A TEDx conference in Richmond, Virginia last week began with a ritual sacrifice. Has our desire for sharable, bite-sized lectures really become this bloodthirsty?
But seriously. After GWAR guitarist Pustulus Maximus came on stage, smashed a stone tablet over some schmuck's head, ripped off his face, then dragged him off, bassist and singer Michael "Blothar" Bishop, who holds a PhD in Music from the University of Virginia, delivered a wide-reaching discussion on regional identity in art.
Bishop begins with the band's mythology: they were aliens bent on conquering earth who crashed and froze in Antarctica. Global warming, accelerated by the pollution from hairspray in the '80s, thawed them out. "Really, GWAR is from Richmond, Virginia," he levels. "And what I've found is...that's almost as strange as being from Antarctica."
The band reflects the culture, history, and even the geography of the area, he says. They were a product of the city's underground music and art communities, and especially, the art program at Virginia Commonwealth University where they met. The band's hallmark aesthetic and mythos, as outlandish as they might appear, are informed by Richmond's own legacy, he says: subsidized housing, white flight, concentrated poverty in the inner city, race relations, slavery, privilege, Big Tobacco, and a history of brutal violence. That is the GWAR universe.
So remember, the next time you're front row, getting pelted by body fluids in six different colours: you should think of Richmond.