Interview conducted April 29 2007
Interview published May 04 2007
I've never been a big fan of W.A.S.P.
It's a great band, but musically I've felt it has been of many. But with
Neon God 1 & 2 and Dominator my interest has started to slowly grow.
And there is no doubt that Blackie Lawless
is one of the most legendary, mythical and charismatic persons in the
rock business. Ever since I listened to him answering a few questions
at a press conference, during last year's visit at Sweden Rock Festival,
I've wanted to meet the guy and hear what he has to say. Because I felt
like he really had something to say. Now I got the chance, when W.A.S.P.
was heading for my neighbor town Lund for a show. I expected a lot of
this half an hour's audience, and I think I got it. Almost no matter of
the question, Blackie continued to talk and to expound his arguments and
thoughts about politics, religion and music - in that specific order.
I therefore give you the (almost) unedited interview in a whole.
I was a bit worried at first, about
rumors that Blackie had cancelled some interviews the night before. But
there he was, meeting me with a relaxed style in his underpants. He sat
down, half laying, in a couch, staring at the roof at first. With strict
instructions to be well prepared and have read all about the concept around
Dominator, I was a bit nervous. There are always stories and rumors about
eccentric celebrities as well, and Blackie is certainly no exception.
But, hey, the man sat in his underpants - there was nothing to lose really.
And the longer the interview went I saw a man honestly trying to answer
everything the best he could - and to add some of his own thoughts where
they fitted in.
David: What's most important for you, music
Blackie: What's more important, my left leg
or my right leg
That's impossible, you can't answer that question.
I mean, the music is the scenery but the lyrics are the message. Lyrics
without music is poetry
you can't have one without the other,
not if you want to sell records.
David: Which do you spend most time with,
How do you find inspiration?
Blackie: The same way you do
life. Things that move you, that you are passionate about. You know,
my taste is very average. So usually, whatever is going to move me
is most likely going to move a lot of other people as well. Nothing
special about it, quite simple really.
David: You've kept a quite stable sound
through the years. Do you find any new inspiration in the music scene
Blackie: I find more inspiration from older
music. Old blues. You know
Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker
things like that. If you really, really go back and examine that stuff
you will hear stuff that will give you ideas that people haven't even
explored to this day. And I have told people for years that every
song, EVERY SONG, that W.A.S.P. has ever made is a blues based song.
Every song was based on foundational blues.
David: So you have never felt that you have
to fit in to the music scene today?
that's a death sentence
if you do that. Anybody that does that, they are not an artist, they
are just someone who makes records. If you try to pay attention to
what's popular you will not last, because you always will be chasing
something that you cannot catch. But more important than that - you
are not writing from an honest point of view. I was talking about
the blues, and it doesn't get more honest than that. That's really
the essence of what we do. If you try to do it any other way, you
are just someone who makes records. And that is not what I want to
David: Your lyrics have become quite political.
How do you feel when you compare to the old records
David: Have you thought about going into
Blackie: Yeah. Everybody has asked me that
question for years. But I'm already in it. You know, I've been elected
already to do what I'm doing. So the best thing I can do is keep doing
what I do. To speak freely. Because politics is the art of compromise.
I don't have to compromise with what I'm doing. So I'm better off
where I'm at.
David: Do you feel like you can make an
impact this way?
Blackie: I don't know. Like John Lennon said,
they may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. That's how I
feel, you know. There are others out there who are like that too,
and those are the ones that I'm trying to talk to.
You wrote on your webpage that you hate bullies. Have you had any experience
Blackie: Everybody has. Growing up, I was always
the biggest one in my class, so no one ever bothered me in my class.
But there are always guys who were older than you, so you're gonna
get it from them. When you are nine years old and a kid of fourteen
is coming up against you, you have a big disadvantage. So everybody
growing up has that, it's nothing new. But that is the root of what
this record is about. It's about bullying. If you look at America
last week, 33 people were killed at that college. When they interviewed
people who knew the guy who did it, they asked them why, and they
said because he got bullied in school. This is where it all starts.
So whether it is an individual doing it, or a gang doing it, or an
entire country - it all starts with the concept of bullying. Or whether
it is a man doing it to a woman
Men do it to women because they
are bigger and stronger and they can get away with it. That's bullshit,
but they still do it. Unless we break this cycle, it's never gonna
stop. It's like child molesters. When they interview them and ask
why they do it they say, because they got molested as a child. It
never stops. We got to break this cycle somewhere, or it just never
David: About what you said about men abusing
How do you feel about your stage show in the 80s?
Blackie: We were trying to make a social comment.
Any great band is a reflection of their time and the world that they
live in. They should be an expression of that generation which they
live in. We were using abstract art to make a social statement. We
were holding up a big mirror to the world, and we were going: "Hey,
look at it! This is you! You made us! This is what this is. Look at
it!" People were listening more with their eyes instead of their
ears. So after that first tour we stopped doing all that. And instead
we started to go more progressively into the political vein in time
of when our fourth album came along with Headless Children. We were
a purely political band at that point. No longer using abstract art.
Taking that mirror, that I was talking about, and holding it up to
with Headless Children we took that mirror and broke
it over their heads, going: "THIS is what it is!" I'm no
longer going to be clever using abstract art, I'm going to grab you
by the head and I'm gonna make you look, and push your face onto it
A lot of what we said was misunderstood, because we used abstract
David: I remember when you came to Sweden
in the 80s and we were having debate shows on TV on whether to let you
in at all
Do you ever miss that time?
Blackie: No. The only thing that bothers me
about that is the way it was handled. People totally misunderstood
where we were coming from. The kids sees us as some band that are
about anarchy and revolution, and that part I enjoyed, because that's
what I wanted them to do. But the older people
You know, people
get older and suddenly they become more prejudice. And it bothers
Can you no longer see the world you created? Are
you in total denial of what you've created? And that's the hypocrisy
of the democracy. That's part of the world we live in. I'm just going
along making my records, trying to point some of these things out,
hoping that somebody understand it somewhere. That's really what I'm
here for. I'm not here for any other reason, it's all about trying
to get people to think. That is what all artists are supposed to do,
whether it is movies, paintings, sculptures or whatever it may be.
It is designed to provoke thought, and if it doesn't do that you are
just somebody who makes records, not creating art.
David: You were brought up in a religious
home. How has that affected your career?
Blackie: A lot. I left the church when I was
seventeen. I ran away from it as far as you could go. I spent twenty
years when I thought I was mad at God. But I wasn't mad at God, I
was mad at man for their indoctrination, their institutionalized thinking
that they had put on to me. And it took thirty years to really change
my thinking, to get completely free from that indoctrination. I don't
know if you ever get completely free, but enough so that I can function
pretty well. But irregardless of whatever I was doing, songs that
I was writing, if you look at my lyrics through my entire career those
are loaded with that religious conflict. And it took a long time to
get to the point where I can think clearly. And you see, that's what
bothers me because, I've spent a long time being very critical over
organized religion in my career and
I have very, very strong
beliefs, of what I believe about religion. I don't talk about it much,
because I don't want to preach to people, because if I do that I'm
doing the same thing that I'm saying that the other people are doing.
But what I would say is this - that it is important for people to
find their own answers. That's what I've been talking about, trying
to make people to think. If you want to know what the Bible says,
go and read it for yourself - don't listen to what your local preacher
is telling you he thinks it says. If you look at all the speeches
that Christ holds in the New Testament it is less than two hours of
dialogue. Out of that two hours we get over 1300 versions of Christianity.
Lutherans, Methodist, Baptists, Mormons, Presbyterians
goes on. How do you get all those different versions out of less than
two hours of speeches? That tells me that it is man's individual interpretation
of what those words are. I don't think that's what Christ intended.
So therefore it's important that if you're interested in that - go
read for yourself. Don't let the people down at your local church
tell you what they fink it says. It's up to you.
So what is your relation to religion today?
Blackie: All I can tell is that I have very
strong beliefs. But I am very careful about talking about that. Because
I don't want to start influencing people. Because if I do that then
I become hypocritical, and I'd be doing exactly what I'm telling them
not to do. So I really don't discuss that much.
David: But you made up with God your own
Blackie: Oh yeah, oh yeah! I'm very comfortable
with were I am now. I don't go to church but I still have very strong
beliefs. And to really honestly answer your question, I did not make
up with God - God never left me, I left him. It's a big difference.
David: So how do you feel about playing
the old songs today, where the lyrics are more critical against all religion?
Blackie: You know, that's okay because I still
believe in the idea of what that criticism was. I still think that
those songs have a very important purpose, to get people to examine
or to study for themselves. Whether it is religion or politics, whatever
it may be - go look for yourself. Don't listen to what your local
politician is telling you. It's like
you know, I've been extremely
critical against the current administration in the White House. They
are beyond words. Words can not describe the bullshit that comes out
of these guys. But as screwed up as they are
Europe wants to
look at America and point their fingers - there are the bad guys!
You don't need a history book to tell you what happened in the last
sixty years in Europe. All you need to do is to look around you
in Sweden, Norway, France
Look at the prosperity, the growth,
the lifestyle that you, me and all of us in the Western world have
enjoyed. And it speaks for itself. So, my point is, the G8 countries
we're all part of this capitalist system. Sometimes it does some good
things, sometimes it does some really bad things. But it's important
that we all understand that we're all part of this. It's enough blame
to go around everywhere. It's not just the United States or Great
Britain. We are all involved in this. Because if you have an economic
collapse in Japan you'll have an economic collapse in Sweden. We're
all tied together. So to sit and say that one country is doing it
any more than the other - that's bullshit. What I'm trying to do is
to make people understand that this blame is throughout the Western
World. And it goes to back to the concept of bullies, it all starts
with individuals. You know
we can sit and bitch about this all
we want to, "this isn't right", "what's wrong with
That accomplishes nothing. The only thing that
is going to accomplish something is if we get of our ass and start
doing something about it. The only way you can do that is if you start
with yourself first, really take a good look at yourself and say:
Am I being fair to the people around me? Am I being honest to them?
Do I treat them properly? If we go back to the biblical reference
of the golden rule: "Do unto others the way you want them to
do to you!" And if we did that, that one simple idea, we wouldn't
be having this conversation right now. People forget that a lot of
David: So if you had to choose, who would
you want to be the next president of the United States?
Blackie: Oh, it's too early. Two years in politics
is an eternity, that's a looong time away. It could all change within
sixth months before the election. So I don't know. There is nobody
who is really killing me right now. I'm hoping that there is going
to be someone to come out that can make a difference, but right now
I don't know.
David: W.A.S.P. of today, is it you or is
it more of a band?
David: But it's still you pulling the strings,
doing the interviews
How do you feel that you have evolved as a musician and singer?
Blackie: It's probably a cliché answer,
but the more I know the more I realize how much I don't know. I've
been playing guitar since I was nine years old and I'm astonished
as to how much I do not now about it. I will probably need several
lifetimes to begin to really understand it better. It's that way with
music in general. You know, I'm not a genius by any imagination. If
you're lucky enough to stumble into something really, really good
it's like Ringo (Starr) used to say: "There is nothing like a
good mistake!" And that's what it is a lot of the time. It's
not how clever you are, it's more about getting lucky.
David: You play a quite short set on this
tour, how come?
David: It's only eleven or twelve songs
in the set
Blackie: Yeah, but Iron Butterfly played one
song, In A Gadda Da Vida for an hour
It doesn't matter how many
songs you play, it's the duration of time. Is an hour and a half short?
By who's standards? Who makes that rule? Would you rather have a band
go out and beat you to death for an hour and a half or would you rather
have the band to stay out there for three hours and bore you? Is there
one band that you can tell me that can play for two and a half or
three hours that doesn't have real slow parts of their show? Is there
one band you can name me that don't have portions of their show that
get slow? That doesn't interest me. I rather go out and beat up the
audience for a short period of time. Always leave them wanting more!
I saw Alice Cooper when I was sixteen years old. They played for 35
minutes. The greatest 35 minutes I've ever seen. I didn't want any
more. One minute more would have been too much. It was the most intense
thing I've ever seen. When people start to measure things by time,
that's bullshit. That's people that aren't looking at the whole picture.
Ramones used to play for 45 minutes. They were one of the greatest
bands there ever was. Any more than that
You have to judge it
for the band it is.
David: Is it harder to choose the songs
Blackie: As your catalogue becomes greater,
yeah it becomes more difficult. Because there is things you maybe
want to do, but you also have to understand that people come to hear
certain songs and that you have to give them what they want. You cannot
become too self-indulgent.
David: For example you only play two songs
from the new album?
Blackie: Yeah, but if you start playing more
than that, you're playing an album that people do not know yet. You
can't do that. That's self-indulgent. When they start to understand
the record more, then you can play more of it. You see bands a lot
of times that are going to play six or seven songs of the new album
- that's unfair! The audience doesn't know that album yet. And even
if they do they have had ten or twenty years to romance older songs
in their hearts. That's what they want to hear. To go out there and
try to force an album on them - that's the wrong thing to do. If they
want to hear more of an album they'll let you know, they'll talk to
you, they'll tell you. And if that happens, we'll start playing more.
Any band, any artist, should listen to the audience as much as the
audience is listening to them. It goes both ways.
David: Have you ever regretted going into
rock business and wanted to do something else?
Blackie: No. I didn't choose it, it chose me.
I'm fulfilling my destiny. I'm getting up in the morning, I put the
shoes on and the shoes do the walking, I'm just going along for the
ride. That's the reason I'm here. It's really that simple.
David: Can I just have a photo for my personal
Blackie: Eh, not right now, because those kinds
of things we usually just do when we are ready to go on stage. Just
general photos we don't do. Rather not, if that's ok. But thanks for
coming, I appreciate that!
of the gig later that night