Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Phone Call with GWAR


Happy Halloween!

To mark this momentous occasion, I saved up the money I gathered through recently selling tainted Girl Scout cookies outside of my neighborhood Shaw’s to buy an intergalactic phone card from my meth dealer to make a call to the distant planet of Scumdogia, where the current members of the savage collective known as GWAR recorded their latest sonic explosion, The Blood Of Gods. Released on Earth on October 20, The Blood Of Gods is the first GWAR album not to feature the great Oderus Urungus, who mysteriously perished in 2014 amidst a mushroom cloud of crack smoke, dead teen prostitutes and Jim Nabors CDs. While the loss of such an inspiring force would have destroyed most human bands, The Blood Of Gods proves that Scumdogian blood (which, based on a review from a female acquaintance of mine who encountered it through undisclosed methods, apparently tastes like a mixture of urine, semen and Crystal Light) fuels the GWAR machine with unwavering resilience. Currently, the band is touring our planet with Misfits guitarist (and famously chatty fellow) Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein as one of the opening acts.

These days, Oderus’ formidable, guts-covered shoes are filled by The Berserker Blothar, who agreed to speak with me under the condition that I conducted the interview in the nude. (1. Blothar can apparently see through phone lines. 2. They like ’em big and round in Scumdogia.)

Gathering up my courage (and staring at the Journalism degree on my wall with prideful tears in my eyes), I called Scumdogia (a 200-digit number, by the way), the phone rang, and then…


Hello, is this Blothar?

This is Blothar!

Hi, this is Joel, your human inquisitor for the next few minutes.

All right! How are you, Jooooel!

I’m well. How are you?

I’m fine.

Wonderful. First of all, congratulation on your latest creation, The Blood Of Gods. What can those pitiful humans who have yet to experience your new album expect from this latest masterpiece?

It is, as you say, a masterpiece. It has everything on it that you would expect from a GWAR album, providing you don’t expect Oderus Urungus to be on that GWAR album. It’s the first record without Oderus; that’s the big news. It’s a different kind of record than the band has been putting out. Without Oderus there, we needed to do different things better, and that’s what we did. It still sounds like a GWAR album, and I think that’s the part that we’re all the most proud of. It still sounds like GWAR. It has a narrative; that narrative is essentially the story of humans uprising against GWAR and GWAR struggling to basically keep up with humanity. It’s like we created an invention that was too perfect and did its job too well, and humanity has become difficult for us to keep up with – the darkness that pervades the human experience, the human culture and the human mind. But we try, and this album relates GWAR’s struggle with humanity, losing the battle against humanity and GWAR coming back and facing the questions about whether or not we would sell out. If there was one central question on this whole album, it’s how can GWAR go forward and keep going? All of the songs really build on that and work towards answers for that question.

What can deaf people in particular expect to hear on the new album?

(Laughs) Deaf people can expect to hear pretty much nothing unless they turn it up really loud and listen through a special system that some deaf people and college facilities have. They do have things that can amplify music, since music is only vibration. People respond well to this; I’ve seen it many times, actually - weirdly enough that you would ask me that. I do have some experience with some of the systems that they use at Gallaudet University and other places. But yeah, deaf people love GWAR; they’re probably the biggest fans of GWAR’s music that there is. 

Ever since I heard the new GWAR album, my penis has burned whenever I urinate. Why is that?

Well, I think you’ve caught a little bit of the 24-hour HIV. It’s free with every record; it just comes as part of the purchase. We’ve managed to find a way to actually transmit sexually transmitted disease through just listening. Now, it's a listening-transmitted disease. It kind of takes the fun out of it; it’s a disease, but you don’t get to have sex. You just get to listen, which kind of sucks.

As you mentioned, this is your first album without your great leader, Oderus. Tell me, as you look back at his grand legacy, what is the greatest thing his cock ever did for the universe?

The greatest thing that Oderus ever did for the universe, or his cock in particular?

His cock in particular, yes.

Well, the Cuttlefish of Cthulhu struck out of its own for a little while. The Cuttlefish is actually still around; that’s a little-known fact of GWAR lore. While Oderus perished, the Cuttlefish did not. It managed to escape and scuttle off. On the first tour that we did without Oderus, the Cuttlefish showed up; it came through an inter-dimensional gloryhole. It poked its way in, and then it just escaped. It just ran offstage, so nobody knows where it is. The Cuttlefish will probably be making an appearance; he’s still influencing the world out there, so you can look for more from the Cuttlefish of Cthulhu in the future.

Oh, that’s very good to hear! Considering all of GWAR’s otherworldly powers, why have we yet to see an Oderus hologram on stage with you?

Well, we did have a projection of Oderus that was like a hologram. When you line up the money for the bat-shaped helicopter and the non-stop procession of cocaine and hookers that are necessary to keep GWAR on the road, there’s just not a lot of money left over for production. We try not to put much money into the shows, if you know what I mean. We try to keep it for ourselves. Seriously, we can’t afford a hologram. Who can afford a hologram? And what good would it do anyway? Didn’t Nat King Cole’s daughter do that or something before she died? It was just creepy; nobody wants to see that!

You’re touring with that weakling Doyle, whose physique is clearly pathetic compared to yours. What diet and exercise routine would you recommend to him so he can one day actually look like a real man?

I don’t know; it’s gonna be hard for that guy. He’s really pretty far gone. He’s gonna have to have some intravenous chocolate milk; that’s the first step. I think maybe if you break both of his legs so he can’t walk, sit him in front of daytime television with an IV of chocolate milk and maybe turn on a PlayStation 4 and just start delivering pizzas to his house, then maybe he’ll be in shape after about… I don’t know; it looks to me like it would take a long time for that guy to go to pot, so maybe two years? Two years of no exercise and a diet heavy in saturated fat!

Fantastic! I hope he takes your advice. I want to discuss something from before the time you joined GWAR, so hopefully [bassist] Beefcake [the Mighty] filled you in on these details. When GWAR first began touring Earth, they were known to play in a wretched toxic waste dump called New Jersey. Within that horrid pile of crap was an even worse place called Shitty Gardens – sorry, I mean City Gardens.

That’s right!

What are some legends that have been passed down to you about GWAR’s time at this horrible hellhole?

I was there at City Gardens when GWAR played – and I’m pretty sure every show GWAR ever played – in my other corporeal form. Somehow, miraculously, the spirit of Blothar at one time inhabited the spirit of Beefcake. Oderus’ slave, Dave Brockie, already related a story of what was probably the weirdest City Gardens show that we ever did. The stage was stormed by skinheads; we played there with Murphy’s Law. There was a strong skinhead contingent in the audience. As we started playing, the skinheads became angry because we sprayed their bomber jackets with fake blood, and they decided that they were going to beat the shit out of us. They did this thing called ‘the Wall of Death.’ It was weird. I’m not going to say it was impressive; it was confusing, really. We’re looking out at the audience, and all of a sudden, we see everybody being pushed into this kind of alleyway; they formed an alleyway in the middle just by shoving everybody. It was an organized effort; it was pretty amazing that they could do that – just push everybody to the side and then create this alleyway so they can attempt to run as fast as they could, jump over the barrier, get on stage and fight GWAR. 

In a moment of complete and absolute genius…We used to have this device called the Spew Chandelier – a terrible invention. By nature, a chandelier just sprays shit – it’s facing a bunch of different directions, right? We had a bunch of heads and severed penises and things like that on this chandelier, and there’s hoses going to it and spray comes out in all directions. We hated it as musicians in the band because it would always immediately soak everything on stage and make it hard to play, ruin our equipment and shit like that. It was a very short-lived prop; it may have been its only tour, as a matter of fact. Anyway, [then-GWAR member] The Sexecutioner grabbed the Spew Chandelier, and [our slaves] had the forethought to turn it on and start pumping this fluid all over the floor of City Gardens. When the skinheads hit this liquid – they were running straight for us – it immediately started looking like The Keystone Kops. It was side-splitting hilarity. We had the leave the stage because we couldn’t play anymore. It was just too funny; they just started slipping and sliding on this liquid and falling – and they couldn’t get up. They were grabbing onto each other; none of them managed to make it over the wall. And of course, their bombers got more and more dirty as they struggled around flipping on the floor. Normally, floors like that will get slippery at a GWAR show, but there will be bodies over top of the space to absorb that liquid. In this case, they had cleared out an alley, so it was nothing but a big Slip ’N Slide between them and the stage. It was pretty funny!

On a very serious note: When a fat chick gives you a blowjob, what kind of food do you think your cock reminds her of?

I’d like to think that she’s thinking of something like a big, fat kielbasa, but she’s probably thinking more of like a squat, little chocolate Hostess Ding Dong. 

Clearly, GWAR fully supports death and destruction. Although Donald Trump has already done a good job of promoting these values, there is clearly a lot of work left to do. If Trump ultimately fails in this mission, who would GWAR like to see become president of the United States in order to fully guarantee the end of Earth?

Well, GWAR’s pretty happy with Trump’s absurdity – to be honest with you, he’s hilarious! But if we had to pick a successor… I don’t know; we thought about the job, but who wants to be sitting around worried about passing a healthcare bill when you can be just snorting cocaine off of a pair of tits? It’s not for us. In the future, of course we would like for animals to take leadership positions in American culture. I’m from the Cow Party, man; I want the cows in charge. I think it’s time; it’s their era – the time of the cow!

I could not agree more. Lastly, how will GWAR celebrate Halloween this year?

We always try to put on costumes, and no one ever pays any attention to the costumes we put on. I put a lot of work into it, but nobody seems to notice. Last year, I was a fairy princess. I had to put a coat on because it was cold outside. I just looked like a big monster dressed like a Viking with a fairy princess outfit on top of that monster Viking outfit with a coat on top of that. Nobody knew what the hell I was. It’s depressing.

*Portions of the above interview were edited for clarity and at least a modicum of sanity. 

Note: GWAR guitarist BälSäc The Jaws ‘O Death (Human Slave: Michael Derks) is facing seriously health issues and needs our help. Please go HERE for more information. 

Photo courtesy of Freeman Promotions

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Monday, October 30, 2017

Words for Mike Hudson

When you get right down to it, Mike Hudson didn't need to do a goddamn thing after releasing the “Street Where Nobody Lives / What's This Shit Called Love?” single with The Pagans in 1978. As perfect as anything off Raw Power, this two-sided gem easily secured Mike's place in history, making everything (records, books, articles, etc.) he blessed us with in the ensuing decades icing on the cake. To say he was a musical and literary inspiration to me would be the understatement of the fucking century.

In 2014, I received a promo for Hollywood High, Mike’s first Pagans release in years. The record was and is amazing. I couldn’t believe that I had the opportunity to write about my love for The Pagans in the present tense. (My review can be read HERE.)

A few weeks after I posted the review, my friend Loren Molinare put me in touch with Mike for an interview. He was as great as I hoped he would be, and we hit it off immediately. He later told me that my story was the “definitive” piece on The Pagans. I’m sure he was just being kind, but goddamn… that meant a lot to me. (You can read the story HERE.)

Last year, Mike asked me if I would be interested in premiering a new song he had recorded with Richard Duguay of Personality Crisis called “Bad Bet” on my site. Would I be interested???? Was he fucking kidding me???? That post remains one of the highest-viewed things I’ve ever put up. I'm still pinching myself. (Check out the song – which, naturally, is a fucking scorcher – HERE.)

Mike was far from the clean-cut type. As he blazed a trail for musicians and writers the world over, he also blazed himself in the process. Simply put, Mike created perfect Rock ‘n’ Roll because he fucking was Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Of course, maintaining such a commitment rarely guarantees a long and prosperous life, and Mike snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on more than one occasion in his life and career. There was as much scorched earth in the Mike Hudson narrative as there were incredible words and sounds.

Perhaps the saddest thing about his death is the fact that he had been on a creative upswing in recent times. A few weeks ago, he emailed me some brand-new Pagans tracks he was excited to share. The stuff had the same intensity as anything he put out 40 years ago. With everything he did in the last few years, I always felt that the guy was still just getting started. Still reaching. Still putting the rest of us “punks” and “writers” to shame. Creatively, Mike was firing on all cylinders at the end; more was meant to come.

Mike and I had made tentative plans to meet up in December when I hit California. I’ve been going through years’ worth of our Facebook messages. What a raw, funny and brilliant man. I’ll miss the hell out of him.

This past Tuesday, Mike posted the above photo on my private Facebook page as a comment to my status update about one of my dogs constantly jumping up on my lap when I was trying to hit writing deadlines. The pic came with the following message:

"Just teach him how to type, Joel... My Lola Belle can do line edits and everything now!"

I’m very sad that Mike is gone, but he sure gave us a hell of a lot while he was here. That motherfucker was the real thing.

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Decade of Delain: A Chat with Charlotte Wessels and Martijn Westerholt

As previously discussed on this site, Dutch Symphonic Metal stars Delain have built one of the most durable and accomplished careers in the genre. Today, in celebration of their 10th anniversary, the band releases A Decade Of Delain - Live at Paradiso (Napalm Records), a two-CD/ DVD/Blu-ray showcasing the magic they have delivered to audiences around the world. On this special new release, the band’s current lineup (vocalist Charlotte Wessels, keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, guitarists Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold, bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije and drummer Ruben Israel) is joined by a slew of guests including Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory) and Liv Kristine (Theatre Of Tragedy/Leaves’ Eyes).

I recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with past interviewee Martijn Westerholt, who was kind enough to bring Wessels along for the following chat about A Decade Of Delain, the band’s current success and their plans for the future.   

The new release is very significant in that it celebrates your 10th anniversary. What made The Paradiso an ideal venue to hold this event?

Charlotte Wessels: (Giggles) It’s a few things. It’s the atmosphere of a very old and very charming building. It is beautiful with the Gothic arches. If you look at shooting a DVD, the eye wants something, too. This is a venue that – mixed with the name, the history and the good location of the place – looks really good. It also has some downsides. Of course, because it is a very charming old building, there are a lot of things that you cannot do production-wise. That’s why I had to giggle when you asked why it was the ideal venue. In certain respects, that made it very, very challenging. But it’s a very charming building, and it has a history. It’s kind of legendary in a way.

This release was supported through a PledgeMusic campaign. What kind of response did you get from the fans by going this route?

Martijn Westerholt: It was amazing. We could have done it easily through Napalm as well, but we wanted to involve the fans – because of the fans, we are here after 10 years. It makes it far more magical, and the support for that was overwhelming. We reached our goal so easily. It’s a lot of work to do it this way, because you have to do a lot of special things. Of course, it is a special project; the other side of that is that you have to do a lot of stuff for that as well.

CW: Martijn and I still have cramps in our hands from signing the special signed editions!

MW: I’ve never signed so much in my life! But it was great.

You have some guests involved in this new release. How did having Alissa and Burton there with you add to the overall spirit of this release.

CW:  We released Where Is The Blood in 2012, so it was a great experience to have Burton on stage with us and perform it. As for Alissa, she’s like a thunderbolt on stage. She’s done two guest appearances with us so far, so it was really lovely. We can really see the fans’ response to that as well. Then, we had other guests, including previous band members who joined us on stage. George Oosthoek was there, and we had virtual Marco Hietala [Nightwish] with us. On that DVD, that turned out quite remarkable; the images are super-cool. It was a great experience.

MW: We had Liv Kristen as well, and so many others. Also, when we write our music, Charlotte and me have a third person, Guus Eikens, write with us. He is not in the live band, but this time he played a song live as well. It was kind of a unique for both the fans and for us.

You’ve had Merel in the band for a couple of years now. How would you say she has evolved in that time as a member, and how has having her with you impacted the band overall?

CW: The main impact of having Merel is having her on stage. She’s a really, really enthusiastic factor on the stage. There’s never a dull moment, and that really shines through. I really like the energy of her live performances.

MW: Having two guitar players on stage also works for the sound really well. Especially with our latest songs, there are more guitar ingredients in our music.

Of all the albums you’ve released, which one do you consider your crowning achievement so far, and what makes that particular album stand out in your mind?

MW: That’s always a tricky question. In a way, it’s kind of asking which one your children do you love most… For me personally, it’s the last album, Moonbathers, because I especially like two things on that. First is the production and the sound; it worked out best out of all of our albums so far. The second thing is the contrast; there’s so much contrast on the album. There’s hard guitar riffing parts going on, and there are really soft parts going on. Take ‘The Monarch,’ the last song and, in a way, kind of a weird song. It’s kind of an outro; it’s not something we did so much in the past. There’s a lot of different stuff going on on the album. I think the diversity works really well, but still it’s a cohesive piece.

CW: I have a special place in my heart for We Are The Others, but I do agree that when it comes to the contrast and the production, Moonbathers is really something that I think we all agree we want to build on our albums to come.

Photo by Sandra Ludewig

A reissue of [your first album] Lucidity is on the way. Since you’ve obviously spent some recent time looking back on the album, what are your thoughts on it today within the context of Delain’s career?

MW: It’s of course the start of Delain, so it will always be a special album in that regard. We still play songs from that album after all these years, and that really works. I don’t think we can make songs like that right now. You evolve not only as a band, but also personally. I don’t say with ‘evolving’ it gets better, but it gets different. I think production is better nowadays, which is one of the reasons why we did the reissue in addition to the 10th anniversary. I was really curious how it would sound with another mastering and another mix.

You’ve succeeded in getting millions of views for your YouTube videos, and it’s obvious that the visual component is very important to the band. How would you say that side of Delain has evolved over the past decade along with the music?

CW: I think that is actually something that we’re both still very interested in. When it comes to the music, I feel like we’ve really found our vibe. When I look at the songwriting, we’re tuned in to each other more and more. When it comes to the videos, it’s always very complicated because it’s a little bit more out of your hands. I think we’re definitely taking steps in the right direction.

MW: I totally agree with Charlotte. I don’t think we’re done developing in that department. I think the next step is to make a lot of progress, and I think we will. I have a good feeling that’s going to work out.

What does your 2018 look like at this point in time?

MW: We want to keep low-key and low-profile because we want to focus on making the new album – to write it and record it. There were some tours offered, but we declined because we really have to focus on new stuff. [Editor's Note: With one huge exception; see tour announcement below.] That’s the main objective in 2018.

CW: We’re going to be doing a lot, but you won’t be seeing much of it!

If I’m not mistaken, won’t this next studio album be the first time that Merel makes it on a Delain album?

MW: That’s true, but in our case, it’s never a big issue. To be frank, Charlotte, Guus and I already do everything, and we do try – and are very open – to welcome band members to participate on it. But this train is rolling with or without them – preferably with them. But for us, it’s not a big issue. We do like to have them involved and stimulate that. For example, Timo  did a lot of guitar arrangement on our previous album. I don’t think people will hear a big difference. With all due respect to Merel – because she’s great – it’s not the way Delain works, so to say. But I do hope that she will contribute, and she surely has the talent for it. She’s very creative, so let’s see what happens.

It’s difficult to last 10 months in this business, let alone 10 years. What has been the key to Delain’s perseverance?

CW: Good question! I think we’re just both extremely committed to what we do. We’re kind of idiots in that way. Martijn and myself, if I may be so free to say so, sometimes have to tell each other to not only think about music and the band and every now and then take a break. Of course, I don’t know where that comes from, but I just think we’re emotionally and professionally committed to what we do.

MW: I totally agree with that! (laughs)

*Portions of the above interview were edited for clarity. 

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com