Few bands have been able to capture the unbridled exhibitionism that has enabled GWAR to reign as the Scumdogs of the Universe. Yet their controversial antics on stage have brought them their share of trouble as well as adoration from their fans and the music press.
In the fall of 1990, GWAR frontman David Brockie found himself in a spot of trouble when he was arrested in Charlotte, NC for disseminating obscenities. The charge was later reduced to exhibiting a harmful performance to minors. Brockie spoke with NAKED AGGRESSION about the incident and various other GWAR stories.
HOW THE CONCEPT OF GWAR CAME ABOUT
"Basically we were a bunch of artists and musicians living in this abandoned milk-bottling plant. We kind of squatted it and took it over. There were all kinds of weird people living there. There was a group of artists who were working on a movie they wanted to do about these weird aliens from outer space and there was a band called DEATH PIGGY which was a wacky, hardcore band and the two factions kind of got together."
"One day, our band borrowed these weird costumes the artists were making and we came up with a dumb name....Back then, it wasn't even called GWAR, it was called GWAR-GOG...about 30 letters in it. We put the costumes on, wrote a couple of dumb songs and started doing this weird skit to lead into a DEATH PIGGY show and people really liked it a lot. Eventually, DEATH PIGGY broke up and the movie never happened. But we thought, 'Hell, this was really funny, let's do this all the time.' We started working on it. Basically our motivation was out of sheer boredom and self-entertainment. We asked ourselves, 'If we were going to see a show, what would we want to see?' Well hell, we'd want to see barbarian mutants from another planet chopping people's heads off."
"The first crowds were totally agape. Pretty much the same reaction we have now...jaws hanging open in amazement, people running for the exits, bathing in blood. Back then, we didn't really squirt blood very far, we just had a hot water bottle filled up with fake blood; we'd squirt about one seat, but it was still the same kind of reaction, people really got into it. They thought it was really crazy and wild. "Some people said they hated it and thought it was stupid, but you can always find them at GWAR shows in the back row (saying), 'Oh, this is so dumb.'"
"MIND CONTROL MONTHLY"
"It was the brainchild of Hunter Jackson, he's one of our leading artists. We got a lot of press and a lot of fan mail from crazy, mutant kids. They send us drawings, weird letters, stool samples and plastic bags filled with vomit. We decided we wanted to have something to document our progress. At the same time, we were trying to build up a grass-roots type of club to stay in touch with our fans. We pretty much use this in a way to document all the press we get and each issue has a particular theme. We write articles from our characters' points of view on what life's all about. We draw cartoons and put them in there. It's like our own little GWAR magazine. It's getting bigger and better all the time and who knows what it'll be in a couple of years? Like everything else in the Slave Pit, it's growing, mutating."
"We do have a deal right now with DARKHORSE COMICS which is total, top-of-the-line underground comics. They're doing all kinds of great work. We've known them for a couple years. They're finally letting us do a six page installment in a thing they have coming out called, "Deadline." Several different stories are going to be featured each month. For one year, we get to have six pages a month. If it goes really good, if we get a positive reaction, maybe by next year, we'll have our own comic book."
On September 19, 1990, Brockie was arrested after a show at the 4808 Club in Charlotte, NC. He was charged with disseminating obscenities.
Club owner, Michael Plumides was arrested on the same charge. The 4808 Club had been operating under a temporary beer permit. After the arrest, Plumide's license was revoked and his application for a permanent beer permit rejected.
The acts that were called obscene included: simulating anal sex with a priest, simulating ejaculation with a 2-foot artificial penis and simulating eating feces. The police also wanted to arrest the priest but could not identify him out of costume. An officer was quoted in the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER as saying, "2 Live Crew is Sunday School compared to this group."
Brockie relates his side of the story and his reaction to the charge of disseminating obscenities.
"That's what they charge you with if you're distributing kiddie porn. I was really busted hard. There is some pretty objectionable stuff in our shows. Any average person would say, 'You shouldn't have 12-year olds watching something like that and there were a number of 12-year olds in the audience."
"It's pretty weird. The cops watched the whole show. They enjoyed it, they were laughing. I saw them out there during the show and it didn't really alarm me because lots of cops come to our shows. They always seem to enjoy it."
"After the show, I was in the dressing room. I started taking my costume off from the head down to my waist and I'm standing there with this huge, fake penis with nothing else on and I heard this voice behind me go, 'Hey Dave!' and I turned around and waved. A cop was standing there with a camera. They got this beautiful shot of me smiling and waving this big, huge schlong."
"Right after that they took me away to jail. I was covered in fake blood. They put me in a cell with all these other people, everyone thought I had been in a gang fight or a horrible car accident."
"We were really worried. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) wasn't very helpful. I think maybe they thought that getting busted for wearing a fake rubber penis was a little trivial."
"The cops were being pretty hard line. I was particularly worried because I'm not an American citizen. I'm from Canada. I've lived here for 20 years now. It was looking pretty bleak for awhile. If you get busted for a felony, there's always a chance for deportation. We were getting ready to go on this American tour."
"Eventually my lawyer struck a deal with the D.A. It pained me, but we plea-bargained. It kinda made me sick. Jello Biafra got really mad at me for being such a puss. But, my logic, this court battle was going to cost $10,000. It was going to require continual flights to North Carolina and it was just going to play utter havoc with my schedule. The chances of winning were practically null. In North Carolina, I was dead meat. So, rather than go through all that and potentially damage our business to the point where it folded.......that's a lot of money for us, we didn't have anybody backing us up at all."
"The judge's name was Dick Boner!" (Though the newspapers politely referred to him as Richard). "He was read the charges which included simulating eating feces and simulating anal sex with a priest. He put a piece of paper in front of his face and sat still for a full 30 seconds, didn't say a thing. I could tell he just wanted to bust out laughing. The fact that there was a family of midgets in the courtroom didn't help. Apparently, there was some kind of insidious midget crime ring. Evil carnival midgets."
"The state's evidence was this picture of me wearing the plastic dick smiling and waving at the camera. It was so ridiculous."
ON GETTING ARRESTED
"We anticipate it all the time. We're ready for it wherever we are basically."
"We were really paranoid when we were in Florida. We played 8 gigs down there. At one point I was halfway through this terrible act on stage doing this awful thing with a crucifix and a priest's rubber butt and one of the slaves ran up to me and said, 'The cops are here, the cops are here!' What was I supposed to do at this point? Was I supposed to pull the thing out of his ass and (say), 'My hand slipped?' We just go ahead and do it anyway. If we get busted, we get busted. Hopefully the next time it happens we'll be in a better position to defend ourselves. We were really lucky this time, I think."
"We usually do a show, saddle up, then get the hell out of there before the local authorities arrive."
"Charlotte is the only city anywhere, in the whole world, that we've ever had any problem at all. In Charlotte, I really believe the motivation was fucking the club up, not GWAR."
"When I got arrested and sent to jail, everyone else just left the state. Our tour manager was like, 'Let's get out of there before they confiscate our equipment!' They sent back a vehicle to pick me up the next day. It was a weird night in jail. I was getting a lot of strange looks. After processing, I was put in a holding cell with this other guy. He was terrified of me, he wouldn't talk to me."
TONE DOWN? GWAR?
"That incident made us tone up! We were so pissed off that it happened that I think it made our show all the more anti-establishment. The Morality Squad and the way they met their dooms became more grotesque and horrible. Granbo gets totally eviscerated. We jam knitting needles into her eyes."
"We have this character, the priest who comes onstage and tries to exorcise GWAR. He meets a horrible fate. The final result is he's hung upside down and has a crucifix rammed up his ass. A lot of people might think this is grotesque, filthy act of degrading violence, but to us it's a stirring indictment of the Catholic Church."
GWAR's new album is titled "AMERICA MUST BE DESTROYED," and is out now along with a GWAR mini-movie. The Scumdogs are currently on the road, and your town is NOT safe. Watch for 'em.
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