Cameron Pierce of Lazy Fascist Press in Portland, Oregon asked me to read with him at a tribute for the recently deceased Dave Brockie AKA Oderus Urungus, controversial masked frontman for the intergalactic rock group GWAR. I wasn’t sure what to say or what to read. I dove into online research on Brockie and found a wealth of material. One particular thing I thoroughly enjoyed was discovering Brockie’s autobiographical posts on RVA News (part 10 “Ian McKaye is a dick” is especially entertaining).
Here’s what I read last night at his remembrance, a reading in Echo Park, Los Angeles at Stories Books with Jim Ruland, Jeff Burk,
John Skipp, Marc Levinthal and Cameron Pierce.
Dave Brockie AKA Oderus Urungus, the mastermind and frontman behind the force of nature known as GWAR will be remembered as fiercely intelligent, irreverent and charismatic. He battled against censorship and the bible belt, challenging American puritanical mores with his elaborately costumed rock group GWAR: an alien army hellbent on destroying the human race. Onstage their performances were like a monster truck rally meets a WWF free for all. GWAR frequently sprayed the audience with fake blood, semen and other bodily fluids. They decapitated and disgraced political figureheads, religious leaders and celebrities onstage. They welcomed audience participation and this sometimes became confrontational or violent.
An excerpt from a Deadspin.com via Decibel Magazine article:
By the early ’90s, GWAR’s touring entourage-band, crew and Slaves-numbered 24 people. The stage shows were legendary. “About the time that we really went past the punk rock art-school kids who understood us to the crazy meathead crowd, we were playing 1,500- and 2,000-seaters, but we still didn’t have barricades,” says Gorman, who’s been a key Slave and GWAR’s resident historian since 1988. “And the whole GWAR show gets people so excited that there’s this suspension of disbelief, like, ‘They’re really killing people! This is awesome!’ So, people would get up there and fuck with us. By ’92, it turned into a wave of people getting onstage to try and steal props, to knock the guy in the dinosaur suit over, or whatever. Instead of us doing what normal people do-which is, you know, pay for barricades-we decided to fight ‘em. But really, we didn’t even know there was a choice. We thought it was our job to stop people, when in reality we could have paid for security. So, it was ugly. It was fights, every night, all night long. We didn’t get barricades until ’94.”
“We punched a lot of people,” adds Don Drakulich, the 6’4″ special-effects artist who has played (GWAR’s manager) Sleazy P. Martini since 1986. “Everyone in this band has punched a lot of people.”
Despite GWAR claiming to have declared war on the human race, the real Dave Brockie was fervently anti-war. He had ongoing anti-war posts on his Tumblr account. Two stood out to me:
“Welcome to death. Welcome to agonizing pain. Welcome to the most pointless, expensive, and horrific activity in human history. Welcome to the latest chapter in my continuing photographic series on war.
More Bodies of People Who Died in Agonizing Fucking Pain
These types of images were carefully controlled during the war and only in the last couple of decades have the floodgates really opened regarding the forensic photography from it. If we had such images of our “War on Terror”, perhaps people would be a little less apt to do this to each other.
I won’t deny I have a ghoulish interest in death, chaos, and destruction in all of its forms. But war is the biggest train wreck ever, and I can’t stop looking at it. This is the bold and bare evidence of the true cost of war. The only war worth fighting is the one against it. Welcome back to my continuing series of horrific war photos, inspired by the hope that if people knew how awful war really was they would be less likely to send their children off to them. WAR NO MORE.” – Dave Brockie
Besides graphic photos of death on his blog intended to spread the word about the horrors of war, he also recently posted images of civil unrest in Venezuela, hoping to bring the plight of Venezuelans into public consciousness.
Towards the end, the lines between Dave Brockie and Oderus Urungus began to blur a little. This is how Oderus closed an interview on Soundwave TV while on tour in Brisbane, Australia recently:
“Solidarity to the people of Caracas, Venezuela, solidarity to the defenders of the Maiden in Kiev, we will throw these motherfuckers down, it’s just going to take a little while. But don’t be afraid, and don’t be fucking seduced by entertainment. To sit at home and watch your fucking TV , plug into social media and tune the fuck out? No. We gotta go into the streets and we gotta fuck these motherfuckers up. And I’m down for life. Since I’ve never been able to kill myself, that’s forever. ” – Oderus Urungus
The real Dave Brockie was humble and appreciative of being able to travel and tour. There are personal photos of GWAR’S most recent Japanese and Australian tours posted on his blog. One month ago, during GWAR’s Australian tour, Dave posted this:
Wow. What an amazing city. Sydney is maybe the best city I have ever seen…clean, beautiful, packed w/ happy people…spent the morning walking/ferry riding all over the place…can’t tell you guys how cool it is and how lucky I am to have this life…thank you :)
Now back to Dave’s alter ego Oderus Urungus: It’s hard to explain GWAR to folks who might not be familiar with them or their antics. GWAR best represent themselves. Here is their interview on Joan Rivers’ 1990s talk show. Even Joan couldn’t escape their boundless charm and humor.
Joan Rivers: We are right in the middle of our 5 part series this week called rock on the wild side. And today we’re going to meet a band who had been described by their manager as cross between KISS, The Rocky Horror Picture show, the World Wrestling Foundation (sic) and the Simpsons. To me they look like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on LSD. But their name is GWAR and wherever they perform thousands of kids flock to their concerts hoping to be dragged onstage and sprayed with blood, the whole thing, I don’t get it. Anyhow, they have a new videotape and an album out called Scumdogs of The Universe, thank God it’s out. Will you please welcome GWAR…
(Oderus Urungus and Beefcake the mighty come onstage fully costumed. Spikes protrude from shoulders, a massive helmet with stegosaurus spikes adorns Beefcake’s head. Oderus raises his battleaxe in the air and Beefcake raises his sword. Oderus gets on his hands and knees and bows to Joan Rivers showing his thonged buttcheeks. They are barely able to sit down because of the bulk and girth of their GWAR alien outfits. Oderus tells the crowd to “Stop, Stop right now” after they shower him with applause and raucous cheers. The talk show host has been laughing from the moment she introduced the band. Joan Rivers can barely contain herself.)
Oderus: Well miss Rivers,the first thing I would like to do as Oderus Urungus, lead singer of Gwar, here with my friend Beefcake the mighty. Would like to heap lavish praise upon you. Let’s hear it for the star, hip hip hooray! Hip Hip hooray. Let’s give her a hand. Here you go…
(Oderus hands Joan Rivers a severed hand)
Oderus: Don’t you like it?
Joan: I’m going to make it into a lamp. Let me ask you. What is going on, you throw blood at the audience, dismembered limbs, this all goes on during your concerts. What is the philosophy behind all this?
Oderus: Basically we view the human race as scum, we are indeed from another planet you know, and human beings we see as food. Dogs, so much as to be destroyed onstage en masse. They do not dislike this, rather, they throw themselves gleefully into the jaws of death.
Beefcake: It is sort of a microcosm of the entire human condition if you will.
Joan Rivers: I don’t know what the hell you are talkin’ about
Oderus Urungus: Everywhere you look nowadays you look on TV you see people being run over by tanks, people being beaten by the police, people starving, new sexual diseases, obviously the human race is in love with self destruction. We are only satisfying a consumer need.
Beefcake: Supply and demand
Joan Rivers: and you are supplying a consumer need, you are so popular, suddenly becoming huge. But what about the children coming to your shows. You throw blood…not real blood I hope?
Oderus: of course it is real blood what are you talking about?
Oderus: Seriously. Everyone who comes to our show is ground up, and after the show they are dragged under the stage and tiny robotic arms take the fillings out of their teeth, and the rest of their bodies are ground into GWAR dog food, not a drop is wasted.
Joan: What is GWAR by the way, that is the planet where you come from? Or the name of the group or both?
Oderus: Beefcake, what planet are you from again?
Beefcake: I’m from the planet cholesterol.
Oderus: I am from the planet Scum Doggia in the center of the universe far past Uranus. We were banished to this insignificant mudball planet earth because we were eating too many chili cheese burritos and generally making a mess of things . We were banished here to serve eternal penance until the day we are recalled to the stars to do whatever happens then.
Beefcake: It’s not much of a prison because obviously on this planet we can defy gravity and we are having fun, you know.
Oderus: Yes we can blow on our tongues and grow to 300 feet in the air.
Joan: You’ve probably already done that on Sally Jesse
(Oderus and Beefcake love the quip from Joan and laugh deeply)
Oderus: That razor sharp wit of yours Joan
Joan: Let me ask you, do you worry about music at all?
Beefcake: Why worry, we are wonderful
Oderus: We don’t even play guitars actually telekinetically we manipulate the fretboards with our minds.
Beefcake: Mind music
Joan: Who writes your music? Do you write your own music, do you have any involvement in that at all?
Oderus: Indeed we created the word music, the whole concept of music. After we destroyed the dinosaurs, we stretched their gizzards across the Grand Canyon. And Beefcake composed the first song ever. I believe “I write the songs,” Barry Manilow stole that from us.
Beefcake: Every piece of music written was robbed from GWAR.
Oderus: Indeed, yes.
Joan: What about sex in your act?
Oderus: (seductively) What about sex?
Joan: They say there’s a lot of sexual things going on in the act. And that takes it to a whole different area. It makes 2 Live Crew look sweet.
Oderus: 2 Live who? I don’t watch much television, except for your show, we watch your show 24 hours a day. Oh, I know who you are talking about… 2 Live Spew, those guys who say the F word a lot. Well I for one am really glad they got off, know what I mean?
Joan: Are there a lot of sexual innuendos in your act?
Oderus: There’s no innuendos at all. There’s a 15 foot long growing penis that spews digestive fluid everywhere.
Joan: You have that on stage?
Oderus: Not all of the time. It haunts us, it follows us from gig to gig.
Beefcake: It’s a nightmare.
Oderus: We’ve had some problems you understand.
Joan: Weren’t you arrested?
Beefcake: Joan you really shouldn’t have (Oderus feigns tears)
Oderus: (holding back the tears) Strength, strength, as my friend Lawrence Olivier would tell me. Indeed, it is true, in the human suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, (softly) thank you Beefcake for being here for me right now… we have or, I use to have anyway, a growing object between my thighs we called the Cuttlefish of Cathulu. This aforementioned object was attached to my body you know. The police, they came to the show and told me I was trying to simulate a human penis. What an insult!
Joan: They arrested you?
Oderus: Well they didn’t arrest me so much as bribe me, they took me back to the station and they said they wanted to do a bunch of confiscated crack with me, hey I love to party you know… Went back to the station house and the next thing I know I was totally unconscious, they had amputated the cuttlefish with a laser saw, and buried it in a nuclear waste sludge pile.
Oderus: The Charlotte police were holding the cuttlefish for some time , Tipper Gore was holding it for awhile but they made her give it back.
Beefcake: She gave it up reluctantly
Joan: Let me ask, how far are you guys going to go?
Joan: Aren’t you worried that people don’t get that you’re very funny, that they are going to take you seriously. Aren’t you frightened of the responsibility of that?
Oderus: I think anyone who would think that is a very disturbed person to begin with.
Joan: I think you’re brilliant, I think you’re terrific but it worries me that someone would watch you guys and think, “OK this is what we should do.”
Oderus: Let them join the army or something, there’s plenty of outlets for them.
Beefcake: They can be policemen or something.
Joan: A pleasure talking to you, please come back anytime you’re in the neighborhood just drop in.
Oderus: We certainly will
Long live Dave Brockie and Oderus Urungus, interplanetary creatures who found the mainstream insufferable. Forces of nature who declared war on censorship. They used humor as their weapon. By being absurd themselves, they showed that the real world was much more frightening. They were galactic beings who put on a damn good rock show. Long live Dave Brockie and Oderus Urungus.
John Stewart and Gibby Haynes of Butthole Surfers make mention of Oderus Urungus’ passing here
Fox News pays tribute to Oderus Urungus (a late night contributor) here: