I was in the 9th grade when my best friend ran up to me waving a new cassette. The cover featured a quintet of bloody space mutants posing proudly on a broken Antarctic ice flow. They wore medieval armor and brandished swords, axes, and maces. In bloody red letters at the bottom was, “Scumdogs of the Universe.” Above them: “GWAR.”
A cassette was a CD on a magnetic tape that could be chewed up and broken by your radio. The only option for skipping songs was through a process, called “fast forward,” that was mostly trial and error and resulted in either missing the beginning of the song you wanted or being forced to listen to the end of the song you were trying to skip. A CD was a cross between a playlist and a drinking coaster, with songs that could not be re-arranged. Most CDs featured only one band or artist, and only toward the end of their life-span were users able to “burn” their own CDs on their home computers. GWAR was the greatest thing to happen in the history of music.
Starting as an idea for a movie by what would become “Slave Pit Inc,” the story grew and mutated. The Scumdogs of the Universe were a group of space pirates and gladiators banished to Earth millions of years ago for being too bloodthirsty and perverse for the most bloodthirsty and perverse being in the universe. This was “the Master.” GWAR killed him on their seventh album We Kill Everything. After GWAR killed off the dinosaurs for their own amusement, they accidentally created humans by having sex with apes. Their Antarctic fortress (Arctic on the first album) was frozen with the space monsters inside. Whether the name should be spelled “Gwar” or “GWAR” has never been clear. For the purpose of this article it will be spelled “GWAR,” because it should be.
I was terrified when I first encountered the band. I was young. My musical taste had so recently been Poison and AC/DC, and I’d only recently discovered Faith No More. I still refused to listen to Metallica and Slayer because they were “Satanic.” I was not ready for Oderous Urungus, Balsac the Jaws of Death, and Beefcake the Mighty. Song material included murder, rape, war, vomit, shit, and most often a combination of all the above. Still, like with a car crash, I couldn’t look away. Oderous ran out of conventional profanity before the end of the first song, forcing him to create his own. Thus, “suckadickalickalog” entered the lexicon.
“Bohabs” are the sad souls that sold themselves to slavery for GWAR. Most slaves died horrible deaths. Despite their gross-out lyrics, GWAR flirted with mainstream success several times culminating with last year’s petition for GWAR to play the Super Bowl. Beavis and Butthead first shoved GWAR into the American craw. Videos came highly praised by the duo, and their game for Sega Genesis (this was a Super Nintendo that was fun) was a quest to recover lost GWAR tickets.
Each new GWAR album told a story and was accompanied by a home video. They were low-fi and consisted mostly of concert video inter-cut with scenes shot in their Richmond studios. The gem by far was “Skulhedface,” featuring Jello Biafra as Boss Glom, head of the corporation seeking to make GWAR safe for public consumption. Of course, the only way this would be possible would be to kill the actual band. GWAR did not agree. And after they murdered the Glomco board of directors, Boss Glom revealed himself as Mr. Dr. Professor Skulhedface whose true intention was to drain GWAR of their jizzmoglobin, the essence of what makes them cool. While he did manage to drain Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach, the plot was ultimately foiled, and Skulhedface was fucked to death.
Live GWAR shows were violent affairs where pop culture icons were torn limb from bloody limb and all variation of body fluids were sprayed over the crowd. The blood, semen, and urine were normally ice cold, which was a welcome addition to the mosh pit at the end of the show. Unless I miscounted, “The Litany of the Slain” lists 94 victims killed mostly by Oderous, but does not include any victims following Bloody Pit of Horror.
The first time I saw GWAR was at Water Street Music Hall in Rochester, NY. That leg of the tour was a co-headline with the Misfits. My girlfriend dropped acid, we got lost on the way, and arrived halfway through the Misfits set. During the show, our illegally parked car was towed, and we were left to wander the cold streets of October Rochester drenched in GWAR blood. The faces were priceless at the fancy restaurant where we stopped to use the phone. In retrospect, it was awesome.
The only stinker of a show was in my hometown of Johnson City, NY. GWAR was touring for their album Beyond Hell, where the united forces of the world descend on GWAR’s Antarctic castle and drive them into the depths of the Earth where they must battle the Devil. The show had been scheduled for summer, but was impeded in transit by a broken-down bus. A reschedule was tacked hastily to the end of their run with Bam Margera’s “Viva La Bam” tour. GWAR arrived in JC the day they were supposed to be home with their families. Clearly, the tour had not been fun. Only the hits were played that night and no one smiled, except while kicking around a Bam-faced Baby. The show ended with an extended dose of the “Biledriver,” a gun that soaked the crowd with torrents of blood to a jam session of “Sick of You.”
Brockie always said another would wear the Oderous mask when he retired. Giant space monster costumes allowed the characters to be played by a revolving door of musicians. After Scumdogs, the characters were Oderous Urungus on vocals, Balsac the Jaws of Death and Flattus Maximus on guitar, Beefcake the Mighty on bass, and Jizmak da Gusher beating the drums. Following the death of Corey Smoot in 2011, the character of Flattus Maximus was retired and replaced by his cousin Pustulus Maximus, providing the plot for the most recent GWAR album Battle Maximus. Mike Derks and Brad Roberts were in the band as Balsac and Jizmak respectively since the late ‘80s, but only Dave Brockie remained from the original lineup. He started at guitar when GWAR (then named an unpronounceable scream that was later molded into the word “GWAR”) was an opener for Brockie’s punk band “Death Piggy.” Brockie had taken vocal duties following the original singer’s mid-show nervous breakdown, and he was lead vocalist on every recorded album.
March 23rd, Dave Brockie was found dead in his apartment by his roommate. A toxicology report will not be available before this story goes to press, but drugs seem a likely cause or factor. After so many rock-star overdoses, it would be hypocritical to condemn Brockie or pity him if this is the case. If it turns out drugs in some way did kill Dave Brockie, 1) are you surprised? 2) do you care? He spent more than thirty years touring the world pretending to be a giant space monster that sprayed semen and the blood of his victims over an adoring crowd every single night. During the height of 9/11, it was Brockie’s day at the office to murder George W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, and every pop culture icon that tickled his fancy.
Dave Brockie’s worst day at work was better than the best day you will ever have in your cubicle. Sure, it’s tragic we’ll miss out on a few more GWAR albums. But is that a big deal? Their quality had gone up and down several times, but most everything sounded the same. The plot was always a ridiculous monster threatened GWAR’s existence, and they were willing to destroy the Earth to stop it. They generally won by shoving their weapons up its ass. As a fan that keeps the band’s discography on shuffle every day, I can tell you it was original for Scumdogs, but every album that followed was an excuse to get out on tour and be the most enjoyable live band the world has ever known. You can have your opinion for or against drug use, but Dave Brockie was Oderous Urungus. He died young, but he won at life.
Long live Oderous!
Paul Juser loved GWAR before it was cool. WAAAAAAAY before it was cool, and still loves them now that it’s no longer cool. Read Paul’s fiction at www.printisbetter.com.