This Is GWAR: It's a Challenge to Keep Shocking

This Is GWAR: It's a Challenge to Keep Shocking ...

This Is GWAR, directed by Scott Barber, charts the history and development of one of the most perilous threats Earth has ever encountered: an art collective that answers only to themselves and, possibly, their loyal following.

GWAR is well-known as a legendary heavy metal monster band with gory stage shows, wry lyrical assaults, and costumes that bring bandmembers before court on indecency charges. It is also a special effects lab, a live musical theater troupe, and an independent filmmaking studio under a creative conglomeration called The Slave Pit Inc.

This is a collection of current and archive interviews with musicians and the creative team, as well as artists who appreciate the work, such as Weird Al Yankovic, who gave his own voice to the band when their vocalist attempted to portray himself as a kid's party clown in a very animated project.

Dave Brockie, the guy who wore the Oderus Urungus codpiece in his Oderus Urungus costume, died of an accidental heroin overdose at his residence in Richmond, Virginia, in March 2014. GWAR is a cultural endeavor, first and foremost, and Brockies' objective was to fill some space in a culture desperately in desperate need of pretentious deflation.

The New Dark Ages is a new album from GWAR, which reflects on the band's early 1990s sound. BalSac The Jaws Of Death, Jizmak Da Gusha, Pustulus Maximus, and Beefcake The Mighty provide the vocals that keep going long after them.

Bob Gorman, a long-time GWAR collaborator, is the resident Slave Pit historian who wrote the book Let There Be GWAR in 2015. After two years of volunteering with the band, he left art school to join GWAR in 1988, because help was always needed at all times. From prop fabrication through live character roles, to contributing writer, lyricist, and visual artist, Gorman is one of the forces keeping GWAR alive and pumping viscous fluids.

Den of Geek spoke with Gorman to discuss his views on the documentary and where the multimedia troupe will go next. The following transcript has been edited for length.

Den of Geek: What is your favorite part of GWAR, the band, the traveling circus, the living B-movie, and the experiment with liquid propellants?

Bob Gorman: Just being able to come up with a wacky idea and see it through, to play that character and get a little of all of it.

Not many people realize that what you were doing was fairly uncommon. Your splatter section was clever. Can you explain how that came about?

It was developed before me, but we all contributed a little bit to it. When we were playing small clubs, we were dubbed the Grand Guignol of Heavy Metal. I don't remember anyone at the time who knew what that meant. I had to go back and read the book.

Hunter [Jackson] and Dave [Brockie] co-founded Death Piggy, the group that preceded GWAR. They opened up for Wendy O. Williams, who had just joined the Plasmatics. Hunter made a dick with one of those squeezable ketchup bottles, and filled it with creamer. That was the first spew gag.

Don Drakulich [Sleazy P. Martini] made a gag where he got his arm ripped off. Then we used fire extinguishers that we liberated. We didn't have a compressor, so we went to a convenience store and bought three small fire extinguishers, one of red, one of green, and one of yellow.

Dave Musel was my mentor in 1990 when Scumdogs of the Universe was released. He taught me the technical aspects of building things. He invented the bigger tanks and the air filters. That was a significant increase in volume and reach. If you saw us in 1991, you'd see us as the whole club, the ceiling, the back wall. We've just been refining it since then.

I like the name of the judge who locked up Dave. How is it that Dick Boner never became a character?

The strange thing is that life imitated the art, and we had already told the story. If you see Jimmy [James Diaz], a friend of ours who would work in different capacities, he's got the Alka Seltzer coming out of his mouth. You can tell, there are subtitles because he's talking and also foaming at the mouth. I believe the credits say he is Dick Boner.

GWAR goes beyond punk or metal, and how do the added musical textures aid in the visual representation?

Its a game of guessing and foreshadowing. Sometimes we'll just write a song and build a prop around it. We're always under pressure to come up with something cool. But the music has always been very motivating to push us up to make something even cooler.

Does Blothars' voice alter the direction GWAR will go?

Oh, yes, and the album sounds like it is going. Its tough for me, because Ive been in the band with a lot of changes of musicians. This new album reminds me more of when Mike [Bishop] was in the band for the first time, in the early 1990s.

The sound they compose is always beneficial, since we dont want to sound like the last two albums. Yes, he was the backup singer in the early 90s. It's a return to many of those textures.

What does it feel like to see it presented in This Is GWAR as the band historian?

Scott is able to really focus in two hours. There are so many things missing, but you get bogged down. It would take a 10-hour film for him to hit the arc.

I gave him the full support of the archive. He showed us the first cut and we all became completely blown away by his early notion on how to tell the story, or let us tell the story. We didnt have much input after that, like, yeah, this is great. If you just put this other song here, or say this, then you will get the benefit of the doubt.

Every member of the family has left at least once. What prompted you to depart and what brought you back? And why do you continue to slave away?

I only left when it was not happening. I didnt want to leave, I just thought it was over. Then the band recorded an album while I was gone, and when they were ready to do it, I got back to the basics. I don't want to do other things because im just acquainted with someone else. I'm doing this because I want to do it. If they hadn't already said yes, I wouldnt have gone.

What kept Bonesnapper the Cave Troll alive?

It has to be pretty much what you are, maybe 10% different. It cant be too radically different from who you are. The character was a costume I wanted to make, the first version of it. I didnt know much about the character I was going to create, other than the lyrics. I just wanted to make the character somewhat similar to myself, but with Dave's input.

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So, I'm not a genius or anything, but Bonesnapper is smarter than me, and I'm probably dumber than I think I am. Its nice, finally getting to play, late in my career, more than the familiar characters. I still get to play one or two victims every show.

Tell me a little bit about songwriting. From Battle Maximus, I'm Bonesnapper. It's a great introduction.

The first song, called Faces of the Slain, is the reason I created the costume. I, Bonesnapper, wrote the lyrics. Im not a singer, but I have a high pitched screaming voice, so it worked really well.

There is one reference to Dave's D&D campaign. He handed me his notebook, and there is a song mentioning the same thing. I had to come up with a longer backstory for my character, since I hadn't really written a backstory for him, other than what David told me. I used it as a reference before he became involved, and made Bonesnapper the target.

I always refer to myself as the scapegoat in GWAR. I flesh it out too much in the song. I thought I'd make it better. I said, okay, you'll make the song longer. It's a real pain when I have to sing it, because it's a screaming song and I'm wearing a rubber mask.

You spend most of your time in visual studios. What was the experience like working in the recording studio?

I enjoyed it a lot. I had done background work on other albums and I enjoy it. You see someone you know who isn't a singer, and they'll sing along. It was more about the timing and making sure you wrote all of the lyrics properly. Nowadays, they'll record the song live before you begin recording.

Phallus in Wonderland is a film that I've put up there alongside Troma or John Waters' works. When will long-form videos be treated as independent studio work?

Were working on that. The problem was, at that point in our career, we would make incredible art and sell them to other people who did not know what to do with them. No one did. We have management that does all that now. Were working on content that is really what we want to do. Were working on content that is truly what we want to accomplish.

I know Phallus is more popular than Skullhead Face, but for me, Skullhead Face was the one. Its just so ridiculous and so much going on. Its probably not understandable to most people, but that's what I love about it. It's all these ridiculous ideas mashed together that everyone wants to include.

You have compared the Snake Pit to the Not Ready for Primetime Players in GWAR. Where do you see the lineup heading?

We all create content together. It's wherever we can find an outlet. When we were little, we could afford a lot of stuff for nothing, and we did a lot of things for free. Those are the things that people remember. We're trying to make some money, and we're putting our efforts into motion.

Flopsy Bleats Appreciably, a Slave Pit-written play, is still alive and well in New York City. You should definitely see Chuck Varga and Bambi the Mermaid when they do theater stuff in Coney Island every year.

While you were touring, did you get to see what was going on in the local underground movements and Grindhouse theaters?

No. Im a huge music fan, and im a huge, pop culture weirdo fan. We tour six nights a week. We had a great time connecting with Joe Coleman, H.R. Giger, and Screaming Matt George. It's a great experience. We've had a lot of fun doing things together. But, unfortunately, it's not as much as I would like it to be.

You were a member of the Subculture Gallery in New York. Do you think the subculture continues to flourish, or has social media made everything too accessible?

I think everyone is doing it off in their own corner. Sometimes I think social media will remove some of that. I think it's a good way to connect like-minded people, especially with COVID when people can't get together.

Is forming a shock rock band still feasible today?

We ask ourselves why we are living in this dystopian future we are living in right now. Ive always compared ourselves to Mad magazine, which is no longer out of print, although I do still think South Park can still shock people. It's how you do it in a creative, smart way. Were not opposed to trying to figure out the finest way to punish everyone equally and to just expose their flaws, much like Mad magazine.

After the last presidency, it is a challenge to remain shocked by what's happening right now. But I think our task is not weird, but how to be smart and how to make fun of things in a smart way. There are a lot of good examples of popular culture, like South Park.

Was there a working relationship between GWAR and Mike Judge on Beavis and Butthead?

Beavis and Butt-Head, who are these guys and who is their favorite band? Their favorite band would have to be GWAR. MTV, at that time, and maybe to this day, hated us and would not broadcast any of our programs. That was fantastic.

We could not express our gratitude enough. Except when the Sega Genesis video game was released. Hunter provided the animation for Beavis and Butt-Head's participation in the GWAR show. It was mostly Viacom. So, thanks again to Mike Judge.

This is the first time that GWAR is now streaming on Shudder.