Dave “Oderus Urungus” Brockie, Ottawa-born frontman and Warholian factory boss of the novelty punk-metal act Gwar, was found dead at his home on Sunday by roommates. Brockie was 50 in Earth years; Oderus, for his part, claimed to be 43,000,000,000. In 2011 Brockie lost a younger bandmate, Cory Smoot, who was found dead on the band’s bus as it was crossing into Canada. One makes certain assumptions when a musician fails to wake up, but it turned out Smoot had died of a pre-existing heart condition. An autopsy for Brockie has been scheduled, but police found no drugs at his home in Richmond, Virginia. It’s possible—nay, it seems certain—that spending 30 years on an elaborate joke just wears a fella out.
Gwar, who played in bizarre costumes, spewed fake blood and semen on joyous audiences, and built a comic Lovecraft-esque space-horror mythos into a cult following, probably never sold more than a few thousand copies of any record. They made some very decent, if ephemeral, LPs (highlights include 1990′s Scumdogs of the Universe and 2001′s Violence Has Arrived). What is remarkable about Gwar is their enduring cultural influence. They were always visible, always good copy; when a Joan Rivers or a Jerry Springer needed someone to represent rock decadence, they were there.
They were Hollywood’s favourite ready-made weirdos. Brockie’s IMDB page includes Empire Records and Zoolander, although he was incognito in the latter. The cartoon duo of Beavis and Butt-Head, whose taste was secretly unimpeachable, revered Gwar above all others. No one had to offer an elaborate explanation of who or what Gwar was when they popped up on the screen.
Gwar obviously owed much to Alice Cooper, but the lineage of stagy horror-rock runs directly through Oderus’s Cuttlefish to lesser groups like Slipknot, Insane Clown Posse, and Lordi, a sad sort of Finno-Gwar who barely bothered to change the Gwar formula. Lordi walked off with the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006, and may, as a consequence, have sold more records than Brockie ever managed to.
Brockie had a special fondness for Canada, though it was literally only a birthplace and a passport to him personally, and rarely did a year go by without a Gwar invasion of the metal-loving prairies. (From Moscow to McMurray, cold places love loud music.) He had the sly unassumingness of a Canadian; cast as a television challenger to paranoid parents and anti-fun crusaders in government, he opposed them with a bored, polite obnoxiousness and a steady stream of sci-fi gibberish, never resorting to the artiste-on-the-cross pose of a Frank Zappa. In 2009 Brockie even became part of the repertory company of Greg Gutfeld’s Fox News talk show Redeye, appearing in character as its “Intergalactic Reporter”. That’s life in North America for you: fight the establishment for long enough, and you eventually find yourself established.