BLACKIE LAWLESS On STEVE RILEY's Death: 'It Was A Big Shock To All Of Us'

November 4, 2023

In a new interview with Canada's The Metal Voice, W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless paid tribute to the band's former drummer Steve Riley, who died on October 24 after battling a severe case of pneumonia for several weeks. He was 67 years old. Blackie said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I wrote a thing for him [on the W.A.S.P. web site] the day that it happened because it was a big shock to all of us, 'cause none of us saw that coming. And when something like that is so sudden, it catches your flat-footed; there's no other way to describe it.

"I lost my dad four years ago this month. And in an 18-month period, I lost 11 people and not one of them to COVID," Lawless revealed. "It was just one thing after another, and 11 people in that short a period of time, I start thinking to myself, 'What's going on here?' This is a wave that personally I'd never seen before. And to be honest, to write eulogies over and over and over, it's draining, because one of the conclusions I came to, and I don't mean for this to sound insensitive: death sucks. There's no other way to describe it. Because as a writer, I learned there's no words that we have that we can say that we can assemble together to make sense out of those losses. It's like love. They say love is the most beautiful of all frustrations because there's not words to describe what it really is. Death is the same way. There are no words that we can assemble or group together that really is going to change what it is. But what do you say to someone to comfort them? As a writer, I grasp for that. And like I said, there was a number of those that I wrote."

Blackie added: "I've got a friend of mine; he's pretty high up in the Pentagon. He's part of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff. He was a submarine commander for many years. And he had to write a number of letters to parents for soldiers that died. And I asked him, I said, 'How is it?' He goes, 'I've written more than I can remember,' he says, 'and I struggle with every one of them that I write.' There's no easy way to do it. And in Steve's case, that caught us all flat-footed. We did not see that coming… And I wrote that in that eulogy that I wrote for him, because one of the things that I said in there is that those songs that he played on — 'Wild Child', 'Blind In Texas', 'I Don't Need No Doctor' — those songs cemented our legacy. And he's a big part of that."

On the day that the news of Steve's death was shared online, Blackie released the following statement via the W.A.S.P. web site: "The entire W.A.S.P. family are saddened to hear of the passing of our friend and former bandmate Steve Riley. Steve was a native of Boston and came from a large family. He had several brothers, which from the beginning I dubbed, 'the Dalton Gang'. That came from an old Quick Draw McGraw cartoon and in a fun type of way they reminded me of some crazy kind of wannabe outlaws. They all loved the name so it stuck.

"It was Steve's drumming you hear providing the steady beat on songs such as 'Wild Child', 'Blind in Texas' and 'I Don't Need No Doctor'. Those songs helped cement our legacy and Steve was a big part of that.

"Most drummers have some the best humor in any band. It's just the way they are wired and he was no exception. Steve could make a dog laugh and that's no joke.

"For any band, being on the road can be a grind. If you have someone in the band that can come in and break the tension just by being themselves, then that's a gift that's sorely missed when that vacuum can no longer be filled.

"One of the 'Dalton Gang' has now slipped away and our hearts are truly saddened. He will be missed. But his individual legacy will indeed live on.

"God Speed Steve Riley".

Riley was the drummer for W.A.S.P. on the band's second and third albums — 1985's "The Last Command" and 1986's "Inside The Electric Circus" — and world tours from 1984 to 1987. After leaving W.A.S.P., Riley joined L.A. GUNS and played on that group's most commercially successful LPs.

In a 2021 interview with "The Bay Ragni Show", Steve stated about W.A.S.P.: "It was unfortunate what happened with W.A.S.P. I loved that band, I loved being in it, and I thought that the four members of W.A.S.P., we really had some great personalities, and we were making great music. And it's just unfortunate. It was one of those bands that splintered, and one guy left, one guy got fired, another guy got fired, and Blackie took it over on himself and he just went on with it on his own. But I thought we had a lot of legs, man; I thought we could have gone a lot longer with the four guys."

Riley added that he knew Lawless was calling all the shots when he joined W.A.S.P. "It pretty much is Blackie's band," he said. "I knew when I joined, I knew it was Blackie's band and he was writing the majority of the material and he was directing all the traffic."

According to Steve, Blackie made a mistake when he got rid of the musicians that composed W.A.S.P.'s classic lineup. "He fired Randy [Piper, guitar], then he fired me and then he ended up firing Chris [Holmes, guitar]. So he disbanded a great band.

"I've got nothing but admiration for Blackie, 'cause he gave me a shot with W.A.S.P. and I really took advantage of it and I loved being in the band. But I think that he disbanded a great band," Riley reiterated. "We were not only good theatrically, we were great sonically, musically. We were just blowing bands off the stage, man. That original four guys in W.A.S.P., we were great."

Steve added: "I've been in so many bands, and I know that that band, we were slaying. We were just really — every show, whether it was Europe, Asia, over here in North America and Canada, we were just killing it, bro. And I felt great about the band and I felt great about the first and second albums. I feel good about 'Inside The Electric Circus', but that was a noticeable change in the whole band, the sound of the band and everything, and how we looked — the whole thing. But those first two albums, man — we were really pushing it. It was great."

Steve Riley photo courtesy of Golden Robot Records

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