Dave Brockie: Remembered

When the news broke that my favorite space alien warlord kicked the cosmic bucket, I first thought it to be some sort of joke. GWAR are known for hoaxes and this seemed to be just another one of them. Henceforth, no one else really took it to heart until the final word from David Brockie’s manager finally came in. And it was unfortunately true – Oderus Urungus had sailed back to his home planet, never to be heard from again.

So what did I do then? I was crushed. Honestly, I was fucking crushed. What else is there to say? You really think that a band like GWAR is going to be around forever until something like this happens. They even got mainstream appeal with a live uncut performance on AXS TV right before the release of Battle Maximus, which dealt with the loss of Flattus Maximus (Corey Smoot) due to drug abuse. To be honest, tears actually started to form in my eyes. Kind of odd to from a bit of eye-water for a man that you’ve never met, but I felt like I’d lost a member of my family. I knew Brockie through his music and his bold, politically incorrect mythologies. It first started when I was young and had gotten ahold of a friend’s Beavis & Butthead video game cartridge for the Sega Genesis. As I was playing, I noticed that you needed to find pieces of tickets to go to a GWAR show. And at the time, all I knew of GWAR was that they were one of the coolest looking bands that I’d ever seen in my life. These guys really looked like fucking monsters right out of a horror film. So I wondered what kind of music they played and at first decided it wasn’t to my liking. It was a punk rock with a vocal style that I didn’t get or understand at the time, so I simply cast interest in them away, until years later. A friend and I had been watching a countdown show about the “100 Craziest Bands Ever” on VH1, and these guys topped the list. Even though we both were kind of on the fence about giving their music another try, we actually bought a record this time. My friend had been telling me that they had done metal in the past and that the last record was a return to form for the band in that sense… that album being of course, 2001’s Violence Has Arrived. And to this day, I still have fond memories of that record – I nearly played it every day since that first purchase. Violence… evoked moments of metal that I had been currently engaged in at the time, such as thrash and death, yet there were also elements of sheer absurdity and weirdness on the album that I couldn’t help but smile about. Sure, Brockie’s lyrics were absolutely insane like on “Beauteous Rot” which would have had Tumblr feminazi’s on one hell of a damnation rant if such a website had been invented yet. But for all sakes and purposes, there wasn’t even a peep of social networking in those days (and they were better for it.) Yet again, “Immortal Corrupter” and “The Song Of Words” also became fast favorites. My friend kept digging and realized that these guys had also done some more metallic works in Scumdogs Of The Universe and America Must Be Destroyed, among others. So immediately, he found a copy of Scumdogsand bought it. When I first put that disc in, I was immediately thumped by “The Salaminizer” and knew I was in for one hell of a trip. They say that this was arguably one of the band’s strongest albums, and it seemed to be true thus far. Then “Maggots”, “King Queen”, “Horror Of Yig” and several other tracks just kept coming… until I was faced with “Sexecutioner” and his love of golden showers. Sooner than later, I realized that these guys not only had a hell of an image, but they had a vast and intricate mythology filled with all sorts of anti-heroes and villains, which could span an entire filthy comic book series (and to some extent, I believe it did.)

I started to research GWAR villains and quickly came to the realization that they represented religious fanatics, deadbeat politicians and martyred pop idols. However, a few comic book space aliens still made their way into the mix and that always added character to the work. Brockie was lewd, but clever and I loved every minute of it. I next moved on to Hell-o (the band’s official debut) and the next couple of releases until I had listened to everything that these guys had ever put out. My friend had become a fiend of their music, so he started purchasing everything he could. He even bought a DVD of all of their videos, and this is where we both first caught “Meat Sandwich.” This video was so blasphemous that there was no way its genius could be denied. In it, Oderus challenged Jesus Christ to a basketball game, in which he lost. Some were probably writhing with anger at this sight, but it definitely poked fun at the church in one of the most comical ways I’ve seen to date. I still remember all of the lyrics to that one and played it daily. It goes without saying that we both were also quite fond of Ragnarok and We Kill Everything, which was right before GWAR went back to punk with the two latter albums. Of course, I would be a fool to not mention the song “Fucking An Animal” which had to be changed to “Loving An Animal” on some versions of the release. Daringly, the band even shot a video for this release where they had to bleep out the original curse, yet still showed what the song was basically about with people dressed up in what now would be furrie suits. It was shot on a farm and even involved tractors, because that’s just what kind of band GWAR was. They literally did not give one single fuck if they ever pissed off one person. These guys even appeared on a talk show, where parents were of course calling them the bane of the generation. Brockie (of course, in costume) addressed the woman’s claims and told her that she obviously wasn’t raising her children right and shouldn’t blame it on the band.

But come on folks, with a band who uses names like Jizmak Da Gusha, Slymenstra Hymen and Balsac The Jaws Of Death, obviously they were trying to get under the media’s moral skin. I’m sure that members of the FCC in charge of that show were probably washing the taste out of their mouth after having listened to just a few songs from the band. And once again, that was all Brockie. He designed all the suits, wrote all the myths and lyrics – he made this comic book idea come to life and it conquered for many years than what those corporate media execs would have thought. GWAR never fizzled out and went back into the shadows… As a matter of fact, they took one of the nation’s biggest tragedies and turned it into one of the most controversial albums in their repertoire… 2004’s War Party. But not only was this record one of the band’s most controversial, but it was also one of the band’s most protestant releases. This disc was a thickly veiled protest against war, with tracks like “Bring Back The Bomb” and the title cut, which promised “Join the war party, you’ll see exotic lands! Your blood stains the desert sands…” as well as “Krosstika” which proclaimed that the swastika and the rugged old cross were “two hates that hate great together!” Sure, people may not have wanted to hear these kinds of message, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I understood what was being said here, take the Westboro Baptist church for example. (And now I hear that there’s someone even worse now.) This album also showed terrific leads and solos, as Corey Smoot really showed us how musically potent GWAR could be. There’s no denying that solo on “Reganator” and it sounded even better on the band’s 2005 album, Live From Mt. Fuji. At the time both of those records were in constant rotation for me as well as Devin Townsend’s past and current work in Strapping Young Lad, so it especially surprised me when Devin decided to produce the band’s next album, 2006’s Beyond Hell. This album literally had GWAR going to hell to battle the devil himself and with Devin’s production job, it sounded fantastic. Going out on a limb, I can say that it was easily one of GWAR’s tightest and well produced metal records. It was a metal opera of sorts, but a damned good one at that. The disc also came with a video for GWAR’s cover of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” which was definitely on par with the original. I’m not sure what Alice thought of space monsters covering his anti-education hit though. After that, I hadn’t heard from GWAR for quite a while. I was quite happy with Beyond Hell however and wasn’t in a hurry for a new album. I had heard they were playing a bunch of shows and whatnot, which definitely got them out there. Yet at this point, David Brockie and the guys were at their height of popularity, playing on stage with all the big names. He even landed a job at Fox News, which they later pulled because they found out what kind of things GWAR stood for, or against; rather. I’d have loved to seen the look on Rupert Murdoch’s wrinkled old face when he discovered one of their albums. The man probably looked like he had seen a ghost.

In 2009, Lust In Space had been released and in all actuality, I thought this was the last album for the band as it mentioned something about them returning back to their home planet. Though I had heard it was a relatively strong album, I can’t say that I liked it as much as the previous records and felt that maybe it would take a while longer to soak in. There was no video shot for the album, but it did feature plenty of hits like “Metal Metal Land” and “Make A Child Cry.” Again, I feel that I need to give that disc more attention and will certainly do so now. Only one year later, the band released Bloody Pit Of Horror, which turned out to be Corey’s last album with the band. The album featured a relatively decent set of tracks, including a bonus that revisited the band’s debut, Hell-o in the form of a medley. At this point, I thought that the band was running themselves a little thin, but was still awaiting a new record where they might pick things back up again.

In 2013, I don’t know how they managed it really; but AXS TV actually aired a complete and uncensored concert with the band live right before the release of Battle Maximus, which they played about five songs from including a cover of Kansas’s “Carry On My Wayward Son.” These songs showed an incredibly strong performance from the band, with the actual album showing a supreme amount of muscularity and musicianship. But there’s no use in repeating my review. (He he.) Unfortunately, the candle flickered out with Dave Brockie’s death. The man who created this entire universe and mythos died while sitting in a chair of all things; one of the most inherently common and unexpected ways for a man of his nature to pass from this earth. But one might ponder… what exactly was on his mind when he sat in that chair? Was he having a moment to reflect on everything that he’d done in his life, now reaching middle-age? Dave Brockie accomplished so much in his life, so much more than some of us could ever even imagine. The man’s been around the world and he’s done a great deal of study in different cultures, being a surefire student of history. If you’ve read some of his articles, you can tell that the man behind the mask was exceptionally brilliant. He had proficient knowledge of language and the written word, as you can gather from a Hellyeah review and article that he wrote about his trip to Russia in Decibel. I even remember in the review where Brockie mentions that he just wanted to tell the truth about the album, and not be overly humorous about it, like the character he portrays. It seemed like Dave had been tired of being considered some sort of royal court jester in the media due to the character he played, and wanted to be respected as an intelligent human being. He loved comedy, cleverness, wit and slapstick, even though his work might have been too brash for some individuals to derive humor from. But that was all part of it. GWAR wasn’t something that everyone got and even upon his death, people still don’t get or understand it. But if you don’t get it, then it’s just not for you. It wasn’t made for your ears. For those of you who wonder why the band killed so many puppets of celebrities, holy figures and other things on stage, why they promoted death and destruction… well, you have to realize then that it’s all satire. GWAR was the ultimate fucking satire and the ultimate Do-It-Yourself fantasy. To think that a few guys in a couple of homemade monster suits could create such a legacy is unreal. Not just in this universe, but in several others. There is a literally a ten billion to one shot that something like this would ever work, but it did. And there have been a few influenced by this work, like Ghoul and Dethlehem for example; but you just can’t stand toe to toe with the masters of this satirical shock rock/metal that these guys created from nothing more than the wealth of creativity found in the two words, “What if?” I’m sure that not even Dave could believe just what he did with his life and the path that he laid out for so many others. He exercised the freedom of speech and what’s really on your mind, yet he had the balls to say it without concern for criticism. The man didn’t take shit from anyone and his brainchild GWAR never gave one fuck in their entire lifespan. The only time I’ve ever seen Dave emotionally disturbed on an album was right at the end of Battle Maximus. You could hear him break character just a bit on “Fly Now” and tell that he was truly feeling the pain and suffering of losing a brother… and that’s completely understandable.

So that’s my experience with Dave Brockie’s body of work in just a few pages. What is it five? Trust me folks, I could go on. I could continue to talk about just how uncanny this man’s imagination was, but that wouldn’t serve to tell you anything that you don’t already know, or can’t learn from analyzing the band’s lyrics. But if I have to sum it up, I just have to say that we’ve lost one of the most astute and wittiest minds in the history of metal, of punk and of rock and roll. There just won’t be another Dave Brockie. You just can’t do what he did and he won’t be replaced even though I think that’s what they’re trying to do with the band. In all honesty, I don’t feel that anyone could take up the reins; but I can also see how the band would feel that they have to move on. Will it be the same? No. But I guess that it’s a legacy that Dave Brockie would have wanted to continue long after his death. No one can craft the kind of storylines and characters that he did, nor could they bring the kind of acting and stage presence that he did. This man truly was GWAR. And I think that’s how he’d best want to be remembered… As a Scumdog of the Universe.

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