“You are four minutes late. That’s four minutes you don’t get; you don’t ever get that back. You have 16 minutes to ask questions of the ruler of this fucking planet, and you fucking blew four minutes of it already. You are so fired.”
Those words – booming down the line – were the first Loud heard after a phone-card-related snafu meant we were slightly behind schedule in calling Gwar frontman Oderus Urungus (aka Dave Brockie) for our allotted interview. After getting our laughter under control and apologising to the aeons-old space alien for being tardy, he discussed the family-friendly metallers’ new record, memories of late guitarist Flattus Maximus (Cory Smoot) and performing at Soundwave 2014.
Q: My humblest apologies, Oderus.
A: Oh, I don’t give a fuck… No, it’s cool, it’s all good. Just make the most of it, let’s rock.
Q: Will do. What’s the latest in the Gwar camp?
A: We are currently on tour in America. We are, I believe in Florida today, and kicking ass. The tour’s been great, the Battle Maximus tour supporting our new album, and we’re out with a whole bunch of really killer bands like Whitechapel, our buddies Iron Reagan from Richmond and a bunch of orcs from L.A. It’s been awesome, this tour rules. Right after that we roll with this until the end of the year, and before we know it we’ll be Down Under in Australia for the Soundwave Festival. We couldn’t be more stoked.
Q: Good to hear. Has it been too long since the band was last in Australia?
A: Well, yeah, I know, but we don’t want to come there too often. I’d love to be there all the time, but Gwar… Australia’s very far away and there’s a lot of water in between us and them. I think we should maybe dig a tunnel from Antarctica to Australia, and that way we can fucking hook up a little easier. But yeah, it’s been too long, but we’re coming back. We’ve got an amazing show; we’ve got a lot of new music we want to play for you people. It’s a great line-up. It’ll be a bigger festival than the last one; we’re completely stoked and very much looking forward to it.
Q: Who are some of your favourite bands appearing at the festival?
A: Well, it’s probably a tie between Testament and Down. We love Phil (Anselmo), he’s our buddy. We just played at his Housecore Horror Film Festival a couple of days ago in Austin, Texas, which was amazing. The Testament guys and us go way back as well, so we’re really stoked about that. I don’t really know a tonne of the other bands that are playing. I know Green Day’s there, and some other bands I don’t really care about. I think maybe Rob Zombie’s playing or something. But we’re homeboys with fucking Testament. Chuck Billy even has a fucking honorary Gwar name – Chuckosaurus Maximus.
Q: How long did it take you to come up with that one?
A: He came up with it. That’s how cool Chuck is; ‘Oh, fuckin’ A, I’m in Gwar’. (Pauses) Oh yeah, I just got my booze, I just got my booze, I’m so stoked. I’m walking down the street doing the interview and I just see this shopping cart come by, and it’s full of booze, and I’m like, ‘That’s for me’ (laughs), so I just grabbed a bottle out of it. But anyway, yeah, Chuck Billy is so cool that he basically just told us, (raises voice) ‘I’m in Gwar now, and I have my own Gwar name’. We’re like, ‘That’s cool, Chuck’. He’s a big motherfucker, you know? You don’t want to fuck with Chuck Billy.
Q: I don’t think I’d be knocking him back.
A: That dude is a fucking cool motherfucker. Alex (Skolnick) is the greatest guy, a good friend. Really looking forward to hanging with them. On the first one, on the No Sleep Til tour, we didn’t really know a lot of those bands, didn’t know a lot of the dudes in those bands. And on this one, we’ve got some really good friends that we’ve known for a long fucking time. I know it might be weird to think of the concept of Gwar having friends, but it’s true, it does happen. We’ve learned over the years that you don’t necessarily want to kill all the bands you play with. You don’t necessarily want to choke the life out of the dude that’s interviewing you, even though that’s what my heart is telling me to do. I’ve learned a little control over the years, and actually managed to make some fucking good friends. I’m pleased to say they’re going to be with us in Australia, and we’re going to have a blast every single fucking night.
Q: You have a bunch of new songs to play while you’re here as well.
A: Oh yeah. Well, we’ve got the new album out, so we will be playing songs from that album and also visiting a lot of songs from our extensive discography, which is freaking 13 albums long now. How many fucking bands can say that? Been around 28 fucking years, toured relentlessly, put out albums consistently, never took a five-year break, we just rocked, and that’s all we fucking do. ‘Cause that’s all we fucking know how to do. Oh that, and chop off heads and fight giant dinosaurs.
Q: How does Gwar even select a set-list then?
A: Well, we’ve actually figured out how to do it fairly traditionally now. Because 13 albums over a 28-year career, unlike most bands who put out their best work early in their career and then just consistently got shittier and shittier and shittier, I think Gwar’s just fucking got better and better and better. A lot of that is because when we first started making music on Earth, we’d been frozen solid for 50 million years, and it took us a little while to thaw out, you know? We didn’t know what all these knobs and buttons and flashing lights and all this stuff was. We just stood up there with guitars and just kind of banged on them. But over the years we have learned finesse, to the point where the last album Battle Maximus was actually recorded in our own studio. So I think the band, considering the fact that we are immortal, will last forever and will always dominate this puny world, I think we’ll just continue to put out great fucking albums for thousands of years. So I feel sorry for these humans, you know? They get old, they get fat, they get gross, and the music starts to really suck. And that’s never going to happen to Gwar; we’re gross, old and fat already. Our music sucked once and it doesn’t now, it’s getting better. So fuck it.
Q: Has the studio environment or etiquette changed much throughout the years, or not at all?
A: Oh yeah, that’s definitely pretty much the same as it’s always been. A lot of violence, a lot of drinking, a lot of smashed equipment and a lot of fighting and yelling; lots of hot chicks getting torn up, severed limbs. Pumping vile and blood, ruined equipment, going way over budget, producers humiliated, catering strewn all over the room. It’s a fucking disaster. So yeah, that’s the same; we’ve just got better at doing it.
Q: So would you go so far as to say Battle Maximus is the best record of Gwar’s career thus far?
A: Yes, I would, because when we lost Flattus we prepared ourselves for the greatest task that we had ever faced in our lives. Somehow continue his legacy, honour him, and continue the progression of Gwar as the greatest band in rock ‘n’ roll fucking history. And just as sure as West Side Story is playing on Broadway tonight, we’ll still be around a hundred fucking years from now at least. So we set out to make the greatest record that we had ever made. And you know, that’s really for others to say, that’s for others to judge. I’m not going to sit here and blow my own horn and talk about how fucking great I am. I do that all the time anyway. But the reaction that we’re getting for this new album and the fun we’re having playing songs from it, I would have to say, yeah, it’s got to be up there in the top three Gwar albums, and a lot of people are telling me it’s their favourite one. And if we did that, we honoured Flattus and we were able to achieve that, that’s a fucking hell of an achievement, and I’m very, very proud of these dudes.
Q: What’s your favourite memory of Flattus?
A: The way he could like turn his back on the audience and fart, and basically melt about the first 20 rows. There would just be like this toxic cloud of green goo, with like turds floating in mid-air. One whiff of it and your entire face melts. I miss the smell of his farts. But I miss his guitar too; he was an amazing fucking guitar player. He was a great guy. But like all Scumdogs, even though we are immortal, we are occasionally called back to the stars to go to a world that it known as ‘Metal Metal Land’. And here we carry out our cosmic destiny. That’s where he is, and hopefully he’s looking down upon us and our efforts, and hopefully he’s proud of us. But we miss the motherfucker every day.
Q: Indeed. Changing topics, as mentioned earlier you’re playing Soundwave next year, which features a wide range of heavy acts. What’s your take on the current state of metal?
A: Well, honestly, I listen to older shit, you know? I’m an older dude. I really don’t think the current metal that’s coming out, especially a lot of this stuff is really, just sounds like a bunch of fucking instruments thrown down a flight of staircases. It doesn’t do a hell of a lot for me. There’s no riffs, there’s no soul to it. I mean, where are the new Thin Lizzy’s, the new Motörheads, or the new Slayers? I’m not seeing ‘em, I’m not hearing ‘em. Continually I go back to shit that I’ve listened to my whole life, and in some cases it’s really old. It’s sad, and it’s also great that the new Motörhead album is like the best metal record, best new metal album I’ve heard in a long time. It’s great, because it’s awesome that Lemmy and the boys can still fucking rock like that. But it’s sad that other bands haven’t stepped up and become that fucking awesome.
So I think actually right now, I think the metal scene is in a state of complete stagnation. I think a lot of these new bands completely fucking suck. A lot of those bands that are coming out are just throwbacks, or are emulating styles that came 30 years before. So I hope our music isn’t like that, I think our music is still ground-breaking. We strive to make Gwar sound like no other band ever did, and we strive to make every album different. Like so many bands, they’ll put out one, two or three records and they’ll be pretty good, and then they’ll start to put out shitty records, and it’ll just go on and on and on. I never want Gwar to be like that. So right now, honestly, there’s not a tonne of new metal bands that I’m really into. It takes a while for a band to get on my radar, and if I listen to them and like them I’ll fucking support ‘em to death. But honestly, I think it’s a very uncreative, very derivative, very much a throwback shit that’s already been done before.
Q: Do you feel that’s largely attributable to laziness from younger bands, or have all the best ideas simply been used already?
A: I don’t think it’s really that they’re lazy; I think it’s more that you can only reinvent the wheel so many times. The longer metal goes along, the harder it is to come up with new ideas for it, because there is a finite amount of sounds that you can make (burps). As we move along, it’s harder than ever to make a song that doesn’t sound like something someone else has done already. It’s more challenging for these guys, so I understand… I don’t think it’s that they’re lazy, definitely not. But it’s more difficult than ever to make an original song.
So it’s a challenge, and that’s good and bad. It’s good in the way that the cream will rise to the surface, but I don’t know, I look around and I just don’t see a lot of the great bands that I used to see. Those great bands are playing still, and they’re playing the songs they played 20 years ago. The new bands, I just don’t see a lot of new, really great bands, I just don’t. There are exceptions; I really like Ghost, I think they’re really cool. There are cool metal bands out there. I really like fucking Battlecross, I dig Whitechapel; they’re out on tour with us right now. So there are exceptions, and it still happens. But yeah, I think they have to work harder than ever so they can make original music.
Q: Although you are an immortal being, any famous last words?
A: Well, I just hope Australia is ready for Gwar’s return; it’s going to be fucking amazing. We know our way around down there a little more, we know a little more about the Australian people and what they enjoy. We’ve got a show specifically tailored to drive you fucking crazy with joy at the sight of your overlords supreme and masterful Gwar. It’s going to be the most outrageous fucking tour we’ve ever been on, and I just hope Australia’s ready for it. In fact, I do believe after the tour’s over Australia will adopt us, declare us a national treasure and try to make us stay there.
Catch Gwar at Soundwave next year:
22/2: RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD
23/2: Olympic Park, Sydney NSW
28/2: Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
1/3: Bonython Park, Adelaide SA
3/3: Claremont Showground, Perth WA