Published Nov 09, 2010Over the past decade, heavy metal shock rock gurus Gwar have been slowly rebuilding from fallacy back into the motivated creative force of their formative years. 2001's Violence Has Arrived ushered in a return to simplicity and outright metal, yet although ensuing efforts War Party and Beyond Hell had their moments, they still found the studly interstellar space rejects struggling to balance comedy with inspired musicianship and lyrics. Attaining that goal with last year's Lust In Space was a major coup, most notably thanks to the surrounding celebrations of their quarter-century anniversary. Still, uncertainty as to a follow-up remained. We shouldn't have worried, 'cause Gwar's done it again. Twelfth studio effort Bloody Pit of Horror not only maintains but also one-ups the brilliance, power, passion and inventive hilarity of its predecessor. Inspired and modestly experimental, tracks embrace the grim atmosphere of Gwar's more "serious" era while still venturing into occasional half-time breakdowns, chant-along choruses and double-paced grinds. Flexing its might, an exciting essence of punk-influence gives the album a raw brashness unheard of in the Gwar camp since debut effort Hell-O, while vocalist Oderus Urungus's mix of aggressive anger and tongue-in-cheek humour makes Bloody Pit of Horror one of the most virulent, durable and healthy Gwar albums to date.
This is the best record since... the last one. How did you get it together in just a year?
Dave "Oderus Urugus" Brockie: Our guitar player, Flattus Maximus ― Cory Smoot, to us mere mortals ― is an amazing, talented, prolific songwriter. When we got off tour, he'd already written and recorded the whole album, even drums. In fact, he was like, "Hey, Brockie, I wanna do a side-project before the next Gwar album. Wanna sing on this?" I listened to this stuff and was like, "Dude, this is the new Gwar album!" We were shocked he'd just written and recorded the whole thing in his spare time.
That is prolific.
When people are great at what they do it's easy to do great things. We're not straining or forcing it; we just love to make music. After all these years of doing it, we've gotten really good at it. I think also because ― thank God ― Gwar sometime leave a bad taste in some people's mouths; they slag us as stupid and don't give us a chance, which has given us a chip on our shoulder, made us push harder. I'll throw my band down with any band in metal, period. In fact, I think they're better because they have to play while wearing 60 pounds of bloody latex.
Since you guys hit the quarter-century mark, there seems to be a new respect of the band.
A lot of people are finally coming over. A band doesn't hang around for 25 years unless they have something worthwhile to offer the music community. This band would never have lasted if we were a bunch of joker artists who wore a bunch of store-bought Halloween costumes and fuckin' played some shitty heavy metal. We've seen lots of people come in the wake of Gwar and it's very rare that a band doing what we do last very long or get any credibility. Gwar have really set the standard for theatrical rock. We forced KISS to put their makeup back on and they still suck.
That they do.
So horribly ― the entire reason that band exist is to make money. I'm sorry but that's not rock'n'roll, to me. People like Rob Zombie, Lordi ― I see this G-rated, derivative, uncreative, plagiaristic crap. The only band that have ever done anything like what we're doing that I'll give respect to are Slipknot. I think they're an amazing bunch of musicians. Here we are 25 year later, we're still the kings of shock rock and we've done it all with our fans' support and Metal Blade at our side; we've done it all from the underground. We've never had the commercial success that these other bands have enjoyed. That's made it so much better. I've still got the same dudes I've been working with since Scumdogs [of the Universe, 1990]. [1988's] Hell-O, yeah, that album was kind of a joke 'cause we didn't know what we had, but once we got to Scumdogs ― there's been a revolving door with a couple of positions ― but I've pretty much had the same musicians working with me since. I'll tell you why: they weren't doing it for the money; they were doing it because Gwar are an amazing idea that haven't gone as far as we're going to. There's a lot of indication that a lot of people who dismissed and ignored us over the years are realizing that we're not gonna go away. And we fuckin' rock. We're hilarious, the music rules ― there are a million reasons to support Gwar. We're reaching further globally. Is a Gwar videogame far off? Maybe not.
You're back with Metal Blade, previous members have returned ― everybody comes around, it seems.
Metal Blade never parted with us. Even if we weren't doing a current record, we'd still be doing business. What happened when we left was that we got the offer for a couple of records with DRT Entertainment. It was an interesting deal and Metal Blade was behind us trying it out with no hard feelings. DRT worked out well until the company went flat broke. As soon as that happened, we made one call to Metal Blade and we were back, all the wiser. I can't say enough about how awesome they've been. In many ways, they're the Gwar of labels: around forever, always very underground and fanatically supported by their fans. They really are home; [they've] done a lot to keep the metal flag flying all these years. It's gone from being this stupid little thing you thought would be over before you knew it to a hulking colossus.
I never realized it was that amicable.
There were never hard feelings. We were on our tenth record, DRT made interesting moves and we opted to try it out. The first record [2004's War Party] went well but after that, I think they signed that band Lit for, like, a million dollars. They went from having 40 people in a Manhattan office to 20 people working out of the president's basement to not picking up the phone and the line being disconnected. At least we got our master tapes back. It was a learning process and when you've been around as long as we have you gotta try new things. That taught us how sometimes the grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence.
Well, you can't limit yourself.
Exactly. A lot of people look at Gwar and think it's limiting. No, you're the one who's limited. Gwar can go anywhere and do anything because we are fictional characters; we can make up whatever the fuck we want. I feel sorry for bands trapped in their own personalities. At the end of the day, these people are usually boring and not that smart. When you get these guys singing and ― not that you have to go to college to be smart ― but a lot aren't educated and think just because they're in a successful band they have this God-given right to lecture us about how to live. That makes me choke. Most of these guys are numb-nutted, nimrod morons. An idiot on a soapbox is an idiot nonetheless. That keeps Gwar going: tearing idols apart. We never bought into the rock star bullshit machine; we all came from the punk school and anytime we get a chance to take a bite out of it we will.
Well, there's a lot to attack these days. So many bands are full of shit.
I see these rich, pampered, narcissistic, self-absorbed rock stars and it makes me vomit and want to keep doing Gwar and rub their faces deeper into it. Using Metallica as a glaring example, 'cause they're the easiest ones to pick on, when Metallica starts putting out movies about their psychiatrist, everyone thought that was interesting? No, it's not; it's horrible. Sure, their live show is still amazing, but they're gonna be playing songs that are at least ten years old. When was the last time those guys wrote a halfway decent song? Every time they put out an album it's the same thing: "This is the one where we get heavy again." They said that for the last three albums. Maybe if they can get the coke spoon out of their nose and take a break from the yacht or yak-hunting trip in Russia and get in the fucking studio and remember where the fuck they came from, maybe they could write a decent album. But they probably can't.
They're the one band that have severely sucked for longer than they were cool.
Yeah, they really have and they've really blown it; it's hard to listen to their old shit now. It just makes you wanna cry. Like, what happened to these guys?
Even during some of your less-popular times, like 1999's We Kill Everything, you still sounded sincere.
Maybe part of it is because we've never made a ton of money at this, so it's motivated by fear. If we stop making good records and putting on good shows, we'd all have to go back and get real jobs. Once you've been your own master and doing something as fun as our music for as long as we have, you really can't go back. I can't see us getting regular jobs. But if that's what happens, we'll do it. We're a working-class, blue-collar band. If we had to pick up a shovel and dig a ditch to pay the bills, we'd do it. But, thank God ― and I know it sounds weird ― but Gwar saved our lives.
Not really; I'm sure many fans can say the same thing.
We really hope it inspires others to do similar things. If a bunch of D&D-playing, pot-smokin', art school dropouts ― even though I actually managed to finish my degree; I'm very proud of that ― if those misfits can do something like Gwar, which totally comes from your imagination, and make a success of it, it should inspire artists. Not just metal bands or horror moviemakers, I'm talking about all artists and musicians. One thing you should get out of Gwar is that you can do it; you can be successful, but the key is doing it without trying. You have to love something and be good at it because you love it. If you're lucky, people will latch onto that. Bands that wanna get signed, write a hit song and get on Ozzfest? To me, that's not any motivation to make art or music. You make art or music to change the world, not line your pockets or fulfil your ego. Everybody in our organization is like that and I wouldn't have it any other way.
That's why you've made it to 25 years.
I know! I can't believe it.
It keeps you young.
We're still fairly spry and in good physical health. I'm looking at guys in their 40s playing football and I'm like, "shit!" When I was a kid starting Gwar, I didn't think the body would be able to last that long. Now, here I am at 47! I started doing Gwar when I was 21 or 22, a kid. I'm amazed; it really has kept us young, but you've really gotta take it seriously, physically. I work out and fuckin' do the Stairmaster, all that crap. We've all worked through our drug phases, alcoholism and had the slings and arrows the rock business can throw at you. We've shrugged that shit off, conquered all and kept our eye on the prize, whatever the fuck that is. Here we are 25 years later, still swinging and stronger than ever.
You're probably in better shape now than when you were kids. When you're a kid, you can get away with shit but now you realize, "Hey, I gotta put on 60 pounds of stinky latex tonight, I'd better be in shape for this."
Yeah, I hit the Stairmaster hard for this tour and I swear to God, I could tell the very first night. Sometimes when you don't get your shit together before a tour, the first two weeks will be an absolute torment because you have no wind and [then] you finally get your shit together. I was like, "Fuck it, I'm joining a gym, getting on the Stairmaster and sticking with it this time." Goddamn it, on the first night I practically bounced off the stage while everyone was else was in the dressing room wheezing.
I am a little older than the other guys in the band though, so I gotta take care of myself. I've had my bad days and bad years. We've all had struggles, but it slips aside and you do what you need to make it happen. So many great things are happening now and it's vindicating and satisfying because we had to work so hard for so long.
No doubt and it's not just outsiders who gave you a hard time, even some punk and metal fans didn't accept you initially.
Even those communities were really serious about their music and never got Gwar. They were convinced anyone who was into Gwar was "a faggot, man." The thing that made Gwar hard to take was all the gay humour; I just love making heterosexual people squirm. Oderus doesn't even know what being gay is; he just sees holes and sticks his dick in 'em. If there's no hole, he'll make his own. You'd get that a lot back in the day though: "If only you didn't have so many gay jokes." C'mon, we're just making fun of everything, including people's uptight sensibilities about sexuality.
It makes me wonder if homophobes are trying to hide something.
I really think that is it: when people lash out at something it's because they see it in themselves. That's human nature.
You've made to 25 years and Bloody Pit of Horror proves you're not slowing down.
Exactly. When we get success it's every bit as much a success for fans too, 'cause it's not the easiest road to tread being a Gwar fan, especially back in the days when Gwar weren't that cool and people were down on it. Most enlightened people grasped Gwar quickly, but when you're the only kid in school with a Gwar shirt on, that can be tough. This is just as much for our fans as it is for us. That night we're all sitting in the theatre and see the Gwar movie on the big screen? That'll be a pretty great night. (Metal Blade)