As the larger than life, frontman greets us with a booming voice, it’s instantly apparent that GWAR are happy to be back doing what they do. Speaking from the confines of a backstage dressing room, the charismatic vocalist talks me through the bands excellent new album ‘The New Dark Ages‘ and what to expect when they take to the stage at this years Bloodstock Festival…
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OD – ‘The New Dark Ages’ is the 15th studio album from the mighty GWAR. I understand that you looked to the past for inspiration on this one, and delved into the middle-ages to ‘Duoverse’. Can you explain to us what the ‘Duoverse‘ is?
BLOTHAR – Well, so there’s actually two things that are going on and the first one is that GWAR is sucked into an alternate universe, but the idea of ‘The New Dark Ages‘ is not really a separate concept, it’s more like an observation on the state of the world right now.
GWAR is simultaneously absorbed into this other universe where the conditions are very similar to what we see in the world right now. Things have deteriorated to the point where humans are living in an alternate universe, and essentially this universe that exists is a place where people are choose their own reality and there isn’t a shared reality any more. That’s what the ‘Duoverse‘ is really all about.
OD – The album also has an accompanying graphic novel telling the tale of the “Duoverse”. Did the concept for the album come first, or the novel, or both at the same time?
BLOTHAR – It was really at the same time. We had never done anything like this before. Of course, the humans of this world have abused even the production of paper which we have had to endure while trying to produce our graphic novel. This is just another addition to the ongoing fallout from the pandemic which happened to spoil our plans to release the novel alongside the release of the album.
However, this is the first time that we have planned a simultaneous release of two things at once, so it is what it is. The pandemic slowed down the production process, but originally it was supposed to be that the songs were embedded into the story and could be enjoyed by humans for a multimedia-type experience.
Most of the song were written, musically, but when we started working on the novel, the influence of the story began to shape the premise of the lyrics. We just allowed that process to take its natural course and of course… there were some particular song ideas that we wanted to write about and subjects that we wanted to include, so we wedged those into the storyline of the novel. It was kind of a back and forth-type situation.
OD – This album is just loaded with huge anthems and big sing-along moments, in fact, I would go as far as saying that it’s the most melodic in that sense. Was this something that was decided upon prior to writing the music, or did it just happen organically?
BLOTHAR – I think that in general, it’s part of the change in style that we wanted to use to distinguish the band now, from the band before. In other words, there was a lot of things that GWAR used to do musically that we simply can’t do anymore because, as most of you know, we don’t have the same singer.
One of those things was songs that had a lot of words and a lot of really morbid sense of humour rather than melody. Odorous was fantastic writer and would definitely sacrifice melody and hooks for the sake of narration and humour. This was one of the things that we discussed and made a conscious decision to change going forward.
OD – There is no question that Odorous had a certain style and panache when it came to his lyrical contribution to GWAR, but like everything, there must be progress and evolution in order for things to be relevant…
BLOTHAR – Yes, we just felt that the only way we could move forward in a positive and fresh way was to make the right changes accordingly, and that’s what we did.
OD – I understand that you reverted back to your old role in GWAR for the recording and lay down the bass on the album. Did you enjoy that experience and would you like to contribute in this capacity going forward for the recordings?
BLOTHAR – I enjoyed it but it was also a pain in the ass [Laughing]. It’s reassuring because playing bass was a lot easier for me than singing. I was using it as a device to procrastinate if anything else. We really wanted this album to have a different feel. There was some work and ideas that we were developing towards the end of the last album that was left over, and it became clear that perhaps I should step in on bass duties for this album on those particular tunes.
OD – Despite the impact from all the restrictions, GWAR has been very busy indeed with this new album and also, the forthcoming new documentary which will be released upon the public next month. I’m sure there was a lot of time put into this body of work. How long was, ‘THIS IS GWAR’ in production for, and did you ask for footage from fans as well as using your own archives?
BLOTHAR – We definitely reached out to our fans. We were very lucky to have the talents of one very squirrelly little librarian-type character [by the name of Bob Gorman, who is an archivist of sorts for the band], to compile footage that he had gathered over the decades from fans and from his own personal archives. He has a huge stock pile of footage and he’s also quite good at putting all of these type of things together. He actually also worked on the book on GWAR, [‘Let there be GWAR‘ – see below] and he’s got some great contacts with people who have great content from over the years.
Bob had been collecting that footage from fans over the last fifteen years and a lot of it features in the documentary. I’ve no doubt in my mind that fans will be satisfied with the finished product.
Check out the official trailer for the documentary below…
OD – I understand that COVID put the beaks on the bands plans and this album could have been released last year but in hindsight, do you believe that the extra time led to more time to let creative juices flow?
BLOTHAR – I think it absolutely did. I don’t think we would have put out a graphic novel. I don’t think the whole release would have happened how it did. The lockdown/pandemic helped us break a cycle that has been going on for such a long time within the GWAR camp. We would normally just write, record, tour and repeat.
We things a lot differently this time around and it was a very positive experience.
OD – You’re currently out on tour in America right now but will be embarking on some EU/UK dates this Summer. Because of the chaotic nature of GWAR shows and the weapons used, do you run into any problems travelling across continents?
BLOTHAR – It’s like Dracula travelling back in the old days, bringing loads of dirt in his coffin and floating across the ocean to new lands [Laughing]. It’s a logistical nightmare for us so, we actually now put all of our ‘dirt‘ into a submarine, and use a lot of glowing rocks to create an oxygen tunnel underwater. It’s an exclusive passageway that only GWAR can use.
OD – Speaking of the live show, who can we expect to see succumbing to a gruesome end during your current live show?
BLOTHAR – All you have to do to know who GWAR will be killing in our live shows, is look at the news or the papers. We might be smacking around Vladimir Putin a little bit, we like to call him: “Rootin’ – Tootin’, Vladimir Putin” [Laughing]!
OD – A lot of people are saying this new album is like old-school ‘90s GWAR, [Mother Fucking Liar, for example – see below] and is an almost perfect equilibrium between Metal/Hardcore and Punk. Do you find that people are far more accepting nowadays when it comes to blurring genres and just making good music?
BLOTHAR – The fans act like little bitches no matter what! [Laughing] Some are more accepting than others, but definitely over the years, music has changed to the point where people are allowed to be a bit more fluid with their music these days. But you have to remember, a lot of the sub-genres in Metal were only taking shape back then. Thankfully, a lot has changed over the decades. It would just become so stale if things didn’t evolve.
The other thing is that GWAR has always had kind of an ironic distance from the music that we make, and we really wanted to bring that back because I did feel like some of that was lost over the last several albums.
OD – Of course, GWAR will be performing at this years Bloodstock Open Air Festival. Can we expect a setlist that is heavy on the new album, or will you be touching on some old classics also?
BLOTHAR – We are currently putting together a mix of old and new songs for the setlist. We really thought about this, as we’ve not been over to Europe or the UK in so long. Of course, with GWAR we always allow the narrative that we’re telling on stage to shape what songs we choose to play. So, it’s probably about half and half when it comes to new and old, but I would say the newer material fits in with our narrative a little better.
OD – For anyone that’s yet to witness the majestic chaos of GWAR live at will be seeing you at Bloodstock, what advice would you give them?
BLOTHAR – Like when an airplane goes down, they should put their heads between their knees, kiss their own ass and brace for impact. We also suggest wearing your Sunday best. Preferably Spring time colours and get yourself a place right up the front.
GWAR ‘The New Dark Age‘ LP is out now and can be purchased via this link. Catch the band live at Bloodstock Festival on Friday, August 12th. Tickets for Bloodstock are on sale now and are selling fast. Get your’s here!