RICHMOND, Va - How can you replace Dave Brockie - aka Oderus Urungus - the leader singer and spewer and creative leader of Richmond's internationally known shock-metal band GWAR?
Ask his many fellow band mates, or the legions of GWAR fans around the world.
You just can't replace Brockie's presence, his maniacal energy and creative spirit.
When he died at age 50 in March of a drug overdose in his Richmond home, more than a few wondered if the 30-year-old band would survive.
"There's just no question in my mind that this is honoring Dave," says new GWAR frontman Mike Bishop, who was an early bassist and key character during GWAR's formative years. As Beefcake the Mighty, he was a second in terms of wild commentary during interviews. (Watch him in this 1990 spectacle on a local-access TV show here. I'm in this video, too.
"As I'm riding around singing his words all over town to learn the lyrics, I'm honoring Dave," Mike says.
Bishop left the troupe 20 years ago to front the band Kepone, among other projects.
He says there's no way he can sound just like Oderus, even if he wanted to. Dave sang in a different register in a different way. And oh-so-many words packed into almost every song, Mike says.
"You learn the words, you learn the phrasing, you learn the affect and you try to present that."
But, he adds, "It's going to be me singing the songs, not him."
And he won't be returning as Beefcake, or Oderus, of course. He'll be a new character, revealed at the 5th annual GWAR-B-Q held August 16 at Hadad's Lake in eastern Henrico County. (http://gwarbq.com/) It will not only be the troupe's annual festival, it's also a memorial service of sorts for Brockie and Oderus. Along with GWAR, international acts performing include Hatebreed, the Misfits, Body Count, among others.
It's a lot of pressure, Mike admits.
Especially since Brockie's death hasn't been the only heaviness this year for the heavy metal band. Three weeks after Dave died, longtime key stage performer, fabricator and behind-she-scenes man Scott Krahl collapsed in his bathroom. A stroke-like episode stopped his heart and his breathing. Incredibly, he survived and is recovering.
Then bassist Jamison Land was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He's had surgery and is doing great. "GWAR will definitely rock on," he says.
Remember, this is the band saw their guitarist Cory Smoot die of heart disease on tour Nov. 3, 2011.
GWAR also very nearly lost another guitarist in May of 1993 when Peter Austin Lee was shot in the chest and stomach during a pit stop in Washington DC on the way back to Richmond from a Baltimore recording studio. Lee fought back gamely from the shooting, performing live with a colostomy bag until he fully healed.
Dave Brockie told me then there's quite a difference between the blood-and-guts onstage violence and the real thing.
"It does hit you pretty hard when it hits this close to home," he said then. "It's a cold, numb feeling."