Sometimes it seems that rock and roll bands are getting stranger and stranger. First there was Alice Cooper, then Kiss and Motley Crue. Now, along comes W.A.S.P., a band of self-proclaimed sex perverts who enjoy antics like tossing hunks of raw meat into their concert crowds and feathering their flock with enough goosedown to stuff a dozen pillows. We're talking serious entertainment here, folks. Yet, despite the questionable theatrics which have earned an international reputation for Messers. Blackie Lawless, Chris Holmes, Randy Piper and Steve Riley, underneath all the blood and guts lurks the heart of a great rock and roll band. Recently, we had the chance to talk with the inimitable Blackie about WA.S.P.'s place in the heavy metal hierarchy.
Heavy Metal Heroes: Blackie, let's get down to basics here. Just what the hell is W.A.S.P. all about?
Blackie Lawless: We're about entertainment, pure and simple. We're trying to present a show that's outrageous, outlandish and overwhelming-- everything designed to give people value for their buck. I always hated when a band just stood onstage in a pair of jeans and played their albums note-for-note. For me, that's not what rock and roll is all about.
HMH: So, is rock and roll about tying naked women to racks and pretending to slit their throats?
BL: Well, we don't do that anymore. That was good, harmless fun that got us a lot of attention. When you're playing in clubs, you'll do just about anything to make people take notice of you. The rack was one of our more obvious ways of saying, "Hey, take a look at us."
HMH: Didn't a women's group accuse the band of actually killing young girls onstage?
BL: Yeah. Isn't that totally incredible? How could anyone living in the 20th Century really think we were killing girls onstage? What all those protesters don't realize is that every time they criticize us and make a big deal about going to our shows, they're actually putting more attention on us. Their actions are working totally against what they want. I find that very amusing.
HMH: Why do you feel WA.S.P. has to be as outrageous as you are? On one hand, you say you want to be commercially successful, then, on the other you release a debut single, Animal (Fuck Like A Beast), that you knew was going to be instantly banned in every country on earth.
BL: I like to think of what we do as ''electric vaudeville.'' There's a lot of flash, but there's a lot of substance as well. The idea behind the first single was to attract as much attention as possible, and I guarantee you that it did so well that everywhere we went, people wanted to talk about the song that was banned more than they wanted to talk about the album or the tour.
HMH: You have a new LP, The Last Command, out now. How does it differ from your first album?
BL: I don't want to sound trite and say that it's a better record, but it is. I was very pleased with the first album-- I thought there were some killer tracks on it. But this one shows that we've grown up a lot over the last year. When you've been on tour for six or seven months and you've played some of the biggest arenas on the face of the planet, you develop an innate understanding of what the people want and don't want. Gene Simmons told me about that a few years ago and I wasn't sure, but I agreed with him. But now I understand what he means. You begin to get an understanding of your audience, like they're one giant organism, and you're the one who has to feed it and keep it amused.
HMH: Speaking of Gene Simmons, you had the chance to tour with Kiss last year. Some people have called W.A.S.P. a Kiss clone. How did that tour go?
BL: It was a lot of fun. I've known the guys in Kiss for years. I admire what they do a great deal, but I really don't see the Kiss-clone tag that some people have slapped on us. We're coming from two very different places. We're a great deal more offensive than Kiss ever dreamed of being, and we're proud of that. Touring with them was very interesting because every night we decided to do less and less theatrics. First, I wouldn't drink blood from the skull because that was too similar to what Gene used to do. Then, we stopped using the feathers. By the last night of the tour, it was just us and the music-- and we still got a standing ovation.
HMH: How far will W.A.S.P. go in terms of stage antics? If this album is successful, you'll be able to headline your next tour. Will you pull out all the stops then? BL: We have two ways of going-- either we'll say, ''Let's go all-out and put on a show that nobody will ever forget,'' or we'll say, ''We used the tricks to get noticed, let's tone it down." I don't think you'll ever see us toning it down though (laughs). If we get the chance to do a headlining arena tour, America will never be the same. We'll put every dime we have into making the most awesome stage spectacular in history. I've got some ideas that I've been cooking up for a couple of years, and they'll just blow everyone away.
HMH: There are bands emerging already who are even grosser and crazier than W.A.S.P. Does that scare you?
BL: It scares me if those guys don't know what they're doing. I put a great deal of thought into W.A.S.P. before we even played our first note. It was a very carefully constructed plan of attack. I've seen some of the new bands and they're just trying to be gross. There's no style or class in what they're doing. People don't like to give us credit, but I think anyone with ears and eyes can tell that there's more than just superficial stuff behind W.A.S.P.
HMH: Let's clear up one matter. Is it true that W.A.S.P. stands for "We Are Sexual Perverts?"
BL: The initials in our name can stand for a lot of things. You know, a wasp is a vicious insect that will just keep stinging you until you're dead so, in terms of our attitude, that's very appropriate. Of course, W.A.S.P. is also a religious classification, so we can annoy some people that way. But the fact that the initials happen to stand for "We Are Sexual Perverts" is very appropriate.
HMH: What's the strangest sexual encounter W.A.S.P. had while on the road?
BL: I don't think you can print most of them (laughs). There was this one time in Japan-- Chris had picked up this chick after a show and she went up to his room to wait for him. That's the way they do it over there -- the hotel manager let's them into your room, and then the girls just sit there waiting for you. In the meantime, Chris and I had gone to some clubs and picked up some more chicks. When Chris got back to his room, he had totally forgotten about the girl who was there. When everyone came together, all hell broke loose. The last thing I recall was Chris running down the hall naked with two Japanese chicks chasing after him.