Blackie Lawless talks to Rockmachine.gr just before two upcoming W.A.S.P. shows in Thessaloniki, and Athens (July 25th, and 26th), and he is revealing that the band has a new album coming up, sheds light to the Ace Frehley connection, answers a question for the first time, and remarks that a live show is just like a… boxing match! Interview by: Yiannis Dolas (the interview was broadcasted for the first time on Rockmachine.gr on July 20th).
During the last few years W.A.S.P. have developed a special bond with the Greek crowd, and they keep coming back for more shows…
Blackie Lawless: You know, we didn’t go there for a long time since we started our career because promoters didn’t believe in us, that the fans would go out there and support
us, but after we played Rockwave for the first time it was incredible! And it was like a marriage ever since. It’s been terrific. We always felt that if we had the chance to go there, the fans would support us and they certainly have, and like you said it have created a bond between of us.
So, what’s the plan for the band right now? Are you planning to release a new album?
Blackie Lawless: Yeah, we’ve actually have been building a new studio here at my house and we hope we have it finished by October where we plan to record new material…
Is there any ideas written down, do you have any songs ready?
Blackie Lawless: I would say that probably the whole record is close to been written already. We were in rehearsal yesterday and we actually worked on some new things… Nothing that we are going to play live right now, because it’s close to be finished, but we’ve actually begun the process and it’s very exciting!
Can you tell us how it’s going to sound like? Do you have something more to reveal?
Blackie Lawless: No, because those things don’t really reveal themselves, until you are half way finished. Sometimes, it’s even closer to being finished before you really understand what it is. That happens a lot of time, because if you are working on a concept album you try to understand what words are going from the beginning. When you make a traditional album, you just put songs together, so it usually ends up getting a direction, but a lot of times again it doesn’t reveal itself before you are finished.
“Dominator”, and “Babylon” were two great records. Do you feel the pressure that you have to come back with something as good as those two?
Blackie Lawless: Always! But, that’s a competitive nature that I have… I don’t want to make junk. I want to make records that say something. I don’t care whether it’s music, painting, sculpture, films, it’s all art, and it’s designed to say something, and if it doesn’t say something, if it doesn’t make people think, then it’s not art. If you are not doing that, then you are just some guy who is making records. What’s the point to that? That to me just doesn’t mean anything…
For you, when would you say that it’s the best time to write music? When you are happy, and everything is going great, or when you are sad, depressed, because things aren’t going that well?
Blackie Lawless: Well… I really don’t think in those terms. I know a lot songwriters do, but I really I don’t think about that one way or the other, because for the best part I am pretty happy! I think I write better sometimes when I am angry, so there is a difference. When I think of someone who writes from a point of view that he is depressed I think the blues! When I think about what we do I hear anger come out sometimes. Especially when I watch something on TV that really some guys are pushing on my buttons… that makes me angry and a lot of times that makes good songs!
I guess that there are a lot of buttons to push right now, with the financial crisis, and everything else that is happening…
Blackie Lawless: It can get scary…
Last time we saw you in Athens you had three screens on stage that were projecting the band’s music videos from the past and present, while the band was playing at the same time. How much rehearsing did it take you to play in synch with the music videos?
Blackie Lawless: Hahahaha! You are the first person who is asking this question that after all those interviews! I appreciate and I applaud you for that, because people have no idea how much preparation this takes. This actually goes back many many years… the first time we did this was during the “Headless Children” tour in 1989. And we didn’t know what was going to happen, because the only band that has used film on stage was Pink Floyd. So, we didn’t know what was going to happen if you just started playing. We found out pretty quickly that people get so used to watching videos that if the band is not in sync with the video it’s a whole train wreck! So, the preparation that it takes to get the band in sync with those pictures up there is a tremendous amount of work. It takes more time to do that than any other thing we are doing in the show. The rehearsals are actually easy, but when the film comes in everything changes… and the idea is to make it look very easy where people don’t notice it, because we don’t want people to be thinking about that, we just want them to enjoy the show. And I guess we’ve done it pretty good, because you are the first person to ever ask that question! But, it’s a lot more complicated that people can ever imagine!
It’s a great idea because it’s a transcending experience watching the band in the past, and in front of you on the same time…
Blackie Lawless: It creates this weird looking kind of 3D effect. You see me singing on the videos… it’s funny! I watch people and they go like… have you seen a dog that tilts it head sideways when it’s confused? “How are they doing that?”, a lot of times during the show I see people doing that, and I get a kick of it!
I want to take you back now, in the days you spent with the New York Dolls. What do you remember from that?
Blackie Lawless: (sighs)… there was a documentary that just came out about two years ago about Arthur Kane’s life called “New York Doll”… it was pretty painful to watch, because Arthur died six weeks after the film was completed. When I think of that whole experience that’s what I really think of more than anything, because Arthur and I came to California after that whole thing broke up, and that for me was really the biggest part of that, because that’s what got me to California. He had a terrible problem with drinking and after we here about a year, I just didn’t want to continue that way anymore. It was sad to see what happened to him, but I think that by the end of his life he was able to get himself together. But, when I think about these times, I think more of me and him coming to California, than anything from the rest stuff…
I’ve got one more question from the past. Is it true that you were hanging with Ace Frehley and he really came very close to produce W.A.S.P.’s first album?
Blackie Lawless: Well, Ace and I were good friends even when I was a teenager. He was going to produce our first album, but he didn’t! he came to California, we talked about it for a while, and then he got busy doing a project, he had left KISS already, this was 1982, and he was starting to put his own band together and really what a lot of people don’t know is that when he came to California to see me, Bill Aucoin was with him. Bill Aucoin came very close managing the band, very close! Then I met Rod Smallwood, not long after that, and decided to go with Rod instead and we took a different direction, and as I said Ace was putting his own band together at the time, and that’s why it didn’t happen, but he came pretty close producing our first record…
Do you watch new bands? Can you see the new W.A.S.P. emerging? Do you think modern metal bands will take the torch from the older ones?
Blackie Lawless: I don’t know! I couldn’t’t say! I think there is room for everybody! It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s all about quality of the songs. Somebody was asking me the other day “where is all the new front men coming from? ‘Cause I don’t see a new generation coming round, and I said that there is no more! Because, when the major record companies died, there was nowhere for bands to go to try and develop that talent. At the same time I said, if you wanna see a great front man, you have to go see Bruce Dickinson, or Geoff Tate from Queensryche, because when these bands are gone you are never going to see this kind of front men again! That’s the reason why ourselves, and maybe another 25 bands have been able to keep doing this for such a period of time. But, at the end of the day it’s all about the songs! So, I don’t care whether it’s a new band, or an old band, it’s all about the music. If you have songs that move people, then that’s the secret!
How difficult is it for older bands with a big history behind them to write good new material that is going to stay classic?
Blackie Lawless: Yeah! It’s always more and more difficult, because you have to remember: every time you make a new record, that new record ends up becoming the opening act for your concert! Because, if you think of a new band, and of a new record, it’s very similar… people don’t know it! And that new album is going up against music they have loved for many many years. So, for a new album to compete against old stuff, it’s really difficult. To give you an example, on our last record we had a song called “Crazy”. “Crazy” was an immediate hit, but it had to be exceptional just to compete with all the classics that it was surrounded in our show. It’s really difficult. Every band that has been doing this for a long time, know this challenge. Whenever you take a new song and put it against an old one… feewww there is a lot of pressure on that new material. It’s just like pressure on a new band. It’s very similar, as I said earlier, that every time you make a new album it’s going to be your opening act. People are going to look through a microscope!
But, then again if you are not playing new songs, then some may say that you are depending on your older glories, and that you don’t have something new to show… people is never satisfied!
Blackie Lawless: Well, there is a delicate balance between all of that, because you have to really understand that if you play too much new stuff, that become self-indulgent as an artist, because a lot of people are coming to listen to the old stuff. But, the new stuff has to be able to compete against the old stuff. Because, if it doesn’t, you are going to bore people, and that new material is going to look “lesser” by comparison to the old material. If you are going to continue making records you have to be really competitive against yourself!
Send a message to the Greek fans that are going to come to the shows…
Blackie Lawless: As I said may times, I look at this like a professional boxing match. Us against them! We are coming there to hurt’em! We’re coming there to create a memory that will last their whole lives. ‘Cause I remember what it was like when I used to go to shows and saw bands that left a big impression on me, I never forgot it! It stays with me forever! And hopefully this will do the same to them!
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