Warbeast's Church Van Hides The Band's Sins.
Behind every great band is a great van. And when these former church vans, daycare buses and plumber's work vehicles have racked up enough miles on the road, they eventually start being thought of by the band as another member of the team. Hey, we get it: It's hard to spend so many hours with bandmates (both human and machine) without a few things getting broken, a few good fights taking place and lots of great memories being made. We hope that, by exploring these stories, we might get to know some bands from both North Texas and beyond on a more personal level.Check out this feature's archives here.
Here's something North Texas metal five-piece can proudly claim: Phil Anselmo is fully behind them. Seriously: The band's signed to the former Pantera frontman's Housecore Records label, they joined him for a split EP back in January, and their just-released, latest LP, Destroy was even produced by the prominent metal figure.
It's not like the band really Anselmo's approval to help with their metal credentials, though. These dudes have plenty of those. Frontman Bruce Corbitt's been a metal fixture in the region for years, having served as a founding member and vocalist for legendary local thrash outfit Rigor Mortis. Guitarist Scott Shelby's similarly ingrained in the scene thanks to his time in Gammacide. And, just a couple weeks back, the band enlisted Corbitt's Rigor Mortis bandmate, current GWAR member Casey Orr, as its new bassist.
Today, the band heads out on the road in support of Destroy. Before leaving, though, we caught up with the band at their CD release show at Fort Worth's the Rail Club on Saturday night. There, they told us all about the unique ride that takes them where they need to be.
Band Name: Warbeast.
Van Name: First Baptist Church of Donaldsonville.
Year/Make/Model: A 1999 Dodge Ram 3500.
Mileage: 134,000. (Had 88,000 when acquired.)
How did you acquire the van?
Scott Shelby (guitar): “Well, we were looking. Then, my old singer Gammacide, he bought this van. He lives in Donaldsonville. He bought it for his band, but then he called me up and told me he had this creampuff for me, since he'd decided not to use it. So we drove to Donaldsonville, picked it up from him and drove it back.”
Bruce Corbitt (vocals): “That was two years ago.”
Shelby: “He was going to use it, but things changed in his band, so he sold it to us.”
What are your vans worst and best features?
Shelby: “The worst is, obviously, the color of it.”
Joey Gonzalez (drums): “That's also the best, though! It gets us out of trouble from the police.”
Shelby: “That is a lie.”
Gonzalez: “Well, it makes me feel better, knowing that we're riding around in a church van.”
Shelby: “No, see, this is the big myth, that driving this around, you won't get pulled over. On the drive back after I picked it up, soon as I got back into Texas, I got pulled over. I mean, it didn't have any plates or any tags at that point. But there are many more stories of this van getting pulled over.”
Corbitt: “Once, it was because we had a pentagram on the back of the trailer. The cop was like, 'Well, I knew something was up when I saw a Baptist church van with pentagram on the back.' But it has come in handy and gotten us out of some situations. We were going to Arizona and passing through El Paso, and there's this little border check there. We thought it was right at the border, but we didn't see it, so we were just like, 'Well, I guess it ain't here any more!' So we drove on through, and we're ten minutes past it now, so we go ahead and spark one up thinking we're in the clear. Then, the next thing you know, here it is, the check. So we're all freaking out, and the guy driving just answered all of the questions wrong.
Gonzalez: “Like they asked him how many of us were in the van, and he had to turn around and count us And he still got it wrong!”
Bobby Tillotson (guitar): “I had to answer all the questions for him! I was just like, 'There's six of us.' 'And are you all American citizens?' 'Yes, sir.'”
Corbitt: “So then the guy looks down, sees the First Baptist thing and asks, 'Are you guys in a church group?' We're like, 'Uh, yes sir, we absolutely are.' And he was just like 'OK, on your way!'”
It looks like there's a lot of room in the van, with all those rows and everything. It looks like you installed a bed in the back row, too! I imagine that's one of the best features.
Shelby: “That is a good feature! Y'know, after doing a couple tours and being a big guy and rolling around and falling off the seat, I was just like, 'OK, that's it.' I figured I'd build a little frame in front of the seat and get a kid's mattress. And now it's like this whole flat thing. And it works.”
Corbitt: “By the time we leave for tour, we'll all have our rows set up.”
Are the rows assigned?
Corbitt: “I always claim the front one.”
Gonzalez: “Yeah, and me, Bobby and our bass player all have to switch around depending on what's open. I usually try to get behind Bruce, though. He has the least smelliest farts.”
Corbitt: “I don't fart at all! Really! But, basically, Scott always has the back and I always have the front. It's easier to plug in my phone up there.”
Who usually does the driving?
Corbitt: “Everyone but me drives. I've never really driven with a trailer or anything like that. Plus, I need my rest as the singer.”
Shelby: “And I do minimal driving. But I do all the maintenance and mechanical work on the van.”
That's my next question. Got any good breakdown stories?
Gonzalez: “We're pretty efficient on the road! It never takes us longer than 30 or 40 minutes after something happens that we're back on it.
Shelby: “I do regular maintenance after the tours so we don't break down. But we did have the brakes lock up on us in San Francisco. That was bad. The worst, though, was during that hellacious drive from Vegas to Denver. We do it in one night and, in the mountains, the headlights just stopped working.”
Gonzalez: “Yeah. It was maybe 5 o'clock in the morning, we'd just stopped somewhere to get some gas, and we turned our lights off. Next person who tried to turn them on couldn't. The switch just got stuck. We drove the next hour without headlights.”
Corbitt: “Another terrible one was when we were coming back from the very end of that Destruction tour.”
Gonzalez: “Oh, man. Yeah, that sucked.”
Corbitt: “Something was going on where we had to keep the heat on to keep the engine from overheating. And it's summer, so it's already, like, 105.”
Gonzalez: “It was seven hours like that.”
Shelby: “And the head lining was coming down, too. And everyone was sweaty and all that stuff was flying around. Basically, it wasn't the creampuff we'd been told it was. That first summer, it was eating up as much oil as gasoline. Every time we put gas in, we had to put a couple quarts in. Since then, we've fixed it up. We installed new headliners. It's got new shocks and water pumps and a radiator. All the things that would try to keep us from breaking down.”
Gonzalez: “We put a CD player in there, too!”
Any last things we should know about the van?
Corbitt: “It's just so funny to me, still. Every time we pull into a gas station or something, people see the First Baptist sign and then they see us, with our hair and our clothes. The reactions are the best.”
Shelby: “The fans know it now, too, which is pretty cool. We pull up to these venues and, sometimes, there's, like, a line of people out front. Now that we've done the circuit a couple of times, they see us pulling up in the van and they're like 'Warbeast is here!'”
Corbitt: “They want to take pictures by the van — all that. They know, when they see the van, Warbeast is in town.”