as you want to write albums. Some bands can write on the road. It's hard to write songs on the road.
There's a fearlessness to GWAR.
Dave Brockie: We'll take anybody on, and we're not afraid of shit. We're not afraid to die for our shit. This is war as far as I'm concerned. I'm a fucking soldier in a war being against a system I know I'll never beat. I know our efforts will always be remembered. When victory is finally achieved, they'll remember GWAR. They'll know GWAR was a part of it. A lot of bands are in it for the lifestyle or because they want to get hot chicks or whatever. For me, it's always been a life or death struggle. There are plenty of good bands out there, but it's harder than ever to be a good band. I respect bands that are good way more now than I did when back in the day it seemed like every band was great. It's so much harder to make original music now. How do you up the game? So many bands have been doing it for so long. For us, it's the show. We'll always be a solid thrash metal. What keeps us current and interesting is the fact that we have this social commentary in our show. If anything doesn't think it's about social commentary, they're a fucking retard. We're obviously using symbolism and metaphor to condemn a world that's gone fucking mad. It takes a real commitment to be a GWAR fan. You've got to understand what we're up to and appreciate the humor and wit. We're about opening people's minds. We do it with an axe instead of a chalkboard. That's our style.
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Credit: Jamie Betts Photo