SHOCKWAVES: Your newest CD, Helldorado, sounds like old-school WASP! It’s very reminiscent of The Last Command era--very upbeat, good-time rock’n’roll whereas your last studio album, Kill F**k Die, was a lot darker and moodier...
Blackie: When Chris (Holmes) and I got back together in ‘95, we had both come out of really bad relationships. He had just divorced Lita Ford and I had been in a relationship with a girl who I find out, after three years, that she was gay. So, needless to say, we had fuel for the fire. We’ve always made records that reflect who we are at the moment, and that record could have just as easily been called "Hate." We were ready to kill the world. And that is a vicious record, no question about it! I think in a lot of ways Helldorado was the record people might have anticipated us making, but there was no way we could have done that at the time. That record (Kill f**k Die) ended up being like cheap therapy for us. There was a lot of bad feelings, we had to exorcise some demons. It’s almost like going through that dark mourning period, and when we came out of that period it was like the sky was blue again.
SHOCKWAVES: You’ve self-produced this new record, as well as Kill f**k Die...
Blackie: We’ve actually only worked with two producers, and I’ve produced all the other records. We just feel more comfortable on our own.
SHOCKWAVES: The Double Live Assassins album you released last year (recorded during the Kill f**k Die tour) is one of the best live albums I have heard in ages!
Blackie: It started as an afterthought...we were just taping our shows, as we do every tour...Zurich, Switzerland was the first night that we knew we really had something.
SHOCKWAVES: Very few bands these days release live albums (with exception to boring-ass acoustic, "un-plugged" albums), let alone a double-live CD...and that album sold really well!
Blackie: I’ve been hibernating for the last year making Helldorado so I don’t really know what’s going on out there, but by the indications, it looks like this music is really coming back again. I mean, that live album did really, really good! And I was like, wow! Maybe we’re onto something. I know that band Buck Cherry is making a noise right now, so it looks like the cycle may be coming around again.
SHOCKWAVES: WASP has always done well internationally, especially in Europe, where you’ve maintained a consistent following since day one. Most other LA bands from the ‘80s have either died or are trying to re-group...What do you feel contributes to your longevity?
Blackie: It’s really our fan-base. Like I said, we’ve always made albums that reflect who we are at the moment, and when you do that in a lyrical sense it becomes more conversational with the people. It’s like you have that bond with the fans. A lot of bands just make the same record over and over again, and if that works, then more power to them. But I’ve always tried to maintain more of a personal relationship because that is the way you can really become intimate with your audience.
SHOCKWAVES: You mention in your bio that writing this album was a challenge...in what ways was it a challenge?
Blackie: When you go through that cycle. We feel like we’re back at the beginning again. Going through all the stuff we’ve been through, with the PMRC and making records that had a lot of social comment....and then you come back around again and say "this is the way I feel, I wanna do this again." But if you haven’t done that in a while, you’re not really sure if it’s gonna fall-out again like it did before.
SHOCKWAVES: So what about the new WASP stage show...Is it gonna be as over-the-top as your previous tour?
Blackie: It’s gonna be bombastic! We’re gonna spread torment and terror everywhere we go! We’ve got blood everywhere, feathers everywhere...it looks like Colonel Sanders got all gacked out and went berserk!
SHOCKWAVES: A lot of the newer breed of hardrock/metal bands, like Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, they’ve obviously been influenced by metal bands from the ‘80s, notably WASP. What do you think of these bands?
Blackie: Most of it I like. I can definitely see the influence between those bands, Monster Magnet, bands like that. I just look at it and smile.
SHOCKWAVES: These bands are influencing a younger generation of kids, exposing them to hardrock and metal. Do you think WASP has this potential to build on a younger audience?
Blackie: Only time will tell...the secret to longevity is you’ve got to farm new generations. You can’t live with the original fan-base you have. So far, it seems to be working for us. And, although I’m aware of those things, I just try to write stuff I feel strong about.
SHOCKWAVES: I know here in LA, there is really no rock radio exposing bands like WASP, and MTV could give a rats ass about metal...How does a band like WASP keep their fans informed?
Blackie: We started a thing called the WASP Nation, which is our fanclub. And we’re creating a network...we have like twenty websites and no other band has anywhere near that. I think it goes back to the honesty of what songs are about, and I’ve been willing to expose myself to people emotionally where a lot of artists don’t want to do that, because it’s too painful, or too private, or whatever. But that’s the only way people are gonna get to feel that they know you.
SHOCKWAVES: The same band that you recorded with will also be touring with you, right?
Blackie: Yeah, it’ll be myself (vocals/guitar), Chris Holmes (guitar), Mike Duda (bass), and Stet Howland (drums). Stet has been with me since 1990, he’s had a longer tenor in this band than anybody, except for Chris and myself.
SHOCKWAVES: Let’s talk a bit about the early days of Blackie Lawless. Back in New York, I know you did a stint with the New York Dolls and in LA you had Sister and Circus Circus before forming WASP...
Blackie: I actually only did a couple shows with the New York Dolls, a lot more has been made out of that. But that’s what got me to California. The first incarnation of WASP was a band Chris and I had called Sister, and where I met Randy Piper was a thing we did for about six months called Circus Circus, and that’s what led to the formation of WASP.
SHOCKWAVES: Castle Records recently re-issued the entire WASP catalog with a bunch of bonus tracks...
Blackie: Yeah, we added all the European B-sides which weren’t released anywhere else in the world. There’s as many as 17 tracks on each disc. We’ve also been in the process, the last couple of years, of compiling a book. The stuff that’s gonna come out of this book...I don’t know if people are gonna believe a lot of it! The truth is definitely stranger than fiction.
SHOCKWAVES: As far as the business side, you obviously have a great deal of knowledge about the music business. Many people have stereotyped metal musicians as not being too bright when it comes down to business, and let’s face it, a lot of the rock and metal musicians from the ‘80s that used to sell out arenas are now working at Burger King. But, from what I understand, you’ve managed your finances quite well. What advice would you give to young bands entering this business?
Blackie: Educate yourself. There are books out there like This Business In Music and things like that...read everything you can get your hands on. The problem is that most guys who get in this business are living on a dream. Most people think they want to be famous. Because, if it does happen, they quickly find out it’s not what they thought it was. Therefore, you have to really be in it for the work. The work itself is really the reward. You really have to look out for yourself. I don’t like using the cliché "It’s easy to be ripped off in this business" because that desensitizes people because they hear it so much. I was actually thinking about doing a workshop video talking about what not to do, and how to protect yourself. There is so much invisible stuff in this business where a guy can get ripped off and never see it happening until it’s too late. And as business minded as I am, and as closely as I watch things, I’ve had it happen to me...not to the point of catastrophic, but even when you’re watching, things can slip through the cracks. And the first thing you know, you’ve lost ten million dollars. Your career is flying past you at light speed, and success is intoxicating in its own right and everything becomes so much bigger than you are, and you become just another wheel in the machine. And if you haven’t done your homework, it’s like taking sheep to the slaughter...it is grotesque what can happen! The statistics state that only one in a million get a record deal, and out of that, only 2% of them make any real money. I’ve been lucky, I’ve tried to educate myself and I’ve made some good investments. You see, rock’n’roll never really made anyone rich, it just gives you the vehicle to get rich with. Even the Beatles, after they sold like a billion records, they only came out with like ten million dollars each, and considering what they’ve done, that’s not a whole lotta money. You’ve gotta be sharp, and most guys...it’s really pitiful to watch what’s gonna happen to them - they have no chance, no matter how talented they are.