W.A.S.P. (band)

Last updated
W.A.S.P. in performance (Stavanger, 2006).jpg
W.A.S.P. performing live in Stavanger, Norway, in 2006
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active
  • 1982–present
Associated acts
Website www.waspnation.com
Members Blackie Lawless
Doug Blair
Mike Duda
Aquiles Priester

W.A.S.P. is an American heavy metal band formed in 1982. They emerged from the early 1980s Los Angeles heavy metal scene. The band's popularity peaked that decade, yet they continue to record and tour, making them one of the most enduring of the West Coast heavy metal bands. W.A.S.P. gained notoriety for their shock rock-themed image, lyrics and live performances. They have sold over 12 million albums.


W.A.S.P. was a prominent target in the mid-1980s of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), an organization that pushed for warning labels on recorded music. The band immortalized its fight with the PMRC on the song "Harder, Faster" from their 1987 live album, Live...In the Raw . Their most well-known songs include "Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)", "I Wanna Be Somebody", "L.O.V.E. Machine", "Wild Child", "Blind in Texas", "Forever Free", "Mean Man", "Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue)" and "The Idol", as well as their cover versions of Ray Charles' "I Don't Need No Doctor" and The Who's "The Real Me". The band's most recent album, Golgotha , was released in 2015, and they have reportedly been working on new material. [7] [8]

Band name

There has been much speculation over the origin of the band's name, and whether it actually stands for anything, since it is written as an acronym. One possible interpretation is "White Anglo-Saxon Protestants", being the original meaning of the acronym. The song "Show No Mercy", the B-side of the band's first single "Animal", contains the repeated lyric, "White Anglo-Saxon / A violent reaction".

The original U.S. release of the band's debut album W.A.S.P. had the words "We Are Sexual Perverts" inscribed on both sides around the label in the center, while "Winged Assassins" is inscribed on the spine of the first vinyl pressing. When asked about the band's name, Lawless has avoided giving a straight answer. In one interview he answered, "We Ain't Sure, Pal." [9]

In a February 2010 interview, Lawless stated the main reason for the name was the periods. He claimed no band had ever used them before (although R.E.M. formed two years earlier) and, in essence, the periods created a "question mark of uncertainty" to make W.A.S.P. stand out more. He then went on to say, "Look where we are: it did!" [10]


Early years and rise to fame (1982–1985)

Circus Circus 1979-1980: Joey Palemo, Blackie Lawless, Jimi Image, Randy Piper CIRCUS CIRCUS 1979-1980.png
Circus Circus 1979-1980: Joey Palemo, Blackie Lawless, Jimi Image, Randy Piper

W.A.S.P. began following the demise of Circus Circus, an L.A. band featuring Blackie Lawless and Randy Piper. The original lineup of W.A.S.P. was formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1982 by Lawless, Piper, Rik Fox, and Tony Richards. The band became notorious for its raunchy and, at times, shocking live shows. Lawless was known to tie semi-naked models to a torture rack, and to also hurl raw meat into the audience. The band's debut single, entitled "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)", and its cover were equally controversial.

The first lineup did not last for long, as Rik Fox was let go and went on to join the band Steeler with vocalist Ron Keel and guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. He was replaced by Don Costa, the bassist in Richards' former band, Dante Fox (which later evolved into Great White). Shortly afterward, Costa also left the band and his position on the bass was filled by Brayden Parker . At the same time, guitarist Chris Holmes joined the band.

W.A.S.P. signed to Capitol Records for their debut album, W.A.S.P. , released on August 17, 1984. The debut was at one time planned for release with the title Winged Assassins. The band's first single "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)" was omitted from the album in the United States to prevent it from being banned from major chain stores.

Shortly afterwards, the band made an appearance in the 1984 films The Dungeonmaster and in the soundtrack to Ghost Warrior with the song Tormentor.

"L.O.V.E. Machine" and "I Wanna Be Somebody" helped the album sell, and set the band up for "Blind In Texas", a song written in St. Paul, Minnesota, by Lawless. The song was released on their next album The Last Command in September 1985. The Last Command is still W.A.S.P.'s highest charting album, peaking at No. 47 on the Billboard album chart. "Blind In Texas" is perhaps their best known song, more than 20 years later. The Last Command was also the first album with new drummer Steve Riley. The former Keel drummer replaced Richards at the beginning of the 1984-1985 tour.

After The Last Command tour, Piper departed the band. Former King Kobra bassist Johnny Rod joined W.A.S.P. as Lawless went back to playing rhythm guitar.

Mainstream success (1986–1989)

With the lineup changes made, they recorded their third album, titled Inside the Electric Circus . It was released in October 1986. The album was a big hit with W.A.S.P. fans. Critics, on the other hand, dismissed it as "7th-grader rock".[ citation needed ] Songs like "Shoot From The Hip" and the minor hit single "95-N.A.S.T.Y." helped the band live up to the reputation of one of the possible meanings of their band name, "We Are Sexual Perverts". However, Blackie Lawless himself, known to be a harsh critic of his own work, cited in the album's re-release liner notes that Inside the Electric Circus was "[a] tired record by a tired band." Ultimately it was an unfavorable critical review of the single "95-N.A.S.T.Y." that convinced Lawless to take some time off and reconsider the band's creative direction.

W.A.S.P. became a very prominent target of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), an organization led by Tipper Gore and dedicated to opposing music with lyrics deemed violent or overtly sexual in content. This lowered the band's reputation to such a degree that concert halls were getting bomb threats, band members were receiving death threats by the hundreds, and Lawless was shot at twice (though not hit). The controversy generated valuable publicity for the band. [1]

In 1987 W.A.S.P. had their song "Scream Until You Like It" included on the soundtrack of the movie Ghoulies 2 . The same year, a few dates during the Inside the Electric Circus tour were recorded and on November 27, 1987, the Long Beach arena concert was released as the Live...In the Raw album. By this time, Riley had left W.A.S.P. to join L.A. Guns, and was replaced by local drummer Chad Nelson. Eighteen-year-old Glenn Soderling, who had recorded an album in 1983 with the band Pandemonium, [11] then joined the band, [12] but did not play any shows due to Holmes' illness. [12] Soderling left during rehearsals [13] and was replaced by Kelly Martella for their Donington appearance and a Top of the Pops performance of "Scream Until You Like It" on BBC. [14] Martella went on to join the band Silent Rage (Simmons Records) in 1988. Soderling later surfaced under the name "Tripp Holland" in the band Engines of Aggression [15] with former Tomorrow's Child members Rik Schaffer and Craig Dollinger, [16] and is currently making music for TV shows as staff writer with Supersonic Noise. [17]

W.A.S.P.'s fourth studio album, The Headless Children , was released on April 15, 1989, and was their first album without any overtly sexually explicit songs. It was also their first album to sell rather poorly, however it reached the band's highest chart position with No. 48 [18] on the Billboard 200 before falling off the charts in 13 weeks. However, it was W.A.S.P.'s most critically acclaimed work up to that point and, according to a recent Lawless interview,[ citation needed ] it is now the highest-selling W.A.S.P. album to date. The drumming duties for the album were handled by former Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali. It features two of the band's most highly acclaimed songs, the power ballad "Forever Free" and a cover of The Who's "The Real Me".

Post-Chris Holmes period (1989–1995)

Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P. performing in Stavanger, Norway Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. in performance (2006).jpg
Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P. performing in Stavanger, Norway

Chris Holmes left the band in August 1989, stating that he wanted to "have fun, you know." Lawless responded with a caustic remark about the fact that "some guys want to stay at home and wear aprons," hinting at the nature of Chris Holmes' relationship with his new wife Lita Ford. The band effectively disbanded a few months later with Blackie Lawless embarking on a short lived solo career. Lawless was originally slated to play the T-1000 terminator in the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day , but was later replaced by Robert Patrick after Arnold Schwarzenegger deemed Lawless "too tall" (1.93m). [19] Blackie commenced work on his solo project, but under pressure from both promoters and fans, he released it as a W.A.S.P. album. Ironically, many critics [ who? ] feel that the resulting concept album, The Crimson Idol , has been the best W.A.S.P. output so far.[ citation needed ]

The follow-up to The Crimson Idol was Still Not Black Enough (1995), a collection of dark, introspective tunes that extended the Crimson Idol mythology. This time, rather than "hiding behind" alter ego Jonathan Steele, Lawless spoke directly to the audience about his own feelings (as stated in the liner notes). While the album lacked the cohesiveness of its predecessor, the lyrics still explored similar topics to Crimson Idol: being an outcast and misfit, the pressures of fame and society, and the search for love. Still Not Black Enough also included cover songs as "bonus tracks". The initial European edition included a different track listing from the American version and a subsequent American re-issue featured yet a different track listing. No version to date includes all the various tracks on one disc.

Reunion with Chris Holmes (1996–2001)

Chris Holmes returned to W.A.S.P. in 1996 and together they released Kill.Fuck.Die (1997) and Helldorado (1999). They also recorded two live albums from these tours, Double Live Assassins and The Sting respectively. The Sting CD and DVD were taken directly from an experimental webcast that Lawless claims to have had no control over. This release angered him as he was unhappy with the sound and picture quality.

The band continued with the album Unholy Terror in 2001. Chris Holmes left the band once again in 2001, stating that he wanted to "play the blues". He hooked up with fellow ex-W.A.S.P. member Randy Piper's band Animal, but soon dropped out of that project also. Holmes, for his part, has claimed he never played on Unholy Terror. [20]

Dying for the World and the Neon God albums (2002–2005)

Dying for the World , released in 2002, was written and recorded in less than a year which is very fast by Lawless' perfectionist standards. Its liner notes feature one of Lawless' strongest statements about political correctness, inspired by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In April 2004, W.A.S.P. released the first part of The Neon God, subtitled The Rise , a conceptual album about an abused and orphaned boy who finds that he has the ability to read and manipulate people. The second part, The Demise , was released in September 2004.

In 2005, W.A.S.P. headlined American Metal Blast. A video shoot for the track "Never Say Die" was planned with Ward Boult, a fetish photographer, directing. To this day, there has been no news as to whether the shoot resulted in anything concrete. It would have been the first W.A.S.P. promo video in ten years, the last being 1995's "Black Forever".

Dominator and Babylon (2006–2014)

Early 2006 saw the seemingly stable lineup fall apart. Long-time session and tour drummer Stet Howland left first (on amicable terms), promising more specific information about the reasons for the split to be posted on his website. Larry Howe of Vicious Rumors was considered as a replacement. In May, the departure of guitarist Darrell Roberts, who went on to join the band Five Finger Death Punch, was announced and new guitar player Mark Zavon was brought in several days before the first tour date. The same press release confirmed Mike Dupke, and not Howe, would be the new drummer. Furthermore, two days later, Zavon was out of the picture as well, seeing Doug Blair step in on guitar.

A new album, Dominator was planned for release in October 2006, according to a statement made by Blackie Lawless at a tour stop in Kavarna. He then went on to play a new song from the album, entitled Mercy. A few weeks later, the release of the album was postponed until April 2007, with the band recording two news songs and dropping two cover songs, to be used instead as bonus tracks. In October 2007, W.A.S.P. embarked on The Crimson Idol Tour, to celebrate that album's 15th anniversary. It was the first time that the album, often regarded to be among the band's finest work, was performed in full from start to finish. The tour kicked off in Greece, in Thessaloniki at the Principal Club Theater on October 26, 2007.

The release of the Dominator album was finalized for April 16 in the UK, April 20 in Scandinavia with the rest of mainland Europe following on April 27. The release dates for South America and Russia followed in early May.

Dominator reached No. 72 on the charts in Germany.[ citation needed ]

W.A.S.P. canceled their North American tour due to their record label's loss of a distributor.[ citation needed ] They were going to finish up their shows in Europe and then reschedule their shows in the United States. They were unable to finish the shows in Europe because of a "family illness that needed immediate attention" which forced the band to return to Los Angeles right away. They were originally going to perform at Rocklahoma. As the tour was canceled, W.A.S.P. was not able to perform at Rocklahoma and was replaced by Queensrÿche.

W.A.S.P. announced a European tour which included dates in Scotland, England and other places throughout Europe in late October 2007.

W.A.S.P. released their fourteenth studio album, entitled Babylon in late 2009, via Demolition Records.

Blackie Lawless has in recent interviews claimed that he is never going to play the song "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)" live again, due to his religious beliefs. [21] These beliefs are what have allegedly been behind Blackie Lawless' self-censorship of his own lyrics during the 'Babylon World Tour,' most notably during the performance of 'Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue).'

On The Beast of Babylon Tour, Blackie canceled two shows within a week of each other. The first cancellation came about at the Gramercy Theater in New York City after the band discovered that the venue had been selling V.I.P. meet and greet tickets for twice the amount of the general admission price. The band made a statement claiming, "We have never charged a fan for an autograph and will never charge any fans for an autograph." [22] The second cancellation occurred when the Crocodile Rock venue in Allentown, Pennsylvania wanted 50% of all of the band's profit, according to Lawless.

On September 21, 2012, the band celebrated the 30th anniversary of their first ever live show by kicking off a world tour at The Forum in London. The set for the tour was split into three sections: songs from the first four albums, a cut-down rendition of the Crimson Idol performance and a final segment for newer material. [23]

Golgotha, 25th anniversary of The Crimson Idol and next album (2015–present)

W.A.S.P.'s fifteenth studio album, Golgotha , was released on October 2, 2015. [24] The album took four years to materialize. [25]

W.A.S.P. toured in 2017 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of The Crimson Idol . To coincide with this anniversary, the band released Reidolized (The Soundtrack to the Crimson Idol) on February 2, 2018, which came with the original The Crimson Idol movie on DVD and Blu-ray, and includes six tracks that were originally intended to be part of the original version of the album. [26]

In December 2017, it was reported that W.A.S.P. had been working on new material for their sixteenth studio album. [7] No news on the album had surfaced for more than three years, until December 2020 when Loudwire listed it as one of the 88 "Most Anticipated Rock + Metal Albums" of 2021. [8]

Former W.A.S.P. drummer Frankie Banali died of pancreatic cancer on August 20, 2020, [27] making him the second deceased member of the The Crimson Idol -era lineup, following Bob Kulick who had died three months earlier. [28]


  1. Sister 1976–1980
  2. Early Shows 1982–1983
  3. Winged Assassins Tour 1984–1985
  4. Last Command Tour 1985–1986
  5. Inside the Electric Circus Tour 1986–1987
  6. The Headless Children Tour 1989
  7. The Crimson Idol Tour 1992
  8. Kill.Fuck.Die. World Tour 1996–1998
  9. Helldorado World Tour 1999–2000
  10. Unholy Terror Tour 2001
  11. The Neon God World Tour 2004
  12. Tour 2005–2006
  13. The Crimson Idol Tour 2007–2008
  14. Sonic & Bloody Massacre Tour 2009
  15. Beast of Babylon World Tour 2009–2010
  16. Return to Babylon Tour 2010–2011
  17. 30 Years of Thunder World Tour 2012
  18. The Bloody Road to Golgotha 2015
  19. The Crimson Idol 25th Anniversary Tour 2017
  20. The Animal Returns 2019


Current members


Studio albums

Live albums




Related Research Articles

Blackie Lawless

Steven Edward Duren, better known by his stage name Blackie Lawless, is an American singer, songwriter and musician, best known as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for heavy metal band W.A.S.P.

<i>The Headless Children</i> 1989 studio album by W.A.S.P.

The Headless Children is the fourth studio album by heavy metal band W.A.S.P., released in April 1989 through Capitol Records. The album reached No. 48 on the US Billboard 200 chart, the band's highest chart position, and remained on that chart for 13 weeks.

<i>W.A.S.P.</i> (album) 1984 studio album by W.A.S.P.

W.A.S.P. is the debut album by the American heavy metal band W.A.S.P., released August 17, 1984. The album has been known under three different names; the spine of the original European vinyl release had Winged Assassins printed on it, while early cassette releases of the album had the name of the album's first track, "I Wanna Be Somebody", printed in bold letters on the cover. The album is officially entitled simply W.A.S.P., which it is typically referred to as.

<i>The Crimson Idol</i> 1992 studio album by W.A.S.P.

The Crimson Idol is the fifth studio album by heavy metal band W.A.S.P., released internationally in 1992 through Parlophone and on May 24, 1993 in the United States through Capitol Records. A remastered edition was reissued in 1998, containing a bonus disc of B-sides and live material from 1992. The album charted within the top 40 in five countries. It is a rock opera, telling the story of the rise and fall of a fictional rock star named Jonathan Steel. In 2018, Napalm Records released a re-recording of the album, along with a DVD of the film that was originally to accompany the album, under the title of ReIdolized .

Chris Holmes (musician)

Christopher John Holmes is an American heavy metal guitarist and songwriter. Holmes started his musical career in the Pasadena, California area in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He is best known as the lead guitarist of heavy metal band W.A.S.P. Together with Blackie Lawless and Randy Piper he was one of the founding members of the band. Holmes was a member of W.A.S.P. first from 1983 to 1990, and again from 1996 to 2001.

<i>The Last Command</i> (album) 1985 studio album by W.A.S.P.

The Last Command is the second album by the American heavy metal band W.A.S.P., released in November 9, 1985. The album was produced by Spencer Proffer, who was perhaps best known for producing the six-time Platinum selling album Metal Health by Quiet Riot in 1983.

<i>Kill Fuck Die</i> 1997 studio album by W.A.S.P.

Kill Fuck Die is the seventh studio album by American heavy metal band W.A.S.P., released by Castle Records in 1997.

Stet Howland is an American drummer.

<i>Still Not Black Enough</i> 1995 studio album by W.A.S.P.

Still Not Black Enough is the sixth studio album by American heavy metal band W.A.S.P., first released on June 10, 1995 in Japan only. It was not released in the U.S. until August 1996 through Castle Records.

Animal (F**k Like a Beast)

"Animal " is a song by American heavy metal band W.A.S.P. It was originally intended to be the opening track on their self-titled 1984 debut album, but was dropped before the album's release, although it appears as a bonus track on the 1998 reissue. Written by Blackie Lawless, the song was released as the band's first single. Due to his religious beliefs, Lawless does not perform the song live anymore.

<i>Live...In the Raw</i> 1987 live album by W.A.S.P.

Live...In the Raw is the first live album by W.A.S.P., released in 1987. This album can be seen as something of a breakwater between the 'old' W.A.S.P. of the first three albums and the more mature sound of the releases that would follow. It is also the album to feature "Harder Faster", which is about the PMRC declaring them "sexual perverts".

London is an American heavy metal band formed in Hollywood, California in 1978. The band included several members that would go on to play in more famous bands, such as Mötley Crüe, Guns N' Roses, W.A.S.P. and Cinderella.

<i>Double Live Assassins</i> 1998 live album by W.A.S.P.

Double Live Assassins is a live album by American heavy metal group W.A.S.P. It was recorded live during their K.F.D. World Tour in 1997. It was released in February 1998 in the United Kingdom and in the United States in June of that same year.

<i>First Blood Last Cuts</i> 1993 compilation album by W.A.S.P.

First Blood Last Cuts is the first compilation album by the American heavy metal band W.A.S.P.. Released in 1993, it was the first time the song, "Animal ", previously only released as a single in 1984, was released on an album. The album also included two new songs, "Sunset and Babylon" and "Rock and Roll to Death". "Rock and Roll to Death" was later released on Still Not Black Enough, with "Sunset and Babylon" remaining exclusive to this CD, while others songs were re-mixed for the album.

Live...Animal is a three-track EP containing songs from W.A.S.P.'s live shows from 1984 and 1987. It was produced solely by Blackie Lawless.

<i>The Sting: Live at the Key Club L.A.</i> 2000 live album by W.A.S.P.

The Sting is a live album and DVD by the American heavy metal band W.A.S.P. Originally released as a DVD/CD set, it is also available as a CD on its own.

Somewhere on Tour 1986–1987 concert tour by Iron Maiden

Somewhere on Tour was a concert tour by heavy metal band Iron Maiden, from 10 September 1986 to 21 May 1987, supporting their album Somewhere in Time. The band performed across the globe, in countries including Poland, Italy, the United States and England. The tour lasted 253 days, during which the band performed 151 shows.

<i>Babylon</i> (W.A.S.P. album) 2009 studio album by W.A.S.P.

Babylon is the fourteenth studio album by American heavy metal band W.A.S.P., released on November 9, 2009. The album was inspired by biblical visions of "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse". The album contains covers of Deep Purple's "Burn" and Chuck Berry's "Promised Land". "Promised Land" was also covered in 1973 by Elvis Presley, and it was Elvis' version that the band had in mind as demonstrated by the ending comment "How about one of them peanut butter & banana sandwiches."

<i>Golgotha</i> (W.A.S.P. album) 2015 studio album by W.A.S.P.

Golgotha is the fifteenth studio album by American heavy metal band W.A.S.P.. The album was released on October 2, 2015 through Napalm Records, and is W.A.S.P.'s first studio album since Babylon (2009), marking the longest gap between two studio albums in their career. Golgotha is also W.A.S.P.'s last studio album with drummer Mike Dupke, who left the band just prior to its release.


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