Interview with Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie)
by Michael Blain
MB: So, from my personal standpoint, I first heard of Gwar from Beavis and Butthead when I was younger. I was curious, did you ever know Mike Judge, or did you ever talk to him about that before you guys were on the show.
DB: No, the way that happened is a friend of ours named John Lynn, from Richmond, that I had gone to school with at VCU, he moved up to New York, got a job at MTV and was working with Mike Judge. Mike Judge was looking for videos for his new animated show Beavis and Butthead, and John was like dude, I know exactly the band for you, Gwar from Richmond, Virginia. Called me up, we set it up, boom, we did it. And we actually did go up there, we for some reason thought we were going to get rich off that. Oh my God, they are putting us on Beavis and Butthead and we are going to be on a Sega game! We’re rich! So then we found out that there was no money at all, it was purely promotional. Well we felt, we were so cocky, oh fuck, were going to go up to New York with our lawyers, and were going to go to fucking Viacom and demand our money. And like we went up in there and we actually got a sit down with these people and they just like fucking blew us out of the water. Oh yeah you can have your money it’s like .009 % after 200,000 units are sold and also do you want a couple free copies of the game. That was an absurd piece of behind the scenes theater, but we also got to meet Mike that day and hung out with him. Very soft spoken, very down to earth, and seemed completely out of place in New York.
MB: Yeah I’ve heard his personality is not at all what he portrays through his shows.
DB: I couldn’t read him at all. He was absolutely completely non-descript. Friendly, but just like, but yeah just like a poker face.
MB: Very cool. So Death Piggy was what you originally were in, what was the vibe of that band, was it the same shock and theatrics, or was it more or less just music?
DB: Nothing on the scale of Gwar, but we still went for the same kind of thing, we did wear some costumes and went for just absurd humor. Death Piggy, I just remember, probably our biggest show, we made like a cardboard cutout of the side view of a boat and like we played this stupid nautical music on a tape deck that was held up to a microphone and we entered the stage with this BOAT and it said S.S. Boat, that was its name. And we came out the little door of the boat and then we played some songs. And we would just do stupid shit. We handed out fun bags; they had like several pie tins, a thing of whipped cream, and bananas. And the idea is we tried to start a huge pie fight and banana peels went everywhere all over the slave pit. And it fucking worked. Our friends were just making pies constantly and just handing them out and people were just throwing them everywhere. You could slip and fall, you could kill yourself on a damn banana peel. And it just started a mini-riot with paper airplanes and shit, it was crazy. We would even do some fake blood and that’s how Gwar started. Gwar was a skit that Death Piggy did before the Death Piggy set.
MB: And the word Gwarrrrrrggghhhh
DB: Yeah I met Hunter Jackson; he had the costumes, and was in a different band. We decided to combine the two. For the first two shows the band was actually called Gwa..(throaty sound) and it was just a sub note to Death Piggy that was the headliner. But we saw over a few shows, that people would fucking be there in force for Gwar and we would run back on stage as Death Piggy hoping to have that same cool and intense vibe and it totally wasn’t. First of all, half the people were gone, and second of all, the people that were still there were just talking about the Gwar show.
MB: And they didn’t care about Death Piggy at all?
DB: Not anymore, I could tell. I was like whoa, that’s how quick that goes. So yeah Gwar was literally birthed from Death Piggy and then like ate, consumed it. The musicians in Death Piggy just became Gwar musicians, and Death Piggy was no more. It was crazy, I’ve never seen that happen in a band before, but I’m sure it does all the time in the garages of America.
MB: It’s interesting you mentioned bananas and stuff like that because there is a group called Dada Life, in the electronic music scene.
DB: What is called?
MB: Dada Life. The name is based off an art movement called dada.
DB: Oh, DA-DA.
MB: They throw bananas in the crowd and stuff like that and now it’s become almost a metaphor of themselves. They now use like inflatable bananas, but the first time I saw them they ate about fifteen bananas on stage.
DB: The banana has been a rock-and-roll metaphor for a long time. Since fucking, I don’t know, well The Rolling Stones had that one about big bananas, I wonder why?
MB: Maybe from evolution we have a natural predilection to liking bananas.
DB: I think every man wishes his penis was a banana. The pride from the curve, constantly erect, like a Roman dancer.
MB: The thing I always found interesting about Gwar is that there seems to be an intelligence behind the mayhem. Some groups try to copy off that but it seems to be with ignorance, for example a certain group of clowns, I’m not going to say…
DB: Nobody tries to copy Gwar because I wouldn’t say any of those bands have anything to do with Gwar. Like Mushroomhead, or Slipknot, or ICP, sure we share some elements, there are only a few bands who kind of understand where Gwar is coming from. I would say Devo was probably the biggest example in that they embraced the characters one hundred percent, they had a really clever mythos, they did all these crazy videos to back it up, and they stuck with it. The Gorillaz kind of do the same thing, they are a really weird enigmatic group, I’ve never seen them live but they do all kinds of crazy stuff, I mean they are cartoons. Metalocolypse, I mean they are not really a band, they kind of blur the line.
MB: Yeah they were a cartoon first and then became real, like Spinal Tap.
DB: Yeah, so there are kind of some things that are in the same league, I would say Devo are the kings of that whole theatrical rock shit, but they were such great musicians that there was never any doubt that their music was really what they were all about. And with Gwar people aren’t so sure
MB: Exactly. So when I was researching it said that you guys originally intended to make “Scumdogs of the Universe” when you kind of formulating Gwar and then you had the album “Scumdogs of the Universe” and then a video of it which was just Live from Antarctica which is kind of like the mythos of the band.
DB: By then, we had abandoned the idea for the movie.
MB: So that wasn’t what the movie was supposed to be?
DB: Not at all. The movie was the brainchild of Hunter Jackson, the artist that created the original Gwar costumes. Him and Chuck Varga, who become the Sexecutioner, they were together to work and make these little movies that they were doing up in the Charlottesville area. They had some really cool characters, Captain Communist and anyway they were doing this whole new group of guys that were going to call the Scumdogs of the Universe and they were building this set in the dairy, this abandoned warehouse where they all lived, they were building this set and had these crazy costumes, and that’s when I started hanging out with them and we combined Death Piggy and their costumes and the idea was this Gwar band is going to be fun but the whole idea was we are still going to help Hunter make his movie. But then the band just got busier, busier, and busier, and Hunter just couldn’t get it together. He was building these gigantic fucking sets and they had basically been unfinished for a couple of years and it was just a huge job. There was no money in it and we were going to have to spend money to make the thing and at that point it was no longer Hunter’s baby anymore. And that was the only way that movie was ever going to get made if had been able to do that. He had a very singular vision as a director and he deserved to be able to let that loose. And since he couldn’t do that, we decided well at least we can call the album “Scumdogs of the Universe,” so there will be a record of that. Because that’s a great fucking title and that’s what Gwar is all about. So any videos that came out in that area were just us doing promotional stuff for that possibility. Hunter did, but I didn’t know all the ideas of what the movie was actually going to be about but it is basically very different from what Gwar is today. The characters were a bunch of space pirates and that’s all I could ever get out of him really. He was very protective of his idea.
MB: Like Kubrick or something?
DB: Yeah artists are like that dude; I think I’ve kind of been the lucky one. I’m an artist, graduated from art school, I’ve been studying art and making art my whole fucking life, I always knew I was going to be an artist ever since I was a little kid. But I’m also a musician so I get to do that as well…when you are an artist you spend long periods alone and in your head. And feel it in your heart. And when you are a musician it’s the same thing, except you have got to deal with those three other dudes in the room. So generally speaking they are better communicators. So then when you get something like Gwar with five, six, eight artists together plus a band, getting everyone to row in the same direction is quite a challenge. And it is a testimony to how strong the idea of Gwar is that people will put aside all of their personal bullshit and fucking row.
MB: Be part of the Gwar community?
DB: It really is a family and a community and I saw it, every time I go on tour and I saw it more than ever on this last tour, the strength of our family. It really helped us, it really did. We couldn’t have done it without them, quite simply. We did it for them, and for Cory, but we couldn’t have done it without them either. It was the most important tour I’ve been on. It means so much, Cory left his wife and his unborn daughter.
MB: Do they still come along on tour with you guys?
DB: No she is still deeply…we’ve done two memorial shows in Richmond we did a big Gwar show there. We opened up the Smoot Family Fund and we have been doing all kinds of fundraising for it. So I’ve got this whole other motivational factor now, cause that kid, I kind of look at now as our kid. Cory would want us to do everything we could to take care of that child. And he gave us everything so I have to give it right back. And Jamie’s fine, a totally devastating loss but she has come through it, and one thing that has gotten us through it is all those amazing Gwar fans out there. I think we have the best fucking fans out there, Gwar fans tend to be pretty smart, they are kind of the dorky kids in high school you know. But you will get people from all social spectrums that are attracted to Gwar. You have to a little bit of a weird sense of humor to appreciate Gwar, and those are the kind of people I enjoy the most.
MB: The most screwed up thing with music in general is how the entire review scene works, you supposed to tell me that someone gets the album two weeks in advance that someone put a lot work into and you are supposed to know before it comes out if you should like it or not. Furthermore, that’s where most of it gets leaked is all those servers where reviewers get promos and stuff like that.
DB: Oh yeah, I agree totally with where you are coming from and that sucks too.
MB: What do you think about just downloading music in general?
DB: I don’t mind it honestly, for everything that the internet has taken away from me it’s given me back tenfold…there are so many tools to communicate and express yourself with. I would hate to take away any resource from anyone. What I don’t like about it, I download free music off the internet all the time, and I would be a complete hypocrite if I sat here and said it was terrible and stop taking money out of my pocket. I don’t understand how someone like Lars U. or Metallica could give a shit about that cause they are going to be rich as hell no matter what.
MB: It’s like that South Park where he doesn’t get an extension on his pool.
DB: Yeah! The only thing I don’t like about it is when shit gets leaked before you release it.
MB: Like it isn’t the final master or something like that.
DB: Yeah, people start getting stuff like that and thinking that it’s the Gwar album or whatever and that could end up in a review or something written by the lowliest fan. I want to make sure that if they are listening to the Gwar album, they are listening to the new Gwar album. That’s like a fundamental thing I wanted to have accomplished. And they can spoil that. So I don’t like that about it, but as long as people are responsible in their distribution of pirated material then that’s fine. I’m not against it at all, I think it’s awesome and I do it constantly.
MB: There is constant debate on the internet about whether it is more about the show or more about the music. The three songs that always come up when people are defending the music are “The Road Behind,” “America Must Be Destroyed,” and “Gor Gor.”
DB: Wow! All from that one album. Well that’s pretty crazy. I would say those songs are pretty good indications of how awesome the band is, sure, but I think our music on songs like “Bring Back the Bomb” and “Immortal Corrupter” and “Zombies March” and the new album, it’s certainly way more complicated. Super super more intense, but I do know that that particular record we had the best producer…”America Must Be Destroyed” is the best produced Gwar record there is and it also was recorded right when were at just like our fucking peak as far as you know the perception of what was going on with the band…the record actually charted and back then that meant something…we really thought that album was going to be the thing that propelled Gwar into the Stratosphere, but it just didn’t click with people. Just didn’t have what it took to be a mainstream success and that’s fine.
MB: Did it hit the way you wanted it to at the shows?
DB: It hit the way I wanted it to in the stores as well. I wasn’t trying to write a commercial success. “The Road Behind” is a direct slap in the face of all those stupid bands that wrote those stupid ballads and stupid glam metal. We were totally making fun of Guns’n’Roses and we were totally making fun of the music industry. The coke parties and execs…Gwar has always been a big fuck you to the music industry you know, at least to the elements of it that I find loathsome, those gigantic fat sagging monolithic record companies that steal your soul from you and chew you up and spit you out and you end like Kurt Cobain or Whitney Houston…
MB: Years from now if Gwar is long gone…what would you want people to remember most, if there was like one idea or one thing just about Gwar?
DB : That we never sold out, we were always true to our roots and that was a choice…We aren’t motivated by financial success or the pleasure of the decadent rock and roll lifestyle. We’re a bunch of hardworking blue collar, middle class joes, who love punk rock, metal, D & D, and smoking weed. And as long as we have that then I think Gwar will last forever. I think in a way if Gwar even did get successful it would almost be a shame…And I’ve even thought Gwar might not get big until I’m not a part of it anymore, or after I’ve died. Cause Gwar could go on you know. They could bring a whole new cast of characters and do like Son of Gwar or whatever, or Gwar 2, or Gwar Deux, or just keep calling it Gwar and hit it like Slipknot but that would be a shame because it wouldn’t be Oderus with his dick hanging out…I’m probably the only lead singer of the band that did his entire career with his dick hanging out.
MB: I think that’s a perfect place to end. (laughter)
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