GWAR By Lori Smerilson Carson December 9, 2020 GWAR To write music takes great creativity, but to combine that music with theatrics and animation is a creative combination of tremendous brains and bold. GWAR who originally formed in the mid 1980’s has been performing their thematic shows (originally labeled as “shock rock”) drawing in fans live and on-screen and are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of their second studio album Scumdogs of the Universe. This 30th Anniversary edition features all the original songs like fan favorite live song “Sick Of You” and almost musical heavy metal theater songs “Slaughterama” and “Horror Of Yig” with its bagpipe intro, that were remixed and remastered (by Ronan Chris Murphy) and was released on October 30th. Just prior to the release, SFL Music Magazine had the opportunity to get an inside scoop on how this extraordinarily talented band came together, details of GWAR’s music and live shows and what fans can look forward to. SFL Music: Do you want me to call you Blöthar or Michael? Blöthar (the Berserker): Well, do you want to interview Blöthar or Michael? SFL Music: I guess Blöthar, right? Blöthar: Ok. Then Blöthar it is. SFL Music: So, tell me how you guys all came together. You were all at the University in Virginia, from Richmond originally? Blöthar: Yeah. Some of us. The group of human slaves that created GWAR were originally, some of them had been students in the sculpture and paint and print making department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. There were also a group of just punk rock musicians. My younger self was a part of that, and so we were just sort of in the scene playing music. In the Richmond scene, and we all kind of joined forces. Musicians and visual artists to create GWAR. SFL Music: This is the 30th anniversary of Scumdogs of the Universe album, correct? Blöthar: That’s right. Thirty years! SFL Music: Time flies, right? Blöthar: It certainly does. SFL Music: It had some really great concepts. What inspired that album? Blöthar: What inspired Scumdogs of the Universe was contractual obligations. No, I’m just kidding. Actually, Scumdogs, it was a record that we had been working on for quite some time. We put out Hell-O (released in 1988) which was a bitter disappointment to all involved (he chuckled). It really was. I mean, it’s a punk rock GWAR record. Scumdogs is a record, you know, we were trying to sort of have a more metal sound and I think we achieved that on that record. Of course, there was entirely too much cocaine, chocolate milkshakes, and Chinese chicken salad involved, and so the mix is very greasy. At least initially, and that’s something we had always wanted to change. So, with this release, which is a remix and a remaster of that, you really get the sound of sort of the way that we intended it to be. It’s just kind of like throwing up some microphones in a room and you hear the band playing, and we really love that. And the fans have reacted strongly to it too as well, but as far as like the concepts that were involved in that record. Really, we sort of dived into telling the story of GWAR which is a band from outer space. We were part of an elite, fighting force called the Scumdogs of the Universe, and so this record really sort of starts to tell that story. Then as the records go on, you get more and more of that. SFL Music: Who is in the band at this point that did the album? Blöthar: Well, on that record there is Beefcake the Mighty playing bass guitar, which at the time, I Blöthar was Beefcake the Mighty. I experienced mitosis like a cell and divided into two at some point, and the better part of me became Blöthar, while the fat and stupid part remained Beefcake the Mighty. Beefcake the Mighty was originally, that was a younger me. I played bass guitar on the record. Oderus Urungus was the singer and Balsac the Jaws of Death played guitar. Flattus Maximus played guitar and Jizmak Da Gusha played drums. Now, later on both Flattus and Oderus are no longer in the band. Both of them passed and their characters have been retired. However, it was a different Flattus. This was an earlier Flattus that was on that record. That person is still living, but the later slave of Flattus (Cory Smoot) passed away (in 2011) and when he did, we retired the character, and then of course Oderus Urunges who’s human slave Dave Brockie animated that character, he passed away as well in 2014. SFL Music: Oh. I’m sorry to hear that. I had previously read that. Blöthar: Thank you. SFL Music: You’re welcome. You said you changed up some of the songs. Are you guys going to do a live stream or a video fans can look forward to? Blöthar: We are as a matter of fact. We are doing a live stream video that is a, us. I mean it sounds like wheels could come off of this thing. So, it’s really worth watching, but it’s a (he laughed), it’s a live, you know, a GWAR show where we’re performing and we’re probably going to be attacked by our many enemies that we have out there in the world. GWAR has a big thing with enemies. Not a lot of rock bands have enemies. Who are the enemies of Toad the Wet Sprocket? I don’t know, but we are a band with arch enemies, so we’ll probably be attacked by them during the performance. It’s just gonna be a regular, GWAR performance, but with the audience being virtual which is fine with us because we dislike humans anyway. SFL Music: You have a doctorate in music? Blöthar: Ah, my slave Michael Bishop. SFL Music: Michael Bishop has a doctorate in music? Blöthar: Yes. He has a doctorate in music. He lauds it over everyone all the time. SFL Music: Well, he probably worked hard for it. Blöthar: Yes, he’s just a dork is what he is. SFL Music: Is that what caused him to go to school and achieve his goal? Blöthar: Yes, and earn his PHD. Pretty huge disappointment. SFL Music: Oh my. That’s funny. What influenced you guys to put together GWAR? To let your slaves become musicians? Blöthar: Well, you know the influence to put together GWAR really was, there was a place in Richmond called the Dairy. The old Richmond dairy is what it was called and Richmond Dairy Company, it was a building that had four milk bottles, one on each corner. Like big milk bottle capstone corners of the building and inside of one of those milk bottles we had, and it was a derelict building really and it was constantly being remodeled, and in that studio, we had some of the artists in town. Visual artists. Several of them had studios that were very close to one another, and there were rehearsal spaces that were close together. Band rehearsal spaces. The long story short is that one of the bands managed to convince one of the artists there who was working on a film called Scumdogs of the Universe. He managed to convince that person that they should join forces and that he should allow the band to wear these costumes, and it wasn’t long before we discovered that the band in costumes was doing a lot better than any of the punk bands that we had, so it seemed like something that we should keep up with and continue to do. SFL Music: That was a smart choice. Who were your punk rock influences? Blothar: Well, GWAR started very much on the circuit that had fostered bands, or it was carved out by Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys, the Circle Jerks and all these sort of American hard core bands in the mid to late ‘80’s. Even earlier, in ‘82 I guess. Started touring around the country in bands and playing shows, and when we first started, we just kind of plugged into what was left of that circuit in the late ‘80’s. We very much loved, not just punk rock, but theatrical punk rock and some bands that, you know, punk had a much wider definition in the ‘80’s and the ‘70’s where it really hadn’t become a kind of orthodoxy and so, you would have bands like The Residents who are a band from the late ‘70’s who are not really punk rock, but who punk rock people liked and who would go to the shows. Or the Butthole Surfers, which is another American band that was known for their crazy performances. Also, even bands like Devo which had a kind of concept, was very much an influence on GWAR, and then of course we all had our guilty, probably the driving force was the guilty pleasure we found in Kiss. The band that we had all sort of grown up liking and Alice Cooper and even bands like The Tubes had great live performances. The Jesus Christ Superstar was another thing. So, it was certainly broader than punk rock, but as far as punk goes, I think the things that I mentioned to you, even the Sex Pistols had a sort of very theatrical depth. So those things went into making the sound of GWAR. Certainly, I think the Sex Pistols really impacted the sound of Hell-O a lot. You can hear that. Hear them on that record. SFL Music: GWAR had a cameo in a movie in the early 90’s, right? Blöthar: We had a cameo in a couple of movies. One was Mystery Date with Ethan Hawke, and that was fun. Then I think Hardware was another one that was a movie, and then later on we did “So Fucking What” (”S.F.W.”) in one of these movies. I can’t remember. Oh yeah, Empire Records and “So Fucking What,” we were on the soundtrack for that move. “S.F.W.” SFL Music: Oh, that’s cool. What would you recommend to an up and coming band that wants to do something similar, theatrical, with concept? Blöthar: You know, I always thought that, and I think that this was one of Oderus’s big disappointments. There’s very few bands that have followed in the footsteps of GWAR. Not many, and I think that if you can find as a musical group. If you can find a group of artists that are willing to collaborate with you, then seize on that because it’s a very rare thing that GWAR has. This sort of collective of artists and visual artists and musicians. There’s some things that I’ve heard about that are similar. Laibach, a band from Europe, the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia. Is kind of like GWAR. It’s structured kind of like GWAR. The Galloping Coroners were another band that was kind of structured like GWAR. That’s another eastern European band. I mean, don’t accept boring, right? And try to build your own world. Understand that what you’re doing is creating culture and that that matters. It’s important. People are I think a lot of times less interested in your imagination than you are (he laughed). I think, that collaboration is very important. Collaborating with people who know how things should look or visual artists or other kinds of performers, is a way to kind of grow music into something that’s larger than it is. SFL Music: What inspires you when you write your music? Blöthar: Well. I’m very, very interested in (he paused and laughed). I don’t know. What inspires me when I play my music? Really, it’s money (he laughed). I’m inspired by money. Just my financial incentives and ah. No, I mean GWAR, it depends. Over time it is interesting though that like as I’ve grown older, certainly the influence of other bands has decreased significantly. I mean, we’re not trying to sound like anyone and we’re also not trying to sound like ourselves. That’s actually something that’s very unique to GWAR. I mean, AC/DC for instance, just put out another record and surprise, surprise! It sounds like an AC/DC record, and those records are great! I’m not faulting that because it’s brilliant what they’ve done. Metallica’s very similar and Slayer’s another band that’s like that, and there’s a lot of metal bands that really just sort of gain a sound and then they repeat that sound. There’s not a lot of growth or I mean, there may be growth, but there’s not a lot of change that’s going on, and GWAR’s never been that way. We try to make ourselves happy with the music. The music, a lot of it is very collaborative in nature. It comes out really well through group improvisation and then is turned into songs, and I think that’s a good way to write. We’ve done that for a long time and I think part of the inspiration for GWAR is really the experience of working with other people. A commitment that we have to each other to keep this thing going. SFL Music: That’s nice. Is that what you recommend to maintain longevity with a band? Blöthar: Probably yeah. I think that that’s what’s important. I think it’s really rare. I don’t think its sustainable for very many people. This is a very, very unique group of individuals. I do think that that’s what happens though in a lot of bands, right? Like, that there is this kind of mutual interest in driving something that you built together forward and seeing how far it can go, and everyone recognizing their role in it and how important they are and you know, if you sit there and pick apart like rock bands. It’s weird too, rock bands have definitely changed over the years. The length of time that a group can exist has really, really expanded. It’s like, if I were to look at GWAR’s career right now. This is weird for me to think about, but if we were The Rolling Stones, we would have just put out like “She Was Hot,” right? You know what I mean? We’d be on the later day Stones that nobody’s interested in listening to (he chuckled). So, I mean, just bands last longer and part of that is that the economy for music has changed dramatically and festivals really have had a lot to do with that. Nobody breaks up anymore and there are older bands, a lot of older bands that are still putting out really good material. They’re not just legacy bands. Bands like The Damned, Killing Joke, just two bands that come immediately to mind as bands that are still releasing really great records. The Canadian band Voivod that we toured with. Another band, and I’d like to keep GWAR in that group of artists that are putting out records that it’s not like just repeating yourself. It’s good stuff. It’s experimental and interesting and you know, forward thinking. SFL Music: You guys have 14 studio albums. Were you planning on making another one? Blöthar: We are writing another record, yes. I don’t know when we’ll actually be recording it, but it’s pretty soon. We’ve also put out two EP’s, two live albums and some singles in there somewhere. SFL Music: You said you’re still working on the new album, but you’re not sure when it will come out? Blöthar: Yeah, we’re working on it. It’s going to be out sometime towards the end of next year. SFL Music: Well that’s something for fans to look forward to. Was there anything else fans can look forward to? I know you said you’re doing the live stream. Blöthar: Yeah, that live stream is gonna be a big deal. It’s gonna be a lot of fun and people should definitely check it out. There’s a lot of energy that’s going to producing this thing. It’s going basically be sort of a cross between a GWAR (he laughed). We’ve been inspired by The Muppet Show in the format of this thing. So, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, and that’s the big thing is that this isn’t a live stream like other bands are doing live streams which is somebody sets up a camera and the band gets together and plays music. That’s how other bands perform. GWAR is a big theatrical production and we’re gonna do the whole thing on camera for people to watch. In the meantime, GWAR fans have an amazing new album to rock out and relive with this 30th Anniversary LP, Scumdogs of the Universe. Share It!