gwarmongers

gwar.

Last year at this time, Jamison Land was making a living driving a truck. A hard rock enthusiast and Louisville native (although his family re-located to Lexington for a year during his early childhood), he found venues and opportunities for full-time music employment were scarce. Then came GWAR.

The veteran Richmond, Va.-based metal band is heavily costumed, theatrical, satirical and, at times, quite topical in its music and performance presentation. Think Kiss but far more outrageous. When a vacancy in the GWAR ranks became available last August, Land – who was already friends with the other band members – got the call to join.

“I had already known the guys for maybe 10 years,” said Land, who makes his Lexington debut with GWAR Saturday at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom. “It was still a pretty big deal, though.

“I had a band I was working with in Louisville for awhile called The Burial. We did pretty well, but some of the guys moved away. I was driving a truck for awhile after that and wasn’t doing a lot of music. Then I got the call.”

GWAR members don’t go by their real names. Each is a specific character with a mythology that has been built upon since the band formed in 1984. Among the character names (at least the ones we can print) are Oderus Urungus (still played by lead vocalist and founding member Dave Brockie), Balsac the Jaws of Death (portrayed by rhythm guitarist Mike Derks since 1988) and the role that bassist Land landed in – Beefcake the Mighty.

“I’ve be listening to GWAR and going to GWAR shows since I was 15,” Land said. “So I knew the character. But the first day, especially, I was kind of nervous. The first day, we played a big show here in Richmond. That was my first time wearing the costume and we were doing all of these meet-and-greets. I didn’t really know what to do exactly. But, hey, I can’t complain because I could still be driving a truck. I’m actually making less money now, but I’m way happier.”

Album titles like Scumdogs of the Universe, We Kill Everything, You’re All Worthless and Weak and Lust in Space are good indicators that GWAR is not exactly G-rated fare. Neither is one of the more extreme (but undeniably amusing) theatrical trademarks of its live shows – namely, the onstage ridicule (which extends to faux-disembowlings and beheadings) of stagehands dressed as newsmakers of the day from political as well as entertainment arenas. Such simulated subjects have included Sarah Palin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hillary Clinton, Michael Jackson, Snooki, Paris Hilton and Lady Gaga.

“We pretty much think anything is up for us to make fun of,” Land said. “That’s the way it should be.”

But the effect was decidedly different when death hit GWAR is very real terms last fall. In November, guitarist Cory Smoot, who had played the role of Flatus Maximus for nearly a decade, died on tour from complications of coronary artery disease. The remaining GWAR members have since retired the Maximus character and are touring as a four-piece band (drummer Brad Roberts completes the current lineup).

“After Cory’s death, we had to come together. It was awful, but we still had to make things happen. We wanted to make sure Cory’s family was taken care but we also had to make sure we didn’t go out of business. We had songs to write for the next album. We had a tour to get through. We had a lot of stuff to do. But we’re doing the best we can.

“We’re all in good spirits. We’re doing better than some bands could have done under these circumstances. That’s for sure.”

GWAR performs at 8 p.m. March 24 at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $20 advance, $25 day of show. Call (859) 368-8871 or go to www.bustersbb.com



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