GWAR’s Dave Brockie, a.k.a. Oderus Urungus, left a legacy of bad taste and wild entertainment


I gazed upon the face of Oderus Urungus for the first time and it frightened me. 

Mostly, I was scared that the crowd at Saratoga Winners would to crush me. As the opening bagpipes of “Horror of Yig” began, the rabid GWAR fans—known affectionately and pejoratively as “Bohabs”—went absolutely apeshit. The undulating mass of mutants surged forward, stopped by the black metal barricade and the venue’s security guards, decked out in plastic rain ponchos in anticipation of what was to come. 

I was near the front, so I was jostled violently when the throng swelled again; I nearly fell underfoot of screaming fans wanting to get closer. I recovered right in time to see the grotesque, monstrous face of GWAR’s lead singer, underlit by a green light, as he emerged from the darkness. It was Oderus. Holy shit. 

My fear was momentary; my excitement, not so. For years, GWAR’s music, with Oderus’ unmistakable wail and guttural obscenities at the forefront, had been a daily observance. And here they were, in the foam-latex flesh.

That night, October 28, 2004, in that roadhouse-style venue, was full of the spectacle and savagery expected at a GWAR show. The drowned and bloated corpse of Laci Peterson came out during GWAR’s ode towards missing kids, “Have You Seen Me?” We were introduced to the eponymous cave troll during “Bonesnapper” (whose face Oderus ripped off.) The crowd was spattered with gallons of blood, semen and other bodily fluids. It was magnificent. 

Like my flash of horror upon seeing Oderus in person for the first time, the night was both transient and timeless. It only exists in the memories of those there. Saratoga Winners burned down in 2009. 

Five years after that, Dave Brockie, the man we knew as Oderus, was dead. 

March 23, 2024 marks the tenth anniversary of Brockie’s passing, dying from an accidental heroin overdose in his Richmond, Virginia home. As Oderus, Brockie was one of rock’s most outlandish and creative voices. He and GWAR led the fight against the oppressive banality of “good taste.” They stood for unfettered creative expression, skewering pop culture figures, rock’s sacred cows, and religious figures—literally—with glee during their shows. 

It was a fight Brockie was always game for, running headfirst into that battle with a sword in one hand, a mic in the other, and a two-foot-long phallic “Cuttlefish of Cthulhu” swinging between his legs. That “Cuttlefish” got Brockie arrested (and censored during GWAR’s appearance in 1995’s Empire Records) but if there was anything symbolic of what GWAR was about, it was that latex monster hanging between his knees. 

“I realized there was a pretty good reason GWAR was never a commercial success,” Brockie wrote in his autobiographical blog series, GWAR, Me, and the Onrushing Grip of Death. “It was because, throughout 25 years of semi-success, I had been running around with my dick hanging out.”

“You see, I don’t equate success with riches—I judge it by how much I run around with my dick hanging out,” he added. In that sense, Brockie died a success. 

GWAR was born when two catalysts—visual artist Hunter Jackson and Brockie, frontman for the irreverent punk band Death Piggy—connected while attending Virginia Commonwealth University’s art school in the 1980s. Jackson and Brockie bonded over a common artistic sensibility, an “eschewing the self-seriousness that was really worthy only of contempt,” said Michael Bishop, the originator of GWAR’s Beefcake the Mighty character. The two friends celebrated comic books, animation, horror movies, fantasy novels—all the art their VCU teachers derided as “schlock.” 

One day, as the lore states, as Jackson was working on his sci-fi movie, Scumdogs of the Universe, Brockie asked if he could borrow the film’s costumes for a prank: Death Piggy would dress up as an opening band called GWARGGH, utilizing stage antics of blood, sex, and violence. Jackson agreed, and audiences surprisingly preferred this “fake” group over the real Death Piggy. So, Brockie and crew shortened the band’s name to GWAR and focused on that group instead. 

GWAR was a perfect platform for Brockie’s creative voice. In Death Piggy, his music was fast, stupid, and fun. “The only punk band with a sense of humor,” according to Chuck Varga, the GWAR founding member better known as The Sexecutioner. Death Piggy proudly bore the banner for inanity with songs like “Boner,” “Fatman,” and “Bathtub in Space.” This juvenile streak developed a following in Richmond but put them on the outs with the self-righteous attitude of D.C.’s hardcore scene. 

With GWAR, Brockie could embrace his stupidity, brutality, and creativity without compromise. He was able to be a complete performer, which is why his death ten years ago still stings. That day, rock and metal lost one of its best lead singers. Brockie’s natural charisma wasn’t muffled by his costume; it was amplified. He, as Oderus, was charming, goofy, obnoxious, terrifying, witty, and unpredictable. Any of his interviews and media appearances (Jerry Springer, Red Eye) show what a natural talent Brockie was. 

But Brockie’s affinity for the spotlight was the double-edged sword Oderus swung. He was always “on,” an aspect that can become grating over time. He was also “not a generous performer,” according to Bishop. Brockie admitted in GWAR, Me, and the Onrushing Grip of Death that he was a problem child who demanded to be the center of attention. This attitude continued into adulthood, as his desire to be the only one in the spotlight was one of the factors that drove members like Slymenstra Hymen (Danielle Stampe), Techno Destructo (Jackson), and Sexecutioner (Varga) from the group.

These prodigal GWAR children returned for the 30th-anniversary celebration of GWAR’s Scumdogs of the Universe, the band’s best album. If only Brockie were there to welcome them back, it may have yielded a new creative era for GWAR. 

Brockie was a talented vocalist (his wail on “The Years Without Light” is a notable example) but his talents shone as a lyricist. Not many can write a song like “I’m In Love (With A Dead Dog)” and have the result be so catchy and fun. And his grandiose vision often resulted in sweeping epics like Beyond Hell and Lust In Space.

But Brockie’s creativity seemed to work best through collaboration. Unleashed, his work could get a bit sloppy and misguided, partially due to his hyperartistic creativity, and partially—as Don Drakulich, the GWAR founding member behind Sleazy P. Martini, details in his What Did You Do In The Gwar, Daddy? series—due to the drugs he used to fuel these creative “binges.” 

Brockie seemed aware that GWAR was bigger than him, at least, in the end. The group’s rotating cast always interjected new blood and innovative ideas, with Casey Orr (Beefcake), Zach Blair, Cory Smoot (both playing Flattus Maximus) and Brent Purgason (Pustulus Maximus) interjecting new life into GWAR with their tenure. In Brockie’s final days, he credited Purgason being the man who “saved GWAR” following Smoot’s untimely death in 2011. 

GWAR was poised for a new era when Brockie died in 2014; tragically, it would be one without Oderus. Brockie had said that GWAR could continue forever, with new performers taking on the characters’ mantles (a new policy implemented after Smoot’s death decreed that if a performer dies while in GWAR, their character is retired.) 

So, GWAR persevered after Brockie’s death. His passing was immortalized when GWAR performed a personalized rendition of The Jim Carroll Band’s “People Who Died” for the A.V. Club’s Undercover series. “Dave died alone in his chair in his room / Well, he just turned 50 / It was way too soon,” sang Mike Bishop, the original Beefcake the Mighty now in the role of lead singer, Blothar the Berzerker. The band has since released two albums since his death, including 2022’s The New Dark Ages, and as of this writing are on their Age of Befuddlement tour.

Ten years on, the shock of Brockie’s death has diminished, but the pain of his absence remains. His passing was so mundane and avoidable; rockstar overdose is a cliché, one that GWAR skewered on stage and on “Destroyed” from Beyond Hell. Those who knew and loved him stressed how he wasn’t a drug addict, and that this was one time that Dave Brockie went too far. Jello Biafra’s eulogy for Brockie summed it up: “Dude, you knew better.” 

But Biafra also summed up what fans should embrace on this day: “Not to let a terrible loss like this take away all the joy I’ve gotten from all things GWAR.” 

For those who saw him, like I did back in 2004 (and again in subsequent years), today is a day to remember Dave Brockie as one of the best to ever walk out on stage. To those who didn’t, you can play his music. Play it loud—loud enough to annoy your parents, neighbors, religious leaders and local elected officials. It’s what Oderus would have wanted. 

Hail Oderus. Hail Brockie. 

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