|Sunday, Aug 30, 2015, 12:54:20 PM|
Thursday, July 15, 2004
WASP: F-bombs away
Blackie Lawless has a few choice words for bad parents, Tipper Gore
By Newt Briggs
All WASP frontman Blackie Lawless wanted to do was say the word fuck. Actually, it wasn't so much that he wanted to say it, but that he wanted to use it in the title of WASP's debut EP, Animal (Fuck Like a Beast). This, of course, rankled the high-minded bluebloods in the so-called moral majority, and WASP compromised by naming the record Animal (F**k Like a Beast). While this seemed like an adequate concession to Lawless, it did little to placate America's cultural watchdogs--particularly not Parents' Music Resource Center busybody Tipper Gore.
"As the story goes, Tipper was walking down the hall in her house and her 12-year-old son had Fuck Like a Beast playing on his stereo, and she lost her mind," Lawless says. "I don't know if that's true, but that's the story I've been told."
According to Lawless, the problem wasn't just the obscenity, but its uncomfortable proximity to the word beast. "What made our record different was the combination of the words fuck and beast," says Lawless. "You can say them separately, and nobody bats an eye. But put them together, and it conjures up a disturbing image in people's heads. Then they sit there for a second and think, `Oh no, we're not going to have that.'"
Nor were they going to abide by WASP's stage antics, which included mock-executing half-naked women on torture racks, defiling mannequins dressed like priests, chopping up simulated animals and throwing raw meat into the crowd. Lawless even augmented his performance attire with sharpened sawblades, which routinely cut band members and crowd alike.
"We were doing a very avant-garde type of theater called psycho-drama that was coming out of UCLA," Lawless says. "It was based around the idea of taking the actions that were on the stage and putting them in the audience to get the audience involved. Think of it as a kind of primitive interaction. We were looking for anything to bring the audience up onto the stage."
To WASP's detractors, however, it looked like obscenity and gratuitous violence. In 1985, the PMRC--which Lawless has called the "Washington Wives Club"--forced the cancellation of a number of WASP shows. "People looked at it and thought it was just sensationalism for its own sake," says Lawless. "Quite honestly, sensationalism never did squat for us. We were looking for things that we thought were artistically interesting."
Besides, Lawless insists, the PMRC was motivated less by moral imperatives and more by political ambitions. "You wanna talk about sensationalism? This was an organization that was seeking a platform that would help serve its own political interests. They didn't give a damn about censorship. I've spent the better part of my career trying to get people to understand that. This really is not what you think it is. They come to you like the wolf in sheep's clothing and then use you to create a frenzy--not unlike what McCarthy did with the communists and Bob Dole did with rap. This is nothing new."
Ironically, Lawless was one of the few heavy metal firebrands who addressed topics other than the many virtues of the female genitalia and drinking Jack Daniel's from the bottle. A troubled youth himself, Lawless has always confronted issues of adolescence--a thematic path that can be traced from 1992's Crimson Idol to this year's much-ballyhooed Neon God. 2001's "Locomotive Man," for example, explored the mindset of a student preparing to commit a murder at school. Lawless describes it as an effort to promote "social awareness."
"You don't have to be Nostradamus to see what's going on with young people these days," he says. "Parents just don't get involved with their kids as much as they used to. Are you going to tell me that these parents at Columbine didn't know that anything was going on with their kids? Hey, my mother knew what I was doing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But parents now, they don't want to take any responsibility for their children. They bring something into this world, and then when something goes wrong, they want to blame everybody else for it."