Don Slater’s Pork Chop Express: Travel, Sex-sationalism And The Gwar-B-Q

Bassist for Battlecross returns with his monthly column

Don Slater's Pork Chop ExpressDon Slater's Pork Chop Express

Don Slater’s Pork Chop Express

“You just look to the old Pork Chop Express and take his advice on a dark and stormy night, alright? When some wild-eyed eight foot tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head against a bar room wall, looks you crooked in the eyes and asks if you’ve paid your dues? Well, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye and you just remember what Jack Burton always says at a time like that. Have you paid your dues, Jack? Yes sir, the check is in the mail.”

We’ve all been around in our own ways. We’ve all been to a beach, to a cottage, to a neighboring state and states not so neighboring, and even to other countries.

Traveling has been the American pastime since the USA was founded. Hell, I’d go so far as to say traveling is every human’s desire. Even the most reclusive home body has the urge to go out and explore every decade or so. All my life I wanted to hop over the Atlantic and see Europe with my own eyes, though I honestly expected I never would. The costs of such a long flight along with room and board, meals, taxis, souvenirs…it simply didn’t seem feasible.

Then this year happened.

Mind you, I’ve been to Canada a handful of times prior to 2014. Living in southeast Michigan, the bridge to Canada is a half hour drive, tops. Other than the different currency, the switch from imperial to metric, and Tim Horton’s at every exit, it really doesn’t feel that far removed from the USA. It’s a nice place, don’t get me wrong. Some of the best shows Battlecross has ever played were in Canada, but living in such close proximity has kind of desensitized me from crossing the border into the great white north.

In the space of seven months, from February through August, we’ve been to Europe twice and South America just recently. The first time we crossed the pond we landed in Ireland. Fitting that our first country we land at abroad would be known for its beer and whiskey.

I won’t go into great detail of every country we’ve visited, but I’ll say this: If you ever find a way to go to Europe, please do yourself the favor and GO. Even if it’s only for a week or so, the sights and the people are well worth the experience.

I hear people talk about culture shock, and I’m sure we’d feel it more if we went somewhere in the far east, say like China or Vietnam; though, we really didn’t feel out of place. Maybe not as well-dressed, but hey, we’re a metal band — we’re allowed a certain level of scuzziness in our daily attire.

So yeah, both times in Europe, I don’t think any of us felt truly foreign. Out of place, sure, but not the whole “locals stare as you pass by” type of foreign. That didn’t happen until recently, specifically our trip to Mexico and Brazil.

I’m tall with blonde hair and blue eyes. To say I stood out in those countries is a serious understatement. The stares, the whispers, the laughs… It was the feeling of being in high school again, but this time, it was a much stronger feeling of displacement. I wasn’t worried about getting beat up or mugged as we were either holed up in a hotel or a venue most of the time there, but there was a very slight yet constant fear that maybe, JUST maybe, someone would take offense to my presence and take some sort of action.

Only one instance happened, but I’ll touch on that subject at a later time. I have a separate column especially lined up for the middle of this month that will outline our travels to South America, but until then, I just want to say a little more about feeling foreign, and the empathy that comes with it, then I’ll move on to sex.

We as a species are very territorial. We grow up in a neighborhood and we expect the whole world to appear and act just like our home towns. Then along comes a stranger. Someone who certainly doesn’t look like he’s from around here, maybe has a strong accent or barely speaks the English language. I’d be willing to bet almost everyone’s first thought would be “what the fuck are they doing in a place like this?” It can’t be helped. Even the most tolerant of folks would even think “they’re definitely from out of town.”

Do you judge immediately, or do you just ignore them unless they start to affect your life in some way? If the strangers begin to approach you, do you avert your eyes, or start fiddling with something to look busy? Or do you just start walking in the opposite direction, not wanting to deal with whatever questions they may have? When they make the first move and engage you in a very loose understanding of English, do you help them through with hand gestures and speaking slowly, or do you shout “I CAN NOT HELP YOU. SORRY?”

In a matter of a week, I’ve experienced most of the questions presented above in some fashion, but from the opposite side of the spectrum. I was the foreigner this time, and I could total empathize with how the good people of Mexico and Brazil thought when they saw some lanky blonde white boy stride in their direction wearing a band shirt and camp pants. Life is purely about the experience, and with every trip, I feel myself becoming less and less jaded.

I’m more inclined to help those who are in need of it, having felt the awkwardness of a language barrier on both sides. Sure, I should’ve been this way my whole life, but that’s life. You live, you learn, you grow. Moral: Don’t be a dick. Help out if you can, and if you can’t, just give them a smile and a hello. It makes anyone feel more at home, even if home is over 5000 miles away. Now, let’s change gears. Sex.

Specifically, sex on TV, or how sex sells. I’m not a prude, farrrrrrr from it. I’ve a collection of porn and I undress women with my eyes. Completely natural. Anywho, what gets me is the sensationalism of throwing hot women anywhere and everywhere. Do mint companies seriously think throwing some stellar broad in a 15-second ad, writhing around, licking her lips and caressing the “super ultra glacially cold” mint in her mouth is going to make me drop everything to run to the local party store and buy every box of mints in their inventory? Hell no.

What it does make me think is how badly I need to get laid and why the hell can’t I find a woman whose erogenous zone relies solely on a 99-cent box of breath fresheners. I know, I know. The point of the hottie is simply to make you remember the brand. It’s tried, it’s true, and it works like a charm. Just like how everyone knows Hooters. Everyone knows why you go to Hooters: For the wings. DUH.

One instance that was an ultimate fail, however, was on our recent headline tour.

Hiran was my co-pilot, and along a stretch of interstate, we see the nothing new: a billboard with a good looking woman on it. Nothing unusual there as it’s quite commonplace on the long stretches of truck routes. This one in particular was absurd. Again, a large billboard with a very attractive and chesty blonde on it, selling furniture.

Yes, furniture.

We spotted the board, looked at each other with furled brows, looked back at the ad and started laughing in disbelief. I can understand a pretty woman for a restaurant saying they have the prettiest waitstaff in town or full-service car washes, but furniture? If I can find a woman who would be so impressed by my nightstand or armoire (neither of which I have), then I sure as hell can find a chick who’d give it up for a damn mint.

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to talk about the Gwar-B-Q and Dave Brockie’s public memorial. Hiran and I had the luxury of being off for a week in between tours to make the 10 hour one-way trip to Hadad’s lake in Richmond, Virginia, meeting up with our friends Matt and Netia.

The day prior to the Gwar-B-Q was the memorial for the one and only Dave “Oderus Urungus” Brockie. Gwar is my favorite band of all time, and to me (read: MY OPINION) Dave had one of the best voices in metal.

He could scream, sing, bellow and belch with the best of them, and his vocabulary was incredible and immense. It is honestly because of Dave that I like to write as much as I do. I wish I had the same skillful hands he had when it came to works of art, but I suppose mine are better suited to the bass guitar. His death is a great loss to many bohabs across the Earth, and there won’t be anyone like him for a very, very long time, if ever. With that, I’d like to share a story of my brief, yet awesome time with Dave.

At the end of 2013, we were invited to play three dates with Gwar and Iron Reagan. The first gig was in NYC. We got there at our proper load-in time, and after hanging around, I saw Dave come outside and have a quick smoke. I just stared at him, my mind begging me to go over and start a conversation, but my legs were rooted to the ground. I’m a shy bastard by nature, never one good at braking the ice, and Dave being idol-status in my head, I could;t muster the courage to go say hi.

The rest of the band I could chat with, no problem. Brad, Mike, Brent and Jamison were all very nice dudes, and as expected, completely normal. The doors opened, the show was played to a ravenous throng, and a great time was had. I was in the foyer, drinking a beer, when what seemed like out of nowhere, Dave was to my right. “Great show, dude!” It took every ounce of willpower not to scream like a little girl and hug the shit out of him, but I kept my cool and uttered a very meek “Thanks, man! You too, as always!” He smiled and went about his business as usual, whereas I was trying to contain apparent spontaneous combustion caused from every molecule in my body vibrating in an ecstatic frenzy. Okay, ice broken. Whew.

The next day in Hartford is where I made a friend in Dave. I won’t go into detail about the awesomeness of the Gwar show, as you all should know well and good by now. Again, this was the after show. Gwar had just finished, we’re in the green room at Toad’s Place and Dave comes down out of costume, fully dressed and remnants of black make-up still around his eyes. Freshly stoned, he’s wondering around with a red solo cup on the bottom of his iPhone as a makeshift amplifier, blasting Slayer.

We carry around with us an iHome which was gifted to us on the Mayhem tour. This turned a chance meeting into a full-on backstage party. Beers were drank, smoke was smoked and fun was HAD. I got to pick the brain of the dude I looked up to, and I came away from it enlightened and overjoyed. Expectedly, and as I had hoped, he was a kind and wise man. After everyone was tuckered out, I couldn’t wait to go to sleep and see what happens tomorrow.

The last day we played with Gwar was in their hometown of Richmond. It was also a Sunday. Yep, a day of football watching with Gwar. Everyone got along, I got to inspect the costumes of Gwar up close. Well…as close as I could get without gagging. I’m telling ya, it’s no exaggeration when they say their costumes are stinky. Woof. But still, to relish in the presence that is the spectacle of Gwar was enough to combat the aroma.

To cut to the chase, the moment is and always will be one the the greatest moments of my life would be after the show. Again, it was their hometown so they, along with Iron Reagan, had a plethora of friends and family strewn about the green rooms. The band members, one by one, began showing up to the dressing rooms, and then in came Dave. I was standing in the middle of the room, casually chatting with people and I see Dave waltz in. Though at this moment, he didn’t say hi to all of his friends. He saw me, I immediately said “Great show, Dave!,” and he approached me saying “Thanks, Donny!” and gave me a hug.

I couldn’t believe it. Out of everyone there, he addressed me first. Why? I don’t know why, but he did. Years and years and years have come and gone wondering if I’d ever make a friend of Oderus Urungus, and goddamnit I finally fucking did it.

That made the memorial pretty hard on me. It was hard on a lot of people, and we all have our reasons why. But all the while, watching Dave’s costume going up in flames on the funeral pyre, it was all I could think about. I shed a few tears, remembered the awesome, yet slightly off-kilter dude that Dave was, and smile. Thank you for all of the great shows and memories, Dave. You will love on in the music of GWAR, your inspiration to the fans of Gwar and in the hearts of those who loved and adored you. Hail Oderus!

The Gwar-B-Q happened the following day, to the crowd of what I read was estimated to be around five thousand people. It was a warm wonderful day, with many great bands in support of the Scumdogs of the Universe. Hatebreed crushed it as did Iron Reagan and earlier bands as well whose names escape me. Goatwhore were supposed to play, but as is the plight of many bands, van troubles and heavy traffic kept that from happening.

I met up with plenty of friends that day, namely my buds Jeanna, Ken, Nick and Taylor. I didn’t purchase a VIP ticket, but somehow, with their help, I made my way into the VIP area with matching wristband. I got to see Brad and offer my well-wishes and condolences, and enjoy a couple of the Gwar Killsner beer. Then came the show I was excited yet apprehensive to see.

I heard the rumor that Mike Bishop would fill the spot of frontman, but how? What will it sound like? Will it be awkward? Fuck no, it wasn’t. This was Gwar after all. After an introduction from Sleazy P., the music kicked on and out came Bishop as Blothar and just killed it. His performance was spot on, and with the cheers of the crowd and everyone singing along to the songs, you could see Bishop ease into the role with each passing song.

Will Gwar ever be the same? Yes, and no. Gwar will always be Gwar, this is just a new chapter, and I’m beyond excited to see where it will go. With the talk of bring back old characters from the crypts (Sexecutioner was there, along with Bozo Destructo, Slymenstra and Gor Gor) and the promise of even more intense stage shows, every bohab at the Gwar-B-Q had smiles on their faces, and rightly so.

Welp, that about does it for this entry. Thank you for reading, and always, please feel free to leave comments on any subjects you’d like me to touch on in the future of this column. Until next time!

-DSDFA

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