NewsWritten by Emmy Mack on October 27, 2017
GWAR axeman Michael Derks, better known as BälSäc the Jaws ‘o Death, is battling a life-threatening form of bone marrow cancer.
In a statement made via a new virtual drive for marrow donors, the rhythm guitarist reveals that he was diagnosed with myelofibrosis after being hospitalised during this year’s US Warped Tour with “extreme fatigue and weakness”.
Despite seeming in fine form when his band gatecrashed American Authors’ Warped set to butcher their singer live onstage, Derks says that when he got back home his hemoglobin levels “continued to fall and the only course of treatment has been a series blood transfusions to keep my red and white blood cells from dropping to dangerous levels”.
“I went for further testing… and the doctors have diagnosed me with myelofibrosis, a disease that causes scarring inside of the bones and interferes with the marrow’s ability to produce blood cells,” he recalls.
Derks goes on to reveal the horrifying prediction that, “If left to run it’s course the doctors say I am most likely to only survive another 3 to 5 years”, adding that there’s only one hope for his potential recovery.
“There is a treatment with a chance of curing my condition, a bone marrow transplant,” he explains. “This procedure involves destroying my diseased bone marrow with high doses of chemotherapy, and then replacing it with healthy marrow from a donor.
“I will hopefully have the transplant early next year. I will spend a month in the hospital and then at least a year in recovery, where my immune system will be practically non-existent. The procedure has a mortality rate of 30%, but the Massey Center [where he’s receiving treatment] has brought this down to around 15%.
“With my family’s help and the support of my friends, I will beat this.”
Derks further states that he doesn’t plan to let his diagnosis prevent him from doing what he loves; shredding metal riffs and dismembering political figureheads live on stage, which he says has a “curative effect” on his soul.
“Since the only thing I can do while the doctors try to find a matching donor is to get myself physically fit, I’ve decided to not let the impending hospitalization keep me from doing what I enjoy most, performing with GWAR,” he writes.
“I will be joining them on the upcoming North American tour where we will be playing many of the songs from our new album, The Blood of Gods, a record that I am prouder of than anything else I’ve put out in my 30 year career.”
His brave post, entitled GWAR commands you to save a life!, details an intimate account of the reclusive musician’s health struggles wrapped in an appeal for any prospective bone marrow donors to volunteer.
“I’ve spent the last thirty years behind a mask as the guitarist for the shock rock band GWAR. And that’s where I’m comfortable, behind the mask,” he confesses.
“I am not someone who enjoys putting my life out for others to see on social media, and I do it now only because I know many people are concerned about me.
“…Everyone I have told about my condition have asked what they can do to help,” Derks continues. “I have teamed up with the incredible people at Love Hope Strength to offer a way for my friends and fans to not only help me, but all of the thousands of people out there in need of a bone marrow transplant.
“We are running a virtual drive to find donors to join the international registry of people willing to save a strangers life. So, please, if you are willing and able, become a donor today. There is no obligation, it will just allow you to find out if there is someone out there who’s life you could save.”
To get involved, you can head to lovehopestrength.org
Derks was last in Australia with GWAR as part of the Soundwave 2014 lineup. Frontman Dave Brockie AKA Oderus Urungus tragically died of a drug overdose just weeks after the festival wrapped up.
Gallery: 11 Unforgettable Soundwave Festival Moments
Gwar - Soundwave 2014
Interstellar gods of metal GWAR well and truly made their mark on Australian audiences at Soundwave 2014 when front-thing Oderus Urungus used his mighty sword to decapitate an effigy of our widely-loathed PM Tony Abbott and soak the cheering crowd in his blood. Not even Napisan Plus could remove those pink stains which, for many, would soon become a sweaty memento from one of the last performances Urungus would ever give. His human alter ego, Dave Brockie, died tragically just weeks later from a heroin overdose.
Mike Patton - Soundwave 2010
Nothing like a bit of mid-set nudity to make Faith No More’s headlining slot at Brisbane Soundwave in 2010 even more, uh, Epic. Frontman Mike Patton proved he was Just A Man by unleashing Mike Jr. from his trousered hideaway and literally rocking out with his cock out.
Bloodhound - Soundwave 2009
An honourable mention must go to the Bloodhound Gang, who took the stage in 2009 to effectively reduce the throng of adult metalheads into sexually frustrated 13-year-olds. They did it like they did on the Discovery Channel, with healthy dose of Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo. Nostalgia was everywhere. As were bewbs.
Alexisonfire - Soundwave 2010
As anyone who was on the scene for Sydney Soundwave 2010 can attest, that was the hottest fucking day in the history of the earth. The festival, then-held out near Eastern Creek Raceway, was one giant dustbowl, and those who withstood the 40+ temperatures were coughing up dirt for the next three days. Alexisonfire must have pre-empted this outcome and decided: fuck it. Frontman George Pettit jumped into the crowd mid-set and gave himself a dirt-bath in the middle of the pit. Who needs sunblock when you’re covered in a 2-inch thick layer of dust anyway? Epic.
All Time Low - Soundwave 2015
When the sky opened up and unleashed a rainstorm of hell upon Sydney Soundwave earlier this year, right in the middle of All Time Low’s set, the Baltimore pop punk’s gear got wrecked, and the band were unable to play on. However, instead of letting the storm beat them, frontman Alex Gaskarth ploughed onward, leading fans in an a cappella singalong of his band’s track Weightlessas well as some of Queen’s We Will Rock You. Many people became All Time Low fans that day.
Dallas Green – Soundwave 2008
Dallas Green performed a musical screaming eagle in ’08 when he appeared as the frontman of both Alexisonfire and City + Colour. Crushing skulls and melting hearts. All in a day’s work.
Fucked Up - Soundwave 2011
The spirit of punk was alive and well at SW11 when Fucked Up gave an expectedly insane performance, complete with hair-ripping, sweaty hugging, and beast frontman Damien force-feeding the mic to members of the crowd. This set will probably go down in Aussie festival history.
Killer Be Killed – Soundwave 2015
After a hurricane of hype leading up to their global live debut at Soundwave 2015, metal supergroup Killer Be Killed – featuring Max Cavalera, Greg Puciato, Troy Sanders and Ben Koller – did not disappoint, delivering an absolutely pulverising set.
Blink-182 – Soundwave 2013
A Travis Barker-less Blink-182 shot their love all over the crowd during their headlining set at Soundwave 2013. With Bad Religion drummer Brooks Wackerman filling in on the skins, the pop punk trio capped off their first show in Australia since 2004 by wheeling out a massive confetti canon and opening fire on a sweat-drenched mosh pit, absolutely smothering fans in the coloured stuff. Many shower drains got clogged, that fateful night.
Slash – Soundwave 2012
Alter Bridge pulled a rabbit out of their hat during their Sydney set in 2012, and by hat we mean top hat and by rabbit we mean guitar legend Slash, who was wearing the hat. The ex-Guns N’ Roses icon wasn’t even known to be in the country at the time, but he majestically appeared to claim an unused Marshall stack and Gibson Les Paul and join his singer Myles Kennedy for a few choice AB jams. You really never can tell just when #wunterslaush is going to turn up somewhere.
Jane’s Addiction – Soundwave 2010
Soundwave 2010 was bittersweet for Jane’s Addiction fans, marking the band’s last ever tour. As ladies danced onstage and punters tried to mask their lonely tears, Eric Avery’s words rang home: “That’s it. With equal parts regret and relief, the Jane’s Addiction experiment is at an end.”