Heart of Steel: Interviews

W.A.S.P. The Interview

Hot on the heels of what was easily the most graphically and musically intense W.A.S.P. tour ever, Blackie Lawless and Co. have collected a double disc dose of the road insanity and released it to the public at a bargain price. Boasting nearly two hours of sonic horror, "DOUBLE LIVE ASSASSINS", covers every aspect of the W.A.S.P. story. Add to this the re-issue of five classic W.A.S.P. platters complete with expanded artwork and bonus tracks and you have a heavy metal fans audio orgasm. I spoke with Blackie from his home in LA. 

Thanks To David Lee for submitting this interview.


METAL RULES!!
The last time we spoke K.F.D. had just come out and now we are here to talk about the live album that was a result of that tour.

BLACKIE LAWLESS
Correct.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Pretty intense record!

BL:
You think so eh?

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Yes, absolutely. I read the bio that came with the CD and I found it funny that you were quoted as saying that the first live album "Sucked!"

BL:
Well, I didn't write that bio and I thought that the wording was a little extreme but I just don't like that live album very much. It might be because it has some bad memories attached to it. I don't know. This one we took a complete 180-degree approach to it. That thing was recorded at Long Beach Arena and it sounds like a big ole' garbage can. The sound just rattles around and all that. So we took a very backward approach to this one. A lot of it was patterned after "The Who-Live At Leeds" where it sounded like it was done in a very small place. What we did to accomplish that was to mike everything really close. There is no reverb, except on my vocals and occasionally on some of Chris's solos. Everything else is dry and it gives you that feeling that you are in somebody's garage listening to them play. It's really intimate like that and it gives you a much more up in your face approach that is much punchier.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
I read a review in a national magazine that slagged the record a bit saying that it was obvious that you spent a lot of time cleaning this up in the studio and I had the exact opposite opinion. It sounds very live to me.

BL:
(Laughs) There are mistakes all over the place on this thing! I listen to things and I cringe! Probably where people get that opinion and I don't have any problems talking about what we do live, we use pre recorded background vocals and pre-recorded keyboards live. The reason that we do that is because we used to take a keyboard player on tour with us but since the "Headless" tour in '89 the drummers have all been playing with in ear headphone monitors so that enables them to play with a click track. When we were doing all that TV stuff and to be able to play to the film, to have it cut like a video, the drummer has to play to a click track. So, we found that if you are playing to a click track for that you are already playing to the same speed that the songs are cut at so why not use some of the pre-recorded stuff? I mean that is me singing that stuff in the studio. It's me playing the keyboards. It's not like I am ripping anybody off. My feelings have always been "Would you rather go see a band that has background vocals that are not there because they don't have enough guys to sing them and have huge holes in those songs live or would you rather have the background vocals there and have that band sound good? I don't give a shit what nobody says, I want to hear it sound good! If that is the case and there are pre-recorded keyboard parts or pre-recorded vocals I don't care. I want it to sound good and I make no excuses for it. That is trying to give people the best sound that they can possibly get. As far as overdubs? If somebody wants's to consider that an overdub that's kind of stretching it a little bit. Basically, what you hear is what you get. This stuff was recorded over many nights and there were nights that there was stuff that was just as good as what was on that record. I must confess that I am going to listen to those vocals first! (Laughs) If they are a bit too stinky then I am going to go for another take but I hear things that are like I am running out of breath or there are flat notes or you hear Stet hitting bad notes but hey, that's part of the charm of it. There is a part in "Little Death" where during every chorus Chris is playing the wrong part! He's playing the verse! If I was sitting with you I could show you that he is playing the wrong part every time.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Did you fine him? (laughs)

BL:
Nah. That's just the way it is. So, if those are overdubs?

 

 

Metal Rules!!
I was at the infamous Detroit show.

BL:
Oh boy.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Very intense atmosphere that night as I recall.

BL:
I tell you what, boy, by the time I walked on that stage that night,… The eruption, let's call it, happened about 30 minutes before that and I was fit to be tied! I had so much adrenaline in me at that point that I was just like a Tasmanian Devil. It was just like, take off anybody's head that gets near you! Plus if that wasn't enough, my girlfriend who was on her way to meet me from Spain in Chicago which was the night after Detroit. Her plane got detoured back to Pittsburgh and I am trying to find her not knowing if American immigration has not let her in the country for some reason or something and sent her back. Now picture all that chaos. About three hours prior to this show I am trying to find out where she is at and I got Grandpa (Lemmy from MOTORHEAD) fucking with me!

With all that going on I was in another world. My head was on Neptune.  There was definitely tension on the stage. I am the kind of person that when I get so mad I can barely concentrate and I was ready to bite nails in half!

 

 

Metal Rules!!
So we can expect that there probably won't be another W.A.S.P. / MOTORHEAD tour for a while?

BL:
There may be.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Would that be the summer CMC tour that everyone is buzzing on about?

BL:
We are negotiating that right now. There are a few factors one of, which is what we will and won't be able to do live. That's a big consideration for us. We will do something but I don't know if it is going to be this, so-called, Monster Of Rock thing or not. We will be going out in June, July and August.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
The live record covers material from your entire career. Was it hard to make a set list incorporating something from each album?

BL:
What happened is that over the years we have developed a following that is GREATFUL DEAD- esque. People caravan around and follow us around from town to town so what we tried to do was change not just the music in the show from week to week but we changed the visuals as well. Which is a constant challenge. Setting up a tour is one thing but doing it in the middle of a tour is another because you don't have the access to things that you would have in maybe LA or New York as far as theatrical prop houses and things like that. Knowing that we still try to change the show from week to week. Originally when we started out to do the record it was only going to be about 55 minutes but when we finished the tour and we looked at all the material that we had and all the stuff that we had done in different places we said "Wow! Look what we have here. We have the ability to put together what would be considered the definitive collection of our entire body of work." The only thing that put me off about that was the cost of a double CD. We went back to both of the labels and said, "Can we keep the cost down? Can we do a double CD and price it as a single?" and they said "Well, we can't do it as a single but we can do it somewhere between a single and a double." So we said "O.K. Go for it." That way it keeps the cost down but it also gives people something that we had not even planned on in the first place.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
I know that when I pulled out the CD booklet I was thinking to myself "Man this would have made a killer vinyl album jacket."

BL:
It's funny that you should say that because I swear that we had that conversation a half a dozen times when we were putting it together. We all went "Damn! Why can't all these pictures be bigger?" It really loses something in the translation when you shrink them down.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
It's kinda sad that the days of putting on your headphones and starring at a vinyl record jacket are gone.

BL:
That's the thing. I remember holding on to vinyl jackets when I was younger and it's like you put the headphones on and it all becomes audio-visual. Better than a video because you use your own imagination.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Speaking of audio-visual presentations, a lot of bands have been getting into adding enhanced graphic portions to their CD's. Is that something that you have ever considered doing?

BL:
We have talked about it. We are considering doing something like that with "The Crimson Idol" when it is re-released. Originally when it was released there was a seventeen minute narrative video that went along with the story and it would be neat if we could incorporate that into the CD itself. I would imagine that we will do that.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Is CMC International handling the re-releases?

BL:
No. We got it (the back catalogue) back from EMI last September and now it is owned world-wide by the company that used to be Capitol in the U.K. so we just did a world-wide deal with them.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Will they have bonus tracks?

BL:
Yeah. It's got all the "b" sides that corresponded with any given record. In other words like the first album singles had "b" sides and they will be on that first album re-issue and so on for every record thereafter.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
I am looking at the set list from the Detroit show that I saw and the track listing from the CD and I notice that the Detroit show didn't have anything from "The Crimson Idol" but the record has a bunch.

BL:
The only thing that is on there from "The Crimson Idol" is "The Crimson Idol" and the "Medley".

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Was that material that you played on certain nights as you explained a minute ago?

BL
Those came from the Switzerland show. There were four shows that this material came from. They were Zurich, Chicago, Cleveland and LA.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Was it particularly hard for you to play things off of the "K.F.D". album? I ask because, to me, it is just a very different sounding album than all the rest.

BL:
It's funny because people have asked that question before. In reality, no. Listen to what is on the album, "Killahead" and "Little Death" and when you listen to those songs they work perfectly right along side of "Wild Child". The reason being is that they both came from the same mind so the style is going to be similar. The reason that record sounds different is because of the production. The keyboards are mixed louder. In reality, there are more keyboards on "The Crimson Idol" and "The Headless Children" than there are on "K.F.D." It's just the mix that's all. We were shocked, I mean absolutely shocked at the European reaction to the album. They went wild! They were not fond of it.  America welcomed "K.F.D." much more. But that was a record that we needed to make because we needed to show that we could take this sound forward. If we would have made a record that sounded the same 'ole same 'ole then we would have been doing a trip down memory lane and we didn't want to do that. We felt that by doing the "K.F.D." that then enabled us to make a very simple record, which this live record is. Had this live album came before "K.F.D.", that would have been a big mistake. We needed to reinforce, in people's minds, that this wasn't a trip down memory lane and I believe that "K.F.D." did that for us. I like the record a lot but beauty is in the ear of the beholder in this case.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
That record came along at the perfect time. Terrentino and those dark style move directors were all happening and "K.F.D." just fit right in.

BL:
Very, very dark feeling. That's interesting that you should notice that. How much does a PULP FICTION or SEVEN have to do with the mood of the people at the time? I was thinking about something the other day that is somewhat related. Why do certain things work? Why were things in the fifties big like rockabilly? Punk in the seventies? Why were certain TV shows popular at the time but you couldn't do them now? Why do certain things translate from generation to generation, like GILLIGANS ISLAND? I think the reason that they work is that they are tailored for the moment. I have never been particularly interested in doing that but I do try to have my thumb on the pulse of things that are going on around me. You are going to be influenced by that but I think that more often than not I am not out reading the newspaper or TIME magazine or watching TV trying to figure out what is going on out there. We are just trying to do where we are at at the moment. That is why two records back to back have never sounded the same. I think that any artist, if they have had a true career, their work should reflect the mood that they are in at the time so people can go back and look at that body of work and say "Oh. This is where they were at at that moment and then look at where they were five years later." That's one of the cool things about it. You can use your body of work as documentation of your life.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Recently we spoke to a member of CANNIBAL CORPSE and I asked him about his battles with politicians over lyrics and artwork and I know that you have had your own battles with people in Washington. His assertion was that ultimately it was the best publicity in the world.  Would you agree that in the end it was great for business?

BL:
It was kinda like after all was said and done, more was said then done. It definitely made us a household word in North America but who cares? If somebody's grandma in Wisconsin knows your name she isn't going to go and buy your record anyway. The reason that they go after you is that you have already made some impact and the kids already know who you are. I mean, you are going to pick up some on the fringe but it is not as great as people would think. It has changed me. It has made me much more of a political radical. When all that happened in '84 and '85 I remember sitting with Frank Zappa and it was almost like he was patting me on the head and saying "Go to it son. Do your thing." I feel myself in the same position now that he was back then. He was taking a lot of heat for people like me because he was the elder statesman at that point. When you are young in your career like that you have tendency to say "Fuck them! What's the big deal all about?" As you get older you realize that it is all important. The whole idea of freedom of speech is something that is very, very precious and if you take that away we are in big trouble. I didn't know that then and I wished that he was here so that I could thank him for what he did.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Before we get cut off I have to ask you a question that I have wondered about for years. Did you play in a latter day version of THE NEW YORK DOLLS?

BL:
That is how I got to California. I did two shows with them right at the very end. I took Johnny Thunders place and then the band broke up.  Arthur Kane and I came to California and that is what got me here. More has been made out of that than there should have been because it was about as brief as a thing as you could do but from a historical point of view it is accurate. Not that big of a deal but for me that is what got me to LA which I don't know if I would have ever done without that.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Cool! The mystery has finally been solved!

BL:
Well, there you go!