W.A.S.P.'s BLACKIE LAWLESS: 'As A Writer, I'm Just Trying To Get People To Think'
February 27, 2018
W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless recently appeared on the "Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon" podcast. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On "ReIdolized", the recently released re-recording of W.A.S.P.'s 1992 rock opera "The Crimson Idol":
Blackie: "I would say the sonics have changed more than anything. When we first did the record, the studio we were in at the time no longer exists. It was a place that I bought that was in Hollywood, and the building was destroyed during the '94 Whittier quake. That room doesn't exist anymore, and I know people hear me say that and they're thinking, 'Well, how big of a deal can that be?' Actually, it is, because it's a combination of things. It's a combination of the room; the people that played on it; all of the equipment that's used; there's a lot of factors that go into making it. When we did this this time, we really set out to try to make as close to a carbon copy as we could, but the thing that I found, like, when we initially went in to set up the drums, we listened to the drum tracks recorded against the old drum tracks, and quite honestly, the sonics were better this time, so we really tried to go back and tone them down to get them to sound like the old ones were. The thing we found when it came time to mix is that although we got very close on all the instruments, you can get 95 percent close on all of them, but a whole lot of 95-percents when you go to put them all together do not end up getting you to where you wanted with the way it sounded on the original. Inevitably, it's going to be different. Honestly, in a nutshell, once we realized that, we then stopped trying to do a carbon copy of it and let it speak to us in its own way. Logan Mader has mixed our last few records, and he came back with the first three mixes, and it wasn't there yet. He did a fourth track on 'The Idol' itself, and he took the orchestration and pushed it forward. When I heard that, I called him and said, 'That's it — this thing sounds like a movie soundtrack. It's different than the original.' He lives in Las Vegas, and I went out there to mix with him. When we finished mixing, I took a copy and I drove down the Vegas Strip for a couple hours one night just listening to it. I realized, the original had gone from, like, a 2-D mix to where we are now, which is, like, a 3-D mix. It's that different. The overall vibes of the records are the same, but the sonics are different on this, and I would say that that's really the biggest difference between the two."
On how "The Crimson Idol" marked a drastic change for W.A.S.P. both musically and in terms of personnel:
Blackie: "When we finished the 'Headless [Children]' tour, you had a situation where you had four musicians that were all taking separate modes of transportation, four separate dressing rooms, four separate entrances and exits from the stage, so you've got four guys who never see each other until the lights go up to do a show. That show is finished, they don't see each other again until the next show. It got to be a pretty lonely existence. I could tell the band was disintegrating. When it came time to do 'The Crimson Idol', I found myself in a situation that I hadn't been in since I was 15 years old. I had never not been with a band. Since I was 15 years old, I had always been in a band. Now, I don't really have a band. If that's not enough, I am now going to build my own studio. When we finished 'Headless', we spent about a year and a half doing that in a commercial studio, and when it was over, I held this little CD in my hand, and I looked at it and said, 'This is all I get for $600,000? Something's wrong with this new math. There's got to be a better way to do this.' So I took the money and I built what became Fort Apache, my studio. I'm doing all of this, and in the meantime, I don't have a band. That was a really strange place to be, and on top of that, I have a record company who's telling me that this is not the record I should be making — which, ironically, was the same comment they made on the record before that, and when that record came out, it exploded, so they quickly retooled their thinking. They wanted me to make part two of 'The Headless Children', and I said, 'No, that's not really what I want to do.' So I've got all these things that are circling my camp, and it's kind of hard to circle your wagons when you've only got one."
On how autobiographical "The Crimson Idol" was:
Blackie: "As far as Jonathan, the lead character, I took a lot of different guys in the business that I know, and I took about 10 percent of one guy's personality and a little bit from another, and a little bit from another, and maybe 10 percent of myself, and rolled them all together to create this guy who had lived and died long before us, and who will continue to live and die long after we're gone. This is an old Hollywood show business story, and unfortunately, it's happened before and will continue to happen. I would say the part of me that's in the story, it was my approach toward what I quickly discovered what I did and didn't want. I was very naïve when it came to the idea of what fame, notability, recognizability, notoriety, whatever you want to call it. I had a smorgasbord approach where I could pick and I choose the things that I wanted from it, and I quickly found that, no, you don't to choose from the menu yourself. That menu has long since been established, and you either take everything that goes with it or you don't. I quickly found that I was the kind of person that didn't like a lot of the things that went on with it. Like most people when they go through their teenage years, you think you want to be famous, and I underline the word 'think,' because what you think you want and what reality ends up being is two completely different things a lot of the time. For me, I found that those things were a distraction from what I really wanted to do, which was concentrate on music. There are so many peripheral distractions that can come into your life, especially if you've had success. There's a line that I use on this record that I didn't use on the first album, and it comes after the title track. The line says, 'I had finally made it to the top of the mountain, and when I got there, I looked around, and I realized there was nothing there.' That really, for me, sums up what that artificial façade of fame, notoriety, whatever you want to call it. If you're living your life for that, you're cruising for a bruising, because you see what happens to people over and over. This is not a new story, and it's going to continue to happen. What happens with a lot of guys, they think that fame and fortune is going to be the end-all for them, and that's going to give them happiness — and you get there and you find out it's worse, because you thought it was going to give you something, and when you got there, that thing didn't exist. You've been chasing an illusion your whole life. Because you've had success, you now realize there is nothing else — there is nowhere else to go. You see guys, they'll either commit suicide quickly, or most people take the long approach, which is to kill themselves slowly, but make no mistake — it's suicide nonetheless, and it's because of this unfulfillment that happens because of the illusion of what fame is. I really wrote the record around that idea. The underlying premise of it was the simple story of a kid looking for love. Quite honestly, I would love to tell you that I knew that the second part was more important than the first, but it was that simple story of a kid looking for love is really what the audience gravitated to more than the complex story of me going into what happens of the disillusionment of what people discover with fame. I'd love to tell you that I planned it like that from the beginning, even though I knew it was in the story. To me, it was part two of the story, but it ended up being the thing that people gravitated to the most because it was really a universal story that was quite a bit more simple."
On the role religion currently plays in his life:
Blackie: "My uncle was a preacher, my dad was a Sunday school superintendent and my grandfather was a deacon, so I was there whenever the doors were open. I went to church all through my teenage years. Nobody made me go — I went because I wanted to. But I was fighting a war on two different fronts when I got into my late teens. I'll be honest — I was just selfish. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. I had this rebellious streak of just wanting to live for myself. But also, there was an indoctrination thing going on inside the church that I didn't like, so I left the church, and when I came to California, I went as far away as you could go. I studied the occult for three years. I realized after a while that that was just swapping one organized religion out for another. I spent the next twenty years or so on a quest, searching for what for me needed to be done. I was looking for what the truth was. One of the things I was doing, I was trying to disprove the Bible, because I just didn't want to know about it. I was a fierce opponent of it. But at the same time, if you're going to be honest with something, you have to research it. I was reading one day and it hit me, and I realized, 'My god, I'm reading the living word of the living God.' None of my arguments could repudiate what I was reading anymore. That's how I came back to my faith. The more I tried to disprove it, the more it was painting me into a corner, to a point where I couldn't get out."
On whether he feels a need to reconcile the band's early shock-rock imagery and songs like "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)", which W.A.S.P. no longer performs live, with his current beliefs:
Blackie: "All those roads lead you to where you are now. You can't go back and undo them even if you wanted to. I've always thought that my life was being used to get me to the point of where I am now. Not being used — being led to the point where I am now, to do the things that I'm doing now. It's the totality of all those events that lead you to where you are at the moment."
On his goals today:
Blackie: "I think as a writer, what I'm trying to do is, I'm just trying to get people to think. I think that's what all art is supposed to do. If art doesn't make you think, then it's fast food for the eyes and the ears. There is a place for that, but that's not what I'm trying to do. I want you to listen to something that we've done and have that moment that you had after you saw 'Jaws' for the first time, or 'Apocalypse Now' — you have that uneasy feeling, 'What did I just see?' You run the tape back in your head, and you review it and you analyze it. That's what I'm trying to do."
"ReIdolized (The Soundtrack To 'The Crimson Idol')", W.A.S.P.'s expanded re-recording of "The Crimson Idol", was released on February 2 via Napalm Records.