Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Craziest Interview I've Ever Conducted (To This Point, Anyway): Oderus Urungus of Gwar

I've had the pleasure of interviewing quite a few notables in music, film and the visual arts, many of them turning into marathons that strayed off-topic and frequently turned hilarious.  Hardly a marathon, but by far the most insane interview I've ever conducted in my professional life is Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungus, of Gwar.

If you're one of the unfortunates who've never seen Gwar's heavy metal and punk Grand Guignol road show, you're bloody well (pun intended) advised to get there, because there's truly nothing like them.  It helps greatly if you're a horror hound to appreciate them, since their latex-clad monster mash is full of pretend-evisceration, dismemberment and gore, usually featuring renditions of pop stars and politicians.  'nuff said on that, since I'm not one to ruin the fun.  You're advised, however, to beware of the spray cannons that can hit you from various points and persons onstage, though most fans show up to a Gwar show with the hopes of being doused by fake blood and colored water designed to look like toxic sewage.  Here's an example:

In the summer of 2006, I went on assignment to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland to cover the Sounds of the Underground Festival.  I was on-hand to photograph each of the metal and hardcore bands performing, which included Cannibal Corpse, In Flames, Behemoth, Horse the Band, The Chariot, Black Dahlia Murder, Terror, As I Lay Dying and of course, Gwar. 

Covering a summer event can be a bit toiling, although depending on the venue, a member of the press can stay relatively cool under the roof of an amphitheater like Merriweather and even better, catch the cross breeze of the stage fans once you're in the photo pit.  Nevertheless, I was a pretty sweaty and rank dude covering that show. I thank the In Flames crew for giving me water to hydrate myself and for letting me hang in their air conditioned bus a few extra minutes after a righteous interview with Anders Friden.

After darting back into the photo pit to snap off Gwar's set, I bolted back out to make my scheduled interview with Oderus.  You'll note by my photos here, they're all taken from a stage left angle.  This was on purpose, because I'd already shot one of Gwar's sets before and caveat to all of you aspiring concert photogs out there, these guys hunt for cameras to fire their liquid cannons at.  The first time I shot them, I was targeted immediately.  Luckily, I'd waited a few minutes into their set to scope out that very thing and I am grateful to a nice woman who'd agreed to let me hide my camera behind her hair when I needed to.  At Sounds of the Underground, I stood stage left next to one of the floor amps that had a tarp over it, so I plunged my camera beneath it when not taking shots.  Proof positive, the rookies standing center stage were immediately doused by the cannons.  I'll never forget watching four of them scramble for their lives out of the photo pit, one of them cussing up a storm his camera had gotten soaked.  Do your due diligence, people.

I recall Gwar's section of the band parking lot with vividness, since they owned quite a hunk of it and it was the outdoor equivalent of a backstage wonderland.  I'd been backstage at another of their inside gigs and won't forget the heaping mounds of latex that swelled that venue's rear section.  This time, however, I could see a post-show party was brewing and I found myself in the presence of the considerable mass of humanity that is Beefcake the Mighty (or Jamison Land offstage).  Land was already out of his costume and had a few guests he was attending to, but he spotted me and gave me a nod even though I'd yet to make official contact with anyone.  Rule number one with music journalism:  at all times, act like you belong.

After phoning my contact to let him know I was on-site for the interview, Gwar's tour bus opened and I was waved in.  Again relishing the coolness of the a.c., I pulled out my tape recorder and questions for Oderus and waited about a minute or so as members of the crew came on and off the bus like sweaty ions.  Next thing you know, I am looking at Dave Brockie sitting across from me on the bus.  Now at this time, Gwar hadn't quite yet revealed their persons outside of their costumes, so it took me a few seconds to know who I was dealing with after shaking hands.  Brockie sat down with a congenial welcome and only when I scoured his tattoos did it occur to me that it was game time.

I didn't make a big show of this special treat of interviewing Brockie out of his Oderus gear, but I was admittedly feeling giddy about it all.  I quickly popped on the recorder and got out of my first question and could never have been prepared for what happened next. 

Instantly, Brockie pulled his best Oderus character growls and avoided answering my question directly.  Instead, he offered (as Oderus, understand) to sodomize everything in the world including me.  So it rolled on, Oderus talking nonsensically about carnage, fucking and interplanetary combat with a hundred expletives a minute.  I ended up chucking my spiral pad to the side and laughed my fool head off, shooting from the hip and feeding into Oderus' gonzo splatter world, where Michael Jackson, Paris Hilton and George W. Bush were ripe for gruesome cornholing with his latex demon phallus. 

You'd seriously have to hear the tape to appreciate the insanity of it all.  While Oderus ranted along, one of Gwar's stage minions appeared on the bus with a couple of dripping young ladies and then disappeared into the back of the bus.  Oderus rumbled on about intestine-twisting farts and I couldn't help myself but roar through it all.  I swear, no less than three minutes later, the minion and his duo of honeys came parading back down the bus corridor and left.  All I can say is that was either staged as a stunt for my benefit, or the dude could use some serious staying power.

After a directionless but completely hilarious interview, I shut the recorder off.  At that point, Brockie came right out of character, stood up and in an even tone, invited me to stay for barbecue.  We shook hands again.  As Oderus, Brockie wound his hands at me to come up with questions to keep him rolling, though I'd already dispensed with my planned session.  As simply Dave Brockie, the guy was laidback and cool.  I did hang out for awhile in the Gwar camp and had some barbecue as their guest before I had to jet back to the theater to photograph Cannibal Corpse.  I got to meet a couple of the other stage minions who were still covered in slime and perspiration as we ate and chatted.  One of them was a guitarist from Virginia and we got to talking about local flavor.  I even saw the late Corey Smoot tramping by and the above photo is posted as a tribute to him.  You might've already seen another one of my photos of Smoot in an earlier post.

My wife, who is not the biggest fan of metal or punk, rolled on the sofa crying in laughter when I played her this interview.  She even made me pull it out on three different occasions when we were hosting parties.  Everyone likewise found amusement by it, though I'll never forget an ex-friend commenting afterwards, "You sure live a weird life, Ray."  


Photos (c) Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Listenin' to:  The Edgar Winter Group - They Only Come Out at Night


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