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Dave Brockie (Gwar)

Interview with Dave Brockie from Gwar
by Will Carroll, Arash Mussavian at 12 May 2010, 6:05 PM

GWAR have in their way paved their way in the Metal scene and after the impressive “Lust In Space” release got into touring. In the context of the band’s live appearance at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco (24/11/09) Will Carroll (WC) of DEATH ANGEL and METAL TEMPLE’s Arash Mussavian (AM) teamed up with Dave Brockie who answered to the following questions.

WC: GWAR’s last four albums are thrash‑influenced albums. Do you plan to go back to the more quirky or awkward albums like “This Toilet Earth”?
I can see it happening at some point. For right now we want to stick with thrash metal because we feel like we worked through a lot of the other styles. The “awkward albums” is a good way of putting it because you were never really sure what the next song is going to sound like. At the time, we were going through a lot of changes in the band. Every time we turned around to do a new record I had a new lineup of dudes, which changes your sound. You cannot just throw someone else into the f**kin’ suit. It is going to change the sound of your band every single time. You have to get that sh*t straightened out before you can even start writing songs. So we ended up using all kinds of sh*t for those records. It was not until we finally got the lineup locked down once and for all on “Violence Has Arrived”. God I hope I never have to change the lineup again because I am so happy with GWAR being the metal band it was always supposed to be. I wanted the band to be metal. But all the previous guys in the band were pretty much punk rockers. So it took a really long time to get a metal sound. “Scumdogs Of The Universe” was as close as we came to making a metal record. Then we went off . . .

WC: . . . “America Must Be Destroyed” is pretty Metal.
Yeah. “America Must Be Destroyed” is pretty metal as well. But it starts pulling away with “The Morality Squad” and “Have You Seen Me?” and starts to show the direction GWAR is going in with the next few records being a little more comical and experimental with the music. I honestly think we thought we had more in common with Frank Zappa than Ozzy Osbourne. But we are firmly through that period and really deeply ensconced in getting GWAR to be the metal band it wanted to be all these years. Since that decision has been made and acted on it, our popularity has had an incredible resurgence. We had it to get to it sooner or later. Metal was always the way for GWAR.


WC: Which is your favorite GWAR album of the awkward 1990’s?
Probably “This Toilet Earth” because it has a great aggressive raw punk rock energy. It also has some bizarre almost industrial songs. It is all over the f**kin’ place. It has great production. It is also a really long album. “This Toilet Earth”, “Ragnarok” and “Carnival Of Chaos” (1997) are each well over an hour long. We just poured everything we had into those records. We were just insane about making music. We felt GWAR was the most outrageous concept that had ever come along in music. We still feel that way. We wanted to push the limits as to what type of band GWAR could be. It was almost like we had to go around the bases a few times before we finally locked down on the metal sound. I swear to god it took like f**kin’ 15 years but we finally got there. We are happy with where we are at.


AM: You are 46 now.During the 1980’s were you a big fan of the thrash movement?
I grew up right in the midst of it. I was into the SEX PISTOLS and the RAMONES while the SEX PISTOLS were still a band. When the SEX PISTOLS came to the United States for their first tour I did not get a chance to see them because they did not come to anywhere near where I lived. Malcolm McLaren \[SEX PISTOLS personal manager] booked them on that f**ked up tour in all those really weird f**ked up places. I was totally into the \[Washington] D.C. hardcore scene, Ian MacKaye \[American punk singer/guitarist] and Henry Rollins. But those guys were way too humorless, tasteless, and jock-like. I had a lot more affinity with the West Coast hardcore scene, bands like BLACK FLAG and experimental bands like FLIPPER. When METALLICA and SLAYER came along and kicked everything in the ass that was all from California as well. So, in a weird way, even though I came from the East Coast punk rock school, I had a much deeper affinity for the West Coast punk Metal school because it had so much more humor to it. As much as I like the East Coast and is where I am from, it is dark gloomy.It is harder in a weird way. They make a big point of pride of it, “My New York accent.” \[mocking tone] Whereas California tends to be more irreverent and lighthearted about stuff because you \[California] guys get to live in a f**kin’ paradise. On the East Coast I can get a ticket for pot whereas in California I can go to the pot store and get some pot! Where I come from you can still go to jail for a long f**kin’ time for having some pot.And they \[the government] will take all your s**t away from you.You will not have a house, any furniture, or a car. You will sit in jail for three years for an ounce of f**kin’ weed! That is where I come from! It sucks!

AM: Being from the East Coast, was the visual aspect of GWAR in any way influenced by bands like KISS and Alice Cooper?
Oh hell yeah! We saw what we were doing as a logical extension of other artists had been into. No one had taken it to the extreme GWAR had. I was a huge KISS fan . . . at first. But when you start getting into punk and Metal you start seeing KISS for just how retarded it really was.I loved Kiss when I was a little kid, but they did not have a lot of kicks for me as an adult.

WC: Did you have any run‑ins with KISS?
Many times. They have always been really cool to us. I met Gene at least three or four times. I remember the first time I met Gene I was in the full Oderus Urungus suit. He was in the unmasked phase hanging out backstage. Gene walked up to me, and I walked up to him.We gave each other a look. Gene reached out and instead of shaking my hand he shook my Cuttlefish \[prosthetic penis] Gene was hilarious. I have another good story when we were playing “Detroit Rock City” as a cover song on tour. We were playing The Limelight in ‘93 or ‘94, and we heard a rumor that KISS was going to check out the show. We thought, “Oh my god that is incredible!” So we were playing the show. The Limelight has all these weird little rooms and a special V.I.P. section. We see KISS in the f**kin’ V.I.P. section.We thought, “Oh my god!” So we were playing “Detroit Rock City”. I do not know how we did it but that night we f**ked it \[the song] up so bad that we totally fell off the song. We had to stop playing the song and start over. We looked up, and they were gone!We were crushed. We thought, “Oh my god. That sucks!” I could just see them watching us and we started f**king up and just stopped. They probably just said, “Oh . . . let’s just leave” We had visions of Gene Simmons giving us the high five after the show and saying, “You guys were great! Here is a million dollars.” Instead they did not even stay until the end of the set.

AM: Talking about money, what would happen if you received a cease and desist letter from Gene saying that you ripped off the “Love Gun” album cover on “Lust In Space”?
We would be f**ked! He would be right. But for whatever reason I can’t help to think it has come to their attention, and they have shown mercy on us. We knew full well that when we spoofed the “Love Gun” cover we might get in trouble for. But we figured if we did it would be excellent publicity. It would make all the records we would have to recall 20 times more valuable. Gene has not stopped us yet.I think if he had a problem with it, he would have said something by now.

AM: As a side note for all the aspiring attorneys, there is an exception under the Copyright Act that would allow you to get away with it as a parody.
Yeah. I figure if Pepsi got away with recently parodying GWAR costumes for f**kin’ Guitar Hero commercials. We were sure we had them on a f**kin’ awesome lawsuit. However, our lawyer said, “It is parody. Pepsi can get away with it. It is the same thing that has protected you Brockie your entire career so don’t f**kin’ bitch about it too hard.”

WC: How did you guys become a part of the ‘Gathering Of The Juggalos’ tour?
They have asked us to come a few times. We have not been able to because of scheduling. We finally said, “F**k it, we’ll do it.” A lot of people we hang out with said, “Oh my god don’t do it.” But we saw it as an opportunity to get some new fans and to experience something different. It certainly was that, oh boy!



WC: How were you guys received?
Really well. They loved us. They did not put us up on the main stage. We were pissed at first. But we saw several acts get bombed the entire f**kin’ set with batteries and cups of piss. That was a tough f**kin’ crowd. They put us in a cool circus tent. It was really fun. We had a really good show. The whole experience was totally weird, disgusting, and gross. It was just a sea of mud and grossness. It was horrible. We played at 4 in the morning. After the show we were walking around and looking at a sea of mud, piss, and shit. There was this pond people had been shitting and pissing in all weekend where the fish had died and floated up to the surface. It was just horrible. But it was cool in a weird way.

WC: Did you meet Vanilla Ice?
No, Coolio was there.I think Vanilla Ice had been there a few days before. Coolio was having a horrible time. He could not get through two f**kin’ lines of his song without getting a giant bottle upside his head. No respect, god!

AM: Talking about no respect, GWAR fans are known for being hardcore.What was the reason why GWAR did not play at UK’s ‘Bloodstock’?
It was a scheduling problem. We got ‘Bloodstock’ and a couple of festivals at the beginning of the month \[August 2009] and we had a couple of festivals at the end of the month. The whole idea was to fill up the area in between with shows. But we found out that both festivals had exclusion zones around them, which means you can’t play within a certain amount \[of distance] to the festival site. So, there simply were not enough gigs to make it worth hanging around there for f**kin’ three weeks. So, we had to pick one ‘Bloodstock’ or the other ‘Wacken’ and we ended up going with the second, which was really amazing. We played for 80,000 people. But we are back on for ‘Bloodstock’ this year \[2010] and playing a bunch of other festivals and a bunch of club shows to make it work.GWAR has been on the rebuild in Europe for the last few years. This year we should finally see some payoff.

WC: Was GWAR bigger in Europe in the early 1990’s?
Yeah. We were a LOT bigger, and then we lost them.We were really big for “Scumdogs of the Universe” and “America Must be Destroyed”. We lost them a little bit when we started getting a little more punk rock and experimental because you know how they feel about their Metal over there. They are very serious about it. They wanted it a certain way. When we started getting into some of the more subtle humor to GWAR, they did not know how to deal with it, and we plummeted and did not even go over there for five or six years. Finally, about three years ago, people started realizing we are putting out Metal records again and started getting interested in GWAR again. Now it has blown up over there, which is pretty cool. Not many bands can do that, to be born, rise, go away, and then come back again and go through the process again. It shows the legs of metal.People love it so much they will take it any way they can get it. They do not care if these guys are in their f**kin’ sixties.They do not care if SAXON is in their damn sixties.

WC: GWAR performed at ‘Sounds Of The Underground’ two years in a row, correct?
Three from 2005-2007.

WC: That must have been huge?
That was another big thing, yeah because we played with so many awesome Metal bands.They got to see us every day, and they went around saying, GWAR have basically remade themselves in the image of Metal.”Playing with those bands as a peer was huge. Not just for the perception of GWAR by the fans, but for our perception of ourselves to be rolling with CANNIBAL CORPSE, BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, and all these killer Metal bands and playing along side them every day and being treated as equals or, in some cases, as headliners.It made us feel like we were in the right club again.

AM: Do you want to talk about the penis controversy in North Carolina? \[1990 incident where Dave Brockie was arrested by police post‑show for “obscenity”]
It was such a bunch of crap. They weren’t really interested in stopping what I did, but more that they were trying to shut down a local club and using GWAR as an excuse. It was bullsh*t.They arrested me and threatened with deporting me. We had to plea‑bargain out of it. The weirdest part about it was the judge’s name, Richard Boner, Dick E. Boner.

WC: I am a huge fan of GWAR’s music.I could give or take the stage show because I love the albums.Does it get to you that 75 percent of the people at a GWAR show are there to see the spectacle?
As long as they are there I am stoked. I am not about to qualify why there are into my band. Whether people are more into the shows than the music or vice versa, they are opposite sides of the same coin. One has to go with the other. We would look pretty stupid standing up there \[on stage] without costumes on. But you never know. You are like one of those rare people that is more into the music than the show.That’s vindicating. Considering that you are a professional musician yourself that is awesome.

AM: GWAR released a live record, “Live from Mt.Fuji”. Since GWAR is such a visual band, how difficult is it to get across what GWAR does on an audio medium? ?
I don’t know. We just did it and had some fun with it. We decided to do a live record, completely live, say it is in the future, say we recorded in Japan. We stole the f**kin’ crowd sounds from CHEAP TRICK’s “Live at Budokan”. We just had a good time with it. We figured pretty much everyone would figure it wasn’t really live, wasn’t really recorded at Mt.Fuji, and wasn’t really from the future. But you know what, some people really think it is! So, I guess it worked.



AM: Why is "We Kill Everything" is your least favorite record? ?
Because we were going through the most problems with personnel changes, and we could not keep people in the band long enough to write a f**kin’ song. We ended up using a lot of material that probably would have gone to DBX \[Dave Brockie Experience] or one of my jokier side projects. Some GWAR fans absolute love “Fu*kin’ An Animal” and “Fishf**k”.But for me that was the roughest album because GWAR was really not sounding the way I wanted it to sound. I was having a hard time getting it to that point and almost despairing of ever getting it there when we did that record.Luckily the very next record, “Violence has Arrived” came back with a shovel to the teeth. So, we managed to get it back to in the right direction.

WC: You have had the same drummer \[Brad Roberts, alias Jizmak Da Gusha]. . .
. . . and the same guitar player \[Mike Derks, alias Balsac The Jaws of Death] since “Scumdogs of the Universe”.


WC: Killer drummer.
He is a great drummer. I would say he is a cross between Keith Moon, Buddy Guy, and Dave Lombardo. But he would never take the Dave Lombardo part because Brad hates Metal. It took forever to get him to play Metal music. It was not until we went out with LAMP OF GOD and they opened up for us on a whole tour that Brad was exposed to Chris Adler. He saw and heard for the first time that Metal could be really f**kin’ cool. That was when I finally managed to prevail on Mike \[Derks] and Brad \[Roberts] that GWAR should be a f**kin’ Metal band or it was just not going to be happening anymore.

WC: Brad’s drumming gets better on every GWAR album.
He pretty much just started playing double kick \[drums] fairly recently.

WC: “War Party” was the first album that I noticed REALLY good drumming.
Yeah. Well Brad really had to step up because a lot of these drummers out there today are just so f**kin’ insanely sick. Brad tries to keep up with that s**t. He has a loose almost jazzy kind of feel to him. But he just wallops the hell out of those f**kin’ things \[drums]. Very unique f**kin’ style and it is a big part of our sound.


WC: Does Brad ever have to consider his costume for the beats or fills he does?
No. He can pretty much do whatever.He just wears that big thing on his head. The rest is pretty much mellow. He has a vest thing. But he drops that before he sits down. He just throws it off his shoulders.So he can move pretty well.

AM: The experimental sound you had with records like “Carnival Of Chaos” continued for a few records, similar to what METALLICA did with “Load” and “Reload”.With METALLICA the personnel remained the same but they were misguided and continued with the same style for two records.Was the reason why GWAR remained the same experimental style more personnel‑related?
Yeah.The personnel suggested what happened. We did not have an idea for the record or how it was going to sound. It just kind of turned out that way because those were the people we had in the band at the time. It was not like METALLICA who just said, “Yeah we decided to go ahead and blow for two albums.”

AM: Does that mean that even though you have been the one who has been in the band the longest you do not necessarily dictate the musical direction?
Correct, not at all. I do not. If I have ever been accused of being a dictator, it is wrong. I like to let these guys pretty much do what they want. I trust them as artists and people. That is part of the trade off of being in GWAR. We cannot afford to pay our guys a hell of a lot. One thing you do get out of it is to experiment with your art. You get to have a support system to help you figure out what is going on with your art and music. That is what brings all these different weirdos to GWAR. Me giving them confidence inspires them to all kinds of heights. That is GWAR has worked since the very beginning. I do not try to prevail.I suggest. When I feel strongly about something, I will strongly suggest. I will even fight for things. But, generally, at the end of the day it is a democracy even to the point where sometimes we might not end up with the best idea. In getting two opposite camps to come together you meet in the middle somewhere. You end up with something that neither person thought you were going to have. But it ends up working.

AM: From a visual standpoint, who is primarily responsible for coming up with the theatrical ideas?
I would give Hunter Jackson \[co-founder, alias Techno Destructo And Scroda Moon] the biggest accolades for coming up with the whole basic look of GWAR. He was the guy creating the props and costumes when I was playing with DEATH PIGGY. I would go over to Hunter’s studio after Death Piggy rehearsals and help him work on the props and costumes.It was combining his visual and my band that turned into GWAR. But after Hunter a lot of other artists came on, people like Don Drakulich \[alias Sleazy P. Martini] and Chuck Varga \[alias Sexecutioner], Bob Gorman \[alias Muzzle Slave], and Matt Maguire (alias Mattron/MX2]. We have had so many amazing talented artists over the years. They have affected GWAR’s visual sensibilities in different ways.



WC: Is GWAR going to bring back the World Maggot?
Yeah. We have been thinking about it. Maybe next year.We have just had a lot of problems with it because you feed girls to it and they come the back of it and end up just wandering around backstage, hitting their heads, or just stay inside the f**kin’ thing and not come out so that you are loading it up into the f**kin’ truck and some chick comes rolling out of it. So you can get into trouble with that prop, which is one of the reasons we have not brought it back.

AM: The next record is projected to be released October 2010?
We are hoping to get it out before the end of the two-year anniversary. The first day of the anniversary is the new album \[“Lust in Space”] coming out. But it is a two‑year anniversary. I think we will have a new record done before then \[end of the two-year anniversary].

AM: How is that you manage to tour so extensively and, at the same time, put out so many records when other bands are having trouble frequently releasing records?
Other bands are lazy pussies. We like to write music. We like to play music. It does not really seem that hard to do. We can crank records out really fast. We can write songs really fast.Really great songs tend to be written really fast. So doing six months on the road and putting out an album is a year’s work for us. That is pretty much what we have been used to over the years. It is the schedule we set for ourselves that felt comfortable.

AM: The musical direction for the next record continues in the same vein as “Lust in Space”?
I would like to see GWAR get a little darker. We just did a big comedy soap opera in outer space. With the next record I would like to see GWAR a little darker, gloomier, sicker, and maybe something a little more chaotic and not so formulated as far as how we are telling the story. Maybe something a little more chaotic, repellent, and crazy. I am really not sure what it is going to be yet. But I already have the working title, “The Bloody Pit of Horror”, GWAR’s “The Bloody Pit of Horror” and that is exactly what it will be, a bloody pit of f**kin’ horror!

AM: Are you into the darker bands like CELTIC FROST?
Oh yeah! CELTIC FROST is one of my favorite bands and CARCASS. I like those bands because they are fairly intelligent. But then you get into a lot of these supposed satanic bands that are just f**kin’ idiots. Some of them are really cool.But some of it is complete shit.

AM: On a closing note I wanted to go back to GWAR’s appearance on “The Jerry Springer Show” in 1990 brought you a lot of publicity.Did you have any run‑ins with the guys in THE MENTORS subsequent to the appearance.
El Duce is the guy that set us up really.THE MENTORS played with GWAR right before the Springer show. El Duce was the guy who went all around the country telling everybody about GWAR saying, “We just played with this band from Richmond, Virginia, GWAR.” He was one of the guys who really got the word out about GWAR. We did lots of shows with El. He was really a great guy. “The Jerry Springer Show” was actually the last time I saw him alive.


AM: No communication with El Duce after “The Jerry Springer Show?”
Well he was never someone you would communicate with when you weren’t on the road because when he wasn’t on tour he would go underground.You never knew where he was.He would never have a phone, apartment, or anything like that. I remember pulling up on Hollywood Boulevard and seeing El crawl out of a f**kin’ refrigerator box saying, “Yeah this is my new house.” Six months later I saw him in F**kin’ Florida wearing alligator‑skin boots and a big cowboy hat. He was such a weirdo. But I am sure he did not kill Kurt Cobain! (laughter)



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Edited 19 October 2018
 

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