Interview with BLACKIE LAWLESS (W.A.S.P.)

Photo: Per Olav Heimstad

W.A.S.P. finally heard the prayers from thousands and thousands of fans, and for the first time ever the classic The Crimson Idol performed from beginning to end. Blackie Lawless invited Metal Express Radio in for an exclusive chat.

Together with The Headless Children, The Crimson Idol really changed the way people looked at us, Blackie opens. Still, without the former the latter would never have existed. Headless … was the bridge between the simpler albums of the past, and this new and more ambitious direction.

However, the latter remained the (most important) classic, and all the way up to this year’s Dominator release, ideas and excerpts from that album can be heard. How much did the success you experienced with The Crimson Idol affect your songwriting on the succeeding albums?

Well, that’s kinda hard to say. When I write music I really try not to think of what I’ve done before, but, of course –- it’d be a lie to say something else –- things pop up now and then. That’s far from my intention, though, but hey, when you’ve done this for as long as I have it’s pretty hard to ignore. To answer your question in detail, I’d have to go back and analyze every song I’ve written for the last 15 years, and I’m obviously not gonna do that, but to give you the short version I’ll say that yes, old ideas do occur like flashes passing by, but they never make up the fundamentals of new songs.

The Crimson Idol was originally intended to be a Blackie Lawless solo album. Did you ever regret going back on this?

No, never. I’ve read that several sources say that it was the record company that made me not do that, but I’ll tell you that is not true. What this is really about is what the fans wanted. I got a lot, and I mean A LOT, of fans telling me that they wanted this to be a W.A.S.P. album –- and remember, this was before the Internet too. I asked myself what was really the point; I mean, my name’s probably gonna be inside the booklet after all, so why the hell do I have to insist on putting it on the front too?

Well, it’s not that bad of an idea, is it? The story deals to a large extent about your life?

It does … just as much as it deals with other people’s lives as well. Jonathan Steele is a mix of several people I know, and although there are aspects of my own life put into the mix, this is far from an autobiography.

The story does, however, deal with the theme “addiction.” Jonathan’s parents can easily be said to be addicted to their Christian faith -– which was also the case with (the real) Blackie parents, and Jonathan surrenders himself to a deadly cocktail of cocaine, booze, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Blackie still has an ambivalent view on drug (ab)use among the band members.

I – erm – I won’t lie to you. I’ll be honest. I don’t care, and have never cared, about what people do in their free time. It’s all for them to decide how they live their lives. When we get together, on the other hand, I prefer them to be conscious and able to participate as adequately functioning human beings.

How far would it have to go before you fire someone for drug abuse?

Why do you ask me that question??

Is it wrong to say that you decide who’s in and who’s not in this band?

Where’s that ever been written?

I mean, being the only founding member still in the band, as well as the one writing the vast majority of the music, wouldn’t it be weird if you did not have the last word?

Let me tell you something. I should really get the other guys in here, but I won’t bother. Just listen to what I’m telling you. In every band there are different members, different people, with their own individual opinions and approaches to life. As opposed to what you seem to think the majority of the guys leaving this band left because of a clash of opinions, not drug abuse. Also, this was not because they disagreed with what I said, but because they disagreed with what other band members said. This is nothing but a natural consequence of people working together.

Blackie leaned back, and watched me sweat while sipping his Pepsi Max. If you’ve ever seen the SEINFELD sequence where Newman interrogates Jerry, you’ll know exactly how this looked … Still, I had no option but to carry on
How often do the band members discuss politics within the band?

From time to time. I suppose our conversations are pretty much like those heard in other workplaces, maybe with a bit more musically related subjects thrown in. If the TV is turned on and there’s a political debate, a news broadcast, or something on, I guess we may talk about it, but it’s not like politics control our entire existence just because I’m into it.

How important is the political opinions of your band members to you?

Important. Of course they are. To function in such an intimate setting as playing in a band you have to share the same values, and hence be close politically too. But, hey – why do you insist on talking this much about me? I should really get the other guys in here so you could hear what they meant and felt; they have some pretty strong opinions, and deserve to be heard far more than what’s the case as per now.

How would you say your view on what W.A.S.P. is about changed with the release of The Headless Children and The Crimson Idol?

I like to say that W.A.S.P. is an idea. More than anything else W.A.S.P. is an idea. W.A.S.P.’s not just a band and a band name, and that’s something I realized during the times we considered changing the band name. That was just around the times when these two albums were released. I will NOT say anything else about this, because that is not the subject of this conversation. The point here is that I received a letter from a truly dedicated W.A.S.P. fan, who really turned on the hairdryer to tell me what he thought of me considering a name change. That letter made me begin to think, and after a while I realized that the guy was right. He was actually more than just “right”; he really nailed it. What he wrote was that W.A.S.P. was a phenomena that should not be messed with for any reason; we’ve had a total of 15 guys playing in this band, and still the band itself hasn’t changed. W.A.S.P. is very similar to Motörhead in that manner. They’ve gone to hell and back more than once, but still they are here, stronger than ever.

Still W.A.S.P. means very different things to different groups of fans. What’s your view on the ones who still swear by your first two albums and think of W.A.S.P. as a mere party Rock ‘n’ Roll band?

W.A.S.P. has two types of fans. The Crimson Idol people, and the Fuck Like A Beast people … Blackie’s eyes all of a sudden turn all black … and I definitely belong to the Crimson Idol people. I will never play “Fuck Like A Beast” live ever again, and to answer your question -– W.A.S.P. is about a hell of a lot more than booze and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

With that, Blackie was left to change for the show –- the sneakers and track suit did really seem a bit out of place. Anyone lucky enough to catch the band on their Crimson Idol Tour will certainly agree with Blackie’s statement, and the band’s latest release Dominator clearly shows that Blackie’s still got more than you can take –- if you’re ready to take him up inside you at all, that is …


  • Torgeir P. Krokfjord

    Torgeir was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. After hearing Malmsteen's "Vengeance" on a guitar mag CD at the age of 12 or 13, he began doing hopeless interpretations of Yngwie licks and it just took off from there. After shorter stints at other zines he was snatched to Metal Express Radio in 2003. Alongside Yngwie, Savatage, WASP, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Emperor, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Opeth, Motörhead, Manowar, and Queensrÿche are a quick list of musical faves. Torgeir is also guitarist in the Heavy/Prog/Thrash outfit Sarpedon.

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