From Glory Holes to Ersatz Feces: Maris the Great Finds Truth in Discomfort

Maris the Great
Maris the Great Jeremy Atkins
Maris the Great revels in making people a little uncomfortable.

That might seem an obvious take on a gay zombie who swills beer and studies the work of infamous serial killers to “murder” rival bands in Denver’s heavy music scene, and whose origin story involves a former glory hole in Cheesman Park before becoming a live performer who delivers multiple gallons of ersatz feces through a garden hose onto an unsuspecting audience. He’s also been kicked off a Pride parade, as not everyone is enamored with his use of drag queens in his band, the Faggots of Death. The moniker is a play on Stormtroopers of Death, an '80s thrash metal band that also trafficked in wanton offensiveness.

So yeah, saying he makes people uncomfortable and sometimes outright pissed off seems like a forgone conclusion, a statement from Captain Obvious. But Maris the Great, who performs at the Venue on Friday, October 28, says he doesn’t engage in cringe-inducing feats of art just for the sake of shocking people. He finds artistic fulfillment in it, and a way — as unorthodox as it may seem — to process the world in which he lives.

“It’s just the need to let the truth make people squirm a little bit,” he confesses.

That statement leads Maris to begin talking about one of the bands he murdered this year, an all-women metal outfit called Blood of Lilith. The band’s rather gruesome demise is currently the showcased murder on his Fangoria Magazine-evoking website. The setup involves the ladies of Blood of Lilith sacrificing a nude “boy toy” to send Maris, who also goes by Lord Maris, back to the pit of hell from which he emerges every summer. (Blood of Lilith did not respond to a request for comment.) Maris admits he’s spending a lot of time coming up with new ways to send himself to hell after Halloween every year.

"It was definitely an experience to die for," Blood of Lilith says of being the feature murder. "Maris has killed some amazing bands in the past, and is an absolute legend. We’ve been wanting to be killed by Maris since even before Blood of Lilith! We’re so honored to have met our demise at his hands."

The ceremony, of course, goes awry, and Maris murders the members of Blood of Lilith in a fashion most revolting. His favorite contribution to the photo gallery he posts of the crime is not the meticulously crafted scenes of gore – brutal enough to make a seasoned homicide detective blush and take the rest of the week off – but the boy toy’s hairy ass on full display. “For some people, it’s more offensive than looking at pictures of gore and murder,” he says. “I like doing that because there’s a weird truth tucked in there about people and the weird walls they have up between them. … It’s just where I like to hang out with my art.”

Maris adds that he likes to work with girl bands. They aren’t as common as bands populated with men, and one could fill a book with the reasons why. One woman in particular influenced him as an artist: Wendy O. Williams, the frontwoman of legendary sleaze punks the Plasmatics, perhaps best known for humping guitars with chainsaws on stage while wearing whipped cream bras adorned with hot dog-shaped nipples. He saw her perform once at a sparsely attended Denver show, and was overjoyed to meet her.

“To this day it’s why I have a mohawk,” he says. “When we meet people we look up to, we hope that they are nice and they are cool, and she was.”

As much as he likes to work with femme punk and metal bands, most women aren’t exactly gassed up at the aspect of being nude, which is prominently included in much of Maris’s work. And when Maris has invited strippers to work on a murder scene, the issue is that the straight men in the room get distracted. Another case of dumb morality interfering with good art.

“The guys, as soon as they see a nude girl, they go completely and utterly stiff, because they’ve been socialized that it’s not okay in any way to show ‘wooo!’ about nude women,” he says. “I’m usually more excited about nude women than they are.”
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Maris the Great and the Faggots of Death
Sinister Star
He adds that his audience is primarily straight men, and he’s never felt the need to make them feel better about what they are looking at by showing nude women on his website. But, he says, nude women are an aspect of his art that he would like to explore more in depth, and he has some ideas he’s culled from the annals of true crime. He’s just waiting for the right group of women.

“Sooner or later, I’ll hit pay dirt,” Maris says.

Maris adds that the male musicians he "murders" are far less likely to have any compunction about taking off their clothes. He muses that these men — who are often straight — see it as a "day pass" into the gay world. Maris loves the access, and doesn’t want to fuck it up, so he’s taken on an female assistant to keep tabs on the vibe in the room so no one feels too uncomfortable and boundaries are respected.

“I get to occupy this weird, cool space that I don’t know if anyone else would be allowed to,” he says. “People seem to trust Maris the Great. They know certain things go with it. I can say certain things and get away with it, saying things, doing things.”

Maris says embracing death and violence is kind of therapy for how he deals with life. For the most part, his murders possess a festive air among the participants. “They just turn into parties,” he says. “This whole summer was just one party after another. It was laughing and people dying and pools of blood. I wish people understood that. It’s how I deal with the ugliness in the world.”

And he finds it fulfilling. He’s murdered bands from all over the country, and has done so for more than twenty years (not counting a few years of retirement, from which he returned in 2020). A lot of work goes into it, and that extends to his bandmates, as well. When Steak Diane, his “straight drag queen” bandmate, decided to perform in drag, Maris insisted the lead guitarist leave him voicemails with his best drag voice, spend time watching a drag show at local gay bar, and receive makeup tips from a real drag queen. It was important that the rich culture of drag be respected. Steak Diane, who plays in numerous other bands, has committed to the role wholeheartedly.

“He went into this the same way a method actor would go into playing a part, with complete humility,” Maris says.

Maris started this long art project as a younger gay man who didn’t dig the music played at most gay bars and clubs in Denver. He wanted to see metal and punk but be himself. An early inspiration, he says, was the Pansy Division, a punk band whose members fully embraced being gay. So he’s thrilled that Patrick Goodwin, the former lead guitarist of that band, has joined the Faggots of Death this year. Goodwin attended Maris’s 2021 Halloween show and drunkenly demanded to be allowed in. When another member decided to temporarily leave the band, Maris asked Goodwin to join. It was a big moment.

“'I can’t believe I’m reaching out to a former member of Pansy Division and hashing him to be in the Faggots of Death, but here I go,'” Maris recalls thinking. “He was like, ‘Hell yeah!’ He’s a guitar monster, so the sound is going to be much heavier.”

Over Goodwin’s protests, Maris has dubbed him Kermit the Fag, a name he’d been wanting to use for quite some time.

“He’s into Dolly Parton,” Maris says of the character. “And his husband, of course, has to be Mr. Piggy. Patrick is married, and I’m trying to get his husband to be Mr. Piggy, but no dice so far.”

Maris the Great and the Faggots of Death play the Venue, 1451 Cortez Street, Friday, October 28, 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.
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