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Blackie Lawless – Vocals & Guitar for W.A.S.P

Date: 1/12/10
Interviewed By: Rich Catino


1. Are all the songs on "Babylon" about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

BLACKIE: Well only a couple, it was a nice starting point. I’m always looking for something that’s gonna get people thinking. You try not to make fast food for the ears, you try and get people to think about their lives a bit. ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and ‘Thunder Red’ are about the Horsemen, the original plan was to do a song about each horse but after I got through the first two you don’t want to beat (haha) a dead horse, I just felt like I said everything I wanted to say in those two songs, you know. We were gonna do four different covers, with four different colors, and after I looked at it lyrically I didn’t think I could say anymore than what I said already. After that I just did what I thought was socially observant about things I know about. One of the things I talk about a couple times on this record, was what fame does to the performer and the audience.

2. You talked about fame too in "The Crimson Idol", right?

BLACKIE: Yeeaahh…but I think really after all these years "Crimson Idol" was about a kid who was a musician and gets famous and all this stuff and he finds out fame really isn’t what he is looking for, but really "Crimson Idol" is about love. It’s a real simple story and at the time when I did it I thought it was more complex than it was. But looking back on it you can see what it really boils down to, and I’m not diminishing the value of the album because it is real powerful, part of the reason it worked is because its something everyone can relate to. Especially that whole idea of not getting what you want from your parents, or being loved in general, that’s what struck a nerve in people. And at the time I was almost writing it as a footnote, but when I look back it was much bigger in the story than I gave it credit for.

3. Why include two cover songs on "Babylon"?

BLACKIE: We recorded about 15 songs, and ‘Promised Land’ was a good song at the end of the album because we take you to a real dark place up till then. I honestly didn’t think ‘Promised Land’ was gonna make it to the record, and it was the first one we recorded. We hadn’t been in the studio for a while when we recorded “Babylon” so we decided to put on some training wheels and ease ourselves back into recording, and ‘Promised Land’, I think that’s a great version. But more importantly, where does that song take the record? It wasn’t like it was a great master plan to take you to this real dark place throughout the whole record, and take you to the promised land when it was done, but it was all an accident.

4. Is there an overall message to all these songs on "Babylon"?

BLACKIE: O Yeah, pay attention to the world and what’s goin on around you. What really got me going was it was the end of Bush in the office and we are listening to these guys about this global financial crisis, and I was listening to some guys in Brussels at the EU and they were talking about "maybe a one world government and system". And then another guy said "If we have a one world system then we should have a one world currency", a third guy said "we feel by the year 2017 we could have all micro chipped", and I’m thinking do these guys have any concept of what they are suggesting?, I mean we are talking 666 potentially here. And I went back and refreshed my memory of Revelation in the Bible, did some study on it and some other books in the Bible, and I was astonished to how accurate the predictions in the Bible were in comparison to what these guys were talking about.

You know what you should do, do what I did, take five minutes and look up micro chipping, and watch what comes up its far more advanced than you might think it is. There’s a school in Oregon where kids have micro chips in their hands for lunch and they wave their hands in front of a bar code counter to pay for their lunch. Its really scary stuff. When I saw all of this its really what got me going.

5. You are very knowledgeable and aware of the world around you. Ever consider going into politics?

BLACKIE: I thought I was, you know. 25 years ago when we started W.A.S.P., I made the prediction I wanted to be a senator, and the more I thought about it and the more I watched that bloodbath that happens on the hill, I couldn’t do that, I would be in jail. They say politics is the art of compromise and I’m not very good at that. I found that my voice is far better suited to doing what I am doing now which is kinda play umpire and call it as I see it. And try to be as informed as I am. I’m doin the same thing your doin, we are just reporters, I do what I do and make it rhyme. I’m not trying to give you opinions, I’m trying to give you what appears to be factual for the research that I am doing.

It's like any other thing, you don’t want to beat people over the head with it, you want to present people the evidence and then let them decide because people, most people, are fairly intelligent. They may not be informed which is the reason they are accused of being not so smart, but most people are fairly intelligent IF you give them something to choose from. If you give people contaminated water, and you give them pure water, they are gonna take the pure water, you know. It’s the same thing in presenting evidence, if you can give them something black and white most of the time they will make the right decision.

6. When you write a record what comes first, the music or the lyrics?

BLACKIE: For me the easiest way is to dream it, if you can do that its like someone giving you a song for free. For me usually it starts with a song title, but the process is always different.

7. Do any of your band members get involved with the songwriting?

BLACKIE: Not the songwriting per say but the creative process of what we in the studio is more of a band thing than most people give it credit for. What you want to do is leave a song up for interpretation, see what I will do is give the band a thumbnail sketch of what and where I think the song is gonna go. I want to hear what they have to say because their ideas my be better than mine, see many heads are better than one especially if your working with people you trust what they are capable of doing. And the guys in this band are really good and they are very clever and I want to hear what they have to say.

8. What type of setlist have you prepared for this tour?

BLACKIE: Well for now we are keeping the same setlist we have been playing for the past few months in Europe and it worked very well. It ended up being, I thought it would be a pretty good idea when I put it together but it ended up working better than I thought. See we have this big movie screen set up behind us and we have the videos for select songs, playing in real time with us. Its got a cool effect because what I didn’t consider is the psychological effect it has on people because its happening in real time.

9. I saw you for the "Crimson Idol" anniversary tour in Sayreville, New Jersey, and you did the same thing where the movie footage with the music videos for certain songs, were playing in real time with the band.

BLACKIE: Well when we did the "Headless Children Tour" 20 years ago, we were only the second band (aside from Pink Floyd), to use film live on stage. So when we got ready to do it we talked to a few of Pink Floyd’s people, and it was really primitive at that time, if you could see how it is done now as opposed to how it was done then, but the thing they both have in common is that when we first put the films together we didn’t cut the videos in time to the music, we just put video on and just played to it. When we went into pre production it looked horrible, it was a train wreck. When you do all that complicated engineering to make it work you don’t even notice it unless you see that way it was originally cut. When we did the anniversary tour for "Crimson Idol", that whole show had to be cut to time.

When we did "Crimson Idol", we did a couple hundred shows, when we finished our last night in Switzerland, I was sad because I enjoyed that show so much and it was like a friend leaving that you wont see for a long time again. I never thought we would never top that but this show for "Babylon" I think tops that. The YouTube stuff that’s out there looks great.

10. There are a few songs that have not been in the W.A.S.P. setlist for a while. I wanted to get your thoughts on them and if you’d like to, or will, add them in the future?

The Torture Never Stops:

BLACKIE: You know we have not played that song since 1985 and its funny you mention that…this summer we will be doing some more festivals overseas, and that song I’ve given a lot of consideration. See when you are putting together a setlist and when you’ve been doing this for a long time, new albums become opening acts. What I mean by that, when you have twenty songs that are engrained and romanced into people psyches for so long, that when a new album comes out those new songs become the opening acts for those classics. Those new songs can’t even compete with those classics. The same thing happens when you go back and visit material you haven’ played in a long time. You may think it is a great song, but how does it hold up against all those other monster songs it may not work. But the way we are doing ‘Scream Until You Like It’ is really cool.

The Last Command:

BLACKIE: Haven’t played that since 1985 but I can tell you that song would not stand up against others in the set.

Restless Gypsy:

BLACKIE: Probably wouldn’t stand up either. There might be ways to add it in a medley but not the whole song.

The Heretic:

BLACKIE: We were gonna open the show for the "Babylon" tour with it but reason we didn’t is because film was never cut to it and when we realized that when this show is so visually heavy by not having it in the beginning and adding the visual later it created a hole in the beginning. We went back to adding ‘On Your Knees’ because we use the live footage from Live at the Lyceum. We opened the Headless tour with that song, great song. I think down the road there is room for it but not right now.

Forever Free:

BLACKIE: It too was talked about, its funny the band is pushing me for it.

The Horror:

BLACKIE: Don’t think it would work with what we are now. The whole feel of it doesn’t fit into the vibe of this show. It’s a very uplifting show.

11. When you did the anniversary tour for the "Crimson Idol", did you record any shows for DVD?

BLACKIE: Yes we did. None of the footage is finished and I’m not sure when I’m gonna have time to finish it. Don’t know when the release would be proper for it, the anniversary will be in two years so I think would be the time to release it. It will include the short film originally shot for the album, plus the music videos, plus a 45 narrative interview in the studio (old Fort Apache) while we were making the record. I did it the day after we shot the back cover for the album, so what you have is me literally walking through the studio and how it was recorded. The footage is really cool I re-watched recently.

12. Plans to release the "Live At The Lyceum" and "First Blood, Last Visions" video collections on DVD?

BLACKIE: Well unfortunately those are owned by someone else so that’s gonna be very difficult.

13. Are there any goals you would like achieve with W.A.S.P., and outside of the band?

BLACKIE: Nothing I can think of, we are entering our 26th year. I remember on our first album people would ask me "where do you think your gonna be in five years, will the band still be together"?...and my response was always the same "I’m worried about the next five months". So for somebody to have told me that I would still be doing this in the capacity I’m doing this now and to have bigger in many parts of the world than it has been, I would have never believed this.

I wish heavy metal music was bigger in the States than it is because in other countries it is really seen as something special.

14. Is there a W.A.S.P. album you would like to go back to and change something about it? How about "Still Not Black Enough", would you say that’s like an overlooked album?

BLACKIE: I think every artist would tell you that about almost everything they ever did. But I think for the most part you have to see every album as chapters to a book, they are all one piece of work.

We actually rehearsed the song ‘Still Not Black Enough’ for this tour and there was a pretty cool video too but if you see the pacing of this show you will see that song didn’t fit. ‘Scared To Death’ is a song I always wanted to play but to pull it off live you really need those female background vocals. Do I think that album "Still Not Black Enough" is overlooked?...yeah because it came out in the shadow of "Crimson Idol" and I knew nothing at the time was going to succeed. I knew nothing I’m going to do that is going to rival what I just did, plus the whole grunge thing was really coming alive, it was a no win situation. Looking back I think a lot of people will tell you it is a far better record than whatever attention it had not gotten. But then again, anyone who has had a long career will tell you they have one of those records somewhere.

15. Have you ever considered doing the theatrical show from 1984-85 just one more time for the fans who didn’t get to experience it?

BLACKIE: I don’t think there is any point because doing something like that is just a trip down memory lane and its something my heart would need to be in it. You would also need the band that did it so for me to do it on my own it wouldn’t work.

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