If you asked Warthog vocalist Chris Hansell exactly what the skulleted mascot of his band is, he might respond with Jennifer Lopez. Or a swiss army knife. Or maybe even Bo Jackson. “You know how God’s not just some guy with a big white beard sitting upstairs? Larry can be a multitude of things,” says Chris Hansell. “He’s our spirit guide, our dad, our grim reaper, our muse. He’s so many things.”
Larry, short for Lawrence W. Arthög (the W. clearly stands for “Warthog”), has become synonymous with the band, arguably more recognizable than any individual member. He appears on their releases, merch, and show fliers, even on stage and in the crowd, with friends and fans of the band stepping in to play the character live at shows. “Larry is this thing that people can get involved with in a weird way, or even be fucking Larry. You know, there’s a number of people that have been Larry at shows,” says Warthog guitarist Mike Goo. “There’s that element that’s kind of playful, that you can kind of be a part of.”
Alex Heir, a New York punk who owns the Death/Traitors clothing label, does art for a slew of bands in the New York punk scene, and drew the first Larry for a t-shirt. “I’m known for drawing skulls and skeletons. It’s kinda been my thing. And I had the concept of a skeleton tearing the world apart,” says Heir, who first drew Larry pulling a knife across the world with the words “Exterminate Me,” the title of Warthog’s first EP. “The defining things of Larry are the skullet haircut, the crack down the center of his forehead, and the backwards vampire fangs. I remember with the skullet, I’m really into Japanese traditional art, and they have these cool Noh and Hannya masks with this long hair that swoops around sometimes. So I’d been really into that concept. I wanted to incorporate that into the drawing, and I figured instead of having him have this all-over hair, let’s just give him this weird long balding thing that was pretty unique. And it just took off from there.”
But to say that Heir created Larry alone would be incorrect—like a decade long game of telephone, the backstory of the mascot has evolved through the years, definitions dependent on who’s telling the tale. Some members of Warthog believe Larry speaks many of the world’s languages. Others believe he only speaks the romantic ones. Some members think he may be Italian, while others are sure that he is—specifically the type who consider themselves to be people of color. Some believe that Larry is gay, some think that's true only at certain times in his history. And maybe most importantly, the members of Warthog can’t even agree on if Larry was named by guitarist Sully Sullivan or bassist Mateo Cartagena.
Somebody in Warthog cut their finger on a string in a dirty ass practice space in an old meat market, that combined with pig DNA, and Larry came out of that.
Heir believes Larry is young; the band is unable to determine his age, but agree that it is between 5,000 and 5,000,000 years old. “I feel like Larry is much more of a contemporary figure. I think Larry’s only like 10 years old,” says Heir. The mythology is more “like some Hellraiser shit,” he explains, “where somebody in Warthog cut their finger on a string in a dirty ass practice space in an old meat market, that combined with pig DNA, and Larry came out of that.”
Whatever the case, chaos reigns in Larry’s history, and the band can be very much united on some issues. “Larry is for the end of civilization, but for the right reasons. You know, it’s gone too far. And everyone’s got to go. But first and foremost, the people that are making it unlivable need to go, be it politicians or police, or any kind of oppressors,” says Sullivan. “He’s fair and just, [and] in the same sense, he’s unfair and unjust. He doesn’t take stuff seriously because he’s seen it all. He’s really just so old that he’s seen any of the things that are awful in this society.” He’s unimpressed.
When Heir was asked to draw a shirt where Larry was depicted as a butcher hacking up a bunch of human body parts, the recipient of LW Arthög’s justice was unanimous: a cop. “It’s very important to the band that Larry is a doer of good,” says Heir. “The band was like, ‘We have to make the severed head a cop head, because we want to make it known that Larry does not kill people just for fun. He only kills bad people.’”
That’s not the only thing they agree on: both Heir and the band believe that the future of Mr Arthög is bright, if inconclusive. “Larry will probably stand the test of time in a different way than other pieces I’ve done, because it’s symbiotic with the music. The music and the art help each other live on,” says Heir. “It’s like the boat philosophical concept.” He’s referring to the ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus’ paradox–an ancient Greek thought experiment. “You’ve got all the pieces of the boat: nails, wood, sail fabric. If they’re all [stored separately,] they’re not going to last over time. But if you construct them as a boat, they can age over eternity.”
And thus, Larry and Warthog can sail together, as one, spreading the gospel of righteousness, destruction, and Poison Idea-style hardcore punk.
“I don’t necessarily know what he’s taught the world,” says Hansell, “Other than that the skullet is a sick look.”