BEHIND THE MONSTER: GWAR’s human side also angry

Interviewing Dave Brockie is not much different than talking to Oderus Urungus, his alter-ego front-demon in GWAR.

One is a loudmouthed, opinionated alien monster that hates humanity. The other is a loudmouthed, opinionated artist that hates humanity.

Other than that, they’re exactly the same.

Of course Brockie doesn’t hate humanity. It’s satire. Playing Friday at the Edmonton Event Centre, GWAR was, and is, a joke, “So it doesn’t bother me that people are laughing, even if they’re laughing at us and not with us,” he says. “I don’t give a shit.” This is Dave talking, not Oderus. The 48-year-old Virginia native is happy to give the occasional interview “out of character,” to let fans see the inner workings of what he calls “a sickening mating of a punk rock metal show and Grease or Little Orphan Annie.”

What Brockie – and of course GWAR – wants is simple: to destroy celebrity, or at least the public’s cheapened notion of what celebrity means. GWAR kills celebrities. Live, on stage, in effigy, with plenty of faux blood and guts. No one escapes the sword at a GWAR show: Politicians, religious leaders and most especially in recent years, reality show stars. The mission of GWAR in a nutshell: “Take everything you hate about society, put it on stage and kick the living shit out of it.”

While eating beef jerky during a phone interview (human flesh for Oderus), Brockie goes on about how much reality show celebrities nauseate him: “When I see an entertainer, I want to see that something that challenges me or takes me to a place I couldn’t go myself or just wows me with their amazing talent. I watched this special about Harry Belafonte Jr. Wow, now this guy has done everything. He’s a great actor, he’s a great musician, he’s a great singer, he’s a great dancer. When you look at a celebrity like that, there’s no doubt why he is a celebrity. But that’s not true anymore. You have these fat, disgusting, worthless, useless fucking pieces of shit people who are tacky, loud, obnoxious, ignorant, everything I hate about the human race and here they are being lauded as celebrities. I think it’s horrible – and that’s why GWAR kills those people all the time.”

GWAR really did start as a joke. Brockie and his art college buddies were in a band called Death Piggy, playing around Richmond, Virginia’s punk scene in the mid-‘80s. During shows, they would pretend to be monsters and make two minutes of random angry noise. Brockie recalls that fans started leaving after that portion of the show, so goodbye Death Piggy, hello GWAR. The band was originally called “Gwaaaarrrggghhllllgh” – which is the first thing these alien monsters said upon waking up after a 20 million year slumber in Antarctica (long story) and since shortened to GWAR so it could fit on a T-shirt. Brockie wasn’t the singer at the time, nor was he even the one who came up with the name Oderus Urungus.

“Various lead singers we had completely crapped out on us, whether they couldn’t handle the costume or had a fucking nervous breakdown on stage,” Brockie says. “So finally I just got the job of singer by default. One guy left in the middle of the show. He was literally running down the street throwing the costume off as he weaved through traffic. He just couldn’t handle it. I believe his character was called Johnny Slutman. We certainly had no forewarning of it. He seemed like normal person. But when you put a big monster costume on someone and stick them out there in front of 500 sweaty punks, strange things can happen.”

By now, the GWAR institution has grown into a fertile creative breeding ground for Brockie and his bandmates’ ideas and opinions. While he agrees it’s not easy to be shocking in this day and age, he says, “I don’t see many bands going to the lengths that GWAR goes to make our points. And I challenge any band out there to show the blatant lack of respect for any authority figures whatsoever as you can see in a GWAR show.”

As for the effect of the character on its creator in real life, which includes lots of other artistic projects beyond GWAR, “It’s really upped the ante about that kind of stuff. I’d better be outspoken. Luckily I am a loudmouthed, opinionated person – and really that’s the only kind of person you can get to play Oderus. I have lots of opportunities to spout off my half-baked bullshit and I do so, with vigour, every chance I get.”

Oderus has spoken!