It’s always good to talk to you Blackie. When we spoke early last year you were telling me about the records that are coming out now. Exactly how long have you been working on this project?
Collectively about ten years.
Wow – and it’s impressive. I’ve got the storyline in front of me and it’s a massive project.
I wrote it all about you.
What was the inspiration for The Neon God?
I was looking for what I thought was the greatest single common denominator that we all share, which is that idea of, “Oh tell me, my lord. Why am I here?” When you think about the essentials in life and what do we all most share in common – beyond food and water and that kind of thing. What’s that one idea that we all think about constantly but don’t really talk about much unless it’s in a religous context or something. It’s where we’re contstantly asking ourselves – no matter how much faith we have – we sometimes find ourselves asking, “What’s this all about? Why are we here? Does this really mean anything? How important is this? Will my life have meant anything when I’m gone? Am I just a pawn in a game? Am I good? Am I bad? Is there good? Is there evil?” All of those things. In that one question, to me, it’s a plead for knowledge. Our “cry-out” for knowledge. God, tell me. What’s this all about? Why am I here? Do I mean anything? I thought that was a pretty powerful thought. Regardless of if people talk about it a lot or not, I still think it’s the one that we all probably feel the strongest and feel the most. It’s that dark, nagging thing in the back of your head that you can’t escape.
Sometimes I think people that are “really religious” are afraid to ask that question because it puts them in a situation of questioning their faith.
Yeah, unfortunately you’re right. I was pretty involved in the church until I was about 17. I went. Nobody made me go. I went because I wanted to. I started asking tough questions that I could not get straight answers for. I wasn’t asking anyone to solve the riddles of the universe. I knew better than that. I was asking simple things. I went for 20 years after that where I completely abandoned the church. I went around – well, I was blaming God – for the things I didn’t like; the hypocrisy in the church, organized religion, the indoctrination that people get when they’re there. They’re re-training you how to think, according to them. I thought I was mad at God for 20 years and one day out of the blue I realized I was not mad at God. I was mad at man. When I came to that conclusion it totally changed my outlook on the way I viewed faith. You’re absolutely right that people will not question that because in some circles this would be considered blasphemy.
I knew in our last conversation that you had possibly went through a change because you gave me a big therapy session. You explained that we’re all on a journey and there are different steps in the process…
I’m the Dr. Phil of rock ‘n roll!
You talked about going through spiritual fulfillment. Are you fulfilled now?
Boy, I tell ya. I want to tell you, “Yeah,” but if you knew what I’d been through making these records…It is the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I am so numb right now that I can hardly think or feel. This has been an extremely painful birth. I had an engineer screw up a lot of the original tracks. We had to go back and fix ‘em. This has been more agonizing than anything I’ve ever encountered in my entire career. We’ve mixed this first record four times trying to get it right. It’s just been recently that we finished it. I started it middle of October, trying to mix the first record. I’m talking 15 hour days, seven days a week. We took three days off at Christmas. Other than that it’s been non-stop. This has been a bloodbath. Financially, emotionally, spiritually, everything.
And you finally get it finished and you get to talk to pinheads like me!
No, I wouldn’t say that. I would also say that it’s still not finished. There’s the second record that’s on the way that we’re finishing up now.
Perfect lead-in to my next question. Did you have all the songs laid out before you went in or did the writing process continue as you progressed in the studio?
It was pretty much all laid out. The problem with doing a concept record is, unlike a regular record when you’re finished you can create a running order and keep re-arranging it until you like it, with this you can not do that. It’s written in stone. You get the music assembled before you write the lyrics. I wrote the story first so I knew where the flow was going to go. Creating the music is a different issue because if you get the lyrics written and you put it all together and you don’t like the running order then you’ve got a big problem. You’re gonna have to rip that wall down and build it up again and THAT is monumental. You don’t want to do that. What you do is get your music laid out first and listen to the flow of it. Then you start assembling the lyrics into place. That’s how the story goes from there. There is no sane way to do it.
Since this is your brainchild, did you do all the songwriting? Was it easy to let someone else come into your world and contribute?
Quite honestly, yeah I did write this stuff. Darrell Roberts, our guitar player, has been pretty instrumental in helping me make this record. He’s been very, very close to me. I can’t think of anybody in the entire time that I’ve been making records that’s been closer to me than he has while doing this. He was running the machine when I was doing the vocals. He’s been there every step of the way as far as that part of the process goes. He’s a real good sounding board, too. He’s been an enormous help to me. He has a pretty big investment in this project.
The Neon God comes out April 20. When will the second part be out?
About three months after that.
Will you be doing any touring in-between?
Oh yeah. The tour starts May 1 in Europe. Then we’re back here in the States. July 13, I think. We’ll be here for about six or seven weeks.
Will part two of the story be the conclusion or will there be more?
It’s just a two-part thing. There may be a third part that’s video/DVD stuff of what we do across the tour. That, for me, is light years down the road. My first objective is to get the second record finished. Then I’ll get out and tour and catch my breath for five seconds. Everybody laughs when I tell ‘em that. It really is the truth. For me to get any rest I’m gonna have to go on tour. I know that sounds insane, but touring will be a piece of cake compared to what this has been.
Would you care to explain the album cover?
You’ll read in the story where they talk about the pagan rituals that they have when they finally get the cult up and running, there’s that sea of humanity that’s behind them. Those twisted bodies. It’s that orgy that they talk about. The pagan hedonism. The idea of him in the middle in some sort of divinity pose is also – and I use that term very loosely – this is not him on a cross. It’s him looking up to the heavens. The idea of the hands up under him, reaching out to him and then him reaching to a higher power after that. It’s kinda like the chain of command, so to speak. To me that represents the different levels of thinking. You see the mass of hands, like a congregation in the foreground, reaching up for him. He’s reaching up the the heavens. Behind him is the madness of the twisted bodies. That’s the background scenery to him of everything that’s going on inside his head. I don’t know if we’ve ever done a more powerful cover than that.
I can’t stop looking at all this information in front of me to accompany the record. Will this all be in the liner notes, like the character profiles?
The storyline will. The rest will be on the website. One of the things we wanted to do is keep the album packaging as tight and concise as possible. We didn’t want to have to shrink the type down. Quite honestly, the character profiles I didn’t feel were necessary to put in the CD booklet. Here in Hollywood, when people are writing movies they have an expression called “fleshing out a character.” When you do that you have to literally put meat on their bones. In the process of doing that you’ve got to give them a past, a present, and maybe even a future. To really make them real they have to be believable characters. In the process of doing that you get to know them pretty good…How they think, how they react. That’s how you can then place them into scenarios. That basically writes itself. You make these characters real, you put ‘em together, and then say, “OK. Start doin’ something!” The character profiles will be available on the website. There’s also going to be extensive things available on the website where you can go into little rooms, like Asylum #9. You’ll be able to go into the orphanage. You’ll see other characters there that don’t even appear in the regular profiles that will be on the website. The liner notes will also be translated on the website into several major languages. We felt that the story was so important and we have this wonderful tool called the internet that we didn’t have 12 years ago when we did The Idol, why not do it so people could do it in their native language and better understand the story.
THAT in itself sound like a huge undertaking…
Oh man, are you kidding? This has been an enormous project. You know what we’ve done? We’ve made a movie. We just didn’t film it. That’s the only difference.
What would you like people to know about WASP in 2004?
This is, without question, the biggest labor of love I’ve ever attempted to put together. When people listen to it, I hope they would enjoy it. But, moreso than that I hope that they would find something that would help create more meaning to who they are. If this record makes people think about that question – “Why am I here?” – and really start looking into themselves and it makes them a better person then this record has succeeded. That’s what the desire is for me.
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