GWAR is a thrash metal, hardcore punk and shock rock band formed in 1985 by a collective of artists and musicians at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. The band is best known for their elaborate sci-fi/horror film inspired costumes; raunchy, obscene, politically incorrect lyrics; and graphic stage performances, which consist of humorous re-enactments of scatology, sadomasochism, necrophilia, pedophilia, bestiality, fire dancing, pagan rituals, executions, and other controversial violent and political themes. GWAR has been on the leading edge of shock rock since their formation.
Their costumes are generally made of foam latex, styrofoam, and hardened rubber. It should be noted that the costumes cover very little, with the rest of their bodies accentuated with makeup. They further their production in concert by spraying their audiences with imitation blood, semen, urine, pus and other bodily fluids. Most of the fluids are made of water and powdered food coloring which, for the most part, flakes off or washes out easily. The thicker fluids are made from a clear seaweed extract called carrageenan which is also used in ice cream and milkshakes. GWAR does not use syrups or stage blood due to the fact that they dry solid, wrecking their costumes. In concert, GWAR has been known occasionally to perform their encore without costumes.
Another trademark of GWAR's live show is their lampooning of celebrities and figures in current events. Victims of GWAR's antics have included O.J. Simpson, John Kerry, George W. Bush (as well as every other President since Ronald Reagan), Jerry Garcia, Osama Bin Laden, Michael Jackson, Al Gore, Paris Hilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many others. The band also makes frequent references to political and historical figures, fantasy literature, and mythology. For instance, the song "Whargoul" makes reference to Minas Morgul, a setting in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Whargoul is also a character created by Dave Brockie in his still unpublished work of fiction, Whargoul. In addition, the title of their fifth album RagNaRok comes from Norse mythology.
GWAR has not enjoyed as much mainstream recognition as many other bands. Around the time of their third album (America Must Be Destroyed), they enjoyed a fair deal of success, due in part to their videos' appearances on Beavis and Butt-head and their appearance in the film Empire Records. GWAR's music videos for "The Road Behind", "Jack the World", and "Saddam a Go-Go" were featured on the show and Beavis proclaimed that "all music videos should be like a GWAR video". After that, GWAR's popularity waned and they were even featured on the VH1 program Where Are They Now. Though not at the peak of their popularity, GWAR was invited to play on the 2005 Sounds of the Underground tour, and played on it again for 2006.
The band was the result of two separate projects that eventually combined into one. Dave Brockie was the vocalist for a punk band named Death Piggy, that often staged mini-plays and used crude props to punctuate their often ridiculous music. Death Piggy would occasionally practice in a room at the Richmond Dairy, a deserted bottling plant that had been taken over by hippies. The hippies would rent out interior areas to various artists and musicians. It was at the Richmond Dairy that Death Piggy would meet Hunter Jackson and Chuck Varga, both attendees of Virginia Commonwealth University who had set up "The Slave Pit", a production space for Scumdogs of the Universe, a movie they intended to make. A friendship was forged, and Jackson would create props for Death Piggy to use on stage. On occasion, Death Piggy would wear costumes Jackson and Varga had created for their movie in order to open up for themselves under the name "GWAARGGGH!!!", eventually shortened to GWAR. GWAR would end up eclipsing and later absorbing Death Piggy.
The first known line-up for GWAR consisted of Ben Eubanks (vocals), Dave Brockie (guitar), Steve Douglas (guitar), Chris Bopst (bass guitar), Sean Sumner (Drums) and Hunter Jackson. However, this line-up would be short lived and suffer multiple changes in the following months, with Ben Eubanks quitting and being replaced by Joe Annaruma, who would also quit and be replaced by guitarist Dave Brockie as the band's vocalist (See line-up for more information). The band eventually somewhat solidified into a line-up consisting of Hunter Jackson, Don Drakulich (Alias Sleazy P. Martini), Chuck Varga, Mike Bonner, Scott Krahl, Dave Musel and Dave Brockie (Alias Oderus Urungus, no longer GWAR's guitarist, but permanent vocalist), with Heather Broome (The Temptress) joining later that year and Colette Miller (GWAR Woman) joining in 1986. Heather Broome would quit in 1986 and Dewey Rowell (Flattus Maximus), Michael Bishop (Beefcake the Mighty) and Rob Mosby (Nippleus Erectus) would be recruited in 1987 along with Steve Douglas (Balsac the Jaws of Death) who rejoined the band after having left early in its history, Lisa Harrelson would become the "GWAR woman" after Colette Miller left sometime this year. It's this line-up with which the band's debut, Hell-O, a crossover heavy metal/punk rock album, was released in 1988 under Shimmy Disc Records, the original production was very poor, and it is believed that the album was recorded in just one weekend.
The band would start touring in support of the album, with Steve Douglas leaving that same year and being replaced by current rhythm guitarist, Michael Derks, who took over Douglas' alias as Balsac the Jaws of Death.
However, the band's line-up would undergo further changes before 1990, with Rob Mosby leaving in 1989 and being replaced by Pete Luchter, who would also quit to be replaced temporarily by Jim Thompson, who had been in the band previous to the release of Hell-O. Thompson however, would also quit and be finally replaced by the current GWAR drummer, Brad Roberts, alias Jizmak Da Gusha.
Scumdogs of the UniverseWith GWAR's line-up somewhat solidified, the band would set up to record what has become known by many as their greatest album, Scumdogs of the Universe. The album met a moderately large mainstream success and would mark the start of a career under the Metal Blade Records record label. The band would tour extensively in support for this album, releasing the Live from Antarctica VHS tape in July, 1990, containing, amongst other things, the band's first music video for the song Sick of You.
The band suffered further line-up changes during this period, with Dewey Rowell leaving the band in 1991 and not being replaced until 1992 by Pete Lee, after the recording of America Must Be Destroyed.
However, this success would not be met without controversy, GWAR was during this period banned in North Carolina for obscenity reasons, Brockie was arrested for wearing his "Cuttlefish of Cthulhu" prosthetic penis; this incident was the inspiration for GWAR's America Must Be Destroyed, their third album in 1992, the album was accompanied by a movie documenting the main concept and containing music videos for the previously mentioned album named Phallus in Wonderland. This movie would be nominated for a Grammy Award in 1993, year during which Mike Bishop would also leave the band, after the recording of This Toilet Earth, being replaced by Casey Orr, from the band Rigor Mortis.
This Toilet Earth was released on 1994, meeting moderate success and with the videos for Saddam a Go-Go and Jack the World being aired on Beavis and Butthead, however, this would also mark the beginning of the band straying from their trademark sound, as the album contained heavily experimental songs instead of the more focused heavy metal of the previous two albums.
Through the last few years, GWAR had managed to build a cult fanbase, however, their mainstream success would stay to slowly wane, this, accompanied by multiple line-up changes, would the band to fade into the underground. GWAR would then enter a period that is considered a "low point" by members of the band (Especially Dave Brockie), and would start experimenting with obscure genres of music even more than before.
It's under these circumstances that they would release RagNaRok in 1995, an album characterized by a particularly unique sound, including the use of keyboards, something largely unseen before by the band as well as a much larger use of secondary vocalists. The record is considered to have been largely unnoticed after the success of the last three albums. Despite this, the band would record two videos for the album, "Surf of Syn" and "Meat Sandwich" as well as release Rendezvous with RagNaRok to support the album's plot through footage from the supporting tour.
The band's first side project, X-Cops would also come to life after the RagNaRok tour, releasing their only full length album, You Have the Right to Remain Silent... the same year.
The band's next record would come out in 1997 under the name Carnival of Chaos, proving to be the epitome of this experimental period containing songs from many different genres, including the classic heavy metal, but also hard rock, country and even jazz.
Carnival of Chaos would be the last album with Pete Lee on guitar, being replaced by Tim Harriss (Who had previously been in the band around 1986 and was featured as a guest guitarist on America Must Be Destroyed) for the recording of We Kill Everything in 1999, for which Michael Bishop would temporarily rejoin the band as the bassist during the absence of Casey Orr. The record, largely influenced by punk rock, is the band's least favorite album, with songs off it being almost never played live. Following this, co-founder Hunter Jackson would leave the group in 2000 to focus on personal projects. Danielle Stampe would leave the band to focus on a personal project named Girly Freakshow, however, she would rejoin the band temporarily for the Bitch is Back tour in 2002.
Due to the band's distaste for the previous album, GWAR's sound would suffer major changes for the next recording. With Tim Harris gone, Zack Blair would be hired to fill his spot as Flattus Maximus, Casey Orr also having returned to the band as Beefcake the Mighty for the recording of the band's first entirely thrash metal album in years: Violence Has Arrived, released in November 6, 2001, the album being seen as a "comeback" of sorts and setting off changes that would result in the current state of the band. Violence Has Arrived would be, however, the band's last album on Metal Blade Records, with the band leaving the label soon after the recording and releasing of it.
As the band would start approaching a focus on a heavier, more brutal sound near the end of this period, it would also result in the creation of another side project, the Dave Brockie Experience, a band created by frontman Dave Brockie along with rhythm guitarist Mike Derks and drummer Brad Roberts as a way of continuing the comedic sound found on albums like We Kill Everything while maintaining a more serious focus in releases by GWAR. They would release their first LP in March 20, 2001, named Diarrhea of a Madman.
This wouldn't be the end of GWAR's new focus on heavy sound, however, following their release of Violence Has Arrived by their most successful album in several years, War Party in 2004 under their new record label, DRT Entertainment.
The album would meet a large underground success, as it followed the same path Violence Has Arrived did, but this time with a more serious and technical edge, partially thanks to the efforts of new lead guitarist Cory Smoot (Flattus Maximus) and bass guitarist, Todd Evans (Beefcake the Mighty). Videos would be released for Bring Back the Bomb and War Party (An early release from director/editor David Brodsky, which was declined by MTVNetworks as being too inflammatory despite GWAR removing much of their trademark gore and sexual overtones), and the band would be invited to play in the Sounds of the Underground tour in 2005, the same year of the release of the band's second album in DRT Entertainment, Live from Mt. Fuji, which would also be the band's first live album besides the extremely rare You're All Worthless and Weak, released in 2000 under Slave Pit Records.
Beyond HellGWAR started working on their new album (Then tentatively titled Go to Hell!) in January 2006. The same month, GWAR also opened a gallery show called "The Art of GWAR" at Art Space gallery in Richmond to display the many props, costumes, cartoons, paintings produced by The Slave Pit, GWAR's art and effects studio.
In February 23, 2006, GWAR's official website, GWAR's Japanese Official website (www.gwarjapan.net) and Oderus Urungus' official homepage announced GWAR's latest album, Beyond Hell, for which, at the urging of DRT Entertainment, a cover version of Alice Cooper's "School's Out" was recorded and released. . The music video, was directed by David Brodsky. "School's Out" was nominated for Best Video of 2006 on MTV2's Headbanger's Ball.
Due for release in 2006 GWAR will be getting 7" action figures and Shockinis which are 3" figurines made of themselves by toy manufacturer Shocker Toys LLP. Though no date has been confirmed for the release according to Todd Evans the figures and Shockinis should be out in Fall of 2006.
The Blood Bath and Beyond DVD was released in June 20th 2006, containing exclusive behind the scenes and vintage footage of the band.
The entire GWAR concept seems to be gaining acceptance elsewhere, judging by the success of Lordi, a Finnish hard rock band, which won the 51st. Eurovision Song Contest 2006, in Athens, Greece, on May 20, 2006. Lordi's costumes and subject matter is very similar to GWAR's (and, in more specific terms, its music has been described by some European music critics as "Cookie Monster meets GWAR").
Vocalist Oderus Urungus is also featured on the newest Strapping Young Lad album The New Black as a guest vocalist on the song "Far Beyond Metal". Oderus' lines in the song are taken directly from the GWAR song "Maggots" ("now in the halls of the Necrolord..." etc.). It's worth mentioning that the vocalist of Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend produced GWAR's Beyond Hell album.
Beyond Hell was released on August 29, 2006, with GWAR touring to support the album and being helped by the creation of new props for this tour, including several character's off Beyond Hell's plot, including Jitler and Jewcifer. GWAR was also present in the third annual Rock & Shock festival from October 13 to 15 as a part of this tour.
GWAR announced a "Europe 2007" tour, but no definite dates have been told yet.
The origin and meaning of the band's name has been disputed by fans. One explanation circulating among fans is that GWAR is an acronym for "God What an Awful Racket!" Another rumor suggests that the name may have come from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' graphic novel, Watchmen, in which a sign reads "Pink Triangle LIVE at the Gay Women Against Rape Benefit Concert." Another widely accepted explanation is found in the Death Piggy (a precursor to GWAR) CD booklet: "Drunken friend shouted Guargh!...You should use that as a band name".
However, band members have insisted from their inception that the letters in their name do not stand for anything, indeed, the official website of Slave Pit Inc indicates that GWAR is a shortened version of "GWAARGGGH!!!" the name the band used originally when opening up for Death Piggy. Lead singer and founding member Dave Brockie has been quoted as saying "...it doesn't mean Gay Woman Against Rape. It doesn't mean Great White Aryan Race. It doesn't mean Gay Weird Anal Reprobates. It doesn't even mean God What an Awful Racket. It just means GWAR, which means everything pretty much. "