TED Talks don’t usually begin with the speaker being slammed in the head by a stone tablet and then having the flesh ripped from their face, but that’s what happened when one Gwar member was recruited to participate in the popular speaking series. Appearing at a TEDx conference in the metal band’s native Richmond, Virginia, Gwar bassist/singer Michael “Blothar” Bishop delivered a unique, moving and, at times, insane speech concerning regional identity, the PRP reports.
“Hello, my name is Michael Bishop, I am a musician… I am the human slave of the berserker Blothar, who is the new lead singer of Gwar,” the rocker formerly known as “Beefcake the Mighty” said, introducing himself to the crowd after the gory intro. Before Bishop joined the costumed metal act, he graduated from the University of Virginia with a PhD in music, especially in the field of regional identity.
Bishop then quickly maps out the deranged fictional history of the band: They were aliens that crashed into Antarctica and were trapped in ice, only to be thawed out by a hole in the ozone layer that opened up thanks to the copious amounts of hairspray used by Ratt and Poison. “But really, Gwar is from Richmond, Virginia,” Bishop said. “And what I’ve found is that being from [Richmond] is almost as strange as being from Antarctica.”
Bishop then explains how Gwar reflects “the culture, history and geography” of Richmond. “Here’s where I become an academic: Gwar registers this city’s troubled history with race relations and economic struggle,” “Blothar” told the audience. Bishop then explains that the band’s art collective, dubbed the “Slave Pit,” is not like slavery in the literal sense but a punk/DIY “voluntary devotion to art.”
“Like it or not, Richmond, Gwar is one of your most recognized cultural products,” Bishop says in conclusion. “I’m very proud of that.”