How W.A.S.P.’s Blackie Lawless Went From F–king Like a Beast to Smiting the Beast
In the early days of W.A.S.P., the band's live show got a lot more attention than their music. Buzzsaw codpieces, chunks of raw meat whizzing through the air and girls on onstage torture racks were all hallmarks of the Los Angeles band's controversial stage show. Which isn't to say that their music was tame: "Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)" caught the ears of Tipper Gore and the rest of the PMRC, who then listed the song among their infamous "Filthy 15."
This was all at the height of rock rebellion as the hair metal craze swept the nation, along with the "Satanic Panic" of the '80s that found parental figures pointing fingers at heavy metal and its so-called "fiendish message." W.A.S.P. would eventually rebrand themselves sonically and stylistically, veering away from their shocking live antics and tackling more serious subject matter in 1989 with the release of The Headless Children and three years later, The Crimson Idol, an album many fans feel is their best.
Meanwhile, the band's fearless leader, Blackie Lawless, was enduring a personal battle. Raised in a religious household, he turned his back on the church in his late teens, fleeing his New York home in search of other ventures. Dabbling in the occult, it would be years before he'd return to religion, or "faith" as he prefers to call it, seeking answers on his own terms.
Now, he's a born-again Christian and while speaking to him about the 25th anniversary of The Crimson Idol and its accompanying film, which had previously been unavailable to the public, we discussed his tumultuous relationship with God.
How did you become disenfranchised with the church and religion overall?
I was flat out selfish — I wanted to do what I wanted to do. It’s not as simple as that though. You grow up in the church — I had an uncle that was a preacher, my dad was a Sunday school superintendent, my grandfather was a deacon — so when the doors were open, I was there. When I started getting toward the end of my teens, I started seeing things that weren’t making sense. I started looking at a lot of it as indoctrination, trying to get people to think their way instead of thinking for themselves. That really bothered me so when I left the church I went as far away as you could go — I studied the occult for three years.
At the end of three years I was dating a girl inside this church that we had — it was an occult mass. This girl, a witch, was pretty high up in the church. We were going to to go out one night and I went to her house to get her and she was down on the floor inside a pentagram, which was not a big deal at that time because I had seen it a lot. She was chanting and I knew what she was doing and she asked me to give her a few minutes so she could finish what she was doing. I sat on the couch and waited for her to finish and it hit me when I was watching what she was doing and I thought, “She’s praying.” And I thought, “Well this is no different than what I just left” and it took a moment for that to crystallize in my head. I thought, “She’s just praying to a different entity.”
This was no different than the tyranny I was escaping before. I left that and I went for twenty years after that thinking I was mad at God and I realized one day that I was not mad at God, I was mad at man for the indoctrination that was going on... and bad indoctrination at that.
I had to go find out the truth for myself, so I faced it and started studying. Quite honestly, I was trying to disprove the Bible. And one day I’m reading and I thought, “I’m reading the living word of the living God” and that’s when it hit me. I had to get out from underneath some bad doctrine to go find the truth for myself and that was a long, long journey. I see it all the time — I watch people come from different denominations and their head is all screwed up and they’ve got weird ideas because they’re listening to the ideas of men. You can see for the last 2,000 years, there’s different versions of that all over the place.
There’s different methods of worship — some people will read and worship in private, others in small groups and most attend mass. Which do you prefer?
There’s a church that I attend but before I would go back, I spent probably five or six years on my own studying. To go back into an organized situation — that took a little courage. I had to get into a situation where I studied on my own, felt confident in what I believed that the Lord was saying and then when that happened, I started looking around for like-minded people. The secret for me was to get into stuff that was word-based, non-denominational. I’m not saying it has to be the same for everybody, but I’m not interested in what anybody has to say. If it doesn’t line up with what that written word is, I don’t want to know about it.
I don’t like using the word "religion," but for me it’s not about that, it’s about faith. I had this conversation with Alice Cooper a few years ago and him and I both agreed that if you go back and you look at our early writings, our stuff was laced with it. What you’re doing is you’re trying to break away from that indoctrination until you get your feet firmly planted in what you believe. In the meantime, you’re going to suffer — or at least I did — from doctrine that you discover you don’t agree with.
Is there any sort of atonement you've gone through since restoring your faith in God? You don't play "Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)" anymore.
Once a person has truly repented and comes to true Faith in Christ, there is nothing else that needs to be atoned for. All past, present and future sins have then been immediately forgiven so there’s nothing else that needs to be done, and specifically, nothing else that the individual can do, because that forgiveness is then complete.
It’s not a progressive doctrine as some people believe, where a person needs to keep going back time after time to ask forgiveness for things they’ve done. The Bible says "Christ's blood cleanses us once and for all." So that said, I no longer do songs like ”Animal” because scripture tells us to “Let no corrupt speech come from your mouth” so that’s why I wouldn’t want to do those sort of songs, but it’s certainly not because of any attempted future atonement on my part. That gets done the moment you first come to true repentance.
Someone might ask why dropping the “f-bomb” is such a big deal? Well, if the Ten Commandments tells me not to commit adultery, and I continue using a word that describes that act, then what does that say about my understanding of that Commandment?
Religious issues are often used to push political agendas. Is this diluting the word of God or sending the wrong message?
In America, both political parties are weaponized. You’ve got to be careful because you start putting man into the mix and all kinds of funny things can happen. When you talk about conservative, that’s me. I go back to the basic Judeo-Christian values that our country was brought up on.
I was watching a debate last night and this one Christian apologetic was debating an atheist and it was interesting to watch it, but you have to really know what you’re talking about, because if you don’t, you start getting into the idea of filtering man’s ideas into stuff and when you do that it starts to become skewed, that’s where you get your different denominations.
The greatest advice I can give to anybody is: go study this for yourself. If you put your faith in one party or another, you’re going to be led around by the nose. Political parties are just a different kind of denomination. Everything I’ve been doing is designed to get people to think for themselves.
Grab your copy of 'ReIdolized (The Soundtrack to The Crimson Idol)' at the Napalm Records webstore.
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