Cameron Edney of Australia's Inside_Out666 recently conducted an interview with W.A.S.P. mainman Blackie Lawless. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
Inside_Out666: I believe that you will be playing "The Crimson Idol" album in its entirety, as well as a greatest hits set [on the upcoming Australian tour]. Can you tell my why fifteen years on you have decided to go back and reflect largely on "The Crimson Idol" album?
Lawless: Well, as you said it was the fifteen-year anniversary of this and we had never done it in its entirety before. A lot of the reasons for that was you want to wait for the right moment, you don't want to do it two or three years on after you've just toured it. You want to put it to bed and move on with the other things you are doing. Some of it had to do with the technical aspects of it, there was technology that exists now that didn't then which enabled us from doing it. At the same time, I knew something that the average person didn't when it come to this. People would stop me and say, "Hey, man, are you ever gonna do that record in its entirety live?" What these people did not know is that we had shot a full-length film. In my mind, it wasn't complete until that film accompanied it. Finally, I felt the time was right and I went in last summer, spent a couple of months editing it, and got it ready to go. It was certainly one of the most gratifying things I've ever done. Once it was edited I went into our first day of rehearsals, and we had this giant screen behind us, we were playing the songs and I turned around and started watching the film and I became the spectator. It was the most rewarding experience; I got high off it and couldn't believe it! This sounds exactly like the record when you hear it and we went into pre-production to make sure that a lot of the little things are right! We took the samples off the records of things we couldn't do live like the orchestration. When you see it and hear it, it's pretty amazing. So many times in our lives we fantasize how something's gonna be, but it never ends up being exactly what you wanted. This was exactly how I thought it would turn out.
Inside_Out666: Well, speaking of the movie which is accompanying "The Crimson Idol" music on this tour. Once the tour is completed can we expect to see the full-length movie finally released on DVD?
Lawless: I hope so, there is still some more filming that we want to do with the band, and there is some stuff that we've shot already. I will just say in short, yes, but we are looking into something right now that is going to be interactive, and it's a little complicated to go into right now. I'm looking to see if what I want to do can be done; if it can, it will be revolutionary!
Inside_Out666: You have been playing all over the world in support of "The Crimson Idol" anniversary and you just finished a run between Canada and the United States. How have the fans been responding to the shows thus far?
Lawless: You never know when you do something like this! Nobody has ever done anything like this! Bands use videos and have the giant screens but this is a full-length movie! The best way I can describe it is to think of it like an old silent movie with a keyboard player in the front accompanying the movie, well, in this case the band is that keyboard player! We're standing in front of the screen like silhouettes, you don't see a lot of us until the second half of the show, when we come back and do the best of set. We can see the audience quite clearly. We see them really well in ways we were never able to before because we don't have the light in our eyes. You can see the reactions and it's quite strange when you see people night after night in the audience crying, watching this movie.
Inside_Out666: Blackie, I want to talk to you a little about the latest album, "Dominator". Looking back now, is there anything you would have changed?
Lawless: No, I think it's a really good record. It's the shortest record we've ever done as far as time to record it. I wrote the whole thing in a month. Going from something like "The Crimson Idol" or "The Neon God", which are challenging records that beat you up mentally, approaching "Dominator" mostly was the whole idea of what I had gone through with "The Neon God". I just couldn't face that again, I'm not gonna pull that donkey uphill that don't wanna go, I'm just gonna write and let whatever's in me out.
Inside_Out666: More of a straight-edged hard rock album!
Lawless: Yeah, and when I did that, it just poured out of me! I took all of the pressure off myself. I said, "Don't think, just write," and it was just an amazing little experience!
Inside_Out666: After all these years of writing and recording, how do you constantly come up with new fresh-sounding material without falling into the trap a lot of other bands do by repeating themselves?
Lawless: Well, you have to look for whatever it is that gives you inspiration. For me, on this record, it was all about the subject matter. The subject matter tells you a lot about where you're going to go. I approach these songs as mini-movies, especially when I come up with a title first. When I came up with the concept of "Heaven Fell on Black", I had heard the story, and it pretty much wrote itself. I'm not too sure if you are familiar with where the title came from…
Inside_Out666: No, mate, actually I don't know. Tell us about it!
Lawless: During the American Civil War, there was a famous battle towards the end called Gettysburg. Gettysburg was a three-day bloodbath. When Abraham Lincoln got the casualty reports there were over fifty thousand casualties in those three days. He looked at the report at the end of it and his quote was, "Tonight surely the heavens fell on black." I heard that and thought, "Wow, what an eloquent way of stating this horror." To me looking at the idea of the song, once the title was in place, the song wrote itself, like I said. I twisted the concept a little bit, I took it and put it in a modern-day setting. If it was a soldier in the Middle East someplace, it says, "I can't take anymore, I have no more wings." What's happening is the solider is dying, and he's somewhere between heaven and earth trying to get into heaven. St. Peter's telling him, "I can't take anymore." So, depending on whose point of view you're looking at, whether it's the soldier saying I can't take it anymore, then that's the emotional strength, but if you look at it where St. Peter's telling you he can't take anymore, he's saying he has no more wings, in other words there's no more room! The soldier in the chorus says, "Don't leave me to die” and to me that's symbolic of what happens when a country turns it backs on it people.
Inside_Out666: Are you currently working on any new material?
Lawless: No, we've got so much on our plate right now; I've turned that off in my head. I learnt something when I made "Dominator", and that's not to try and get too far ahead of myself. I've got a couple of things that I've been threatening to sit down and play with but I have resisted it because our schedules full for the next two years, filled with things that we are gonna do.
Inside_Out666: And what of those plans can you share with us today?
Lawless: Well, we are coming to see you guys [in Australia], then we do the summer festivals in Europe. When we get back we are going to film for the DVD for the band stuff. We are looking at a box set that hopefully we will have out next year, which will be an anthology. That will take us into the summer festivals next year, then we will be doing a world tour after that, so our future's laid out until this time 2010.
Inside_Out666: Speaking of the box set, Blackie, as you're probably aware, over the last twelve months, KISS have released three DVD box sets which showcases various shows from 1973 up until now, as well as different memorable TV appearances and so forth. Can we expect something like that to come out showcasing those special W.A.S.P. shows from the last twenty-five years?
Lawless: No, what I'm talking about is purely audio! There are things that we did a long time ago that people have never heard. We demoed the first album four times before we recorded it for real! If I had to do it over again, I would have told EMI that we were not going to re-record it that last time. I would have gone with the demos because they are far more representative of what we were as a band at the time. They are far more aggressive, brutal, and ruthless. When you do an anthology yes it has the highlights of your career, but I wanted to put more into it than that! I wanted to show people where it really came from! There will be outtakes of other things as well from where the career has progressed. I want to make it as complete as a musical discography could be!
Inside_Out666: Can you remember the hardest time you've had as an opening act?
Lawless: The thing that stands out the most and I don't think this qualifies as being too hard, but what comes immediately to mind is when we were on our first U.S. and Canadian tour, we opened for KROKUS. KROKUS weren't particularly kind to us! We were in Canada and had done a couple of shows with them already, and I was walking backstage past there dressing room and I can remember someone saying, "What about those W.A.S.P. boys?" and everyone would start laughing this went on for about six weeks. So I went into our dressing room and I told everyone what I just heard. On the last night of the tour, the drummer from KROKUS came up to me during soundcheck and wanted to shake my hand. I turned to him and said "Why?" He replied, "Because you kicked our asses on this tour!" Now, it was nice of him to do that, but the thing is, you have to understand something… before saying something like that, he first had to think it. Then get over that hurdle to actually approach you and tell you, that shows what kind of hurting you put on them! They came unglued because we were killing them on merchandising. That is something we learned a long time ago. If you want to know how good you are doing on a bill with other people, look at your merch! Your merch will always tell you how well you're doing. Even on the first couple of tours that we did with KISS, we murdered them in merchandise sales. It isn't like KROKUS gave us a hard time, they just didn't respect us! When we first started to be frank with you, we were not a band that you wanted to mess with! We would hurt you! One thing a lot of people don't realise about us is when W.A.S.P. first started, we were influenced by punk!
Read the entire interview at INSIDEOUT666
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