Prepare yourselves, you puny humans. Gwar is making their triumphant return on October 20th with The Blood of Gods, an 11-track album chronicling the band’s history of war against the creatures of Earth.
If you’ve never seen the Richmond, Virginia-based band, their on-stage antics may come as a shock. The group portrays an elite fighting force of aliens with oversized outfits and personalities. Each show is a bloodbath in which they bring out caricatures of political figures and pop icons to slay, spraying the audience with the “blood” of their victims. One of the most brutal band members is bassist Beefcake the Mighty, portrayed by Jamison Land. As Beefcake, Land lays down huge bass lines in between destroying weak humans.
The Blood of Gods is the group’s fourteenth studio album, but it’s the first without frontman Oderus Urungus, who was portrayed by the late Dave Brockie. After his death in 2014, former bassist Michael Bishop stepped in as lead singer Blothar the Berserker. (Bishop formerly portrayed Beefcake the Mighty). The scar of Brockie’s loss is felt in the album, especially the elegy “Phantom Limb”, but it doesn’t hold the band back from ripping your face off with tracks like “Viking Death Machine”, “I’ll Be Your Monster”, and “El Presidente”.
We caught up with Beefcake the Mighty to get the scoop on the band, the new album, and his gear.
Something that strikes me about the new album is that it’s almost eclectic in its style. There’s thrashy stuff and more straight up metal. How did that come about?
It was kind of organic. I think we were all feeling a rock record this time around. It’s more straight-forward rock and roll, and in a lot of ways it’s kind of what Gwar more originally was: more punk rock, rock and roll. If you think about a lot of the “America Must Be Destroyed” songs, that was a mix of heavy metal and rock and roll and avant-garde kind of stuff. But I think we were trying to make a rock record.
Was meant to be a throwback to the old stuff?
Not purposefully. We just wrote what we wrote and that’s what we came up with. It wasn’t a conscious effort to sound any certain way except to try to make a good album.
Did the album happen all at once or was it a long time coming?
It happened mostly in late 2016 into the winter and spring of 2017. Most of the writing happened between November 2016 and February 2017. We had some songs that we worked on since the beginning of 2016, but most of it came together in that four-month period. I think we had like 25 songs or something that were on the table, so we had to narrow it down.
Of course, this is the first album without Oderus. Did that change the songwriting a lot for you guys?
Yes, definitely. We definitely tried to all be a part of all the different aspects. Not just the music, but the lyric writing and the concepts of the songs. Oderus would usually take care of all the lyrical duties and the direction of where he wanted the ideas of the song to go. But [this time] we actually had discussions about what we wanted to write about and tried to make that happen together with a couple [of us] at a time or all together.
It feels fresh. I feel like there’s a vigor about this album. I really love the bass intro on “Viking Death Machine”.
Blothar played on that track. He messes around with the bass, too. [laughs]
So did you two share duties on the album?
Yeah, he played on a couple of songs. He can’t help it.
There’s a lot of good grit on the album. What gear were you running?
I think we were mostly using a SansAmp and we would also use a Fender Super Bassman, which is what I’m also running on this tour. I’m gonna use a Fender Super Bassman and I have a backup Gallien-Krueger MB800 Fusion. I’ve been looking to get a tube sound. That Super Bassman is just an incredible head, so I’ve been super happy with that sound. If I’m running solid stage like the GK head, I’ll run a Darkglass Electronics Vintage Microtubes pedal, which is killer. I also use Gallien-Krueger cabs on stage.
I have a Dean custom bass. The body style is the Razorback V, which they don’t make anymore except for me. It’s a USA Custom Dean, and I have Lindy Fralin pickups that I had specially made for this bass. I don’t really dig the active bass pickups. I wanted more of a classic sound, even with running heavy game you want your notes to shine through and get a clear bass tone. I think with the P-bass pickups you get a lot more note recognition. A lot of those active pickups will just sound so muddy. You’ll listen to live metal bands play and you’ll get a big mush of low end. You don’t get the individual notes, and that’s what I was going for.
That’s a tough thing in metal, just trying to be heard.
Exactly, and I was really frustrated. We’ve got wireless units so sometimes I’d go out during soundcheck and just listen to the band playing. A lot of times it just sounded mushy, and I didn’t want that. I wanted to find a way to get away from that. With the Fender tube head and these passive pickups, you get a lot better bass tone.
What can fans expect from this new tour?
They can expect a lot of songs off the new album. It’s gonna be a real rock and roll show. It’ll be heavy and crazy with monsters on stage killing stuff.
I wanted to ask you: Is there anyone you want to kill on stage that you haven’t yet?
Um…. Emmanuel Lewis. I guess. I don’t know, that just popped into my head because then I could eat him afterward. He’s bite-sized.
Do you have any advice for up and coming bassists?
I would probably tell them to play with their fingers since I didn’t do that. I’m stuck in my ways. I would say start there and just practice. Also, [get a decent starter amp]. I started out on a Gallien-Krueger MB200, which is a killer little amp to start playing bass on. They make really great stuff. It’s cheap, it’s light, and you can throw it in your backpack.
Gwar 2017 Tour Dates:
|Oct 20||The National||Richmond, VA|
|Oct 21||Agora Ballroom||Cleveland, OH|
|Oct 22||Opera House||Toronto, Canada|
|Oct 23||Mr. Smalls||Millvale, PA|
|Oct 25||Arizona Petes||Greensboro, NC|
|Oct 26||Rams Head Live||Baltimore, MD|
|Oct 27||Toad's Place||New Haven, CT|
|Oct 28||Palladium||Worcester, MA|
|Oct 29||Trocadero||Philadelphia, PA|
|Oct 31||Irving Plaza||New York, NY|
|Nov 1||Town Ballroom||Buffalo, NY|
|Nov 2||Mercury Ballroom||Louisville, KY|
|Nov 3||Pop's||Sauget, IL|
|Nov 4||Anthem @Hard Rock||Sioux City, IA|
|Nov 5||Granada||Lawrence, KS|
|Nov 7||First Avenue||Minneapolis, MN|
|Nov 8||Pyramid||Winnipeg, Canada|
|Nov 9||Saskatoon Events Center||Saskatoon, Canada|
|Nov 10||Union Hall||Edmonton, Canada|
|Nov 11||The Palace||Calgary, Canada|
|Nov 13||Commodore||Vancouver, Canada|
|Nov 14||Roseland||Portland, OR|
|Nov 15||Showbox SoDo||Seattle, WA|
|Nov 17||The Catalyst||Santa Cruz, CA|
|Nov 18||Fremont Country Club||Las Vegas, NV|
|Nov 19||Ace of Spades||Sacramento, CA|
|Nov 21||House of Blues||San Diego, CA|
|Nov 22||Fonda Theatre||Los Angeles, CA|
|Nov 23||Marquee Theatre||Tempe, AZ|
|Nov 24||Sunshine Theater||Albuquerque, NM|
|Nov 25||Summit||Denver, CO|
|Nov 26||Bourbon Theatre||Lincoln, NE|
|Nov 28||Cain's Ballroom||Tulsa, OK|
|Nov 29||Gas Monkey Live||Dallas, TX|
|Nov 30||House of Blues||Houston, TX|
|Dec 1||Aztec||San Antonio, TX|
|Dec 2||Varsity Theatre||Baton Rouge, LA|
|Dec 3||Masquerade||Atlanta, GA|
|Dec 5||Revolution||Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|Dec 6||The Ritz||Tampa, FL|
|Dec 8||The Vogue||Indianapolis, IN|
|Dec 9||The Limelight||Peoria, IL|
|Dec 10||St. Andrew's Hall||Detroit, MI|