Since I had graduated my life had been a series of hovels, shit jobs, and poor personal hygiene. It was awesome, but there had to be more. GWAR gave me the chance to escape the biggest fear I had in my life…that when I got to the end of it there would be nothing to be proud of.
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GWAR, Me, and the On-rushing Grip of Death Part 36: “Don’t Expect Too Much From This One, We Are Just Trying To Get It Going Again”
I was living large. So large in fact that my car took up several spaces on Broad St. That’s right, my car was an old school bus. When not being used as a tour vehicle, the Battle Barge was often my ride, and on occasion my crash pad. It was very convenient to drive the bus somewhere, get wasted, and pass out in it. By this point, and due to Spewy and his welding skills (that’s right the nicknames are back), the Battle Barge was far more comfortable than its early, “pea-pit” days. The back of the bus now had a metal cage to store the props (which increasingly were stored in boxes), and even a little cube that housed “the urine-cone”. We had a little sitting area behind the driver, and I would regale the guys deep into the night with readings from Robert E. Howard’s Conan series, or Micheal Moorcock’s classic Elric of Melnibone novels. And we played D&D, confirming that part of the legend.
But best of all, we now had metal frame bunks, with custom cut foam pads. With a few curtains and a couple of push-pins semi-privacy could be attained, or so I thought. The complete opposite could not have been more true as me masturbating or fucking girls in my bunk became a common sight on the Barge, with me being completely clueless to any other aspect of the situation other than needing to drop a load and fall asleep as quickly as possible — regardless of how many saw or heard.
There are so many memories of this time. So many things come back so fast that it’s really impossible to hope to get it all right, and do all the characters justice. Everybody needs to get their credit. From the beginning GWAR was always about tons of people helping. In fact our earliest shows quickly had become huge affairs due to the fact that every cool artist in town piled in to help. I mean, we had 30-40 people helping on the first Shafer Court show. So in a sense, the 1988 version of GWAR was a slimmed-down version of what we had done before, and the closest thing we had been to a real band yet.
Spewy and Rox brought us some legitimacy from their White Cross connection. They were the closest thing Richmond had to a “big” punk rock band, and after the demise people were still interested in what was up with the guys. Unseen Force had gotten a bit of notice as well, even though they had ended up in court, which was really weird back then especially for a punk rock band. But the timing was right for us and it was quite a coup to get Spewy onboard. But he wasn’t the only musician that kicked ass…they all did. And that was a sign right there.
Beefcake, Rox, Thuglas, they were all excellent musicians who could have gotten involved with any number of other bands (actually Thuglas was always in about three other bands at all times) but chose GWAR. We were no longer a joke or a second string project — everybody who was aboard was aboard 100%. We already had the look, now we had the band. El Duce had spread the word, and The Alter-Natives had helped too. Actually I think it went like this: The Alter-Natives had told Greg Ginn at SST about GWAR, and he had shown the GWAR video to the guys in Nig Heist, and Mugger had shown it to El Duce, and El told everyone, and there was no way he killed Kurt Cobain or anyone else. There are a lot of El Duce stories coming up in this book and I think they will be amongst it’s highlights) We had an album in the can and the attention of the scene. People were calling about gigs, pictures were showing up in Thrasher…we had a BUZZ.
Around the end of 1987 I invested in a couple of things that were necessary: an answering machine and a yearly planner book. With these two essential tools I began plotting 1988, the year where GWAR would “Slay America”, as I wrote in one of the first pages of the soon-to-be filled but at that point empty workbook.*
I had finally bailed on living at the Slave Pit on the corner of Broad and Laurel. It was just getting too intense. People were getting beaten regularly right under our windows. One night I watched a guy kick a car window into someone’s face, the next my friend got jumped and beaten by a block of wood with a piece of string around it. The assailant had swung it around his head like a mad carpenter and smashed it into my friend’s skull. These attacks were usually racially motivated and involved 10 dudes kicking the shit out of you. I somehow avoided it for years but my luck finally ran out one day as I was returning from my bullshit job at the redneck sign company.
My skateboard had lost a wheel and I ran afoul of a group of young ruffians. As if getting up at 6:00 am to work with asshole rednecks all day wasn’t bad enough, now I had to get savaged by youth gangs on my way home. But despite my best attempts to whore, drink, and diddle myself into oblivion, GWAR was giving us a shot at something more than our crummy lives. Ever since I was a little kid I had known I wanted to be an artist, I just didn’t know what kind. For years I had thought I would be a cartoonist, then art school deluded me into thinking I had a place in the fine art world. Since I had graduated my life had been a series of hovels, shit jobs, and poor personal hygiene. It was awesome, but there had to be more. GWAR gave me the chance to escape the biggest fear I had in my life…that when I got to the end of it there would be nothing to be proud of. No matter how self-obsessed or selfish or smelly I got, no matter how many kids I didn’t have or wives I didn’t make happy, that there was one thing that I could leave behind that marked my legacy in a way that I was proud of. And increasingly, that thing looked like it was going to be GWAR.
Well that’s it. Let’s see if we are REALLY back, not Tiger Woods back…and the way to do that is to meet back right here in two weeks. Bye now!
* The tome survives to this day, thanks to the Muselman, who for some reason had it, and who had passed it on to Blobby, who in turn gave it to me. I hadn’t seen it in 20 years and it’s been a real help in this book. It’s full of doodles and drawings so maybe one day I will scan some pages for you.