W.A.S.P. Biography

This theatrical shock-rock troupe was formed in 1982 in Los Angeles, California, USA, their name apparently an acronym of We Are Sexual Perverts. Outrageous live performances included throwing raw meat into the audience and the whipping of a naked woman tied to a ‘torture rack’ as a backdrop to a primitive metal attack. The band, formed by singer Blackie Lawless (Steven Duren, 4 September 1956, Staten Island, New York, USA) with guitarists Chris Holmes (b. 23 June 1961) and Randy Piper and drummer Tony Richards (b. Anthony Richard Orlando, USA), were snapped up by Capitol Records, who then refused to release their debut single, the infamous ‘Animal (F**k Like A Beast)’, on legal advice. It was subsequently licensed to independent labels. Their 1984 debut album W.A.S.P. was an adequate basic metal recording, although it lacked ‘Animal’ (later reissues reinstated the track), while The Last Command, with new drummer Steve Riley (b. 22 January 1956, USA), consolidated W.A.S.P.’s status with a more refined approach, producing the excellent ‘Wild Child’ and ‘Blind In Texas’.

W.A.S.P. became a major US concert draw, albeit with a stage show much toned down from the early days. Inside The Electric Circus in 1986 continued in this vein, and saw the debut of bass player Johnny Rod (b. John Tumminello, 9 December 1957, USA; ex-King Kobra), with Lawless (up to this point the bass player) replacing Piper on rhythm guitar, while live shows saw Lawless’ trademark buzzsaw-bladed codpiece replaced by a remarkable flame-throwing version. Live... In The Raw was a decent live set, but once again lacked ‘Animal’, which remained the centrepiece of W.A.S.P.’s repertoire. That song, and the band’s outrageous approach, made them a constant target for the American organisation PMRC, whom Lawless successfully sued for unauthorized use of copyrighted material. As Lawless became a tireless free speech campaigner, he moved the band towards a serious stance on The Headless Children (1989), with Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali (b. 14 November 1953, USA) replacing the L.A. Guns -bound Riley. The socio-political and anti-drug commentary was backed by vivid imagery in the live setting, but Holmes departed after the tour, the split catalyzed by his drunken appearance in the movie The Decline And Fall Of Western Civilisation Part II: The Metal Years.

Lawless used session musicians to record 1992’s The Crimson Idol, a Who -influenced concept effort, and toured with Rod, Doug Blair (b. Douglas Blair Lucek, 11 February 1963, USA; guitar) and Stet Howland (drums). In 1993, he announced the end of W.A.S.P. after compiling the First Blood... Last Cuts retrospective. His solo album, Still Not Black Enough, was nevertheless issued under the W.A.S.P. name. The album featured Banali and studio guitarist Bob Kulick, both of whom also appeared on The Crimson Idol. Lawless reunited with Holmes in 1996 and elected to carry on recording and touring as W.A.S.P..

Following 1997’s forgettable Kill.Fuck.Die, which featured a new rhythm section comprising Mike Duda (bass) and Howland (drums), the release of the concert set Double Live Assassins served as a timely reminder that W.A.S.P. remained a potent live act. The 2001 release Unholy Terror, meanwhile, proved the band was still capable of producing quality work in the studio. The album was the last to feature Holmes, with new guitarist Darrell Roberts and the returning Banali joining Lawless and Duda on the following year’s Dying For The World. The strained concept album The Neon God was released in two parts during 2004. By the time of 2007’s Dominator the line-up comprised Lawless, Duda, Blair and Mike Dupke (drums).

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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