GWAR (1984-present): a Thrash Metal band from Richmond, Virginia, USA.
t's a safe bet that Richmond, Virginia had never seen anything quite like GWAR. Originally naming themselves Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh, and using pseudonyms like Oderus Urungus (guitar then vocals; Real Name: Dave Brockie; R.I.P. 2014), Balsac The Jaws Of Death (guitar; Real Name: Steve Douglas until 1988 when Mike Derks took the role), Flattus Maximus (guitar; Real Name: Dewey Rowell (1987-1991)/Pete Lee (1992-1998)/Tim Harriss (1998-1999)/Zach Blair (1999-2002)/Cory Smoot (2002-2011; R.I.P. 2011)), Beefcake The Mighty (vocals then bass; Real Name: Michael Bishop; a.k.a. Blothar) and Nippleus Erectus (drums; Real Name: Rob Mosby), among others, GWAR became most famous for their stage acts featuring them donning papier-mâché masks, torture implements, S&M gear, futuristic armor, loin cloths and costumes of scrap metal and leather; not to mention the stage props of fake vomit and fake semen (which would end off on the first several rows of the audience), crucifixes, et. al. It is important to note, however, that although GWAR's music is intended as humor, it traditionally remains anti-climatic without their visual stage performance.
It all started when punkster Dave Brockie then of the act Death Piggy desired an operation that could incorporate elaborate stage props to a heavy metal show; and he got what he wanted, a larger-than-life band with a larger-than-life stage show! Their act was off to a rough start, however, when their first UK tour was ground to a halt due to the questions from those worried about subjects of violence and morality making a nuisance of themselves. But in the US they also would face the wrath of the 'morality squad' when they were taken to court for allegedly displaying a large prop of an anatomically correct penis (the band attempted to defend themselves by claiming that it wasn't a penis at all but was actually a ... fish)! The group would routinely thumb their noses at such people in their stage show, and by recording the track Morality Squad they made their comments clear. Based on fictional comic book-like characters, and claiming to come from the planet Uranus (big surprise...), where they had been abducted to and mutated by a mad scientist and returned to Earth to enslave it via Antarctica, they set forth to conquer the music world. The story from there, however, is best hidden in the bowels of a men's toilet at some far off bus terminal.
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GWAR (the initials are often claimed to mean God What A Racket but the band official site says that it is actually merely a short form for their original name, Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh) would publish a group of recordings featuring little more then basic thrash metal and filthy sex inspired lyrics; sometimes funny but always disgusting. Hell-O (1988) was their introduction and was a tame recording by their standards. It featured the original line-up of (using their Real Names for purposes of this documentary): Mike Bishop (bass), Dewey Rowell (guitar), Steve Douglas (guitar), Rob Mosby (drums), Dave Brockie (vocals) and Chuck Varga (backing vocals).
Scumdogs of the Universe (1990), their next venture, added the female backing vocals of Danyell Stampe, while Mike Derks took over one of the guitar slots. America Must Be Destroyed (1992) followed, showing each successive album's ability to be more raunchier than the last. This Toilet Earth (1994) gave us more of a hint into their fictional origins, but saw their most disgusting lyrical work yet. The album received additional attention due to controversy surrounding the track, B.D.F., a song that graphically referred to sodomy, necrophilia, prenatal rape, pedophilia and mutilation. That same year, 1994, also saw the music videos for Saddam a Go-Go and The Road Behind getting aired on the Beavis and Butt-head show.
The bass spot was taken when Mike Bishop, who was brave enough to crawl into the sewer but by this time had tired of the smell, left and was replaced by Casey Orr on the next release. Ragnarock (1995) was a surprisingly tamer effort and featured a balled The Road Behind, which was also the title of their previous EP album in 1992. Peter Lee now took over the other guitar spot previously occupied by Rowell.
Believing that a change was as good as a rest, or so they thought, GWAR indulged on the side project X-Cops, shortly after their Ragnarok album, releasing the one-and-only album You Have The Right.... shortly thereafter. The album was excessively violent and involved rather un-complimentary actions involving police. It was banned from importation or publication in several countries.
Doom developer "id Software" hired GWAR to produce a showcase space at Microsoft's Judgement Day event for Halloween of 1995.
GWAR appeared in a video game focused Circuit City television advertisement in 1996.
The next effort by GWAR was Carnival of Chaos (1997). It received less fanfare than the previous works. It also featured the drum work of Brad Roberts as Jizmak Da Gusha.
Violence Has Arrived (2001) followed with a change of their formulation a bit, featuring a more serious content than past performances.
2009 would see the first GWAR hosted annual festival in Richmond, Virginia dubbed "Gwar-B-Q". The festival boasts a barbecue, rock-and-roll vendors, a haunted house of sorts (where "bohabs" [a name for GWAR fans] can visit to be spewed and bled upon), as well as and live music featuring metal bands at Hadad's Lake, a natural water park in Richmond. In 2014, the year of Dave Brockie's death, the singer's Oderus Urungus character was given a Viking funeral, with his stage costume burned on a funeral pyre at the event.
After Bloody Pit of Horror (2010), in 2012, Brent Purgason would take over lead guitar under the name Pustulus Maximus. More membership changes occurred when, after Battle Maximus (2013), Bob Gorman (a.k.a. Bonesnapper) took over the backing vocals role in 2014; Don Drakulich (a.k.a. Sleazy P. Martini) would assume that role in 2017, after formerly holding the role during 1986-1995, but not until after the release of The Blood of Gods (2017).
Previously, November 3, 2011 saw guitarist Cory Smoot, who had performed as Flattus Maximus since 2002, was found dead by his fellow band members in the band's tour bus as they prepared to cross the border into Manitoba, Canada from North Dakota. The cause of death was "a coronary artery thrombosis brought about by pre-existing coronary artery disease."
On September 13, 2013, an online petition was launched on Change.org to have the band play the 2015 Super Bowl Half Time Show; it didn't work.
October 2013, a video of GWAR doing a cover of Billy Ocean's Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car was posted by The A.V. Club; the song was blended into a medley featuring The Who's Baba O'Riley. That same on-line newspaper also previously released a video of the band playing a cover of Kansas' 1976 hit Carry on My Wayward Son in 2012.
On March 23, 2014, 50 year old Dave Brockie was found dead by a roommate in his Richmond, Virginia, apartment due to a heroin overdose.
November 2014 saw a never before seen video of Oderus Urungus, announcing the guest-starring of GWAR in the first issue of the Miss Katonic comic book set.
January 2015, GwarBar, an upscale dive bar, opened in Richmond, Virginia.
On May 7, 2015, Kim Dylla was released from the band although the Vulvatron character may return in the future.
Jamison Land who had played bass and backing vocals as Beefcake the Mighty) since 2011 announced his departure. Previously that role had been held by Todd Evans (2002-2008) and Casey Orr (1994-1997, 1999-2002, 2008-2011). This would leave the modified band membership of Mike Derks (a.k.a. Balsac the Jaws of Death; rhythm guitar; 1988-present), Brad Roberts (a.k.a. Jizmak Da Gusha; drums; 1989-present), Matt Maguire (a.k.a. Sawborg Destructo; backing vocals; 1995-1996, 2009-present), Brent Purgason (a.k.a. Pustulus Maximus; lead guitar, backing vocals; 2012-present), Bob Gorman (a.k.a. Bonesnapper; backing vocals; 1995-1996, 2014-present), Michael Bishop (a.k.a. Blothar; lead vocals; 2014-present; a.k.a. Beefcake the Mighty; bass, backing vocals; 1987-1993, 1998-1999), Don Drakulich (a.k.a. Sleazy P. Martini; backing vocals; 1986-1995, 2017-present), Casey Orr (a.k.a. Beefcake the Mighty; bass, backing vocals; 1994-1997, 1999-2002, 2008-2011, 2019-present).
Other roles of note:
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GWAR live in Toronto, Canada, December 17 2008.
Photo by: Mark Coatsworth.
CC BY-SA 3.0
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