Growing up in the eighties I can never deny that I was influenced by many of hard rock's most notorious, aggressive, and outrageous bands. After school I would come home and listen to bands such as Motley Crue, Kiss, and W.A.S.P. for hours, mimicking movements from the bands video clips and singing along with every word. There is no doubt that all three bands mentioned had a massive influence on my life growing up and after many years of admiration I was about to speak with one of my all-time favorite vocalists, Blackie Lawless. Like many of you, the video clips for 'I Wanna Be Somebody', 'Love Machine' and 'Blind In Texas' changed my life and pushed me into a musical direction that opened the door to many new and exciting rock and metal bands of that time. I never imagined the day that I would get to speak to Blackie or ever witness the band live but that is all about to change as Blackie brings W.A.S.P. to Australia for the very first time.
W.A.S.P. formed in 1982 when front-man Blackie Lawless contacted long-time friend and guitarist Randy Piper after writing what he thought was more than enough material to start something new, fresh and exciting. Soon after the bands first line-up was complete W.A.S.P. started playing club shows and gathered a following of fans which have stuck by them through the rough and tough times and have enjoyed the roller coaster of emotion poured into each and every album! During the bands earliest shows Blackie was known to tie up half naked models to a torture rack and throw raw meat into the audience, W.A.S.P. gained notoriety for those historic liver performances and s*xually explicit lyrical content. The bands self titled debut album was released in August 1984 and spawned the metal classics 'I wanna Be Somebody', 'The Hellion' and 'On Your Knees'. Originally titled 'Winged Assassins' the debut album sold reasonably well even though the bands first single 'Animal... F*ck like a beast' was omitted from the album by the U.S. record label who feared the album wouldn't be stocked in major chain stores.
Throughout the years W.A.S.P.'s been slammed by the critics, they've been called everything from grotesque to pathetic and even satanic. In 1986 the Parents' Music Resource Centre, which was founded by then Senator Al goreís wife Tipper went on their own witch-hunt. The P.M.R.C. had listed what they were calling the "Filthy Fifteen" and on the hit list were bands such as Twisted Sister, Venom, Judas Priest, and W.A.S.P. The P.M.R.C targeted these groups for a number of reasons including lyrical content, s*xual and violent images and promoting Satanism. W.A.S.P. was a band with balls, a band that lashed out at Tipper Gore by writing the song 'Harder, Faster' which is featured on the bands 1987 album 'Live... In The Raw' This wasn't the first time that W.A.S.P. would encounter these kinds of accusations nor would it be their last!
Since the band formed in 1982 their band has undergone many line-up changes but the formula for hard hitting rock 'n' roll as always remained the solid driving force behind the bands front man Blackie Lawless. Last year W.A.S.P. announced the Crimson Idol fifteenth anniversary tour which for the first time in the bands history would see W.A.S.P. taking to the stage to play the Crimson Idol album in itís entirety. Australian fans were ecstatic to discover that Blackie would be bringing the Crimson Idol tour to our shores for the bands very first live performances. I recently caught up with W.A.S.P.'s Wild Child to discuss the bands first trek to Australia, the bands most recent album 'Dominator', dealing with the critics throughout the years and what the band has instore over coming months.
The time has come to join 'The Manimal', 'Inside The Electric Circus'. I give you none other than Mr. Blackie Lawless.
Metal Fanatix: Hi Blackie, how's things mate!
Blackie Lawless: I’m good thanks, yourself?
Metal Fanatix: I’m well mate and honestly really excited to be talking with you tonight. I have been a massive fan of your work for more than twenty years and I really want to thank you for taking the time out to speak with me tonight! It’s great to see that W.A.S.P. Are finally heading to Australia, no doubt you are all excited to be heading our way?
Blackie Lawless: Oh yeah! You probably take it for granted because you live there, but everybody else around the world sees Australia as exotic!
Metal Fanatix: Mate, as many long-time Australian fans are aware, you came here for a promotional tour in November 1985, what fond memories do you have from your Australian visit.
Blackie Lawless: Well, the thing that struck me the most was how similar it is to Southern California. I seen Sydney and Melbourne and you have this huge beach culture. If you didn’t know any different you would think you were in Southern California. We had saw ‘Crocodile Dundee’ and all that stuff, so we thought of Australia as being a big open land, in the outback!
Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Yeah until you get here, see the skyscrapers, and realize that we don’t have kangaroos hoping down the main streets of Sydney [laughs]
Blackie Lawless: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s right!
Metal Fanatix: Blackie the million-dollar question is, why has it taken so long for you to bring down to play some shows?
Blackie Lawless: Well, whether it’s W.A.S.P. or any band, if you have a promoter who is willing to bring you to that area and the offers are correct, most bands are going to go! It really does boil down to that! For the longest time we have been looking into different territory’s, we went to South America two years ago always try to broaden the horizons, but at the end of the day, like I said all bands given the opportunity and the right promoter, will go, it doesn’t matter where it is. A lot of times long time established promoters for whatever reason don’t understand it or don’t want to take a chance on it for whatever the reason may be!
Metal Fanatix: Which has been the case a lot here in Australia and I’m sure other parts of the world over the years! I believe that you will be playing ‘The Crimson Idol’ album in its entirety, as well as a greatest hits set. Can you tell my why fifteen years on you have decided to go back and reflect largely on ‘The Crimson Idol’ album?
Blackie Lawless: Well, as you said it was the fifteen-year anniversary of this and we had never done it in it’s entirety before. A lot of the reasons for that was you want to wait for the right moment, you don’t want to do it two or three years on after you’ve just toured it. You want to put it to bed and move on with the other things you are doing. Some of it had to do with the technical aspects of it, there was technology that exists now that didn’t then which enabled us from doing it. At the same time, I knew something that the average person didn’t when it come to this. People would stop me and say “hey man, are you ever gonna do that record in its entirety live”? What these people did not know is that we had shot a full-length film. In my mind, it wasn’t complete until that film accompanied it.
Finally, I felt the time was right and I went in last summer, spent a couple of months editing it, and got it ready to go. It was certainly one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done. Once it was edited I went into our first day of rehearsals, and we had this giant screen behind us, we were playing the songs and I turned around and started watching the film and I became the spectator. It was the most rewarding experience; I got high off it and couldn’t believe it! This sounds exactly like the record when you hear it and we went into pre-production to make sure that a lot of the little things are right! We took the samples off the records of things we couldn’t do live like the orchestration. When you see it and hear it, it’s pretty amazing. So many times in our lives we fantasize how something’s gonna be, but it never ends up being exactly what you wanted, this was exactly how I thought it would turn out.
Metal Fanatix: Well, speaking of the movie which is accompanying the ‘Crimson Idol’ music on this tour. Once the tour is completed can we expect to see the full-length movie finally released on DVD?
Blackie Lawless: I hope so, there is still some more filming that we want to do with the band, and there is some stuff that we’ve shot already. I will just say in short yes, but we are looking into something right now that is going to be interactive, and it’s a little complicated to go into right now. I’m looking to see if what I want to do can be done, if it can, it will be revolutionary!
Metal Fanatix: You have been playing all over the world in support of ‘The Crimson Idol’ anniversary and you just finished a run between Canada and the United States. How have the fans been responding to the shows thus far?
Blackie Lawless: You never know when you do something like this! Nobody has ever done anything like this! Bands use videos and have the giant screens but this is a full-length movie! The best way I can describe it is to think of it like an old silent movie with a keyboard player in the front accompanying the movie, well in this case the band is that keyboard player! We’re standing in front of the screen like silhouettes, you don’t see a lot of us until the second half of the show, when we come back and do the best of set. We can see the audience quite clearly. We see them really well in ways we were never able to before because we don’t have the light in our eyes. You can see the reactions and it’s quite strange when you see people night after night in the audience crying, watching this movie.
Blackie Lawless: I will be attending the Sydney show and can’t wait to see the film as well as the live hits set! Blackie in regards to the film and the way these shows have been set up, will the camera and mobile phone policies be the same here in Australia as they have been throughout the European leg of the tour? I was aware that you had policed these restrictions more on this tour over any past W.A.S.P. tours!
Blackie Lawless: Yeah, until this is released in a proper way we don’t want any of it out. When people show up and they try to do there own thing, the quality is so bad and we spent a lot of money on this, it was almost half a million dollars putting this together and I want it portrayed in the proper and professional way!
Metal Fanatix: Blackie I want to talk to you a little about the latest album ‘Dominator’, looking back now, is there anything you would have changed?
Blackie Lawless: No, I think it’s a really good record. It’s the shortest record we’ve ever done as far as time to record it. I wrote the whole thing in a month. Going from something like ‘The Crimson Idol’ or ‘The Neon God’, which are challenging records that beat you up mentally, approaching ‘Dominator’ mostly, was the whole idea of what I had gone through with ‘The Neon God’. I just couldn’t face that again, I’m not gonna pull that donkey uphill that don’t wanna go, I’m just gonna write and let whatever’s in me out.
Metal Fanatix: More of a straight edged hard rock album!
Blackie Lawless: Yeah and when I did that it just pored out of me! I took all of the pressure off myself. I said “don’t think, just write”, and it was just an amazing little experience!
Metal Fanatix: After all these years of writing and recording how do you constantly come up with new fresh sounding material without falling into the trap a lot of other bands do by repeating themselves?
Blackie Lawless: Well, you have to look for whatever it is that gives you inspiration. For me on this record it was all about the subject matter. The subject matter tells you a lot about where you’re going to go. I approach these songs as mini movies, especially when I come up with a title first. When I came up with the concept of ‘Heaven Fell on Black’, I had heard the story, and it pretty much wrote itself. I’m not too sure if you are familiar with where the title came from?
Metal Fanatix: No mate, actually I don’t know. Tell us about it!
Blackie Lawless: During the American Civil War, there was a famous battle towards the end called Gettysburg. Gettysburg was a three-day bloodbath. When Abraham Lincoln got the casualty reports there were over fifty thousand casualties in those three days. He looked at the report at the end of it and his quote was “tonight surely the heavens fell on black”. I heard that and thought, wow, what an eloquent way of stating this horror. To me looking at the idea of the song, once the title was in place the song wrote itself like I said. I twisted the concept a little bit, I took it and put it in a modern day setting. If it was a solider in the Middle East someplace it says, ‘I cant take anymore, I have no more wings” what’s happening is the solider is dying, and he’s somewhere between heaven and earth trying to get into heaven. St Peter’s telling him “I can’t take anymore”. So depending on whose point of view you’re looking at, whether it’s the soldier saying I can’t take it anymore, then that’s the emotional strength, but if you look at it where St Peter’s telling you he can’t take anymore, he’s saying he has no more wings, in other words there’s no more room! The soldier in the chorus says “don’t leave me to die” and to me that’s symbolic of what happens when a country turns it backs on it people.
Metal Fanatix: Are you currently working on any new material?
Blackie Lawless: No, we’ve got so much on our plate right now; I’ve turned that off in my head. I learnt something when I made ‘Dominator’ and that’s not to try and get too far ahead of myself. I’ve got a couple of things that I’ve been threatening to sit down and play with but I have resisted it because our schedules full for the next two years, filled with things that we are gonna do!
Metal Fanatix: And what of those plans can you share with us today?
Blackie Lawless: Well, we are coming to see you guys, then we do the summer festivals in Europe. When we get back we are going to film for the David for the band stuff. We are looking at a box set that hopefully we will have out next year, which will be an anthology. That will take us into the summer festivals next year, then we will be doing a world tour after that, so our futures laid out until this time 2010.
Metal Fanatix: Speaking of the Box-set Blackie, as you’re probably aware over the last twelve months Kiss have released three David box-sets which showcases various shows from 1973 up till now. As well as different memorable TV appearances and so forth. Can we expect something like that to come out showcasing those special W.A.S.P. shows from the last twenty-five years?
Blackie Lawless: No, what I’m talking about is purely audio! There are things that we did a long time ago that people have never heard. We demoed the first album four times before we recorded it for real! If I had to do it over again, I would have told EMI that we were not going to re-record it that last time. I would have gone with the demos because they are far more representative of what we were as a band at the time. They are far more aggressive, brutal, and ruthless. When you do an anthology yes it has the highlights of your career, but I wanted to put more into it than that! I wanted to show people where it really came from! There will be outtakes of other things as well from where the career has progressed. I want to make it as complete as a musical discography could be!
Metal Fanatix: Mate lets take a trip down memory lane! You grew up in New York with Ace Frehley, what comes to mind when you look back on those early days?
Blackie Lawless: I guess probably the first thing is the two kids you just mentioned there, what’s the chances of one of them going on to be an international act much less both of them! That’s pretty strange. One thing you learn after you have been in this business for a long time is you hear the expression one in a million get a record deal, when in reality it’s more like one in ten million. From that one in ten million that does get a record deal, only two percent of them will ever make any real money and to do that you really have to have a long career. There is so many ways that you can get ripped off in this business. The chances of making any money and surviving are really very slim. When I think of that, in context of your original question, for one kid or in the case both of them to come out and survive that it’s almost impossible.
Metal Fanatix: At the age of nine you got your first guitar, and was getting paid to play in your first band! Blackie how the hell does that happen!
Blackie Lawless: Well, starting out I was going to be a drummer, but after about three months my parents decided that I was not going to be a drummer [laughs].
Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]
Blackie Lawless: My brother had a guitar in his room, and I used to sneak in and he was never playing it so I figured I would put it to good use. There were some other guys in the neighborhood that were playing who were a year older than me and we discovered that we could make money playing little parties and things like that [laughs], we were on the road to riches.
Metal Fanatix: Looking back at that time period, most kids want to grow up and be fire fighters, or superheroes! At that time did you know that music was what you wanted to do for the rest of your life, did you ever imagine that 30 – 40 years on you would have music as your major source of income!
Blackie Lawless: Oh never, you fantasize about it, but that was always something that someone else did. That’s not something that you can do! I was nineteen when the idea hit me that yes maybe I could do it. You’re always told growing up, “no you can’t do that, and somebody else will do that”! I remember the thought had popped into my head and I figured, why not!
Metal Fanatix: Blackie, I want to talk to you about life on the road…What’s the most ridiculous thing you have ever asked for on a tour rider?
Blackie Lawless: [Long pause] Wow!
Metal Fanatix: Has there been that many [laughs]?
Blackie Lawless: [Laughs] No probably none, we don’t really get into that kind of stuff, we’re pretty simple!
Metal Fanatix: Wow, I have always thought of W.A.S.P. as being these crazy guys, especially back during the eighties, holding these crazy parties and indulging in all the backstage debauchery you could handle!
Blackie Lawless: The thing that used to get promoted the most was ten bags of cement, and the promoters could never understand! ‘Elvis’ which is my big microphone stand, had a massive base, and whenever we were in America or when we’re in Europe we used Olympic size weights that fit into the bottom of it, I mean the base weighs close to 400 kilograms. When we’d go to places where we didn’t want to take the weights we would ask for bags of cement! The bags would fit in the base real well and to me weight is weight.
Metal Fanatix: Can you remember the hardest time you’ve had as an opening act?
Blackie Lawless: The thing that stands out the most and I don’t think this qualifies as being too hard, but what comes immediately to mind is when we were on our first U.S. and Canadian tour, we opened for Krokus. Krokus weren’t particularly kind to us! We were in Canada and had done a couple of shows with them already, and I was walking backstage past there dressing room and I can remember someone saying, “what about those W.A.S.P. boys” and everyone would start laughing this went on for about six weeks. So I went into our dressing room and I told everyone what I just heard. On the last night of the tour, the drummer from Krokus came up to me during sound check and wanted to shake my hand. I turned to him and said “why”? He replied “because you kicked our asses on this tour”! Now, it was nice of him to do that but the thing is, you have to understand something… before saying something like that, he first had to think it. Then get over that hurdle to actually approach you and tell you, that shows what kind of hurting you put on them! They came unglued because we were killing them on merchandising. That is something we learned along time ago. If you want to know how good you are doing on a bill with other people, look at your merch! Your merch will always tell you how well you’re doing. Even on the first couple of tours that we did with Kiss, we murdered them in merchandise sales. It isn’t like Krokus gave us a hard time, they just didn’t respect us! When we first started to be frank with you, we were not a band that you wanted to mess with! We would hurt you! One thing a lot of people don’t realize about us is when W.A.S.P. first started we were influenced by punk!
Metal Fanatix: In other words, when you took to the stage and in your mind you were thinking f**k you all, we will show ya’s!
Blackie Lawless: Oh yeah! What we were doing musically and visually didn’t put it across too much, but our attitude was punk all the way! We were pissed off, we were mad at the world and that was what was coming across.
Metal Fanatix: As a fan over the years I have collected many bootleg shows from various tours but nothing has ever come close to the ‘Live At The Lyceum’ video. What comes to mind when you look back at that show!
It wasn’t until about four or five years later, I was in a club in the U.K. one night and part of that video was being played. I hadn’t seen it for years, I stood there, and I was stunned watching it! We had just finished Headless [Children] and were getting ready to release it, so my head was in a whole different state to when we had just started. I could never figure out why we really frighten people, and I don’t mean in the way of the big monsters coming to get ya! We frightened parents, and we didn’t know why it was happening like that! From our point of view we weren’t trying to be that way, it was just the way it was! It wasn’t until I looked at that film that night and I could then for the first time in my life see what had been frightening parents! The thing that got me watching it was the brutality and realism that came off. You were looking at guys that were pissed off at the world.
Metal Fanatix: Speaking of horrifying parents, what’s the craziest rumor you had ever heard about yourself and or the band?
Blackie Lawless: Oh wow, there are so many of those, I wouldn’t even know where to begin with that! We’ve done this so long; so much of that stuff goes through one ear and out the other. I only really remember that stuff when someone is around me and they go hey man remember when such and such said this and that! That’s when I remember those things cause there has been so much of it!
Metal Fanatix: Well, let’s go back to late 83 – 84 when you were copping a lot of slack for being satanic, I guess for the first time this was becoming a huge problem because of the PMRC had so much influence in Washington and they were really on a campaign to bring down bands such as W.A.S.P., Twisted Sister and even Madonna. When you hear rumors like that for the very first time, how do you react! I mean, do you get all pissed off about it or do you laugh it off and say, this is great publicity, these idiots are helping us sell another million albums!
Blackie Lawless: The best way that I can describe that is that it wasn’t the first time that we had heard it, but once that whole Washington thing really heated up, I remember we were somewhere in America, it could have been West Virginia and we were on television every single day! Somebody was going on about something and after a while it became really silly. Chris [Holmes] and I were sitting on a bus one afternoon watching TV and he looks over to me and says “what’s the big deal all about”? I looked at him and I remember telling him “I don’t know”. We didn’t understand. For that to make sense, you have to go back seeing the ‘Live At Lyceum’ video four years later, we just didn’t get it! We were just being us! It wasn’t until we had seen the world a couple of times and had morphed as a band, and had taken it in a few different directions that we could see the hostility. This is a whole separate interview to be honest with ya! Naturally it never came off as pretentious, we didn’t see why it was having the effect that it did, after four or five years I came to understand it. I guess that’s the best way to be! Without being pretentious you’re just being yourself and that was obviously jumping off the stage at people.
Metal Fanatix: These issues never seem to go away though, last year there were problems in Norway where the local politicians tried to get the promoters to censor part of your show, does it bother you that the mainstream media and the politicians always jump over you for something negative, with accusations of being satanic and yet they rarely talk positively about the music?
Blackie Lawless: Well, there just sound bites! I can understand them, I really can. One of the things that got me early on, if you go back and you look at out career was when we first started and we were doing that show back in the beginning. To me, I was doing social comment. I was holding up a mirror to the world and saying this is who you are and if you don’t like us, it’s because you don’t like what you see in the mirror. I quickly found on that first world tour that I was seeing things from a sound bite point of you that I had never seen before. I had never really dealt with the media, and what was happening was that people were listening with there eyes and not there ears! When I discovered that, I became quickly disillusioned by it all. If you look back on our career we didn’t do that very long because I didn’t feel like my message was getting across. When we did Headless [Children], people were coming up to me and saying, “Oh, you’re this socially conscious band”. [Laughs] “Not really, nothings really changed”. “What I have done is created a simpler message that I’m now hitting you over the head with”! Anytime you are going to do something a little different and raise your head above the crowd, you are always going to get people that just won’t understand it!
Metal Fanatix: Blackie, there is no doubt that W.A.S.P. played a large role in influencing me musically and you have had a massive impact on many hard rock and metal bands. Who have you been surprised to learn is a fan of your work?
Blackie Lawless: A lot of the death metal bands, but I couldn’t understand why. I don’t see the connection!
Metal Fanatix: Blackie having a career that has lasted over twenty-five years is nothing short of incredible! Why do you think you have lasted so long in an industry that see so many artists come and go?
Blackie Lawless: Whether it’s us or any other band or artist that has been able to last that long, it’s usually because of the music! You can look at any performer and say that person has “it”, we don’t know what “it” is, but you know it when you see it. It’s the same thing with music you know it when you hear it. It all boils down to the quality of the music, being able to present it properly too and having talent, it all adds up! If I was given the choice in having the worlds greatest band and no songs or a mediocre band and a lot of great songs, then I’ll take the ladder.
I remember the first time we went to New Orleans, I would walk by all of the jazz clubs, and there were all of these unbelievable musicians playing. It freaked me out, I would say why me? Why was I get plucked out of the bunch? These people could play circles around me! I have always thought that I was never the best at anything; I was pretty good at a lot of things but never “The Best”. I always tell anybody that comes to work with us that the difference between pro’s and amateurs is that the pro’s hide there faults a little better. Do what you do great and show that to the world, but don’t show them anything that’s not great. If you show them anything that looks good, good by comparison to great still looks mediocre.
Metal Fanatix: Mate I only have a one more questions for ya, who is the one band you never want to hear again and why?
Blackie Lawless: I can’t put my finger on it, cause I don’t know the names of them but a lot of the stuff that comes out now, college orientated bands that are out now, turn on the television, the crap that you see with guys who have no clue. I scratch my head and go who the hell signed this and how did they get this far! Cause you know that they’re not gonna be around in six months.
Metal Fanatix: Blackie, I really appreciate you calling me so late tonight mate and again, it has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you! Enjoy the time you spend here in Australia, do you have any last words for our readers?
Blackie Lawless: This will be our first time playing in Australia and let’s just say… we’re coming to hurt people!
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