Gwar Role-playing Along
Published Feb 01, 2000In the 1980s, at the height of the Dungeons and Dragons craze, if you made up your own characters, constructed costumes and wrote yourself a detailed, involved mythology, you'd be a geek, relegated to the after school clubs room where you could nit-pick for hours over your 20-sided dice. But if you did all this on stage, accompanied by some thrashy speed metal, you could be famous, or at least infamous. Gwar is.
You'd think that Danielle Stampe, aka Slymenstra Hymen, would tire after ten years of voice-synthesised role-play, but even speaking out of character, still seems pretty thrilled about all things Gwar. "This year I'm doing an incredible stunt that shoots 10 to 15 foot lightening bolts out my fingers," she says. To accomplish this, she's basically going to be electrocuted on stage.
Not content with their own character constructions, band members still play D&D - "Dave Brockie [aka Oderus Unrungous] is the best dungeon master ever," Stampe says - and collects the lead figurines central to the similarly fantasy-based Warhammer. Musically, their albums, including their latest We Kill Everything sound as dated as their hobbies.
Admittedly, Gwar members have managed to hone a whole range of diverse talents, bringing them all to bear on the band that is as much performance art as music. "All my skills are used in the band - sewing, working with plaster and rubber, singing and dancing," Stampe explains. While she helps maintain the band's elaborate costumes - her own combines the work of Alien designer H.R. Geiger and a Barbarella space barbarian - other members contribute as comic artists and designers.
Twice weekly meetings to determine character development have proven more effective than simply rolling for hit points, and the formula is paying off, according to Stampe, at least with teenage boys. As Slymenstra, she gets "thousands of fan letters a week, tons of hits on my web site and marriage proposals ten times a day," she explains. "And the glory of being in Gwar is that I can take off my samurai thing and go home."