Interview: GWAR

Written by Anthony Toto

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GWAR is the universal power of an extraterrestrial group of stargazing musicians playing heavy metal music at warped levels of intensity unobtainable by any mortal within the human race.

The devastating musical experience of GWAR pushes the limits of Earth’s gravity with a cosmic combination of thrashing musicality and galactic cataclysmic insanity.

Since awakening from Antarctica, GWAR spent the past 28-years releasing consistently heralded albums and developing a cult-like status among the metal community with an out-of-this world live show.

GWAR’s signature trademark of pouring blood on fans became a right of passage for metal heads across the world. Whether enslaving concert-goers, fighting monsters, or murdering the idiotic celebrities of the world, GWAR’s ferocious tenacity for executing astronomical performances creates a must-see show for music fans.

After losing longtime Guitarist Flattus Maximus to the cosmos, GWAR remained hell bent upon continuing an historic legacy with the release of 2013’s Battle Maximus. By keeping it within the same ancestry with the addition of new Guitarist Pustulus Maximus, GWAR regrouped to record some of the best work of their celestial career.

In an exclusive in-depth interview with Pop-Break, GWAR Vocalist and Leader Oderus Urungus spoke about the band’s universal impact while revealing plans for an exciting year touring behind Battle Maximus.

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Pop-Break: How does GWAR celebrate the holidays?

Oderus Urungus: We’re getting ready to ruin some people’s holidays up here on the east coast. We’re playing Irving Plaza and a couple shows to wrap up the year. We will go back to Antarctica than it’s off to Australia in February. For the very first time in history, we’ll be off to Japan and back to the U.S. to visit all the places that we missed on our first trip.

PB: Your band is playing on December 27 at Irving Plaza. Are there any plans to bring a Christmas or holiday element to the show?

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OU: I don’t know, maybe I’ll wear a puke-smeared beard. It’s ridiculous; we don’t have any notion of what your holidays are all about! Everyone is thinking we’re going to do something special for Christmas, what we usually do is just ignore it! Maybe I’ll put on a Santa cap or something like that. I don’t look for us to do anything other than what we usually do; chop off heads, play insanely awesome metal music, and put hot chicks through our meat grinder. If that’s not a Christmas celebration than I don’t know what is. Even with Halloween, when you’re in GWAR, every fucking day is Halloween. If we dressed up like human beings on Halloween than that would be something special. We feel like we’re pretty special as it is so we’re just going to stick with our shit that we know. You guys could celebrate your own fucking holiday all you want! We have our own way of celebrating before I fucking kill you!

PB: For the fan or music listener that has never seen GWAR. Coming from you, how would you describe a GWAR show?

OU: Well, besides being the most insane, outrageous, and prestigious show in rock n’ roll history, it’s kind of like a big sledgehammer right upside your head. GWAR will go down in history as being the craziest fucking show ever. Unless you’ve seen it, experienced it, and lived through one of these shows, you truly have not tapped into the full potential of your being and I urge you to do so. It’s like smoking crack, having sex, or riding a roller coaster; it’s something you have to do at some point in your life. Once you do so, you will forever be our slave and held within our thrall! A lot of people cling to these spooky or scary monsters from outer space. Well whatever, we’re the only real monsters on this planet with the possible exception of Miley Cyrus’ vagina.

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PB: Your band has been around for more than 25-years. The trends come and go but GWAR is always here, the power never vanishes, and the sound is always in-your-face.

OU: We’re immortal, you know! I have been saying that since day one! If you’re immortal, you never die and you just keep doing it. It gives us a tremendous advantage over other bands. A lot of bands will come out and put out a great album. They will get the success; start doing drugs, start believing their own hype and then they start overdosing. They will put out their second album and it sucks and everyone hates them because they turned into a bunch of fat, drunk, and boring old freaks. With GWAR, it’s quite the opposite. We were born, reborn as I said in Antarctica. We put out an album and it took us a little while to de-thaw all the way. I think it took about eight albums actually till we were finally de-thawed and we were finally playing up to our full potential. GWAR is the exception to rock n’ roll history as a band that continuously gets better every year instead of getting worse. We will continue to do so because we will live forever. Even if my body is disintegrated, I have 50 other Oderus clones down in my basement. Just as truly as Cats is playing on Broadway tonight, GWAR is a band that can last a million years.

PB: You brought up consistency and improving every year. The 2000’s were extremely productive for your band. You created a slate of albums your fans embraced and enjoyed. GWAR remains highly creative and productive with releasing new music.

OU: Yeah, we do. We’re very prolific. We had our 25th anniversary a few years ago. We wanted to do a special two-year long anniversary party by putting out one album at beginning of it and one album at the end of it, that was Lust In Space and Bloody To The Horror. We really worked hard to get that done. After we lost the mighty Flattus Maximus when he returned to the stars, we wanted to jump back into the songwriting process as soon as possible with his successor, the mighty Pustulus. We cranked out Battle Maximus. That’s three GWAR albums in four-years and that’s pretty ridiculous. I’m pretty proud of the band for being so prolific and so creative. They basically write the whole fucking album and they play it. I don’t show up for any rehearsals. I kind of stumble into the recording studio and bellow a whole bunch of bullshit that they did together to make it sound like I know what I’m talking about. It’s been working out okay so far. We have the added dimension that we could just get as fat, gross, and horrible as we want. People will like us even more for that. We’re not being judged on our looks or how many records we sell. Thank god, because we would fail miserably if that were the criteria. We go off our pure love of metal and chopping off people’s heads, another thing that really gets us going. It’s GWAR, what are you going to do with it? It’s GWAR, it doesn’t fit anywhere but goddamn it, you’re going to have it in your house! It’s GWAR, the band that really gets under your skin, gets under your nails, gets in your ears, and dyes your fucking girlfriends head. We take her bleach blond hair and dye it fucking bright pink! It’s fucking GWAR, cultural phenomenon! It’s fucking GWAR, from outer space! All that shit!

PB: You mentioned how Flattus brought a unique sound to GWAR during his run with the band. Pustulus, in his own way, brought his own style of guitar playing to the mix loud and clear, especially on Battle Maximus.

OU: Yeah, I think so. He definitely takes us in a unique direction. As the winner of the Battle Maximus, he pretty much through trial by combat took the job. He bust in through the front door of the GWAR temple and went immediately into the recording studio and started laying down tracks. As soon as I heard him play, I immediately knew he was our guy. I really enjoyed working on this album with him. He was the other member of the Maximus tribe that was very similar to Flattus; they were the two most talented guitar players of their tribe. His style is a little bit different whereas Flattus was a little smoother and a little more technical, Pustulus is more thrashy and a little more venomous. He’s just as good as Flattus in a different way. He was a fucking kick in the ass for us to get off our buts after suffering that horrible tragedy. That’s exactly what he did. He came in there and kicked us right in the fucking nuts. We rallied around that and made one of our greatest albums ever. Everyone seems to think Battle Maximus fucking rules and it’s on everybody’s top-ten lists for favorite albums this year. I guess we’re doing okay.

PB: I took a look at different set lists over the past few months and noticed your band plays more than a few songs off Battle Maximus. For you, where does the album sit in your catalog?

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OU: Every GWAR album sounds different from every other GWAR album, which is really weird. We never really had a consistent style. It’s always been GWAR or GWAR music. Battle Maximus really stands out to me among most GWAR albums. I don’t really know why exactly but it’s got a real raw and passionate sound to it. We kind of knew we were at a real crossroads. Flattus was kind of the guy that pulled us out of our heavy metal meandering. He made us buckle down a little bit and start really listening to our critics a little bit. They were sick of hearing GWAR play this parody music all the time and wanted to hear some real metal from us. That kind of trend started after Violence Has Arrived. We got back on everybody’s radar. A lot of people who wrote us off musically heard that album and heard the album after it and were like, ‘Whoa, GWAR is heavy as fuck again!’ I have to give a lot of that to Flattus. When we lost him, it was like, ‘Fuck, we just lost our primary songwriter and the guy that basically saved GWAR’s asses.’ There were two things we could do, we could say ‘Fuck it’ and give up or we could make an album that is even greater than anything we made before. That’s for others to judge but in my heart, I think Flattus is very proud of us. I think we made an album that is equal too or better than the best things we did with Flattus. I think the band is still musically evolving in a really excellent manner. I’m pretty stoked with the outcome of it. I’m looking forward to ramming it down all of your throats a little bit more here hopefully with a second leg of the U.S. tour coming after April.

PB: From a listener’s perspective, Battle Maximus delves into the band’s history with punk and thrash. GWAR always dabbled with a variety of sounds by blending the fast reckless energy of punk with the adrenaline of thrash.

OU: Yeah, it’s like a collision of all these different styles. I think because we were really challenged on this one, everyone just really brought their A-game on this. We all poured it into the mix as hard as we could. As a result, it’s a very slick and diverse album. To me, it’s almost the way GWAR was trying to be on the first few albums but we weren’t good enough yet (laughs)! I think we’re finally good enough to do that. I think we delivered a really good one. It’s definitely our most successful album in a while. We’ll see where it takes us. We’re going to Japan so obviously people are digging it.

PB: Playing in Japan is usually the official confirmation of being a big band.

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OU: Yeah, it’s pretty tight. It’s taken us 28-years to get there and we’re still not there yet so knock on wood. We tried to get there but Japan is an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Those things aren’t so easy to find and we’re not so good with Google Maps!

PB: You brought it up before, the past few albums have been successful and appeared on the Billboard charts. GWAR’s popularity continues to grow with time.

OU: I don’t really understand why that is. I guess it has to do with the bands undying aspect. In a world where people and things and institutions let you down constantly, GWAR has always been a force or something humans knew that’s out there that they loved. They always respected that we always presented such an uncompromising vision. We always encouraged our fans to be apart of that vision. It is such a unique thing, the passion of the artist and the creatures that make it happen and the loyalty of our fans. Instead of rattling into an explosion of popularity, GWAR has been more like a slow ascent. Every year, the legend of GWAR gets deeper and deeper. The challenge is to basically to stay alive long enough to see GWAR through to the limits it can get and the unlimited potential that it has. We still don’t have a GWAR video game and we still don’t have a GWAR movie! There was one thing, I always used to bitch about not playing Japan but I can’t bitch about that anymore. GWAR will never blow up but we’ll slow burn our way through the next thousand years.

PB: The industry was slow to adapt to the Internet and live performances are so critical to a bands success nowadays. You guys revel in a live setting and I think the fans always appreciate your full effort in going all out every show.

OU: Oh yeah, every show is such a beautifully wonderful experience. There really is nothing more fun than rocking out and crushing chins while beating the shit out of a variety of idiotic monsters, superheroes, and pathetic celebrities, while squirting blood all over the place. It’s truly a wonderful thing. It’s my honor and my obligation to present this to you humans. All I ask in return is your lives, your souls, and your vaginas.

PB: Throughout most of your career, your band has been on Metal Blade Records. Only for a brief period of time you weren’t, but Metal Blade has been supportive in allowing you to push the boundaries creatively by never compromising your originality.

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OU: They certainly have. They have been nothing but supportive of us since day one. Brian Slagel, who runs the label, is a good friend of mine and is one of the few humans that I will hang out with and not murder on the spot. He never tried to control us and never even tried to really influence us. He knows that we know what we’re doing. He’s always been there to support us in any way, shape, or form. Yeah, that’s true that we did go over to DRT Records for a couple years. That was an interesting little experiment. When we did so, it was with Metal Blades’ full blessing. When DRT fell apart, we went straight back to Metal Blade because they are basically our home and our connection to the human music industry. We love Metal Blade. Just like GWAR, they are like one of these entities in music that has survived a long time and the way they done it was by being uncompromising and loyal to their fans. That’s big for us and I can’t think of another label that I rather be on.

PB: What bands are worthy of GWAR? What bands do you listen too or enjoy?

OU: Shit, I listen to everything from Slayer to Motorhead. I listen to fucking everything and I don’t give a shit if it’s pop music. I’ll listen to U2 and I’ll listen to R. Kelly. I love music in all of its forms. Now when I make music, I want to make something that’s hard, nasty, fast, and dangerous. When I’m just listening, I’m trying to soak up all kinds of information to see what the humans are up too. When I’m pissing in the back lounge like a fucking bat shit helicopter, I might be listening to anything from Fleetwood Mac, Cro-Mags, Motorhead, Black Sabbath, mother-fucking U2, The Who, and fuck; I’ll even put on some Bob Marley. I love music and that’s about it. One thing I cannot stand is the really cheesy corporate pop that seems to be everywhere nowadays. Shit like Bruno Mars, Kanye West, and even some of these bands, I can see some of these guys have some talent but I can’t understand where they’re coming with it all. I’ll basically listen to anything and I’ll give anything a chance. To keep my attention for long, there has to be something special about the music. Once a band becomes too corporately controlled, I tune out immediately.

PB: The problem with some of these corporate pop artists you mentioned, they are talented but the music lacks soul.

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OU: That’s totally it. It has no soul, no spirit, and no heart. There are exceptions like John Legend; he is pretty cool. There are a lot of talented new artists out there and some have been around for a while. They have big hits and they still make good music. A lot of this stuff, I can’t even listen to it. I’ll give it a shot for a little while and I’ll be like [groans]. More than ever, music doesn’t really have a focal point right now. It’s hard to tell what’s really important to kids today. The one thing that is always going to have fans is Heavy Metal and heavy music in general. We survived through so many different phases and so many different genre changes, but there has always been a large part of the market that just wants to fucking rock. That’s where we come in and that’s what we do. Even though heavy metal bands aren’t the biggest bands in the world, with the exception of Metallica, Iron Maiden, etc., it’s the longest surviving genre of rock n’ roll that’s still popular. Ever since the beginning of electric rock n’ roll music, it took about ten-years to figure out heavy metal. By the time the 70’s are in there, Black Sabbath and Motorhead are starting to really blow up. We’ll see how far we can take it. I think heavy metal will be alive forever. It’s been a real pleasure and honor to be apart of this movement on this planet because heavy metal is the best sound in the universe. That’s why we created heavy metal because it sounds like fucking GWAR and everybody knows GWAR is the most fun thing ever!

PB: From a fan perspective, you mentioned how so many things in the world try to bring you down and heavy metal is such a positive outlet to unleash that negative energy.

OU: Without a doubt, definitely! It’s a cathartic experience and a rebirth. I know that when you’re dragged out of the slam pit after the end of a GWAR show; you’re lucky enough to survive! You’re covered in blood and space jiz from head to toe. You’re girlfriend has a fucking axe through her head but you could fuck her anyway! You definitely feel like you been reborn and you really went through something special. Recently, I was up in D.C. and walking around in human form. It’s something I will do every now and then to get in touch with you people. I went and saw Slayer. They blew my fucking nuts off! It was such a great feeling. Headbanging releases a certain endorphin in the human body and it’s just wonderful. Even without Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo, it’s still a band that killed it. Unfortunately, they are humans and they are mortal and won’t last forever like GWAR. Even Lemmy; Lemmy is getting old and we hear alarming reports about his health and it’s very worrisome to me.

PB: You mentioned longevity, have you seen GWAR’s influence in younger bands? I always felt a band like Slipknot might have been influenced by GWAR.

OU: Oh, definitely. I read an exact quote from Rob Zombie one time. I think someone asked him this question 20-years ago. Someone asked him what he thought of GWAR and he was like, ‘Oh, I love GWAR. When I saw GWAR, I said to myself, I want to do that but I want to make money.’ That kind of turned me off towards him immediately. Obviously, as much as these bands like Slipknot and everybody else, as much as they will not admit how vast the impact of GWAR was on them, it nonetheless is true. Shit, I mean when GWAR started fucking playing, Kiss put their makeup back on. Game over!

PB: Going back to the beginning, when you first awoke from Antarctica and started conquering the world of heavy metal music. Back in the early days, could you describe the shock factor among fans and the music listening public after you first arrived?

OU: I have to say, Americans were the first people to truly embrace GWAR, and that’s where we kind of found our audience because something about the American spirit is wide open. The first time we toured Europe, we played in these punk rock squat bars and we would start squirting shit everywhere, and all those fucking punk rockers, hardcore punk rockers, and hardcore metal heads were running for the door. They were running out and trying to get out and get away from the spew. These shit talking hard dudes and crusty punks, we had to fight the cops. A lot of these people claiming they were the hardest and heaviest, they could not hang with GWAR. I guess they were too cool for school and we kept hammering at them. The Americans were always the most receptive to us and it’s kind of always why we gravitated towards America as our prime tower base. I’ll tell you what; those Canadians are fucking crazy too. Those mother fuckers support some rock n’ roll. We probably get our biggest North American crowds in Canada. I don’t know if it’s the people are drunk or whatever it is but those people support the fuck out of us. It’s been a really good ride and it’s still going strong. We’re planning to ride it as long as we can.

PB: You mentioned some of your plans for 2014 earlier. For the most part, will you spend most of 2014 touring behind the new album?

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OU: Yeah, that’s what we will spend most of the next year doing as well. An album as mighty as Battle Maximus really deserves a full effort from everybody to get it out there. Any time you have an album as cool as Battle Maximus, you really have to work it as hard as you can. That’s what we’re doing. We’re going to work if all fucking year into 2015. We’re not even thinking about a new album yet because we want to play the fuck out of this one. We’re going to Australia, Japan, and we’ll come back to do another run of dates here in the States. Before you know it, it will be Halloween and we’ll be back on the road again. Of course, we’re going to have the annual GWAR-B-Q this year. We have a great lineup of bands and I can’t say anything about it yet but it’s going to be huge. There is a lot of good shit coming up.

PB: Where can fans find out more information about the GWAR-B-Q?

OU: Just go to GWAR.net or the GWAR Facebook page. There is not a heck of a lot going on just yet. We’ll start a big publicity campaign in January or February and we’ll ram it down your throat after that. Every year the GWAR-B-Q has gotten bigger and better. Last year, we had GWAR-BQ sauce and GWAR beer. We’re starting to get into all crazy products and marketing ideas. We learned over the years and we upped our game over and over again. For a bunch of monsters from outer of space, we kept it real as fuck. I think people see that and appreciate it. They know we’re the hardest working band in the history of show business. A world without GWAR would be so sad. Think of a world without Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy, a world without GWAR? Forget it, that would suck!

PB: It is incredible, releasing 13 albums is a testament to believing in yourself and maintaining a high-level of consistency. Not many bands could last that long or stay committed on a level like that.

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OU: Oh yeah, most bands completely suck. No other band is GWAR. There are no boundaries, no rules, and no limits. You’re going to do what you do and if you do it well, you’re going to be successful. When you play good music and have a great show, people will let you roll with that forever. We cover the same towns and places every year. We see fans of ours that are getting older. They came to see GWAR when they were 18-years old and now they are in their late 30’s, and now they bring their kids with them. They are all in the front row getting fucking shit all over them. It’s a cultural and community event and everybody is invited. It’s a right of passage almost to see GWAR. It’s a red badge of courage to be a GWAR fan. If you are a GWAR fan, you the run the risk of being ridiculed, ‘Oh, you like that stupid band from fucking outer space. Oh, whatever. They are just a bunch of dumb fucking rubber monsters and oh yeah, they fucked my girlfriend and I never saw her again.’ You run the risk of basically being ridiculed. GWAR is not a band that has ever gone over well with the cool people and that’s the way I like it, baby! Those cool people could go fuck themselves. The un-cool people are way cooler than the cool people.

PB: Those are the real people.

OU: Yeah, those are the real people, the un-coolies.

PB: Lyrically speaking, there have always been concepts or story lines to your albums, but you have explored a variety of different territories and social issues with your lyrics.

OU: Yeah, I try to be all over the place. There are so many songs to write lyrics for. I was just thinking about this the other day, there are so many songs that I don’t even remember that we played. They’re like, ‘Oh, when are we going to play this one?’ And I’ll be like, ‘Oh, we did this song? Really?’ I had to write so many lyrics that I just don’t even remember what most of them are about anymore. Every time we sit down to write a setlist, it’s like, ‘What are we going to play?’ It’s like ‘Oh, we have 13 albums to pull songs from,’ and it’s like ‘Whoa!’ It’s given me an opportunity as a lyricist and a wordsmith if you will to really get into all kinds of different shit from sexual issues, the effects war has on the human race, and straight up rock n’ roll party town kind of shit. I like to think my stuff goes from everything from incredibly stupid headbanging, delightful power metal music, and all the way to powerful introspective dive drives on the political and sociological nature of humanity. You know, your history, your future, which we explored on the last record. Everything from Obamacare to fucking Hiroshima, I’ll take it on.

PB: Are you looking forward to New York? What could fans expect in New York City?

OU: Oh my god, they could expect the greatest; biggest and most fucked up show that GWAR has ever done. We squirt more shit on you people than we have ever done before. When we’re doing a GWAR show, there will always be that kid that comes up to us and says, ‘Oh, you guys had more blood last year.’ That is absolutely not happening on this tour. We upped our game and we have shit pumping fucking 24/7 during this show. It is easily our greatest achievement yet, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to Battle Maximus by telling the story of our struggle against Mr. Perfect. Musically, it’s telling the story of how GWAR re-found themselves after losing one of their most treasured members. It’s a great testament to the strength of this band, the joy of performing, and knowing we made it through that dark forest to the other side. It’s given us a new life and it’s given us a great new joy in portraying what is GWAR to you people live. It is truly my favorite part of everyday when I take the stage and start hacking into the audience. The rest of my day is spent smoking crack and raping hookers. Of course, a lot of people say you can’t rape a hooker but sure, it is rape if you don’t pay them. That pales in dividends to what I do out on stage with a lead microphone in one hand and a sword in the other facing scores of enemies, and taking heads in the process. Being the lead singer of GWAR is the greatest job in the universe! I’m pleased and honored just to hold onto it for so long and I’ll kill any mother fucker who tries to get in my way!

PB: GWAR is going strong and the best is yet to come.

OU: Yes, I think so. One day, we will conquer this world truly and than we’ll see what happens next. For now, we’ll continue down our warpath. It’s where we are our best and we’ll bring it to you in a couple days at Irving Plaza. I can’t wait!

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