What Is GWAR?
When their 1990 album “Scumdogs of the Universe,” sold a few thousand copies, no one could have predicted GWAR’s success and longevity. The music business is a volatile one, with groups constantly appearing and disappearing in a way that would make Darwin proud. You’re at the top of the food chain or you’re being digested. The groups that survive for decades or more are selling something that people want to buy. Each musical genre has its survivors. GWAR is one of them. Who would have thought that this group would still be around in 2007?
GWAR (an acronym for God What an Awful Racket,”) is a group with the stated purpose of “(being) as obnoxious as the world is obnoxious.” That’s how groups’s mission statement has been expressed by Dave Brockie, who co-created the group with Chuck Varga and Hunter Jackson in Richmond, Virginia. The three men brought into the world the shocking multimedia show which was the result of their combined talents. David Brockie’s interests were in music, the more metallic and confrontational, the better. Varga and Jackson were producing horror movies. When the three entrepreneurs got together, they created one successful business from their two floundering creative endeavors.
A GWAR stage show consists of the shattering of as many taboos as possible. “GWAR teaches people how to deal with reality. --- (it) gives people a means of purging their pent-up desires and frustrations,” explains Brockie. The group accomplishes this by shocking their audience with their blood-spewing, excrement-embracing, rape-endorsing antics onstage. Their lyrics and their blogs leave no doubt that GWAR is representing the worst urges that people can entertain. When a venue is booked for a GWAR concert, the maintenance staff tries to minimize the anticipated damage by draping the entire building with sheets of plastic. The fake blood which spurts from a network of hoses drenches everyone, including photographers trying to capture astonishing images – I can tell that from my own experience. Other bodily fluids and solids are also simulated onstage, and thrown into the audience. People emerge from a GWAR show looking like extras from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. What makes this experience so appealing to the fans?
The Myth of GWAR.
Here is the nutshell version of the saga which GWAR’s creators developed for its monsters.
The Scumdogs of the Universe were a race of evil, destructive monsters who did the bidding of their reprobate cosmic Master for thousands of years. Then this potentate banished the Scumdogs to a distant, insignificant planet—Earth. The earthbound extra-terrestrial monsters lost no time in subjugating the animals they found living on earth. They mated with these beasts to produce a race of inferior, sniveling beings---humans. It is now their intention to destroy all human life.
When its creators launched GWAR, they created well-rounded characters whose histories were sagas of hate and destruction. The characters were given aptly horrendous names.
1. Oderus Urungus tells his fans, (slaves), on his blog that he has returned from his travels, and that soon his “warty genitals (will be) exactly where they should be. Right in your face!” David Murray Brockie supplies the vocals for Oderus Urungus.
2. Balsac “The Jaws of Death” is played by Mike Derks and his guitar. On his blog, Balzac calls his fans, “My unbathed hordes of cyber slaves.”
3. Corey Smoot and his guitar provide the character of Flattus Maximus. Flattus’ blog warns his fans “Get ready to have your ass handed to you.”
4. The drums of Brad Roberts give life to the character, Jizmak da Gusha. On his blog, Jizmak urges his fans to buy some of GWAR’s merchandise, “so GWAR can fuel its war machine and drug addictions.”
5. Beefcake the Mighty was played by Todd Evans on bass. Todd Evans has now taken over this part. Beefcake in his blog describes their latest release as, “absolutely the heaviest and most brutal musical abuse from GWAR, ever.”
There was a female in the stage show, known as Slymenstra Hymen. Her stage role is that of the semi-clad primal woman. Fans are mesmerized by her strange make-up and miniscule leather outfit. Her contribution is not musical. She’s there to titillate. Slymenstra Hymen is no longer a member of GWAR.
Brockie, Varga and Jackson created these monstrous, depraved characters for use in their live shows. They have to wear costumes weighing around fifty pounds, and make-up as required. In a way, the monsters of GWAR are traditional, homicidal monsters. There’s nothing new in that. Literary monsters abound. But the devotion of GWAR’s fans borders on a zeal usually reserved for religion or politics. There has to be an element of surrender of will when fans are vying with each other to get up onstage, knowing that they’re about to be publicly humiliated. By submitting to the power of GWAR’s monsters, fans show their devotion to the myths surrounding these despotic creatures.
1988. A home-made video of a GWAR show caught the eye of Mark Kramer, of Shimmy Disc Records. GWAR rushed to New York to record their first album in his studio. Hell-o was their first release.
1990. GWAR recorded Scumdogs of the Universe on the Master label. The promotional tour for this album yielded a concert video, Live From Antarctica.
1992. GWAR released America Must Be Destroyed, their third album. It was on the Metal Blades record label. This record placed the group in a financial position to enlarge their live shows with other characters consistent with their mythology. They updated their special effects, turning their performances into scenes surpassing by far anything that Dante may have envisioned. His Inferno is a church picnic in comparison to GWAR’s performance..
1992. the group released a five track EP, The Road Behind.
1992. the group made a short movie, Phallus in Wonderland. This film blends a storyline with GWAR’s live performances. Loosely based on Brockie’s real life arrest for obscenity, this film is a must-see for GWAR fans. Amazingly, the film was nominated for a Grammy Award. The band was asked NOT to attend the ceremonies!
1993. GWAR made the movie, Skulhed....Face. The movie’s underlying theme is the band’s exploration of its censorship woes.
1994. Despite some more censorship problems, GWAR managed to release their newest album, This Toilet Earth, through Priority Records.
Micheal Bishop was replaced by Casey Orr as Beefcake the Mighty.
GWAR has erupted into all forms of media. You can see them on your television, or buy their comic book. Their music is readily available to their fans, and they eagerly await every new offering.
Events portrayed onstage by this band keep all eyes riveted there. When people go through such a revoltingly spectacular experience, many claim an unexpected catharsis overwhelms them before the final screams and roars fade away. Fans emerging from GWAR’s live shows covered in fake blood and other bodily fluids have a dazed, but satisfied look to them. Far from going out to destroy the world as the GWAR mythology demands, these fans are looking for a place to crash. And tomorrow?
Tough laundry problems!
GWAR will probably be insulting its fans for many years to come. They’re a group of savvy businessmen now. As Jackson puts it “If you’re intelligent and want an underlying meaning, (referring to Gwar’s onstage performance,) fine, it’s there. And if you’re stupid and just want to have blood splattered over you, that’s fine too.” What he’s saying is that everyone is welcome to join the GWAR sub-culture. All the more income for the group.
As long as people harbor hidden, destructive, violent thoughts, there will be a niche for this foul-mouthed, iconoclastic band to act out their evil fantasies onstage. Better onstage than on the street. Are YOU ready for a GWAR concert?