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Gwar: “We are not the only aliens in music – Adele does not seem human to me!”

Gwar
(Image credit: Press)

As the world’s leading bodily-fluid- spurting intergalactic metal band, Gwar have been the scourge of polite society and all-round wreckers of civilisation for almost 40 years. For the last eight of those, they have been led by front-thing Blöthar The Berserker, who took over from the late Oderus Urungus after the latter died in 2014. This is what Blöthar has learned from his time on this planet.

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Beware of evil twins

“There is an alternate universe, and in that alternate universe there is another Gwar. They are not really our opposite, although they are a country band, which is kinda of the opposite. They’re sort of like a more unhinged version of Gwar. So, we do battle with them and come back with a load of new powers. That’s what our new album, The New Dark Ages, is about.”

Gwar loves a metaphor

“Gwar are a funny band that launch some pretty serious critiques of modernity. The new album is really a comment on where humanity is now. A lot of the same issues and the same belief patterns still exist, and rather than create new opportunities for humans, technology has just created a lot of barbarism.”

Metal is just ripe for parody

“In the very early days of Gwar, it was all about the absurdity of heavy metal. This was the 80s, when the American version of glam rock was huge – this weird posturing of masculinity, while wearing spandex, make-up and huge hair. Gwar came out of punk rock and started making fun of that, or at least taking it to the extreme.”

Not all metal fans want to have a laugh

“Anything that takes itself too seriously is going to be easy to lampoon. The defence that they have always mounted is that we’re not musical. It’s linked to this elitism that is rife in metal. We’ve pissed a lot of metal fans off, but Gwar will not be dismissed! There are a lot of metal fans who want to have fun, and we give them the chance to have that fun. It’s very liberating and uplifting to see that. The ones who are discovering music for the first time and aren’t using it as a way of elitist distinction, that’s who Gwar is for.”

The Brits are fun to piss off

“Anyone who gets easily pissed off is really fun to piss off. The first time that Gwar came over to Britain, the tabloid press there really made out like we were actually killing people onstage. There was a Tory MP who started threatening the clubs’ licences who were meant to have us play, so the first UK tour we did was just two weeks of cancelled shows. It’s more fun to piss off the establishment than it is metal fans.”

Gwar

(Image credit: Press)

Dave Grohl nearly joined Gwar

“Gwar and Dave Grohl were part of the regional punk rock scene. Dave was friends with the old guitar player from Gwar, and when he was interested in leaving [his pre-Nirvana band] Scream, Gwar were looking for a new drummer at the same time. We sent him an invitation and talked to him about it, and he was serious – he made up a character for it. But I think he had enough sense to see that Gwar was a pain in the ass, a hard band to be in. Shame. He could’ve been enjoying this all these years.”

We’re not the only musical aliens

“I’m sure you want to know, who are the lizard people, the aliens in disguise? Well, Michael Jackson was one, but he’s gone now. I think Springsteen is suspicious. Adele doesn’t seem very human to me. Björk… you can’t tell me that she’s human! She’s hiding in plain sight!”

US and UK chat shows are very different

“There was a time where Gwar were appearing on a lot of mainstream chat shows: Jerry Springer, The Joan Rivers Show, even a few British chat shows. I gotta say, for all my criticism of British self-seriousness, those British hosts were a lot of fun, they really understood what we were doing. We were on The Big Breakfast with [unhinged puppet duo] Zig and Zag, and we fit right in. On the American side they used us to represent everything going to hell in a handbasket, and it’s great to be the face and the voice of that. The lost generation!”

The PMRC didn’t know what they were upset about

“During the time of the PMRC, when they were really going after rock bands and hip hop bands, Gwar were firmly in their sights. It was just so absurd, though I guess it was understandable that they would go after us. Some of their targets were really bizarre - the whole thing was pretty bizarre – but at least we could understand why we were targeted, and we courted it somewhat. Some of those other bands must have been scratching their heads as to why they were lumped in with us.”

Decapitating celebrities is very enjoyable

“In the upcoming tour, we’re having a no-holds-barred wrestling match between the president of China and Vladimir Putin. Over the years we’ve had all sorts. Donald Trump showed up at every show for a while. We’ve killed him so many times it’s old hat. We have fun killing celebrities, and archetypes too. It’s the sanctimonious that really bother Gwar, whether it’s religious people or politicians. That’s a human characteristic that we really go after.”

All hail Beavis And Butt-head

“Being Beavis and Butt-Head’s favourite band was really cool, and it did a lot for our career. There are so many people, when you talk to them, they tell you they discovered the band through Beavis And Butt-Head. We have a lot of name recognition even if people don’t strictly know our music, and a lot of that is due to them. And what great characters they were! Just these two heavy metal miscreants, so funny. Always been appreciative of that help. It makes sense when you look at their characters. [Creator] Mike Judge came to a few of our shows – he knew us, that’s what got us on the show.”

Losing Oderus was the worst thing Gwar went through

“Losing Oderus Urungus [aka original frontman Dave Brockie, who died in 2014] was traumatic. Gwar have always been an ensemble effort, so we were able to survive, but it was very difficult. [2017’s] The Blood Of Gods album was a way for us to be able to say goodbye and pay tribute to this individual that made us what we were. When we had the Viking funeral for him at the Gwar-B-Q it was quite a moment – we pushed him out on a boat into the middle of a lake, we had an archer fire a flaming arrow and it burst into flames. But of course, because it was Oderus, the wind took it and this fireball started coming dangerously close to the crowd. It was a 20-foot-high wall of flame. So, par for the course for Gwar. We should never be allowed to use pyrotechnics!”

You need to hide your wieners for Hollywood

“[The 1995 movie] Empire Records was another thing that got us attention. The psychedelic images you see in that film was because they had to block out Oderus’s big, massive fake wiener. They couldn’t have that in the film. They had to make it all psychedelic-looking so the audience couldn’t see it.”

We keep bringing more blood

“We will never run out of blood or semen – we have an endless supply in the audience. If people were to fill out a comment card at the end of each tour, the number one comment would be: ‘Not enough blood!’ We started off with fire extinguishers, and it just keeps growing! If we ever played stadiums, we’d have to bring fire hoses.”

Don’t take the Grammys too seriously

“Being nominated for a Grammy feels just like having never been nominated for a Grammy. It’s such a meaningless accolade for us. I still don’t understand how it happened, let alone twice. It’s recognition, people looking at the band and seeing that the visual side of rock’n’roll was going to become more and more important.”

Patrick Stewart is a dude

“The first time we went to the Grammys, it was hilarious. [90s R’n’B group] En Vogue were there, Michael Jackson was there… we found ourselves in very weird company with KD Lang and Madonna. We walked up the red carpet and had our moment. Then Oderus saw [Star Trek/X-Men actor] Patrick Stewart up on the balcony and screamed, ‘Jean-Luc Picard, as I live and breathe!’ And Patrick shouted back, ‘My, what a wonderful baritone, someone should do Shakespeare!’ Oderus was so excited that he started making his way up there and Patrick was swiftly hustled out by his security. I’ll never forget it.” 

Gwar’s new album, The New Dark Ages is out now. The documentary This Is Gwar is streaming now on Shudder.

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.