Heart of Steel: Interviews

W.A.S.P. - Unholy Terror Unleashed!!!

Interviewed By Keith McDonald

Blackie Lawless and WASP have been around for quite a while now. Having been a mainstay on the heavy metal map since their inception in the early 80's, WASP have been also been able to mark themselves as Public Enemy #1 for critics that included the PMRC (Parent's Music Resource Center). Despite their detractors Blackie and WASP have marched ahead releasing their latest offering Unholy Terror via Metal-Is Records, the label now owned by Blackie's management company Sanctuary Music. I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Blackie while he was in New York City.

How has the label take-over by your management affected you?

Well it's a good thing. It's been something we've been wanting to do for a long time. I guess a fruition of a dream.


Do you have more creative control at Metal-Is than you had at Capitol Records?

I've always been very lucky. Even from the first record one of the things we had in our contract was creative control. I was one of the few bands to even get it. In all honesty, I've lived a very sheltered existence. The whole time we were at Capitol, six times I had someone from the label come down. Four times I invited them and twice they just showed up and quickly got the impression that I wasn't happy they were there. Never when we were on Castle or CMC did anyone ever come around. With Capitol they didn't know how the hell I was doing it. So they decided to leave me alone. It wasn't until six or seven years ago, I was having a conversation with Sammy Hagar about this and he mentioned somebody crawling up his butt at the label. I started talking to people about it and now I've been exposed. I've been on a deserted island for so long.


Do you have more control of your masters and material?

Probably the biggest difference is you get people to do more of what they tell you they're going to do. You can sit in a marketing meeting till you're blue in the face but unless someone inside the organization does it, those marketing meeting are just a waste of time. It sounds like a small thing but it really is huge. Other than that there's not a big difference.


Where did the title Unholy Terror come from?

From my religious upbringing. I was brought up in the church pretty heavily till I was 18. I was starting to look for answers that I couldn't find. I became really frustrated and left the church. I practiced the occult for years. You can't do much more of a 180 than that. I realized that I had swapped one religion for another. I'm not here to knock anyone's religion or what their beliefs are, if anything I'm trying to reinforce it. I'm trying to get people to search out answers for themselves and not go along with any pre-packaged ideas they have. The album cover is going to overshadow what I say. But this is equally important in politics too because the government is famous for doing this to people as well. The moral here is to seek out answers for yourself.


What are your tour plans?

We start in the beginning of May and I guess five to six months we'll be out. We're talking about (package deals). I literally just finished the album three weeks ago. So all that stuff is being formulated as we speak.


What can we expect from the live show?

WASP is always big, bloody, bombastic and over the top. I don't see any difference in what we've done. I see the records as one thing and the live performance as something else. With the record you do the best music you can. Live is a rock 'n' roll celebration. I'm not trying to preach anything.


Do you feel that the energy is missing in live shows?

I think there seems to be a renaissance of bands coming back who want to do things visually. This visual thing in rock 'n' roll seems to go in cycles.


What are your thoughts on MTV and VH1?

All things evolve. They have to do what's best for them. VH1 is an extension of what (MTV) does. (They're) all under the same roof.


Will you do a Behind The Music?

I've been asked a lot about that. It's like you've had to have people who died of drug overdoses. Believe it or not, our live show is big and bombastic but behind it is boring. We've not had any tragedies. I don't know if it would make a good story or not. A rise to the top, drug addict, lose it all. I've just been really lucky and not had any of that stuff.


Do you intentionally try to make each record sound different or is it a natural progression?

I think it's just natural. I don't even go in to do a record and say this is what it's gonna be. Hell, I don't know until it's 2/3 of the way finished. When I'm making a record I'm just trying to uncover my subconscious. It's a continual process of getting out what's already in there. I'm just as surprised as anyone else is.


How do your critics affect your songwriting?

I don't even think about that. My job is to make the best records I can. I've gone through this all along. I've had a career that's been so sheltered like a kid tutored and never went to school. As for (critics) I could care less.


Why do you touch on such controversial topics?

I like everything everyone likes. I figured what moves and motivates me probably will move and motivate others. There's a song called Loco-motive Man about a kid who goes to school and attempts a murder/suicide. That's a pretty hot button subject. To me the kid is the symptom, not the disease. The disease is what the parents aren't doing for the kid. If you look at any of the artists that have been sued by parents of kids that committed suicide, I don't want to sound cold, but what the parents are doing is the same thing in death as when the kid was alive. Blatantly refusing to accept responsibility for what happened. Even in death they're still pointing the finger at someone else because they didn't give the kid what he needed. All artists that make a record are given a great gift. The gift is not the talent that you possess, the gift is that you stand in a place where people are going to come and talk to you or you're standing on a platform and people will listen to you.


How do you explain your longevity?

By telling the truth. You make the best music you can but telling the truth is real important or at least what you believe is the truth. If you don't, you're telling a lie and there's nothing in between. I know there's some guys out there that aren't artists and just make records. It's o.k. but it's not what I wanna do. Any artist that's in it for the long haul is trying to let the public come inside their head and walk around their mind.


What single will go to radio?

We're not sure which one yet. I'm just doing a market survey with everyone because I'm not sure. I would go with Let It Roar first even though I personally like Hate To Love Me. But I just don't think it's a radio track.


How has the label support been?

We just literally got this going overnight. The go button was six or seven months ago. We're all pretty new to it.


How important is image?

Image of the band, the product is important because there's creative controversy that's going to go on with anything artistic.


What's the future for WASP?

I have no idea. Our first record came out 17 years ago. If somebody told me we'd be around 17 years I would have laughed. The only thing in my control is to make the best records I can, put one foot in front of the other and whatever happens happens. I'd like to keep doing this until I have nothing left to say.