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W.A.S.P.’s Blackie Lawless and Chris Holmes in their only “Night Flight” interview, late 1984
W.A.S.P. were sixteen days away from beginning their first North American tour (supporting Krokus) and riding high as the next big thing in hard rock. Their self-titled, debut Capitol Records album was generating a lot of attention in the rock press and the band seemed like a post-apocalyptic, next generation KISS, just tailor-made for the 1980s MTV generation. Only one problem…MTV wasn’t really playing W.A.S.P.’s first video, “I Wanna Be Somebody.”
With a quick flip of the analog cable box’s dial to the USA Network, metal fans were more likely to catch both “I Wanna Be Somebody” and the group’s second video, “L.O.V.E. Machine,” on “Heavy Metal Heroes,” the oft-forgotten, in-house “Night Flight” series.
Furthermore, the aforementioned show’s weekly segment “Heavy Metal News” often included W.A.S.P. tidbits, including the announcement that original drummer Tony Richards had been replaced by Steven Riley.
That was “Night Flight,” somehow always knowing just what the fans want and then giving it to them. Case in point, the uncensored edit of “L.O.V.E. Machine” — which aired only on “Heavy Metal Heroes” (just three times) and has since been banned by both the label and the group — featured Blackie violently shoving a young woman into a clear chamber of water, in a simulated drowning. You certainly didn’t see that on MTV or any other video outlet in North America…till this day, just “Night Flight.”
Surprisingly, the clip was created by famed horror director Rick Rosenthal (Halloween II, Bad Boys). Here’s the censored version:
Blackie Lawless, the voice and face of W.A.S.P. for four decades, was already 28-years old when he and his fellow, mostly silent, bandmate Chris Holmes taped their lone “Night Flight” appearance on November 8, 1984.
Ever the thinking man’s musician, Blackie, sometimes comes off smug and pompous during interviews; almost as if he is just too smart for his own good. However, this 36-minute taping is the first time Lawless had an opportunity to speak on national TV in the U.S. and he is engaging, excited, and even downright charming. (One telling Freudian slip occurs when he mentions “one of the guys on my road crew.” Shouldn’t he have said “our” guys?)
Holmes is so green that he becomes nervous and gets visibly concerned when told that he will be taping three ID’s. Both Holmes and Lawless over-prepare and worry about the wordings to the point that they both appear uncomfortable. And then…once they start to speak, the guys come alive with cliché heavy metal snarl. It works, at least for 1984, and when broadcast in early 1985, these IDs helped to cement W.A.S.P.’s reputation in the U.S.
The interview reveals many previously-unknown (or at least rarely-discussed) W.A.S.P. trivia nuggets:
1) W.A.S.P. filmed a performance of “Tormentor” for inclusion in a 1984 horror movie originally titled Rage Wars. The picture was later re-branded The Dungeonmaster. Blackie attended a screening prior to leaving for the first European tour and they discuss re-editing the performance into a video during the interview.
2) “The Flame” replaced “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)” on the first album when the latter song was deemed too controversial for U.S. retailers. The original intent had been to create side A as an American party album and side B as heavier rock for Europe. This balance was thrown off when “Animal…” was pulled.
3) Although it never came to pass, Blackie wanted to do a second, more US-friendly video for “I Wanna Be Somebody,” as he wasn’t 100% happy with the released version.
4) Chris and Blackie briefly went to Moscow in October 1984 during their first European tour.
5) Lawless attended military school for three semesters and as a direct result (briefly) developed an anti-American attitude.
6) Steven Riley’s first North American performance with W.A.S.P. took place in Winnipeg on November 24, 1984.
“The gods you worship are steel, at the altar of rock and roll you kneel”
W.A.S.P., “Hellion” (1984)