LarryMac sat down with our friend, Dave Brockie (aka Oderus Urungus), for another update on the Gwar universe. Larry even managed to get a couple of words in, but this time Dave basically took the ball and ran with it, giving the lowdown on moving on after the death of Cory Smoot (aka Flattus Maximus) last year, as well as the upcoming album.
Dave Brockie: (finishing up a conversation back stage as we sit down) So, yeah, that was the one, the only Brent Purgason, who will be taking the stage as the brother of Flattus Maximus on the fall tour. He’s not going to be here tonight; actually, tonight is going to be the last time that Gwar performs as a four-piece, so this is the last time we do this with just Mike (Derks) on guitar (aka Balsac the Jaws of Death), but after an arduous, year-consuming search we finally settled on Brent because he was the most kick-ass guitar player that we’ve tried out and he also had the added bonus of being from Richmond and he was a really good friend of Cory’s (Smoot) and it was just a perfectly natural fit. We kinda knew that from the beginning, but we really wanted to try out a lot of people. We, as much as our fans, are very aware of the fact that Cory was just one of the greatest guitar players, period. Because of that Flattus suit, he’s probably going to be overlooked and never get the respect he deserves from the music community just because of the stigma that comes from being in Gwar: “you’re just that monster band”. But he is far from that, he was an absolutely brilliant guitar player, and the loss struck us very hard. We wanted to try out as many quality people as possible, but I’m really glad that we ended up with a Richmond local. You know, because we don’t have to fly somebody in all the time (laughs).
It’s been a fuck of a year, it’s been a tough one. It would have buried a lesser band. It definitely would have, but for some reason, we’ve been able to hang in there.
So, we go back home after this is over, we finish our preparations for our fall show that we’re getting ready to do. Then we’ll come out again in the spring. It kinda screwed everything up. We normally would have had a new album out by now and this show tonight would be a brand new show and there would be a brand new album and a whole tour based on that album. As it is, that kind of all went down the toilet. But some cities, because they want to have Gwar come around once a year, they have to unfortunately get a repeat show. Which we don’t like to do. We want to have a new show every time we come to a place, but everybody understand the circumstances were a little different this year. They’re gonna have to suck it up and just deal with it. We’re gonna be fucking great anyway.
But, I’ll tell ya, Brent is an amazing fucking guitar player. You know, all of our songs are written for two guitars. Mike has done and amazing, AMAZING job – all the guys – I can’t believe how bold this band still sounds, just with the four-piece. But I’m looking forward to having the full guitar attack back and our new dude is metal as fuck, just look at him (laughing maniacally). Pustulus will rule and he’s gonna have a mighty tour this fall – but we gotta hang on just a little bit longer. So yeah, tonight’s show in Cleveland is our last show as a four-piece.
LarryMac: (chuckling) I’m not sure if that’s good or bad for us, but we’ll take it.
DB: We much rather would have had a new album out by now and, you know, not had Cory pass away, obviously. But we’ve had a hell of a run over the years and it’s been amazing how much good luck we’ve had so it was inevitable that at some point something bad was going to happen to us. Considering how horrible we’ve been to everybody else, I’m surprised we didn’t get MORE crucified, like “Ha, Gwar finally got what was coming to ‘em” or shit like that. The weird thing about the Flattus character is he’s always had a kind of affinity with extraneous suffering. When the character was created, the first guy who played him, Dewey (Rowell), his personality just kind of lent itself to him being picked on. Unfortunately, that was just the way it went down. Then Pete (Lee) took over the task and he was the one that got shot during a car-jacking attempt. And he almost died. Then we had Zach (Blair), who’s now in Rise Against – Zach moved on from Gwar, but he’s still a really dear friend of ours – and I think he was the only person that ever played Flattus that was quick enough to get out of the rubber suit before something really bad happened to him, so he really made the right decision. But Cory really took the character and made it his own. And the way he made it his own was by shutting up and letting his guitar do the talking and there’s not a single day that we don’t remember that. But Gwar has survived. Gwar is continuing to rock on, for better or worse – it is what it is. I hate to give Cleveland a repeat show, but everyone understands. Hopefully. Interaction with the press will help spread the word (laughing).
LM: (laughing) Anything I can do to help, man. That’s what I’m here for. Now, this year was the second or third Gwar-B-Q…
DB: It was the third! Third in a row that we pulled off, so that was pretty good. We’ve had them, sporadically, for 25 years. It wasn’t until three years ago that we decided we were gonna try and bring it out and try to get it to be more like an annual festival. Last year, we gotta kinda fucked at the last second and they jacked all our permits and we ended up having to transfer it indoors and it really sucked but we still pulled it off. But this year everyone agreed that an indoor bar-b-q was not quite what we were looking for, but we pulled it off this year. It went really great, we had almost 2000 people, it was a ton of fun, we had two stages out there, people playing in the pool, grilling meat and all that crap. There were still some things that had to be worked out, for instance, we ordered 10,000 beer cups – you know, 12 ounce beer cups and we’re like “cool, 12 ounces of beer” – and we get the cups and we couldn’t believe how small they looked. We’re like “12 ounces fits in that fucking thing?” – it was terrible, we were like (meekly) “it’s only three dollars for beer…they’re miniature beers”. But that’s okay, everyone understood – they just had to buy two at once and that’s a 24 ouncer, right there!
LM: Now, as the long term plan, are you doing the Gwar-B-Q as a way to get yourselves off the road and just make everybody come to you guys?
DB: Well…it does seem like a good idea, doesn’t it? I would like to not tour so relentlessly as we have done. Now that we have stopped kinda going to Europe and Australia and stuff – we just noticed that we’d spend all this money getting overseas and we play in front of ten people in Spain. Yay, it cost us $30,000 to get all our shit over here and we’re playing in front of ten people. So we just made a decision to concentrate on kicking ass in America and doing really great albums and if we can throw a festival once a year where everyone came from all over the place to see us then that would be awesome. And that’s kind of what we’re slowly doing with the Gwar-B-Q. Right now, we’re about halfway through the new album, we have thirteen songs written, but just because they’re written doesn’t mean we’re ready to record them – we have a lot of work to do and we’re really not going to be able to get back to it until December, so basically we want to break in the new character this fall, with the fall tour and then we’ll take it out again next year in the spring tour and we’ll finish the album in between those two tours. Then the new record will come out in the summer and then by next fall, boom – we’ll have a whole new show to support that and we’ll be all ready to go.
LM: So pretty much you’re just taking some time off, slacking off…
DB: Yeah, exactly! No, we have more work to do than EVER. I swear to God, sometimes I wake up in the morning – or even worse, like last night, I couldn’t even go to sleep, I literally did not sleep a wink all night, I just kept tossing and turning and looking at the clock, because there’s just so much shit going on and so much on my mind, that sometimes it does become overwhelming. Luckily, that’s only like one out of every fourteen days or so, I’ll have a day like that. So, nothing to worry about. But it’s quite a workload and we’ve always driven ourselves really, really hard and really just abused ourselves to the point of just…I don’t know. Any Gwar fan sees what we go through on a nightly basis, then we pack it all up, throw it on the truck, drive all night and do it again. It’s pretty crazy. It’s amazing that we’ve hung in there for so long and – besides Cory passing away – this was actually a really good year, this past year, for Gwar. We all did really well, made some money, Jimmy Fallon, so there’s a lot of opportunities and a lot of good reasons to keep doing Gwar beyond just making records and touring and that’s what we’ve been trying to do is get into some other areas and we’ll just see. With all these years of doing Gwar, we’ve built up a lot of respect amongst a lot of people. A lot of people just think that it’s past high time that Gwar had a fucking Gwar movie, Gwar had a video game, Gwar had a comic book – had all those things that you would expect, like if a band like Slipknot was more creative, what they would have. There really hasn’t been a band that was so into their characters since, like, Devo. Not even Kiss or Slipknot…
LM: And even Kiss managed to make a shitty movie.
DB: Yeah, exactly! Give me the budget for “Phantom of the Park”, I’ll take it any day. Maybe them keeping it simple was the thing that they figured out that we never could. We never knew how to keep shit simple. We always made things way more complicated than they were supposed to be, because that’s what kept it interesting to us.
LM: See? You should have done it like them: made the characters and then called it a day. But you had to come up with stories and fight penguins and every album has got to be a whole different thing.
DB: Yeah, we never got to the point where “this is the show, this is the show we’re pretty much gonna do for the rest of our lives” and we’re just gonna roll with it like that. We always wanted to make it interesting to ourselves, first and foremost.
LM: Do you have a feel for the new album yet?
DB: Oh yeah, I’ve got the whole story all worked out. It’s really fucking awesome. I’m gonna spend a lot of time talking about it in the future, but I can kinda take a run at it right now. What the deal is, is Oderus is laying around the coffin one day and he has this vision of the future, where the human race has been completely wiped out by some kind of apocalypse that occurred – whether it’s a solar flare or a man-made nuclear exchange, he’s not sure. But he knows in the future, the human race was pretty much wiped out except for two types of people: the people that could afford to move underground and live in their air conditioned survival bunkers and the humans that just happened to survive on the surface and had to tear back humanity out of a savage world. What happens is these two groups of humans evolve in very different ways. Whereas the humans on the surface would appear to be disadvantaged because they’re just clawing up using bear skins and bone knives, actually it’s the humans that are underground that are really de-evolving because they’re down there gobbling stem cells and taking weird drugs and inbreeding and growing new organs for themselves and they really start to mutate into hideous creatures. Then they start going back to the surface world and stealing humans and bringing them down below and like “oh, how do you feel love? And just hurt it until it tells us what love is”. So it really becomes this horrible vision of the future. But then Oderus is just getting into it, looking into his crazy machine that can see through all time and then he realizes that these creatures are trying to find the secret to immortality. That’s why they’re doing all these horrible experiments on the humans and they used to be humans themselves, and they consider themselves the perfect humans – they call themselves the Perfects. At that point, Oderus realizes that the Perfects have recognized the fact that Gwar is immortal. So they’re constructing a machine to go back in time and find Gwar and destroy Gwar and find the secret to our immortality. So it’s kind of told like an offhand story Oderus would tell until he figures out that he’s actually in the crosshairs. Basically, what the album is, is it’s the story of the humans on the surface, the sick humans underneath the ground that are obviously a representation of the government gone crazy – it’s a story about the struggle of humanity in the face of overwhelming odds. In that sense, it’s the story of our band – who were faced with losing Cory and somehow had to carry on. I’m using the story as a metaphor, really, to tell the story of what it was like for us to go through that. So that’s kind of the idea for the new album and I think it’s pretty heavy. The guys are behind me 100%. It’s been taking a while to really get the idea formulated – that’s maybe the fifth time I’ve said it, like run through it with somebody. But all the lyrics are really awesome, really sick, really fucked up. These creatures are horrible because they go underground and they take animals with them as well and start having sex with them. They start considering “it would be good to have eyes like an eagle” or “ sniff like a dog”, so they start doing all these genetic experiments and in doing so – they’re trying to become prefect humans, but what they’re really doing is turning into these sick, disgusting creatures. It’s gonna be a deep one and I’m really looking forward to a point where I can get off the road and just really concentrate on that and doing the art and doing a really good job on it.
LM: At first, it sounded like Oderus got stoned and fell asleep in front of the TV watching “The Time Machine”.
DB: Yeah. I wanted it to be like that at first and then when he realizes that Gwar is the target, that’s when the story gets some teeth. It’s kind of interesting the way that happened was I had the original idea and I was going out into the shop a lot and talking to the guys and they were listening to me and they were really digging the idea, but the one day Matt (Maguire) was like “well how do we get Gwar into the story?” and I was like “I’m not really sure yet”. I was sure we’d figure it out sooner or later. He’s like “why don’t you have it so they want to get Gwar, they want to take Gwar’s power from them somehow?” and it was a really classic example of how the Slave Pit, we grow off of each other’s ideas and if it hadn’t been for me having that conversation with Matt that day, I’d still be fucking around trying to figure out what the story was all about. Like the creatures get really fucked up. They start learning how to like breathe methane and shit like these crazy creatures that live at the bottom of the ocean next to these volcanic vents that are eating minerals – they can’t even breathe air anymore, so they come up out of the ground in these horrible warmachine death droids, they look around for humans to bring underground and do their horrible experiments on. Yeah, it’s definitely me smoking too pot and falling asleep in front of “The Time Machine” (laughs). We’ll see if people can make the leave and understand the story I’m trying to tell – it’s going to take a lot of doing. At any rate, it’s going to be a crushing musical album.
LM: Sounds like that’s going to be a bitch to translate into a stage show, though.
DB: Yeah, I’m not quite sure how we’re gonna do it yet but we’re gonna do it.