When you interview GWAR, you have two options: you can conduct the interview in character or out of character. With six members in the band, in practice, you have a dozen different people to talk to in GWAR. No easy feat, but it sure makes for a bunch of different ways to spin the story of America’s second best-known costumed band.
And what a story it is. The metal act-cartoon-cottage industry has had more lineup changes than their fans will ever know about, more characters than a Shakespeare play, and surprisingly, more changes in direction than you’d think. Believe it or not, there’s some subtlety in what GWAR does, and it’s a tightrope to maintain the image that’s been so lovingly constructed over these 25 years.
That longevity, if anything, is a testament to the band’s ability to keep the joke going, year on year. I don’t need to explain GWAR. But, when it comes to behind the scenes of GWAR, I may have to explain that I’m talking to Casey Orr (also of thrash band Rigor Mortis), the former and current incarnation of bassist Beefcake The Mighty, and there’s more to that story that I’ll let Beefcake… er, Orr, expound upon.
This is your first record back with GWAR since Violence Has Arrived, correct? What were you doing in your down time?
Yeah. I was with a band for a while, about three years, called the Burden Brothers, with Vaden Louis, singer for the Toadies, and Taz Bentley from Reverend Horton Heat. When I left GWAR, it was a pretty low time in GWAR, wasn’t much going on, everyone was grumbling. I had moved back to Texas. Burden Brothers came up, Taz was an old buddy of mine, and I got involved with that, and it looked real promising. Totally different kind of thing, it was real radio rock kind of stuff. It was a lot of fun, and I was with that band for about three years, and we had a blast. I was doing that, and I was fiddling around with resurrecting Rigor Mortis.
And of course as soon as I left GWAR, and Todd Evans and Corey Smoot joined the band, that breathed a lot of fresh air into GWAR, lit a fire under their asses. It was a good thing. I regretted leaving as soon as I saw them with somebody else in my costume. But I think it was a good thing for the band, it really stimulated the juices and got the band back on their feet and going again. Both Corey and Todd were great assets to the band. Todd was awesome as Beefcake, took on a whole different aspect, a big giant scary character, and Corey has been a brilliant contributor musically, production-wise and everything else. So I think it was a really good thing in the end, and we stayed friends. As soon as they came through on tour and I went to see them, I was just watching them going ‘Goddamn, that’s my gig, what the fuck did I do?’
Over time I started sensing that Todd, who was really a guitar player, was eventually at some point going to have enough. GWAR’s a really hard band to stay in. Everybody’s got a big ego, we’re all artists, we all try to be perfectionists in our own way, and no one person really runs the ship. So there’s a lot of friction, but it’s good artistic friction. I can see why so many people come in and out of the band. You really gotta commit to it, you’ve got to give up a lot to do it, and you’ve got to do it for the right reasons and really want to be there. It’s hard work.
Is the theatrics of it that makes it so hard?
Well, I love that. I love that about the band. I’m a big ham. My mother is an actress, she’s been acting in the same community theatre since ’74, and I kind of grew up around all that kind of stuff. I’ve always been theatrical by nature. Actually, the reason I play bass is because of Gene Simmons’ costume in 1976, you know. Not because he was a great bass player, because he’s not, but the costume and the image of KISS. I was a little KISS-keteer. The first time I saw GWAR, it hit me like a ton of bricks, it was like, that’s what I wanted do, that’s what I wanted be. It was several years later that I had the opportunity to join the band.
There’s definitely an aspect to it. We’ve had several people in the band who are really good musicians and have been in other bands, and it’s kind of hard to be in a band where nobody knows who you are and nobody cares who you are. And the show definitely takes precedence over the music. So you write music and by the time it comes out it’s almost swept under the rug because of the theatrics or the lyrics or something like that. That can be kind of hard on a musician’s ego, but at the same time, you’re out there touring, you’re playing big places, you’re playing in front of a lot of people, you’re having a great time, you’re in a cartoon every night. And to me, I love being able to walk around the crowd and very few people know who I am. You go on stage, it doesn’t matter if the props fall over and the amps blow up, you have them. You own that crowd for an hour and 15 minutes. It’s fun.
We’ve had the power go out for 15 minutes, and we stand there being goofy, and we don’t lose anybody. It’s a different kind of band. The payoff to me is being part of something that’s truly unique and will historically be remembered for a lot longer than some bands would be.