Heart of Steel: Interviews

Metal-Rules.com Interview With Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P.

Interviewed By Marko Syrjälä and Luxi Lahtinen

Intro by Luxi Lahtinen
17 years ago... 17 long years ago there was another fine Heavy Metal band there that came on my way and just strengthened my own views 'bout everything why I should be staying tightly with this strong form of music for the rest of my life.  And I'm not even a half way thru it, at the age of... (!) - never mind!

By meeting some of past (and present!) heroes only has proved me that if your heart is made of metal (well, you know it, metaphorically speaking, of course!  I'm not THAT old as you may rudely think, for GRST SAKE!!), you do, as a fan, share many things with your heroes that you've always admired and respected for a number of different reasons.

The always curious reporters of METAL-RULES.COM Finland decided to head their ways to a hotel on one chilly, but beautiful Monday morning 19th of March - as Blackie Lawless, that lonely desperado(!), from the mighty W.A.S.P. had come to the town to promote his new album titled "Unholy Terror".  Despite of the fact he was suffering from a pretty bad flu at that time, he seemed to be very excited to enlighten us 'bout just everything we wanted to know 'bout the brand-new album, the P.M.R.C., the W.A.S.P. webmakers in the net among with some other mind-occupied things - and sharing some of his great sense of humor with us as well.

And who's still claiming the Heavy Metal people are downright boring and black'n'white with their opinions... ??


Luxi & Blackie
Luxi and Blackie

Marko and Blackie

Transcription by Luxi Lahtinen

Letīs talk about your new album, "Unholy Terror" a little bit as for starters.  As for its lyrics, you have chosen to deal with more serious subjects this time around like religion, politics, sociology, human relations and so on.  What were actually your main inspirations to write about such topics for this album in the first place?

Well, I was in the church until I was almost 18.  People donīt know that ībout me that I was very religious when I was growing up.  And nobody made me go; I went because I wanted to go.  But when I got to be about 18, I started to looking for answers that I couldnīt find.  And I became very discouraged and I was very confused.  And so... (!), I left the church and went to study the occult for three years.  So, I went to one extreme to the other.  And at the end of 3 years I realized that I had changed from one organized religion to another.  And so I stopped doing that and I went for many, many years.  I was still confused, walking all the time paranoid.  I didnīt know why I felt like I felt.  And I started realizing one day that... (?) - because I have a very good knowledge of the bible, I NEVER remember reading anywhere in the bible where it says: "Go make war to another people... go bomb abortion clinics...".  I NEVER read anywhere in the bible that thereīs a guy in Italy that tells me that I canīt meet on Fridays.  Yīknow, I NEVER read any of that on there.  And I realized then that what had happened to me!  For years, I walked around; I thought I was a mad guy.  That wasnīt mad guy - that was mad at man!!  For the institutionalization that has happened to my thinking, yīknow!?  Thereīs an indoctrination that comes down and an organized religion that does "disturb(?)" people.  And I wanna be really clear:  Iīm NOT attacking at an individual faith; this about an organized religion and their versions of what THEY THINK the bible says.  And that has become dangerous because most people fall into the category like I did.  They didnīt think for themselves; they go along with whatever has been taught.  And THAT IS dangerous!!  And itīs not just religion either; politics and governments are famous for doing this to their people.  What youīve seen on television on the news, is usually only what your goverment wants you to see.  So that too, IS dangerous!  So the whole idea of "Unholy Terror" is, DO NOT LET that happen to you what happened to me. Think for yourself, find your own answers, find your own truth!  And youīll be a lot of happier...


About the lyrics for "Unholy Terror", I actually noticed that the topics you are using on "Unholy Terror", do cross the same topics a little bit that you already used for the "Headless Children" album...

Yea, a little bit...

And musically some of its parts reminded me of "The Crimson Idol..." ?!

Hmmm... (!?) - parts of it, maybe...


Moving on towards more serious issues, how much faith do you have left in our society and politics?  Do you still have some respect for the politicians and towards their ideas and the way how they would like to change our world in the future?

Hmmm...(??), yeah, if their intent is real! The problem is that most people arenīt gonna spend a lifetime, trying to get into power for any other reason except for themselves.  That, too, is dangerous...


Now, when your albumīs been out for a while, is there any intention to release any singles or videos out of some songs on it?

Donīt know yet.  Weīre just gonna wait and see what happens on the radio; with whatever the first singleīs gonna be and let the world tell us what they want us to do.


Do you have any touring plans made yet?

Oh yeah, weīll start touring in the beginning of May - in Nevada, U.S.A. and weīll come over here and do some festivals this summer.


Any chances to see you in Finland this year... ?

No, yīknow, the problem with that is... - well, everybody knows itīs really expensive to get the equipment here, but the problem is getting promoters to bring bands over here.  Itīs not that bands donīt wanna come.  Finding promoters that are willing to do it, becomes a bigger problem.


Itīs been 14 years since you visited to Finland last time...

Itīs been a long time, I know...


What kind of memories do you have back from those days when you received a gold records for "The Last Command" album here in Finland?

I actually received two of them; for the first and "The Last Command" albums.  Well, it was funny īcoz I was looking at some photos the other day from the TV-show we did when EMI gave us the gold records for "The Last Command".  I saw those about 5-6 weeks ago. They brought back some good memories.


What indeed was the most challenging for you when you were writing songs for "Unholy Terror"?

Writing and recording the album for me is NOT a lot of fun!  Because the whole process for me now, is to try to make it.  Thatīs not good; I wanted it to be great!  And I wanted it to be perfect!!  So because of that, the entire process is torture.  And itīs not much fun, so Iīm at a point right now where... (!) - unless I can find the way to make it more fun.  I donīt know now much longer Iīm gonna do records because this record is pure torture; just PURE TORTURE!!  And thatīs NOT what music is supposed to be.  So I gotta try to find a way in my head to make it more fun again.  But I donīt know if itīs gonna happen.  So, when you asked me what was the hardest part... The beginning... and the end.  And everything else I have been saying.


How did you end up picking just this particular title for the name of the album, then?

If you think about what I told you about me being in a church - and the conflict that is in my head, a natural being me, going out and doing the album as we did and began - doing the show what we do and that night, going back to the hotel room by yourself and you think about what you just did; and the conflict going back and forth in your mind - am I doing the right thing or am I doing the wrong thing; am I good or am I evil - THAT WAR inside your head, THAT IS "unholy terror...".


The last song on the album is called "Wasted White Boys"; whatīs the story behind that one?

Are you familiar with the record before, "Helldorado"?

Yes, I am...

There was a song called "Cocaine Cowboys"; so itīs an extension to "Cocaine Cowboys".  Itīs supposed to be fun.  Thatīs all.  Itīs all bullshit...


Thereīs a lot of rumors (both good and bad ones!) going on about your "live(!)" album, "The Sting". Whatīs exactly a real story behind all that politics between you and your previous label why it was released in the first place?

I have NOTHING to do with it!!  That was a part of something from the old record contract that Iīm no longer involved with.  I wanna be very, very clear about this that I had absolutely NOTHING to do with it!!  I also have to be very careful ībout what I say - or I could be sued.  If I say something that looks negative... (?) - BUT Iīll let you draw your own conclusion to what Iīm thinking of it.  You could say that you think that youīre getting a feeling out of me that I hate it?!  BUT I DID NOT SAY that!!  Thatīs what YOU THINK Iīm thinking...


Talking some words about your new label, METAL-IS. How did you end up signing a contract with them?

Itīs natural, I mean Iīve been doing my management since -ī83.  This is an idea we had for a long time and itīs really a natural step for us, yīknow?!  So, weīve been working on this for several years now, trying to get this ready to do so...  At least this is a position to be in now where we are responsible for our own destiny.  And I like that better than what we were just talking about, yīknow!? A company is doing things to you you donīt like...


How many albums does this contract contain?

Probably for a life!!  Yīknow, I mean itīs... (?)  Well, letīs say that Iīve been with them since -ī83, so as long as I wanna make records I can, yīknow what I mean?!  Itīs no longer invitational...


Many, letīs say, "older bands" like Rob Halford and MEGADETH just joined in METAL-IS.  Do you feel a bit (financially?) safer now when the label has more money to spend for a promotion and that kind of things?

No, itīs about the same, yīknow!?


Dave Mustaine told me when I was interviewing him that he has now 5 times more money to spend for the promotion and stuff compared to the times they were on CAPITOL for the "Risk" album...

H-mhh... (!)


What kind of expectations are you running towards your new label as far as promotion, touring, merchandise and all these are concerned?

My company does the merchandise.  I think that the biggest thing we are hoping for, is to have better cents of how to get records on the street for the kids.  Thatīs where EMI had gotten to the point where they couldnīt have sold records on the street level any more - to where the TRUE rock fans are!! And thatīs not to say that they are not good īcoz they are good at what they do.  They just donīt understand īrockī anymore.  And thatīs what weīre hoping to do, is get it to where people really are at, yīknow, on that street level.  Hopefully we will...


How ībout Chris Holmes?

How about him... ?

I mean, how did he join back in W.A.S.P. again?

He and I got back together in August -ī94. And he had just divorced Lita Ford and I was in a really bad relationship that had to come to the end. And I think really looking back then, itīs been almost 6 years - looking back.  I think we have got back together because of we felt comfortable; because there was familiarity there, yīknow?!  When you go to bad relationships, I think you look around for whatever is familiar.  I really think that was a problem where we were more than anything.


The four letters, P.M.R.C. (stands for Parents Music Resource Center if someone doesnīt know?!) kind of became a curse for W.A.S.P. in the late -ī80s when the band was drifting into one trouble to the other trouble due to your controversial image and everything; the people of P.M.R.C. had their own "witch-hunt" towards W.A.S.P., but obviously they didnīt succeed too well.  Have you had any troubles with them lately?

Well, P.M.R.C. was NEVER about censorship. They were trying to get their man elected for president.  They got pretty close, tho.


Are you somehow glad that Al Gore was beaten by George W. Bush and Bush was elected for the new president of the U.S.A.?

Itīs funny because I was watching the election and... (in this part Blackie burst out laughing -Luxi), yīknow, I was thinking because usually itīs over in one night - and this isnīt!?  And I kept thinking īcoz day after day after day, yīknow, thereīs still another sue - and there was one part of my brain that was thinking, this-must-be-a-torture!! This MUST BE PURE HELL for them!!!  Yīknow, and thereīs another part of my brain that kept signing the John Lennon song: "Instinct karma is gonna get youuuuuu...."

(- some insane laughing!! -)

But you are happy that George W. Bush was elected President... ?

No..., no because he did fuck up, too, yīknow?!  The good thing ībout America is the President doesnīt run the country; Congress and a senate run the country.  The President... (!), Iīm not gonna say heīs for a show, but he is not as of importance as you might think.  Like I said, the REAL power is in Congress and a senate, so thatīs a good thing.  Somebody asked me the other day, "What do you think about George Bush?" And I said "Well, at home it's kinda like the feeling for the next 4 years... itīs like: PLEASE DO NOT LET ANYTHING IMPORTANT TO HAPPEN" - yīknow (-laughing!!-), maybe weīll make it thru...".

Thereīs a great bunch of the W.A.S.P. webmakers in the net who are running their pages with a great love and passion towards W.A.S.P.; what have these webmakers meant to you on a personal level?

Well, yīknow, itīs fantastic!!  Yīknow, you get a perspective from what the fans are thinking. That ables me and any other band who has a website up.  It gives us a chance to really understand whatīs happening on the street level immediately.  So, thatīs a wonderful tool that we didnīt have a few years ago.  That puts us in touch IMMEDIATELY!!  Because when Iīm in a studio, Iīll make a record - like "Unholy Terror"; 14 months, yīknow, itīs a long time. Iīm in a studio - and Iīm just completely surrounded; Iīm isolated.  I donīt look around, I donīt know whatīs going on in the outside world.  I donīt pay attention to the other bands - I donīt know anything ībout their music as I focus so hard for what Iīm doing.  I donīt know anything whatīs going on out there. And if you wanna know, all you gotta do, is go and look someoneīs websites and they will tell what people are really thinking.  So, thatīs a good thing. 

Have you met any of these guys personally?

Oh yeah.... sure!!


Re-unions have been that "in" thing for the past couple of years or so - old band mates coming together again, warming up their old, previous bands for the sake of olī jolly good times - or, just for the sake of money(!).  What do you honestly think of all these re-unions?  And do you believe that there are some bands there that only see an "easy(!)" money behind all of this?

Well, I think itīs, yīknow, a part of natural circle of things, yīknow!?  Like I said, when Chris and I got back together in -ī94, some people may think we did it for money...

Like Gene & Paul (from KISS)... ?

Yea..., well, yīknow, Iīm not gonna say that, but... (?)  Anyways, I remember when THE WHO toured in -ī89, some journalist tried to teach Pete Townshend a lesson by asking from him:  "Why are doing this?  You said for like 5 years ago that youīll NEVER tour again... ?".  Pete didnīt hesitate to throw it against this poor journalistīs face: "I want their money... ".  So, what are you gonna say... ?!

Yīknow, itīs like... (?) - but I think at the same time, if youīre giving for me, being a big THE WHO - fan like I am, I heard them saying it - it still didnīt matter to me!  I still want to see īem together, yīknow?!  If youīre a big fan, it doesnīt matter what their motivation is.  Yīknow, itīs like if it gives you an enjoyment, I think thatīs the most important thing.


When you were doing "The Crimson Idol" all by yourself - being the only original surviving member of W.A.S.P., did ever that kind of thoughts cross your mind that you could have released the album under your own name?

Yeah, I thought about it.  As we got a further enter into "T.C.I." - because what happened with "The Idol", is Chris and Merith Delido(!)" - and he really didnīt want to put into music any more - NOT them!!  And Frank Banali, who was in the band īcoz he has done "Headless Children" - and Frankieīs mother who was dying in a cancer right as we got into "The Crimson Idol".  So, when I started "The Crimson Idol", I had a band, but 10 minutes after the recordings started, I didnīt have a band any more.  It was very, very bizarre the way what happened.  So we came very close to saying: "OK, weīre gonna drop the name W.A.S.P.".  And two things happened: Firstly, the fan club heard about it and they exploded!!  They said: "NO!! DONīT DO THAT!!". And secondly, retailers around the world were asked what they thought.  And to be honest with you, they responded... :"We know who W.A.S.P. is, but we donīt know who the hell Blackie Lawless is".  So because of that - for those two reasons, the retailers and the fan club, we said: "OK, we should just stay where we are at".  And thatīs why that decision was made...


W.A.S.P. truly was one of the bands ahead of their time - namely you had this internet show which was broadcasted from Key Club, Los Angeles last year via the World Wide Web.  What kind of an experience was it for you after all?

It was kind of bizarre because, yīknow, hundreds of thousands of people were watching you at one  time.  And I remember a couple of times on the stage, thinking of myself, yīknow, to see the cameras out there I thought: "Thereīs a lot of people watching us right now...".  I said: "WOW!!...", yīknow, itīs like "youīre gotta get a grip on yourself, it's ok, it's cool." Itīs easy to loose your composure.  You just have to block that out of your mind; you cannot think about it.


Do you believe you got some new W.A.S.P. fans just because of this particular show?

I donīt know...  I donīt know - hard to say...

Sticking with this subject with a little longer, you actually did a pretty "extraordinary (HMMM...!!)" show back in -ī98, 29th of August at the Meadowlands Convention Center, New Jersey as you may still remember?!  A figure of MARILYN MANSON was used for some strange purposes as a part of your stage show there... ?


Yea..., that was a little joke; a little message I was sending to him, yīknow!?  I donīt know, I NEVER heard what he thought about it, but Iīm sure he was amused.

HE! HE!! Guess so... at least that!!


What do you think of him as a person anyway?

I have never seen him.  So, I mean, what I see him on videos and, yīknow, interviews, he looks like heīs the best at a self-promotion than anybody others Iīve seen.  And that is an artform to be able to do what he does.  But, other than that, like I have never seen why, so I really donīt know.


Whatīs your most memorable tour youīve done during your long-lasting career as a frontman of W.A.S.P.?

Iīd say probably the tour we did in Europe with IRON MAIDEN back in -ī86/-ī87. That was a good one.  Because both bands were real strong at the time and I remember telling people before that tour started that they were getting ready to see something very, very special theyīll remember for the rest of their lifes.  And I hear more about that tour probably than any other one.  It was good...


How important do you consider a stage show for your band?

For me, itīs important because I donīt wanna go out on the stage and just stand and play there. Itīs boring to me.  Yīknow, the only way that weīve ever been able to face the idea of going out and playing months and months and months, we had to be able to entertain ourselves.  Thatīs the only way we are ever gonna make it.  And I think I really donīt care about going out and just playing music; that would be more death to me, yīknow!?  Iīd rather stay home and listen to records if thatīs something I wanna do.  So, I think it may be more important for the band than it is for the fans.  Quite honestly...


What kind of elements are you going to use on your up-coming tour as far as your stage show is concerned; could you possibly reveal something about it already?

No, not yet...


OK, next question, please, HE! HE!! Bob Kulick was never an official member of the band, am I right?


Why? He didnīt want to join or... ?

Bobīs doing a lot of producing for the other records and stuff.  And I donīt know if Bob really wants to be on tour any more.  Bob is an UNBELIEVABLE guitar player!!  He may be the best Iīve EVER played with!!  Heīs really, really good!!  Heīs very clever, very creative.  When we did "The Idol", I told him before we started as I DID NOT want to go and just play a bunch of licks.  As if I want a carefully crafted each one of the solos and he was willing to give the attention I needed.  We spent a long, long time... (!), well, the solo on "The Idol"; on the song "The Idol", we spent three days just with that one solo - just give it exactly the way we wanted it to have; "double-double-double...".  And I remember at the end of some of the days that his fingers were bleeding.  I mean, we worked like 8-9 hours a day, yīknow, I mean, itīs like... (?) - I mean, Iīd look over his hands and they looked like a hamburger, yīknow?!  An instant impression was like: "WOW...!!!"  So, heīs an exceptional, exceptional guitar player...


I was just wondering in what kind of a musical environment did you grow up as you have done some cover songs on your albums too - out of some of the most popular -ī70s Rock bands like JEFFERSON AIRPLANE ("Somebody to Love"), THE WHO ("The Real Me" and "Forever Free") and ELTON JOHN ("Saturday Nights Alright for Fighting")?

My mother was a big fan of LITTLE RICHARDS, ELVIS PRESLEY, CHUCK PERRY and all that stuff.  Iīve always had that music in my house.  And I have a sister whoīs like 8 years older than me, whoīs a big THE BEATLES -fan.  So, yīknow, I had ELVIS PRESLEY in one room and THE BEATLES in another, going on at the same time, so I always had that kind of music around me.  And when I was about 10-year-old, I heard "Born to Be Wild" for the first time.  And THAT really changed me, yīknow.  So, I always had music around me and I was exposed to it very, very young.  So I had a big jump on everybody else that was my age it came to music! By the time I was 15, BLACK SABBATH had already been out maybe 3-4 years and I remember them being fifteen guys telling me that they were hearing BLACK SABBATH. When I was little, yīknow, when I was young, for them for 3 years ago, yīknow, when even I knew ībout them very early. 


Do you think -ī70s was the best era for Rock music as far as your musical influences go?

Maybe... (?).  Some good stuff came out in the -ī80s, too.  But the scene seemed like there was just an incredible creativity that came in the -ī70s that has not really been duplicated.  But there was a lot of experimentation that was able to happen in the -ī70s which you donīt really get now.  Iīm hoping the internet will change that - to give bands a chance to experiment more like they did in the -ī70s.  time will tell... 


Well, I know that this has been asked many times from you before, but how do you see the future of W.A.S.P.?

I donīt know... I have no idea.  All I know is just to try to do the best records I can make. Whatever happens, happens...


You still donīt feel "that" old for keep it going on...? 

NO! No... itīs a question of perfection, yīknow!?  To me thatīs the object.  Yīknow, can I develop perfection without driving myself absolutely crazy.  Because whatever a problem is gonna... (!) - I already know whatīs gonna happen to me.  If I stop making records right now, thereīs gonna be a creative part of me thatīs gonna go absolutely insane.  I already know that.  The question is, is the insanity of not been able to create greater than the pain thatīs gonna be greater than in the studio(??). Thatīs the balance - right there!  And that question I cannot answer right now.  I donīt know... 


OK, I guess we have come to the end of the interview. We just wanna show our deepest gratitude for you having this interesting chat with us and wanna wish you more creative years to come...

My creativity is still fine!  I donīt have to worry ībout that.  Itīs just... (!) - this shit hurts; I mean, everyone hurts!!  I mean, Iīll make a record, yīknow... when Iīm mixing a record.  And if you ever had... - like being in your own car; and pull up to a traffic light, yīknow, one guy on one side and another guy on another side and the other car behind you.  You all play 3 different songs at the same time - really LOUD!!  Thatīs whatīs like when Iīm mixing. Iīll try to sleep at night and I have got 3 or 4 songs going on in my head; "hear song, hear song, hear song, hear..."  And I CANīT stop it!!  I CANīT sleep!! Yīknow, it REALLY drives me crazy.