Blackie Lawless Renounces His Past Sins

Blackie Lawless:
Redeemed from raunchiness?

This past Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of the PMRC hearings in Washington. As part of a story I wrote for New York Magazine’s website about the infamous Senate hearings on obscenity in popular music, I interviewed W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless about the PMRC, censorship and his band’s notorious single “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)”. Many of his answers were quite intriguing, especially as I had not interviewed him in a decade and immediately recalled his crazed stage shenanigans from the mid-1980s, including tossing raw meat into the audience, pouring blood on himself from a skull and displaying a bound and gagged woman on a torture rack. It’s amazing to think that he got away with more on stage back then than rockers do today.

While Lawless told me that while he felt giving parents a heads up as to what their kids are listening to is a good idea, he felt that the PMRC hearings were actually held to elevate the profile of then Senator (and future Vice-President) Al Gore. “At the time he was just a Southern political caricature seeking higher office and nobody knew who he was,” recalled Lawless. “The kids already new who we were, so what better way for them to get attention than to go after an attention getter. Joe McCarthy and Nixon both did it with their communist witch hunts in the 1950s. Champion a cause and reap the votes, it’s a tried and true formula, although history shows it does not always yield the desired results. This all became abundantly clear to me when a defector from Susan Baker’s office played me a tape of a group meeting of the PMRC members, and on it was Tipper Gore and Susan Baker telling the others the plan of how to elevate their profile. It was stunning!”

“In the last 50 years we’ve crossed a vast chasm from Elvis to the Ultimate Fighting Pay Per View. All of it is Shock Rock.”

Lawless later sued the PMRC for copyright infringement. And won. He says in her 1987 book Raising PG Kids in an X Rated Society, Tipper Gore reprinted some of his lyrics and changed some of the words “to try to better make her case against me,” he explained. “Like I needed any [help]. We gave her an ultimatum; either a public apology or a lawsuit. She came out to L.A. some time later and did a press conference and apologized to the whole record industry, so we let it go. Truth be told, she apologized because of the negative publicity the PMRC was putting on Al in his bid to become President.”

W.A.S.P. circa 1984.

“Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)” was clearly the filthiest of the PMRC’s “Filthy Fifteen” list, and while it certainly caused a stir at the time, the W.A.S.P. frontman now regrets it, especially as he has renewed his religious faith. “Words are the most powerful things we possess,” stressed Lawless. “They shape our very lives and determine who and what we are. Some may find it remarkable, but I was born again when I was 11 years old. I was very active in my church until I was 18, and when I left the church, I went about as far away as a person could go when I then studied the occult for three years. I wrote that song a couple of years after I stopped that study. I went for 20 more years before I returned to my Christian faith, which is where I am now. That song was put into my life for a reason. I was talking to Alice Cooper, who is also born again, earlier this year, and we both feel the same about our early work. Although a lot of the music we did early on was as diametrically opposed to the way we had been brought up, a lot of the early songs we did were laced with those Christian valves. He and I were talking and said, all we need now is Marilyn Manson and we could start a band. The world would never believe it! I said all that to say this: I renounce, denounce and pronounce that I will never play that song [‘Animal’] live again. Actually, I’ve not played it live for several years.”

The latest W.A.S.P. album, Babylon.

When asked if he thinks that rock stars can be as controversial today when less things are shocking, and when fans often act in equally shocking ways as their idols, he replied: “Sure, people can still be shocked. It all depends how far society degrades itself and then how far bands are allowed to push the limits of what’s considered outrageous. All so-called shock bands are only a reflection of the culture of their time. The degree that people are willing to allow themselves to become desensitized is a direct result of how the sub culture of Shock Rock presents itself. They hold a mirror up to the world and say ‘Take a good look, if you don’t like what you see, don’t blame us.’ Today we like to think of ourselves as modern and cultured and that the days of the Roman Coliseum are over. Are they? In the last 50 years we’ve crossed a vast chasm from Elvis to the Ultimate Fighting Pay Per View. All of it is Shock Rock.”

27 Responses

    • John Poirier

      I was a Metal Head in my teens. My first LP album was KISS Destroyer at age 11. Went from there up until I was 19 when the Lord Jesus Christ saved me. I hated the “born agains” as a Metal Head with their boycotts, and standing against my music at rock concerts. But like Saul of Tarsus I converted and became a Christian myself. Have been one now for 33 years. When I became a believer in Christ I went to STRYPER, Bloodgood, Lightforce, Angelica for my “new” Metal fix. Good for Blackie. I love the guy. I had a WASP album in my B.C. days. They rocked. Now he rocks for the Rock Christ Jesus!

  1. JC

    Born Right the first time. I’m not into Christianity and what it does to people. But I like Blackie anyway. Fear of death can make people take on some strange ideas. Trees die. Plants die. They don’t go to Hell. We die the same. Fear of a hellish afterlife is a man-made concept. But I like Blackie anyway. He’s put out a lot of rocking stuff and I support his right to decide what’s best for himself. I hope his albums remain good though.

  2. Laurel

    Good interview. I don’t understand some so called fans of his who are surprised at what he is now saying. I can remember thinking in those early days: “What has really got at this guy? Was it 1. A strict upbringing or 2. A strict faith? I was thinking that as I really had the impression he was rebelling. It is no surprise to me he is now saying what he is saying. Kids ask a lot of questions about why we die, like the other guy said about the trees, etc.

    I am very happy to read and hear the interviews where he shows concern for the younger audience members. The older ones grew up with him. “WASP” today is a great band, as they were in the past. I look forward to the future, no matter which way he steers the ship. If Blackie ever stumbles, he has a very strong fan base that will catch him. We are worldwide, not all members of W.A.S.P. NATION. I think at times we can be a headache for him, but we love him. He loves us. So sharpen those sawblades and keep rocking, Blackie. 🙂

  3. Bob

    It’s good to hear that Blackie is also a born-again Christian. In reply to JC’s statement “Fear of a hellish afterlife is a man-made concept”. How do you know that? What man came up with that idea and when? I’d really like to know more about that person. It’s easy to say that there isn’t an afterlife, or that we just die “like the trees, etc.,” How would you know that for sure? Knowbody has ever proved it, except for Jesus. He proved that there is an afterlife and we go to either one of two places – Heaven or hell. I would want to know for sure. Wouldn’t you?

  4. Denny

    It’s really sad to hear that Blackie is a Christian. I really don’t understand someone who managed to throw off the shackles willingly returning to them. I agree with JC’s comment about supporting his right to believe as he wishes, but it saddens me when a musician that I looked up to as writing songs based on rational thought renounces his words – I lose a little respect for anyone who does that…

  5. KP

    I grew up in a very abusive religious environment in the 1970s and early ’80s. As a teenager, it was very therapeutic for me to rock out to Blackie’s raunchy lyrics. Blasting songs like “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast),” “Ballcrusher,” and “King of Sodom and Gomorrah” was part of my way of striking back at my tormentors. Unlike other things I did back then, it was a form of rebellion that was merely symbolic and wasn’t genuinely destructive. I’m very glad that rebel-rock bands like W.A.S.P., Motley Crue and AC/DC were there for me all those years ago.

    Given what Blackie meant to me in the past, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat disappointed by the route he has chosen for himself more recently. When I was younger, I would have thought he was a traitor who went over to the camp of the enemy. Now, as a much older and mature person, I understand that’s silly. Rock stars are just fictional personas that fans live through vicariously. Whoever and whatever Blackie is in his personal life is his business. It would be ridiculous to expect a man who’s well into his 50s to play the part of the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll rebel forever. I don’t agree with the views he has today. I think Christianity is a false religion and something to be shunned. It sounds like he and I had similar upbringings. He deals with all of that one way, and I deal with it in another way. That’s all that needs to be said.

    Thank you, Blackie, for being there for me all those years ago. A very troubled time in my life would have been more difficult without you. Best of luck in your future endeavors, Blackie.

  6. PiercingMetal Ken

    Great interview and amusing to discover how much of a secondary motive that whole PMRC had in its design back then. It shouldn’t have surprised me and fortunately for me and many of my friends, Tipper’s selections and choices didn’t affect my music purchasing as I was already old enough to not have to run them by my parents. In the end I think the stickers offered the record industry some sure fire sellers based on the expected controversy.

    I guess I was not all that surprised when I learned that Blackie had converted to Born Again Christianity since both Dave Mustaine and Alice Cooper had taken that route already with their lives. I guess what it all amounts to is their belief that this “does it” for them, and that all their past doings are absolved and they now have a clean slate. Personally I never bought into that and feel that no matter what we say down here on this plane, we shall answer for in the great hereafter (in whatever that actually is). I wish him well since he is a musician I admired and whose shows I enjoyed for many, many years. It’s all dependant on the actions one takes, as I have witnessed even the most pious of individuals become disappointments to their friends and families and remain ok with it since they were now “one with God”.

    I would love to see that older interview Bryan, any chance it becomes content on your blog like this one?

  7. Damien

    I am glad when bands get born again. I can relate to what they have been through. I am a born again Christian and I know for a fact that there is a Heaven & Hell. I was into Satanism when I was a teen and I had all kinds of Satanic stuff including the Satanic bible. I asked Satan to take my soul on night and I felt as though I was losing control of myself. Started with a really warm feeling going up my legs and into my chest, I got scared and cried out to Jesus and the feeling left the same way it came in. I know for a fact that I would have been dead that night or something else would have happened. If you don’t believe in Christ I would strongly re-consider. Once your dead its to late and you will live in Hell/torment for eternity. I pray that you receive Christ before it’s too late.

  8. DD

    Thanks Blackie. It takes a REAL man to admit that there is something more than this world. God Bless you. I’ve always loved the music even though I didn’t always agree with the lyrical content. I respect you more now than ever for standing up and not being afraid to say what you feel. Been a fan since 1984 and always will be

  9. windsongj

    i am a christian and was very happy to see blackie has come home. one day we will meet in heaven. i pray for him everyday. to be strong and walk with jesus love your sister in chirst

  10. Michelle Stewart

    Good on your BLACKIE, go for gold, I’ll always be 100% your loyal fan here in New Zealand. Your latest CD really kicks some serious ass, and I’ll admire you ’till the day I die. Blackie, you are awesome.

  11. ned morlef

    I grew up with this music, and I too thought I was ten foot tall and bullet proof. We all mature and realize that there is more to life. It’s good to see guys still in the public eye that have everything this world has to offer and realize that they were fools. Many just drop out so that their image doesn’t take a hit and they keep making money off of that stuff. I will every now and then pull out the old rock and listen, but it doesn’t have the same appeal. I still like to rock, but I have turned more to Christian metal and rock where the message and music is as good or better than all the atheistic hedonism that nearly killed me. Thanks Blackie for speaking up.

  12. Ramon Ruenes

    I never would have guessed back when I first started listening to WASP in the mid 80s (when The Last Command was new) that Blackie Lawless would be proclaiming himself a born-again Christian 30 years later. This comes as quite a pleasant surprise to me, one I’d like to see repeated by my other longtime heavy metal heroes.

    I’m not sure what Blackie’s politics are now, his endorsement of McCain in 2008 only made it clear to me that Blackie is pro-2nd Amendment, but regardless, it would truly come as a shock to the mainstream media as well as to the metal subculture in general if someone like Blackie not only identified as a born-again Christian, but as, say, an anti-gay/evolution/environmentalism/abortion/socialism right winger. That would surely generate outrage which would dwarf, by several orders of magnitude, that feigned by the PMRC back when it was scapegoating heavy metal in an attempt to bolster Al Gore’s public profile.

  13. Stephen Dobson

    I was greatly amazed to hear of Blackie Lawless returning to his Christian roots. I grew up in the 80’s when Metal Ruled the world! I was so happy and excited to hear of Blackie’s return to Christ. A friend on facebook from Australia and I were chatting one day and he told me of this. He posted the song ‘Babylon’s Burning’ to my page. I was Awestruck to say the least. I always loved WASP back in the day, yet wasn’t into their “message” at the time. I gave my life to Christ when I was around 16 years of age. I had always prayed for the bands I loved to eventually see the Light. This is living proof that God answers prayer. Now let’s get Ozzy on the right track as well. He also was one of my all time favorites. Godspeed to all of you!

  14. niles

    Thank God…Blackie has finally turned to Christ. I too was a hard rocker & listened to WASP, Crue etc until i found Christ. For all you naysayers, Christ changed my life too. Don’t knock Jesus Christ until you accept Him as Blackie has.

  15. Todd

    google “end time prophecies in the bible” and read thru them, I don’t dare u I urge u. Only sinners go to church so ur not alone.

  16. tim

    Thank you for shareing this inspiring story,there will never be any one like Mr.Lawless he will always be the most gifted rocker that ever lived.I am a christian and after I got saved I no longer followed w.a.s.p but it will remain my all time favorite band,,,

  17. Hey Sid

    I think that it is pretty huge for Blackie to “come out” like he did, I’m sure knowing full well how many of his fans would disagree and probably mock his newfound faith. I wouldn’t consider myself religious, but I honestly need to say that this interview made me think a bit about the legitimacy of what he is believing in. Blackie is no fool, and in fact has been widely known as one of the most intelligent and shrewdest men in rock.

  18. rob h

    I’m glad that Blackie Lawless has joined the ranks of the Christian brotherhood. That’s how my GOD rolls!!! Spit in the devil’s eye and remind him that one day he himself will one day be on his knees proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ! Keep the faith Blackie, the Lord’s got your back!

  19. Andrew

    I’m a former athiest who has been aChristian for many years. I always find it odd when people think we’re trying to work our way to heaven or living our lives the way we live to escape hell. To tell you the truth it’s not something I think about too much. Christ frees us from trying to please God through our own works by just receiving it all as a free gift. However I feel very compelled to submit my life to the Holy Spirit. Not out of fear but with the knowledge that a life submitted to the Spirit will affect people in a way I alone never could, not just right now but for generations. Looking around at this lost generation I see how poor decisions can have negative consequences for generations. That’s what motivates me, not heaven or hell.

  20. Danelle Joy

    Throwing off the shackles is actually what happens when you accept Christ. If you are not at that point, it all seems more or less foolish bullsh*t (but neither I nor anyone else on this earth can say whether or not you will eventually do so) and all the negativity should not surprise or upset the Christians, hello, it is written this is how it would be! Crazy to watch things happen, as Johnny Cash (RIP) sang “it’s goin’ by the Book” So laugh it up, haters gonna hate, hopefully some day you will come to the knowledge of the truth that sets you free. Love and metal to all and to all a good night 😉

  21. handsomelustrousblackladbrady

    Strange how this racist,talentless a**hole claims to be a Christian,yet he’s made all sorts of bigoted remarks about former President Obama. What a freakin’ hypocite!!!!(Lawless’ uncle,Ryne Duren,was a wild,100 mph-throwing MLB reliever when I was a little kid.)

  22. Josh E

    Hi, I was wondering if it would be ok if I translated this article for my blog, I would of course credit you as the original writer as well as adding a link back to here.

    Please let me know.

    Best regards.


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