Musicians Remember Dave Brockie, the Man Beneath the Mask of GWAR

Jon Wiederhorn

Not many GWAR fans knew the band's front man Dave Brockie.

They knew his onstage character Oderus Urungus, the fierce leader of a band of disreputable warriors; which, as legend went, were banished from another planet to Antarctica. The deviants escaped, relocated to Richmond, Virginia and formed a metal band dedicated to touring the world, committing horrific acts of violence against the human race in every concert.

Fans in the first 50 rows of GWAR shows could expect to be splashed with fake blood as they watched the group perform in full costume; simulating decapitations, eviscerations, and countless forms of mutilations to the thunderous roar of songs like "You Can't Kill Terror," "We Kill Everything," and "Hail, Genocide."

Tragically Brockie's satiric murder spree came to an end when his roommates in Richmond found his body at their home on the evening of March 23. They immediately called the police, who declared Brockie dead. He was 50.

No foul play is suspected and the cause of death is currently unknown pending a coroner's report.

"Dave, truly, was one of a kind," said Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe on Instagram. "I can't think of anyone even remotely like him. That's very hard to say… I learned many things from Dave, many of which I am eternally grateful for, and some of which I am deeply ashamed of."

GWAR had just returned from its first Japanese tour, and was celebrating its 30th anniversary at the time of Brockie's death. The band's most recent album, "Battle Maximus," was released in September 2013.

GWAR was a satiric batch of musicians, but the band's music was no joke. Combining elements of thrash, traditional metal, punk and hard rock, the group amassed a catalog of 13 full-length albums, 12 VHS releases, and eight DVDs since 1988. Their stage performances influenced a broad range of bands, including Slipknot and the cartoon-metal outfit Dethklok. Brockie also had a profound personal effect on the hundreds of bands GWAR played with.

"We were lucky to spend many days on tour together and share many beers and stories," said Shadows Fall vocalist Brian Fair on Facebook. "He was one of the nicest guys in an industry not always known for nice guys. A road dog to the extreme, he changed the face of what a punk rock show could be. May he rest in peace below the ice fields of Antarctica."

Born in Ottawa, Canada on August 30, 1963, Brockie came of age musically in the Washington, D.C. area in the early ‘80s. Discouraged by the musical and lyrical limitations of the politically correct straight-edge scene, he decided to form a band that was as politically incorrect as possible. After graduating from high school in 1981, Brockie went to art school in Richmond and met a new crowd he had more in common with. "They were a lot more tolerant and a lot more into having a good time rather than imposing their social rules upon everyone else," Brockie told HardTimes last year.

He formed a three-piece hardcore band, Death Piggy, and then got involved with a group of artists who were constructing bizarre alien costumes for a film they wanted to shoot called "Scumdogs of the Universe." He convinced his friends to let him borrow the outfits, and he and his bandmates donned them before a Death Piggy show and improvised "two or three horrible songs" under the name "Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh" before his main band took the stage.

"After we had done that a few times, we were amazed because we would come out as Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh and there would be 500 people there," Brockie said. "[Then] we would come back as Death Piggy and there would be, like, 50 people there."

The filmmakers scrapped the movie and allowed GWAR (which had shortened its name) to borrow their galactic ideas, and Brockie immediately started working with various artists to combine graphic performance art, aggressive heavy metal, and a juvenile/lurid sci-fi concept that GWAR would pursue through multiple lineup shifts.

The band signed with Shimmy Disc and released their first album, the hardcore punk-inspired "Hell-O," in 1988. The music was raw and unpolished, but concertgoers were attracted to the band’s wild performances. Soon after, Metal Blade signed the band and released their first metallic disc, the thrashy "Scumdogs of the Universe," in 1990.

A revolving door of members passed through the violent and often absurdly offensive world of GWAR during its 30-year existence. The band amassed a loyal following and some critical praise. Though they never won a Grammy, GWAR were nominated for best long-form music video in 1992 for "Phallus in Wonderland," and Best Metal Performance for "S.F.W.” in 1995.

Brockie’s death isn't the first tragedy to impact GWAR. On November 3, 2011, guitarist Flattus Maximius (real name Cory Smoot), who had been in the band since 2002, died of a coronary artery thrombosis. GWAR found his body as they were preparing to cross the border into Canada. The group continued after Smoot's death, but it's difficult to imagine GWAR keeping the band together after the death of Brockie, who was the group’s creative visionary.

"Dave was one of the funniest, smartest, most creative and energetic persons I've known," former GWAR bassist Mike Bishop (a.k.a. Beefcake the Mighty told Style Weekly. "He was brash sometimes, always crass, irreverent, he was hilarious in every way. But he was also deeply intelligent and interested in life, history, politic,s and art. His penchant for scatological humors belied a lucid wit. He was a criminally underrated lyricist and hard rock vocalist; one of the best, ever."

"Thank you, Brockie, for all the crazy s--t you did," wrote Blythe. "Thank God you existed, so you could do it and I didn't have to… Oderus, enjoy your trip back home."