Blackie Lawless Talks About WASP's new CD
and Thinking for Yourself
Interview by R. Scott Bolton - March 2001
Blackie Lawless is no stranger to controversy. It's a good thing. WASP's new album, "Unholy Terror," (due April 3) is bound to stir up some more. Just take a gander at its cover.
But you should never judge a book (or CD) by its cover. We spoke to Blackie about the new CD, his philosophy and even the PMRC. Here's what he had to say:
Rough Edge: Mr. Lawless, it's great to talk with you again. With a new album in the pipeline, it looks like things are going pretty well for WASP.
Blackie: Well, so far, so good.
Rough Edge: WASP has been around a long time now and yet, while other bands of your era seem to have faded away as their product deteriorated, WASP continues to survive. What do you attribute to the band's continued success?
Blackie Lawless: The pride of the music, respect for the music. And to create the best stuff you can make. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but I'm not interested in making records that are half good. You know, I'm trying to make the best record I can make from top to bottom. See, I don't want to get into a situation where you got, maybe, eight, ten, twelve tracks on a record and there's one that you, personally, are skipping over. I mean, why? Take it off. You know, if it's not good enough to be there, don't put it on. Don't embarrass the other good tracks, let's put it that way. Don't diminish them by putting on something lesser.
Rough Edge: Tell us a little about the new CD, "Unholy Terror," and tell how it's different from, say, "Helldorado."
Blackie Lawless: "Helldorado" was a record that was designed to have fun. You know, go out and beat somebody's ass on Saturday night. Or get yours beat. Whatever. You know, knock down, drag out Saturday night stuff. Because we had done "KFD" before that and that was a real dark record and we just wanted some contrast. This record is pretty introspective in that, with a title like "Unholy Terror," people say where did the idea come from? And I tell them, well, I was in the church until I was about 18. And I went by my own accord, my own free will, nobody made me go. I did it because I wanted to. But I was looking for answers I couldn't find. So I left and when I left, I studied the occult for about three years. I mean, I did like a 180. And I practiced it for three years and I realized at the end of that three years that I just swapped one organized religion for another. So basically, what was happening, is that I was continuing that pattern of when you become institutionalized, where you're accepting pre-packaged ideals and other people are doing the thinking for you. Well, that's the whole moral of the story of this record is. To think for yourself and to come up with your own conclusions. Don't be sheep. Be your own man.
Rough Edge: On the last live WASP album, "The Sting," you thank the late comedian Sam Kinison for the inspiration for some of the lyrics for "Animal." Kinison kind of had the same life story as you, in a sense.
Blackie Lawless: Well, Sam had a lot of hostility toward that whole place where he started. And I think he felt like he had been ... the same thing had happened to him ... that he had accepted pre-packaged ideas and it wasn't working for him. To be honest with you - I saw him about two weeks before he died and I didn't talk to him much - but I always got the feeling that he had really come to grips with what it was all about and, he still believed, he just didn't believe in the way he was taught. Which is similar to me. I still believe, I just have my own way of going about it now, which is not necessarily the way I was taught.
Rough Edge: The "Unholy Terror" album cover is very appropriate for what's on the record and tells you a lot about the songs therein. It ties into the lyrics perfectly. Of course, there are some people who are going to say it's offensive.
Blackie Lawless: Yeah, but, you know, from an artistic point of view, you have to be willing - from a creative point of view - to be willing to create controversy. I mean, let's face it, you've got to get people's attention. I was in no way trying to slam religion on an individual basis. All I was after was making a statement about organized religion and government. It's not just one-sided. The governments are famous are doing this stuff to people, too. You get into an -ism - idealism, fascism - they're all pre-packaged ideas. Those are dangerous things. An -ism starts out with a couple of people in a room and the next thing you know they're wearing armbands and the next thing you know they're knocking on your door at 12 o'clock at night. Because they're not thinking for themselves. They've got somebody manipulating them.
Rough Edge: During last year's Presidential election, everywhere you looked, there was Tipper Gore, who you took on directly several years ago when she formed the PMRC. And I remember thinking this was kind of scary, because here she comes again.
Blackie Lawless: Yeah, but I've been going around for the last twelve years telling all you guys that they were never about censorship. They were only ever about creating a profile for a political candidate. And they got damn close. At the end of the day, it was John Lennon's instant karma though, wasn't it?
Rough Edge: So what do you think about who's in office today?
Blackie Lawless: Damned if you do, damned if you don't. It's like, what do you want for dinner - a pile of shit or a pile of vomit?
Rough Edge: You gotta make a choice.
Blackie Lawless: I'll pass on both.
Rough Edge: I read an article recently about the myth of media violence which basically states that it isn't television, music or the movies that incites violence, but rather other factors. What's your take on that? Do you believe that those things lead to violence in youth or is it indeed a myth?
Blackie Lawless: You look at the Judas Priest/Ozzy Osbourne thing where they got sued by these parents for these kids committing suicide supposedly over some lyrics they'd written. I don't mean to sound cruel, you know, or hard about the idea that some kid has taken his life, but what the parents are doing in death is the same thing that they did when the kid was alive. They are refusing to accept responsibility for what they did not do. So they continue it in death by blaming somebody else for what they didn't give the kid when he was alive. And the media perpetuates all this stuff. The bottom line is, parents giving the kids what they need. If you go back and look at a lot of WASP records, say all the way back to "Headless Children" through "The Crimson Idol" to now, you find a lot of common threads that run through those things and basically what it is is a kind standing there saying, "Hey, look at me. Pay some attention to me. Show me some love. And maybe I won't blow up on you."
Rough Edge: And you cover that topic in one of the songs on the new CD.
Blackie Lawless: Well, there's a song called "Loco-Motive Man." If you put a dash between loco and motive, you get "Loco-Motive Man." The story about a kid who's intent on murder/suicide. And I don't get it. I mean, my mom had eyes in the back of her head. Like three pair. She knew what I was going to do before I did it. And I just don't understand how kids are building bombs in their basements and their folks don't know it. It's bullshit. It's lack of responsibility on the parents. And I'll tell you what, man - it's almost a fascist idea - it makes you think that some parents oughtta have to go down and take a test like a driving test just to have kids. Without some sort of regulation, you got fuckin' machines running around here blowing their tops occasionally. The reason I'm bringing attention to it is truly selfish, man. I don't want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, be a mushroom that pops up at the wrong time and gets whacked. The whole idea here is maybe this problem could be alleviated a little if some of that selfishness on the parents' part stopped. If you don't really want to take care of the kid, don't have the thing in the first place.
Rough Edge: Do you think that with a record like "Unholy Terror" that people will actually see the messages therein, or simply dismiss it as another heavy metal record?
Blackie Lawless: If they do, they do and if they don't, they don't. You can't predict that. You try to make the best music you can. If they get it, fine. If they don't, that's fine, too. Maybe a few years down the line, they'll hear something they never heard before.
Rough Edge: In your bio, you mention the new track, "Euphoria," and how it relates to spiritual experiences you had in the Arizona and New Mexico deserts. Care to elaborate a little?
Blackie Lawless: There's another song on the CD called "Evermore," that deals with the possibility of past-life experiences and stuff and I started doing a lot of exploration about that and I discovered a lot of interesting things. I'm not saying that I'm an advocate of it or that I necessarily believe it, but it was pretty interesting some of the things I discovered. And out of that came an idea of where you clear your head and you allow yourself to channel creativity without conscious interruption. So basically, you wipe your head clean - you don't let your conscious get in the way - and I just played and that's what came out. I wrote that whole thing in one take, it's the only time I've ever done anything like that. And it was really neat, because when it was done, I looked at the way the arrangement and the chord progression was and I was really astonished because I could never have thought of that consciously. It was such a cool little feeling when it was done, it was drug-esque. It was like euphoria. The title and everything was right there. I thought, this is music to get high by. It's a complete contrast to the record, it's an instrumental, and it's slow and its completely artistic self-indulgence.
Rough Edge: WASP is famous for blending dark humor and serious thought. Do you find that difficult to do or does it come naturally to you?
Blackie Lawless: Not at all. It's me. Maybe the dark humor is the way to vent the serious thoughts.
Rough Edge: And your stage shows. They tend to be very theatrical, very ...
Blackie Lawless: Bombastic.
Rough Edge: Yes. Bombastic. Do you think that the message of the music might get lost in the live performance or does it really even matter?
Blackie Lawless: They're two completely different things. Now, when you go to a rock show, I am not up there in a pulpit to preach. We're up there to have fun. This is rock'n'roll, after all. What somebody sees in a one-time situation may last with them for a long time, but that record's gonna be there forever. What you say on a record and what you do live, to me, they're two different art forms.
Rough Edge: Yeah, when I got to a live rock show, I want to see the bombastic.
Blackie Lawless: Fuck, yeah. It's boring without it.
Rough Edge: WASP also tends to do some interesting cover songs. Not on every record, but on many. Is there a reason behind that?
Blackie Lawless: It used to be in the old days, the way the contract was structured, we didn't get paid for European B-sides. So we would do covers just to fill up those B-sides. Occasionally, they turned out really well and we put one of them on an album. There is no cover on the new album.
Rough Edge: I suppose there's a tour in the works to support the new CD?
Blackie Lawless: We start beginning in May.
Rough Edge: Is there anything else you can tell us about what to expect from WASP live?
Blackie Lawless: Well, you know, we just finished the record and all that stuff's still in the early stages yet, so all that stuff will start to materialize in the next couple of weeks.
Rough Edge: And I'm sure the word 'bombastic' will apply.
Blackie Lawless: Probably a couple times.
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Copyright © 2001 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:10 -0400.