[Editor’s note: Gwar is a satirical, crude, heavy-metal band that performs and interviews in character. Readers sensitive to profanity and disturbing images and themes may wish to avoid this article.]
You’ve probably never worried about aliens oversleeping, but this reporter recently dealt with one self-proclaimed extraterrestrial who did just that.
Oderus Urungus is the singer and leader of Gwar, a thrash-metal outfit with an interstellar mythos and a theatrical stage show that leaves the front few rows drenched with “blood” and other “excretions.” He’s a hulk with a scaly, red face, huge spikes that emerge from his shoulders and a monstrous phallus that swings to and fro as he roars. The band’s current stage show pits this gladiator against Mr. Perfect, an even bigger foe from the future who’s hell-bent on stealing Urungus’ testicles. The previous night’s battle was particularly grueling, and the alien warrior didn’t wake in time for a midafternoon interview with Xpress. He’s ready an hour later, and he begs pardon — a rare apology from a surly brute.
“Mr. Perfect knocked out about a 3-inch section of my chin last night, so I’m in a little bit of pain,” he explains. “It’s a pretty big fight. He’s 13-feet-f******-tall, and all I’ve got is broadswords and axes to take him out. And I do. I do my job well. But I’m going to take wounds. I’m going to get hit. I’m going to get hurt. But I’m going to hurt other people much, much, much more, so it balances out nicely.”
Obviously, this battle wasn’t real. Beneath the mask and prosthetics, Oderus is Dave Brockie. He co-founded Gwar in 1984 when his punk band joined forces with a couple of film students obsessed with creating ghastly costumes. They released their first album, Hell-O, four years later. Twelve LPs have followed, along with a litany of ludicrous short films. The players hide their faces behind ghoulish masks and hulking helmets, donning warrior costumes that leave little else to the imagination. They spray their audiences with “jizmoglobin,” a pink liquid that they claim is their very potent spunk.
It’s all for show, but Gwar doesn’t allow much light behind its narrative veil. Band members give their interviews in character, and so we press on, getting the protagonist’s perspective on nearly 30 years spent living out metal’s most enduring fantasy.
“It’s how we eat. It’s how we survive,” Oderus offers as to why the band still entertains human audiences. “We drink human blood and eat human souls. We’re not going to get anybody to come to the show if the … music sucks. We’re not going to enjoy playing it either, so we’re going to do our best to have a kick-ass show. And everybody will just die with a smile on their face and an ax through their head.”
(Xpress found no report of an actual Gwar murder, by the way.)
But the band’s theatrics are effective nonetheless. Through the years, Gwar’s music has become increasingly vicious and tight. Boasting riffs from new guitarist Pustulus Maximus — really Cannabis Corpse’s ferociously skilled Brent Purgason — 2013’s Battle Maximus is a blur of gnashing guitars and clobbering rhythms. It’s an impressive display that would be decent without the visuals, but that just wouldn’t be fun.
“Gwar is comedy and a visual,” Urungus reasons. “No matter how good the music is, the visual of Gwar will always be at the forefront. We could be playing f******* Tchaikovsky, and that’s what they would notice first and foremost. One couldn’t stand without the other. We would be a decent metal band without the costumes, and if we just had the costumes and no music, we’d look really stupid.”
By “costumes” he means their clothes, not their masks. Rest assured, the veil never lifts.
By “comedy” he means the crude jokes crucial to Gwar’s delivery. To Oderus, a song like “Raped at Birth” is a gas. So is dismembering effigies of Jesus, George W. Bush and Justin Bieber.
This is a farce, but it's meant to push your buttons and make you reevaluate your definition of morality. The costumes and the “jizmoglobin” are merely Gwar’s tools, used to connect with the audience and nail their points home.
“It’s rock ‘n’ roll musical theater,” Urungus proclaims. “Anybody can put on a costume and jump around, but Gwar takes it to a new level. And spew actually forms a bridge between the audience and the band. We’re all covered in [it] from head to toe.”