Upon being granted an interview with the Berserker Blothar, lead singer of GWAR, I surmised I’d be in for a gusty episode of braggadocio. GWAR, the outlandishly costumed heavy-metal band from Richmond, Virginia (via Antarctica via outer space) specializes in comic self-aggrandizement.
For the phone interview, an advance for GWAR’s Saturday show at the Varsity Theatre, the band’s publicist assured me that Blothar would stay 100 percent in character. In-character interviews were modus operandi for GWAR’s late co-founder, lead singer and spokesman Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungus.
In 2009, the band’s 25th anniversary year, the in-character Brockie bragged about GWAR’s generation-spanning appeal.
“Everyone from little kids to old ladies loves GWAR,” Oderus boasted with mock pomposity. “The herd has never been so brimming with potential victims to feed upon. People look forward to GWAR coming to their town each year, like they look forward to Christmas.”
Despite GWAR's mythology that maintains the band’s members are intergalactic warrior aliens who are millions of years old, human reality shook the group in 2014. Brockie died of a heroin overdose at his home in Richmond.
As Oderus, Brockie was the gnarly, snout-nosed face and guttural voice of GWAR. But no one knew better than he that GWAR had never been a one-man show. From the band’s early days, a collective of as many as 14 musicians and artists created the group’s music, art, costumes, scripts and props.
“Over time, Dave, or Oderus, became more and more the face of that collective,” said the unexpectedly out-of-character Blothar, aka Mike Bishop. “People in the band were fine with that, but the truth was a lot of people did this.”
GWAR’s talent enclave and the surviving band members’ desire to carry on kept the band alive after Brockie’s demise at 50.
“All these people had always been doing GWAR,” Bishop said. “They didn’t want to lose what they had or the investment they’d made in it throughout their entire lives.”
The first test for the band was its annual GWAR B-Q. Bishop agreed to be part of the annual festival in Richmond.
“We were not going to cancel the GWAR B-Q, which was the next big show after Dave’s death,” he remembered. “The idea was I’d come back with them and sing. And once we did the GWAR B-Q, it was like, ‘This kind of works.’ ”
Bishop, who first performed with GWAR in 1986 in the guise of Beefcake the Mighty, returned to the collective following 10 years of teaching music at the University of Virginia.
“They asked me,” he said. “And I like the people in the band. They’ve always been my good friends. Now I get to ride around with guys in a tour bus who I’d probably want to hang out with anyway.”
But there was no guarantee the post-Oderus GWAR would succeed.
“Everything we did was about surviving,” Bishop recalled.
Following the encouraging show at GWAR B-Q, the band rehearsed and developed a set list for a tour. Two years of touring in the wake of the 2013 Brockie-led album “Battle Maximus” followed. And then GWAR decided to record its first album without Brockie.
“At first, it was absolute desperation,” Bishop said of the album’s initial stages. “We had to figure how to do it. Everybody in the band had to step up to do things that they hadn’t previously done.”
Metal Blade Records, GWAR’s longtime label, released “The Blood of Gods” in October.
“It wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but we summoned the voice of GWAR,” Bishop said. “That’s the thing we’re most proud of. It sounds like a GWAR record.”
GWAR/Ghoul, He Is Legend/U.S. Bastards
WHEN: Saturday. Doors at 8 p.m. The show starts at 9 p.m.
WHERE: Varsity Theatre, 3353 Highland Road, Baton Rouge
COST: $20 in advance, $25 the day of the show