Last night at 11:10pm, I received an email from friend and Monster Fresh contributor, Devon Booth, letting me know about a link that was just starting to make the rounds on Twitter. The link was to a post from Richmond, Virginia-based Style Weekly and all that it read at the time was the following:
“Style Weekly is being told by numerous sources that David Brockie, lead singer for legendary Richmond band Gwar, has died.
Unconfirmed reports have told us that roommates found Brockie’s body at his home on Sunday evening.
We will have more as the story develops.”
I searched “Brockie” on Twitter and watched as the “rumor” continued to circulate and gain more and more traction. For hours, the Style Weekly link was the only one going around, until some larger outlets picked it up, but even they were just quoting that original source. The fact that the source was an alternative weekly that’s fairly unknown outside of the Richmond area and the only one reporting it, brought some skepticism. But, as an update to the report, which came in shortly after Devon’s original email, pointed out, there were reasons that they were the first ones hipped to this news.
“Roommates found Brockie’s body at his home Sunday evening. “I wish it was a joke,” says former band member Chris Bopst, a music writer for Style. “Everyone is in shock.”
As Devon elaborated, at that point, Bopst both wrote for Style and “was in the band back in ’84.” He then followed that by adding, “Adam Green posted a comment on facebook that it’s “true” and he was one of the guy’s who went to Russia with Dave. It is 3 in the morning so it’s not like we’ll get any real news until tomorrow.”
Although we all hoped that it was a hoax–a claim which fans claimed/hoped that it had to be, more and more vocally, as time progressed–the truth is that it was looking grim. As we all know by this point, Dave had indeed passed; a great loss to the metal and entertainment worlds, and an even greater loss to the world at large.
Throughout the night, at least once source claimed that an official statement from GWAR‘s camp would be coming at 4am Australian Eastern time. When it finally arrived, it was from the band’s manager, Jack Flanagan, who released the following:
“It is with a saddened heart that I confirm my dear friend Dave Brockie, artist, musician, and lead singer of GWAR, passed away at approximately 6:50 p.m. EST Sunday, March 23, 2014. His body was found Sunday by his bandmate at his home in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond authorities have confirmed his death and next of kin has been notified. A full autopsy will be performed. He was 50 years old, born August 30, 1963.
“My main focus right now is to look after my bandmates and his family.
“More information regarding his death shall be released as the details are confirmed.”
We’ve also heard that the GWAR frontman was discovered upright in a chair in his home. Richmond Police, who arrived at his home at 6:53pm on Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 did not find any drugs in his home and “do not suspect foul play.” They’ve also found no note and do not believe that it was suicide, but no official cause of death will be released until the reports come in from the medical examiner.
But to understand why the idea of a hoax wasn’t so far-fetched, it’s important to know a little about GWAR; their unrivaled theatrics; and the mythos behind them, which has continued to grow and evolve over the last 3 decades. The concept of the group was roughly that they were a group comprised of intergalactic humanoid space mutant barbarians who were banished to Earth, where they murdered the dinosaurs, created the human race by fornicating with primates, and were, ultimately, frozen in a block of ice in Antarctica, until they were, eventually, defrosted in the 80s, due to the excessive hair spray use at the time compromising the integrity of the ozone layer. After being discovered by their pompadour sporting pimp chic manager, Sleazy P. Martini, they settled in Richmond, Virginia, became a rock band, and began unleashing their their thrash metal fury across the globe.
The band would put on over-the-top stage shows, which involved the members donning elaborate latex costumes, under the guise of their respective characters. The performances would involve intricate props; the regular disemboweling of various well known celebrity and political figures; and various bodily fluids–primarily blood–spurting out over the crowd and drenching the audience members, staining their hair clothing and skin. Since their 1984 inception, Dave performed as the horned, abrasively profane, spiked, sword wielding, dope-sick, mangle-faced beast, Oderus Urungus who consistently left his massive alien cock (the Cuttlefish of Cthulhu) swinging unrestrained and smacking against his kneecaps.
In earlier years, it was much more difficult to transport the props and to perform overseas, but, as Brockie explained in our interview with him last November (posted in January), “We go big everywhere. I got a whole set of shit that’s sitting in Europe. I got a whole other set of shit that’s sitting in Asia. So, the basic characters are already there waiting for us, and then we just bring in the victims and the monsters, and we go as big as we fucking can.”
The band just recently performed for the first time in Japan, finished up another Australian tour, and were celebrating their 30th anniversary when this tragedy struck. Even now, the most recent post on the GWAR Facebook page is an announcement of their 5th Annual GWAR-B-Q event, set for August. Brockie was a brilliantly witty and ridiculously creative figure with a vibrant mind, who had endless plans in the works that will now be cut short. With their incredible endurance and a huge resurgence in popularity over the last decade, GWAR really did seem unstoppable. Even after the 2011 coronary thrombosis-related death of guitarist Cory Smoot–a primary member, who had been performing as the character Flattus Maximus since 2002–they were able to respectfully trudge forward with a replacement guitarist (Cannibus Corpse’s Brent Purgasson aka Pustulus Maximus) and a return to their more thrash-oriented roots. But Dave Brockie is irreplaceable, and fans of the band are all aware of this. He is not only the voice and brain of the operation, but also the only member who’s been there since the beginning. Dave Brockie is Oderus Urungus and Oderus is, and always will be, GWAR.
I wasn’t sure that I wanted to post anything about this; first, because we were waiting for confirmation and, after that, because I don’t like the idea of us playing into the “breaking news” game, when the information is already out there–we’re not looking for a piece of that traffic. But, at the same time, I do feel an overwhelming responsibility for us to acknowledge Dave Brockie. He was beyond impressive in the role of a half-naked extraterrestrial humanoid warlord, but even more impressive as an artist, frontman, musician, over-all creative, and–most importantly–an inspirational human being. I’m not the most versed person on the subject, history, or even the overall impact of GWAR out there–I’m not even the most versed individual on the band who’s contributed to this website–but one thing that I do know is that Dave loved what he did and that he did what he did passionately, with every fiber of his being, and for everybody out there who has gotten so much from it over the years. GWAR was fairly satirical and didn’t take themselves too seriously, which unfairly, yet understandably, translates into others not taking them as seriously as they deserved, either. But make no mistake that these guys have always had talent and are pioneers, both musically–they explored various changes in sound and genre over the years–and theatrically. There will never be another act quite like them and there will never ever be another individual quite like Dave Brockie.
Before Devon Booth conducted the interview with Dave for the site last year, we were informed by the publicist that Brockie primarily stayed in the character of Oderus for all of the interviews being done with him, these days. I pushed the idea for an interview with Dave as Dave and was asked to elaborate as to why and about what we wanted to ask, exactly. [After the death of his close friend, Smoot, I wouldn’t be surprised if Brockie was tired of addressing it.] Devon, being a long time GWAR fan versed on Brockie‘s history, gave me a handful of potential topics that he was hoping to touch on, to relay to them–topics which only Dave could address himself–and we pleaded our case. The next email that we received was us being okayed, but even then we were warned that he might slip in and out of character. He didn’t. Dave was incredibly forth-coming and gracious and, even as the guy who only edited the piece and not the one that actually spoke to him directly, it was clear to me, just through the text alone, how passionate he was about his work and with sharing it with the world.
I appreciate Dave accommodating us the way that he did and have endless respect for what he accomplished during his 5 human decades here on this vile mudball. Our sincere condolences go out to his family, loved ones, and everyone else who he’s ever meant something to over the years. In many ways, through his legacy, he has become exactly what GWAR has so often claimed that they were, already: IMMORTAL.
Today Deadspin reposted a large chunk from an interview piece with Brockie/Oderus that was originally printed in the January 2011 issue of Decibel magazine. It contained the following excerpt:
“We wanna have a GWAR cemetery. We wanna buy a hill or a mountain somewhere and start selling plots. And we will all pledge to be buried there in our costumes. Or at least, you know, the costumes will be buried there. But we’ll sell plots to our fans and we’ll start planting people up there. I mean, if we really had serious backing, Salvador Dali would have nothing on us. We’d just go crazy in a way that’s never been seen before. No band has the fucking attitude that GWAR has. Some bands look scary, but they’re the stupidest people. And nobody around here is too fucking stupid. Well, they’re stupid enough to keep working for GWAR, I suppose.”
Regardless of what the autopsy reveals, I’m going to choose to believe that the mighty scumdog, Oderus Urungus finally got his hands around the neck of that sonuvabitch slave, Dave Brockie–the Andy Kaufman to his Tony Clifton–and, after achieving the goal of eliminating that puny human filth, he himself combusted and, disintegrating into the atmosphere, returned to the stars.
The first two photographs were taken by Tacoma, Washington-based Richmond transplant, Sean Taylor, who also provided the images for our interview with Dave. For more great photography, including several shots of Brockie, Oderus, and GWAR, please check out and “like” Sean Taylor Photography on Facebook.