11/14/14

GWAR’s Dave Brockie: his haunting words 24 days before he died

Heavy metal music lovers got a terrible shock this year when they heard about the unexpected death of GWAR front-man Dave Brockie, better known by his stage-name Oderus Urungus.
At first, Dave Brockie’s cause of death was unknown, although the cause of death was deemed suspicious from the outset. Click bait-websites enjoyed major traffic spikes just for hosting photos of the masked one’s unmissable likeness with lurid headlines. When Oderus Urungus’ cause of death was finally determined to have been due to an accidental heroin overdose, those same websites which had most likely never before mentioned GWAR went into traffic-driving fits, while the rest of the heavy metal internet mostly expressed their grief by pouring out tributes to Dave Brockie.

Photo: GWAR.net

Lamb of God singer Randy Blythe was among them. His impassioned rant about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse among the rock and heavy metal fraternity was representative of the collective grief felt at the time. Unlike the fans though, Randy Blythe was hassled for a photo after giving a stirring eulogy Davide Brockie’s funeral. Understandably, this upset him.
From all accounts the David Brockie funeral was run in the only way you could possibly imagine running an event commemorating the GWAR chief talent: with heckling, a faux blood-splattered altar, and the (subsequent) burning Viking funeral of Oderus Urungus’ body.
Nonetheless, the identities of Oderus Urungus and Dave Brockie were always separated. Apparently, interviewers preparing for the unique experience that was a conversation with GWAR would be advised beforehand that they would be talking to Oderus Urungus and not Dave Brockie. Quite simply, Oderus Urungus / Dave Brockie did not break character. At the funeral, all agreed that underneath the thick rubber veneer of the Oderus Urungus mask was a master lyricist and a talented artist called Dave Brockie.

DAVE BROCKIE’S HAUNTING JOKE

Earlier this year I had the privilege of seeing GWAR live in Melbourne, Australia, as part of the Soundwave festival. I feel especially lucky because I got to see GWAR live twice: first at a Sidewave (side show) along with Amon Amarth (who were bloody funny and entertaining), Satyricon (who really didn’t blow anyone’s hair back) and The Black Dahlia Murder (if that’s your cup of tea, good on you). I got to see GWAR again about 12 hours later at the Soundwave festival.
I consider myself a seasoned concert-goer and I can confidently say that to this day, seeing GWAR live ranks as one of the most memorable heavy metal shows I have ever seen. I emphasise the terms ‘show’ and ‘see’ because the sound mix was terrible.

This was what the sound mix was like for most people.
Totally an actual photo from the GWAR concert.

At the first gig, within minutes of GWAR appearing on stage I personally saw people leaving because the sound mix was so bad. I mean, it was terrible — muddy, garbled, way too loud and not in a good way. Sadly, the sound mix was almost as bad the next day at the grand festival stage.
And yet, GWAR managed to captivate — no, mesmerise — their audience. Naturally, starting right away with the spectacular blood-soaked gimmicks for which GWAR are so famous.
One moment the venue had dimmed lights. Then, half a dozen rubber-mask-clad interstellar Scumdogs were performing GWAR songs onstage. Within the first song, Oderus Urungus had whipped out his prosthetic monster cock and literally hosed the audience with a continuous stream of fake blood; then they mutilated the Queen, who proceeded to hose the audience with fake blood from what were previously her boobs; and then they decapitated Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. You know where this is going, right?
Tony Abbott’s headless body then spewed gallons of blood onto the audience.

Gwar decapitate Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott

True to form, GWAR milked it for every red blood cell of publicity, as evident in this News.com rabble-rousing piece of formulaic outrage.
For many of those who attended this gig with no idea what to expect at a GWAR show, to say they were astounded would probably be an understatement. It probably has something to do with the fact that it’s kind of hard to accurately explain what it feels like to witness an industrial volume of fake blood deluging onto the first 10 rows of a willing audience for half the duration of a heavy metal concert.
While one could go on and on explaining the minute details of what made this GWAR concert so memorable, there’s no shortage of online videos that do it better than words. Save for those who couldn’t stomach the lousy audio mix, so many of those who saw the full act left impressed, if not gobsmacked — not a bad achievement when you consider how picky and outspoken many metal heads are when it comes to fine details like sound quality.
So when I heard that Dave Brockie was dead (and in particular, the cause of death) I suddenly thought of one fleeting moment during the GWAR concert that, suddenly, had become very poignant.
That brief, fleeting moment occurred somewhere towards the end of GWAR’s set. Between the Tony Abbott decapitation and the mutilation of the Queen and the announcement that GWAR would perform a Billie Holiday cover, Oderus Urungus said a few words to the audience about the success of the latest GWAR album in Australia. He said Australia was one of the few places on planet earth to still buy GWAR albums, and thanked the audience for ensuring that the GWAR album Battle Maximus actually did something in the charts.
“Every dollar you spend goes right into my fucking veins,” he said.
The crowd thought that was very funny and the band went on to perform the next song from the GWAR discography.
Was that line merely off-the-cuff schtick? Was it a grim in-joke that only Dave Brockie knew about?
We’ll never know what was going through his head. However, just 24 days later, Dave Brockie was dead.
"Every dollar you spend goes right into my fucking veins."
Yeah I'm a terrible photographer.

The loss of Dave Brockie: GWAR front-man, shock rocker, lyrical genius and (believe it or not) biting social commentator, is irreplaceable in the world of heavy metal. My heart goes out to his family, his friends and GWAR fans.

David Brockie would not have wanted it to be this way. On the other hand, Oderus Urungus probably thought it was brilliant.

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