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Metal Edge, July 1986

With his long jet-black hair and 6’4” height, Blackie Lawless looks scary enough in civvies, never mind the spiked, seatless pants and fire-shooting sawblade codpiece he wears on stage as a bassist, vocalist and leader of the notorious W.A.S.P. Blackie, who formed the band in ’82 and rose to infamy with a bloody, violent, stage show straight out of Grand Guignol, takes a lot of flak for his outrageous behavior but isn’t about to tone it down. He couldn’t if he tried, because according to him, it isn’t an act.

“What I am is what I have in common with the other three guys in the band – we’re all basically angry people,” he says. “I use the stage to vent my frustrations. If it wasn’t for rock ‘n’ roll, I’d be dead.”

A wild kid from the streets of New York, Blackie was sent to military school by his exasperated father – and was expelled for stabbing a superior. His W.A.S.P. cohorts had similarly sordid careers, as “gangsters and hoodlums.”

Says Blackie, “When I put this band together, I couldn’t find guys closer to the penitentiary.” All had been making a living as studio musicians but were frustrated “cats in cages.” When they broke out, they did it in the most extreme way possible, drinking blood, throwing raw meat, torturing a woman on a rack onstage, and releasing the banned single, “Animal.”

“We will always be outrageous” says Blackie, although the gore is now gone. W.A.S.P., who launched their ’86 tour with Kiss in January, puts the emphasis on sex in their show, which, Blackie says, “reflects the evolution of the new album.”

That album, The Last Command, is a technically complex effort that features Blackie on 14 instruments, including the synthesizer and sitar. “It turned out exactly the way I envisioned it,” he says with satisfaction, but he isn’t fond of recording. “It’s a tug of war between you and that machine. Even when you want to do something great it doesn’t applaud for you,” says the leader of the band whose name reportedly means We Are Sexual Perverts, “Sometimes – I have a new definition every week,” Blackie says, declining to elaborate “There’s got to be some mystery.”

W.A.S. P.’s raunchiness gets them a lot of attention, but Blackie isn’t resting on his bad reputation. “Image sells tickets to concerts, gets your product on the shelf,” Blackie says. “Music sells records. Hollywood’s loaded with bands who have great images and can’t go anywhere.” He believes great songs can make average musicians successful. “The secret’s in the tunes. When someone buys a record or tape you can’t jump out of the speakers and do the show. Those tunes better stand on their own.”

Now 29, Blackie realizes he can’t do this forever. “I think the secret for me is to keep that little boy alive inside. If that ever dies, and if I ever stop getting angry, I hope I have the sense to hang it up.” Though not sure about record producing, he has inclinations to act, in roles that “are an extension of what I do onstage.” He’s saving his best stories about his life for a book he plans to write a few years down the line. Right now, he’s satisfied. “I’ve made a really good situation out of a bad one,” Blackie says. “I’m the American dream, I come from a lower middle-class family. I worked my ass off, used my head and had the good sense to stick it out. I’m on top of the world.”