When Gwar founder Dave Brockie, 50, was found dead of a heroin overdose in his Richmond, Va., home in March, few fans thought the satirical, theatrical metal band he’d fronted for 30 years as masked alter-ego Oderus Urungus could continue.
“There were a lot of people in Gwar that thought Gwar wouldn’t continue,” says lead guitarist Pustulus Maximus (aka Brent Purgason) who joined the band after the 2011 death of guitarist Cory Smoot. “It was a troubling time and we’re still going through it. It’s one of the greatest decisions we ever faced.”
Following Oderus’ Viking funeral and the annual Gwar festival in Richmond, the band announced that it would hit the road with two new over-the-top members filling Oderus’ armor. The Gwar Eternal Tour, which stops at Tremont Friday, is headed up by new lead singer Blothar (Michael Bishop, a college music professor and former Gwar bassist) and futuristic Amazonian female singer Vulvatron (artist Kim Dylla) whose breasts spurt blood.
If that sounds more outrageous than ever, well, have you met Gwar? The sci-fi backstory casts the punk/metal band as a group of intergalactic warriors frozen in Antarctica for centuries before thawing out as an American rock band.
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Its demise would’ve meant more than just the breakup of your average band. Over the decades the performance art collective of musicians, filmmakers and visual artists that make up Gwar became a brand and a business responsible for the livelihood of its staff. Hence the familiar Bishop.
“Blothar is completely necessary to us moving forward. He’s a familiar soul. We all feel like we’ve been around him before,” Pustulus says of Bishop, who left the band in 1993 and again after a shorter run in 1999.
“Blothar is so valuable to this organization he’s sleeping through this interview,” Pustulus joked after stepping in for his band mate at the last minute. But seriously: “We’ve lost a couple of people that were very important to us, which is possibly devastating to a band. The most important part is Blothar is like a Scumdoggian shaman, a spiritual leader.”
“With Vulvatron, it’s good to have boobs as well,” he adds before turning serious again. “(Really) if he’s our spiritual leader, she’s the soothsayer. She is coming from the future to warn us of dire consequences if we don’t get our (act) together.”
In that way Vulvatron’s skinhead slaying futuristic feminist carries Brockie’s vision, as does Pustulus’ raging on Ferguson, Mo., gay marriage and selfies.
“You’ve got (people) cutting off people’s heads and you’re worried about legalizing pot and banning homosexuals from getting married? You have a thing like Ferguson that’s really important, but at the same time people are posting about how these cops should be held accountable they take a break to post a selfie on Instagram.”
He takes a breath. “You’ve started a tirade.”
And tirades are what Gwar – old and new – is all about. Loss hasn’t softened its edge.
“I think the old man would be proud,” he says of Brockie. “There’s always going to be people who think it’s not the same. I get it, I’m like that with some bands too. But Gwar is so much bigger than one person. Even though we’re one down – and we didn’t want to lose anybody – the show is as bloody as ever. We’re not pulling punches.”