My first introduction to GWAR came in the form of a short cameo in the movie Empire Records when I was 15. At the time, I didn’t understand what I was seeing, but was instantly enthralled by it. The character of Mark takes some drugs and projects himself into a GWAR video for “Saddam A Go Go” wherein he gets told by Oderus Urungus what a good guitar player he is, but it’s a shame they will have to eat him. Mark then watches on as a beast lovingly referred to as the “World Maggot” consumes his hallucinated image. I went out and bought We Kill Everything that day.
That was 2000, a year after We Kill Everything was released, and 16 years into the relentless slaughter that GWAR had become. I asked one of the employees of my local Zia’s where I could find their GWAR CDs and was told I would be better off listening to something “serious” and “professional” like Tool. Me, being a skeptical teenager, thought this through for a good 10 minutes, knowing that the choice I was about to make could very well affect my musical consumption for years to come. I went with GWAR and am proud of my decision to this day. I went home and listened to the full album about three or four times before resolving to find more GWAR music.
Years later, after being told of the sheer ridiculousness of their live shows, I was able to attend my first GWAR concert. As instructed, I wore a white shirt and expected to have it drenched in fake blood by the end of the show. I was not disappointed. At the time, the other bands playing were Municipal Waste and Toxic Holocaust. Both bands put on an amazing show and did a great job whipping the crowd into a frenzy in preparation for GWAR’s audience annihilation. The first song wasn’t even over before I was soaked from head to mid-chest in red goop blasted from a decapitated celebrity (I can’t remember whom). As any GWAR fan can tell you, after several hours of moshing action and wading through a swarm of sweating masses, once that fake blood hits you, it’s one of the most refreshing feelings you’ll have. Your friends and other patrons become unrecognizable beyond another blood-spattered body jumping and head-banging to the glory that is GWAR.
I turned on the computer one morning to see that Cory Smoot, who had played guitar as Flattus Maximus since 2002, had died of a heart attack. GWAR was scheduled to play in Phoenix, AZ three days later, and feared that it would be the end of GWAR. In true “gods of metal” fashion, they resolved to retire the character, but finish the tour. When they came to Phoenix in 2011, the tone was very somber, but became more of a celebration of Smoot’s spirit. I’ve never seen a circle pit more courteous to this day. At the end of their set, GWAR shone a single spotlight on Smoot’s guitar while playing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Let me tell you, there is nothing more humbling and bonding than watching several hundred sweaty, blood-soaked drunks waving lighters and singing Frank Sinatra off-key. Every one of us was a scumdog to the bone that night.
Then in 2012 GWAR was back with Pustulus Maximus, a mere month after covering Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son” for The A.V. Club. Supporting acts The Cancer Bats and Devildriver were perfect for getting the crowd in the mood for GWAR. I had my Mohawk up and my moustache waxed for the show, both of which surviving moshpits for all other supporting acts. Once again, not a full song into the GWAR set, and I’m soaked. Mohawk drenched in blood and moustache a crimson, frazzled mess. If there was any doubt GWAR doubt had made the right choice in their new guitar player, if the band would march on into oblivion; those doubts were laid to rest before the end of the first song. They played everything I wanted to hear and more. GWAR was back in action and stronger than ever.
Next year, for whatever reason, GWAR skipped their traditional Phoenix stop in November and I didn’t get to see them. “Next year,” I thought to myself. “I’ll see them next year and everything will be awesome.” My sister got to have dinner with Brad Roberts who currently portrays Jizmak Da Gusha whom assured her that GWAR would probably be hitting Phoenix sometime in the Spring. Not once did I consider the possibility that anything else would happen to GWAR or even could for that matter. They were my metal gods.
This morning I woke up and before I could even get out of bed, my girlfriend came to me to tell me the bad news regarding Dave Brockie. I couldn’t believe it. I doubt any of us bohabs or scumdogs can. The one thing that keeps repeating in my mind is, “Please don’t let it be an overdose. Please let it be of natural causes.” If it is the case of natural causes, then Mother Nature is a terrible “See you next Tuesday” that deserves to have her entrails upper-cutted through her nasal cavity. Graphic? Only in proper GWAR fashion.
My heroes, like all our metal gods and titans of all that is brutal, are simply humans. As much I would love to see that every member of GWAR truly be their Earth-invading, death-dealing, “Lords and Masters” alter egos, they can’t. As much as I will greatly miss Oderus Urungus, I will miss the wit and humor of Dave Brockie even more so.
So as you go throughout your day, living your lives in your normal fashion, please take a moment to remember a great metal icon that changed my life and the lives of so many people.
Here’s to you, Oderus. May you have safe and speedy travels to your home planet where you will forever kill, maim, and pillage until the end of time.
-Ozwald “Dr. Copperchops” Kraus
March 24th, 2014