In which we recount our own interactions with the late frontman. Above: the space alien himself, tastefully displayed from the waist up. Hey, we’re a family publication!
By Fred Mills, with Jason Gross
The news that arrived yesterday of Virginia musician Dave Brockie’s death was more than just a little shocking; as the frontman for sci-fi/shock/metal legends GWAR, Brockie (a/k/a “Oderus Urungus), Brockie was more than just larger than life – he seemed indestructible. (The cause of death for Brockie, 50, hasn’t yet been announced but police indicated an autopsy is to be performed.)
Brockie typically appeared in public “in character,” always advancing the GWAR brand while no doubt enjoying his little corner of fame, and as Oderus he certainly brought a lot of fun and energy to the rock ‘n’ roll table. GWAR had a good long run, too, and Brockie was kind enough to talk to longtime BLURT contributor Jason Gross a couple of years ago for our “Trust Yourself… And Get a Good Lawyer (Or Not)” series of musicians-giving-career-advice. He held forth on the virtues of practicing hard, being organized and, er, not putting up with asshole drummers…
Dave Brockie: “I would say ‘get involved in something other than music immediately!’ (laughs) I mean, with music and especially musicians being digitalized and inter-webbed and sampled… it’s pretty terrifying for a young musician, especially somebody who’s really good at playing music and then you listen to music that’s out there and it’s just this big electronic, sampled jumble of styles. It’s almost impossible to know what to even work on to be part of what music is going to be tomorrow.
“But nevertheless, the same things will always hold true- work your ass off, practice all the fucking time. And most importantly, make sure your drummer is not an asshole. Very important! You will waste YEARS of your life fucking around with drummers that are assholes. Because they set the beat for the band, they tend to think that they run everything, even when they’re actually one of the most cut-off members of the band because they sit there behind all these fucking drums- you can’t even see ’em anyway.
“The super, most important thing about a young musician coming up, besides practicing and having a true love of music, is working with people that you ENJOY playing with. (There’s) so many bands that are so great and don’t last but a couple years because the people in ’em basically hate each other. Sometimes that dynamic can work really well- just ask Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. But more often than not, it’s just gonna make you miserable. So find some friends of yours that you love to jam with and jam with ’em every goddamn day. And that is the best way to have success in rock and roll.”
At that, Brockie made his exit stage left, and as if on cue, arriving a few seconds later from stage right was Oderus, in full battle-ready regalia. Grabbing Gross by the testicles and hoisting the journalist high, he grunted his own advice—or, more precisely, his anti-advice:
Oderus: “The only reason that I got involved in rock and roll is so I can do drugs and have sex with legless midgets. I don’t know anything about music and I’ve never been accused of being a musician! I don’t really know anything about that stuff. I just rely on the rest of the band to make me look good!”
I had occasion to see GWAR play a couple of times back in the day, including the infamous show in 1990 at Charlotte, NC, venue the 4808 Club which culminated in Brockie/Oderus being arrested for obscenity. It’s one of my strangest memories in my entire concert-going career, both as a music fan and as a journalist.
At the time I was the music editor for Charlotte weekly Creative Loafing and I had previewed the show as part of our “Music Menu” column of upcoming shows, mentioning the group’s theatrical side and, er, noting that it involved lots of gushing bodily fluids (okay, okay, so I probably used the term “giant spurting penis” too). Apparently someone in a position of power read that preview, because members of the police force’s vice squad and several alcohol agents came out to the show, ultimately busting Brockie for sundry transgressions and confiscating his giant penis in the process. (Club owner Michael Plumides was also arrested, and he later wrote about the incident and its aftermath in his terrific memoir Kill The Music, also recounting it in these very pages for the BLURT readership, “My Symbiotic Relationship With GWAR.”)
To say I got a lot of mileage out of the evening is an understatement. In addition to covering the GWAR bust for the newspaper, I also reported it for Billboard (trust me, it’s not easy convincing some editors that the aforementioned “giant spurting penis” term is a literal transcription of events), and as the only journalist apparently on hand was contacted by MTV’s music news to outline what had happened.
So in that regard, I owe a big ol’ not-so-backhanded thanks to Brockie for helping me carve out my own little corner, however brief, of fame. Rest in peace, brother.
Above live photo of GWAR in 1990 by Kerry McCaskill. Below photo: unknown.