W.A.S.P., one of the legendary bands to come out of the 80?s scene recently released Best of The Best Volume 1 via Snapper Music. With 13 albums to their credit, W.A.S.P. has sold millions of albums spawning an army of loyal fans around the world. They?re known for their electrifying live shows and raw, aggressive music, so the time seemed right to unleash this beast. I had the chance to speak with founding member Blackie Lawless who filled me in on what?s been going on and what lies ahead for the band.
For why they decided to release a Best of compilation Blackie luckily replies “why not. You have to take into consideration that there?s going to be two parts to it. Basically the label said put together what you think” would be a greatest hits package. “I came up with 35 tracks. What we decided to do was to do it in two parts. Manufacturing and the cost to fans is cost prohibitive to do another double record right now. I wanna do a traditional best of set” adding to the disc “what you would expect but also something that represents milestones in our career”. He continues that “Show No Mercy was put on for a reason, not just because it was a B-side of the Animal single that was never put on an album. That record represented our beginning, our very early days, what was now considered to be speed metal. We haven?t had anything like this in a while. Capitol had done a (Best of) about eight years ago but it?s been out of print for three or four years now”. Blackie notes that fans have been clamoring for a hits package. “You try to satisfy that want that?s out there” and that Volume 2 “will be out in a year”. They covered the Elton John hit Saturday Night?s Alright For Fighting because “we thought it was a great track” and that you want to “do it different and better and put your stamp on it. Give it a shot and see what happens”. The new label, Snapper Music “has our historical catalog, the catalog that?s been in stores for a couple years. When the studio albums were re-released” The Greatest Hits via Capitol “was never re-released. This (Best of The Best) is updated. There was a void in the marketplace. So that?s the reason this record is on their label. What we?ll be doing in North America from now on won?t be with that because they?re not really set up as a label here.”
As for their dealings with their old label CMC Blackie points out that “my management bought them out” referring to Sanctuary Music. “The reason everybody went (to CMC) was for their BMG distribution, but the whole thing was in whole disarray” referring to CMC?s problems with their 80?s bands like Dokken, Twisted Sister and Judas Priest. “It was horrible. I?m not going to say anything one way or another as to what?s going to happen because they have infrastructure that needs to go in place and things like that. I have reason to want to be there” and that “I?m not contractually obligated to stay there” while “I?m looking at what the options are before I make a decision”. It doesn?t bother Blackie that his management is also his record label now. “I?m at a point where I pretty much manage myself” even though “it isn?t like I never talk to anybody there. I have other interests related with them” but that “for a long time I?ve handled my own affairs”.
Becoming one of the better hard rock bands to come from the 80?s, Blackie explains that “it?s finding the right chemistry of people. You do what comes natural to you, develop yourself as a performer and songwriter. Once you find something that gels and you give it a chance to develop it will take it?s own course”. Touring is a key ingredient in success. It seems to be harder for newer bands. “I know it?s more expense now to tour than it ever was” and that “bands don?t have the support from the labels. Bands from the 70?s and 80?s made their bones touring and did it for years on end. I spoke to a band that was out for nine weeks and that was the most they?d been out for one stretch” while Blackie did “that for three years. I don?t know if they don?t want to or relationships between bands and labels has changed. The major labels look at bands as more expendable”. W.A.S.P didn?t always have an easy ride.
As for the grunge nightmare, “I didn?t worry about what was happening. We were lucky enough to come out when we did and were able to establish a fanbase?.thank god. I was doing records that were more self-reflective and spending long periods of time working on them – years”. Compared to where “our second record was done in seven weeks top to bottom and we were back on the road. Still Not Black Enough and Crimson Idol took years to make” as they “were not done overnight. I remember when a single was released off Crimson Idol, in 1993, Hold Onto My Heart, and it was the biggest hit I had in America. I looked at the charts and the only bands I recognized were Motley Crue and Sammy Hagar. Everything else was bands I never heard of” and that “it was a very bizarre feeling. A select few of us survived that ice age” mainly because “of the quality of the music. It wasn?t a hard time, it was just different. The worst time was right before our commercial peak” the release of Inside The Electric Circus, “all the PMRC with their death threats and being shot at. It turned into an insane asylum. We had done a record and a tour record and a tour” and that “it wasn?t fun anymore. I feel Electric Circus was a weak record because of that. The touring schedule and label pressures” was too much. “I developed the Beatles attitude of we got into the music business to make records, not for live gigs. I said I?m going into the studio, I don?t care how long it takes and I?m going to make the best record I can. Headless took over a year to make” as they “never dreamed of doing anything like that. That?s all part of riding that rollercoaster and starting to think for yourself. Labels tell you to make records and hit the road” which Blackie does not follow to anymore.
With their established fanbase WASP is in the unique position of not worrying about the pitfalls of the music industry. “Ever since we signed with Capitol we always had right of refusal for material that went out which is unheard of for bands to get something like that. Nobody ever came into the studio and pestered us and tell me what to do. They didn?t know what we were doing so they basically left us alone” mainly because “they couldn?t figure it out. When it comes to making records I?ve been living in a bubble, unbelievably lucky”. Their best tour was “us and Metallica playing clubs” back in ?85. “Both bands were upstarts, getting a grip on what was going on and were in competition” which “was really healthy”. As for future tours “we just finished up two months in North America. We?re looking to put a package together for July and August” which isn?t finalized. Commenting on the resurgence of hard rock and heavy metal Blackie notes that “the climate out there is remarkably better than it was a year ago, extremely healthy. I?m not going to say it?s what it was in the 80?s because the 80?s was a phenomenon that we may never see again, almost an unnatural phenomenon”. Recently “we saw radio stations coming out of the woodwork to help us that didn?t help us when we were selling millions of records. We just did a thing for VH1 called Top 40 Bad Asses of All Time” and that he “was number 18. They?re always doing new stuff like that all the time”. But WASP will not rest. A new studio album will be ready “probably next year. We have 40% of it done but if we go out on tour we?ll never have it ready in time. We just did a webcast of a live show that gives blood, bombs and mayhem. More bombastic bang for your buck” which is exactly what you would expect from a live WASP concert. Blackie sums it up by saying it?s just “another day at the office.”
The Internet has helped get WASP music to the masses, but that “the majority of their mail order” for merchandise “comes through the mail. It may add on or enhance things but nothing is ever going to replace retail”. The future for WASP “is the (tour) package we?re talking about and then we finish the next studio record. I look at it a year and a half to two years down the road. If you get further than that you get ahead of yourself. There are too many variables involved. You can?t predict any further than that, not accurately”.
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