19 January 2009

A wonderful phrase and some quick updates!

"imbibing bourbon"

doesn't that sound wonderful, all alcoholism aside? Like, just the words themselves? I thought so.


Two show reviews (Thief, Sour Milk Sea, Bubonic Bear AND tonight's Lord By Fire, The Abominable Iron Sloth, Punch You In The Face BIG!, blowupnihilist)


A short essay on the importance of local politics in light of the recent mobilization of disenfranchised voters for Obama, which I hope to have for you tomorrow, in honor of hizzoner's inauguration.

Until then, A Happy Lee-Jackson-King Day to all of you in Virginia, and a Happy Martin Luther King Day to the rest of you. (although Bobby Seale or Huey P. Newton should get their own damn holidays, and why Malcom X doesn't have one yet boggles my mind)

10 January 2009

The Triple, 01/08/09

A perennial problem encountered in fist city, if you are a fan of underground live music: two or more great shows you want to see on the same night and time. How do you decide which to see? Often this dilemma is resolved easily - which show has the best lineup? - but there are many other considerations to take into account. Cost and venue come quickly to mind, and are usually the deciding factor when the lineup is truly a toss up, but can be further mitigated or complicated by issues like pre-show intoxication, desired level of post-show intoxication, anticipated crowd level, crowd constituency (hey, lets be honest, sometimes you want to see AND be seen), drink availability, et cetera ad absurdum. So, when the evening Thursday Jan. 8 arrived, it brought decisions to be made. Presented before the court (seated justices: Your Esteemed Author and His Better Half) was the issue of Yukon, Amoeba Men, Blood Banks, & La Mere Vipere v. Juice Time, War Graves, Ugly Law, & Daisycutter. YEA had been expressing his preferences for the steely sweet grind of Juice Time et. al., and HBH, always a master of feminine subtlety, had been, well, subtlely favoring Yukon et al. Fortunately for our domestic tranquility, Divine Providence reared Her Ugly Head and the work of His Mighty Hand made the path before us clear. The temperature at 10 pm at 38F, with high winds chilling the air, as is their wont, to a percieved 26F. Location was critical to the courts decision to patronize The Triple, a brisk two block walk, over Nara Sushi's four mile cycling circuit (and as per Murphy's Law, likely against the wind the entire time). Decision rendered for Yukon et. al. Case closed.

YEA and HBH approached the bar and ordered drinks. Red Headed Sluts were fingered for the position of Intoxicant by newly-discovered glutein-intolerant HBH, whereas YEA was unencumbered by dietary restrictions and so fingered himself. And drank Jagermeister and PBR. Intoxicants, in YEA's vast experience and thus learned opinion, are without fail beneficial to experiencing live music (not to mention every other situation life presents), but most surely were to benefit the enjoyment of this show. Abstract music especially seems to favor an unburdened mind, and abstract music we were promised (delivery of aforementioned is, obviously, to be examined below. Keep on Keepin' on, Fair Reader!).

Like mainlining heroin to see if you will like cough syrup, the first band, and YEA's favorite of the night, tested the limits the audience placed on abstraction levels in music. Perhaps Blood Banks did not go over as well as the succeeding acts, as my opening metaphor should imply, but to extend the metaphor, perhaps the audience was expecting Tylenol-3 (with codine!), not black tar. Blood Banks was billed as a four piece, but perhaps could be considered a five piece for the night, as Mr. Mattress Fox provided auxilliary percussion. The advertised lineup of two saxophonists, two drummers did provide the core of the music. And Oh! what sweet mayhem was produced by this outfit. YEA was instantly reminded of John Zorn, especially his work with Naked City and with Mike Patton on Pranzo Oltranzista. The gritty cacophony was blissfully disorienting, sounding like a drunken night spent wandering the Bowery trying desperately to find a warm bed but finding only wrong turns, homeless vagrants, junk fiends and unexpectedly talented but pushy buskers amid a sea of taxi horns blaring, subway trains rumbling underfoot and diesel engines lumbering amid the crowded streets. The plodding drums, reminescent of Doom Metal or (pre-electronica) Industrial were a perfect ostinato to the contrapuntal saxophones. The rising sax lines and call-and-response phrasing had shades of more psychedelic moments in Bitches' Brew or A Love Supreme; huge walls of sound assaulted even the strongest aural cavities, and the atmospheric extramusical effects provided by one of the saxes and his variety of amplification techniques had the power to transport the listener to the aforementioned urban soundscape - perhaps even without chemical mind alteration, but to be sure, the alcohol helped. Unfortunately, after one extended jam, the band had finished, leaving YEA wanting more, if no one else did. It also left YEA with a lingering question, one which may mever be answered, "Is this Rock and Roll at all?"

Up next was a band YEA has never cared for, despite his best efforts. To best express how YEA feels about it, a tangent:
I was a picky eater as a child and even into my teens. When puberty finally began to affect my taste buds, I began to branch out and try foods I had previously never cared for. So, when on an overnight school trip to Charlottesville I found myself in a Chinese restaurant against my wishes, I scanned the menu, and one item popped out at me: the titular soup. I love hot foods, ditto for sour. This should be a perfect fit! My excitement in anticipation was only exceeded by my horror upon the first taste. You know how in movies, when someone eats something disgusting, and spits it out in a foamy spray? That was me. Fast forward a few years, and many gastronomic curiosities later, and I again find myself in a Chinese restaurant. Now wanting to try something different than my usual Chinese fare, I again opt for Hot and Sour soup, figuring perhaps the preparation would be significantly different, or that my taste buds were much wiser and better able to handle the subtle blend of flavors. No, although I am happy to report that instead of spewing hot soup and saliva on my companions, I merely disgustingly dribbled the mouthful back into the bowl with an appetizing "BLEEH". And this experience has repeated itself a few more times since, my expressions of distaste diminishing, but my disgust remaining intact.

La Mere Vipere
is in the opinion of YEA, the Hot and Sour soup of Richmond underground music. They sound amazing on the surface, but no matter how many times you try, you're left with a horrible taste in your mouth. So, if your tastes run Hot and Sour, you may want to skip the next (vitriol-filled) section, unless you like reading about all the things that are horrible about what you love. Enough disclaimer, on to the review. After an excessively long sound check, the band begins. The singer, who at his best sounds like the worst qualities of Maynard James Keenan and Jello Biafra, dominates a spot in the mix that Luciano Pavarotti would be ill advised to take when accompanied by deaf second graders with Down's Syndrome. And, perhaps it's the alcohol taking its effects (and more on that below), but the already too Modern Rock Radio sound (they describe themselves as "Melodramatic Popular Song" on Myspace) of Vipere is even more MRR-friendly than YEA remembered from previous experience. The lead guitars, while quite often interesting, are drowned out by the forgivably loud drums (its a small venue) and unforgivably loud vocals. The bass seemed to rarely stray from playing the root of the chords, and was as quiet as the lead guitar. "This band needs more complexity," YEA remembers thinking - a trend that continues as the set wears on. The first song ends, and fully reveals another problem that was hinted at before they started; perhaps just a pet peeve, but no band should spend nearly as much time tuning in between songs as they spend on the songs themselves (or perhaps this is a blessing in disguise, as more tuning is less playing). YEA begins to wonder if La Mere Vipere is the George W. Bush of Richmond music, ascending to their position due to pedigree and connections. More to the point, the band does not seem to be willing to take the risks necessary to be a great band. And, make no bones about it, beneath the stunning mediocrity is a truly great band waiting to happen. The second song was again reminescent of Melodramatic Popular Song group, TOOL, and similarly would be better served as a mostly instrumental outfit (again, in YEA's opinion).

After another painfully/blissfully long tuning session, however, something magical happened. YEA found himself outside of Barstow, in Dr. Gonzo's mythical "bat country". Or, perhaps the band had just gotten into their groove, or started with their poppiest material. Whatever it was, YEA was taken aback by the opening salvos of the third song. The lead guitar began an off-kilter ostinato riff, of which the rest of the rhythm section actually took full advantage, creating some crunchily dissonant tense harmonies, and a slimelike static-yet-dynamic motion dominated the song. And, although the momentum gained by this number was slowed by another long tuning interlude, it was not stopped. The second volley of the battle for YEA's favor became a fire-at-will assault. Filled with machine-gun guitars and pained screams, paired with tight playing on all fronts and an especially notable subtle, yet in-yer-fuckin'-face! drum performance, this song fucking dominated the enemy line (no more war metaphors, I promise), and was almost *gasp* Metal. The last song, finally performed without "The Tuning Song" intro, continued this trend, however YEA was at this point distracted by a discussion of "Hello Kitty" with HBH and A Random Bar Patron, and did not take notes.

YEA doesn't seem to be a fan of prominent vocals (unless said vocalist is named Michael Allan Patton -YEA). HBH, on the other hand, will often gravitate towards music which features clear/precise vocals and interesting lyrics. Having heard the band previously only in recording, HBH can only complain that Tesseract was not in the setlist, and that HBH couldn't hear the vocals too well from her seat sadly nursing non-beer at the bar.

While not the last band to play, due to pre-show fatigue exacerbated by booze, Baltimore's Yukon was the last band to be reviewed (in the interest of full disclosure, YEA must admit he does not recall their performance as well as the others, and is relying almost solely on his notes to review, which are sadly lacking in detail). YEA had mixed feelings about this outfit. Their sound was a great complement to La Mere Vipere, if that can tell you anything. It was as if 80's pop and art-noise had a bastard child. Texturally, the music was intriguing, with great harmonic tension and solid playing by the guitarist and especially the drummer. However the band suffered from trite LOUDquietLOUD, pop music song structures. A more freeform, organic approach would complement the pleasant melodic plod of the dense textural playing and easily catapult this band from mediocre to awesome. To be frank, some lineup changes are likely in order. The drummer is currently pulling double duty as vocalist, which is unfortunate, as his voice is not up to snuff. A new, stronger vocalist would be a great fix, as the drummer's solid, Helmet-esque playing is this band's strongest suit. An adventurous rhythm guitarist, or ideally a keyboardist, to accentuate the almost psychedelic lead guitars and expand their sound would be a huge boon. And finally, the bassist, while talented, should be featured much more prominently live, as he is in their recordings. This is not to say that the band is no good; YEA merely thinks some small changes could be made to maximize wasted potential.

As The Court settled their tab, disbarred, and steeled themselves against the frigid weather,
Amoeba Men geared up to play. Their particular brand of chaotic, noisy rock is awe-inspiring, and is highly recommended to anyone with a discerning ear for experimental music. YEA didn't need to be there and take notes to give a down and dirty summary of their set: The drumheads miraculously withstand the beating they are given, and easily sound twice as loud as you would think they could. The manic vocals and angular, disjointed guitar make one feel as if in the grips of a horrible, terrible drug unknowingly administered to them - like being on acid and PCP, and trying jenkem(fermented shit in a jar, for the unhip) for the first time. All the while, a performance art piece is taking place, with the audience as unwitting members; the guitarist is backing into the crowd, and has a knack for bumping into the people who least expect or appreciate it. If you push him away, he only comes back. Harder. And this miserable experience is underscored by unsettling, insect-like keyboards droning and buzzing away at your last nerve. Needless to say, one of my favorite Richmond bands to see live.

On the walk back home, warm ethanol flowing beneath chilled skin, YEA was sure the correct decision was made. It was fucking cold, and would have made for a miserable bike ride.

TIME AND MONEY: GWAR's biggest enemies?

Our modern society is in dire need of an unifying mythology. This is an unique position to find ourselves in; until Nietzsche declared God to be dead with an authority yet to be seriously challenged in philosophical circles, peoples and cultures around the world formed various stories and gods to explain the workings of the world around us, and to illustrate the foibles and follies as well as the compassion and kindness inherent in human nature. The gods came to instruct, not merely to explain or condemn. However, as we developed, our gods became antiquated, and their instructions became out-of-touch, which made their explanations ludicrous, and therefore their condemnations irrelevant, at best. For all but the most fundamentalist, Physics and Biology have supplemented, if not completely supplanted, Religion in its capacity of explaining the trappings of nature. Psychology has provided a similar effect -- and perhaps affect -- to Religion in the arena of explanations of human nature. Yet just as mankind's desire for the ritual of religion has not seemed to vanish because of our disbelief in the gods, neither has our desire for their stories diminished because of our widespread atheism.

At the same time as the gods began to be subjects to the worms of the ground, new and exciting developments began to occur in the many fields of arts & entertainment. As often as not, these revolutions were caused by, correlated to, or coincided with parallel developments in science. Recorded music, film, comic books, and television have transformed how what was once our oral tradition is handed down to us. And while the repercussions of the Internet on storytelling has yet to be completely felt, there is a dearth of truly larger than life entities whose very being is relevant to our everyday life, not to mention helping to instruct, explain and, yes, even condemn our behavior. This is not to say that these mediums have not made the effort. From Superman to Star Wars, from Wagner's Ring Cycle to the World Wide Web, we find artists and storytellers aspiring to take their place in the now-vacant pantheon. Yet the cry continues to issue from the masses: to provide them with something somehow larger than life. Many have begun to feel their cries are in vain.

But, Lo! The Call of the Masses is Answered! A new age of hope is already upon us! For there exists in our own fair lands someone who answers. A voice crying in the wilderness, proclaiming the good news of fantastical intergalactic pirates bent on destruction, stuck on our pitiful, desolate rock, desperate to escape; yet at least mildly amused with our weakness and ignorance, mildly placated with our glorious intoxicants, and mildly appreciative of our mindless submission. A voice answering our cry with their own, which is to “...give the people what they want...the senseless slaughter of the gutter slime...because when your life ain't shit, you ain't got much to lose...”

For nearly 25 years the artists at Slave Pit, the high priests of GWAR, have “left their bloody mark all over this town.” Their peculiar brand of “multi-platform, multi-media” commentary comes closest to replicating the numerous ways that our old time religions used to pass on their morality plays. None of the modern media have been left untouched by Slave Pit. And as new forms develop, you can count on Slave Pit to inject the mythos of GWAR into each and every one. Fueled by crack-cocaine and fresh souls for the World Maggot, they persevere in decimating our population, decapitating our leaders, and enslaving all who remain.

But in all seriousness, Slave Pit has been providing our post-modern culture with a truly post-modern mythology since their inception. Their modest studio space in Antarctica, er, Manchester quietly hums with subversive activity still. Starting in an age when music videos were usually the apotheosis of expression for musical groups, GWAR began with bigger targets in their sights. Over their career they have been responsible for music, paintings, illustrations, sculptures, films, comics, and theatrical performances; appeared in TV, film and video games; showcased their artistry in smoky bars and high-class galleries; and influenced Brendan Small and Lordi alike.

Richmond has in recent years become an increasingly meta-town. While the metropolitan population of Richmond has grown to 1.3 million people, much of what we speak of when we talk about Richmond is the underground culture we have created here -- one that largely serves as a foil to the “redneck, backwoods, hick town” gentrified Richmond that we all despise. And amid the multitude of temporal touchstones of our culture here, few carry the weight that GWAR carries. It would not be hyperbolic to say they are as intrinsic to Richmond as Patrick Henry or Jefferson Davis, as white flight or corrupt council members, as Church Hill or the James River. I recently had the chance to speak with Dave Brockie, and again with Bob Gorman and Matt Maguire of Slave Pit about all things GWAR in anticipation of their May 30th show and their upcoming 25th anniversary. As a bonus, I was lucky to have my life spared by the feared Oderus Urungus, who vouchsafed my life on the condition I relay his dread requests to the “human filth” residing in RVA.

During 25 years, most bands come and go. Any music fan, especially when his tastes run towards the underground, will find no problem recalling an encyclopedic list of bands that have come and gone from their own hometown. RVA is certainly no exception. This transience is a stark contrast to the “road kings” of GWAR. I asked Matt Maguire nearly two and a half years ago what he thought of the current scene, and he told me, “They'll fall off. And we'll still be doing this.” His remarks become only more appropriate with each year. While current art trends seem to nudge ever closer to a complete and total emulation of their style, they remain the first, the best, and the most cutting-edge of them all.

When a highfalutin' music critic tells me damn near anything about a band's “artistic merit” I want to shit. When any other band professes to have the most exciting show in Rock and Roll, I either giggle or cringe, depending on their meager talents. But GWAR has earned the right to their bravado. Who else will stand up to presidents, terrorists, and talk show hosts? Who will kill indiscriminately? Who will dump hundreds of gallons of blood, urine and semen onto the huddled masses?

The ability to seriously call GWAR the best show in rock and roll comes with a hefty price. “Probably the most physically demanding thing is actually doing the show...you're wearing 60 pounds of bloody latex, and I'm trying to bellow lyrics and fight monsters, and these guys are running around, going crazy backstage, jumping in and out of costumes, taking care of exploding compressors, flailing spew lines, and keeping the crowd under control” Dave Brockie notes. Bob Gorman finds it difficult to keep a normal life. “When we were younger, doing that [GWAR] and just doing that was fine. But as you get older, you know, health care...shit that normal people [have], you know, we don't have any of that and, you know, you start thinking about that more.” He also finds that his “love of live music has been crushed” from his years in GWAR. “We spend seven months out of the year, on a good year, in clubs. When I get home people are like 'Oh, there's this crazy kid band'...I don't have it in me. We'll have to stop touring for a couple of years before the desire to go in a hot, steamy club and be surrounded by people comes back” Dave does find he is able to make an exception for First Friday, although it isn't for the art or the bands as much as “watching these chicks walk around in their little sundresses.”

The time and effort Slave Pit puts into GWAR is nearly superhuman, and nearly as strenuous as the physical shows. “GWAR takes up so much of our time. It takes so much time just to do the things we're getting paid to do right now...build a new show, make a new album,

and get ready to go on the road again,” Dave opines. “We're pretty much doomed to support GWAR no matter what, to the exclusion of having anything else going on in our lives, and that includes relationships...when you are enslaved by GWAR you truly are enslaved by GWAR.” There's clearly a reason their production company is called Slave Pit, Inc. Forty hours a week seems to be a bare minimum with these guys, if not more. Still, all manage to find some little amount of time to pursue their own individual artistic interests. Dave does custom paintings, drawings, and tattoo designs, though he's no longer accepting requests due to a huge backlog. Matt does some movie and theatre work, and Bob welds and works on bikes. “When you put all of your thought and creative juices into [GWAR], you get drained...you wanna get home, drink a beer and watch a monster movie,” Bob says.

GWAR has seen plenty of changes over the years. The early years were chaotic, as Slave Pit had what they say were too many artists, each thinking their ideas were best. Things were rarely done the same way twice. Perhaps their fingers were in a few too many pies, with the artists trying to build costumes, make movies and comic books, and write music all at the same time; the music quickly devolved into pop-punk slapstick, and the members began to take notice that the quality of the other projects was beginning to slip. Around 2000, the decision was made to make a “leaner, meaner” GWAR, to focus on what they did best and what was best received by their fans. They began to realize that time and money were much more precious commodities. As Bob says, “the old GWAR died in 2000” Of course, you can't please all the fans. An email they have posted in their office is telling:

i have been a gwar fan for 10years and i just wanted to say the new album sux donkey dick. i have loved every one of gwar's cd's. Violence has arrived but not gwar.O h by the way where are al the other band members. you have lost your funny edge. well at least i got one new gwar album or is it DBX?

sad long term fan

However the future still holds much possibility. Slave Pit owns all their intellectual property, and soon will have the rights to their entire back catalogue. As Dave explained, any of the non-band characters can be folded back in at any time they please. Fans will be delighted to know of the return of Sleazy P. Martini this fall. There is talk of a GWAR video game, an online interactive GWAR world a la World of Warcraft or Second Life, and the online return of Slave Pit funnies. While the age of direct to video releases with every album is over, GWAR acknowledges the possibility of more happening in the future, although they would rather have the budget to do it for a theartical release. They still would like to do a Broadway show. A coffeetable book should be coming in 2009. And then there are projects so super-secret that they cannot be mentioned. In the meantime, Oderus Urungus will be hosting the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards in London, “which is like the Emmys of metal...I'm gonna announce that GWAR wins in every one!” Of interest to Richmonders, our own Municipal Waste is nominated for best underground band, and GWAR urges you to vote for them on the Metal Hammer website. In short, GWAR is confident that their efforts will bring them the recognition and respect they deserve, although Dave acknowledges perhaps things could have been easier “if I hadn't gone through, you know, the last twenty-three years with my cock hanging out, but I felt it was important.”

Slave Pit is open about the influence Richmond has on its origins. Bob credits Richmond's fertility to the abundance of bands, cheap warehouse space, and the constant supply of VCU grads and dropouts. They love playing with “straight up metal bands” and find great pleasure that RVA is full of them. “People are like 'Richmond? What the, what the hell? Why do so many great bands come out of this town?'” Dave says. However, don't question who is the most “Richmond” of them all. “We're the ultimate Richmond band,” Dave explains, “a bunch of frustrated and failed artists in their own weird little world they've created for themselves - that's very Richmond. GWAR couldn't have happened anywhere else.”

Finally, “Oderus would like to take this opportunity to announce to the people of Richmond, the backwater, redneck, hick town that it is, that he is supporting Dirtwoman's candidacy for mayor, and if Dirtwoman is elected as the mayor, I will let Dirtwoman suck my cuttlefish in Shafer Court for everyone to see...I'm backing Donnie Corker, a.k.a. Dirtwoman, I'm head of Sexcurity for his campaign...I'm taking this opportunity to urge the people of Richmond to vote for Dirtwoman, finally get somebody competent in the office of the mayor, and Oderus will be there as his Minister of Sexual Affairs, to distribute AIDS and free crack to anyone who dares to vote for him.”

GWAR urges you to vote for Municipal Waste for best underground band in the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards. GWAR also urges you to visit their website: www.gwar.net

The Artists of Slave Pit, Inc. urge you to also visit their website: www.slavepitinc.com, and to visit the personal websites of the artists which can be found by following links from the Slave Pit site.

GWAR is offering half-off admission to anyone who brings them the head of Papa Ukrop or Daddy Loving to their show at The National, May 30th

Browning Keister would like to thank Dave Brockie, Bob Gorman and Matt Maguire for taking time out of their busy schedule for this interview, and all of the artists of Slave Pit for all their hard work entertaining us maggots.

07 January 2009

The Art Of GWAR

I was still in daycare the first time I ever heard of GWAR. My mother, always interested in keeping my impressionable young mind open, shared with me the story of the arrest of Dave Brockie, nee Oderus Urungus, for indecent exposure in Charlotte, NC. "What's indecent exposure?" I remember asking. Much was learned that day. For instance, I learned that in addition to being considered immodest and impolite, it is also illegal to appear in public in a state of disrobe. So I asked my mother if Brockie had been arrested for being naked on stage. But he had not. I also learned that day, that at least to some overzealous enforcers of law, to appear onstage in a costume that involves a three-foot long false phallus is also indecent. My curious young mind was piqued by learning this, so I asked my mother "Why does he wear that?" "Well, thats what art's all about, honey." And thus, the same conversation that introduced me to the single most disgusting, vile, repulsive band to ever disgrace Rock and Roll also introduced me to Art.

GWAR's antics are anything if not well known to those residing in the RVA area, and certainly to any meathead Slayer fan in the world, so I need not spend much time describing them. We are all familiar with the elaborate costumes, the denizens of slaves slain in sacrifice, and the spewing blood, urine and semen that accompanies their live shows. Much controversy has surrounded the act, as well. One can only assume that this is all perpetrated by a group of inbred nitwits with a bent to corrupt young children and convert them to their backwoods, snake-handling, blood-drinking, satanic religion. Or is it? I sat down with Bob Gorman and Matt Maguire of Slave Pit Inc. to smoke some rocks and talk a little about the Art of GWAR as they prepare for a show at Artspace.

Slave Pit Inc. started, as their website (www.slavepitinc.com – see, i told you i'd pimp your site) states, a collective of "aspiring artists and musicians" who wished to follow in the grand examples of Spartacus and Monty Python. It also serves as the corporate face of GWAR, if you want to call it that. As Bob explained, GWAR was formed to be a vehicle to present the art of its members, and to eke out a living off of art, instead of having to get a real job. To be a full-fledged art show that tours like a band.

Given the group's penchant for controversy and just general silliness, Matt concedes that it is sometimes hard to be taken seriously as artists. Both point to Mad Magazine for comparison. "Its all just satire. We're left-leaning people, but, I mean, we killed Clinton onstage, too." Bob says. "We're not classy, but we are well read." Apparantly, even Jerry Springer became visibly flustered during an interview with GWAR as he was not prepared for intelligent responses from the mutant creatures that would later kill him. "We were in there, matching him point for point" Matt recalled. Of course, as artists, difficulty in being taken serious does not bother them. Their general attitude seems to be one of a Bob Dobbsian origin: "If they can't take a joke, fuck 'em!"

However, the art world, never known for being consistant, is showing signs of change that are putting GWAR in a position to be recognized as the artistic tour de force that they are. Bob says that the idea behind GWAR as a "cartoon as sculpture" is beginning to gain acceptance and even popularity among academics. "Students are being encouraged to do the same things that i've been doing for years," musing that if and when he tried to turn in the same things as projects at VCU in his day he would have been summarily rejected; all the while at this point Matt is laughing and agreeing profusely. And, after an 8 year hiatus, GWAR has been showing their art in a gallery environment again. Bob points to the growing popularity of publications like Juxtapoz in this resurgence.

None of this is to say that GWAR has remained a bulwark of artistic principle in the sea of impulse and whim that define art trends. One notable change is the recent dearth of full-length GWAR videos. Once upon a time, these videos were as easily come by as the crack smoked while making them, and nearly as addictive. In fact, their video Phallus in Wonderland was nominated for a Grammy Award in '93 for Best Long-Form Music Video. "I think we lost to Annie Lennox," Bob recalled. A minor controversy ensued when the band showed up to pick up their tickets to the ceremony in full costume and was asked to leave. "Back in the 90's, Metalblade [Records] was throwing money left and right" at GWAR to make these movies, but with the disappearance of music videos from MTV and the coinciding slip in the popularity of metal and hard rock acts in the mainstream, the money simply isn't available.

Crowds have changed for their live acts, too. The early 90's found GWAR moving out of cult status and into much wider popularity as a musical act. As a result, the stage show had to be simplified. Matt compares a GWAR show to an opera, "You have these people in costume, and it has to look good, but you have to still be able to play." Not to mention convey the idea of the plot to the audience. Initially, people attending a GWAR show would stand and watch, like the indie/emo scenesters do today. But GWAR plays metal, and as the metal crowds began to attend and pits began forming, the players would find it difficult to deliver their lines on stage above the din of the crowd. Samplers fix a lot of that problem today, but the other main concern, and anyone who has attended a GWAR show can attest to this, is that it is oftentimes hard to see the stage. So plots became less complex. "Its like a Loveboat episode," Bob says. "You've got these characters and something happens that causes conflict and by the end everything is fine. It gives us a framework so that we can kill things."

Audiences have certainly noticed a constant evolution in the costumes of GWAR. Bob points to 1994 as the year that costumes reached their maturity. "When we started, none of really knew what we were doing. We learned as we went along." Early props looked like paper-maiche constructions. As the artists learned their craft, they have settled on a mix of polyfoam, fiberglass, and prevulcanized rubber/latex. Since settling on that mix, Bob says little has changed in the process of how a costume is made. But it doesn't take much effort to notice that Oderus' spiked epaulets have grown in height with every tour, or that Gor Gor's appearance has morphed from being a terrifying T-Rex to a more forward, sleek, and vicious Raptor.

So, with all this change in the air, not to mention crack smoke, what do the next 20 years hold for this gang of gore? Certainly most notably, there is their upcoming art show. Artspace gallery administrator and past-president Dana Frostick recollects "I always wanted GWAR to have an art show here in Richmond" and so she has worked resolutely to make it happen. While this will not be their first show here in RVA, it certainly carries a lot of weight, and is causing a lot of excitement, among Artspace members, Slave Pit artisans, GWAR fans, the art and music communities, and the public at large. "I've been getting calls from people in, like, LA saying that they can't make the opening but would I please send them a catalog." The show will be up from January 27 until February 19 and will occupy both the Members' and Main Galleries. Artspace is located in the Plant Zero art complex in Manchester. You'll know you're at the right place if you drive by a big brick warehouse with a garish day-glo courtyard replete with a fountain.

Having returned from what might very well have been their most successful tours since the days of Scumdogs of the Universe, including a spot on the huge "Sounds of the Underground" tour with fellow Richmond metal legends Lamb of God, GWAR also has plans for a new studio album, and a corresponding new tour. And a new tour means a new stage show, which means new costumes, which Bob promises will be "10% scarier." Also in the works is a coffee-table style book on the history of GWAR, and a documentary on the early days of Slave Pit. Matt has designed GWAR action figures which he assures me will be for sale soon. But perhaps most surprising of all the ideas, at least on the surface, is the idea being tossed around of doing a Broadway musical of GWAR. Bob says the inspiration came from a trip to NYC. The cutting humor of musicals like Urinetown are experiencing great runs on Broadway. "Its lowbrow humor being marketed and targeted to Broadway audiences, whereas we're highbrow humor targeted to meatheads." He hopes that with a little tweaking that the project could come off. And it makes sense, for as demented as it is, a GWAR show is basically a touring musical. The possibilities of a Broadway show are endless. "There could be things flying in on wires!" Matt exitedly mentioned. And Bob shed some light on its practical implications. "We could write the music and the script and hire other players to perform it. Or, if we decided to put it on ourselves, we would have week-long engagements, instead of having to unload, setup, and load every night." And as the members age, that sort of stability would ease the stress of road life. And hell, if all else fails, they can all just retire to their homes in Antarctica and live the easy, relaxed life of demigods. After 20 years, they may not have summoned the World Maggot just yet, but they still deserve a little respect and respite, if they so choose.

But don't fret. GWAR's not going anywhere anytime soon. Asked if they had anything that they'd like to say to the too-hip-for-their-own-good readership of this fair magazine, Bob replied: "They'll fall off. And we'll still be doing this."

Check out www.gwar.net and www.slavepitinc.com for more info on GWAR.
Also check out www.artspacegallery.org for more about the show.

Browning Keister would like to thank Bob and Matt for the interview and for showing him around slave pit, and Dana for knowing everyone in Richmond. Oh, and himself for being the tightest thing since before your grandma lost her virginity.


Hey everybody! Welcome to my "blog", or whatever. meh.

I've decided that perhaps i should write more, get my name out, and maybe I can get paid for it one day. A Tom Wolfe arrangement would be ideal. Hunter S. Thompson had a good thing going, too. I'd go for a David Foster Wallace thing, but I LIKE a bit of ambiguity in my writing. But hey, I'd even go for syndicated columnist, or even a feature writer for a paper.

Now, I've been published before. Twice, actually. But I've yet to get a cut of cabbage for a column, if you can catch the concept I'm chucking.

I've just realized this comes off as a bit desperate; a pathetic plea for remuneration. It was not meant to be, but the difficulty of of bluntness is the risk of seeming insolent. Again, meh.

Anyways, this is all to say that the first two posts are pieces that I have here previously appeared in slightly different form in RVAmag. Both are about the band GWAR; the first on their art show at Artspace Gallery in Richmond Jan 06, the second in anticipation of their appearance at The National in May 08. As I am the one who wrote them, I reserve my intellectual property rights, and republish them here; thanks are due to all the staff of that magazine (PAY ME! (just kidding(or am i?))) for taking the risk and publishing a talented writer (for once(kidding!(really!))) and allowing him to indulge a near-fanboy obsession with a rock band TWICE(see "PAY ME" et. al.), and in advance for their blessings in republishing here, and to perform any edits i see fit. This, of course, is not to mention the thanks due to the people thanked in the articles themselves.

POST SCRIPT: more formatting to come laterz. i just wanna get this shiz up first.