Here’s GWAR Director Scott Barber on Making a Documentarian’s Dream Come True [Exclusive Interview]


Do you think their early fans were into satire?

I think their fans have always known that. Their hardcore fans always knew there was an element of satire. I think even a lot of people who like rock and roll don’t necessarily know there’s that. I’m not criticizing those bands, but bands like Slipknot or ICP, they’re a bit different from that.

They always say, “We’re not a band that wears costumes. Because the people who make the costumes are part of the group. It is an artistic collective. Half of what you consider GWAR is not made up of musicians. There are comic artists. There are the sculptors, the welders. All of these people are members of GWAR, whether you play an instrument or not. They are therefore not quite the same as these other groups. It’s like, “We’re a band that gets somebody to make costumes for us, and we wear them.” It is a collective of artists.

Also, some people say, “Oh, it’s that badass stuff. I’m not into that badass, heavy metal thing.” It’s like, “That’s not what it is. That’s not it.” It’s hilarious, actually.

It’s quite the opposite, that’s what surprised me. They are artsy VCU kids.

Yeah, that’s what they are. It was also something we wanted to show. I don’t think a lot of people understand that GWAR has always been cool from a heavy metal point of view, but they’re also cool from a hipster point of view. Like you said, they’re all art students. They were into art, and they were nerds.

Chuck Varga, the Sexecutioner, said, “When people met me, they expected me to look like Type O Negative’s Glenn Danzig or Peter Steele.” And they say, “You’re just a normal-looking guy? That’s weird.” It’s like, “Yeah, I am. I wear this suit with this weird guy who cuts people’s heads off. I’m just an artist who likes to sculpt things.”

Stories you liked and didn’t have time to include in the doc?

A lot, because it’s been 40 years. Really, technically GWAR started in 83, then in 85 they were GWAR. And then they released their first record, “Hell-O”, shortly after. So it’s long. Long with people living their lives to the fullest. So yes, there will be plenty of stories that you won’t be able to squeeze into just under two hours.

[A lot of people told us it had to be 90 minutes or under.] And you’re like, “There’s no way it’s going to last 90 minutes. It can’t.” And when we tell people it’s almost two hours, they’re like, “Oh, my God. Two hours. That’s impossible.”

It flies.

I love hearing that. Because there’s so much going on. People are dying. People get shot. They make two films. They were nominated for a Grammy. They build it all. And also, there are just more characters than in a normal group. A regular group has, what, four or five people? There are 10, 15 people who are in the doc, and that’s not even nearly all the people who have been in GWAR. So yeah, there are a lot of things I wish I could have put in there. Hopefully one day we will be able to release it in another title.

Plus, these are characters you want to spend more time with.

It was something else: you have to get to know these guys. All. You have to at least feel a bit like them for you to really care. It’s one thing to hear about someone going through a tragedy. It’s another thing when it’s someone you know who has suffered a tragedy. It’s much sadder. If it’s your friend’s mother who died or you see someone on the news who died. They’re both sad, but one hits you very differently.

We were like, “If we edit it shorter, it’s actually going to feel longer.” Pete Lee’s story, it’s just the sweetest. We interviewed him, and he’s the first guy who’s not from Richmond. He’s from Texas. So, at that point, the story picks up momentum. It’s not a Richmond band anymore. Now they are nationwide.

Pete Lee is coming, and I think you’re falling in love with him. He’s got this Texan accent and he’s like, “I went over there and I had a bag of weed in my car. I said, ‘I’m going to audition. I’m going to be your new guitar player.’ “He’s just this fascinating guy. And then when you see what’s happening to him, you’re like, “Oh man. Not this guy. This guy is so nice. Why is this happening to him?”

Or Michael Derks. Something happens to him later in the doc. And you say, “No, not Michael Derks. He’s the nicest man I’ve ever met.” We knew you had to know they were lovely, beautiful people to care about them later.

“This is GWAR” is available now on VOD, digital, DVD, and Blu-ray, and it’s currently streaming on Shudder.


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