Gwar was never meant for the mainstream. Since founding the band in 1984, singer Oderus Urungus (aka David Brockie) was on an unrepentant mission to be as outrageous and socially unacceptable as possible. Costumes of oversized battle armor, offensive lyrics and brutal music were his weapons, and the stage was his true arena, where he baptized eager crowds with fake blood and disemboweled effigies of politicians and celebrities like Justin Bieber.
Gwar never had a radio hit, but like any creative force in the underground, it couldn’t stay completely hidden from view. The news coverage attracted by Brockie’s passing — major outlets like Time, USA Today, NPR and the Chicago Tribune are covering his death — sadly verify what many veteran fans knew all along: Gwar was a force to be reckoned with. Billboard reflects on five instances where the band and polite society collided, with hilarious results.
5. Fan Petitions The NFL To Let Gwar Play The Super Bowl
Last September, when it was announced that Bruno Mars would headline the 2014 Super Bowl Halftime Show, Jeff Cantrell of Morehead, Ky., was not impressed. So he started a Change.org petition that nominated the shock rock band for the 2015 game. “NFL must listen to the people. Gwar is more American than apple pie,” Cantrell declared in the petition, which was addressed to the NFL’s senior VP of communications Greg Aiello. Alas, the NFL didn’t respond, but Gwar did. “I really don’t think we should be limited to playing the halftime show,” Urungus said. “I am offering Gwar as an actual team that could compete in the NFL … Hell, we could play against all the teams at once and still emerge victorious.”
4. Gwar Chats With Joan Rivers And Jerry Springer
In the 1990s, during the era of exploitive daytime talk shows, members of Gwar did sit-downs with Joan Rivers and Jerry Springer on their respective talk shows. Rivers gamely interviewed Urungus and Beefcake the Mighty, unable to contain her laughter when she admitted she thought the band looked like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on LSD.” The musicians were just as taken with Rivers, giving her a (fake) severed hand as a gift and complimenting her on her “razor sharp wit” after she got in a zinger at then-competitor Sally Jessy Raphael.
Meanwhile, Springer was rather confused by the band’s popularity, but he was enough of a sport to attend one of its concerts and let himself be “devoured” onstage by a many-fanged beast. Springer brought a concerned mother on to ask Gwar why it had such a “negative” stage show because she was worried about its affect on America’s youth, but her 14-year-old son showed he could discern between Gwar’s outlandish entertainment and the “rape rock” message of shock rockers Mentors, who also appeared on the Springer episode.
3. Gwar Appears In … “Empire Records”
The soundtrack to “Empire Records” — 1995 movie featuring Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler and Anthony LaPaglia — is a perfect snapshot of mainstream rock in the early ’90s, with songs like “Til I Hear It From You” by Gin Blossoms, “Crazy Life” by Toad The Wet Sprocket, “Liar” by The Cranberries. It was all very inspired, and very nonthreatening. It also treated audiences to a slice of Gwar’s “Saddam a Go-Go.” The band’s cameo occurs when Empire Records store employee Mark chows down on pot brownies. While watching TV, Mark hallucinates that Urungus invites him to join the band, only to be eaten onstage by the same monster that devoured Jerry Springer. (Gwar also appeared in the Ethan Hawke movie “Mystery Date.”)
2. Beavis & Butt-Head Love Gwar
MTV cartoon boneheads Beavis and Butt-Head were exactly what parents were afraid their kids would turn into if they listened to aggressive rock’n’roll. It’s no surprise that the dimwitted twosome adored Gwar: creator Mike Judge incorporated videos like “Jack the World” and “Saddam a Go-Go” into the series’ episodes. When the band made its appearances, Beavis and Butt-head would squeal like demented chimpanzees. The band is also a plot driver in the 1994 video game named after the series: The duo lose a pair ofGwar concert tickets after a neighbor’s riding lawnmower shreds them, so Beavis and Butt-Head must recover the pieces of the ruined tickets so they can attend the show.
1. Oderus Urungus Becomes ‘Intergalactic Correspondent’ For Fox’s ‘Red Eye’
Fox News Channel features plenty of commentators with fiery opinions, but it’s doubtful that anyone as colorful as Oderus Urungus will visit its set again. From July 2009 to September 2010, Urungus acted as “intergalactic correspondent” for the network’s “Red Eye” satirical talk show, hosted by Greg Gutfeld. During his tenure, Urungus got the opportunity to heavily promote Gwar, along with discussing topics like style tips for low-level celebrities and the best place to watch a meteor shower. His welcome allegedly was worn out after right-wing conservatives complained about the band disemboweling an effigy of Sarah Palin onstage. Gutfeld told Billboard in a statement, “Dave was beyond smart — a consummate showman with a brutal sense of humor and a keen sense of the absurd. In a crazy world, the man behind Oderus Urungus was frightfully sane.”