Andrew W.K. Remembers GWAR's Oderus Urungus
[Editor's note: Andrew is on tour in Canada. In lieu of a column this week, he sent us this heartfelt remembrance of his recently-passed friend Dave Brockie aka Oderus Urungus of GWAR. Ask Andrew W.K. returns next week.]
I first met Dave Brockie when he and some other members of GWAR invited me to participate in a very unusual show they were doing in Brooklyn. It wasn't quite clear what we would be doing, but Dave basically said I was allowed to do anything I wanted. They had a keyboard for me to play, a mic to sing into, and said we could just play some songs and have fun together. Naturally, I accepted.
I first found out about GWAR when I was around 13-years old. I was just completely blown away by everything about them. I'd never seen -- not only a band like them -- but I'd never really seen anything like them. I'd never seen creatures that looked like them, let alone ones that played music. From that moment on, I really looked at GWAR as an arbiter of excitement and a living example of the idea that anything was possible in this amazing thing called "the living arts." If this group of people could become rock and roll monsters and travel the earth, then maybe I could do whatever I dreamed of in life.
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Not only was what they were doing so amazing, but they were pulling it off at a phenomenal level of quality and creativity, and with such energy, passion, commitment and perseverance.
Many years later, in the taxi on my way to our show in Brooklyn, I couldn't believe I was actually going to meet these guys and, on top of that, play with them. It was the same "Anything Is Possible" moment I'd experienced when first discovering them, but in a whole different way. Thinking back to when I first discovered GWAR, I never would've had the nerve to ever think I'd be able to meet them, let alone perform with them. It was a feeling of destiny, and sometimes when you respond really intensely to a person or a song or a band, maybe it's the universe preparing you for what will eventually come to pass. With that in mind, I was as excited as I could possibly be as I pulled up to the venue.
But I was also very, very nervous because 1) I wasn't quite sure what I was expected to do. (Dave told me I could do anything I wanted, but sometimes too much freedom can be a curse as much as it can be a blessing.) And 2) I was truly scared and intimidated. Would they be nice or try to eat me? They looked so huge and scary, it was hard to imagine how they would behave, not only during the show, but backstage too. I'd certainly seen enough of their material to know their outfits are basically giant weapons -- even if they're made out of foam rubber it could still hurt -- but they also had a very aggressive tone to their work that was fun but also frightening. As much as I was excited, I was also worried. What was going to happen?
I got there and they were already in the midst of their show -- it was a huge marathon event of many, many hours of them performing with special guests in a small gallery space that was sweltering hot. Even just sitting there in the audience for one minute I was dripping with sweat. The amount of heat contained within GWAR's outfits must have been hallucinogenic. After I had been there for only five minutes, they called me up on stage. I thought we would have more time to meet and talk and plan things out. But there wasn't even time for a "Hello."
We ended up playing some songs, one of which was "Candle in the Wind" by Elton John. I played it the best I could. I don't really know it that well. Oderus sang bits of it and it was awkward. I felt very embarrassed in some ways for not knowing the song better, but I did my best and just tried to follow their lead. I finished my part of the marathon, and went back stage. Eventually GWAR came back to take a short break, get some oxygen, and take off their outfits and drain out buckets of sweat.
They were the nicest people I'd ever met. Especially Dave, who was so warm I almost thought he was messing with me at times. "Is he really being this nice?" The kindness and warmth and compliments he had for me -- it was one of the biggest thrills of my life. To have this person that I had respected for so long and in so many ways -- in terms of longevity and the amount of effort he put into what he did -- it just all meant so much.
I'd never met anyone like Dave Brockie. He treated me with the most genuine warmth and inspired me to want to treat people with that level of kindness. Over the following years, my band and I got to play quite a few shows with GWAR. I did some very fun dual interviews with Dave. We talked. We had fun. I was always in awe of him -- whether his Oderus outfit was on or not, I couldn't help feeling star struck. All I hope is that people remember not just his incredible visionary work and contributions to rock music and culture in general, but also the amazing vibe he had as a person. One of the nicest people ever.
Dave Brockie taught me this: Never doubt your vision, because with enough energy and belief and kindness you can see it through.
I'm very upset about his passing. It really is important that we work as hard as we we can, pursuing our passion with all the energy we have to give. Our dreams, desires, and visions are what make us who we are.
Let's keep the party going for Dave.
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