Interview: GWAR

GWAR was born out of a love of comic books. We don't really fit backstage with all the metal dudes – you know, Megadeth and Slayer measuring their dicks! We belong out in the equipment truck rolling 20-sided dice, smoking marijuana and masturbating alone.

Ahead of GWAR’s forthcoming European/UK tour, Echoes and Dust traversed the digital multiverse in order to speak with frontman Blöthar the Berserker. Beneath the veneer of this horned, muscled, hirsute extra-terrestrial warrior, your humble scribe found vestigial remnants of a human Thrall of Gore, bestowed with virtues of intelligence, wit, and respect. And some of these long-forgotten traits – a bitter encumbrance for a former Scumdog of the Universe – made their way into the conversation that followed, which covered GWAR’s latest album and graphic novel, the British Royal Family, masturbating with Artificial Intelligence, burning buttholes, and the future of GWAR and of humanity itself. . .

E&D: Have you had a shit Wednesday or a good Wednesday so far, Mr Blöthar?

Blöthar: I used to have a band called Shit Wednesday. Today I went out fishing with some manatee buddies of mine; they just eat grass. There was nothing out there; it was a very slow day on the flats. Then I went to McDonald’s; I sat in the frigging line forever.

E&D: Did you go for the Happy Meal today or the Big Mac?

Blöthar: Yeah, I got a Happy Meal. . .  the Un-Happy Meal is what I mean.

E&D: Is GWAR working on a McDonald’s collab, then, or is that top secret?

Blöthar: I don’t think that we would collab with McDonald’s. I don’t know what we could do. Chick-fil-a? No, they’re Christians. I don’t know, probably Hardee’s; that’s the really crappy one. They don’t even have that in England. It really sucks.

E&D: Okay, I’ll look forward to it! Let’s talk about the latest album, The New Dark Ages. It’s got this really tight, crisp production and there’s nods to classic thrash. That’s always been there at the core of the sound, but the earlier albums have this wild Gonzo feel, whereas The New Dark Ages sounds super tight and precise. You guys are really locked in.

Blöthar: The producer, Ronan Murphy, also did the record before as well [The Blood of Gods, 2017]. He worked with King Crimson, believe it or not! He’s a very solid engineer and has known the band since we got started in Richmond, Virginia (which is where the Thralls of Gore live). We all shared a rehearsal building called The Dairy, the old Richmond Dairy Building. So this is a guy that I’ve known since I was about 15 years old. . .  and, as you know, I’m 540 years old right now! I think what Ronan has wanted to do with every guitar record he’s worked on is just capture the sound of the band in a room, playing the instruments, and being tight. I think this album was a lot less constructed out of takes than The Blood of the Gods, with a lot more of a live feeling.

E&D: It definitely captures the energy and spontaneity of you guys being together and throwing out ideas.

Blöthar: The production on The Blood of the Gods is very clean, but it’s also very raw; maybe like Guns n’ Roses’s Appetite for Destruction; that kind of production.

E&D: Can you tell me a little bit about the concept behind the latest album? Have we returned to the Dark Ages?

Blöthar: I certainly think so. It may even be the first Dark Ages because it turns out that the Dark Ages weren’t so dark. If you read about it, maybe in Europe they were dark, but in other parts of the world there was a lot of learning and advancement going on. But some hallmarks of that era have really returned. One is the scapegoating of Jewish people. Then there’s the return to making up bizarre superstitions that that we’ve seen, and the outright rejection of the authority of science. I mean it’s fine to question science, but it seems like people take more comfort in magic; there’s really no other way to describe it. There’s an actual belief that there’s a cabal of people sucking the blood out of babies to in order to live their liberal lifestyle. This stuff is bananas! And then, of course, when we were making the record, there was a modern plague going on. So it definitely made sense to call the record that.

E&D: Is there one conspiracy theory that you find most interesting, worrying, or troubling?

Blöthar: I’ve always liked the Hollow Earth theory, and they’re all related, you know. The lizard people theory is pretty wild but that one’s actually true. Like most people are lizards – I can tell that you’re a lizard! You don’t know it, but, when I look at you, it’s like the movie They Live. You’ve got one of those big things on the bottom of your neck that blows up when you get really pissed off! You know, GWAR starts to really make sense in that atmosphere.

E&D: The track ‘Completely Fucked’ suggests a bleak outlook on our current situation. Do you think we’ll experience a Renaissance? Do you think the world will get better?

Blöthar: During the Middle Ages people were clinging to religion because of advancements in technology, and people were afraid that they were losing touch with nature, and with the concepts of God and spirituality. Even in the last year, technology has really taken a big kick in the pants and stepped “forward”. But who knows? Artificial Intelligence seems useful to me, but I don’t know that it’s a panacea or some great thing for humanity. The idea of transhumanism makes an appearance interesting on the record as well. If man were to go into a direction where they wanted to reconnect and sort of revitalise spirituality, why don’t they go in the direction of rejecting technology? But it’s sort of the worst of both worlds, right? It’s like an inhuman technology that creates isolated and atavistic lifestyles. And then, at the same time, there’s this belief in superstition, and . . . bullshit essentially.


E&D: So you’re not going to be getting ChatGPT to write the next GWAR album then?

Blöthar: ChatGPT is really stupid. I go on there all the time, and . . . I mean you can’t masturbate with it. I mean, what the hell good is that? It just says that everything you say is inappropriate! The only thing I can imagine AI would be good for is jerking off.

E&D: So prudish!

Blöthar: I can’t tell you that I want you to hammer your nuts to a board, you know; man, give something here!

E&D: Speaking of something that’s definitely not prudish: your song, ‘The Cutter’. Can you tell us a bit about the song, the video, and about working with Lzzy Hale from Halestorm? It’s such a good collaboration.

Blöthar: Lzzy is a tremendous talent. We gave her a GWAR name – Clitaurus Maximus – spelled like the bull, Taurus, because she’s a guitar player and in the Maximus clan [alongside other GWAR guitarists]. She’s a very talented and very nice person. The song ‘Cutter’ was an attempt to write a song about a young girl superhero. Once we had the title, it just sort of fell together. We were walking a tightrope: on one hand, in GWAR, we’re obviously not concerned with humans harming themselves; but, at the same time, it’s a difficult subject to deal with. You don’t want to glamorise that kind of self harm, but we still wanted to say something important and to give people something to identify with. It was a challenge, but I think we did a decent job, although we didn’t have the money to do quite what we wanted to do!

E&D: It looks amazing. We’d all love to see a full-length GWAR horror film!

Blöthar: We’re working on that, although I don’t think it’s going to be a horror film. It’s gonna be a bit more funny because, you know, that’s what GWAR is – comedy, and it’s also performance art. I’ve always wondered about the British public, and Europeans in general. . . there was always a question that maybe GWAR doesn’t translate that well outside of American culture because we’re so invested in skewering American culture. I always figured that, if any public was barbaric then it was the British, right? Surely they would appreciate this horrific sense of humour that GWAR has?

E&D: I think so. I wasn’t able to make your Bloodstock appearance last year, [which featured the late Queen Elizabeth II in some rather unsavoury scenarios] but I’ve seen the footage and GWAR clearly translate well on British soil!

Blöthar: We went after the Queen! The theme of this year’s show is the Royal Family. We’re not going to screw with Diana, though; we did that before, and the British did not like that.

E&D: We’re gearing up to the coronation, so that’s timely!

Blöthar: I think that Blöthar should be the King of England

E&D: What would you do with Buck Palace?

Blöthar: Turn it into a giant Playboy mansion! It wwould be a non-stop chlamydia fest. We tease the British but they used to have methylated toilet paper – wax toilet paper that burned your butthole. You people are savages! The best thing about Britain is malt loaf. . . and haggis.

E&D: Tell us about the graphic novel, GWAR: In the Duoverse of Absurdity, you released alongside The New Dark Ages.

Blöthar: It’s mainly distinguished by its extraordinary length. . . like a Tolstoy novel or the freaking phone book or something. No, it’s not that long, but it is written by our own Balsac the Jaws of Death. And Sawborg Destructo helped a little bit with the writing. Some of the artists who are responsible for GWAR have some pages in there. Everybody’s telling multiverse stories right now, and it’s a very convenient device, right? Our mythology developed out of a bunch of people smoking weed and doing acid on a school bus, riding across the country and eating nothing but cheese nabs and drinking Dr. Pepper – so it’s not the most consistent tale you’ve ever heard! But we’re getting better at telling stories, and and the graphic novel is an example of that. The multiverse is definitely a convenient Mcguffin allowing us to explain some of the holes that we’ve created in our own storyline.

E&D: Which have been the most inspirational stories for GWAR in terms of science fiction, fantasy, weird fiction?

Blöthar: GWAR came out of the American punk rock scene in the mid-eighties, and there has been a kind of connection with fantasy gaming and punk rock. GWAR was born out of a love of comic books – in particular: Jack Kirby. Planet of the Apes is a very important film to GWAR. We all got into board gaming and a lot of the characters in GWAR were born on the Melee board. We don’t really fit backstage with all the metal dudes – you know, Megadeth and Slayer measuring their dicks! We belong out in the equipment truck rolling 20-sided dice, smoking marijuana and masturbating alone.

E&D: On a similar topic, you reference the ultimate pulp fiction writer – William Shakespeare! – on the new album [‘Unto the Breach’ refers to Henry V]. Can you tell me a little about that track?

Blöthar: He ripped us off! We had this very doomy-sounding song inspired by the idea of a dramatic siege and it turns out that this has already been written. There’s no comparison to Shakespeare so we just ripped off old Billy! We did change it obviously. There’s some very simple pentatonic melodies on top of very discordant music.

E&D: I also wanted to ask about the ‘Death Whistle Suite’, the last three tracks on The New Dark Age.

Blöthar: The source is going to surprise people. I’m into the Playlets that were done by people like Shadow Morton, writing for girl groups during the sixties – the Shangri-las, ‘Leader of the Pack’. Right? Songs that are tiny plays with lines and a narrative; then, when the song jumps in, it’s very different. I wanted to do something like that based on a human sacrifice; asking what happens when the Gods stop being worshiped? I also had this riff that was in a soca rhythm (I like music that people can move to). It also gives us a chance to roll out some big drums and let the slaves play on the stage, blowing these crazy Death Whistles we bought that sound like humans screaming bloody murder! And I gave the producer a recording of a deer dance, which ethnomusicologists believe came from Aztec culture. (What can I say, we’re just a bunch of cracker fools underneath these ridiculous costumes, anyway!). So that’s how it came together then. I love it; the producer did a great job and those are real sounds, not a lot of samples or drum machines.

E&D: And there’s now a full length GWAR documentary available: This is GWAR! Could you say a little on how that how that came to be?

Blöthar: The story of the Thralls of GWAR and how GWAR came to be has always been more interesting than the fictional story put forth as it’s a band that has endured so much trauma and adversity. It was a pleasure to be able to tell that story. I feel like GWAR is chronically under-billed. The idea that that there’s ever an article on Shock Rock that doesn’t talk about this fucking band is a travesty, right? After the passing of Odorous [Urungus, former vocalist, died 2014] there was a lot of goodwill towards the band that surfaced, coming from quarters you wouldn’t expect like the art community, visual artists performance, arts, film, comedians. It’s exciting and moving for us to get these people to talk about the band and what it’s meant to them. It’s a good story that we wanted to be told, and were approached by lots of people. We went with the guy that would take an honest look at the band and tried to stay away from it. I think he did a great job.

E&D: I hope it brings you guys to new generations of fans too. . .

Blöthar: It really has. In the States, the band has a totally new audience: there’s a wide swath of ages that come to the show and I would like the same for Europe. The death of Odorous really slowed the band down overseas as it took a while to come back, to reappear.

E&D: I’m hoping there are some new fans reading this interview who are excited to see GWAR for the first time. What can you tell them to prepare for their first show?

Blöthar: First of all, don’t bother showering before you come! Bring shampoo and a towel because everything’s gonna get messy! Try to keep your pants on for this performance but I know it’s difficult. We get a lot of guys helicoptering: they just jump up in the air, swinging their dicks in propeller-like motion. Please don’t spit at us; We don’t need that! And calling me fat bastard, you fat bastard, I get upset at that. I know that it’s not an insult, but it hurts my feelings.

E&D: You and the band have achieved so much over the years, so, what’s the next chapter for GWAR? Is there anything you feel you have yet to achieve?

Blöthar: Retirement! No, the chapter would be the Epilogue, the Glossary, the Index. We’re trying to make a new movie; we’re working on more music; and I’m really interested in cementing our legacy. You know, I want to be an acknowledged part of that history, and it’s been slow coming, but I think that it is coming. We’re gonna just keep pushing for that. It’s time for the band to get some recognition, but we’re not pandering for it. But we’re gonna keep doing what we do and keep moving forward. It’s weird but the world changes around you, but GWAR has managed to survive just about everything. We’re like cockroaches or Keith Richards or something!

E&D: You are indeed! Well I’m sure that recognition will come for you soon. Thank you for taking time out of dominating the multiverse to speak to me today.

Blöthar: Thank you. . . and get a haircut!


GWAR will conquer the UK this June taking in Download Festival (June 9) before galavanting around Southend (Chinnery’s June 11), Southampton (Engine Rooms June 13) and London (O2 Islington Academy, June 14)

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