"None More Black: WASP's Frontman Speaks"

by MikeSOS
Sponsored In Part By
Try Me?

When you think of the forefathers of heavy metal, the obvious names jump out at you, especially in today's world of Osbourne mania.  Never outdone nor ignored, the contributions of WASP frontman/guitarist Blackie Lawless are still indicative today (just check out any band with any sort of shock value), and WASP continues to churn out powerfully emotional music.  While recently releasing of the latest WASP endeavor Dying for the World upon us, we spoke to Mr. Lawless about a number of different topics, such as music censorship, life philosophies and, of course, the beast of a band known as WASP.  Never at a loss for words, Blackie had many interesting responses and commentaries on the state of his band and his state of mind.

Mike SOS: Tell us a little bit about the mindset and emotions behind Dying for the World.

Blackie: Well, being from NY originally, I went back in October (2001), you know, and went down to Ground Zero, and I don't have to tell you.  Nothing we've seen is like that.  The first thing that hit me when I was there was the smell; that heavy, electrical wire, electrical fire smell was the first thing I noticed.  And, a few hours later, I went to get something to eat, and the stuff was draining down the back of my throat, and I could taste it in the food, and that just freaked me out, because I'd never experienced anything like that before.  That's where the lyric comes from "I have tasted hollow ground," literally.

Mike SOS:  It definitely broke a lot of the spirit of the city, but I think that the new WASP helps to partially heal that by bringing it out via song.  How was recording this album different and/or similar than previous recordings?

Blackie: It was a blur, really, because historically, we take a long time between records.  This one was done in three months and it was like bang, done.

Mike SOS: Do you feel as if it was more productive way to work, like a weight being lifted off of your shoulders?  Do you find you like working that way better?

Blackie: It's more draining.  I know that because you're cramming more of something in a shorter period of time.  So, even though it was three months, it felt more like a year.  Everything was magnified you know, the time.  What may feel like a normal day ends up feeling like three days.  It was real bizarre.

Mike SOS: Most of your albums are created under different moods and moments, and are unique to the time frame they're written in.  Which album do you like the best, out of all the albums?

Blackie: The Crimson Idol.

Mike SOS: Which one you like the least?

Blackie: Electric Circus.

Mike SOS: Any reason why?

Blackie: Well, I said it a lot of times that Circus was a tired record done by a tired band.  You know, we had been on the road for a number of years and I didn't know who I was, and I discovered that when making that record, that one of the worst things that can happen to you in life is when you'll be walking down the road of life and you meet yourself somewhere along the way and you don't know what to say to yourself.  Think about that for a second.  I had not had time to really stop and reflect because we were living in such a breakneck pace; we were not able to make records that were reflecting really, truly what we were thinking at the moment.  So I went away, and that's when I wrote Headless, and it was a really angry record because I was mad at myself.  For allowing that to happen in the first place; a lot of it is, you know, you buying into the propaganda that major record companies give you in the sense that they tell you to get back in the studio, get back out on the road really quick because if you don't, the world's gonna forget you and your career is gonna come to an end.  I'm telling ya, the only thing that's going to come to an end is your career if you continue to make bad albums.  They got 20 guys lined up to take your place if that happens.  These are all mistakes that young bands make, and it's part of the growing process.

Mike SOS: How has the treatment you've received at Sanctuary been compared to your previous labels?

Blackie: Well, Sanctuary has been part of my family for 20 years.  It started out as a management team and having a label was something we wanted to do for a long time because we always felt like if you want it done right, do it yourself, ya know?  So, at this point, if don't go right, we've got no one to blame but ourselves.

Mike SOS: Absolutely.  I know that they've assembled one of the finest stables of bands I've ever seen.

Blackie: Yea.

Mike SOS: Cool.  Let's go back into history a bit…do the Easy Rider parties still take place?

Blackie: (Laughs) Man, lemme tell ya, there hasn't been time for something like that in a really long time.  Everything's changed a lot in the last few years, I've really, I hibernate in the recording studio now.  That's really where I'm the most happy.

Mike SOS: Do you think that we'll see a resurgence of metal, or do you think it's still going to remain an underground entity?  Like what's on MTV now, all these pop punk and emo bands are sprouting out, do you see metal doing that?

Blackie: Don't judge music by television.  The two are kind of, I mean, were they ever really made to translate with each other?  If you think about it, they have similar technologies, but the mindset where they come from.  One is based on sight and one is based on sound.  When you say return, you also gotta remember that what happened in the '80s, thanks to television, was an unrealistic phenomenon.  Heavy rock music started at the Fillmore's, man, it was designed to be played in the theaters and intimate audiences, not stadiums.  I mean, the occasional festival and whatnot is fun, no question about that, but I prefer seeing artists up close and personal.  I went to see McCartney the other night, and I felt like I was in the guy's lap, sitting in the 15th row.  And I'm feeling bad for everyone else in the room, but I'm thinking to myself, this is what rock is supposed to be. It's supposed to be in someone's living room, almost.

Mike SOS: Did you ever get the acceptance from your parents that you were looking for?  Has that really made you strive for goals that much more?

Blackie: Well, personally, I don't think I was any more driven that the average person, because I think that at the end of the day, all kids are looking for that little pat on the back.  So, for me, I don't see myself as any different.  It's nice to get it, but it's not the end all.

Mike SOS: You guys have endured a lot of the excess of the '80s and still churn out some kick ass stuff.  What really drives you to keep going, the love of music, the connection with the audience?

Blackie: You have to find inspiration.

Mike SOS: Where do you find inspiration from?

Blackie: From a number of sources, like I said in one sense, it's going back to New York in October.  But in a musical sense, I was listening to my roots a lot when making this album. I was listening to the Beatles' Revolver album a lot.  You think about the psychedelic elements that came from that era, and I thought to myself that no one really ever combined that with heavy rock before, so I thought that would be an interesting concept.  If you listen to this record, you'll see the influence all over the album.  It's interesting because everyone goes "wow, it sounds really fresh and current," but it was done by using older elements. And in all reality, it opened the door for me creatively that I had not gone into before.  Because of that, it's inspired my imagination and will definitely be the door that takes me into the future.  To be quite honest, while we were working on Dying, we were working on the next record simultaneously, which is going to be a concept driven release a la The Crimson Idol.  I'm going, going, going.

Mike SOS: Excellent, that's great to hear.  Was there ever a time when you thought about stopping and saying that this isn't worth it anymore?

Blackie: I think that everyone in the beginning has doubts, but you know the old expression, you take the eyes off of the prize and you're dead.

Mike SOS: You ever think about settling down with a family?

Blackie: I already got a family, man.  It's the band.  Complete with kids and politics and all that stuff; who could ask for anything more?

Mike SOS: Do you guys still indulge in drugs and alcohol anymore?

Blackie: Depends if you wanna try and use it to create with.  What works for me may not be for anyone else.  Kind of like atheletes, sometimes they may use things to get an edge, I think it's OK for musicians to do that too.

Mike SOS: Have you caught the VH-1 movie about the PMRC?

Blackie: Yeah, I saw it.

Mike SOS: What's your view on music censorship today as opposed to its founding days, when you were very much a part of that?

Blackie: Well, I don't feel any different now as I did then, with one exception.  You know, Frank Zappa really protected us, and it's probably my place to do that for the younger bands now.  He acted as a father figure for us then because he understood what it was all about because we were young and didn't understand the dangers.  I do now, and I feel like his passing of the torch, my responsibility, Dee Snider's responsibility is to pick up that torch and really give the younger bands… run interference, if you'd like, for the younger bands to have the freedom to do as they want.. The First Amendment is a touchy thing, man.

Mike SOS: It's so cool that you do that, because so many people don't care.

Blackie: You know what, you do this for 20 years like we've done, you really don't have a choice.  It's not a question if you want it or not, it's been handed to you, it's gotta get done.  Also remember the great gifts you were given in the beginning from guys like Frank Zappa and stuff.  How can you not do that?  If Jackie Robinson is going to pioneer baseball for black players, how can they not acknowledge him when it comes their time?

Mike SOS: What current music are you into?

Blackie: To be honest, I really don't listen to a lot of contemporary music.

Mike SOS: What's a staple of your CD changer, say what would you throw in to chill out, or if you wanted to party a little bit?

Blackie: I've gone back to my childhood roots.  I've been listening to Beatles stuff A LOT.  You know, when you don't listen to it for a long time and you hear it, it's like you've never heard it before.  There's things that you never really heard before in those songs.

Mike SOS: Freshens up the perspective a bit?

Blackie: It's unbelievable.  That's why it's considered timeless.

Mike SOS: You ever think about doing any other music producing besides what you do with WASP?

Blackie: I do, but in all honesty, there's really no time.  Just to give you a quick crash course on what's getting ready to happen, we're out promo-ing this record right now, and we're gonna go in the next couple of weeks and mix Dying for the World in 5.1 Surround.  That's gonna take about six weeks, then we're gonna do a very short eight week tour because I want to get back to work to finish this next conceptual record that we spoke about.  That's being recorded in 5.1, it'll be mixed in 5.1, and more than likely, will end up being a double record set.  If you look at what we did when we did Crimson Idol, we toured and promo-ed that record for almost a year; if all of what we spoke about follows through, from this moment on it'll be three years before all of that is done.  There's all kind of things that I'd like to do, but there's just no time.

Mike SOS: Cool.  Are you happy where you are right now?

Blackie: I'm having a ball.

Mike SOS: That's great

Blackie: You know, the only thing I can really control, in life, is the music I make.  I can't even control when it's left my possession, and when it's given to somebody else.  I can't control what happens in day to day life and stuff, but I can control the music.  So, because of that, I try to seize that opportunity and that moment, to do it as good as I can.  They end up being little time capsules.  When they're done, you can't change them.  They better be as good as you can possibly make them, you ain't getting it back.

Mike SOS: What musicians past or present would you like to jam with?

Blackie: Well, since I'm watching VH-1, and Elvis is on here, I think that'd be a pretty good start.

Mike SOS: Very cool.  What bands are you still tight with and may consider hanging with, taking out on the road, etc.?

Blackie: I was fortunate enough to be part of the last generation of bands that really made their bones touring live, you know?  There are guys out there that I'd love to do stuff with.  I mean, I've wanted to do something with Lemmy for a long time, but a lot of it is just scheduling.

Mike SOS: Have you any regrets during your career that you would change if you could?

Blackie: Well, you know, I think everyone has that.  But, on the other end of that question, the philosophical idea is if you did, you don't end up where you are right now, so you really don't know.  You would need Rod Serling to stand here and show you a film of the before and after of both so you can choose, you know.  So, that's an impossible question to answer.

Mike SOS: How do you unwind?  I know you don't get a lot of days off, but how would you ideally spend a day off?

Blackie: Well, I don't look at it in days.  If I take time off, I'll try and grab a week here.  I end up getting 3 weeks a year off on average, and whenever I have time, I go out to the desert.  I'm part Native American Indian, part Blackfoot, so I go there and hang out on the reservations and stuff and it does wonders for my head.

Mike SOS: And that would be geographically, Southwestern America?

Blackie: Yea, Arizona, New Mexico.

Mike SOS: Are you based out of NY right now?

Blackie: No, I'm in California.  I've been out of California for a long time.

Mike SOS: Have you a residence in NY?  Would you consider moving back?

Blackie: No, I've thought about it a lot of times.  I love to go home, but in all honesty, my heart and soul is in the desert, not California.  I hate California, but my heart is in the desert.  You know, I think a lot of it is with getting in touch with my ancestors, you know.  There's a lot of things that I discovered when I was hanging around out there that really changed me.

Mike SOS: So that's the crux of who you are today?

Blackie: Pretty much.  I mean, I'm still a huge Yankee fan.  When I went back in October, I went to Game 4 and I saw Tino hit that home run in the bottom of the ninth.  I've been in that ballpark a lot of times, and I never felt that place shake like it did that night.  Yea, I'm still a diehard Yankee fan, but I'm also in a discovery process of where I'm going, too.

Mike SOS: How do you feel about the state of heavy music these days?

Blackie: Well, I dunno.  I really don't pay much attention to it.  I'm basically doing my own thing and I've been lucky enough to be blessed with a diehard core audience.  That's really what I'm trying to concentrate on.  It all goes back to the idea that I can't control radio and TV, so it's a waste of energy to try and worry about them.

Mike SOS: Where do you think you get most of your spirituality from?

Blackie: If you look at, go back to your basic philosophy, there's one idea that separates Indians from Whites, and it's a single philosophy that white people believe that the Earth belongs to us, and Indians believe that we belong to the Earth, and if you change that, just that slight change, it alters everything that your life is and going to be and those around you.  It changes everything, such a small differential like that, but it really, think about everything, the quality of life, the Earth around you, the quest for people making money, the stress in their lives, all that stuff is affected by that single, fundamental difference of choice.

Mike SOS: You still riding?

Blackie: Sometimes, when I have time, when I get out to the desert I love to.

Mike SOS: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?

Blackie: Oh man, show business is looking for people that not want to do this, they're looking for people that must do this.  And there's a huge, huge difference between want and must, because everyone wants, but very few people, very few, are willing to pay the price that goes along with must.  It's one of those things that's unimaginable, and I'd say for me, especially, it's the kind of thing that, looking back on it, I didn't choose it, it chose me.  Almost as if my body was some kind of vessel for whatever is happening.

Mike SOS: Like a rock and roll vocation of sorts?

Blackie: Yea, it's almost like something flies over your crib as a kid and hits you with that magic wand and says "you will be…"  So basically, I'm just putting one foot in front of the other, trying to fulfill that destiny.

Mike SOS: What's left for Blackie Lawless to accomplish?

Blackie: Anything that I'm doing right now, like I said, I'm looking ahead to like 3 years right now.  Past that, I have no idea, and it wouldn't do me any good to try and think past that anyway because who I am now isn't going to be who I am then, and I've learned to make records to reflect who you are now and don't worry about the past or future.

Mike SOS: How would you like your epitaph to read?

Blackie: Hope that's a long way away, you know?  (Silence)  John Lennon was the one that said "when rock and roll is good, it's the truth.  Just gimme some truth".  Something to that effect, whatever came out of me was honest.

Mike SOS: Any last comments?

Blackie: I think you got a pretty good idea of what this record is about.  I've always felt WASP fans were a lot more intelligent than the average rock fan, and I don't know why I've been chosen to do it.  I'm enormously grateful and I just say thanks to lending an ear to what I'm doing.

Mike SOS: Blackie, thanks for taking the time today.

Blackie: Thanks, bud, look out after yourself.

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