All Words and Interview by: David Locklear
All Images: Richard Hooks
Since 2009, GWAR have hosted the ever-popular GWAR-B-Q at Haddad’s Lake in Richmond, VA. GWAR-B-Q, for those who don’t know, is a heavy metal festival of debauchery that brings in ball rattling and uterus destroying metal behemoths, such as Down, Darkest Hour, and Pig Destroyer, as well as this year’s lineup, which includes Dillinger Escape Plan and Lamb of God. It’s 10:45 and I am walking through a haze of humidity that seems to have coagulated into the weather equivalent of a blood clot. It’s the dog days of summer and there will be no relief from the heat; it will only get worse. Originally, I remember thinking that Hadad’s Lake-a low rent water park just within spitting distance of a sub-division-was an odd choice for hosting the GWAR-B-Q, but the encroaching heat was making that concrete swimming hole look a lot more like an oasis than a old pool.
Boston’s Ramming Speed were pounding the early morning air on the Slaughterama Stage with their mix of punk and thrash, putting forth an energy that only a metal crowd could appreciate this soon after breakfast. While I am still waiting for the caffeine to bring my brain into the conscious world, these guys are ripping into their instruments like they have a portable IV of Meth attached to their veins.
Mobile Deathcamp then began cranking things up with their mix of thunder and bursts of hardcore sensibilities on the Scumdog Stage. You have to admire the bands that play this early at the GWAR-B-Q…the crowds are appreciative, but not a lot of movement in the mini sea of bodies. But MD are still professionals, and they play their entire set with the bravado of a band that love what they are doing, even if the crowd are treating the whole thing like a stretching exercise for the other acts playing later in the day. “Suplex City! Suplex City!” The crowd chanting for Eat the Turnbuckle are waking up and becoming fanatical. The Slutman Pavilion is spilling over with the massive amounts of fans waiting to see Turnbuckle pound their instruments and, eventually, each other into a bloody mess. The crowd is wildly diverse: I see a father with his 4 year old son on his shoulders and what looks to be an 90 year old man strolling through the crowd wearing a shirt that says “Excuse me, you’re stepping on my dick.” I am pretty sure he took more selfies with the fans than any of the bands did that day. ETT easily get the pit going-probably due to the fact that they have live wrestling in audience-and everyone under the shade of the pavilion fully participates in the show from beginning to end. Periodically, I saw a few stragglers who tried get out of the hot sun by ducking into the Slutman Pavilion, but the crowd easily defecated them back out as if they were a pathogen trying to enter a healthy host. You either participated or you were spit out.
One unfortunate side effect of witnessing Eat the Turnbuckle’s set up close was that I could only enjoy The Sawyer Family’s awesomely unique mix of metal, stonerbilly, doom and horror movie influences from a distance. Watching as they surprised the audience with their unique sound, you could see that the reaction from the crowd was not a wild, pit heavy orgy of smelly bodies, but a head nodding sway to the crunch and groove that these guys were putting out. You could tell that people were genuinely curious about this band, and for fear of missing something unique, did not want to fall too far into the spiral of mosh. I managed to catch up with the Sawyer Family after their set, and here’s what they had to say:
My Global Mind: How does it feel playing the GWAR-B-Q?
Judge Kyle Sawyer (Drums): Feels great, man. Really cool to be playing right before August Burns Red. And on the main stage? No complaints here!
MGM: Did you get any wild people trying to stage dive or crowd surf during your set? Or was it too early?
JKS: No, no crowd surfing or stage diving. But definitely paying attention.
Zac Sawyer (Upright Bass and Vocals): We’re more the kind of music that’s like: “What the fuck just happened to me?!” It’s a shifting of styles and a combination of shit that people aren’t used to. So, it’s less dancing and more like “What the fuck was that?”
MGM: What brought the upright bass into your music?
ZS: I grew up listening to tons and tons of blues and roots music. But then I became a huge metal head as a teenage, and I decided I was going to try to do all this shit on electric bass, but on an upright to see what kind of flavor it would add. And it added a whole orchestral aspect that you can’t really get on electric bass.
MGM: Do you feel like that adds a sort of evil intonation to the music?
ZS: Absolutely! It’s very dark, melodic.
MGM: What are some of the influences that bring that darkness to your music?
ZS: That’s giant fucking question! Three Dog Night? (Laughs)
Jarod Sawyer (Guitar and Vocals): Kansas.
ZS: Orco from He-Man.
MGM: I hated that floating ghost bastard!
JKS: It’s funny, our influences are so all over the place that any given day we could be listening to stuff from Mark Lanagen and Queens of the Stone Age to Slayer.
ZS: Or listening to Steve Winwood last night! Winwood was carrying the torch all fucking night! Kyle finally said he was going to kill somebody if we kept playing Steve Winwood. Then we went into Harris Teeter grocery store and they were playing Steve Winwood over the intercom! (All of them laugh)
MGM: Was it “Valerie”? I hope it was “Valerie”.
Dennis “D-Saw” (Guitar and Vocals): No, it was “Higher Love”.
MGM: Ah, shit! Even better!
DS: (Right into the Microphone) BRING ME A HIGHER LOVE!! OH WOAH!!
MGM: What about movie influences?
DS: We’re big horror fans.
MGM: What are some favorites?
ZS: The Bad Seed. Night of the Living Dead changed my life. It’s funny ‘cause when I was a kid that was considered fringe shit. And now, it’s like mainstream television with stuff like The Walking Dead being obviously and hugely being influenced by Romero. It’s actually weird to see that shift in culture. It’s cool, but I never thought I would live to see it…its primetime T.V. with head wounds and everything! The first time I saw the squibs on a head as a kid was in Dawn of the Dead and, fuck, dude, I cried! And now it’s normal television.
DS: Clash of the Titans. First time I saw Medusa as a kid, I was like ‘Oh fuck!’
JKS: The origin of our band’s name, The Sawyer Family, is the family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
ZS: We’re influenced by all classic Hollywood Cinema.
MGM: So when you’re coming up with lyrics, do you feel like you have to always make them macabre or is it a more organic process?
JKS: Not really, it just sort of happens.
DS: We just write the song and see how it feels. And then we just let it take its form from there. We don’t want it to be forced.
ZS: A long time ago we stopped confining ourselves to any kind of convention or fucking rules. Now the lyrics don’t have to be just about film, they can be wide fucking open.
JS: It can be a deeply emotional subject, or it could be a stupid pun. It can be all over the map.
MGM: Do you guys start with a riff, or lyrics? I’ve had bands tell me both. Where do you guys find a typical beginning?
ZS: It can go any way. There’s not one set way that it happens. It can happen a myriad of ways.
JKS: Usually, someone brings an idea into the room and introduces it, and everyone adds their part. Sometimes we strip away parts or we add breaks in the music; it’s really a group effort.
JS: It could become completely different. Let’s say I brought a riff into the room and by the time the song is done, it could be unrecognizable from what I started with.
MGM: Mutated into something completely different. So do you guys write better drunk, sober, stoned?
DS: I work better stoned!
ZS: Yeah! Again, it depends. There’s no one way that happens either. Sometimes hammered is great, sometimes it’s the worst possible idea.
JKS: Sometimes it’s best to be dead sober.
JS: A lot of it is dead sober.
ZS: But we have a lot of drugs if you want some!
JKS: We brought some of Oregon with us. (Laughs) No, where we rehearse is on a 900 acre ranch in Oregon where Zac is a ranch manager, and we’re surrounded by trees, mountains, and rain.
DS: (Dismally) Rain.
JKS: It rains there a lot, so we drink and write music.
ZS: A lot of fireplace time. So I think that dark, broody, rainy atmosphere is something we try to put into music.
MGM: I imagine that would be a good atmosphere for introspection.
ZS: Absolutely. It’s beautiful, but fucking dark and horrifying at the same time. And that’s what we’re going for in our sound. Beautiful and horrifying.
MGM: Do you guys separate to get a personal sense of isolation and anger and frustration? Or is it better when you’re collected together to bounce that sense of unease off of each other?
JKS: We definitely use each other.
DS: It’s a release for all of us. You could be frustrated all day long, but once we start playing and writing and surround each other, we get that release.
JS: It truly is a family situation.
ZS: Calling it a family, that shit’s not a joke. That’s very serious to us, the brotherhood. You know, Jarod’s my little brother, Kyle is my uncle and Dennis is our old friend.
MGM: So if you, Jarod and Kyle decide to brawl, Dennis can be the outside influence telling you to cut the shit?
(All of them laugh.)
ZS: No, we get along pretty good! The days of fist fighting are largely over. We only open hand slap each other now.
MGM: Doesn’t leave as much of a mark.
DS: And no more dick punches!
MGM: So, exactly how long has the band been around?
ZS: There have been a couple incarnations of the band, but it really started around 2000, so about 15 years.
MGM: And what are all of your plans for the rest of the GWAR-B-Q?
ZS: Got a few more interviews to do, then I have a plan to fill up a red solo cup with beer a few times. Then hang out and listen to some music.
DS: I think Judge and Beefcake are going to fight later.
MGM: Oh, I’ll have to check that out.
DS: Yeah, Judge is a world famous Krypton fighter. Any time we are on tour, it coincides with a Krypton battle.
MGM: Judge, do you have any special moves?
JKS: I don’t know if I should mention it in public. It’s called a “Walrus Punch”, but I won’t go into too much detail about it.
ZS: But it’s illegal in four dimensions.
DS: He was actually disqualified in Scotland. They were like: “No Walrus Punch”, so it was stacked up against him from the get-go.
ZS: And his other patented move is called the “Butthole Kick”. That one is not illegal yet, but there is a pending court battle on that one.
MGM: I’ve heard of one called “The Flying Sodomize” and that sounds way worse than the “Butthole Kick”. However, both of them sound very unpleasant.
DS: You don’t want to be in the way of any of those! Especially delivered from Judge. Your whole year is fucked.
MGM: Ha! Thanks for talking to me, guys.
DS: (Directly into the microphone) GWAAAAAARRRRRR-BBBBBBB-QQQQQQ!!!!!!!!
The day wore on, the crowds grew thicker, as the smells began mixing an olfactory nightmare of grilled burgers and B.O. The ground was heavily dotted with empty PBR and GWAR beer cans and the trashcan vomiting was not nearly as prevalent as some festivals I’ve been to, but I felt like the GWAR-B-Q deserved more. Even during the Spew-lympics, where participants attempt to do the dumbest stunts they can legally perform, I felt like at least one person should’ve horked into the pool.
I finally made my way back over to the Scumdog Stage to catch Dillinger Escape Plan. Knowing that this is the last tour before they are supposed to be going on hiatus, everyone in attendance gave the band every last drop of energy they had. It was wild, passionate and genuine in a way that you don’t see very often-it was akin to having a bittersweet send off party for a friend. Dillinger plowed through their set with some fan favorites (“43% Burnt”) and new offerings (“Limerant Death”). Almost everyone there knew every word and every riff to every song, which really turned out to be a blessing for the band, because vocalist Greg Puciato was noticeably absent. Turns out, Puciato missed his flight from L.A. to Virginia, which left DEP in a serious lurch. But just a few minutes into the set, bassist Liam Wilson brought fan Dylan Lawson of Richmond band Dismantle the Architect out of the audience and onto the stage to fill vocals for the rest of the show. Dylan jumped, screamed and sang his heart out with the confident assurance of a seasoned front man, but the excited energy of a fan singing vox for his favorite band. This manic energy easily infected the band, which prompted guitarist Ben Weinman to climb the amp stacks and rawk leap onto the stage several times. It was fun watching a metal fan have such an awesome moment.
Then the hour finally came. When you know that you are about to speak with a member of the cosmic heavy metal gladiators GWAR, it can be a little daunting. Because what no one seems to discuss is that GWAR have unequivocally stated they hate humans and their goal is to eradicate all of us. And what better cover for mass murder than a heavy metal festival? So, before I met with the Scumdogs of the Universe, I made sure that my will was in order and I prayed hard as I entered the lion’s den. I also ate a shitload of asparagus that morning, because if they did decide to kill me, I at least wanted my piss to stink badly and annoy them when my bodily functions released at the moment of death.
Beefcake the Mighty: Your camera is very unprofessional.
My Global Mind: I’m not a professional. I don’t know how that rumor got started. How are you doing?
Beefcake the Mighty: I’m hot.
MGM: So, GWAR have desecrated Jon Benet Ramsay, Laci Petersen and the Pope during their live shows. Are there going to be any surprise desecrations during your set for the GWAR-B-Q this year?
BTM: We’re going to desecrate your mother.
MGM: Oh, she’s here?
BTM: I’m going to defecate your mother. After I consume her flesh.
MGM: Any particular part?
BTM: What part? I don’t care!
MGM: After any big festival such as this prestigious event, what sort of clean up crew of bohabs do you employ to clean up all of the guts of the dead fans you will be killing today?
BTM: I really don’t care, I just leave it there. That’s somebody else’s problem.
MGM: So you really don’t give a shit how it’s done.
BTM: No, I don’t give a shit about anything.
MGM: Do you think the bohab-slave clean-up crew has a good time cleaning up all of the guts and shit?
BTM: I don’t care! I already told you!
MGM: Fair enough. How far along are GWAR in their goal of destroying the entire human race?
BTM: Aaahhh…about yea.
MGM: You mean give or take about “yea”?
BTM: No, just about yea.
MGM: Why do you deem it okay to lower yourself to talk to disgusting humans such as myself?
BTM: I don’t. I hate you. I don’t like you. I’ll probably kill you after this interview is over.
MGM: Okay. Is there a specific implement you’re going to kill me with?
BTM: Um…this potted plant here. (Taps the fake palm tree next to us.) I’m going to shove it down your throat.
MGM: Oh! That’s not bad. I was afraid it was going in my rectum.
MGM: How much of the barbecue here at the World Famous GWAR-B-Q is made up of ground people and not real pork?
BTM: About yea.
MGM: “Yea” again, huh? All right. Do you have a slaughterhouse where you process and package the “Yea”?
BTM: Well, I-Do you have any “Yea”? Are you holding?
MGM: I could be, just don’t want to say it too loudly.
BTM: I need some.
(I raise my notebook to prepare my next question, and it covers the video camera briefly.)
BTM: YOU’RE BLOCKING MY FACE, DIPSHIT!
MGM: I’m sorry! Shit, I told you, I’m not a professional!
BTM: No, you’re not!
MGM: What human entrails does GWAR prefer to consume?
BTM: What entrails?…I don’t know, that’s a dumb question. Any entrails.
MGM: Do you put any in the GWAR-B-Q Sauce, the GWAR Beer, or the newly released GWAR vodka?
BTM: What? No. (His tone implies a quiet disgust.)
MGM: You mean all of those products are pure?
BTM: I wear entrails like a cravat. Or, an ascot, if you prefer.
MGM: Yeah, I do think an ascot is much better.
BTM: You’re an ascot.
MGM: Now, can you tell our readers how much semen is put into the vodka before it’s distilled?
BTM: You’ll have to ask Balsac. He produces quite a lot of semen, so I think that’s his department.
MGM: Does he have a measured ounce per load that you know of?
BTM: I don’t know. I really can’t do any sort of math. That’s volumetric math, and I don’t know that either.
MGM: I figured with the amount that he sprays on the audience, there has to be enough for a couple of vodka bottles.
MGM: How many times have you personally participated in the GWAR-B-Q Spew-Olympics?
BTM: I don’t know, because I don’t have any idea how to count. Plus, I don’t care.
MGM: Do you prefer throwing slaves or bohabs in the Spew Olympics?
BTM: No, I don’t lower myself to that sort of thing. If people want to make fools out of themselves, I encourage it…
MGM: But you don’t give a shit?
BTM: Not really, no.
MGM: Do you care about much at all?
BTM: Um…I like a good nap.
MGM: And not being hot?
BTM: I am hot.
MGM: What about practicing meditation?
BTM: Medi-Medication? Do you have some medication?
MGM: I do! I can throw some into your suit, let it absorb into your skin.
MGM: One last question: Mr. Mighty, are you married?
BTM: Am I married?! What are you, crazy?! NO! I’m an intergalactic rock god! Why would I hitch myself?
MGM: I understand. Balsac, thank you for your time.
BTM: I’m Beefcake, you idiot!
MGM: I know.
BTM: Get outta here!!
Now, what many consider to be the main event, come the Ambassadors of All Things Vile, Bloody and Metal. FUCKING GWAR!!!!
From the multicolored fluids that are sprayed onto the audience, to Donald Trump’s visage being skinned and Hillary Clinton’s tits being ripped off, the band tore (haha) through their set with all of the gory aplomb they have always been known for. Really, do I have to say more?
Closing out the day, metal kings and Richmond natives Lamb of God took the Slaughterama Stage and exploded their fury onto the audience with the classic riff intro of “Walk With Me in Hell” from their 2006 album, “Sacrament”. The sun was beginning to hang drowsily in the sky, but this corner of the world experienced one last gasp of energy as Lamb of God continued run through the classics, such as “Ruin” and “Now You’ve Got Something to Die For”. Randy also went local by praising the fans support as being the reason for the increased popularity of GWAR-B-Q at the “biggest white trash water park in Virginia.” Only a native son could feel that at home.
The GWAR-B-Q ended, and sunburns and hangovers waited on the horizon for all in attendance. But every face had a smile on it. Which means another GWAR-B-Q was well done.