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On the 5th of May WASP played in Manchester Academy. Yiannis Dolas was here and did an interview with Blackie Lawless. Waiting for the interview was a task by itself, while you could hear the soundcheck, where the band was rehearsing with “L.O.V.E. Machine”, “I Wanna Be Somebody”, as well as “Pinball Wizard” of the Who. Blackie was very simple and at ease, although he was very tired. In the conversation he talked about the new album, the 80’s, his influences, and the impact WASP had to the heavy metal genre…
Rockpages.gr: So, let’s talk about the new record, “The Neon God Part One”, which was great by the way, what was the idea, why did you choose this story?
Blackie Lawless: I was looking for an idea, and I thought what is the greatest thought, the greatest single thought that we all share, all humans. And I started thinking, “well, who am I, where am I going, does my life real mean anything, does my life have any meaning, or my life mean anything after I am dead, is there God, is there no God”, so I was looking for one way of saying that, of one lyric that I could put it all together, so I came up with the idea “Oh, tell me my Lord, why am I here”. To me that took all the things and put them together, so this story is about that human feeling we all have, and this is a thing we don’t talk about very much, because it frightens us, and so I was looking for what I thought it was the best way of saying…to get people to think about who they are, where their life is going, I mean this record will not answer that question, and I am telling you this very clearly in the liner notes of the album, I said this record will not answer for you, but what it might do is help further that thought process when you think about it yourself to try to figure out who you are and where your life is going? So that is really what it means.
Rockpages.gr: The hero of the story had a lot of trouble in his life, obviously, can you draw some parallels from his life to your life? Are there any similarities or is it just a fiction story?
Blackie Lawless: There probably are similarities, but nothing I can think so right now. I mean I see it purely as fictional, but at the same time I see him as everyone, as he has this eternal conflict to figure out who he is.
Rockpages.gr: So, what would you say is the most difficult things making a concept album?
Blackie Lawless: Well, actually, honestly the most difficult thing in any concept or opera, is where to place the music, because you write the story first and you come back and you say, “OK, I want “Wishing Well” to go here, “Sister Shadie” here, “What I’ll never find” here…” and that sounds easy, but when you make a regular album, running order of the songs is something you get to do many many times if you don’t like the first version you do, you know take song 8 and put it number 2, and song 4 put it number 1, you can rearrange it anyway you want to, to create a pace they way you want the album to flow. In a concept album you don’t have that opportunity because when the music is put into place, once the lyrics are put in, because the lyrics now start to tell the story in order, you can no longer go back and change those. So, you have to make sure absolutely before the lyrics are put into place, that’s where “Wishing Well” you want to be, because this is not going to change, and it takes to much preparation to do that.
Rockpages.gr: Which would you say, for you, are the best concept albums?
Blackie Lawless: Sgt. Peppers, Dark Side Of The Moon, Aqualung, Operation Mindcrime…
Rockpages.gr: Which would you say that are the most weird meanings that people have ever given to your initials, W.A.S.P.?
Blackie Lawless: (he smiles)When people ask me that question, WASP, what does that mean, I was telling: “We Ain’t Sure Pal”…(he laughs)
Rockpages.gr: Going back to the 80’s and your struggle with how did you think this helped the band?
Blackie Lawless: I don’t think it did. I don’t think it made any difference. It changed me as a person, but it didn’t help the band. The kids already knew who we were, that’s why they came after us, because we were getting a lot of attention already, so it helped them get attention…
Rockpages.gr: Yeah, but don’t you think that this “don’t listen to them”, “don’t buy their records”, made a good publicity for you?
Blackie Lawless: No, because as I said, the kids already knew who we were, they made us, as we say in the United States a household word. But, we first think “Oh, this is great!”, but we quickly found out that somebody’s grandmother in Wisconsin now knows who we are. She won’t going to but the record. The kids already will buy the record. The kids didn’t need the help. The true fans already were there. So all the other bullshit that went on with it, which is just what it was, it was all bullshit, It didn’t do anything. I told people, there’s another expression we have is: “after all is said and done, then you find out what something really is, and I told people, well after all we said and done, more we’ve said then done.
Rockpages.gr: How do you think WASP influenced other bands, and how WASP were influenced by other bands?
Blackie Lawless: I think WASP has left a legacy, I can see it in certain bands performances, the way they approach theatrics and things…
Rockpages.gr: Could you give some examples?
Blackie Lawless: I see little things that people maybe don’t notice…I saw something funny the other day, I could not believe what I was seeing in the United States…it was a country western band that was using you know the old chain link microphones stands that we used to have…we were the first band to do that…no one had ever done it…I have seen other rock bands do it, but a country western band? I couldn’t believe my eyes…same thing with the name. Turn around and look up at the name right there W.A.S.P., you see those periods behind it? WASP was the first band to ever do that, no band had ever done that before, now you see many bands. So it’s little things I see like that, that maybe the average person doesn’t think about. But, just the influence of just those periods alone changed rock’n’roll forever. More people think…they look more of the death metal bands or Mairilyn Manson, they see the obvious things, and yeah, OK I can understand that, but to me I see much more subtle things that the average person might not see…
Rockpages.gr: What would you say about your influences, artists, or bands…
Blackie Lawless: the Beatles, I just came from Liverpool earlier, I was going there to see where John Lennon grew up, I went purposely just for that you know…all the big ones, Beatles, Elvis, obviously the Who, Cream were huge influence on me, I think Cream were probably the original power trio, maybe even more so than Jimmi Hendrix, because Jimmi Hendrix was influenced I think by Cream. I like to think that I’ve studied rock, I am not a historian, but I am very appreciative of older bands and look at how they did things to go back to the beginning to really better understand. I don’t think that new bands do that. I think that probably they look at the previous generation before that, but they don’t go back to the roots to really see how it’s done originally. Cause every generation that comes along if they are only looking back to the generation before them, it looses a little bit in every generation. So by the time you go five generations down the road you are 50% different than what the original was…
Rockpages.gr: I guess “I Wanna Be Somebody”, a hit of yours, was against some stereotypes of that time…
Blackie Lawless: Well, looking back I did not realize that I was doing the same thing with “I Wanna Be Somebody” that I’ve done with the “Neon God”. It’s someone saying “who am I?”, “Where am I going?”. With the “Neon God” I consciously wrote that thought, but with “I Wanna Be Somebody” and many other songs throughout our career I was always asking that question, but I wasn’t doing it consciously, and it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve looked back to my old career and I could see “I Wanna Be Somebody” and things of “Headless Children” and “Still Not Black Enough” and “Crimson Idol”. I was saying the same things, I was asking the same question over and over “Who Am I?”, and I didn’t know I was doing that, but I can see it now, that was what I was doing…
Rockpages.gr: So how much would you say that WASP is a band, than a solo project, because obviously you write the music, you write the lyrics…
Blackie Lawless: I think about WASP in the same way I think about Those bands are more of an idea, than maybe specific individuals, and I think as long as there is a central character in each one of those bands, the idea of those bands can live for a long time.
Rockpages.gr: In the story of the “Neon God” there is Judah Magic, who is the mentor of the main character, Jesse, who was your mentor?
Blackie Lawless: I’ve got to say my father. For someone who has a good relationship with his father, probably it’s going to be the single biggest influence he has growing up, it should be…
Rockpages.gr: So, what’s gonna happen in Part Two of the Neon God?
Blackie Lawless: (smiling, trying to be vey serious) we’ll talk about that later…When it comes out
Rockpages.gr: What are you going to play tonight? How many songs from the “Neon God”?
Blackie Lawless: Only three. Because I think it’s important that the artist listens to the audience. The same way the audience listens to the band. You listen, they’ll tell you what they want. A lot of times a band comes out with a new record and the try to force it to the audience. Maybe the audience is not ready for that. I think if you listen closely, like when I am after shows or things like that, meeting the fans, I am talking to them. They think they are getting something for me, and they are, but I am also getting something from them too. Because I am picking inside their brain, i wanna know what they think, it’s like I am doing a miniature marketing survey with them. “What do you think, tell me what are you really feeling”, it’s important to listen to them, but also when you are on stage they talk to you at the same time by their reactions to the songs. So, I don’t think that any band should go out with a new album, no matter how much they like their new album and try to force it on the audience, if the audience wants to hear it that old record, they will eventually let you know, but in the meantime, be a little concern.