GWAR Frontman Dave Brockie Talks In-Depth on Cory Smoot’s Tragic Death
GWAR frontman Dave Brockie (aka Oderus Urungus) talked to at length to radio host Full Metal Jackie over the weekend about the recent tragic death of his bandmate Cory Smoot (aka Flattus Maximus), marking the first time he really has addressed the topic in such detail. If you missed Full Metal Jackie’s show, read her full interview with Brockie below:
It was really a shock to hear about [Cory Smoot’s death] and such a tragedy, so thanks for being with us in such a difficult time.
No problem. You know after Cory died it’s been a completely different world and one of the things that immediately had to change was, “Wow I just don’t feel good going on with the Oderus Bumbletown clown show for a while.” It’s time to really talk about whats going on and make sure we do the right thing. I kind of shoved off press for a while and concentrated on other things, but I’m ready to get back at it and it seems like this was the natural step to talk to you – but for the first time to do it out of character without having Oderus yell at them. And I know they want Oderus to yell at them again so this is the first step in getting all that going again. So thanks for having me.
After we heard the news about Cory there was obviously many questions people had such as “does the tour continue?” And you guys decided to keep going, which I’m sure was a very difficult decision. How did continuing the tour help you and everyone else cope with losing Cory?
I guess first and foremost it just kept us busy. One we made the decision to go forward, that locked us into all the work you have to do in order to do a GWAR show. It kept the guys from focusing too much on what had just happened – that was the idea anyway. We figured if we stayed busy we’d be less likely to sink into a miasma of depression – but if you told me when we made that decision just how difficult it was going to be to do that night after night, I probably would have thought twice about it.
We didn’t really have a choice. We were in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a tour and in an economy like this… even if we had all the money in the world I’d like to think that we would have carried on and gone forward even though there was a certain amount of a financial responsibility to the band and the other people in it. If we hadn’t finished that tour we would have basically been out of business. Even if we were rich-ass rock stars I think it was the best thing to do anyway. It is a big GWAR family – and to leave all those kids with an unclaimed ticket and a bloody hole in their heart and to just go home and cry – it’s just not the GWAR way. We just couldn’t do it. That’s why we decided to finish this tour cycle as a four-piece.
We’ve retired the character of Flattus Maximus – he’s returned to his beloved planet home and Oderus and the boys are going to sort it out amongst themselves and we’re going to do Europe and finish the secondary market tour of the U.S., which we lovingly call the ‘Tertiary Tornado’ tour. We’re going to finish that as a four-piece to honor Cory, Flattus and our fans who gave us the strength to finish this tour. This is a big thing. It’s not something that’s just going to go away overnight and Cory was such a huge part of our band. We need a good, long time to think about what we want to do next, but for now we’re just going to stick with it.
We’re going to set us his rig every night and we’re going to bring his guitar out on stage every night and we’re going to play ‘My Way’ after the show is over and have his guitar up there with a spotlight on it. I hate making people cry – I mean Oderus loves it, but I’ve never seen so many burly metal dudes weeping inconsolably. It’s a beautiful moment. It’s a terrible moment, but it’s a beautiful moment too. It is a big metal family – it is a community and we lost one of our own and its a tough thing. It’s been a tough year for that crowd hey? People dropping left and right.
It has been a tough year. You guys have actually done something really cool – you’ve been talking about the Smoot family fund and memorial show stuff. Tell us about that.
Well right off the bat the family jumped all over it – the community around Cory and his family and all his friends – the people back in Richmond basically. While GWAR was out on the road going their part, they were back here getting ready to launch the Smoot Family Fund. Cory had just finished a solo record that he played all of the tracks on. The wrote it, he produced it, he performed every track. He was just getting to release that, so we’re going to do his CD release party on Jan. 7 here in Richmond. A bunch of bands are going to play and all the money is going to go to the Smoot Family Fund.
Jamie, his lovely wife and the awesome, beautiful gal that she is – she’s got a baby coming and we’ve got to take care of her. It is a big family and Cory gave us everything, so we have to return in kind. So that’s why we started the fund. The album will be coming out on Metal Blade if everything goes well and they’re going to donate all the funds to the Smoot Family Fund. The we’re going to do a HUGE memorial show at the National Theater. I can’t announce the lineup yet but I can definitely tell you that GWAR will be playing. We want to really establish the Family Fund in a big way and we want to do our best to take care of our people.
What can you tell us about what Cory brought to GWAR?
Unfettered ability. The dude was the most capable human being I’ve ever met. Besides the fact that he was a brilliant musician, Cory could do anything extremely well. He was a true savant and I did everything from rely on him to resurrect GWAR’s metal roots to sell me my freaking truck, to produce my album. Cory was the man. We had been around for I guess, 16-17 years when Cory came into the picture. He tried out about 15 years into our career when we were going through a couple of guitar changes and even though I backed him 100% he did not get the job because it is a Democracy. I don’t run this place like Hitler. But he did come back after two years for another audition and he got that and I got so say “I told you so” to everyone – and I’ll do it again, “I told you so.”
He got the job 10 years ago and he came in right at the time when I think some people were thinking that GWAR were a little too silly. Maybe our albums were getting a little experimental – that’s the way I feel. I always thought that GWAR should be a metal band, but GWAR is going to be the kind of band that the musicians that are in it, want it to be. I’m just one of them, so it took me a while to get the right lineup and Cory was the thing that made it work. He just re-metalized us. He was a lot younger than me – Cory was 34 and I’m 48. He just provided a bridge to a big world of metal that I had maybe lost track of in all my Motorhead and Thin Lizzy albums. I knew that there was a lot of new metal out there that I wasn’t really aware of and Cory provided me that link. When we started working together — BOOM — it was on. GWAR was definitively a metal band again and hopefully will be forever, even without him.
The Flattus Maximus character as you mentioned, has been retired, but how will Cory always be a part of GWAR?
He’s part of our musical legacy. Everything I just described, everybody knows that pretty much. Any GWAR fan knows that. He’ll always be a huge part of all those albums that he’s on. He played on four GWAR albums, so he’ll always be there. More than that, he’ll always be a part of us. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve lost somebody really really close to you. He was a lot more than just a bandmate, he was a real brother, he was my little brother. I really love the hell out of that guy. I’ll always miss him and he’ll always be a big part of everything I do. You know you miss someone when you start thinking of them for the first time of the day and you’re like, “Oh wow, it took me only 5 minutes from waking up to start think about this person. Slowly that well get longer and longer and I won’t wake up everyday and be think about Cory within a few minutes. But he’ll always still be there.
GWAR is a very tight group of individuals and our fans span generations of people now. We’ve been around forever and the GWAR community is pretty deep. It’s always been made up of all the real individuals like the oddballs, the weirdos, the outcast, the losers. GWAR sometimes isn’t the easiest band to be a fan of – I mean we drench you in s— and then you have to walk home in the cold weather and everyone makes fun of you at school – but those people are the best. But when you lose those people it hurts a lot more because they’re the really special ones and Cory was definitely one of those people. He will be missed. There’s a feeling of obligation towards him. Losing somebody as great as that would bury a lesser organization, but I can’t let that happen – and I wont.
GWAR is such an absurd concept – a real source of escapism for your fans. Cory passing is a shadow of reality. How have the fans reacted to such a hard reality especially at the first show after his passing?
Super emotionally. There was a level of connection that has probably always been present but never so pronounced. They really turned out in force. I think everybody whose ever seen a GWAR show – and they always know we come back once a year. You might miss a year every now and then, you might even miss a couple years, you might even miss 10 years and be like “Oh my God, they’re still playing?!” Everybody who ever saw a GWAR show was there in Edmonton that next night to pay their respects to Cory and to show their love and support for GWAR. You could just feel it coming off the crowd. A lot of musicians talk about the energy you gain when you play live, and it’s true – and we got it. There was no other way we would have made it through it.
There were also physical manifestations of it – everyone who decorated their shirts in the old “suicidal” style. I loved that. The old “suicidal” style with all the hand drawn, crazy design that fans would do. Everyone wears the white t-shirts so they can get blood all over them, but now a lot of the fans also decorate them with Flattus mojos. In Denver there was a huge banner unfurled with his face on it with several hundred signatures. It has just been a few days and they had already put this whole huge thing together and had all these people sign it. That’s pretty mind-blowing. These people loved him. I haven’t seen anything like this since we lost Dimebag really, even though we’ve had some real tragedies in the metal community. To lose somebody like that, so young, in the middle of a tour – it’s just a real shock and a real horror show. All of a sudden GWAR were exposed as the human beings that we really are, and them knowing that, I think it makes people appreciate GWAR all the more.
I know you had done some unmasked shows, which I don’t know that you’ve ever done before…
We’ve done it before, yeah. We used to do that a lot in the 90s.
So what was that like this time around?
Oh, it was great. It wasn’t the first time around because we’ve all been in a million bands our whole lives. People forget Nuclear Dog Shit and Death Piggy and a million bands that people will never know about like Yams of Wheels – and they don’t need to know about them. So we were veterans of playing without costumes on long before we got in GWAR. It was a real relief you know? It’s like “Ahh, this is what this feels like, it’s such a great feeling” You just feel like you’re floating on stage. We started to do that sometimes after shows, like if it was a really special show or if we were just drunk enough, we would take off all the costumes and I would run out there stark naked in the audience. But we stopped doing that because it was stupid and dangerous and I was too drunk and idiotic and I was going to get killed sooner or later.
But then it came back the night we lost Dimebag. We were playing live in Denver and found out after we came off stage and were ready to come back for the encore that Dime had just been killed on-stage. They [Damageplan] were just three or four shows behind us on tour and we been criss-crossing the whole way and we were getting ready to hook up with them in Dallas, so we were devastated and so we took off all the costumes and we played our encore. We did it again in Portland after we lost Cory. For some reason it was a really hard show, I just felt like a robot. I just couldn’t get into it. I could feel the guys behind me trying so hard to pick me up and get me through it – and the audience as well. When we came back for the encore I just took everything off and the other guys followed suit and we played the encore without the costumes on. Then we showed off Cory’s guitar and it was beautiful. It’s all over YouTube if you want to check it out. It was a great moment. We’re not afraid to tear GWAR apart. This is our thing and we can do whatever we want with it and that’s what felt appropriate. Taking off the costumes is always spontaneous – you never know when its going to go down, so I can’t even promise that it’ll ever happen again.
What’s the most important thing for you moving forward and keeping Cory’s memory and legacy alive in the band?
One of the first things I’d like to say is that I think Cory’s death is a big wake-up call for all of us. We all breathed a big sigh of relief when we found out it wasn’t a drug overdose to speak quite frankly. But then to think that he was 34 and died of a heart attack – it’s really scary. Everybody out there needs to take care of themselves, especially you guys who are playing in bands and starting to get up into your 40’s and you’re all sitting there just like me saying, “Holy s— this is still going on and I can keep doing this probably for the rest of my life?” Yeah you can, but you have to take of yourself. You really, really, really, really do. So I’m trying to quit smoking right now.
I guess the next thing is, and probably more importantly, we want to work the Family Fund as much as possible and try to keep that going. Not just to raise funds for Cory’s widow and his soon-to-be-born kid, but so people will remember Cory as a musician. All the musicians in GWAR have a tendency to be swallowed up by those big rubber monster suits. We could come out there and play the tightest, goddamn greatest metal in the world and still people will go, “Your show is awesome.” They would still ask stupid questions like, “What’s more important the music or the show?” It’s important for people to remember that he was such a great player. One of the reasons that we’re going on about this so much is because man, he was really an amazing guitar player. Our buddy Scott in San Francisco made an eight-minute video clip of it and put it up on YouTube – its on the foundation page. He was just a phenomenal guitar player and I want people to remember that. He put out so much amazing work the whole time he was with GWAR and the years before he was putting out many other bands including Mensrea, his own band and a bunch of side projects and producing bands and producing GWAR records. He did so much in those 34 years, it’s just unbelievable what he might have accomplished. I want to celebrate his work.
Cory was not only a great guitar player, but also a talented producer.
Unbelievable. He could just sit there and absorb everything that was happening around him in the studio and then just — BOOM — he’d go, “How does this sound?” And you’d just go, “Oh my God, that sounds great.” He’d make bands sound so good, I saw it happen over and over again, bands could not believe it was them. [Laughs] This was how good Cory and Karma Studios made them sound. The same is true for GWAR. You can tell listening to our records when he comes in. If you’re a GWAR aficionado, you can tell where is influence in more pronounced. He was ripping and he could play ANY instrument as well. Any instrument.
What else did he play?
Throw the guy a violin, he would have been fiddling within half an hour, I guarantee it.
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