There has never been, and there never will be, anyone like GWAR, the metal band from Richmond, Virginia, who dress up as space barbarians, play all manner of obscenity on stage and vomits up his audience with fake blood, semen, and other sticky bodily fluids. Over the past four decades, GWAR has carved out a very unique niche in the music industry, serving as a connecting point for those who love horror movies, sci-fi, fantasy, comics, superheroes, Dungeons & Dragons, punk and headbanging. They are the mutant manifestation of all things geeky in modern American popular culture, and their legacy of gonzo anti-establishment satire, pornographic performance art pyrotechnics, tongue-in-cheek gore violence, and absurdist mania are all lovingly celebrated. by It’s GWARa nonfiction introduction to a band that longtime member Danielle Stampe (aka Slymenstra Hymen) calls “a joke without a punchline.”
As noted by director Scott Barber’s (The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story) fun documentary (July 21 on Shudder, after a limited theatrical release from July 16), GWAR was the by-product of a meeting of two idiosyncratic and, for a time, kindred minds. In 1980s Richmond, Hunter Jackson was an aspiring, unconventional performer at Virginia Commonwealth University and his efforts to create a spectacular cinematic spectacle at The Dairy, a former milk factory that had turned into a de facto home for artistic collectives, including Hunter’s own. Slave Pit – led to a meeting with David Brockie, lead singer of up-and-coming punk band Death Piggy. By this time, Brockie was already a local celebrity thanks to his theatrics, such as providing audiences with pinatas filled with wedges, candy and cat poop, and he immediately gravitated towards Hunter and, in particular, the costumes of bizarre cinemas that he and his Slave Pit mates were creating. One night, Brockie asked to borrow these outfits to pose as his own opening band, dubbed “Gwarggh”, and a perverse phenomenon was born.
It’s GWAR features contributions from fans (Thomas Lennon, Ethan Embry, Alex Winter) and just about everyone who’s ever been in GWAR – and that’s a lot, as the band has seen many lineup changes -up during its long history. The only notable omission is Brockie himself, as the co-founder and lead singer died of a drug overdose in 2014. Nonetheless, numerous photos, home movies, performance clips, and other material from archives capture the singer’s personality, which soon compelled him to embrace GWAR as a full-time gig. Despite a groundbreaking first show at VCU’s Shafer Court, many members abruptly quit, including Hunter, who chose to take a job in Detroit rather than pursue metal dreams. Still, Brockie persevered, aided by dedicated compatriots such as Chuck Varga and Don Drakulich, who developed a comprehensive roster of characters for each musician to embody, as well as an overarching mythos about the band as alien savages bent on chaos. and destruction.
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that GWAR is about as profane, disgusting, and outlandish as it gets, headlined by Brockie as alter ego Oderus Urungus, a big-mouthed goliath with a huge, goo-spewing cuttlefish hanging from it. his crotch (a goofy phallic creature designed to circumvent national obscenity laws). They’re definitely not for everyone, and yet, after emphasizing musicality with the 1990s Scumdogs of the Universe LP (on Metal Blade Records), and with an enhanced live show filled with latex monsters, beheadings and over-the-top fights, they garnered a loyal following. When Mike Judge made them Beavis and Butthead’s favorite band on the duo’s animated MTV series, GWAR found themselves in the limelight, embraced for both their gruesome madness and the self-conscious humor with which it was delivered.
As admirer (and former collaborator) “Weird Al” Yankovic puts it in It’s GWAR, “If you’re going to do a show, you’re doing a show”, and that philosophy – along with a DIY spirit – has made the band a cult hit. Attending a GWAR show and getting soaked by geysers of who knows what was a rite of passage for many metalheads, and helped create a fanatical fan base of outcasts drawn to wild and weird corners of the entertainment landscape. It also turned GWAR into its own kind of fringe community: a rolling carnival of like-minded artists who were bound together by their shared love of deranged madness. Even though the participants have changed – due to various accidents and conflicts – Barber’s film portrays GWAR as a family, or at least a brotherly brotherhood guided by a common vision to bring ridiculous chaos and madness to a city. near you.
“Attending a GWAR show and getting soaked by geysers of who knows what was a rite of passage for many metalheads, and helped create a fanatical fan base of outcasts drawn to wild and weird corners of the entertainment landscape.”
GWAR’s 1993 Grammy nomination for their film phallus in wonderland is perhaps the most unlikely wink in the history of this awards show, and understandably led to the band attending the ceremony in full barbarian gear, much to the annoyance of the organizers. Such anecdotes abound in It’s GWAR, nothing more jaw-dropping than the one about guitarist Pete Lee (aka the second Flattus Maximus) who got shot in a roadside encounter and nearly died with his pal Mike Derks (aka Balsac the Jaws of Death) at his side. The fact that after this near-death experience, Lee continued to play with the band while boasting a colostomy bag is consistent with the crude, reckless and boundary-pushing nature of the band, which persevered despite serious internal clashes between Brockie, who monopolizes the attention. and insecure Hunter, as well as more than one untimely death. GWAR was more than the sum of its parts, and by incorporating diverse voices into its mix – be it guitarists, bassists, vocalists, or the countless craftsmen like Matt Maguire and Bob Gorman who created the costumes, sets and performers’ props – he was able to survive a series of ups and downs that would have taken down inferior units.
Even after Brockie’s Viking funeral, GWAR continues to go its own way, mocking itself and various socio-political targets, be it law enforcement, censorious American politicians, or rapist priests. More than just a tribute to unparalleled madness, however, It’s GWAR is a portrait of creative misfits who have come together to express themselves through grotesque, childlike, and startlingly revealing raw art. They were, and still are, larger-than-life cartoons born of demented imaginations, and Barber’s film illuminates their absurdity in all its macabre glory.