Interview with vocalist Blothar and guitarist Pustulus Maximus | By Natasha Van Duser
“It was the first record I’ve done for GWAR for many, many years,” says Michael Bishop, better known as Blothar, the current lead vocalist of the sci-fi-themed comedic metal group, GWAR. “It was really exactly like I thought it would be. It was totally easy. It was no sweat. You walk in, you lay down something brilliant, probably the first time. That’s all that GWAR has always done. That’s what I’ve always done.”
Formed in Richmond, Virginia, in the early ‘80s, GWAR began to take over the metal scene with their outlandish statements, humorously gruesome stage shows, and absurd, over-the-top alien rocker costumes, playing the part of a barbarian space race known as the Scumdogs who seek to destroy humanity. But in 2014, tragedy struck when founding member and frontman Dave Brockie—known preeminently as the late great Oderus Urungus—was found dead in his home at the age of 50. In response to the loss of Urungus, Bishop—who had played bass under the moniker of Beefcake The Mighty throughout the late ‘80s and ‘90s—rejoined the band as their new frontman: the antler-wearing Blothar, a being who awakened from a long sleep due to Urungus’ loss of immortality.
On Oct. 20, through Metal Blade Records, GWAR finally released their first full-length record since Brockie’s passing, The Blood of Gods. “This is not a bonehead metal record, and it’s not an exclusively rock ‘n’ roll record,” says Brent Purgason, who portrays lead guitarist Pustulus Maximus. “It’s very eclectic. It’s old-school GWAR, and, at the same time, it feels brand new—familiar stranger, I guess. […] We actually tried on this one, which is something that we barely ever do.”
“‘Familiar stranger.’ It’s a great quote,” Blothar is quick to add. “It’s like jerking off with your left hand. No, Pustulus is right. This is a record that we worked hard on. […] This is a mature GWAR. We worked hard on the songs; the songs are funny, and there’s also some depth there. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll record, and it doesn’t sound typical at all, in any way, shape, or form. So, I think people are going to like it. It’s not what people are going to expect.”
While the album’s title references a direct line from the opening song, “War on GWAR,” it is also a tribute to Urungus. “My favorite is definitely the song we wrote in tribute to Oderus,” Blothar says of the track, “Phantom Limb.” “It’s about missing the man, missing the murder, missing the mayhem of having that guy around.”
“I’d have to say the same thing—except the song that I sang on is probably the best of the whole record, without question,” Pustulus playfully adds. “But ‘Phantom Limb’ is a great tune. It’s one of the ballads that we’ve written.”
The Blood of Gods touches on a variety of topics including politics in Trump’s America, the overall destruction of the environment, the passing of Urungus, and, of course, the continued war between GWAR and humanity. “This is the first record that we’ve done with me singing,” Blothar explains. “Of course, it’s the only record we’ve done with me singing, but I think the inspiration for most of the album was a massive war on GWAR that’s been on for—it’s really been ongoing for centuries, but it’s heated up here on Earth the past decade or so, and the fake news media was not reporting it. The album chronicles the story of GWAR as far as inhumanity and as far as committing atrocities and just general destruction and an appetite for death. We had to eventually realize humanity wanted to destroy itself and GWAR.”
One of the more politically-charged tracks is the not-so-subtly titled “El Presidente.” It concerns the presidency of America’s orange overlord, Donald Trump, a figure Pustulus admits is one of the only common enemies that GWAR and humanity share. “What you need in politics is you need a good liar, and you need somebody that is cunning,” he says. “He’s just too blatantly obvious. And that’s the kind of politician that we would be. I kind of feel that he’s taking our style.”
“We truly admire his brazen audacity, for sure,” Blothar adds.
Over the past year, GWAR’s stage performances have included the rather bloody, but whimsical murder of an effigy of the 45th President of the United States. “We’ve killed him again and again,” Blothar says, “but he won’t die!”
“You know why he won’t die?” Pustulus remarks. “It’s because he’s got a better health care plan than what he’s pitching to everybody else!”
Over the years, GWAR have upheld one of the strongest and best-known stage shows of all time. Alongside their outlandish alien costumes, they carry out hilarious, semi-satirical murders of celebrities and politicians, generally resulting in the front row getting sprayed with a heaping helping of fake blood. “We just try to get onstage and do a rock ‘n’ roll show,” Pustulus says. “Then, these people—just looters and polluters—they just show up onstage and try to cramp our style, and we just have to deal with them accordingly so we can get to our set. So, it’s just kind of one of those things that just happens.” This year, GWAR spent all summer on the Vans Warped Tour jamming out their record’s first single—a chanty metal tune called “Fuck This Place”—eagerly coating fans in the blood of the fallen while giving them a taste of the band’s new sound.
The Blood of Gods is one of the most unique GWAR albums to date. From a new vocalist to a more diverse sound, the album not only pays tribute to the passing of Urungus, but also to the actual passing of the torch from one alien god to the next. “There is a moment where we were coerced into doing a commercial rock ‘n’ roll tune, [“I’ll Be Your Monster”], and I’m sure that it’s going to be the next big thing,” Blothar says. “I think people need to listen to [the record]. It marks a turn in this story with GWAR’s relationship to mankind, and I don’t want to give too much away about it, but there is a narrative to the album. It’s got a strong narrative, probably more of a narrative than GWAR’s more recent albums.”
Kicking off in their hometown of Richmond on the same day as the record’s release, GWAR hit the road for a North American headlining tour throughout the fall and early winter in support of The Blood of Gods. “It’s literature,” Blothar summarizes. “People will be listening to this record in college classrooms the world over.”