[ Current Issue | Reviews | Interviews | Links | Section Index ]


W.A.S.P.

Blackie Lawless

by Neil St.Laurent (Phone)

When you released the first album did you ever think that you would be around for such a long period of time?

You don't think that far in the future, [...] I can't talk for everybody, but when talk about setting goals for yourself, people talk about setting realistic goals. Any project in life you're going to undertake, you say, okay, I'm gonna... every time you climb a mountain you start with the first step, you put one foot in front of the other and you keep doing that. And so the only thing you're thinking about at the point is getting to the first goal, then once you get to the first goal you set another goal, and so forth and so on, you just keep going on after that.
So, did I think that I would be doing this? No, because you don't even entertain the idea of looking that far ahead, I mean I don't even do that now. The only thing we ever did was try to look two/three years in the future, and that's about it, [...] and that's even hard to control, so no way, no how, anybody that would say that they did, is arrogant bastard.

So what keeps you going all these years?

The quest! The goal! You gotta have something to do, it's as George Burns used to say, "you gotta have some reason to get up in the morning." Whatever motivates you, whatever turns you on.
I like the creative process.

What were the problems after the release of the Crimson Idol that sort of forced you guys into the shadows for such a long period of time?

Well, what happened... the single biggest thing was just label problems like you wouldn't believe. Finally, it all started when I was at Capital and everything was okay, and we got a new president over there and I hated the son of a bitch. He lied to me on a couple of different occassions, about some really important stuff. And while I was writing The Crimson Idol I wrote "Chainsaw Charlie" about him, and when he found out it was him he went completely berzerk. [...] threw me off the label, said I'd never have a future there again, blah blah blah blah blah, so Crimson Idol comes out '92 and so in the meantime I'm in the rest of the world touring, and at the beginning of '93 he gets fired, a new president comes in, I go back on the label again, I mean I was never officially dropped, but he would never release the record, finally another president comes in, Crimson Idol gets released in '93. Everything is fine for about another year until EMI as a company starts to fall apart, and so then we left, I still owed 'em another record, but we left anyway, and we went with a company that disintegrated even worse, I mean, the thing imploded, I think it was Castle records, and it was going to be really good because it was run by a guy named Al Teller who had been the president of MCA, we signed on it, Cheap Trick signed on it, they had a hundred million dollars to start with, and it was one of the biggest fiascos in the history of the recording industry. And so the next record, "Still Not Black Enough" was released on that, and also the "KFD" record was also released on that, and they were both almost completely invisible. That's hard for your career to take soemthing like this, especially if they're good records. So it looks like we were doing anything, probably to the average viewer.

So it wasn't that you weren't doing anything, it was just that your stuff wasn't making it out there?

Well it was, but you had to look to find it. IT wasn't near as visible as what people had expected in the past of us. And the live album now, that's pretty much turned itself around again.

So what type of impact do you think that made on the fans, this time "out", do you think you lost quite a few of them?

Well, WASP are a funny band, in the sense that the following that we have is radically dedicated, I mean, it's Grateful Dead-esque,and the fans, they just follow us around, and I don't know of many bands that can make a statement like that. And so did we lose some? Probably by the virtue of them getting older and some people may have dropped out of it, but the fan base that we have, like I say, is intensely loyal. So I would say that if we did [lose some fans] that it wouldn't be a whole lot, the evidence supports, in record sales, supports what I'm saying. No, we've been really really lucky. I think probably moreso than most, because, this goes back to the statement you made a while ago, did you think you'd be around in this amount of time, well I didn't, but you don't anticipate you know radically loyalty like that either, and that's the secret of it, 'cause without that you got nothing.

Do you feel that now with the KFD release and the new Double-Live album that you're making some headway into the newer fan base?

That's a good question, I don't know. [...] I would have thought by now that I would have known, had Castle records not imploded like they did, I think I would have had a better idea of what was happening. BUt it's still too early for me to tell; KFD didn't get a fare shot at the public, so I can't tell you.

What do you feel that WASP's place is in the new metal scene?

*silence*
Well, uh, I guess we're probably into a category now that by virtue of attrition, by surviving so long, that we've probably whethered the 80's backlash, I don't think many people considered us what was Poison, Warrant, that kind of thing anyway, we certainly weren't, and we never really got any of that anyways, but that decade took a bad rap a few years ago, and because we went through all of that and the fan base is still there... What has gone through that fire and survived is the things that are going to survive. you know when everybody was talking about a couple of years ago the 80's are coming back, the 80's are coming back, that's hogwash, I knew that then because it's like, unlike platform shoes, it ain't coming back. The 90's have done to the 80's what the 60's did to the 50's, and once you make a quantam leap like that, you take people to another level, it's impossible to go back. So only the bands that were shall we say "more ahead of their time than the others", are the ones that are surviving now. You know they had real quality of music and had something to offer, creatively and musically, so I guess probably at this point we're looked at as that generation that came before that has probably influenced those bands that are out there now, that's what they tell me.

What do you think of some of the new bands that are out there?

I like Seven Dust, probably everybody likes them I guess, I've not seen them yet, I've got pretty wide musical tastes as well, like I said I like them and I really like Tool, even though probably they're not considered a new band anymore, I mean they're part of the 90's generation, they remind me in a lot of ways of early Pink Floyd, you know so, when you talk about circling metal, I don't limit my tastes to just that.

Will WASP progress into the new styles, or will it stay pretty much in the same styles you had before?

That's a difficult question to answer because we make records the reflect the mood we're in at the time, we always have, at times that got us in trouble, and at time that breathed life into us. When we the "Headless Children" album in '89, actually we started on that record in late '87, and while we were doing it, Capital heard it and was really opposed to it, and said "this is the wrong record for you to make" and blah blah blah blah blah, it's not what's going on in the market place right now, but that record was a direct statement that was contrary to what was going on at that moment in metal, and we were very unhappy with what the scene was, so it was a rebellion against all that Poison, Warrant, type stuff. And when that record came out it ended up being the biggest sellling record we ever had. And you do those things not because you think it's trendy or whatever you do it from what comes from the heart. And looking back on it, yeah, I guess it probably was a gamble, but the reason it succeeded was because it was an honest record, and it did come from the heart, and I would also say from looking back on it, had we not made that break, when we did, with that album, to show that we were breaking away from any pack we may have been associated with then we would not be here right now having this conversation.

When can we expect a new studio album?

Probably February [1999].

Just a few things from your career. Do think you will ever take the chance again to play the role of evil dude, say as you did in Dungeonmaster?

You know it's funny, I got offered a bunch of those type of things, but I really wasn't interested in those to be honest with you, you know because if... there is a problem with that kind of stuff, you keep doing that stuff you get typecase really really bad and you know I'm in a band that's already typecast, but within the band I'm in I have the flexibility to go do serious records, like the Crimson Idol, so you know so I'm accepted do either WASP in that, or its traditional form or Crimson Idol. If I went and I did more movie roles like that I'd be typecast really really bad. I'm getting to do a voice-over for the new Crow movie, and the new Crow movie is going to be animated like the comic book. So stuff like that, and the part that I'm doing it's a really cool part, you have to see it, but things like I'm interested in, but doing the Dungeonmaster stuff, we did that movie because we needed the money really bad, and it was right before we got a record deal, and they offered us five grand, and five grand then was like five million. It was like yeah, where do we sign?

Yeah, so you do look for these parts in various movies...

...the only thing that I ever got offered was axe-murderers... I wonder why.

Before, you used the image of the band to attract attention to it, are you going to use the image again to attract attention to it?

If you're talking about doing a show, then image and the show kind of go hand in hand. If we didn't do it to some degree, then I don't it would be us, I mean, it's become synonomous pretty much with what we do. So I would say yeah, probably.

Any types of stage acts that you have planned out so far that you can tell us about?

[...]
We've got this thing, it's a gigantic wood chipper, it's about 15 HP, and it's... we load it up with meat and shoot it out over the audience, I swear, I'm not kidding you, it shoots meat 50 fucking yards! It sounds funny when you talk about it, but when you see it, it is a hideous piece of machinery, 'cause I mean it will shoot a couple hundred pounds of meat at one time.
In the beginning we were doing things that... I'll tell you how we got started. When we got started doing theatre, which was after we first did our original demos, cause when we first got together to do the demos we didn't have a name, we didn't have any idea for a show, we were just going to make some recordings and try to get a record deal. And after we did those recordings we said okay, let's go out and play live and see what happens, because we were waiting for a response from labels, and three months went by and we never heard anything, so in our impatience we said "let's go play", so we had to have a name, so we chose a name that was controversial and we put the periods in it, and nobody had ever done that before. I mean, you look back now and lots of bands have done it since, but no one had ever used periods behind the letters, we looked at it and said this is going to drive people crazy, and sure enough it worked better than our wildest imagination. And so we had a great name, and what were we going to do live; Chris and I had this band in the late 70's called "Sister" and Sister was really like the first incarnation of WASP, it was very very similar, looked similar, so we said why don't we try doing some of that stuff again. So we went back to pretty much what that was and embelished on it from there. So the show pretty much was and afterthought, but one of the biggest differences between what Sister was and what WASP was is that we adopted a different approach to the theatre, there was a type of theatre going on that was invented in UCLA in the late 60's, actually Jim Morrison was a part of it when he was going to school there, it was an experimental type theatre called psychodrama, and what psychodrama is, it's the practice of taking what's on the stage and putting it into the audience, so in other words you try to get the audience involved as much as people, through provoking them by any means necessary, and if you ever go back and look at old live footage of the doors, you'll see Morrison screaming and cursing at the audience, he's trying to get response out of them, he's making them get off their ass and react by any means necessary, be it good or bad. So what we were doing was very crude versionse of that, we were taking what was on the stage, literally, and putting it into the audience, and I'm telling you, it works, so that was the fundamental difference, or the fundamental basis, where our theatre started, which made us different from everybody else.

You still do for some of the controversy of the stage show right?

Well that's putting the cart before the horse, it's done for the sake of theatre, and anything that happens after that, that's icing on the cake. [...] It's kind of like making a record, you make a record for the sake of the record and then if anything controversial comes about then that's just a by-product.

Over these years, I read an interview where you said you guys like to come up with new things for what WASP stands for, anything new that's come about recently?

Well the best one is "We Ain't Sure Pal". Ah, man, I/we hear a new one everything, but that's probably the best one.

[...]

Is there anything you'd like to say to a lot of the fans out there that thought you did disappear?

Well, like I said, I'm not sure if true fans thought that, ah I think maybe to the general public that may be the case, but we're kind of like a bad relative, we ain't never going to go away. You know, we've come to stay, so if there is any comfort in that...

You're still enjoying it then of course?

Yeah, of course, like I said I enjoy the creative process, you know, I'm one of these people I can't sit still. If I'm not doing one thing then I'm doing another, the problem is I got too much stuff going on, and it's... the dog is standing on all floors chasing it's ass. I got more things on my plate than you would believe.

You involved in any side projects other than [WASP]?

Too many, we just started a new merchandising company which we're doing a lot of stuff with and it's taking a lot of my, like I said I'm up to my eyes doing this house [EdNote: prior to first question he noted he is presently living in hotels while his new house is being built], you know, trying to get ready to do a tour, and it's just, oh man, I know that doesn't sound like much but, you try to... the band has almost become like my part-time job, whatever, and oh-yeah, that's my day-job, I forgot, I have to go do that. So it's just a lot of stuff, I enjoy it I'm trying to simplify though. I'm trying to get to a point where the band is all I do, I'm trying to remove myself from all this other stuff, because to be honest with you, the fanclub end of it, I like it, but I don't like the time it takes, for me to be involved in it, I know that sounds selfish, because my primary goal is to sastify the fan base out there, to give the fans what they want, and I do want to do that, but I want to get it to a point where the thing is kind of self-sufficient, where it's operating on it's own and I can ease my way out of it, and then strictly do what it is I'm supposed to do in the first place, which is to get on stage and sing and play a little bit.

I thank you very much for your time?

Thanks, I appreciate you calling.

Tracks Of Creation May / June 1998
Copyright ©1998 Borcek
Comment / Criticism / Suggestion