It’s no secret the past few years have been tough for intergalactic rockstars GWAR. First they lost guitarist Cory Smoot, who had played Flattus Maximus since 2002, due to coronary artery thrombosis in 2011. Then earlier this year, the group suffered again when beloved frontman and lone remaining founding member Dave Brockie, better known as Oderus Urungus, passed away from an accidental overdose.
GWAR have carved out their own personal niche in the metal community over the last three decades, by startling, intriguing and capturing audiences (quite literally, if you trust the warriors’ accounts) since the mid-’80s, incorporating bits of B-rated shock horror into every inch of their persona, music, and performance—from the elaborate latex costumes, intricate props and their tendency to shower eager fans who flock to see them in a rain of blood and guts, allowing themselves to become a part of the show. Besides the music, GWAR is an empire within itself, creating a slew of merchandise that would make KISS blush, ranging from action figures to barbecue sauce to future plans to create a themed bar in Virginia.
With the loss of Brockie, the band hit a speed bump, and left avid followers in turmoil as the future of the group was brought into question. But after taking a five-month break from the public eye, they returned with full force in August for their fifth annual GWAR B-Q, a weekend-long festival held in Richmond where fans from all over the country make a yearly pilgrimage to celebrate all things GWAR related. The festivities this year were bittersweet, as a memorial for Brockie was held, ending with a funeral in true Viking fashion, including a ceremonial burning of the Oderus Urungus costume.
But the saga that is GWAR carries on. A couple weeks after the barbeque, they headed to Chicago’s edition of Riot Fest to perform their first public show since Brockie’s passing. Calling upon the original Beefcake The Mighty Michael Bishop, now known as Blothar, to co-front the ensemble with heavy metal fashion designer Kim Dylla, or Vulvatron, the band took the stage in front of thousands of supporters anxiously awaiting their official return, and by no means did they disappoint. Shortly after the appearance, they announced an extensive, two-month tour across North America.
When prepping for this interview, I was prepared to speak with Bishop about his return, his new character, and the elaborate backstory behind the upcoming tour. However, once on the phone I was in for a surprise. Using a conference call system I was not familiar with, I was prompted by an automatic recording to “announce myself,” to which I slowly and clearly responded, “Amy… Ebeling…”
After a second of silence, I heard a triumphant, regal rumble from the other end of the line. “And this is… Beefcake The Mighty!”
My heart stopped. Not only was it not Bishop (meaning all of my previously prepared material had to be set aside) but to whom I was speaking with wasn’t even human. I’ve had the opportunity to interview a multitude of musicians—but had yet to chat with a being from out of this world. The result was a pleasant and entertaining conversation with bassist Jamison Land as his character Beefcake The Mighty, who kindly gave me a crash course in GWAR culture.
What is the new vocalist, Blothar’s, backstory in connection to GWAR?
Well, I’m not exactly sure. I really don’t remember. I think he was frozen, and we unfroze him. We have a whole bunch of scumdogs in the basement of our Antarctic fortress, and from time to time they just get unfrozen and wander around with us.
What else goes on at the GWAR headquarters?
There’s a lot of debauchery. It’s crazy over here, really. There’s people running around with their heads cut off, mainly because we cut them off. But there’s a lot of things that happen over here; a lot of creaming up guts and torturing slaves. We always have the slaves and we drive them to death, really. We just work them until they die pretty much. And they always do a wonderful job working until death.
How was this year’s GWAR B-Q? Can you give some insight into the event?
Well, it’s a wonderful time full of meat, and beer, and loads and loads of heavy metal music. We have great bands, and the most delicious GWAR B-Q sauce that [guitarist] Balsac The Jaws Of Death brews up himself in our torture chamber. The people come in droves every year and just line up to die. It’s just such a beautiful sight.
Riot Fest marked your first show without Dave Brockie, outside of GWAR B-Q. How did the set go?
The crowd was amazing. They were better than I could have ever dreamed of. They died like champions. They cheered, and it was just a great crowd. They gave Blothar a rousing reception. And there was some sort of girl out there! Yes, that was quite a surprise. We’ll have to investigate more into that and see what she’s all about. She was pretty powerful. [Note: The ‘girl’ he was referring to was Kim Dylla’s new character, who was announced as an official member of GWAR by their production company, Slave Pit Inc., in the coming week after Riot Fest.]
Overall, what has been the reaction to Blothar so far?
They really like him, I think. They’re giving him a warm reception. He’s a fantastic singer, and he’s a very intimidating man. He gives the GWAR fans what they’re used to, which is murder and hatred. So I think they really enjoy him.
Are there any plans to release new music in the near future?
We’re always making new music, you know. Eventually people hear it and they love it, and that’ll continue as far into the future as most of these mortal humans will be able to see, because GWAR goes on forever, and our music will just keep going.
What can fans expect from the upcoming tour?
We don’t plan anything. The crowd can expect hatred and death. And misery… And also jubilation.
What are your favorite songs to perform live?
Let’s see here… I just love playing “Gor Gor.” It’s always a treat to have him out there. He gives Blothar quite a hard time, which is very amusing, and he just keeps coming back every night, and that’s fun. I think it’s probably because we keep playing the song (laughs). Maybe if we didn’t play that song he wouldn’t come out, I don’t know.
How does the band prepare for an upcoming tour? What does GWAR do to get ready to take on America?
It’s usually a combination of crack and alcohol. That really gets us prepared—we get ripped, roaring, and ready to go. That is our fuel, pretty much.
Are there any plans for after the tour? Anything to close out the year, or to begin 2015?
I will probably have a sandwich.
Okay, that’s a good way to start off the new year.
Yeah, yeah. I will have a sandwich, and uh… probably watch some pornographic videos and relax on a lounge somewhere with a nice alcoholic beverage, and a crack pipe.
I have a very important question for you now: What kind of sandwich will you eat, and what kind of booze will it be?
It will be a meat sandwich, and of course GWAR beer. Impaled Ale, that’s right.
I’ve never had GWAR beer. What sets that apart from other kinds of beer?
Well, it’s made out of little bits of children and brewed to perfection. We only use the choicest of babies, and we squeeze them fresh daily, so it’s really got that quality control.
GWAR will be playing Oct. 16 at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, Oct. 17 at Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, PA, Nov. 29 at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, and Nov. 30 at Irving Plaza in Manhattan. For more information, go to gwar.net.