Within the metal realm, groups come in all shapes and sizes, and some shapes are more distinct than others. Having donned monster costumes for over a quarter of a century, Gwar's appearance is difficult to mistake (unless Lordi is being discussed, but let's not digress). While such an image is great for marketing purposes and helps gain extra column inches, it's the music a band plays that actually matters. Without decent material, a great image means nothing whatsoever, material Gwar arguably has in its catalogue.
Twelfth studio album "Bloody Pit Of Horror" was issued on November 9th, 2010 in North America via Metal Blade Records, its European release occurring three days later through AFM Records. A music video was filmed for the track "Zombies, March!", shot on location at The National in Richmond, Virginia with Fangoria director Dave McKendry. Its music video surfaced online on October 27th courtesy of Fangoria.com, the track being performed live a day later on NBC-TV's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon". Bassist Casey Orr handles lead vocals on "Beat You To Death".
Since early October, Gwar have toured across North America as part of the "Bloody Tour Of Horror" package which includes The Casualties, Infernaeon, and Mobile Deathcamp, the tour continuing until early December. Gwar's previous studio album was released just over a year ago in August 2009, titled "Lust In Space". Schecter Guitars issued the "Maximus" Cory Smoot Signature Electric Guitar, boasting; a mahogany body with "Battlehorn ReptAlien Skin" graphic, a three-piece set mahogany neck, a 25-1/2" scale, a rosewood fingerboard, twenty-four extra jumbo frets, arrows of Chaos inlays Chaos Wheel at the twelfth fret, an EMG-81 active humbucker pickup, a volume and kill switch, a Floyd Rose Original tremolo bridge, and Grover tuners.
On October 6th at roughly 20:00 GMT, Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned Gwar lead guitarist Cory Smoot to discuss "Bloody Pit Of Horror".
Cory Smoot: Hello?
UG: Hello Cory. This is Robert Gray from Ultimate-Guitar.com.
How're you doing?
I'm doing well. How are you?
Would it be alright if I began the interview?
How did 'Bloody Pit Of Horror' come to fruition?
We just finished the 'Lust In Space' record actually not too long ago. It almost seems like those two albums were only a year apart. We had just finished recording 'Lust In Space', and we were out touring, supporting that album, and then was told that Metal Blade was picking up the last option, pretty much meaning that we had one more record to go with Metal Blade. There were tight time restraints because we'd been touring so much, so we didn't really have much time to write. I was working on a solo project though, and with my solo project I was gonna have Brockie do vocals. When he got the music and was listening to it, he came up with the idea that maybe we should use them for the Gwar record, so that went pretty good. That right there was probably a nice chunk of 'Bloody Pit Of Horror'. It actually took us six months to record 'Bloody Pit Of Horror' because we had two European tours to do while we were recording; we tracked the music, went to Europe, came back from Europe, tracked the vocals, mixed and mastered the album, and then went back to Europe. That's pretty much how that went.
Can you see Gwar signing a new record deal with Metal Blade Records?
Yeah, yeah. I can see that - I can totally see that.
So Gwar are happy with Metal Blade's efforts, and vice versa?
Yeah... The cool thing about 'Bloody Pit Of Horror' is that the songs I told you about - which were originally for my solo project - were recorded using eight-stringed guitars tuned to F, so the album is definitely different. A lot heavier, I think. A lot of people have said 'Bloody Pit Of Horror' is a great album to follow 'Lust In Space'.
Given the fact that some of 'Bloody Pit Of Horror''s tracks were originally written for your solo project, are there any other ways in which they differ from usual Gwar material?
Yeah. We used a zombie concept with four of 'Bloody Pit Of Horror''s songs, so rather than the whole album being conceptual, the album is chopped up into pieces this time. We have four songs that have a zombie concept, though. What's different about this album is - like I said - the fact that we used eight-stringed guitars this time around. The tuning's really low and just sick.
Can you see Gwar continuing to use downtuned eight-stringed guitars on future material?
So with that being said, does this mean you might take more of an active songwriting role in the composition of future Gwar albums?
Definitely, because that's one of the coolest things. I've been in Gwar now for nine years, and one of the reasons I've stayed for so long is they give me a lot of freedom to write. They let me do a nice bit of writing.
You've said about how heavy 'Bloody Pit Of Horror' is, and spoken about the guitars. What type of heavy styles do Gwar display on this album?
We definitely got some thrash elements in there, some death metal elements in there, some groove metal, and a little bit of math metal. There's definitely some punk rock and some prog rock too. 'Bloody Pit Of Horror' is a real diverse album.
How would you describe the lead guitar work on 'Bloody Pit Of Horror'?
Actually, the lead guitar work was pretty experimental as well. Of course, you got your traditional pentatonic scale, blues doodle going on, but there was some experimental lead stuff going on there with harmonics, picking techniques and speed-picking techniques. The lead guitar work has some variety.
Was there the danger that 'Bloody Pit Of Horror' might be rushed considering how soon the album was written and recorded following 'Lust In Space'?
If we had written all the material right after 'Lust In Space', then I may have considered 'Bloody Pit Of Horror' rushed. A lot of the material was actually written quite awhile ago though, so even though the album was rushed the music wasn't rushed at all. 'Bloody Pit Of Horror''s material was probably written a year and a half to two years before we started recording the album, so I feel we had adequate time to come up with the material. That's always the key I've learnt - to always stay one step ahead. Once you jump on that conveyor belt, you're always trying to catch up. That's how you end up with boring material, and just write right on the spot. I feel when you do that, it sometimes doesn't come from the soul as much.
Have you written any other solo material that might become future Gwar material?
Yeah, I'm sure. Throughout the years, some of my material has always trickled into Gwar's albums. I've still got my two other bands - Mensrea and Locus Factor - and I'm currently still working on my solo project, which is called the Cory Smoot Experiment. There'll actually be some similarities to 'Bloody Pit Of Horror' in my solo material, but yeah, to answer your question, I'm sure some material will trickle in here or there.
"A lot of people have said 'Bloody Pit Of Horror' is a great album to follow 'Lust In Space'."
How do you generally approach producing Gwar's material?
I've got my own recording studio called Karma Productions, so that's pretty convenient. Because we work from home, we don't have to do a lot of travelling. We just rehearse for quite awhile, go in the studio, lay down the scratch guitars, and start layering everything; drums, and then guitar, and then bass. Once we get the music to where we want it, we bring in the vocals. As far as producing Gwar's music, I pretty much just oversee it and make sure everything is as visualized. That's the other thing, too; Gwar's been around so long. We don't necessarily need a producer - Gwar are producers. I think since we've been keeping everything in-house, it's been going pretty good.
How would you describe the track "Beat You To Death", which features Casey Orr on lead vocals?
"Beat You To Death" was actually one of the first songs we wrote for the new material. The song is pretty cool, real thrashy, and real hardcore. It has some really cool breakdown parts, and of course the vocals are brutal.
How does a situation occur where Dave Brockie takes a step back, and Casey, or as was the case with "Release The Flies" on 'Lust In Space', you supply lead vocals?
On "Release The Flies", I actually played drums, guitar, bass and vocals, and all that really was how "Beat You To Death" came to have Casey on vocals too. That's what's cool about Gwar, which is that we're a democracy and we all talk. We're a bunch of crazy, cool artists that get together, and we just say "Hey, I got this song" or "Hey, I'd like to sing a song". In the case of "Beat You To Death", from what I heard Dave said "You can sing on this song". I think Dave goes through the songs and gets his vocal ideas together, and if there's a song that maybe he doesn't feel he could add to or maybe doesn't feel quite as much about, then he'll pretty much say "You can do vocals on this song" if somebody wants to do vocals on a song. On 'Lust In Space', the way "Release The Flies" happened was, once again, it was a song that I was working on for my solo project. Casey and Mike Derks - the other guitarist - heard the song and really liked it. Of course, I was stoked. I was happy that they liked it. I had a pretty cool lyrical idea for "Release The Flies", based on the old story of the World Maggot from past records, the idea that we're supposed to feed the World Maggot with dead bodies. It was to turn into a fly and get us out of this mudball planet, and take us back to outer space. I had a pretty cool vocal concept for "Release The Flies". With my solo project, it's what I do; I always wanted to try a project where I played drums, guitar, bass, and vocals and pretty much did everything. That's what "Release The Flies" was - an introduction to me doing that. The coolest part I think is the fact that it got to be on a Gwar record.
What lyrical concepts feature on 'Bloody Pit Of Horror'?
You've got the zombie concept where Gwar leads a horde of zombies, and then there's a song called "KZ Necromancer" about a Nazi German scientist who pretty much clones Aryan people. You got "Beat You To Death" which pretty much is self-explanatory. The thing is, that's what I like this time. Where one record just does one whole story, this record covers several; it's chopped up again the way it used to be. Where the whole record isn't just one concept, it's several concepts or each song is its own story.
Has a music video been filmed for "Zombies, March!" yet?
Yeah. We just finished filming a video for "Zombies, March!" with Fangoria Magazine; their video crew came and filmed.
What was it like working with David McKendry, director of video production for Fangoria?
It was great. He knew his stuff, and it was really easy working with him - comfortable. Everything went pretty good. Hopefully, the video for "Zombies, March!" is awesome.
Will any other music videos be filmed to promote 'Bloody Pit Of Horror'?
We're not sure. Possibly, but nothing's confirmed right now. Nothing's been talked about yet, but it may be talked about in the near future.
In a press release, Dave said that Gwar's live show is "packed with brand new, never-seen-before acts of violence, bestiality, and political incorrectness". Could you expand upon that?
No. That pretty much sums it up.
Though what does a Gwar show actually entail? For the people who've never attended a Gwar show?
Crazy theatrical metal with your favourite monsters of metal, murder and mayhem.
"We used a zombie concept with four of 'Bloody Pit Of Horror''s songs, so rather than the whole album being conceptual, the album is chopped up into pieces this time."
(Laughs) When you don the "Flattus Maximus" costume and go onstage, how would you describe your presence?
I'm not sure. "Flattus" is more of a quiet one; he doesn't really talk much, likes to more or less talk with his guitar, and is probably the least popular one in the band. Over the years though, "Flattus" has slowly risen to the surface a little better I guess. Schecter Guitars released the Cory Smoot "Flattus Maximus" Guitar, so his character is slowly evolving.
How would you describe the Cory Smoot "Flattus Maximus" Guitar released by Schecter then?
Last year, Schecter decided that they wanted to do a signature model with me. We called it the "Maximus", the Schecter Cory Smoot Signature Model, which is pretty great and pretty cool. The Signature Model has the "Flattus" triceratops horns, a really unique body style. Anybody can check it out at Musician's Friend or the Schecter website. It's a pretty hot guitar; it has twenty-four frets, a mahogany body, EMG-81 for the pickup, Floyd Rose Original for the tremolo, and just a volume knob and an on / off switch. It's a screamer, man.
You said that onstage, "Flattus" likes to speak more with his guitar. When the costume's off, are you of the same mindset? Do you prefer to speak through your guitar playing?
Yeah. It's kind of weird and funny too because I'm not as much of a wordsmith as Dave Brockie or "Oderus" is, so I like to just lay low.
Do you have a message for the fans of Gwar?
Yeah. Keep rocking, and stay tuned for your favourite monsters of metal, murder and mayhem, Gwar. Visit Gwar.net, and go buy the "Maximus" guitar.
Thanks for the interview Cory.
All the best. Bye.
Interview by Robert Gray
"The cool thing about 'Bloody Pit Of Horror' is that the songs were recorded using eight-stringed guitars tuned to F, so the album is definitely different."