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1981 to 1983

W.A.S.P. emerged from the early 80s hotbed of Los Angeles Metal taking the visual theatrics of the genre over the edge thus guaranteeing attention. The band's potential was heightened by outrageous stage shows that had main 6'4" protagonist vocalist / bassist Blackie Lawless involved in the mock torture of a woman bound to a rack onstage, throwing raw meat into the audience - all this whilst wearing a chainsaw codpiece with his arse cheeks on display.

Staten Island, New York native Blackie Lawless (real name Steve Duren), who had first trod the boards with East coast outfits THE UNDERSIDE and BLACK RABBIT, had honed his craft with an inclusion in the NEW YORK DOLLS during their final post Johnny Thunders days. Lawless at this time was operating under the pseudonym of Blackie Gooseman. Lawless then migrated through a series of Los Angeles acts. KILLER KANE, cutting the single 'Mr. Cool', found "Blackie Gooseman" on guitar alongside frontman Arthur Kane, ex-NEW YORK DOLLS bassist, guitarist Andy Jay and drummer Jimi Image (a.k.a. Jimmy Moore). Lawless and Image then evolved the band into SISTER. This unit featured guitarist Randy Shatz and bassist Joey Palemo. Shatz would be superseded by a then 19 year old Chris Holmes, previously with Glendale's BUSTER SAVAGE. This union also fragmented by Lawless located next guitarist in line, Randy Piper, backstage at a KISS Los Angeles Forum concert in September 1978. Hailing from San Antonio, Piper's previous employ had been as a former Disneyland employee and musically with the MICHAEL WHITE fronted L.A. ROX.

The Lawless, Piper, Palemo and Image combo titled itself CIRCUS CIRCUS. Operational on the Los Angeles club circuit between 1979 and 1980, CIRCUS CIRCUS put on over the top stage shows, which include Lawless setting fire to his thigh-high boots. However, Joey Palemo was forced out when he was allegedly shot in the back. At this juncture Blackie Lawless briefly joined LONDON, the latter seeing Lawless alongside future MÖTLEY CRÜE bassist Nikki Sixx for a short period. LONDON live shows at this time included Lawless' songs 'Sweet Dreams', 'Mr. Cool' and 'Harley Heart'.

Ditching LONDON, Lawless set about formulating an all new act, once again with Randy Piper. A succession of bassists and drummers came and went, the proto-W.A.S.P. even at one stage including future GREAT WHITE drummer Gary Holland. eventually Phoenix, Arizona raised drummer Tony Richards, previously a member of DANTE FOX, stabilised the percussion position. The band then drafted Brooklyn native Rik Fox (real surname Sulima-Suligowski) in on bass guitar and shortly after the band switched titles to W.A.S.P. Fox has since claimed this now infamous band title was his invention.

The band set about gigging on the Los Angeles club scene stoking up a fearsome reputation, W.A.S.P.'s first official line-up being Lawless, Piper, Fox and Richards. The band's abbreviated nomenclature of W.A.S.P. also helped fuel the controversy (in the same manner that KISS was supposed to be an abbreviation of Knights In Satan's Service) as Lawless' publicity machine dropped hints that the act's real name was "We Are Sexual Perverts". Bearing in mind the KISS inspirations the growing myth was further cemented by KISS guitarist ACE FREHLEY pitching in to produce the band's first set of demos.

Before long Fox was to leave, joining HELLION briefly, Ron Keel's STEELER, founding SIN, before enjoying a brief tenure with Arizona's SURGICAL STEEL. Don Costa, previously with DANTE FOX, took over the bass position. Costa's tenure was brief as the man joined DAMIEN and then OZZY OSBOURNE for a fleeting if eventful tenure. Piper quit, finding employment at McDonalds, and W.A.S.P. pulled in guitarist Chris Holmes, fresh out of a jail sentence. The guitarist's advert had been spotted in the porn mag 'Hustler'. However, a backstage altercation between Costa and Holmes after a show in Orange County at Radio City results in the bassists departure. Blackie assumed bass duties and in September 1982 W.A.S.P. made a lasting impression at The Troubador by flinging raw meat into the audience. For this gig W.A.S.P. doubled it's guitar arsenal, re-inviting Piper back into the fold.

1984 to 1985

W.A.S.P. would be quickly pulled into the Capitol Records fold and gained the extra boost of signing to the heavyweight management team of Sanctuary Music (responsible for IRON MAIDEN) only to have their projected first single, the controversially titled Mike Varney produced, 'Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)' refused release. The track eventually emerged through the independent label Music For Nations in Britain.

The tough debut album, produced by Mike Varney, provided ample evidence that W.A.S.P., and particularly Lawless, were accomplished songwriters behind the hype. With much of the Los Angeles wave of rock already beginning to slip into mediocrity, W.A.S.P.'s opening gambit took many critics by surprise, high in muscular Metal content and boasting as it did a collection of high quality tracks such as 'L.O.V.E. Machine', 'I Wanna Be Somebody', 'The Flame' and pseudo-ballad 'Sleeping (In The Fire)'. The single 'School Daze' intriguingly hosted a B-side rendition of the ROLLING STONES 'Paint It Black'.

By now the band were sporting sci-fi wasteland warrior stage garb with Piper having to haul various pipework on his back. At frenzied shows in America fans took audience participation to the extremes of throwing real animal offal and pigs heads onstage. W.A.S.P. hit Britain in September 1984 to great anticipation supported by English glam rockers WRATHCHILD. These concerts had W.A.S.P. flanked by two enormous smoke spewing skulls. With many local councils objecting the band's infamous torture rack the accompanying female companion often found herself without any task to perform but Lawless still capped each show by decorating himself in 'blood' poured from a skull. With impact duly made on the UK market, W.A.S.P. engaged in a solid six months of touring North America as support to the undisputed grand masters of theatre rock n' roll - KISS. The tour heralded the appearance of former ROADMASTER, STEPPENWOLF and THE B'ZZ drummer Stephen Riley in place of the ousted Tony Richards. Riley had not long joined KEEL when the job came up. Maintaining their presence on the circuit, W.A.S.P. collaborated with METALLICA and ARMORED SAINT for dates in early 1985. By the close of the tour, W.A.S.P. could look back on US album sales of over half a million copies.

The Spencer Proffer produced 'The Last Command' album caught the band progressing into slightly more refined territory. The material ranged across blatant commerciality to a crop of fan satisfying crotch level cuts such as 'Ballcrusher', 'Jack Action' and 'Sex Drive'. During studio sessions the band would also tackle MOUNTAIN's seminal 'Mississippi Queen', but chose not to include it. Strangely, the track 'Running Wild In The Streets', although credited to Blackie Lawless, was in fact written by Canadian band KICK AXE. It had been submitted to BLACK SABBATH by Proffer, rejected, then given a second chance by W.A.S.P. 'The Last Command' charted worldwide and extensive touring, including opening for KROKUS in America, bolstered by two radio hits 'Wild Child' and 'Blind In Texas'.

1986 to 1987

For recording of the third album, W.A.S.P. realigned itself as Randy Piper departed, the guitarist seeking a liaison with ALICE COOPER, which failed to materialize. Lawless took over rhythm guitar and ex-KING KOBRA bassist Johnny Rod joined the team. The resulting album 'Inside The Electric Circus', including covers of URIAH HEEP's 'Easy Livin' and HUMBLE PIE's 'I Don't Need No Doctor', found W.A.S.P. struggling to maintain the momentum as regards songwriting quality. The band, alongside ANTHRAX, lent support to BLACK SABBATH's ill fated March tour of North America.

Although the self-produced 'Inside The Electric Circus' hit the stores with cover photography depicting a caged and naked Lawless garbed in strategic tiger stripes, there was a distinct tempering of the outrage fans were by now coming to expect. A fresh stage show, more Bill Barnum than blood n' bondage, had many wondering whether the glory gory days of yore were over- this despite an album cover featuring a naked Lawless. Nevertheless, W.A.S.P. still pulled in the crowds for the obligatory world tour, with Germans WARLOCK supporting in Britain, and the lack of Blackie's notorious codpiece was more than made up for by a new flamethrowing version.

By now the American moral rights organization, the P.M.R.C., (Parental Music Resource Center) an outfit led by the political evangelism of senator's wife Tipper Gore, were hounding heavy metal for its supposed anti-social machinations. W.A.S.P. was an easy target and constantly put under the spotlight naturally only boosting their infamy.

W.A.S.P. would be featured as the main protagonists in Gore's book 'Raising PG (Parental Guidance) kids in an X rated society' in which Lawless' lyrics were printed without permission, and worse- altered. The band was to win the day with the priceless value of publicity being topped by Lawless's lawsuit against the P.M.R.C. for abuse of copyright being won by the band.

W.A.S.P. did not fare so well though with their support band for their American early 1987 tour as new bad boys SLAYER harangued the headliners in the press at every opportunity. SLAYER maintaining it was in fact they and not Lawless' crew that were selling the majority of the tickets and further that W.A.S.P. were finding it difficult in the extreme to follow their act.

Regardless, a consolidated live album 'Live In The Raw' culled from the band's last three shows in San Bernardino, San Diego and Long Beach Arena on the 'Welcome to the electric circus' tour, kept up the pace but once again omitted 'Animal', the staple work of W.A.S.P.'s live set.

However, a studio track 'Scream Until You Like It'- recorded for the soundtrack to the movie 'Ghoulies II', was released and kept the band's profile in the charts. 'Scream Until You Like It' was written for W.A.S.P. by former HERO guitarist Neil Citron. The promotion video even utilized the fiendish mini-monsters from the movie to effect. A six week tour of America duly ensued, although W.A.S.P. was still finding that P.M.R.C. pressure was still able to deny them access to many cities.

1988 to 1991

W.A.S.P. was thrown into further controversy over the cover artwork for their 1988 single, a live version of the stage favourite 'Animal'. Depicting a dog about to molest a woman, even Lawless was to pour scorn on it denying any involvement. Blackie was to devote serious effort during this period to making his views on free speech well known with a series of lectures and seminars, this being the background for W.A.S.P.'s latest album 'The Headless Children', generally acknowledged as being one of the band's finest works to date.

As Randy Piper reappeared with an outfit called ANIMAL in June 1988 boasting band mates Rich Lewis on vocals, Shredder on guitar, Burn on bass and Steve Solon on drums. Steve Riley quit W.A.S.P. and went off to join L.A. GUNS, making way for former QUIET RIOT drummer Frankie Banali as W.A.S.P. launched their renaissance meisterwork. Reputedly coming in three times over budget at a whopping half a million dollars 'The Headless Children' gave ample evidence as to Lawless's views on censorship and politics, all backed by the finest Metal the band had crafted to date. Keyboard parts, strangely in keeping with the overall menace of the record, were added by former URIAH HEEP and BLACKFOOT veteran KEN HENSLEY. Only one cover was thrown in, a rousing version of THE WHO's 'The Real Me' although the band also cut JETHRO TULL's 'Locomotive Breath', which would appear as a single B side.

The resulting tour, complete with a stage set based on the all engulfing skull of the album cover and disturbing real life horror video footage, did well but a burnt out Holmes, who had incidentally recently married LITA FORD, quit in Europe curtailing the planned string of dates. Many who had seen his drunken appearance in the movie ''Decline And Fall Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years' saw a stark portrait of a man facing his self made abyss. Holmes forged the short-lived PSYCHO SQUAD.

With W.A.S.P. effectively from late 1989, on hold Rod and Banali opted out to create a new act GERONIMO with ex-KEEL, ICON and KING KOBRA guitarist David Michael Phillips and singer Thomas Adam Kelly. It is alleged that Rod later ended up serving a prison term for some misdemeanor.

1992 to 2007

Although W.A.S.P.'s leader was giving no clues to his next move on the music front, rumours that hit the US media suggested Lawless was in line to play the evil robot T-1000 in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day'. Apparently this idea was scotched by the film's main star, who deemed Lawless too tall. Lawless persevered, taking over a year to construct his next musical venture. Mammoth sessions convened at Blackie's own Fort Apache studios would commence in July 1990 and only come to a close in February 1992. Now billed as BLACKIE LAWLESS AND W.A.S.P., pulling in session musicians, including KEN HENSLEY once again and ex-BALANCE and MEAT LOAF guitarist Bob Kulick, he assembled a full-blown conceptual album 'The Crimson Idol', centred on the tale of fallen Rock star Jonathon Steele. Initial drum tracks were laid down by Banali but were re-recorded by one-time IMPELLITERRI drummer Stet Howland. Heralded as a Rock Opera by Lawless, the album succeeded in drawing back many fans who had grown disillusioned with Holmes departure. Of note was 'The Crimson Idol's employment of assistant engineer Ross Robinson, soon afterward to make his name as an instrumental figure in nu-metal. Unfortunately for Lawless, whilst he had been piecing together his magnum opus, the rest of the Rock world had been engulfed by Grunge, severely lessening the appreciation shown towards 'The Crimson Idol'.

Rod made a return and, reverting back to simply W.A.S.P., the band now comprised Lawless, Howland and guitarist Dan McCabe. Ex-DRIVER and IMPELLITERRI keyboard player Philip Wolfe was added for live work. Touring, including a return visit to the Castle Donington 'Monsters Of Rock' festival, had the W.A.S.P. figurehead alongside Rod, Howland and guitarist Doug Blair, the latter having supplanted McCabe.

Having borne the costs of two hugely expensive endeavours in 'The Headless Children' and 'The Crimson Idol', artistic achievements but not ones which satisfied the accountants, Capitol Records were to let the band go. W.A.S.P. signed to British imprint Raw Power Records and delivered the stripped down 'Still Not Black Enough' in 1996. These sessions found Lawless handling the bulk of instrumentation, including guitars. Aiding in the studio once again were Bob Kulick and Frankie Banali. However, with no real band at the ready, 'Still Not Black Enough' would not see the benefit of any live promotion.

Doubtless fired by the success of shocker MARILYN MANSON and the rejuvenated ALICE COOPER Lawless rolled W.A.S.P. out once more during 1997 with a show and album 'Kill, Fuck, Die' that out grossed all its predecessors. By far Lawless' most disturbing catalogue of songs, Kill, Fuck, Die was utterly uncompromising, many believing this was W.A.S.P.'s ultimate response to the commercial highs then being enjoyed by Marilyn Manson. Kill, Fuck, Die was serviced in digi-pack format, ingeniously constructed as to open a fridge door displaying stacked body parts. Many territories refused to print the original imagary.

A much trumpeted reconciliation between Lawless and Holmes fired press enthusiasm. Completing the line-up was Stetland and bassist Mike Duda. W.A.S.P. geared up for live campaigning with a triptych of Californian gigs in late September 1996. These shows would be the last to feature the band as a full live entity as from this point onwards W.A.S.P., much to the chagrin of fans and displeasure of critics, employed an arsenal of effects and samples into their concert format.

January 1997 had the 'Kill, Fuck, Die' album promoted on European stages. A US tour was announced, then pulled as the group returned to Europe for a second round of shows in April. Finally hitting North America, W.A.S.P. partnered with MOTÖRHEAD for what was billed as a co-headlining jaunt commencing in June. This tour would be marred by a major, and very public, fall out between the two running mates. Although co-billed, W.A.S.P. closed the shows each night after MOTÖRHEAD refused to perform on stages plastered with feathers and fake blood. The British band walked off the tour mid way through the schedule. W.A.S.P. fared better in Japan that September.

The 2000 'Best Of The Best' compilation includes two new cuts 'Unreal' and a take of ELTON JOHN's 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting'. A further 2000 album, the live 'The Sting Worldwide', was initially broadcast live over the internet.

W.A.S.P.'s rhythm section of Duda and Howland formed part of the project band KILLING MACHINE along with ex-LOUDNESS and OBSESSION vocalist Mike Vescera for a self titled 2000 album.

As the band launched the 2001 'Unholy Terror' album it was revealed that for a short period Holmes was out of the band and replaced by TUFF and ALCOHOLICA guitarist Darrell Roberts. The pair soon switched positions once more as Holmes apparently reconvened with W.A.S.P. and Roberts journeyed back to TUFF. Confusion would reign though when Roberts pulled out of a projected TUFF gig at the last minute apparently rejoining W.A.S.P. American touring to promote 'Unholy Terror', with Roberts installed as guitarist, ensued on August 22nd at the Boynton Beach Orbit, Florida. Support for the two month trek came from MUSHROOMHEAD and DOG FASHION DISCO.

W.A.S.P., with a re-recruited QUIET RIOT's Frankie Banali on drums, geared up for a new studio album for June 2002 provisionally titled 'Dying For The World'. The album concept was apparently fired by Lawless, re-invigorated with patriotism following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, having received letters from tank commanders in the Gulf War who had gone into battle blaring 'Wild Child' and 'Fuck Like A Beast' over their sound systems. Japanese variants on the JVC Victor label added three exclusive tracks 'Stone Cold Killers, 'Rubberman' and an acoustic take of 'Hallowed Ground'. Lawless announced upfront of any touring that live promotion for 'Dying For The World' would not be extensive as W.A.S.P. were already engaged in formulating a brand new concept album. Nevertheless, live dates in North America throughout October and November would see support from a package billing of ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY, ENGINE and STEPHEN PEARCY. These projected dates would hit difficulties though as first ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY and STEPHEN PEARCY withdrew, DIRT was then added and finally in late September the whole tour was cancelled.

W.A.S.P. drummer Stet Howland announced the formation of a side venture dubbed THE HOWLIN' DOGS joining forces with vocalist / bassist Bryce Barnes of BLACKFOOT and EDWIN DARE, ENGINE JOE guitarist Joe Monroe and guitarist Steve Lutke of TOBASCO KAT. Former W.A.S.P. guitarist Randy Piper's ANIMAL project would leap back into the limelight, announcing not only a record deal but a brand new line up featuring none other than two of the classic era W.A.S.P. personnel guitarist Chris Holmes and drummer Tony Richards. Holmes was also linked as possible replacement to Tracii Guns to deputise for the L.A. GUNS guitarist in order to salvage a November UK tour. The liaison never transpired.

Mike Duda put in guest sessions on the 2003 solo album 'Raise Your Fist To Metal' from erstwhile METALIUM and SAVATAGE guitarist JACK FROST. The first signs of W.A.S.P. activity in 2004 came with the announcement of European headline gigs commencing 3rd May in Dublin, Ireland, supported by British Power Metal band DRAGONFORCE and Finns DYECREST. The concept 'The Neon God: Part One - The Rise' album, recorded at Blackie Lawless's own Fort Apache Studios in Malibu, California, and co-produced by Bill Metoyer, was scheduled for a two part release to coincide. Studio men would be Darrell Roberts on guitar, bassist Mike Duda and drummer Frankie Banali, the latter making a return after only having recently left QUIET RIOT. It would be subsequently learned that both Blackie Lawless and Darryl Roberts had contributed bass guitar for the sessions and surprisingly got to grips on the drumming front too, the guitarist cutting drum tracks for ''What I'll Never Find' and 'X.T.C. Riders' whilst the guitarist added his percussive skills to 'Red Room Of The Rising Sun'. Meantime, former W.A.S.P. drummer Stet Howland joined up with the New York based CARNIVAL OF SOULS and would also tour the Florida clubs with THE HOWLIN' DOGS.

Howland made a return to the ranks just prior to the European tour. All progressed smoothly until a scheduled gig at Helsinki's Tavastia club, which was called off because due to Blackie Lawless suffering from an "allergic reaction". US dates saw support slots going out to BELLADONNA and OMEN. In a quite surreal piece of negative press it would be learned that W.A.S.P. had pulled out of a sold out gig scheduled for Montreal's Foufounes Electriques on 8th August due to their stage apparently not being strong enough to carry the weight of Blackie Lawless' 1000 lb metal skeleton microphone stand. The band would then cancel their gig at Barrymore's Music Hall in Ottawa on 10th August, apparently due to more concerns over staging. The band's woes were added to the following day as a concert at Club Infinity in Buffalo too was pulled with fans being informed Lawless was ill with food poisoning The drama continued into the following day as the Mr. Smalls Theatre in Pittsburgh was curtailed, sources stating Lawless was suffering from pneumonia.

In October Mike Duda featured as a member of ex-RATT bassist STEPHEN PEARCY's band for shooting of a promotional video on the track 'Drive With Me'. Later that same month Frankie Banali made it clear in interviews that, although unaccredited, it was his drumming that featured on the second installment of 'The Neon God' concept.

December found Duda hooked up with Eric Griffin from MURDERDOLLS, Johnny Kelly of TYPE O NEGATIVE and Mayuko Okai from the DIZZY REED band for a batch of HAPPENIN' HARRY midwest shows. Meantime, in April of 2005 Stet Howland joined forces with TEMPLE OF BRUTALITY, a high profile project convened by former MEGADETH bassist Dave Ellefson, PUSHED, STREAM, BELLADONNA and KILLING MACHINE French guitarist Peter Scheithauer and Todd Barnes of 13-A on vocals.

W.A.S.P. would be back in action on the live front in the Summer of 2005, headlining gigs in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. US shows found the band headlining the 'Metal Blast' tour packaged with WEDNESDAY 13, STEPHEN PEARCY and L.A. GUNS. W.A.S.P. promised a return to a full, over the top stageshow and a set list made up of archive songs. However, in mid-May the WEDNESDAY 13 group withdrew from this tour, citing "business related" issues. METAL CHURCH duly filled the vacancy.

It was learned in December that Darrell Roberts was conducting sessions for a solo album, working with bassist Danny O'Brien and drummer Jeremy Spencer. That same month leading Spanish Death Metal band AVULSED covered 'I Wanna Be Somebody' on their EP 'Reanimations'.

Longstanding W.A.S.P. drummer Stet Howland closed a sixteen year tenure by vacating his position in February 2006. The band duly recruited drummer Patrick Johansson, from the YNGWIE MALMSTEEN band and THE SIDEFX, as replacement for a smattering of concerts in February and March but then pulled in VICIOUS RUMORS drummer Larry Howe. Shortly afterward, guitarist Darrell Roberts took his leave, subsequently joining FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, and subsequently Howe revealed he was not in fact taking up the W.A.S.P. offer. Finally the new look band shaped up by acquiring guitarist Mark Zavon, of JRZ SYSTEM, 40 CYCLE HUM and STEPHEN PEARCY's short-lived NITRONIC, and HAIR OF THE DOG plus ERIC SARDINAS band drummer Mike Dupke. However, within days Zavon had lost his position and former member Doug Blair was re-installed on guitar.

US shows in May saw the resurrected LIZZY BORDEN as support. That same month Denmark's Codiac Records released 'Shock Rock Hellions - A Tribute to W.A.S.P.' in May 2006. Amongst those honouring W.A.S.P. would be Sweden's DRACENA, Denmark's DENIAL OF GOD, VICTIMIZER and EXEKRATOR, Poland's STOS, CRYSTAL VIPER and HOLY DEATH plus US outfits CEREMONIAL CASTINGS and IMPALER amongst others.

A set of European shows would be announced but the band withdrew due to a concern with Blackie's health. A management statement subsequently revealed the singer had been diagnosed with an abnormality in one of the arteries leading to his heart. The tour was re-scheduled for September, kicking off in Finland on the 23rd.

'Dominator', initially given an issue date in November through an announced deal with SPV Steamhammer Records, included two cover versions, DEEP PURPLE's 'Burn' and CREEDANCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL's 'Fortunate Son'. However, this album was pushed back into 2007. Nonetheless, Norwegian shows saw support from TRIOSPHERE. Boston based, all female Hard Rock band JADED supported shows from November 16th onwards.

Despite having issued a press statement confirming a fresh business deal with SPV Steamhammer. W.A.S.P. then revealed in January 2007 they had in fact signed with the much smaller British concern Demolition Records. European touring throughout April and May saw Norway's SUSPERIA acting as support.

W.A.S.P. returned to action with September 2009's 'Babylon' album. The band, alongside TIGERTAILZ, SONATA ARCTICA, THE QUIREBOYS, ROCK GODDESS, TERRORVISION, GIRLSCHOOL, QUEENSRŸCHE and NEW YORK DOLLS, played the 'Hard Rock Hell' festival in December at Pontins holiday resort in Prestatyn Sands, North Wales.

Garry Sharpe-Young


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