Gwar has always been an eye-popping band by nature. Now that they exist in an eye-popping world, however, things are a little weird.
“We’re continuing what we always did,” says Gwar lead vocalist Blothar, whose real name is Michael Bishop. “It’s just that people are not as nonplussed by it anymore because it’s an uglier world in general.”
Nevertheless, the intergalactic heavy metal band is still a spectacle to behold, as they continue to soak audiences in fake blood each and every night. Ahead of Gwar’s show at the Vogue on Thursday, Dec. 27, our Seth Johnson caught up with Blothar for an in-depth interview.
NUVO: You initially joined Gwar in 1987. What were you up to prior to that?
BLOTHAR: Prior to joining Gwar, I was asleep in my Antarctic tomb. [laughs] I was actually always a member of Gwar. I mean, we all were Scumdogs together out in outer space. I was on the planet High School when I joined the band. [laughs]
NUVO: How did you end up joining Gwar?
BLOTHAR: In the intergalactic narrative of Gwar, I was unfrozen after Oderus Urungus [former Gwar frontman] passed. In my previous existence, where I was Beefcake the Mighty, I was just a punk rocker hanging around on the streets in Richmond, Virginia. I had my little hardcore band, and they [Gwar] needed a bass player. I was the fattest guy in town, so they went with me.
NUVO: Gwar’s creative output often comments on the political and social climate of America. When you joined as Beefcake the Mighty, what was the political and social climate like?
BLOTHAR: If I remember correctly, we were winding up the Reagan years and were moving into the Bush years. Punk still had some teeth. Gwar really started as a punk band. The whole existence of the band was facilitated by that underground network of clubs that had been started by Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and bands like that. Gwar really plugged into that scene.
NUVO: In contrast, what affect has the current political and social climate had on the band?
BLOTHAR: Gwar will never change. We’re going to keep doing what we do, which is fighting political and cultural authority. [I’d say] probably the biggest change is that it’s difficult for Gwar to keep up with the appetite for violence and destruction that humans have. In an age where you can turn on the television and see someone be beheaded, we have to kind of up the ante.
All of sudden, the comical violent fantasies that we present on stage don’t seem so alien anymore. There’s a sense that truth is gone from the world, and people are just making it up as they go along. So Gwar fits right in with that.
NUVO: The shoes of Oderus Urungus were big shoes to fill. Did you feel any pressure coming into that role?
BLOTHAR: I always answer that question by saying Oderus didn’t wear shoes. But absolutely. No one is going to replace Oderus Urungus. It’s not possible to find a being in the universe that possesses that combination of skills and shortcomings.The razor-sharp wit and creative energy that Oderus had is something we didn’t really try to replace. That’s why I think we were successful in making a Gwar album [after his passing]. What we tried to do is something different, and Blothar is different than Oderus. He has a different sound and a different way of singing, although he studied the vocalizations of Oderus very carefully.
What we tried to do with this record [The Blood of Gods] was create a new mythology without destroying or supplanting the old one. Even having done that, we still have people who listen to the record and say, “It’s not as good. It’s different.” It’s like, “Well of course it’s different. It’s radically different. The entire composition of the band is different.” With this record, we decided not to replicate the things that Gwar has been doing on albums before, basically because people would just view it as a pale imitation if we did that.
NUVO: That being said, what can people expect from Gwar’s current live show?
BLOTHAR: Of course, what you’re going to see is the craziest, most violent, weirdest crap that you can imagine. If you haven’t seen Gwar before, what you can expect to see is a group of immortals playing out a storyline every night. The story is the story that’s told on the album.