by antiGUY and Keavin Wiggins
W.A.S.P is high-octane rock n roll coupled
with outrageous horror show theatrics. When these two explosive elements
are brought together on stage it overwhelms the audience with an assault
of their senses that no drug could duplicate. Lead vocalist Blackie Lawless
screams out songs of lust and desire bringing the audience to the brink
of rock n roll ecstasy. The old cliché "you have to see it
to believe it" really does apply to this band. Their concerts are a two-hour
escapade into the darker side of human nature. Blood, sex, fire, raw meat,
saw blades, explosives, and tied up naked women are just part of the spectacle
that W.A.S.P. brings to their "psycho drama". All are welcome to attend,
but it is not for the squeamish.
In the Beginning
The band's founder and leader, Blackie
Lawless, started his musical career at the age of 9 with his first band
The Underside. By sixteen after being kicked out of military school, he
returned home to Staten Island and
got caught up in the New York City rock scene. He got his first major
break at 18 when guitarist Johnny Thunders left the legendary New York
Dolls and Blackie was hired on to take his place.
Although his stint with the New York Dolls
didn't last long, it gave Blackie a firm understanding of the importance
of image to rock. After the demise of the New York Dolls, bassist Arthur
Kane and Blackie headed west and formed a band in L.A. called Killer Kane.
They went on to play the local scene and recorded an EP but fame eluded
By the mid seventies disco fever had swept
across the country. Blackie had seen a guy he hung out with as a
kid, (Paul) Ace Frehley go on to superstardom with his band KISS. Inspired
by the success of KISS and his experience with the New York Dolls, Blackie
remembered that image was an important part of rock. He teamed up with
guitarist Randy Piper and formed the band Sister.
Sister made a name for themselves
in the L.A. scene with their painted faces and satanic imagery. Blackie
discovered an unusually talented guitarist
by the name of Chris Holmes while reading the "Beaver Hunt" section of
Hustler Magazine. Holmes intrigued him, so he tracked him down and convinced
the wild guitarist to join Sister.
Sister amassed a large and loyal following
in the L.A. club scene but their over the top image and stage show were
too much for record companies at the time. Sister threw in the towel after
a record deal failed to materialize.
By 1982 things had changed. Hollywood had
become the Mecca of flamboyant, image-savvy young metal bands. Blackie
contacted Randy Piper and they decided to form a new band in the vein of
Sister. W.A.S.P was born. Like many new bands they went through several
lineup changes in the early days. However, Blackie knew only one man could
fill the lead guitarist slot. So Chris Holmes was called in to be the W.A.S.P.
The scene was ripe for W.A.S.P.'s shocking
and sexual driven theatrical stage show and music. They quickly rose to
the top of L.A.'s music scene. In 1983 they caught a lucky break when Iron
Maiden's manager Rod Smallwood witnessed their extreme stage show.
Smallwood was so impressed he took the band under his wing and convinced
Capitol Records to sign them to a record deal.
With a new deal and a recording budget
the band went into the studio and recorded the music that would comprise
their self-titled debut album. When the suits at Capital heard the band's
proposed first single "Animal - I F*ck Like a Beast" they went through
the roof. Although by today's standards the song seems tame, in 1984 it
was too provocative for the mainstream music industry. Capitol refused
to release the song on the album or as a single, so W.A.S.P. convinced
the British record company Music for Nations to release it as a single.
W.A.S.P. was released in August of 1984
and the singles "I Wanna Be Somebody" and "Love Machine" and the band's
outrageous stage show captured the attention of metal heads around the
world. Filled with fire, raw
meat being tossed into the audience and a saw blade protruding from Blackie's
codpiece, theatrical metal reached new heights. The course of their career
During the remainder of the 80's W.A.S.P.
released a series of successful albums including The Last Command, Inside
the Electric Circus and Live in the Raw. Blackie and the band's horror
show image became well known on MTV and their notoriety crossed over to
mainstream America when W.A.S.P was singled out by the P.M.R.C. as one
the biggest offenders in their crusade against offensive rock lyrics. The
group led by then Senator Al Gore's wife Tipper failed to accomplish much
beyond getting the bands and the wives of politicians, coverage in the
press and waist tax payers money. Record labels started to voluntarily
place warning labels on albums after that point and many argue that they
actually helped album sales.
W.A.S.P did break up briefly in the nineties.
But it did not take long for the call of the wild to convince Blackie and
Company that their presence was needed on the heavy metal stage. While
the music industry was a buzz about the Seattle grunge sound, W.A.S.P stayed
true to themselves and their fans by releasing a string of classic metal
albums during the 90's. "Crimson Idol", "Heldorado" and "K.F.D."
were all uncompromising albums that showcased the powerful and unique heavy
sound of W.A.S.P.
The Best of the Best
After 16 years W.A.S.P. is still going
strong. They never compromised or changed their style to try to cash in
on the current trends like other bands that found success in the early
80's metal scene. In 2001 they released Unholy Terror, a musical tyrade
against politics, religion and other topics that set Blackie off on a rant.
Critics and fans alike have enthusiasticlly enbrased this album and proved
that W.A.S.P. is still kicking ass and taking names.
While it is true that W.A.S.P. is best
known for their wild theatrical shows, the core of the band has always
been solid heavy metal music. The band's catalog of music has withstood
the test of time far better than other metal bands that got their start
in the early 80's. Unholy Terror will please die hard fans and also
serve as an excellent introduction to the band for those who have never
heard them. After getting this first taste of W.A.S.P. most new metal fans
should come back screaming for more
W.A.S.P Live in Raw
Ok, but what about the live show? Yes,
W.A.S.P. is still one of the wildest shows on earth. We caught up with
them in April 2000 while they were touring in support of the Best of the
Best album and needless to say we will never be the same again.
The show opened with the sound of a Harley
Davison revving it's engine accompanied by a midevil pipe organ melody.
Then Blackie's voice warns the audience, " This ain't no joy ride!"
The stage lights went up and the band launched into " Helldorado".
Blackie used a special mic stand equipped with motorcycle handlebars and
a zombie head. He was able to climb onto it and sway from side to side
like a mad man.
The highlights of the evening were "L.O.V.E.
Machine", "Wild Child", "Animal (I f*** like a beast)", "Sleeping (in the
fire)" and "I wanna be somebody". The crowd shouted along with Blackie
during "L.O.V.E. Machine" screaming L-O-V-E whilepounding their fist into
For "Animal", Blackie told the story of
how the song got it's name. He was playing a show at the Troubadour and
had been kicking around some ideas for a new song. The band was playing
that night on the same bill as an outrageous comedian who had just started
to gain attention. The comedian commented on his wife and how every night
after being surrounded by beautiful women he has to go home and "f*** that
beast". The comedian was the late great Sam Kinison, and the story
struck a chord with Blackie. Thus a W.A.S.P. classic was born.
At the end of the ballad "Sleeping (in
the fire)" Chris Holmes played an amazing three-minute guitar solo. He
showed his guitar God prowess again when he played another extended solo
as an intro to "I wanna be somebody". At the end of the song Blackie walked
to the front of the stage carrying two skulls. The crowd cheered him on
as he emptied both "blood" filled skulls into his mouth and then
spit it out onto the screaming fans in the front rows.
For an encore, Blackie came out placed
one leg over the handlebar on his mic stand looked left then right and
then asked "You ain't ready to go home yet are you?" The resounding "no"
from the audience produced an evil grin from Blackie as he looked at Chris
and nodded his head "Yes". Chris led the band into "Blind in Texas". During
the bridge Blackie stopped
the band and looked at the audience. Once their screams reached an acceptable
deafening pitch for him, he continued belting out the lyrics "I'm Blind
in Texas, Texas. The Lone Star is hot tonight
" The grand finally included
a mass of pyrotechnics, from flash bombs to roman candles shooting out
of from the handlebars on Blackie's mic stand as he swayed feverishly back
If metal is dead someone forgot to tell
the soldout crowd at the Galaxy Theatre that night. W.A.S.P. played for
over an hour and half with more energy than any the current crop of alternative
bands could even dream of. It is impossible to convey with mere words what
a W.A.S.P show is like. With W.A.S.P you get more than just four guys playing
music for you, you get a SHOW you will never forget.
the Official W.A.S.P. website for more info on the band, photo's, news,
tour dates, mp3's and more
samples from and purchase "Unholy Terror" and other W.A.S.P. Albums!
A majority of this special
originally appeared in the Summer of 2000 as part of the You Can't Kill
Rock n Roll series at Rocknworld.com.
All photos used in this special
come courtesty of W.A.S.P.Nation.com