Blackie Lawless is angry. Not just annoyed, but truly furious. Since Blackie is well over six feet tall and his security guy has just scarpered, it's probably prudent to hear what WASP's vocalist has to say.
It hasn't exactly been a wonderful day so far, here at Bristol's Colston Hall. There's an epidemic of "bus flu" that has hit band and crew alike; WASP's previous show has uncovered some technical glitches, too, so at the soundcheck a doctor, the musicians and the roadies were all kept extremely busy with their own speciality's bugs. Then, just when the show was about to start, a fire alarm forced everyone out into the bitingly cold wind, forcing a lengthy delay.
On the other hand, both WASP's tour and "The Crimson Idol" album are doing reasonably well internationally. This evening's show isn't sold out, but the audience span a surprisingly wide age group and display the vintage souvenir T-shirts of the dedicated fan. New material such as the huge "The Great Misconceptions Of Me" and the dramatic finale "The Idol" are greeted with rapturous enthusiasm, and calls for past hits are relatively minimal.
There's nothing for it but to brave the lion's den. Blackie is sweaty and wrapped in a plush black bathrobe, having barely gotten his breath back from the second encore of favourites "I Wanna Be Somebody" and "Blind In Texas", and the adrenaline hasn't quite worn off yet. After minimal pleasantries, he snarls, "I've seen some of your reviews lately. They're very interesting. I think you know what I'm referring to..."
It could only be the Monsters Of Rock article, yet WASP were given a weakly positive mention in that. Blackie interpreted it differently, however, and interjects, "I thought it was really unfair. Which leads me to ask, what are you doing here?
"I don't know, and I don't give a flying fuck about, why the English press have done what they've done. This record is being compared to Pink Floyd's "The Wall"! In Indonesia it's been voted the best record in the last 15 years! Everybody has heaped praises on this record but the English press. And yeah, I've got a fucking hard-on for it. Some idiot said 'I'd rather have AIDS than listen to WASP'. I mean, what a fucking asinine statement! I don't give a shit whether it's about WASP or what it is; a statement like that does not have any place in journalism."
Blackie cools down enough to discuss Donington, but is clearly reluctant to believe that WASP weren't slagged off. He protests, "That's not what it came out like in the article. If I didn't know you well, it wouldn't have bothered me one way or the other. I would have just said 'Well, here's someone who just doesn't understand'. I read it and I couldn't believe my eyes. I looked again check your name! Well anyway, you're asking me why I'm hostile, so I'm telling you."
Throughout all of this and the subsequent lengthy exchange of views, various band and crew pray for invisibility as they creep in for bits of clothing and refreshment. Much of Blackie's displeasure has apparently been triggered by a video of Donington, and he insists, "I saw the film, and no other band got the reaction we did. Not one."
Erm, not even Skid Row?
Blackie erupts, "Skid Row wasn't fucking close, not even 50 per cent of what we got. During 'I Wanna Be Somebody' and a couple of others like 'Charlie', not just the 500 in front, the whole audience was going wild."
Exasperated, Blackie shakes his hair back and states, "I'm getting to the point where I don't want to talk to the English press at all. And it's no skin off my nose if I don't. Because I'll tell you, and I don't mean to sound like an arrogant prick, but the fans have shown their support. And that's the best response you can get.
Part of WASP's problem is that they became known via bloody chainsaws, outrageous shock tactics and pyrotechnic codpieces, and the British press have been reluctant to let that strong image die. "I know that and I prepared for that," Blackie insists. "But for God's sake! I'm losing my patience. WASP have been making records for eight years, and four of those years have been a transition! There is nothing new. 'Do I want to reinvent myself?' - that's already happened".
He firmly believes that WASP fans know this. When it's pointed out that the audience still calls for 'Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)', Blackie shrugs, "So what? There's nothing wrong with playing a song."
Nonetheless, the band's most notorious song is missing from the set list. Blackie acknowledges, "Well yeah. It's just that radio and magazines and whatever cannot tell a player without a program. And that's pretty sad, because they are the ones who are running this industry. But there will come a time when we can do anything we want to.
"Its because they're so in love with the idea of what we used to be," Blackie is well aware. "But hey, if they want that, there's video tapes! Old records! Put on your fucking bellbottoms or whatever...well, we're not that old, but you know what I'm saying. Sit down and reminisce."
He turns to hide a smile, but that little verbal stumble has dissipated Blackie's mood. It now seems safe to ask what happened to plans for performing "The Crimson Idol" rock opera in its entirity. "We tried in America", he answers "and it didn't work. The thing is, when you bombard people with too much new material too soon, they don't get it. It's a sensory overload.
"This is a listening record", he says. "We've noticed they don't really start listening until 'The Idol' comes on, but then they stop dead in their tracks. There's three songs right in a row that are in that same vein: 'The Idol', 'Headless' and 'Great Misconceptions Of Me', and this is my favourite part of the show because I'm acting. I always liked what Murray Head did in 'Jesus Christ Superstar'; I thought he did a great job on that. And all those cracks in what I'm singing? I'm putting that in on purpose. I'm not trying to sing it where it's technically perfect. I'm trying to get emotion out of it. And it's a simple little manoeuvre, but when I hold that guitar up in the air, it means it's over. And they know it's over right then, and it's perfect."
Every performance, Blackie explains, is like a personal challenge to both his physical and emotional stamina. He explains, "In the movie 'Platoon' where they're going into battle, one guy says to the other, 'The beast, he out there tonight. And he hungry!' We have a joke about that, because that's what it's like out there. It's that test of the human will."
"And I can't live without that," Blackie swears, with a gleam in his eye. "I thrive on it!".
(Transcribed by Matthew Bowen - December 1995)