Wasp are returning with a new album called “Babylon” and Metalpaths had a really interesting converstation with the legendary frontman Blackie Lawless.
Hello Blackie, thank you for calling. How are you?
Hi I’m fine. I’m sorry I’m a little bit late.
It’s ok. So let’s start with the new album of course. What we have here is for once more, a concept album right? Would you like to share with us a few things about the album?
Well, it’s not a concept album. It all started with “Babylon’s Burning”, the first song I wrote for the record and that’s really why I called it Babylon, but, it really started when I was watching TV about a year ago and I saw some of the leaders from the EU and from the other countries around the world talking about this global financial crisis we’re going through, and they were talking about maybe it was time for a one world government and a one world system, maybe a one world currency, and I thought to myself, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I thought “Do these guys understand what they’re talking about here?” It’s like they’ve been reading the Bible, because they’re talking about Bible prophecy here. So I went back and I started reading Revelation and the Bible and other places in the Bible are talking about the prophecy and I was amazed to how accurate the prediction, the prophecy and the Bible was, talking about a one world system and a one world government. I heard just recently one of the leaders in Brussels say that they believe that by the year 2018 they could have everyone in the EU micro chipped. Now, you understand what that means, right? It’s very very scary, and I thought to myself, “These guys are talking about having people micro chipped”, and I’m thinking “Do they understand what they’re saying?”, I mean, what they’re talking about, this is potentially 666! So really that’s where the idea of Babylon came from.
So the album is not based in Apocalypse as I thought?
No, it’s not a concept, but the whole idea of a potential one world government, but that’s only one song in the album. There’s other songs like “Crazy”, which when you listen to “Crazy”, it sounds like a man talking to a woman, but reality, what I’m saying is it’s more of a performer talking to the audience, the performer saying “Hey, it’s OK to admire what I’m doing but if it gets to be too much and it becomes idol worshipped, this is what happened to Elvis Presley, this is what happened to Michael Jackson, it’s what happened to Kurt Cobain, you end up, the audience ends up, you killing these people! Because they all commit suicide, because when they get so big, life has no meaning anymore.” And that’s what fame does, because fame can be a very destructive thing. I’ve known a lot of people in this business, and they got very big and it destroyed a lot of them, so it’s very very dangerous when the audience starts putting the performers on a level that is too high.
And what about the cover of the album? I thought that it’s referring to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
That’s part of the idea of “Babylon’s Burning”. You know I wrote about this twenty years ago, when I did “Headless Children”. There is a line in “Headless Children” that says: “Four horsemen sit high up in the saddle and waiting and ride the bloody trail of no return”. So really I’m revisiting the idea of what that was, because when I heard these EU leaders talking about a year ago, it made me think about that and I thought “Are we closer to that Apocalypse now, than we were twenty years ago?” And from the things they’re saying it seems that we may be, because what they were saying was really frightening! When governments get too big, they have too much power over people, and I understand the EU and all that, but I think Greece was doing fine on its own, I don’t think Greece needed the EU, I don’t think Germany needed the EU. It’s kind of like America, it’s the United States of America. Well, when you look at our constitution, the only thing that the federal government was ever supposed to do was to create army and print money, that’s what all the government was ever supposed to do. The governing of the States was supposed to be to their self, but the problem is when the federal government gets bigger and bigger and bigger, you lose freedom every day! So that’s really a lot of what I’m trying to say here.
Have you read the Apocalypse book however?
Yes I have.
I guess since you have read the Apocalypse, that you know what each of the horsemen symbolizes. Do you think that in some way we can find those four horsemen in real life? What’s your point of view about the apocalypse sayings?
Well, in order to understand that book, you really have to understand the rest of the Bible too, because when people read it, it’s confusing to them a lot of times, they can’t understand it. But if you understand a lot of the rest of the Bible, then it makes sense to you. There’s a quotation in the song “Babylon Burning” that I took right out of Revelation. After the lead guitar solo I read part of the Bible where it says: “I stood on the sand of the sea”, but when you look at the word sea, we think we’re talking about an ocean, a lot of water. Well, in the Bible, when it talks about the sea, it’s referring to people, it’s talking about a great number of people. So, to understand that book, like I said, you have to have other knowledge about the Bible to really make it make sense. So when you look at the Four Horsemen, they’re really angels, they’re not just some destructive force, I mean they’re sent from heaven.
So let’s go to the musical part. How is the composing part of the songs in the album like? You first write the music and then the lyrics? How does it work for you? Do you have the story first?
Just like every time. Sometimes you come up with an idea for the lyrics, and then you work the song around that, and sometimes the music comes first, so it’s gonna be different every time.
Let’s say that a lot of your fans have not checked the album out yet, how would you describe it to a fan? I would say that in comparison with your last works, this one is more heavy, rock and it’s closer to your older releases.
Well, to be honest with you, when I finish a record, I’m so close to it that I really could not give you an honest answer. It usually takes me about a year to get away from the record, to understand it, so I would think that you would probably have a better understanding right now than me, because I’m too close to it. So I would trust you to explain that to the fans!
This album also contains a Deep Purple and Chuck Berry cover, “Burn” and “Promised Land”. Why did you choose those songs?
When we were finishing the record, I stopped and I looked at all the song titles, and the one thing that I realised when I was looking at them, there’s a lot of fire on this record! I really didn’t know that when I was making the record, because when you’re making a record, you’re just making one song at a time, you’re not thinking about the other songs, and I realised there’s a lot of fire on this record. So, we had worked a little bit on the Deep Purple song on Dominator, but it wasn’t finished, so I thought this would be perfect, to put it on this record. As for the idea of “Promised Land”, I also thought it was really perfect too, because I take you through the first part of the record to a pretty dark vision, but at the end you end up at “Promised Land”. Thought that was perfect the way it worked out!
So is it true that Deep Purple song “Burn” was going to be put on “Dominator”?
Like I said, we’d only really talked about it, we had never really finished that. There was rumour but it was never official that we were going to do that, and I think a lot of people thought, because they had heard that story, that the song was going to be on that album, but it was never supposed to be. All bands, they record a lot of things that sometimes make it on a record, sometimes they don’t, and maybe years later it’ll show up on an album. So we’re the same, all bands do that.
WASP use to write concept albums. Ok, “Babylon’s” story is, in one way, based in Apocalypse but let’s go back in time. “Crimson Idol” and “Neon God” for example? Where does this inspiration breathe out from?
I think for myself that, what I try to do with the music is, I think it should be art, and all art, whether it’s movies or music, should make you think. So really what I’m trying to do is, I’m trying to make people to think about who they are, and where they are, and their life. Like, the “Crimson Idol” was a really simple story. I mean, when you first look at it, you think a lot of people would say: “Well, it’s a story about a boy trying to get into the music business”, but that’s not really what it’s about. What it’s about, is someone who is looking for love from his family, so for me it’s a very simple story and I think a lot of people can relate to that, so when I come up with an idea like that, I’m just looking for something that I would feel passionate about, and also at the same time, are there things that other people can relate to? So that’s really my motivation.
Have you ever thought of using one of your stories, like Neon God for example, to make a cinema film?
Yeah, but the problem with that is, we talked about that with the “Crimson Idol” and we eventually did make a short movie that we used last year on tour. But to make a feature film is a different thing, I would have to be involved in that and I really have no time to do that, because, with all the touring and making the record, that takes up almost all of my time.
So I guess that you are going to take a couple of shows for “Babylon’s” promotion. Which countries are you going to visit?
We’re doing a full world tour, we start in about three weeks and we’re gonna be out for almost a year, so it’s not just promotional, it’s a full world tour.
Are you going to set up something special for the shows to perform live the album, like any special effects or video walls or something?
Yeah, because when we did the “Crimson Idol” two years ago and we used the film, we really liked that idea of having the film behind us. So what we’re gonna do this time is, we’re gonna take all the promo videos we used in the past and we’re gonna put them behind us, so, when, say like, we’re doing this on “Wild Child”, you’re gonna see the “Wild Child” video going on behind us while we’re playing the song. It’s gonna be kind of neat, you’re gonna get to see me on film from twenty years ago singing that song, but at the same time I’m gonna be standing right in front of you singing it live. Say, we’re gonna do that with all the old promo videos, and nobody’s ever done that before, and we thought this to be a really cool idea. So when we’ll do “Blind in Texas”, you’ll see the video going on behind there, when we’ll do “Love Machine”, you’ll see the video behind there, so I think it’s gonna be really cool.
Are you going to make a video for “Babylon”?
Yeah, we’re gonna do one for “Crazy” that we’re gonna shoot in about two weeks.
Have you ever had problems with the horror shows that you are performing?
Yeah, because, what happens is that people listen with their eyes instead of their ears. They didn’t understand that we were trying to make social comments, even in the shows. So I found that if I’m trying to really get people to understand what I’m saying, the visual element of it, you have to be very very careful with the image that you give them, because sometimes they become confused. I think, people used to call us the shock rock band. I never considered us a shock band, always thought that that was too simple, because when you’re trying to say something about, and try to make a social comment, which is what we were doing even in those shows, again, the problem is that people listen with their eyes and they were missing the message that was going on, so I really found that I had to simplify that message, the visual message, to get them to understand what I was saying with the lyrics.
I would like to ask you how do you imagine the next years for WASP? I mean that you’re so many years active with WASP as a musician, what should a fan expect from you and how do you imagine the future as a musician and with WASP furthermore?
My job right now is that I’m a messenger, that’s really what I do. I’m doing the same thing that you do, we’re both reporters, we write down what we see. The only difference between what I do and you do, is when I write the words down, I make them rhyme. The words rhyme, that’s really the only difference. So, I’m a messenger and I don’t see myself ever retiring. You know, someone says to me: “Do you think about retiring sometimes?” I don’t understand what retirement is…
That would have been my next question.
You know, I just don’t understand that, I mean I’ve got too many things that I want to do, so I’m very happy.
So what could stop you do what you do?
Something that would be out of my control, like my health, but if I have the ability, then I will keep doing it. I look at guys like the Rolling Stones and Little Richard and all those guys, they’re still doing it. I mean, why can’t we keep doing that for fifteen or twenty years? I see no reason not to.
Continuing the previous question, how do you imagine the future of WASP? What are your upcoming plans or what would you like to do that you haven’t already done?
Oh boy! The only thing I can see right now is the next year that’s in front of me. That’s a world tour that’s gonna take us to Europe, America, South America, Australia. I mean it’s a big big tour, that’s the only thing I can say right now!
You’re going to come to Greece again?
Yes. We are coming on November.
What are your memories since your last visit?
I love it there, in a way that the people living there may not understand, because there’s so much rich history there! I think that when you live some place, like when you live there, it becomes normal for you. But for me, as a visitor, I come there because I love history, and when I look at the history there that is in Athens, that’s living history! It’s amazing to come there and look at it! One of the things that we get to do is that we get to go all over the world, and I can honestly say to you, there are very few places that are like Athens! The history that is there is so fantastic, that you’re just not gonna get that everywhere, and as a history student, I really appreciate that and I love it every time we’re there. And I’m not just saying that to you because I’m talking to Greece, I really genuinely mean that, because every time I’m there it’s just fantastic! It’s one of those places we always enjoy coming to.
We really appreciate it.
Very much! I think that the people that live there don’t really appreciate it that much because it’s just normal for them. But as a visitor? You really understand that it’s the cradle of civilisation! That’s really big time important stuff!
A question a little bit out of the music. As I know you really care for political subjects. What’s your opinion about the US government?
It’s trying to get bigger, and any government that gets bigger tries to take more of your freedom away. That’s my problem with Obama. He wants to create a bigger central government and, the bigger any government gets with it, the EU or America or Russia or China, the bigger those governments get, the more freedom is taken away from the people. So, the bigger the government gets, the smaller you get! And I don’t like that! I like the freedom.
What would you do if you were the president of the US for a day?
Make it smaller!
Anything else you would like to add, something for your fans in Greece before we close this conversation?
Since we’re coming back and we’re gonna do two shows, we’re gonna play in Thessaloniki and Athens, as I was telling you before, we love that place so much and it’s always a big big treat, a pleasure for us every time we get to come there! You know, a lot of places we go to, it’s like, “OK, I’ve been there” and you’re not really excited about it, but every time we come there, because of the history of that place, it’s very exciting to us.
Thank you very much for the interview Blackie! It was my pleasure talking to you.
Ok, thank you for taking the time, I appreciate it and I hope we see you when we’re there! Take care now, bye bye.
Interview: Karagiannidis Panagiotis.
Translated by: Dora Trapezanlidou.