A few days after the W.A.S.P. show at the Galaxy Theatre Naughty Mickie sat down with front man Blackie Lawless to discover what made this man tick.   After all, he can't be the bad boy we've grown to expect. Can he?

Finding A New Angle On Bad Boy Blackie Lawless
by Naughty Mickie

Blackie Lawless has led his band W.A.S.P. through nearly two decades of being the "baddest of the bad." The group has raised the hackles of parents and organizations around the globe with their onstage antics. W.A.S.P. concerts include party anthems, innuendoes to sexual activities and openly displayed pornography. The band has been shot at and received bomb and death threats. But they keep coming back offering their metal fare to hungry fans. In the middle of the tornado of controversy a quiet, normal, reclusive man speaks common sense- Lawless. I got to meet this mystery guy via telephone from his home in New York. "I'm a creature of extremes," says Lawless. "Most of the guys I know have extremes of personality." He explains that he feels most performers are born introverts and this breed extroversion and artists, such as Lawless, wish to seek a balance in their lives. Lawless grew up in Staten Island, New York surrounded by music and religion. His grandfather was a deacon, his uncle was a preacher and his parents had very deep beliefs. This upbringing may have contributed to his rebellious ways, with his outlet being the music he so dearly loved.

Chuck Berry's "Sweet 16" remains ingrained on Lawless as his earliest musical memory- at age two. It was around this same time that he showed his mother what he was to become. "My mom took me to the grocery store," relates Lawless. "And left me in the cart in one of the aisles when she went back to grab something. When she came back, she found me on the floor doing 'Hound Dog'." By junior high school, Lawless had earned the honor of obtaining the highest score on music in school achievement testing for his age group in the history of the Northeastern United States. He went on to attend a couple of years of college as a political science major  and had a chance to pursue a career in professional baseball. "I made the right decision," states Lawless. "Half of my friends made it to the major league and all of them are retired now, but I'm still working." He finally settled down working at a construction company co-owned by his father.

Somewhere in the middle of all this growing up, Lawless managed to take up the drums and played until his parents couldn't take it anymore-- all of two months. His brother had been toying with a guitar which called out to Lawless and became his step into the music industry. "The biz chooses you, you don't choose it," says Lawless. Lawless latched onto the '70s in the bands New York Dolls and Killer Cain before forming W.A.S.P. which unwittingly led to the biggest change in his life.

In 1985, W.A.S.P. was shooting a video on a movie set in Arizona. Lawless awed by the Southwest, finally felt in touch with his roots- his mother is one-quarter Blackfoot. He considers Arizona, Utah and New Mexico the only "true Southwest" and has combined his love of culture with his passion for architecture.

"Architecture is the ultimate form of art, light, line and function," says Lawless. "My second great love is architecture." He feels that it is important to have a 3-D living space that functions. Lawless now lives in his own design, a Spanish mission style home which took approximately five years to complete. He has decorated it in a Southwestern motif with Native American art. He also attends architecture lectures, honing his craft and plotting out his next building.

Even with this down-to-earth attitude, Lawless still has some rub with his parents. They seem to have accepted his career choice even if they don't approve.

Lawless gently dances around the question about his family's blessing on his music saying, "Success has a way of making things better." But then, he is very realistic about the gift he has been given. Lawless says that kids should be told the truth about the industry and if "they're not fazed," then parents should support their goals. He starkly states that the chance of landing a record deal is one in a million and less than 2 percent of those albums are successful. Lawless advises prospective musicians to enter the industry with their eyes open and an understanding of what they are getting themselves into and to figure out what they will do when they get there.

Lawless works hard on his musical endeavors. From writing to showmanship, he is a one-percenter. He usually writes a song after coming up with a title, but sometimes he is fortunate enough to have a tune, complete with music and lyrics, come to him in his dreams. "I see myself as a musical reporter," Lawless says. "Writing a song is like scoring a 'mini-movie;' they almost write themselves." Occasionally he comes up with a riff first, which is a mixed blessing, as it can be great musically, but it forces Lawless to write backwards. The next step, preparing for a performance, can be just as involved. Lawless warms up his voice four hours prior to a show and holds back during sound checks, sticking to his lower register as much as possible. Some may think that Lawless is being overly cautious with his voice, but he has good reason. Fifteen years ago, he ruptured his left vocal chord. He was fighting a bout of viral meningitis and didn't warm up. Since then, he has been more prudent; he doesn't smoke and rarely drinks. Lawless also feels that mental preparation is essential to a good performance. Like a ballplayer, he practices a few pre-show superstitions, including putting the right socks on the same way every night.

Onstage, Lawless gives his fans every ounce of himself. "It takes a lot of strength to do the show," Lawless states. "Not too many bands compete with us."

As far as the venue, Lawless prefers to be close to his audience. He finds that theaters are the best because the stage is big enough to allow you to give the presentation you desire. Lawless doesn't care for barriers that keep the crowd back from the stage, as they create the feeling of "two separate rooms" and he must work even harder to project.

When it comes to marketing he notes that the Internet does have some impact, but doesn't pose a threat to record stores. "It's a tool, a promotional tool, but it won't replace retail because we are creatures of habit," says Lawless.

He equates the public's reception of Internet sales with "Smart Houses," the homes that are ultra-modern and take care of themselves, saying that "people want what they want right now; what they're comfortable with." Other than architecture and the Yankees, I ask Lawless what other hobbies he pursues during his free time. "What downtime?" he laughs. "The last 15-17 years I've worked my ass off."

True to form, W.A.S.P. is planning to go back into the studio in July and August. Currently, they are about halfway done with a record which is slated for release about one year from now. The Lawless gang are also still out on the road doing shows here, there and everywhere, including a series of concerts in Southern California over the past two months. Lawless proved to be a fascinating, intellectual and articulate gentleman, I could have spoken with him for hours.  In fact, I wouldn't mind inviting him over for tea, that is, if he ever takes a break!

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