“Fall 1982……..and the Climb”
That last show went pretty well and we were basking in the afterglow of it, feeling that we were beginning to find our true direction. Although there were less than 100 people at the show, things would change quickly as the crowds would double at each new gig. But it was clear that we were gonna be musical orphans as far as a major record company was concerned, at least until we could make enough noise where they would be forced to pay (and I mean PAY $$$) attention to us. So if a record label wouldn’t adopt us, then it would have to be the people. That’s really what happened. We did it the old fashioned way. We took it to the kids and let them decide. One of the
crew that worked for us had a workshop that his Father owned and it was a complete metal and woodworking shop. We spent months there, day after day, night after night, working on whatever idea’s we could dream up. The first thing we built there was the “torture rack” that we used with the half naked girl, which we would refer to latter as “the rack girl”. Over the years there were 5 different girls that played the part. The song “Tormentor”, on our first album, was written specifically for this part of the show. In show business these type of things are called “gags”. That’s what we were doing in that shop. Coming up with as many “gags” as we could to create a visual bombardment on the audience. As we started to get a feel for the direction of where we were going, what I wanted to do was, unlike most Rock Shows when it was over, the people were walking out of the venue all excited and talking loud. I wanted people leaving our shows to be able to hear a pin drop. I wanted them to be running the video tape in their heads backward and ask themselves, “What in the World did I just see”?
Now all of this being said, I knew we would be thought of as a “Shock Band”, but I wanted more. I wanted to make a social statement. I wanted to make people think. To think about, not what they just saw, but how it applied to their lives. If it was only “shock for shock’s sake” then that, as I’ve said before would be incredibly boring with absolutely no point. So really the whole social comment thing was my way of saying to the world, ”Hey, if you don’t like what you see in this Band, don’t blame us, were only a reflection, a mirror if you like, of what’s really going on in the real world”. Looking back now, nobody got it !! Nobody got the message and I’m sure even if they would have it would have come off as me trying to be “self righteous”. None of this would become clear to me till a couple of years latter.
Back to the workshop. After the “rack” was finished the next thing we started on was the W.A.S.P. “flaming sign”. Now this thing was a monster in it’s own way. Not only the way it looked when it was finished, but equally what we had to do to build it. None of us, and I mean NONE of us had any clue how to put this thing together or how to make it work. Talk about trial and error. First, we built the W.A.S.P. letters out of plywood and then the bolt heads were added on it to make them look like the logo I designed for the earlier advertising posters. Then came the frame for the propane (fuel) that went around the letters. The problem was, the metal pipe that made the frame had holes drilled 1 inch apart, all around the inside of the frame for the propane to come out. We didn’t know we needed EQUAL pressure all the way around the frame. That pressure is what makes all the flames equal in height. All propane tanks have a shut off valve and something called a spark arrester. They are safe with those two things on it, but if you take them off, well, you potentially have a bomb on your hands because the flames can sometimes go back up inside the tank. If that would have happened…..BANG!!! I would not be writing this right now!! It would have taken a whole building down. But it was the ONLY way we could get the thing to work, so guess what? Some nights when we were playing the Troubadour, the flames would shoot up so high, it would burn the wooden support beams over the top of the stage. Only by the Grace of God did we not ever have a major problem!!! To this day you can still see the burn marks on the wooden rafter beams.
We also found later, that the sign would get so hot, it made people drink more…….a lot more!!! The Troubadour knew it too and once we actually threatened them not to use the sign to get them to pay us more money. So they did!! We set records for alcohol sales there that have never been broken.
It was one afternoon while we were in the workshop, I looked over and leaning against a window was a 12 inch round saw blade. I looked at it and just started laughing. The others looked at me wonder what was so funny and I said, “I wonder what that would look like between my legs”? A kind of half crazy smile came across their faces. Now this was either going to be the best thing ever, or, the dumbest thing ever imagined. You gotta remember, nothing like this had ever been done before. So is it cool, or is it STUPID? Only one way to find out. We made a cardboard template as a pattern and then cut the metal blade with a cutting torch to fit me. I walked out at the next show and the place went wild!! Looking back you might ask, why was I worried? I really felt I was taking a big chance. Little did I know that our trademark logo was being born. The arm blades were added later as sort of a matching ensemble!! The original codpiece in addition to the blade also had large screws coming out of it and I had a matching arm gauntlet with the same kind of screws. The idea of not being sure if this was or was not a good idea too, seems funny now because there are all kinds of bands that have nails and screws coming out of their stage outfits, but when nobody had done it yet, you always wonder if you’re going to get laughed off the stage.
Now while ALL of this is going on, the Band is rehearsing. I’ve told the story before but even now it seems unbelievable. In the very beginning we rehearsed in a two car garage but that only lasted about a month. Then we moved into an abandoned laundry mat for a month. For everybody outside the U. S., that’s a place you take your clothes to get washed. Too bad the machines didn’t work because in those days clean clothes were hard to come by. Imagine stopping in the middle of a song to throw in another load! but no such luck. As a side note, where the laundry mat was located was on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Vine St. in Hollywood. The reason I mention this is, across the street was the building where we would eventually build the “Fort Apache” studio where the first album we recorded was “The Crimson Idol”. Honestly, getting from one side of that street to the other was one of the longest walks I ever took.
The next place we rehearsed, even to this day, nobody believes when I tell them. We found a place that sold farm products and had large refrigeration units where they stored milk, cheese and meat. Yes, we were rehearsing in a Meat Locker!! It still had the hooks on the walls for hanging the meat. It was a very small space, about 2 meters by 6 meters and the temperature was keep around 3 degrees Celsius (38 degrees Fahrenheit) and you could see your breath. When we took breaks we would be sweaty and you could see the steam rising off the tops of our shoulders and our heads. It was $25 a week and we were there for about two months. When we would tell people that the Band that threw Raw Meat was rehearsing in a meat locker, no body believed it. That’s a TRUE story!!
We played the Troubadour working our way up from a Tuesday night to a Wednesday night to a Thursday night to a Friday and then a Friday/Saturday nights. All in a four month period. Every show the crowds got bigger and bigger. Many nights the shows were over sold beyond capacity. There were a large set of double doors at the entrance. Some nights the doors would be opened to handle the shear volume of people and from the stage I could see people standing out in the middle of Santa Monica Boulevard (it’s a divided 4 lane road) and there would be 100 or more people standing out there that couldn’t get tickets. I would turn and sing to them out in the street and they would go crazy!! Try to picture that. I’ve not seen anything like that since. It was highly unusual, but then again….so was the Band!!!
The local music magizine was the Music Connection and every week they published a list of the top ticket selling groups in Los Angeles. Eventually we became the number one band. We had NO money, but we looked like we had MILLIONS!!!! All from the things that were born in that workshop……Thank You Kirk!!
From there we moved on to bigger venues and then theatres, and less than eleven months from the time we played our first show we played the Santa Monica Civic Arena (3000 seats). We were connecting with the crowds and we grew very quickly. So much for the band that never had any intention of playing live!
All this with no manager and NO RECORD COMPANY!!!! We were now too big for them to refuse to pay attention to us any longer. Very Soon, EMI/Capitol Records would come calling!!!!.
More Next Month!!!
W.A.S.P. "30 Years Of Thunder" - Part Four
It’s now the summer of 83’ and we were in A&M Records studio doing our 3rd set of demo’s. What was wrong with the first 2 demo’s you ask? Years later I would ask myself that same question. Those early demo’s were fantastic. They were raw, gritty and nasty and actually better than what our first record ended up sounding like. So why all the torture? At that time all the major labels were looking for a more polished sound with a more sophisticated production. So, we bought into that garbage. By the time we finally got around to recording the album the energy was being sacrificed by attempting to satisfy a labels need for that type of sound. I’ll explain all that later on down the road. So there we were, doing a demo on “Love Machine” (and the rest) for the 3rd time. There was just one small problem. We were broke !!
With little to no way of paying for the studio time. A&M was a very
expensive place. About $1,000.00 a day. We were in studio A (the big
room). The same place were the video for “We Are The World” was done a
year later, It’s also the same room were the video for the Hearing Aid
“We’re Stars” was shot (which Chris and I participated). Because we were
not signed to a major label, the studio would not advance us time
WITHOUT payment first. What money we had from the earlier shows from
that year was almost gone. We had been there almost a month and still needed another couple of weeks. While all of this is happening I am becoming very concerned about the lack a any major Iabel making a serious offer to us. I knew they all were watching us very closely to see if we could sustain the momentum we had built up. It was vital that if we were to play live, we had to keep moving up in the size of places we played. We could not go down in size of the venues or it would look like we were some kind of novelty act with no real chance of becoming a Band that could sell records. The problem was, we had already gone as far as we could without help from someone or some thing. There were 3 absolutely crucial moments throughout the life of this Band. Had all three not been overcome, W.A.S.P. would have never survived. This was the first of the 3. I’ll explain the other 2 in future installments. I cannot exaggerate the importance of where we were at this time in the development of our career. See, in L. A., everything is about perception (which is why I don’t live in L. A. anymore). If the perception of us in the eyes of the majors were to go down because we had to go back to smaller venues, then it was all over for us…….. Unless….. there was a great reason !!
The Troubadour had been offering us Big sums of money to come back and play there. I kept refusing the offers because of the whole “perception” thing. Things got pretty bad and I needed money so when Cheri Curry called me up and asked me if I was interested in doing a movie. I asked what it was and she said, “don’t worry, they asked for the most “metal guy” I knew so I told them about you”. The movie was “Spinal Tap”. I got about $1000. The guy who was the booking agent at the “Troub” was Mike Glick. Not much has been written about him but I can say here and now, without him, the entire 82’-83’ metal movement in L. A. would have never happened. He was responsible in finding almost every band that came from the west coast that would later become famous. He had a fantastic ear in listening to bands demo tapes and determining who was real and who wasn’t. He kept making offers but now I was getting desperate. We needed cash, and a lot of it to finish the A&M demo’s. Then Mike said the magic words……. “$10,000.00 to come back and play 3 shows”. This was unheard of type of money back in 1983. But, we needed an “excuse” if we were going to go back to the “Troub”. A couple of days later I had seen on TV that blood donations in the U. S. were way down. At the time HIV/AIDS was just starting to get into the public consciousness but people still thought you get AIDS from donating blood. That’s when I came up with the idea for a “Heavy Metal Blood Drive”. It seemed perfect with our image, plus it was different, it had never been done before in the Rock world. But, we needed a big name sponsor to get involved. The American Red Cross was perfect because it would help them……and help us too!! They had the Name, the huge profile, and besides, they had the trucks with all the nurses to get all the blood out of the kids. The idea is just too perfect. Just one problem. Convince the mighty American Red Cross to come down with all their gear and get involved with a Band that Drank Blood, threw raw meat at the audience, and had a torture rack with a naked woman. NO PROBLEM!!!!
The “Troub” wanted the show as bad as we did, so Mike got an appointment to go to Downtown L. A. (where their offices were) and meet with them to try and sell them this insane idea. Honestly, I didn’t think it would even get that far. So off he goes in his suit and tie (something he never wore). I didn’t go to the meeting because we didn’t want them to get a look at me, because the whole thing would have been over before it started. So after waiting all afternoon for him to get back, he walks in and says, “I think I got them to go for it”! I said, “You have to be kidding”, what kind of garbage did you tell them to get them to agree. He said, “actually they were OK with the whole idea at first, but we talked for a couple of hours and as we got to the end of the meeting they became very skeptical and asked me about the type of kids at these Rock shows with all the drinking and drugs, and I had to think of a good answer real fast”. I asked him, what’d you say? He said, “I told them, well, I’m not exactly sure what kind of kids will be at these shows, but they gotta be better than the wino’s you’re siphoning down here on skid row”!!! I screamed out loud, “YES”, I couldn’t believe he pulled this off!!! In that one statement he had performed an ABSOLUTE STROKE OF GENIUS!!!!
As a side note, 2 days before they were to bring their trucks down to that first show, I was watching TV and I saw the National Head of the American Red Cross with President Reagan. He was receiving an award for the Red Cross from the President for $1,000,000. Needless to say this got my attention but I didn’t think about it anymore that night. The next morning, about 9 AM the phone rang. I was still asleep (typical musician), and I thought, I don’t know who this is but whatever it is it better be good!! I answered the phone still half asleep and the voice on the other end says, “is this Blackie Lawless”, I said yes, he says, “my name is Mr. Xxxxxxxx(I’ll leave his name out), I’m the National Head of the American Red Cross”. I’m thinking, Wow, this is the guy I just saw get a $1,000,000 from Reagan last night! I said, can I help you? He started screaming at me, asking, “is it rue you drink animals blood on stage, because if you do I’m canceling this entire fiasco right here, right now. I will not have the Red Cross involved in any kind of heathen theatrics like this”!! He goes on and on and I started talking REAL FAST. It took me about 30 minutes to calm this guy down. The whole time I’m talking I’m seeing everything we’ve done go up in smoke. Oddly enough, at the end of the conversation he turned out to be a pretty nice guy and said he hoped everything went OK for us. I hung up the phone and laid there and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. Actually there were a few times that the “Blood Drive” came very close to being cancelled for one reason or another.
I remember standing there on the afternoon of the first show with that gigantic blood truck out in front of the “Troub”. All the kids there with all the nurses inside, it was incredible. Mike and I just stood there in amazement at that logic defying spectacle. We couldn’t believe what we had pulled off!!!
I asked him, “do you believe what your seeing here”? He said, “we did it buddy”!!!
But believe me when I say, this whole thing was no small feat. I cannot overstate how important these shows were to us at the time. It all came just that close to never happening. Furthermore, if everyone of the events, that needed small miracles to make happen had not happened, it’s quite possible the world would have never heard of us. It’s been said that destiny’s have been changed by missing a bus. Truer words have never been spoken!
We got the $10,000.00 and finished the demo’s. A couple of months later we went back and did a Halloween show at the “Troub”. I didn’t think the labels would question W.A.S.P. doing a “Halloween” show. That was the last show we played for about 7 months. We did the Halloween gig and it was what everything everyone had come to expect. The place was packed, the show was great, but in the back of my mind I knew the clock was ticking on us. There was NOWHERE left for us to go!!!
Enter the Manager Man…. complete with horns on his head……how appropriate!!!!
More Next Month
Merry Christmas!!!!!! Happy Christmas!!! Feliz Navidad!!! Happy New Year!!!!!
W.A.S.P. "30 Years Of Thunder" - Part Five
“Howdy There Partner…
Let the Screaming Begin”
The Halloween show in 83’ was actually the night before on the 30th of October. As I said before, the show was great and the Troubadour was a mad house as usual. Kerrang magazine had sent one of their primary photographers to shoot the show. We had been making a big noise for a while out in L. A. and Kerrang had already featured us prominently in some earlier issues. So Ross Halfin was there shooting the show, but he wasn’t by himself…. he brought a friend!
So I woke up the next morning, feeling good about the gig, but still having this lingering idea in the back of my head. This was it, we had NOWHERE left to go. We were literally at the end of our Rock’ N’ Roll Rope! This whole L. A. Record Label perception thing had us painted into a huge corner. We had played the game as well as it could be played, maybe better than any Band head ever done, but still none of them were ready to commit.
Looking back now it’s easy to see why. Major labels suffer from the same thing the American Red Cross suffered from….Protecting Their Precious Images!!!!
They don’t want to get involved with any Band that’s going to tarnish their perceived image with the other Labels in the business, especially a Band like us, or any of the Thrash Bands at the time. I remember the first time I ever heard about anything like this was Chris saying that Eddie Van Halen was aggravated with their Label, Warner Brothers. It was the late 70’s and when Van Halen was in L. A. they would go down to the label to do press and they’d get treated like embarrassing step children because the Label heads were more interested if another artist like Ricki Lee Jones were in the building at the same time. As a side note, Chris knew all of this because he grew up in the same neighborhood as Eddie and remained friends. Years earlier it was Eddie that taught Chris how to play guitar.
All this is the reason that there are MANY Bands that should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but are not. They’ve got the same mentality as the major labels. They ALL want to appear “respectable” to each other. It drives me insane because it’s called the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”, NOT the “Pop Hall of Fame”. If they want a “Hall” for themselves, FINE, go get their own, but don’t humiliate the Genius of Rock and Roll with their Grandparents idea of music!!
It is funny how W.A.S.P. and all those Thrash Bands all got deals with Major Labels. Once those guys got a whiff of the money they all came running like the true prostitutes they are!! (See “Chainsaw Charlie’) You need to remember W.A.S.P. were not really the same sort of band like the rest that came out of L.A. at that time. We had a much harder edge musically, and the show, well, that spoke for itself. We had a bit of a similar problem that Metallica had, which pushed them to go to San Francisco. We met them at a show in Palo Alto in 83’. We’d be on tour together in the U. S. 18 months later. It was big fun !!
All that said, the next night was Halloween and I went to the Rainbow to try to numb my anxieties. Halloween at the Rainbow was always crazier than it was even on a regular night.
So I’m walking through the restaurant trying to get to my table and an arm reaches out and grabs me. I look down and there’s this guy sitting there with a Viking helmet on his head…complete with horns on it. He pulls me down on the seat next to him and immediately starts telling me what I’m doing wrong with the band and how the presentation won’t work outside of L. A. .
After about 3 minutes of me listening (without me saying a word) he finishes his opening statement and I say to him, “Who the Hell are You”?
I’ve NEVER met this man in my life and he’s going on like his opinion really matters. I didn’t know who he was and frankly I was offended by him, so I got up and proceeded on to my table. I didn’t think much more about it that night. So the next night I go back down to the Rainbow again. I’m walking along, an arm grabs me again and pulls me down. Guess who? Yep, same guy, but this time no Viking helmet. He starts in again on me with the same speech as the night before, you’re doing it ALL wrong, etc. This time I took REAL offense. Remember, The Band had accomplished some pretty remarkable stuff to that point so we had to be doing at least SOMETHING right. We had No help, No Label and No manager and had become the number one Band in L. A. which is a huge market that’s jaded beyond belief. It’s a place that’s seen EVERYTHING 20 times!! Very tough to impress!!
So I’m not really liking what this guy is throwing at me and I started to get up and leave and a girl that was standing there, who could see I wasn’t too happy with this line of questioning leaned over and said to me, “he’s the manager of Iron Maiden”. Now I had heard of Maiden, but they weren’t yet near as big in the U. S. as they would latter become. Randy had heard some of their songs and was getting into it but I didn’t know much about them. So I’m sitting there (for the second time) and it dawns on me, I don’t even know this guy’s name. So I say, who are you? He says, I’m Rod Smallwood….I manage Iron Maiden. He had gone with Ross (against his will) to the Troub for the Halloween show. He said later he had seen pictures of us and thought we were some sort of a joke and couldn’t be taken seriously but Ross insisted he go. He told Rod he thought this was something he needed to see. Rod’s a huge Door’s fan and in those days we used their song “The End” as the opening to the show. He said, well maybe this won’t be so bad after all. By the time the show was over he was becoming a believer!!
So we keep talking and it’s starting to get a little heated. That’s to say, a little angry cause I really don’t wanna hear what this guy’s got to say anymore. I wasn’t much impressed with him being the manager of Maiden. Remember, I was still talking to Bill Aucoin at the time and it looked like we were going to sign with him. Now Rod was already a star in the U. K. but I didn’t know it, and honestly at that moment I didn’t care.
I started to leave again and in a much calmer, more sincere voice he says, “listen to me, you’ve got something with your Band that has the chance to be big but you can’t do it by yourself”. Those were the magic words. It was like he had been reading my mind. Probably everyone has had a moment where they almost left someone and that person said ONE thing that stopped you and it changed everything. This was one of those moments!! I then relaxed and we kept talking and talking the rest of the night. We tuned out everyone else that night that was trying to talk to either one of us and focused on each other. Somewhere in the middle of that conversation I realized he was really interested in what the Band was doing. After the placed closed we went back to his hotel room and talked till about 7 AM, talking about the music business, the theory of theatre rock bands, how to sell records and that sort of thing. I didn’t realize he was feeling me out. Kind of sizing me up to see if I had the brains to make a real career in this business. I was doing the same with him. With everything we talked about that night it all seemed like something special was taking place. You could feel it. It was one of those meetings of the minds. It was crazy, everything we talked about our thoughts were lining up with each other. What happened was, in the beginning I don’t think either one of us had any idea of really working together. It was more of something that gradually happened as we kept talking. We spent a lot of time together the next few days. He had to go back to England 4 or 5 days later and by the time he left I instinctively felt I had found the one thing I had been looking for my whole life….a true PARTNER!!
I owe Ross a great deal of gratitude for dragging Rod to that show.
Once again, destiny’s changed by NOT missing a bus.
I’ve spent a lot of time here writing about my partnership with Rod because that’s just what it was. Over the next 14 years he was my sounding board more than anyone, even in the Band. We had a relationship based on whoever screamed the loudest won the argument. That’s not a bad thing. We learned that with strong personalities the one who is willing to fight the hardest on any given problem or idea is usually the one who is right. At least most of the time! But let me tell you, we had some absolute knock down drag outs!!!
We were pretty good at putting our ego’s aside and trusting each other even at times when we were not sure what was right. You gotta remember, when you’re doing things that’s never been done before, you’re literally making up stuff as you go. We had to trust each others instincts and the only way you can do that is with mutual respect.
I’ve said a lot here about having a partner. I cannot over emphasize the importance of that for me. No matter how my personal career may have developed over the years, I’ve NEVER wanted to be in this all by myself. That’s all some guy’s want. Not Me!!
I was always envious of the partnership Gene and Paul (KISS) have had. I watched it from the very beginning. Although Ace was my friend, those two had the REAL partnership in that Band. It was what I always wanted. I was about 18 and I was really thinking about giving up the music business because I was pretty depressed that I couldn’t get anywhere and I called Ace. They were on their first tour in the U.S. and Gene got on the phone and asked me what was wrong. He knew the band I was in at the time and he said, “you gotta get away from those losers you’re playing with. You’ve got something special. Find somebody that’s got the same things you’ve got. Whatever you do, just don’t give up….JUST DON’T GIVE UP”!!!
He was very convincing. I got off the phone and felt a lot better. Had he not said that to me I definitely would never have been in the right place to stumble into the “N. Y. DOLLS” thing that happened about 2 weeks later.
That led me to California, to W.A.S.P., and to Rod….My Partner!!!
Happy New Year!!!
More Next Month
W.A.S.P. "30 Years Of Thunder" - Part Six
“ The Class of 82’, 83’ "
Rod had gone back to England and we kept in touch over the next few weeks. Both of us were trying to determine where we were going and WHO we were going to go with. Rod needed time to process the demo tape we had done and to really think about if there was a real future with us. Getting involved with any band requires a tremendous amount of time and dedication. Even the most successful bands usually take years to develop into a major act so he needed time to think. So did I. I was still talking to Bill Aucoin. Honestly, the thing with Bill was beginning to make me uneasy. He was managing Billy Idol at that time and they had released the “Rebel Yell” album and it was burning up the charts. Bill was VERY involved with managing Billy and I was afraid of him possibly not having enough time to devote to us. Years ago Ace gave me some of the best advice anyone ever gave me. He said, “remember that the first contract you ever sign will more than likely determine everything that will ever happen to you in your whole career”. I’d later find out he was 1000 per cent correct. What he meant was, if you sign a bad deal, even if your successful, you’ll get ripped off so bad you can never recover from it. Many successful artists find they’re so far in debt that they can never get out of it and it follows them forever. It’s not unusual for even big name artists to have 2 or 3 bad management deals hanging over their heads that they will pay for the rest of their lives and I promise you, those old managers don’t just go away. They stand there with their hands out the rest of your life!!
Now I didn’t feel that this might happen with Bill, I just wanted a situation were we could get the attention we needed. I liked Bill and respected him a lot but my connection with Rod was special. It’s one of those things that you just instinctively know. We had a lot in common, both of us were ex athletes, and STRONGLY believed in the concept that “Might was Right”!! In other words, if something was in your way, then remove it…..by ANY means necessary!!!! Rod was tough and smart and I would NEVER have that relationship with Bill and it was something that I truly wanted. It was right after Christmas 83’ that Rod called me and said he wanted to manage us. I had about 3 months to think about it and by the time he called I knew he was the guy I wanted. It had absolutely nothing to do with his success managing “Maiden”. I wanted him whether he had been successful or not. I knew he was the one!!
So he came back out to L. A. a couple of weeks later and we started laying out a plan. First we needed a record deal. He initially went to EMI/Capitol because that was “Maiden’s” label. They were more interested now because they felt with Rod as manager they might have something. But still they were not willing to commit. There was a smaller local label Called Enigma Records that believed in us and wanted to sign us months before. The owner of the company offered to mortgage his house to sign us. Actually we came very close to accepting his offer. So while EMI were dragging their feet we made it known that Enigma wanted us pretty badly. A couple of weeks later EMI finally said “I Do” and we signed the largest deal in history for any previously unsigned Band….7 albums for $2.5 million. We had won the lottery overnight!!!
The day we signed the deal with EMI we went down to the Capitol building in L. A. and they took us to the conference room. Inside was a long table, about 5 meters long with chairs all around it. All the bosses were there and we all sat down and in the middle of the table was a freshly cut cow tongue. It was huge and it smelled nasty!! Just sitting there in the middle with blood running down the table dripping off the edge!
Nobody said a word about it. They just kept talking like it wasn’t even there. They were all acting like everything was normal, like nothing unusual was happening. After about 10 minutes I couldn’t take it anymore and I jumped up and screamed, “Get that Damn thing outta Here”!!!! The whole room exploded with laughter!! It was EMI’s way of saying: ”Welcome”!! All of the original people EMI/Capitol turned out to be fantastic and we had a great relationship for years.
We went into the studio a couple of weeks later to record, “Animal – F like a Beast” with the B-side “Show no Mercy” with my old friend Mike Varney as producer. The song was originally to be released as a single to get the whole world ready for the album that would come later that year. When we finished the single EMI in the UK had circulated some advanced copies. The Queens Council heard about it (they are a UK government social watchdog group) and they informed the heads of EMI that if they released that song that they would all go to jail for 21 days each!! Needless to say EMI had no desire for that so they stepped aside and allowed Music for Nations to release the single. We could not buy that kind of publicity and it exploded in the UK Metal charts!!
While all that was going on we were in the studio recording the first album. It was exciting and exhausting at the same time. The pressure was intense. We had been given much and much was being expected. Anything less than gold was going to be considered a failure. Fortunately, the record was later well received but at the time I had no way of knowing how the world would receive us. Something I’ve never really shared before is, the first record was so well received that it actually went gold in several countries right away but the first award that was presented to me came from Canada. We had just gotten back to L. A. after our first world tour and I remember taking it and setting it next to the TV and all night long I sat on the bed. I’d watch the TV for a couple of minutes, then I’d watch the gold record for a couple of minutes. I was by myself, and this went on all night!! This is part of the fantasy fulfilled. It’s what you grow up dreaming about. It was one of the greatest nights of my life!!!
We went on to finish that first album and shot the video’s for “Somebody” and ‘Love Machine”. A couple days before we left to start the tour I was in the studio and ran into Kevin Dubrow. Quiet Riot had just come back from England and he told me, “You better get ready, there’s some kind of W.A.S.P.mania going on over there”. I had no idea what he was talking about. Then we were off to the UK to start that first world tour. We landed in England and the press were there to meet us. On the way into London we stopped at a stop light and on the cover of the daily newspaper the headline read, “American Sex and Blood Rock Group Banned in Ireland”!! I looked at it and thought…who is that? I had no idea…it was us!!
Because of all the pre tour hype that surrounded us we had been banned from playing in Ireland from the time we got on the plane so we had NO idea until we landed. Norway also banned us on that tour.
But looking back, the moment we landed in London, everything we had done as a band, the demo’s, the home we had made at the Troubadour, the Blood Drive, building the props, ALL of it had lead us to this point. This was that moment, the beginning of everything we’d worked so hard for….but also the end. The end of the magical run that we had in L.A. with all the friends, the triumphs, the insanity that was that time in 82’ and 83’. It was one of the greatest times of our lives. Kind of like that one magic school year you wish would have never ended. You don’t really think that you’re saying goodbye but when we finally got a break 3 years later and looked around L.A., nothing was the same, EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY had changed. But, we were living the Dream. We were famous, we had money, we were dating movie stars and centerfolds. It was all good….but none of it could replace what we had in those early days. As I write this I find myself pretty nostalgic about those times. It’s been written, “You Can Never go Home Again”.
It’s like an old friend…..one you know you'll never be able to see again.
More Next Month
W.A.S.P. "30 Years Of Thunder" - Part Seven
"The New World Disorder"
About 3 weeks before the first tour was about to begin, Rod came to Chris and myself and said: “we’ve got a problem”. Apparently Capitol/EMI were becoming extremely concerned with reports about drug abuse and erratic behavior with our drummer Tony Richards. Rod says to us: “he has to be replaced….Now!!
Both Chris and I felt, if we could just get out on the road, whatever was concerning the label would go away. We both put up a fierce defense for Tony. For 2 hours there was a lot of screaming and threatening to leave the label, but at this point Capitol/EMI had so much money invested in us there was really little any of us could do. I remember sitting there, having this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was like a bad dream where I could see it happening right before my eyes like it was in slow motion and there was nothing I could do to stop this tidal wave from coming down on us. It was the first time I remember thinking, “they (EMI) own us now”!
In my mind I thought back to something Ace had told me years earlier. He said: “when you sign that dotted line, your life doesn’t belong to you anymore”. I would later write about it in “Chainsaw Charlie”, “sign right here on the dotted line”. This was the first time for us that monster would
rear it’s ugly head. Nobody outside of our immediate circle understood that trying to replace Tony was a MAJOR problem. This guy could do it all, he played great, he looked great and there was something about his personality that definitely jumped out at you in photos. This combination in people is almost impossible to find and I knew it all to well. It took me years to find this magic combination of personalities to create this Band and we’ve not even played our first gig outside of California and now this Behemoth of a label is telling me I can’t have my hand picked starting lineup. Furious…to say the least! Looking back it was at THAT moment that we were nearly fatally wounded. For years, and I mean years later, Chris and I would talk about “what if”. What if we could have just got on tour with him. What if we told EMI to go screw themselves. What if, what if… even now it’s haunted us throughout our careers. You see, he COULD NOT be replaced, not the way we needed it to be. Whoever was going to be picked to take his place was going to have a really unenviable task. On the front cover of the first album you saw all 4 of us. Never again on any album would you see that from us. Reason? We felt that all four created this “Thing”. Something that was greater than our individual selves. With him gone, we were never the same, and that "‘Thing” had been severely wounded so we never again had the confidence to ever put the Band on a cover again. We used me on the next 2 album covers but after that it would be conceptual art covers. Something that continues to this day!!
Enter Steve Riley. Steve was a good drummer but he was being dropped into a no win situation. No matter how good a new member is, he still has to deal with the ghost of the previous guy, and sometimes that “previous guy” casts a giant shadow. As was the case here. But we licked our wounds and carried on. It was like cramming for a big test with only days to go before our first World tour, but Steve was good and we got through rehearsals OK. So, off to set the world on fire, and with our flaming W.A.S.P. sign….we meant it literally!! Banned in Ireland, Preachers following us around to shows and picketing outside and inside the gigs, kids using enamel paint to put white streaks in their hair, protesters at most of the shows…and this was only the first month!! The U. K. as a whole didn’t really know what to think of us at first, but the kids loved us!! It was the Lyceum show, that’s now famous for the “Live at the Lyceum” video”, that helped create the buzz with the press. Rod had done such a good job getting them ready for us that by the time we got there the press all believed we were Elvis and Attila the Hun all rolled into one!! We showed up and did not disappoint!! Looking at that video now I can see why it scared the hell out of the whole country. Some people were expecting us to be like cartoon characters but when you look at that video its clear to see, we meant business. You could see it with the look in our eyes… we were not playing!! I remember going into a club a few years later when we were recording “Headless” and seeing it for the first time since we filmed it. I could then see what scared parent so bad about us. I watched it like I was watching someone else. Those guys up on that screen were a SCARY bunch!! We were young and hungry and MAD at the whole world and it showed in abundance!! That anger was dripping off of us. I had never seen it before. I never really knew until that moment what we truly looked like. Because of where my head was at the time we were making “Headless” I was watching somebody else and I saw it with a completely different set of eyes.
So after we permanently scarred the U.K. we went on to mainland Europe. Sweden was so enthused with us they had a debate about us on National TV that went on for 3 days. Norway didn’t even want to know about us and wouldn’t let us in to the country. Finland loved us from the very beginning but at the first show in Helsinki I introduced a song that Chris was supposed to start. I said the name of the song but there was no Chris. I said it again, still no Chris. I looked over and he’s laying on the stage. He’d been knocked out cold!! In those days we were doing the “raw meat” so some of the fans thought they would help us and brought meat of their own. Somebody had smuggled in an entire rump roast and threw it at the stage. It hit Chris in the head…oops…THE SHOWS OVER!!! He was out for several minutes. It was very close to the end of the show anyway so it really didn’t matter that we didn’t finish. This kind of stuff was happening everyday everywhere we went. It was INSANE…but it was great!!! We went on to destroy Japan and the returned home to start the U. S. tour. We did tours with Krokus, Kiss, Quiet Riot, Metallica and Iron Maiden. There was a 3 Band bill that we did that was Armored Saint, Metallica and W.A.S.P
Anyone who was lucky enough to have seen any of those shows really saw something special. All of those bands in the early stages…WOW!! Usually, when Bands are just starting out is when they are at their best. They’re raw and unrefined and have zero polish on themselves. These 3 Bands were no exception…Rude, Crude and Lewd!!! Those shows are now considered legendary. There was a tremendous amount of competition between us but we had major Fun!! It was one of those special times. I remember it with great memories. Once we were playing in Indianapolis and we all got there late from a long drive the night before, and nobody got a sound check that day because we were so late. Metallica and us would trade off every night closing the show. One night they would close, the next night W.A.S.P. would close. This night we were closing and everybody was rushing around trying to get everything ready before the show. It was an old type of theatre and the backstage was like a cavern with a million hallways and VERY easy to get lost in. None of us had even been on the stage so if you didn’t have somebody with you who knew where they were going show you how to get there, then you had no chance of making it on you own. Well, I’m in the bathroom getting ready to shave and as Metallica’s getting ready to go on their intro music starts playing. The bathroom door flies open and there’s Cliff (Burton) standing there, by himself, and screams, “BLACKIE, WHERE’S THE STAGE”!!! I had just put the razor up to my neck to shave and saw him in the mirror and I said, “Cliff, I really don’t know”. He shouts, “SCREW YOU BLACKIE” and storms off. He thought In was messing with him but I honestly wasn’t. I really didn’t know how to get to the stage. It was a true Spinal Tap moment!! I started laughing so hard I was about to cry because he was so mad and he was about to have a major panic attack. He thought I did it on purpose but I really didn’t. The Band was about 2 minutes into the first song before I heard the bass come in. Man those were fun times!!
We finished the rest of the U.S. tour and were getting ready to start rehearsals for our next record. That’s when we first started to hear murmurings from back east in Washington D.C.. Something about this thing called the PMRC and some woman named Tipper Gore.
Apparently, it had something to do with us!!!
I wonder…what could it possibly be?
More Next Month!!
W.A.S.P. "30 Years Of Thunder" - Part Eight
"AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH"
So we were just starting the 2nd album, “The Last Command” and as we were cutting the tracks we heard from our publicist that something was happening in Washington D. C. concerning the single “Animal F – Like a Beast”. There was an organization being put together – supposedly – to advise parents as to what the kids were listening to. We found later they were called the PMRC or, the Parents Music Resource Center. They were trying to impose a ratings system on records that would be similar to the way ratings are done on movies. At first, we honestly had no problem with the idea of a ratings system, but as time wore on, we started to hear rumors about who would be making those decisions and what the criteria would be in making those decisions. I assumed it would be a sort of self imposed system that the labels themselves would oversee. Again, similar to the way movies are rated. As we got closer to finishing the album the real truth started coming out….WRONG!!!
This PMRC bunch, later known as the “Washington Wives” was being lead by then Senator Al Gore’s wife Tipper Gore, and Secretary of State James Baker’s wife Susan Baker. When I was a kid my mother used to have an expression: “Who died and left you the boss”?
I start asking myself that same question. Who did these folks think they were? Who or what qualified them to pass judgment on the entire Music Industry in America? Apparently, they were electing themselves!! All along being helped by the powerful husbands they had behind them. Husbands with their eyes fixed on more than just being a Senator…a lot more!! As we finished the album an invitation came to me from Washington D. C. to attend a Senate Hearing on the “problem of obscene lyrics in music” with W.A.S.P. and our “Animal” single being on a targeted list called “The Filthy Fifteen”. I was being invited to more or less defend myself in front of the Congress of the United States. All because of something I said. In the U. S. the very first Amendment of the Constitution of the United States guarantees “Freedom of Speech”. I would later see pictures of Senators holding up the “Animal” cover. It was surreal, Senators holding up a photo of my crotch in front of the United States Congress!!
I just couldn’t believe it!!
About 2 days before I was supposed to go to Washington, Rod and I sat down with our publicist, Mike Jensen and talked it over. Mike said he was “concerned that something about the whole Washington thing just didn’t feel right”. So we made the decision that I would not attend those Senate Hearings. I was scheduled to go to New York a couple of days later to attend the “New Music Seminar” which was one of the biggest music conventions in the world. There would be worldwide press there so I’d be able to address the PMRC issue on my own terms without literally being “on trial”. At the Senate Hearings the music industry was being represented by Frank Zappa, country music star John Denver and Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider. After the Hearings took place, I went to New York where I met with Frank (Zappa) and discussed what took place there. Frank had seen this before because he had dealt with censorship in the 1960’s. He told me that I really didn’t miss much. He called it a “dog and pony show”. That’s an American expression that means something was just for show. In other words, a big joke that’s only designed to impress people that don’t really know what’s going on. So, were those Hearings just a big joke or was there something more sinister going on behind them?
Several weeks went by. We were on tour with Kiss at the time and I had an interview with a local magazine in one of the places we played. The journalist had a tape that she played me. On it was Tipper Gore and Susan Baker talking about what their real motivation was. It had nothing to do with rating records. Their words were shocking because it was about creating political profile for themselves. It became abundantly clear later that Al Gore was using the PMRC the same way Richard Nixon used his communist witch hunts in the 1950’s to create profile for himself, to run for President of the United States. Al Gore would later run for President…. and LOSE!!!
All of this was making W.A.S.P. a household word in the U.S., meaning everyone knew who we were. We were on the cover of magazine after magazine and our profile was getting out of control. Funny, the PMRC were trying to create a larger profile for themselves and inadvertently made it happen for us. It was unbelievable; we couldn’t turn on the TV and not hear somebody talking about us. Day after day this was going on. At first we were having a blast with all the attention and really thought it was going to sell a lot more records. But it didn’t. Did they make us a household word? Yes, but the problem was, all the kids already knew who we were. It didn’t help us that now people’s grandmothers now knew who W.A.S.P. was. But that’s why they went after us in the first place. For the PMRC, what better way for them to get attention than to go after an attention getter. But there were some serious down sides. After about a year, little by little, things started to get ugly. All the massive publicity started to bring out the “crazies”. A lot of folks started thinking that the world might be a better place if W.A.S.P. were not in it. Over the next 2 years I got shot at twice, 100’s and 100’s of death threats. Once, one of my cars was seriously tampered with. I had just got on the Hollywood freeway and the left front wheel of the Jaguar XKE I was driving came off. I had just gotten up to 55 MPH when the wheel came off. I was in the far right lane and when the wheel came off the hub started digging into the pavement and it started pulling me over into the far left lane of this 5-lane freeway. I fought the wheel to keep it from pulling me over, but I couldn’t stop it. I looked in my side view mirror, a large simi truck (18 wheeler) was about 10 feet behind me in the lane next to me that I was being pulled into. He slammed on his brakes to keep from hitting me and I could see his tires smoking. He came within just a couple of feet from running over me!! It was an absolute miracle that I wasn’t killed!!!!
But for the Grace of God I go!!
The car was taken over to the mechanic who normally worked on the car and after looking at how the wheel had been tampered with he said: “you should have been dead already”! We contacted the FBI to investigate and they advised me to not live by myself anymore, so I started having some of the road crew live with me whenever we were in L. A.
This was only ONE of MANY incidences that happened…. there were many more!!!
David Coverdale came by the studio one day. We were talking about all the insanity that was going on around us and he asked me, “how are handling all of this”? I said well, when I wake up in the morning I don’t feel bad – but – I don’t feel good either! He said, “well that’s pressure son”! I said, “is this what that feels like”? I used to make fun of guys that talked about all the pressure that they were under. I used to say, “they’re doing what they want to do in life so how bad can it really be”? I found out the hard way that’s there’s different kinds of pressure!!
By the time we had finished the “Inside the Electric Circus” album all of this had started to turn me into a recluse. During the tour of that record, several times entire venues would have to be cleared before we came on stage because of bomb scares. That means, ALL the people in the venue were forced to leave, and after the venue was searched then they were allowed back in. It would take about an hour each time. It was happening everywhere. Our security later told us that the ONLY place that we did not get a bomb scare on that tour was the last night of that tour at Long Beach Arena in California.
We were on tour with Maiden in the fall of 86’ and we were in Lisbon. We had a day off and stayed in a little seaside village right on the Atlantic Ocean. It was great! We’d be someplace where NOBODY would know who we were…at least for one day. I had gone to lunch with one of our security people and as we were walking back to the hotel we turned down a narrow cobble stone street. It was really cool, like something out of an old movie. I turned the corner and there was a small shop with a large glass window. It was a small record shop. In the window was a 2 times life size poster of the front cover of the “Circus” album. I just stood there and looked at it and felt like someone kicked me in my stomach. It became clear at that moment, I was trying to run away from all this insanity and there was now NOWHERE I could run to get away from it!!!!
During the U. S. tour we were in an Arena in Toledo, Ohio. Looking back, subconsciously, I was getting fed up with everything that had happened and what we had become as a result of it. We were in the dressing room, getting ready to go on stage. The guys were hyped up to do a show, as we always were. I was sitting at the makeup mirror and I could see everybody behind me, rushing around getting ready for the show. I just sat there watching and said, “are we going to continue to be this “Circus” we’ve created, or are we going to do something of REAL MUSICAL MERIT!!!
I could see the looks of horror on their faces. They were thinking, “oh no, it’s all over, he’s finally lost it”!!! They were correct!!!
We finished the rest of the tour, but when it was over, I had some real soul searching I had to do about the musical direction this Band was going, but also the idea of “what in the world had just happened to me”!!
Twice in this story a mirror played an important role. In a later work, I would again write about a mirror!!
But never again would I write the same. Never again would I be the same.
The early stages of the Band were finished. It was over…. I had seen way Too Much!!!
More Next Month
W.A.S.P. "30 Years Of Thunder" - Part Nine
"CAN YA SEE THE REAL ME....CAN YA"?
The last show for the “Circus” tour was at Long Beach Arena, just outside
L. A. It was also where we recorded what would become “Live in the Raw”. In addition to mixing the tracks for that record I was moving into a new house. All of it was a good distraction because as you can imagine from the last installment, I was in need of some serious “down time” to evaluate what had happened in the last 5 years…. specifically the last 3.
I spent a lot time thinking about who I was and where I saw myself as a writer. Midway through the first album I came in the studio and the engineer was just sitting there looking distant and very thoughtful. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “I just heard Marvin Gaye was murdered last night”...
We talked about it for almost an hour and he told me that he had worked with Marvin some years earlier. He said, “one thing I watched Marvin do was he always made records that reflected who he was at that moment in his life”. I thought about that statement for years afterward (and still do) and when it came time to prepare for what would be the next record I thought, “that’s it”, it’s precisely what I’m gonna do. You see, when we made the first album I was doing just that but I didn’t know it. I was just doing what came naturally but without being able to wrap it into a more complex thought or verbal expression. I was now coming to a point in my life where instead of going on impulse, I would now stop and say: “who am I right now at this moment”? This was very important because I had fallen into the trap of making records based on who and what the Band was suppose to be and not who I was growing into. A lot of artists, especially in the Metal World, are scared to death to try and evolve because they think their fans will abandon them. Funny thing was, I had worked incredibly hard to get where we were, but in the summer of 87” I couldn’t have cared less. What had happened to me was I wasn’t saying the things I felt passionate about and I resented myself for it and at the same time I really didn’t know I felt this way because I had become numb from all the touring. When I finally woke up from it all I looked in the mirror and I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I went to a bank right after that tour was over, and I went up to the teller’s window to write a check for some cash. I started writing and I filled in the amount, the day and when I got to the year...I just stood there... for about 30 seconds!! The teller looked at me a little strange and said, “it’s 1987”. I was embarrassed but at the same time I thought, “this ain’t good”!!! I filled out the check and left!
I also found I was getting more and more angry and aggravated with things around me. Looking back, it was all the pressure from the record company, touring, the PMRC… ALL OF IT!!!! It was all fallout from the aftermath!! Kind of my own personal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It wasn’t combat in the traditional sense, but anytime you get guns shoved in your face it ain’t fun!!
I did an interview with Hit Parader magazine in the U. S. that summer and it was the first time I said EXACTLY what was on my mind. I held NOTHING back. I talked about politics, religion, social unrest and anything else I felt like…and I DID NOT CARE!!! It felt wonderful!!
So a couple of months go by and I’m thinking that the magazine is going to get a lot of hate mail from the interview I did. The editor later called me and said, “I’m sending you a sampling of some of the mail we received about your last interview. We received more mail for this interview than almost any we’ve ever done before”! I’m thinking, “GREAT…who cares”!!
A box of letters arrived a week later and there were about 100 letters in it. Every one of them said the same thing, “what took you so long”!!!
They were saying that they knew what was really inside me and they were all glad I had finally let it out. I sat there amazed. I read some of those letters over and over. They were passionate, articulate and insightful. Who says the fans of this genre are brain dead?….how wrong they are!!! I guess there were things coming across in the earlier interviews and the lyrics I’d been writing that the fans were picking up on that I couldn’t even see for myself. Over the years I’d think about those letters and the people that wrote them. They would never know what it did for me!!!
I sat there reading and felt my spirit start to lift. Over the next few weeks I felt an energy and determination I had not felt in years!! I was totally driven again to make a record that would reach out and grab people by the throat!!!
In the fall of 87” I started writing again. It was on a Saturday evening about 6 PM. I was lying of the couch about to take a nap. I had just started to drift off and in my head I heard, “Father come save us from this madness we’re under”. I immediately jumped up and ran to my writing room where the instruments and recorders were. I put down the verse of what would later become the title track of the album, “The Headless Children”!!
After that, I really started looking at my “English Roots”. It was the music I had come to embrace as a kid, Uriah Heep, Sabbath and The Who. From the beginning W.A.S.P. had been a more “American” sounding Band. From that moment forward we would take a more “English” approach. For me it seemed like it was what the lyrics I was now writing called for. Don’t ask me why, it’s just what I heard in my head. I guess with the maturing process I was going through, I was now coming full circle in my musical tastes.
The “American” approach was more “party” oriented. The “English” for me, was far more serious!
The writing continued for the next few months and it became clear to me that the level of musicianship needed to do the songs that were developing was lacking. Steve Riley, again was a good drummer, but the drummer needed to do this new musical direction had to be a MONSTER!!
Frankie Banali was the only one I felt that could do the job. His playing ability spoke for itself but real patience would be needed to really learn and contribute to these new songs and he had both. Johnny Rod was a monster bass player too so between the two of them we would have a rhythm section that was one of the best in the world….period!! Johnny had known Ken Hensley from a project they had worked on some time before. Now Ken was one of my childhood heroes because he was the driving force behind Uriah Heep. He’s a fantastic keyboard player with a sound all his own. When he cranked up that Hammond B3 Organ, you knew it was him!!!
In addition to all the original songs we had been working on we had been discussing doing a Who song as a B-side for whatever the first single would be. It was a choice between “Behind Blue Eyes” or “The Real Me”. For me both songs had a similar lyrical idea so I wasn’t really sure which one to do…until I walked into the rehearsal room and heard that wall of sound!! They had all gotten to rehearsal before me the day we were to try those songs. I walked in and they had just started “The Real Me”. I was stunned!!
Even the road crew, who were in the room working, stopped what they were doing to listen. Anytime you can make those guys stop, then you know it’s something really good. Banali on drums, Johnny on bass, Hensley on B3 and Holmes on guitar. WOW!! The rumble that came off the stage was absolutely MONSTEROUS!!!! We never even tried the other song!!
As “I Don’t Need No Doctor” was on the “Circus” album, “The Real Me” was never designed to be on the album. Both were only to be B-sides of singles but both turned out so good that we could not resist putting them on the albums. Later Townshend told me it was the best cover of any Who song anyone had ever done. He said, “No one has ever done to one of my songs what you all did”. I knew what he meant… and I was proud!!!
The preproduction and recording dragged on for a year and a half. We started recording in February of 88’ and the label A&R guy asked me when I thought we’d be finished. I told him, “probably May”. November arrived and he called me up and said, “ I thought you said you’d be finished in May” and I replied, “yeah, but I didn’t say what year”!!! He was less than amused!!
It was finished late January 89’.
As a side note, just as the rehearsals started for the album, Lita Ford was rehearsing in the room next to us. She had just finished her new album and her and I were sitting out in my car listening to it. When I heard “Kiss Me Deadly” I knew she had a really big hit on her hands. I was happy for her because I’d known her for a long time. As we were listening to the record, a knock came at the window where she was sitting. I rolled down the window. Holmes was standing there. I said, “Lita, this is Chris”! I didn’t think much about it at the time. A few days went by and I still didn’t hear anymore about it.
Less than a year later they eloped!!!
I never really saw myself as a matchmaker!!! Funny how things work out sometimes!!
A few months before the record was finished, the movie director Penelope Spheris called me and asked me if I’d be interested in doing a new movie she was working on called “Decline of the Western Civilization – part 2”.
It was to be a face to face debate between Tipper Gore and myself. I could not wait, I was chomping at the bit!!! This was my chance to take the bull’s-eye she and her husband Al had put on me and put it on her forehead!!
The day before the filming was to take place Tipper cancelled!
Penelope asked me if I’d like to do something else and honestly nothing really seemed like it would even come close to the debate we were going to do so she asked me if she could interview Chris. I said OK.
Rod heard about it and he said to me, “I don’t know if this is such a good idea, what do you think”? My now famous reply (that we still laugh about) was, “I think it’s OK…besides, how bad can it be”?
So much for my genius!!
For anyone who’s seen it, it speaks for itself.
When I got the advance copy I was horrified!!
I called Penelope and insisted to her, “You’ve got to edit him out of the movie”, she said: “I can’t”, and I said why not, she said, “all of the copies have already gone out to the movie theatres”. I freaked!! Here we’ve just done this extremely socially conscious record and now this disaster of a PR statement is about to come out on film for the whole world to see!!
Had the record not been as strong as it was, that film may have killed it, and the upcoming world tour as well.
Believe me, I am not over exaggerating how damaging that thing was!!!
Anyway, the tour proceeded and all was going well for the first few weeks. The record went Gold immediately… then, things started to get very tense, very strange!! Even the album cover had to be changed because the Ayatollah was on the front cover. He was replaced by a 3rd Klansman because retail stores were afraid of revenge attacks. All those early covers are collector’s items now.
There was big trouble in Paradise. Everything we’d worked so long and so hard for was unraveling.
I had a Band disintegrating right before my eyes. By the time we got to the U. S. the infighting in the Band was so bad we would many times take 4 different modes of transportation to get to the gigs: One guy on the tour bus, one guy flying, one guy driving and so on. Most of the time we had different dressing rooms and different entrances to get to the stage and did not even see each other until the lights went up on the stage. It was a total mess. One of the last shows we did was at the Santa Monica Civic Arena – yes, the same place we played back in 83”. All the Capitol brass was there and I took photo’s with them at the after show party. After about 10 minutes I was so depressed, I excused myself and went outside and crawled up a fire escape ladder to the roof on top of the building. I sat there, alone and watched the ocean waves come in on the beach thinking to myself: “right under where I’m sitting right now, there were thousands of screaming people, now I sit here. How in the world did everything that was so good get so bad, so fast”!!!!! It was like an evil genie had given us 3 wishes but in return was going to make life Hell!!
So three years later, here I am again… soul searching!! Seems it was getting to be a habit.
A week later I had no Band, and even less of an idea where I was going!!
Once again, back to the drawing board.
I guess it could have been worse… we could have been Fleetwood Mac!
More Next Month
W.A.S.P. "30 Years Of Thunder" - Part Ten
“THE SKY IS FALLING, THE SKY IS FALLING”
It was now September of 89’. Rod was moving back to England to get
married. A couple of years earlier he and I sat together in the church when
Chris got married and we made a pact that neither one of us would ever get married. So much for promises!! Oh well, I had to face the fact that life as I knew it was changing in just about every way. I now had no Band, my manager (and great friend) was moving back home. You know, when you’re
the one getting married, you feel great, but those left behind feel a huge
void. It was hard for me for the next few years because I was used to him
being there and I knew it would be different from now on. Equally as bad as
all of this, I had NO IDEA of where I was going either musically or
personally. I had no personal life. It was all wrapped up in the Band, but
now, I didn’t have that either. I didn’t date women. I only had sex with them.
Because of our success I didn’t even have to take them out on dates.
Wherever I met them, then that’s where we did it. Bathroom, car, restaurant,
it didn’t matter to me. I’d walk right into the women’s bathroom in a
nightclub and usually more often than not I’d find somebody who was
willing. Fame is a monster!! It makes people do things they wouldn’t
I was attempting to fill a major void in my life. My mother had died New
Years Day 1980. I spent 25 years of my life trying to replace her. I’ll explain
So there we are in London at Rod’s wedding. He asked Steve (Harris) and myself to be ushers at the church. For those who don’t know, ushers are the guys who greet you and then take you to your seats. I hadn’t been in a
church in 20 years and I don’t think Steve had ever been in one!! Steve and I laughed, saying we were the most expensive ushers in the history of the world!!
Only Smallwood could get something like this!!!
At the reception I was talking to the man who worked for the publishing company that handled our song writing. His name was Ralph Simon and he was very influential throughout the development of my career. He was asking me if I had started writing for the new record and I told him I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to be the songwriter I thought I could be when we first started. You gotta remember, at this point in my life my self confidence was at the lowest it probably ever was. He said to me, “do you like Bryan Adams”, I said, yeah, he’s great, one of the best writers around!! He said, “I just got a demo tape from him, it’s the biggest pile of crap in the history ofthe music business”!! He said, “I told him to go back and start all over again”.
This really started me thinking, if that can happen to him then it can happen to anybody! A few weeks earlier I had met with Pete Townshend and presented him with his Gold Record for “The Headless Children” (the “Real Me’ was written by him).
He and I talked for 45 minutes about song writing. I asked him if it was easy for him. He laughed and said, “No Way”. The way he said it made me think he struggled when he wrote so I asked him, “how hard is it for you”? He said, “I work for EVERY NOTE I get”! I was amazed because he made it look so easy. I said to him, “sometimes I feel like the slow kid in the class. I feel I can compete in a professional world but I’m the slowest one here”. He said, “I know exactly what you mean”. As we continued to speak he started to reveal to me just how hard it was for him to write and honestly with every word he spoke I felt better and better! Here’s one of my hero’s telling me that he’s in the same boat with me! We talked and talked and the one impression he left me with was, most of the time, good song writing IS PAINFULL!!!
Painful because you’re reaching for something you can’t quite get your hands on. Of all the arts, song writing is the most mysterious. With a painter or sculptor you see the work take place right before your eyes. To the public, songwriters seem to pull it right out of thin air!!! The public NEVER sees the months, sometimes years it takes to make a memorable song. Plus, it’s hard enough to get 10 people to like a song, much less 10 million!! On the way back to L. A. from Rod’s wedding I was sitting next to Kris Kristofferson. In the Country music world this guy’s songs are legendary. He wrote songs for Elvis, Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin and lots more. We talked about half the way back to L. A. about song writing. So, you can see a pattern developing here!!
Even I look back on it now and see that they were all put into my life at a specific time for a specific reason!!
The more I thought about the conversations I had with those guys the madder I got…not at them…at myself!!!
I did not care about the pain anymore. If it hurt…so what!!
If it cost me everything including my sanity…too bad!!!
I WAS NOT letting ANYTHING stop me. If they could do it, then by God I could too!!
I got home a started thinking about an idea I had back in the Fall of 86’. I was in a restaurant in London on Shaftsbury Ave. and thought about an idea for a concept record. The idea was “The Crimson Idol”.
It was a simple idea. A kid with a troubled home life looking for love. The more I thought about it the better it got. I started writing and the first song I wrote was called, “Miss You”. It would not make it on the album but it was a great song but as the record grew there was no time to finish it. The writing progressed and it was becoming pretty clear that to do this without a band was going to be a slow process. The big mistake I did not want to make again was to record the album in a commercial studio. I wanted to build my own!
When we finished “Headless” it cost $600,000 then and that was 89’. That’s easily double now. I stood there with a little CD in my hand and said, ‘is this all I get for $600,000”?
I was not going to make that mistake again!!
So in January of 90’ as the writing was going on we started looking for the equipment. We also needed a building. In installment #3 I told you where the building was. I named it “Fort Apache” caused inside it looked like an old western movie set. It was pretty cool! Doing the “Blind in Texas” video years before had gotten me in touch with my Native American Indian heritage so the name seemed natural.
Although the Band had disintegrated months before, Frankie and I were still pretty close so when he was available to do drums it was a big relief because I knew the drums would be even more complex than anything we had done before. We spent hours talking about what the songs would sound like. He and I started doing demo’s and by the time the studio was finished in June of 90’ we were ready to start recording. The night before we started I was out with Duff McKagan (from Gun’s and Roses) and at the end of the night he wanted to go back to the studio with a bunch of people for a late night party. NO WAY!!
made up some excuse why I had to get up early. We had worked really hard building that studio (not to mention a ton of money), the LAST thing I wanted was some drunk guys throwing up on the mixing board!!!!
As the recordings went on I found it was a little like trying to do a cattle drive by yourself. You can do it…but it’s tough!!
I really had no idea of the scope of what I had begun. I don’t want to go into a lot of technical stuff here so I’m not going to go into much of the recording process. But it was a MONSTER!! Frankie’s expertise on the record was invaluable. A lot of people don’t know but Ken Hensley originally had played all the B3 tracks on the album but the songs had to be re recorded because they were recorded in keys that were not right for the songs. It was all my fault. Unfortunately Ken was not available to come back and do the new tracks, so I played them.
As the recordings went on the ideas started to grow and grow. This Character of “Jonathan” really started to reveal himself. Earlier the year before as I was writing the songs, I had a plan of going down to Hollywood Blvd. and spending a week there undercover (in disguise). A lot of teenage kids end up homeless down on Hollywood Blvd. so I wanted to go there, sleep on the street at night and really get a feel for what I was writing. Instead, I only needed one day. It all came back to me REAL FAST. When I first came to Hollywood I was homeless for the first year and a half. I slept on peoples’ floors that whole time. I was as close to being on the streets as you could be without being there permanently.
In some ways making the record went by in a flash. In other ways it was like time stood still. Little things that hardly anyone would ever notice had to be painstaking repaired or done over. Bob Kulick came in and played lead guitar and sometimes his fingers would bleed from the recording sessions being so long. He did a masterful job. I told him before the record started that I did not want ONE GRATUITUS NOTE on the entire record. He did not disappoint!!
Half way through the record I was literally out of my mind! I had worked myself to a point where I was getting sick all the time. I went to the doctor and he wanted to put me in the hospital for 2 weeks. I made a deal with him. I would not work for those 2 weeks and that way I could stay home. It really got that bad!! He agreed. Gene (Simmons) was looking to do some studio work so I let him come in for the 2 weeks I was supposed to be resting. Right around that time we hired a 2nd engineer to help with the record. He didn’t have any experience but his enthusiasm was infectious. It was just what I needed at the time because I was so burnt out. He was into the whole idea of what the record was about and was a real cheerleader. I soon got where I trusted his opinion on ideas. We were paying him $75 a week and I let him live in the studio. His name was Ross Robinson. Two years later he would go on to produce Korn, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot and more.
The night I was to record “The Great Misconceptions of Me”, I asked him to turn all the lights out in the studio. The only lights that were left on were the lights from the equipment in the control room (which are mostly red). It created an eerie glow in the whole studio. I lowered the microphone and got down on my knees in the dark. I waited for the room to get quiet and then told him to “roll the tape”. I then sang the intro to “Misconceptions”. What you hear on the record today is the first and only real take that I did. I came in the control room and asked him what he thought. He didn’t speak. He showed me the hairs still standing up on his arm. I guess it was OK!!
As a side note, he no longer lives in my studio!!!
One of the best memories I have of making the record was writing the title track, “The Idol”. I had just gotten home from the studio. It was one of those late night sessions that lasted till almost dawn. I had made a very stiff drink before I left so by the time I got home I was feeling no pain. The dining room in my house had huge windows in it and I could see the sun was just about to come up. I was all by myself in the house. It was deathly quiet and I felt very solemn at that moment and I sat there and thought, “what have I gotten myself in to” (meaning this record).
The room was huge with a Spanish tile floor. The sound of the acoustic guitar and my voice echoed in the room and it sounded great! With the sun just starting to peak through the windows I wrote: “will I be alone this morning, will I need my friend”, (I was referring to the Vodka I was drinking), something just to ease away my pain”. Even to this today, many times when we play this song live I can still see the snapshot of myself sitting there that morning and writing that song. I will always cherish that memory.
A funny thing happened when I was writing the story for the inside of the album. I had all the names for the characters except one…the manager. I had the first name, which was Alex, but no last name. I was getting frustrated because I had been looking for a last name for this guy for months. I had the TV on but the sound was down. I thought, I’m gonna turn the sound up and the first (last) name I hear is who he’s going to be. I was watching a sports show (ESPN) and the Chicago Bulls were playing somebody. The announcer said, “Dennis Rodman had 10 rebounds tonight”. I thought, Alex Rodman…sounds OK to me! A couple of weeks go by and I get a phone call. It’s Smallwood saying, “you’ve got to change the name of the manager”, I said: “what for? He said, “Rodman”, I said, so what! He said, “ROD –man”!! Until that moment I had never put the 2 together. I started laughing so hard I couldn’t even talk. He was CONVINCED I had done it on purpose!! It might look like it was one of the biggest Freudian slips of all times, but it wasn’t. It was honestly the FIRST name I heard. He’ll read this and still want me to change it!!!
The recordings dragged on till February of 92’. Just before the record was finished I wrote Townshend a letter explaining what I went through. You see, when he and I had talked before he told me about how hard it was to make “concept” records. But he didn’t tell me everything. I later found he had a breakdown recording one of their records. That’s exactly what happened to me.
It’s difficult to explain the toll that mental exhaustion and pressure can take on somebody. I was not doing just a record, I was attempting something really ambitious and by virtue of it being a “concept” I was announcing to the whole world…Hey…this is Special!!
If I succeeded the world would revere it and put it on a pedestal. But if I failed, the press would publicly dismember me piece by piece!!! If it failed there was a pretty good chance my career would be over. I’d already spent all the money I had building that studio and making the record.
Even my own label didn’t want me to make this record. They thought that “concept” records were out of date. I wrote “Chainsaw Charlie” about the head of the label because he lied to me!
I was literally standing at a Crap Table and rolling the dice with my life!!
Twice during the making of the record I woke up in the middle of the night sweating and standing up (not sitting up) in the bed!!
The last month we were mixing I was in the studio lounge waiting for the engineers to call me to hear the mix they were working on. I was looking at a magazine and in it was a picture of the earth (taken from the moon) where it looks like a big blue marble. I thought, “what’s holding the earth in its rotation”? My mouth went dry and I felt like my soul was slipping out of my body. It was terrifying!! I found out later I was having a severe anxiety disorder, but really, I was cracking up. It got worse. For months later, even when we got on tour, I couldn’t look up in the sky for fear either the earth, or I was going to slip out of it’s rotation. I was latter told by a doctor that this is one of the more terrifying disorders a person can have. The only way I could deal with it was to self medicate… with Vodka. I needed real professional help but there was no time. The record was finished and now it was time to go on tour.
I had mentioned my Mother earlier. The relationship that Jonathan had with his Mother in the story was based somewhat on the relationship I had with my Mother, but not entirely. I know she loved me.
Although it was not my intention, I had started to become that character “Jonathan”. He was not based on myself, or anyone in particular. He was a combination of a lot of guys I had seen in Rock and Roll. Put them all together and he’s what you get. He’s a sad, sad story that’s happened dozens of times and will unfortunately continue to happen in this business of music.
But I had become a victim of my own creation!!
I was in the U. K. working on the video’s when the single “Chainsaw Charlie” went straight in the English charts at #9. Bryan Adams had the #1 single in the world with the Robin Hood soundtrack “Everything I do”.
WOW, I can only imagine how wonderful it would have been to enjoy it…if I could have only been there!!!
More Next Month
W.A.S.P. "30 Years Of Thunder" - Part Eleven
“LONG LIVE, LONG LIVE THE KING OF MERCY”
Before the release of the “Idol” I went on a 2 and a half month World promotional tour. In that time I did over 800 interviews. That’s 15 interviews a day for 2 and a half months. It went all through Europe, Japan, Korea, South America and the U. S. I was crazy before it started so you can imagine what I was like when it was over. NOW it’s time to go and do the real tour!! Basically I did a tour so I could go do a tour!!
The first show was the Manheim “Monsters of Rock” in Germany but I had to go back to London first for a few days before to do a limited edition signing of 5000 copies of the “Crimson Idol”. It took about 3 days to do it and when I was finished I felt like something was physically wrong. I started getting chills and a fever and so I doctor was called to my hotel room. He examined me and said: “well, I don’t know what you’ve got, but I examined Michael Jackson 2 days ago and both of you’ve got the same thing”!! As a side note, Jackson was playing 2 nights at Wembley in London and he canceled both shows. A couple of days later I would understand why. Now this was on Wednesday and the Manheim show was on Saturday. The doctor gave me 3 pills and told me to take 1 on Thursday, 1 on Friday and a special one to save and take on Saturday. Later that night I started throwing up and ached and shook all over. Thursday morning I woke up and could not stand up. Every time I’d try to stand up I fall back down. I’ve had the flu like everybody else, but I can assure you, this was not the flu. I just kept thinking about what the doctor said, “I don’t know what you got”, and I’m thinking I don’t know what I’ve got either but this is worse than ANYTHING I’ve ever
Friday rolls around and I still can’t stand up. I called the doctor back and told him what was happening and he said, “don’t worry, what I gave you will kill an elephant, and besides, that last pill I gave you will get you through ANYTHING”!! Man, when I wrote about “Dr. Rockter” I didn’t think I’d be meeting for real so soon!
Saturday morning comes and I was at least able to stand but I felt like hell. I’ve now got to try to get from London to Manheim. We get to the airport and take off but when we try to land in Frankfurt the airport is congested and we had to circle the airport for over an hour. The doctor had told me to take that one last mystery pill 2 hours before show time. I took it while we were still in the air not knowing we would have to circle for so long. Manheim is normally about an hour and a half from Frankfurt so when I took the pill the timing should have been fine. Remember I have NO IDEA what this thing is going to do to me. By the time we landed I feeling NO pain. It got worse form there. I was basically getting numb. We were very late landing so the driver got me into the car and took off. I looked over his shoulder at the speedometer and he was doing 220 Klm/h. I was so loaded I didn’t even care!! He got me there in about 45 minutes.
By the time I got there I was a total mess. It wasn’t a good kind of high. I was hallucinating and couldn’t hardly see anything. We finally got out on stage and I remember getting close to the edge of the stage and thinking, “whatever you do, DON’T WALK OFF THE EDGE”. It was scary because I actually thought it might be something I couldn’t stop myself from doing. It was now about 3 hours after I took that pill and the longer it went the worse it got. Everything went in slow motion and was really distorted. It was like a bad nightmare. I stared at the floor the whole time we were up there. We got into the 4th song and I finally looked up and saw the crowd for the first time. 180,000 people there and I haven’t seen them for the first 20 minutes. I remember looking up and thinking, “wow, look at all these people”!! That’s the last thing I remembered from that show.The very last thing I remembered that day was getting back to my hotel room. I got in the bed and started sweating shook uncontrollably. I woke up the next morning and the bed was soaked with sweat. I actually felt a little better. That was the first show of that world tour.
It could only get better from there!!!
The rest of the tour went pretty well and we finished in Japan. I came home and thought, “OK, what now”? I was living at the Hyatt House in Hollywood at the time and my room was on the top floor overlooking Sunset Blvd. I walked out on the balcony and sat there for a few minutes. It was about 11PM. The more I sat there the more of an overwhelming sadness started to come over me. I thought about everything I’d been through making the record then doing the tour and all it had taken out of me. I had started living through that character of Jonathan for 3 years now and it all came crashing down on me like an avalanche. I stood on the balcony and looked out at the city and started screaming and crying. I was screaming as loud as I could. For about 10 minutes I was completely hysterical. It’s a wonder someone didn’t call the police. I’m sure it must have sounded like somebody was being murdered. A few minutes later I finally started to calm down. It was a total catharsis. I later understood I was exorcizing those demons right then and there. I sat there for the next few hours and it hit me. Part of what I was going through was coming to the realization that I was coming to the end of a journey. A journey where I had not just become close to that character…I was living that character!! As tormented and flawed as he was I came to love him… and now I was having to let him go!!!
It took me a long time after that to truly understand why so many people felt so passionate about that record. I didn’t understand, they could see that story the same way I did. You see, I was so close to it I thought no one could ever see it the same as I did because in my mind I had made it so complex. But in the end it was simple…. It was just a kid looking for love.
I still sometimes look back on him. It’s like thinking about an old friend. He changed my life forever…and for the better!!!
More next month
W.A.S.P. "30 Years Of Thunder" - Part Twelve
“A REAL HARD RIGHT”
I was in Arizona in early 95’ inspecting a property I was going to buy. It burned down 3 days before the escrow closed. So…California here I come!!! I had just finished “Still Not Black Enough”, but I had a real hard time finishing it. I was suffering from “PCI” syndrome. Meaning “Post Crimson Idol” syndrome. It’s a common thing that happens to a lot of artists when they do a really good piece of work. They start to think that there is no way they can either equal or go beyond the last thing they did. It happens all the time. I’ve known guys that have had #1 records suffer from the same mental block thinking that they will never equal that success again. Before I started “Still Not Black Enough” I found I had NO desire to even pick up a guitar. For 6 months I’d walk by one and to me it might as well have been a rattlesnake. I just couldn’t touch it. When I thought I was going to buy a place in Arizona I went back out there. I developed a problem with my back one day so I went to see a chiropractor. He fixed my back and we talked for a few minutes and he asked what I did for a living. This has happened all my life. People will look at me and they know I ain’t no banker so inevitably the questioning starts and they wanna know who or WHAT I am. So I told him who I was, and he asked how things were going and I had told him I thought I had a mental writing block. It turned out this doctor also had a background in psychology. He questioned me a little more about this so called “writersblock”. The more I talked about it the more I came to understand.
I didn’thave “writers block”. I had “fear block”!! This happens to some guys when after they have had a big success with a record, they become fearful (bordering on paranoia) that they’ll never again equal it or surpass it. We talked about it for about an hour. In a few minutes after I left his office I was driving down the street and I caught myself playing drums on the steering wheel while I was listening to the radio. This was something I had not done for years!!
You see, the joy of music came back to me once I discovered that I was not suffering from writers block and I didn’t hate my guitar. I was terrified I could not ever again equal what I had done with the “Crimson Idol”. In short, it was the fear of failure. This is why some guys take forever to make records. Subconsciously, they reason that if you don’t write then you can’t fail. The real problem is, doing nothing for this reason is the biggest failure of all. When I finally came face to face with that idea, I was then free. I consider myself very fortunate to have had this revelation. Some artists never will.
While I was in Arizona I went to a local club to see Slash. The day after the show I was driving around and on the radio a DJ came on and said: “Last night I was down at the Slash show”. “The show was cool and there were some celebrities at the show last night”. He went on and said, “Rob Halford and Blackie Lawless was there”. In a real snotty tone in his voice he said: “Hey Blackie, what are you doing now”? As if to say: are you alive or is your career dead!!
I sat there and it felt like somebody kicked me in the stomach. This was 95’ and grunge was really the flavor of the month. I went to see Maiden a month earlier in L.A. and they were playing a 1500 seat place. That’s how bad it got. Grunge got so big there was a time a lot of us thought that maybe it was all over for all of us. Looking back, had W.A.S.P. not recorded “The Headless Children” when we did, we would have gone down with all of the rest of the bands that died in the 80’s.
So I sat there in the car, mad, angry and out of my mind!!
I got on the phone and told my assistant….call Holmes…I’m coming home tonight!!!
I had already been thinking for a few months about calling Chris to see if he was interested in doing something again. I had heard that he was divorced from Lita.
A few days later he and I met for the first time in almost 6 years. We spent about 2 weeks just talking and trying to get to know each other again. A lot had happened in those 6 years and we had both changed as people. After about a month we thought it might work again. It was now August of 95’ and at this time there were no reunions planned for any bands yet. I knew Kiss had been talking about it but at that time Ace told me he had NO desire to do a reunion. After the two of us stated working I read Marilyn Manson had said in an interview that he thought Chris and I got back together because of his success. Honestly, when Chris and I started talking again, we had NO idea who he even was!!
So Chris and I go to work crafting what would eventually become “KFD”. It took about a year to put it together and by the time we were finishing we started thinking seriously about putting a band together. I had Stet on drums from the “Idol” tour, but we needed a Bass player. Chris said he had met a guy that might be able to do it. It was Mike Duda!! He was young and cocky…just what we needed!!! Plus he could play and perform his butt off!! The show we put together was a monster and it was NOT for the faint of heart!
Rod had not yet seen the show and I remember him coming to see us in Nottingham. The next night he wanted to go out to dinner. We got to the restaurant and he says, “you know, the show started great. You opened with all the old stuff, and for the first 30 minutes it was fantastic”!! He goes on: “but then somewhere after the first 30 minutes the lights went out and the show got real dark…. and then it took a real HARD RIGHT”!!!!
I laughed and disagreed with him. He told me: ”you don’t need any of those theatrics… the songs are all you need…those songs are strong enough to stand on their own”!!
We went on and finished the tour in Europe. It took me a long time to realize he was right!! To this day the shows are based around the music. The visual theatrics now are built around the music…not the other way around!!!
One thing I’d like to address is the U. S. leg of that tour that we did with Motorhead. A lot has been written about an altercation that happened between Lemmy and myself. There was a lot of tension between the two of us while we were doing the tour and at one point he and I got into a very heated argument. I had known Lemmy for a long time and the problems that him and I were having didn’t make sense. Him and I used to hang out together in night clubs so the goings on during the tour that caused the problems were strange to say the least. A few months after the tour was over I ran into him during the filming of a VH1 special. We talked for a while and discussed what the hell had just happened. Come to find out, somebody booking the tour had told me one thing, and Lemmy said another guy told him completely the opposite concerning how the tour would be run. It made a tour that should have been a lot of fun, be filled with totally unnecessary tension. What happened was these people who booked the tour used both of us to get what they wanted. After him and I talked it out I was REALLY angry at those people. I know I GOT USED!!! Him and I hugged each other and he gave me a call the next day. I’m happy to call him my friend. I wish I could go back and undo everything that happened during that tour!!! As a side note, we were both playing a Festival a couple of months ago in Romania. It was unbelievably HOT that day!!! I went into his dressing room after we finished our show and I told him, ‘Lemmy, whatever you do, you gotta make sure before you go on stage that you’re COMPLETELY hydrated or you’ll pass out”!! He holds up a glass full of Jack Daniels and coke and says, ‘I intend to stay COMPLETELY hydrated out there…as there are MANY, MANY ice cubes in this glass”!!!! All I could do was hang my head and just laugh….that’s the Lemmy I know and Love!!!
Chris and I went on to make a few more records together but honestly, I didn’t feel that he and I were able to capture the magic that we had together in the beginning. In 2000 Darrell Roberts came in on guitar and filled in for
a few more years. He did a good job in that time. It was now time to begin again.
In 2006 W.A.S.P. became the complete unit that it is today. Welcome back Doug Blair!!! Welcome in Mike Dupke!!! And Duda…. well he has the longest running tenure of anyone in this Band besides myself….17 years!!!! It was now time to give birth to the “DOMINATOR”!!!!
More Next Month
W.A.S.P. "30 Years Of Thunder" - Part Thirteen
“ALRIGHT LUKE…TIME TO GET IN THE BOX”
The “Neon God” records had left a bad taste in my mouth. There were some very good songs on both of those records but in my effort to try and better The Crimson Idol I made the story too long and too complicated. It rambled in parts and was incredibly painful to make. There were times I’d even find myself getting lost in the story. So when it was over I told myself NO MATTER WHAT, I’m just going to RELAX and whatever happens on the next record, well, then that’s what will happen….good or not!!!
I refused to beat myself up making records anymore. And astonishingly because of my mind set it came easy. Funny how sometimes when you just get totally fed up with struggling it starts to get easier. That’s what happened with what would become “Dominator”. Duda and I were now the core of the Band and the first thing we needed was a drummer. We met Mike Dupke from the guitarist of Kill Devil Hill, Mark Zavon. We auditioned Mike and the first thing I wanted to hear him do was “The Real Me”. We had auditioned several drummers, many that are now in big name bands and none of them could really play that song. It has a high degree of difficulty and not many can play it. We watched him carefully that night and I knew within the first 2 minutes he was the guy for us. As a rhythm section he and Duda were a perfect fit for each other, both musically and personally.
“Mikey” as we call him, came from a formal background in music. Properly trained and schooled not only in drums but in many forms of classically oriented music. Not since Frankie (Banali) had I worked with a drummer that had his level of understanding not just drums, but music in general. His contributions would prove to be invaluable in the records we would make. After the audition I asked him if he had a job or anything that would prevent him from touring with us. He said, “well I do have a crappy day job right now”. I said, ‘Friday will have to be your last day of work’!!
then asked Doug (Blair) if he was available. As many of you know he had done the “Crimson Idol” tour with us in 92”. Doug has one the greatest senses of melody of any guitar player I know. He’s a good singer so that’s a lot of what gives him that sense of being able to construct memorable and melodic leads. I told David Gilmore once that he was my favorite guitar player and I asked him how he constructed his leads. He said, “I’m a singer, I think like a singer, so the guitar in that sense is really an extension of my voice”. It made perfect sense to me !!
If you listen to the leads Doug has played on “Dominator” and “Babylon” I would say there is not one guitarist in our genre of music that has out performed him on records.
As you probably know, Mike Duda has been in W.A.S.P. longer than anyone except myself. There’s a reason for that. When he first came in the Band he was there mainly for his live performance and his bass playing was excellent. For many musicians the recording studio is another animal altogether. They may be great on stage but cannot develop a true sense of identity in the studio. In other words, find their true style, something that makes them uniquely their own. It took me years to do it. Nobody and I mean NOBODY needs to tell Duda how to perform live….he’s a natural!!
But like myself it took him time to find himself in the studio. He has grown in the studio and I would now put him in the category with anybody working in recording studios today. He also has this great gift of being able to tell me immediately if an idea for a song I’ve come up with is any good or not. He instinctively knows!! But honestly, when we make records now, I will occasionally walk in the studio and see what he’s doing but I basically leave him alone cause I know he knows what he wants to do. Makes life a whole lot easier for me !!!
Now I’ve told you how great they all are (which they are!!)…on to “Dominator”.
If you look closely at what I’ve written here about these guys as musicians you can clearly tell. This is a TRUE BAND. Complete with their own ideas of how to construct their parts. I would say, without a doubt, neither “Dominator” or “Babylon” would have come close to being the records they are without the contributions of every single one of us. Never in my career has this been the case before….EVER!!!
One thing you will notice on the liner notes on “Dominator” is something we give special thanks to called ‘Luke’s Box”. I’m sure many of you in the last few years may have wondered what is “Luke’s Box”. We were making the recording an old abandoned storage container on the property where I was living in at the time. It was in the summer of 06’ and we were having a record setting heat wave in Southern California. It had NO air conditioning and was unbelievably hot in this “steel oven” we were making the record in.
To make things worse, I had to be isolated from the rest of the studio when I was doing vocals so there would be no sound leaking into the vocal tracks. This meant we had to build a box inside another box. Guess who’s in that
box…that’s right…ME!!!! There was an old Paul Newman movie called “Cool Hand Luke”. It was about and old prison camp “chain gang” in Florida in the 1960’s. When any of the prisoners got out of line they put
them in the “box’. Paul Newman was “Luke”. He got put in the box so much they started calling it ‘Luke’s Box”!!
That’s how I felt every time I had to go in that Hell hole and start singing. Hot doesn’t even begin to describe it!! It was absolute MISERY!! After 5 minutes in the “box” I would come out completely soaked from head to toe!! Hence the name “Luke’s Box”!!!
It’s funny now, I go from rehearsing in a freezing meat locker in 82’ to singing inside of a pizza oven. Something in the middle would have been nice!!!
All in all it was one of the greatest times of my life…oh, and the record turned out pretty good too!!!
And for this Band, I say here and now, unapologetically, they are one of the greatest Bands in the World….PERIOD!!!
More Next Month
W.A.S.P. "30 Years Of Thunder" - Part Fourteen
“MY BROTHER WAS THE ONE”
For just a moment I’d like to go back to the “Crimson Idol”. We were playing in Tillburg last night and I got a phone call from my sister Brenda about 6 PM informing me that our brother had passed away. When we look at death we measure it in one or more stages of life. The death of a parent is the death of our past. The death of a spouse or mate is the death of the present. The death of a child is the death of the future, in that their future will now never happen. The death of my brother represents both the past and the present for me. Part of my childhood is now gone as well as the present. He was a mentor to me in my early years. Much of the advice he gave me I still use to this day. As a kid, I admired him more than he would ever know. Doing that show last night was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. When we were at the end of the Crimson Idol part of the show, I looked up at one of the screens just as Jonathan was being laid on the bed. I could not control my emotions anymore and walked to the side of the stage and cried.
My brother in some ways was in the story of the “Idol” in the same ways I guess that all siblings compete for their parents attention. As a writer we draw from all the things around us so it’s understandable that my relationship with him would be in the story to some degree. Me being the younger brother it’s natural to see the older brother as your hero. As a writer I’ve tried to share myself with you all, even the intimate details of my life to give you a better understanding of who I am so you can better see the man behind the lyrics.
The “Idol” was ultimately a story about love. I write this to say, if there is someone in your life you need to tell that you love them….don’t wait.
In Memory of Clifford L. Duren
More next month
W.A.S.P. "30 Years Of Thunder" - Part Fifteen
“My Cup Runneth Over”
In writing these stories in the past year it’s given me time to think about many, many things I just have not had time for in the last 30 years. To really review events that happened so long ago, took a lot of jarring my memory because I’ve been so busy in the “now”, I really never took the time to put it all in perspective, like I’ve been able to in writing all of this over the past 15 months. It has truly been a joy in a lot of ways looking back on the career of this Band. Some memories where painful, but there’s been a whole lot more good than bad. There are a number of people I have not mentioned in these stories that were invaluable in the formation of this Band over the years, and I’d like to say a little something about them now. A name you have seen on every album we’ve made is Mike Solan. He’s the bartender in the “Blind in Texas” video. He’s also the voice on the album in “Texas” playing the bartender saying: “We got no more liquor”, and: “Split goofball!” It is also him introducing us on “Live in the Raw”. I met him from Ace back in the 70’s and he’s been the best friend anyone could ask for. After I got to know him, Ace asked me how the 2 of us were getting along and I said: ‘Great!’. Ace said: ”He’d give you the shirt off of his back, wouldn’t he!” and I said: ‘Yes he would’. I can say here and now, without his help in the early days, this Band would have never happened!! Johnny Allan has been associated with us in one way or another for it seems like forever. He’s been tour manager, band wrangler, psychiatrist and great friend for more years than I’d like to remember. Between us and “Maiden” I’m sure we’ve all taken years off of his life, but I’m also sure there’s nobody he’d rather have done it with!!
No matter what may have happened over the years, Chris Holmes has left his mark on me. I guess any creative duo probably has somewhat of a ‘lovehate’ relationship. Ours was no different. Whatever he does in life, I wish him the best and truly, all happiness.
Several stories back I mentioned someone named “Kirk”. His name is Kirk Stites and he too was another one of those people that without him, things may have turned out very different. It was his father’s wood working shop where he and I built all those early props we used in the early stage shows. The same place I came up with this incredibly insane idea to try and wear a sawblade on my crotch. It was Kirk and another one of our crew, John Pritchard, that jumped in front of me to protect me the first time I got shot at. That level of guts and dedication from those 2 is incredibly rare. I’ll never forget that night!!! Thank You Guys !!!
It was Russell Wallace who was my assistant for the first 13 years and did every tour in that time. He served us well!! Thank You for all your many years.
Dan Biechele started with us in 1996. He ran my life for the next 7 years. It’s not an easy job. I’m no different than any other creative person and ALL creative people can be a handful!! You did good bud!!
Thanks to each and every one of you, I’m a better person for having known you all !!
Some of you may have noticed. Over the last several tours, we no longer play “Animal-F like a Beast”. I’d like to address that now.
I became a Born Again Christian when I was 11 years old. All throughout my teens I went to church. Nobody made me go, I went because I wanted to. As I got into my later teens I started to become driven by my own ego but also I felt like something was missing. I felt like I was being indoctrinated by other people’s thinking. In other words I was listening to “the Gospel According To Them”. I thought in many ways it was hypocritical and I became really confused.. So I left the church, and for years I went as far away as you could go. I even studied the occult. Now where I come from, that’s a million miles away from the church!! After about 3 years I stopped messing around with all that ‘magic junk’ because I realized I was swapping one form of religion for another. I’ll explain more later.
So I left that and started down a path that would take me the next 20 years to figure out. In that time circumstances happened where someone was trying to really hurt my father. These people were in effect, attempting to take away everything in the world he had. Not just his money, but his dignity. They were also trying to publicly humiliate him. This I could NOT stand by and just watch. After repeated attempts to try and get these people to go away, they WOULD NOT LISTEN!! I was in the middle of making an album when a decision had to be made that would change my life. I had put into motion a plan to go after the main person responsible for all of this misery to my father. After several months it came to a point where a decision had to be made and I was to make that phone call to make that plan happen. Everything was ready to go, all I had to do was make that call. It was on a Sunday night, 9:30 in the evening. I was driving and stopped at a stoplight. I DID NOT want to make that phone call!! I sat there at that stoplight. I slowly started to do something I had not done for 20 years,…. I started to pray. I asked God to “take this cup from me, for I DO NOT want it”. I truly did not want to be responsible for that persons ‘blood on my hands’. If you’ve ever loved someone so much (which I do my father) then I hope you can understand how desperate I had be come. I think though, most people, if they’re pushed far enough can become capable of doing things they would never even think of. This is where I was. The next morning the phone rang about 10 AM. It was my father’s lawyer. He says: “I don’t know what you did to these people but they are dropping EVERYTHING against your father”. I laid there in the bed….stunned!!! No phone call was made, no threats were attempted against them. I did do something to them alright….I PRAYED!!!!!
Over the next few years I started slowly coming back to my faith to where I am now.
I Thank God for that miracle!!
But that wasn’t the only thing that happened. There were many, many other things, although seemingly not as dramatic to the outside world, but nonetheless, really important to me that slowly started bringing me back to my Christian faith. I then realized, in all those years I was going around thinking I was mad at God because what I had referred to earlier as hypocrisy in the church. Then I realized, I was not mad at God, I was mad at MAN!! Mad at all the indoctrination BECAUSE, I was not thinking AND reading the Bible for myself!!! So that’s what I started doing. I’m much, much happier now because I’m truly at peace.
I don’t want to preach to anyone here. I’m just sharing with you what happened to me. If you’ve ever read any interviews I’ve done you know I’ve said over and over again, THINK FOR YOURSELF and, the person you are today IS NOT the person you will be 5 years from now. As far as faith goes, things you may not even want to think about now, may become a huge part of your life latter on down the line. It was for me!!
I mentioned studying the occult earlier. This is something I’d like to address, as in this genre of Metal Music there are a phenomenal amount of references to the occult. What seems harmless on the surface can sometimes have tragic consequences. One thing I’ve learned from both my faith (and life in general) is that there are only 2 forces in this world. They are either positive or negative, and there is NOTHING in between. Some refer to them as either good or evil. Whatever you wish to call it, that’s the ONLY two choices we have in life. In my time studying the occult I found it to be incredibly destructive because you’re dealing with a negative force. I had a friend of mine who came to me and asked if he could use some of the occult symbols I had used in the group Sister. They were symbols that we used in our logo and he wanted to know if I was going to use them anymore and if not, could he use them. I told him that I would never again use those symbols and that he could use whatever he liked, BUT, it was important for him to understand what he was dealing with and the power behind that negativity. He said “he did not care”, and I said ‘OK, but you’ve been warned, because nobody messes with this stuff without paying the price’. But he used those symbols anyway and his band would go on to become one of the biggest rock bands in the world, BUT, devastating tragedy followed them from the very beginning and continued throughout their entire career. The famous blues guitarist Robert Johnson wrote a song called “Crossroads” where he sold his soul to the devil for fame. I don’t need to exaggerate here. Stories like this have been told a million times…..and for good reason!!!
Just something for you to think about. Try it on….see if it fits!!
It’s been a strange journey, this crazy life of mine. In the song ‘My Way’ Frank Sinatra says, “regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. That sums up pretty well how I feel about my life.
I look back on a couple of my ancestors and wonder what they thought about their lives in relationship to their fame. My great, great Grandfather was General Sam Houston. For those of you outside the U. S. he was one of the founders of the Republic of Texas before it became a state. It’s where the city of ‘Houston’ gets its name. My great Grandfather too, was an artist. He painted the first Coca-Cola sign. It’s the trademark logo you now see EVERYWHERE! Anywhere I go in any part of the world I can see his work. I must say it makes me proud. I often times think about what they may have thought concerning the things they accomplished and the fame they acquired. I do not see myself with their level of notoriety but I do feel that sometimes I can get a glimpse of what they may have been thinking.
I’ve spent much of my career asking the same question, and it’s what I believe creates the single greatest bond between me and all of you which is: “who am I, and where am I going”? Even from the beginning I was asking with ‘I Wanna Be Somebody’ and then “Who am I” in the “Invisible Boy’. I believe it’s that ONE common thread why W.A.S.P. fans are attracted to my writings. You can see this question is asked on every album we ever made.
It’s all about the journey. The quest if you like!!
For me….I’ve found it. I hope you can too!
So for now, this journey has come to an end. It’s been a privilege sharing all this with you over the last year or so. Some people still ask me, “hey, why don’t you write a book”? Well, in some ways here I have. Honestly, to go any further into detail of other peoples lives (which is what you have to do to write a book) is not something I’m interested in because it could possibly end up hurting them. I figure, if it’s anybody you’d be interested in reading about anyway, then they can write their own book and tell you whatever sordid, intimate details they want you to know about themselves!!
I now find myself asking what the next 30 years will bring? What will be next? How long will it last?
God ONLY knows…. And I figure, He’ll let me know when He’s ready!
Take Care and God Bless You All!!!!