I've never been a big fan of W.A.S.P. It's a great band, but musically I've felt it has been of many. But with Neon God 1 & 2 and Dominator my interest has started to slowly grow. And there is no doubt that Blackie Lawless is one of the most legendary, mythical and charismatic persons in the rock business. Ever since I listened to him answering a few questions at a press conference, during last year's visit at Sweden Rock Festival, I've wanted to meet the guy and hear what he has to say. Because I felt like he really had something to say. Now I got the chance, when W.A.S.P. was heading for my neighbor town Lund for a show. I expected a lot of this half an hour's audience, and I think I got it. Almost no matter of the question, Blackie continued to talk and to expound his arguments and thoughts about politics, religion and music - in that specific order. I therefore give you the (almost) unedited interview in a whole.
I was a bit worried at first, about rumors that Blackie had cancelled some interviews the night before. But there he was, meeting me with a relaxed style in his underpants. He sat down, half laying, in a couch, staring at the roof at first. With strict instructions to be well prepared and have read all about the concept around Dominator, I was a bit nervous. There are always stories and rumors about eccentric celebrities as well, and Blackie is certainly no exception. But, hey, the man sat in his underpants - there was nothing to lose really. And the longer the interview went I saw a man honestly trying to answer everything the best he could - and to add some of his own thoughts where they fitted in.
David: What's most important for you, music or lyrics?
Blackie: What's more important, my left leg or my right leg… That's impossible, you can't answer that question. I mean, the music is the scenery but the lyrics are the message. Lyrics without music is poetry… you can't have one without the other, not if you want to sell records.
David: Which do you spend most time with, when writing?
Blackie: It depends. Sometimes the lyrics are real easy, sometimes the music is real easy. There is never a set way. There is no formula. It's all about inspiration.
David: How do you find inspiration?
Blackie: The same way you do… it's just… life. Things that move you, that you are passionate about. You know, my taste is very average. So usually, whatever is going to move me is most likely going to move a lot of other people as well. Nothing special about it, quite simple really.
David: You've kept a quite stable sound through the years. Do you find any new inspiration in the music scene today?
Blackie: I find more inspiration from older music. Old blues. You know… Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker… things like that. If you really, really go back and examine that stuff you will hear stuff that will give you ideas that people haven't even explored to this day. And I have told people for years that every song, EVERY SONG, that W.A.S.P. has ever made is a blues based song. Every song was based on foundational blues.
David: So you have never felt that you have to fit in to the music scene today?
Blackie: Tss… that's a death sentence if you do that. Anybody that does that, they are not an artist, they are just someone who makes records. If you try to pay attention to what's popular you will not last, because you always will be chasing something that you cannot catch. But more important than that - you are not writing from an honest point of view. I was talking about the blues, and it doesn't get more honest than that. That's really the essence of what we do. If you try to do it any other way, you are just someone who makes records. And that is not what I want to do.
David: Your lyrics have become quite political. How do you feel when you compare to the old records…?
Blackie: Headless Children was the first political record we made. This is me grabbing people by their throats and saying: "Look at it - it's not pretty, but you need to look!" Politics a lot of times can be ugly - most of the time it's ugly.
David: Have you thought about going into politics yourself?
Blackie: Yeah. Everybody has asked me that question for years. But I'm already in it. You know, I've been elected already to do what I'm doing. So the best thing I can do is keep doing what I do. To speak freely. Because politics is the art of compromise. I don't have to compromise with what I'm doing. So I'm better off where I'm at.
David: Do you feel like you can make an impact this way?
Blackie: I don't know. Like John Lennon said, they may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. That's how I feel, you know. There are others out there who are like that too, and those are the ones that I'm trying to talk to.
David: You wrote on your webpage that you hate bullies. Have you had any experience of that?
Blackie: Everybody has. Growing up, I was always the biggest one in my class, so no one ever bothered me in my class. But there are always guys who were older than you, so you're gonna get it from them. When you are nine years old and a kid of fourteen is coming up against you, you have a big disadvantage. So everybody growing up has that, it's nothing new. But that is the root of what this record is about. It's about bullying. If you look at America last week, 33 people were killed at that college. When they interviewed people who knew the guy who did it, they asked them why, and they said because he got bullied in school. This is where it all starts. So whether it is an individual doing it, or a gang doing it, or an entire country - it all starts with the concept of bullying. Or whether it is a man doing it to a woman… Men do it to women because they are bigger and stronger and they can get away with it. That's bullshit, but they still do it. Unless we break this cycle, it's never gonna stop. It's like child molesters. When they interview them and ask why they do it they say, because they got molested as a child. It never stops. We got to break this cycle somewhere, or it just never gonna end.
David: About what you said about men abusing women… How do you feel about your stage show in the 80s?
Blackie: We were trying to make a social comment. Any great band is a reflection of their time and the world that they live in. They should be an expression of that generation which they live in. We were using abstract art to make a social statement. We were holding up a big mirror to the world, and we were going: "Hey, look at it! This is you! You made us! This is what this is. Look at it!" People were listening more with their eyes instead of their ears. So after that first tour we stopped doing all that. And instead we started to go more progressively into the political vein in time of when our fourth album came along with Headless Children. We were a purely political band at that point. No longer using abstract art. Taking that mirror, that I was talking about, and holding it up to the world… with Headless Children we took that mirror and broke it over their heads, going: "THIS is what it is!" I'm no longer going to be clever using abstract art, I'm going to grab you by the head and I'm gonna make you look, and push your face onto it… A lot of what we said was misunderstood, because we used abstract art.
David: I remember when you came to Sweden in the 80s and we were having debate shows on TV on whether to let you in at all… Do you ever miss that time?
Blackie: No. The only thing that bothers me about that is the way it was handled. People totally misunderstood where we were coming from. The kids sees us as some band that are about anarchy and revolution, and that part I enjoyed, because that's what I wanted them to do. But the older people… You know, people get older and suddenly they become more prejudice. And it bothers me, because… Can you no longer see the world you created? Are you in total denial of what you've created? And that's the hypocrisy of the democracy. That's part of the world we live in. I'm just going along making my records, trying to point some of these things out, hoping that somebody understand it somewhere. That's really what I'm here for. I'm not here for any other reason, it's all about trying to get people to think. That is what all artists are supposed to do, whether it is movies, paintings, sculptures or whatever it may be. It is designed to provoke thought, and if it doesn't do that you are just somebody who makes records, not creating art.
David: You were brought up in a religious home. How has that affected your career?
Blackie: A lot. I left the church when I was seventeen. I ran away from it as far as you could go. I spent twenty years when I thought I was mad at God. But I wasn't mad at God, I was mad at man for their indoctrination, their institutionalized thinking that they had put on to me. And it took thirty years to really change my thinking, to get completely free from that indoctrination. I don't know if you ever get completely free, but enough so that I can function pretty well. But irregardless of whatever I was doing, songs that I was writing, if you look at my lyrics through my entire career those are loaded with that religious conflict. And it took a long time to get to the point where I can think clearly. And you see, that's what bothers me because, I've spent a long time being very critical over organized religion in my career and… I have very, very strong beliefs, of what I believe about religion. I don't talk about it much, because I don't want to preach to people, because if I do that I'm doing the same thing that I'm saying that the other people are doing. But what I would say is this - that it is important for people to find their own answers. That's what I've been talking about, trying to make people to think. If you want to know what the Bible says, go and read it for yourself - don't listen to what your local preacher is telling you he thinks it says. If you look at all the speeches that Christ holds in the New Testament it is less than two hours of dialogue. Out of that two hours we get over 1300 versions of Christianity. Lutherans, Methodist, Baptists, Mormons, Presbyterians… the list goes on. How do you get all those different versions out of less than two hours of speeches? That tells me that it is man's individual interpretation of what those words are. I don't think that's what Christ intended. So therefore it's important that if you're interested in that - go read for yourself. Don't let the people down at your local church tell you what they fink it says. It's up to you.
David: So what is your relation to religion today?
Blackie: All I can tell is that I have very strong beliefs. But I am very careful about talking about that. Because I don't want to start influencing people. Because if I do that then I become hypocritical, and I'd be doing exactly what I'm telling them not to do. So I really don't discuss that much.
David: But you made up with God your own way?
Blackie: Oh yeah, oh yeah! I'm very comfortable with were I am now. I don't go to church but I still have very strong beliefs. And to really honestly answer your question, I did not make up with God - God never left me, I left him. It's a big difference.
David: So how do you feel about playing the old songs today, where the lyrics are more critical against all religion?
Blackie: You know, that's okay because I still believe in the idea of what that criticism was. I still think that those songs have a very important purpose, to get people to examine or to study for themselves. Whether it is religion or politics, whatever it may be - go look for yourself. Don't listen to what your local politician is telling you. It's like… you know, I've been extremely critical against the current administration in the White House. They are beyond words. Words can not describe the bullshit that comes out of these guys. But as screwed up as they are… Europe wants to look at America and point their fingers - there are the bad guys! You don't need a history book to tell you what happened in the last sixty years in Europe. All you need to do is to look around you… in Sweden, Norway, France… Look at the prosperity, the growth, the lifestyle that you, me and all of us in the Western world have enjoyed. And it speaks for itself. So, my point is, the G8 countries we're all part of this capitalist system. Sometimes it does some good things, sometimes it does some really bad things. But it's important that we all understand that we're all part of this. It's enough blame to go around everywhere. It's not just the United States or Great Britain. We are all involved in this. Because if you have an economic collapse in Japan you'll have an economic collapse in Sweden. We're all tied together. So to sit and say that one country is doing it any more than the other - that's bullshit. What I'm trying to do is to make people understand that this blame is throughout the Western World. And it goes to back to the concept of bullies, it all starts with individuals. You know… we can sit and bitch about this all we want to, "this isn't right", "what's wrong with the world"… That accomplishes nothing. The only thing that is going to accomplish something is if we get of our ass and start doing something about it. The only way you can do that is if you start with yourself first, really take a good look at yourself and say: Am I being fair to the people around me? Am I being honest to them? Do I treat them properly? If we go back to the biblical reference of the golden rule: "Do unto others the way you want them to do to you!" And if we did that, that one simple idea, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. People forget that a lot of times.
David: So if you had to choose, who would you want to be the next president of the United States?
Blackie: Oh, it's too early. Two years in politics is an eternity, that's a looong time away. It could all change within sixth months before the election. So I don't know. There is nobody who is really killing me right now. I'm hoping that there is going to be someone to come out that can make a difference, but right now I don't know.
David: W.A.S.P. of today, is it you or is it more of a band?
Blackie: More of a band now than it has probably ever been. The guys who are in the band right now are really creative, very clever musicians. Dominator is more of a group record than any other record I've ever been involved in. Some of the stuff that they did on this record are really brilliant.
David: But it's still you pulling the strings, doing the interviews…
Blackie: Yeah, but you could have asked to speak to any of them if you wanted to. Again there is the democracy…
David: How do you feel that you have evolved as a musician and singer?
Blackie: It's probably a cliché answer, but the more I know the more I realize how much I don't know. I've been playing guitar since I was nine years old and I'm astonished as to how much I do not now about it. I will probably need several lifetimes to begin to really understand it better. It's that way with music in general. You know, I'm not a genius by any imagination. If you're lucky enough to stumble into something really, really good… it's like Ringo (Starr) used to say: "There is nothing like a good mistake!" And that's what it is a lot of the time. It's not how clever you are, it's more about getting lucky.
David: You play a quite short set on this tour, how come?
Blackie: An hour and a half is short?
David: It's only eleven or twelve songs in the set…
Blackie: Yeah, but Iron Butterfly played one song, In A Gadda Da Vida for an hour… It doesn't matter how many songs you play, it's the duration of time. Is an hour and a half short? By who's standards? Who makes that rule? Would you rather have a band go out and beat you to death for an hour and a half or would you rather have the band to stay out there for three hours and bore you? Is there one band that you can tell me that can play for two and a half or three hours that doesn't have real slow parts of their show? Is there one band you can name me that don't have portions of their show that get slow? That doesn't interest me. I rather go out and beat up the audience for a short period of time. Always leave them wanting more! I saw Alice Cooper when I was sixteen years old. They played for 35 minutes. The greatest 35 minutes I've ever seen. I didn't want any more. One minute more would have been too much. It was the most intense thing I've ever seen. When people start to measure things by time, that's bullshit. That's people that aren't looking at the whole picture. Ramones used to play for 45 minutes. They were one of the greatest bands there ever was. Any more than that… You have to judge it for the band it is.
David: Is it harder to choose the songs to play?
Blackie: As your catalogue becomes greater, yeah it becomes more difficult. Because there is things you maybe want to do, but you also have to understand that people come to hear certain songs and that you have to give them what they want. You cannot become too self-indulgent.
David: For example you only play two songs from the new album?
Blackie: Yeah, but if you start playing more than that, you're playing an album that people do not know yet. You can't do that. That's self-indulgent. When they start to understand the record more, then you can play more of it. You see bands a lot of times that are going to play six or seven songs of the new album - that's unfair! The audience doesn't know that album yet. And even if they do they have had ten or twenty years to romance older songs in their hearts. That's what they want to hear. To go out there and try to force an album on them - that's the wrong thing to do. If they want to hear more of an album they'll let you know, they'll talk to you, they'll tell you. And if that happens, we'll start playing more. Any band, any artist, should listen to the audience as much as the audience is listening to them. It goes both ways.
David: Have you ever regretted going into rock business and wanted to do something else?
Blackie: No. I didn't choose it, it chose me. I'm fulfilling my destiny. I'm getting up in the morning, I put the shoes on and the shoes do the walking, I'm just going along for the ride. That's the reason I'm here. It's really that simple.
David: Can I just have a photo for my personal archive?
Blackie: Eh, not right now, because those kinds of things we usually just do when we are ready to go on stage. Just general photos we don't do. Rather not, if that's ok. But thanks for coming, I appreciate that!
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