Co-headlining tours are an emotionally delicate practice. Although the idea of two bands of relatively equal size sharing a stage night after night might be advantageous on paper, the human spirit of competition inevitably gets in the way.
What makes Blackie Lawless intimidating has less to do with W.A.S.P.’s shock-rock antics than his physical stature. Towering over most of the populace at 6ft 4in, the sheer presence of the frontman is enough to dissuade most people from ever standing up to the guy. Needless to say, Motörhead main man Lemmy Kilmister was never like most people.
Having been friends since W.A.S.P.’s debut album, it seemed like a good idea in 1997 for Motörhead to agree to a co-headline package with the band. In a 2006 interview, Lemmy gave his side of the events that caused the doomed tour to spiral out of control:
“We went on the tour. It was supposed to be co-headlining, but he [Blackie] was actually closing the show, ’cause he made such a fucking mess of the place, right?! ‘Cause he killed a fake pig with a fake sword and he cut pillows open and threw feathers all over the stage, so by the time he finished with it, it wasn’t fit to piss in and I wasn’t gonna play [on] it. So he closed the show every night.
“I just don’t know what it is with Blackie. I’ve known him 20 years, you know, and he was walking the first five years right past us and onto the stage — not ‘Hello,’ nothing, not acknowledging [us]. And he’s still got his cellulite, old ass hanging out of his chaps, and he’s got this mic stand with handlebars — ‘the Blackie Lawless complete workout.’
“At one gig, we had to share a dressing room — well, there was only one dressing room — so we said, ‘OK, we’ll go on and then we’ll pack up real quick and get out and then you can use it.’ And we came back off stage soaking wet to find all our clothes thrown into the hallway. So at that point we said ‘Fuck you’ and we walked off that tour. “
Both bands issued press releases, with Motörhead saying that W.A.S.P. took unfair advantage of their logistical decision to go on first even though they were the bigger draw of the two acts and committed, as well as “a litany of dirty deeds” that included delaying their soundcheck until it was too late for Motörhead to have theirs and the aforementioned dressing room incident.
For their part, W.A.S.P. said: “Motörhead are complete amateurs who after twenty-years still can’t plan a tour properly and professionally and are fabricating stories to excuse themselves for not giving Metal fans the show they were promised. It’s the fans that are losing out, and we feel sorry for that. We’ll never allow Motörhead on one of our shows again.”
While W.A.S.P. were celebrating their “30 Years of Thunder” anniversary tour in 2012, Blackie Lawless kept an online journal. He addressed the infamous tour in one of the entries:
“A lot has been written about an altercation that happened between Lemmy and myself. There was a lot of tension between the two of us while we were doing the tour and at one point he and I got into a very heated argument.
“I had known Lemmy for a long time and the problems that him and I were having didn’t make sense. Him and I used to hang out together in night clubs so the goings-on during the tour that caused the problems were strange, to say the least.
“A few months after the tour was over, I ran into him during the filming of a VH1 special. We talked for a while and discussed what the hell had just happened. Come to find out, somebody booking the tour had told me one thing, and Lemmy said another guy told him completely the opposite concerning how the tour would be run. It made a tour that should have been a lot of fun be filled with totally unnecessary tension.
“What happened was these people who booked the tour used both of us to get what they wanted.
“After [Lemmy] and I talked it out, I was REALLY angry at those people. I know I GOT USED!!!
“Him and I hugged each other and he gave me a call the next day.
“I’m happy to call him my friend.
“I wish I could go back and undo everything that happened during that tour!!!
“As a side note, we were both playing a festival a couple of months ago in Romania. It was unbelievably HOT that day!!! I went into [Lemmy’s] dressing room after we finished our show and I told him, ‘Lemmy, whatever you do, you gotta make sure before you go on stage that you’re COMPLETELY hydrated or you’ll pass out!’ He holds up a glass full of Jack Daniels and Coke and says, ‘I intend to stay COMPLETELY hydrated out there… as there are MANY, MANY ice cubes in this glass.’ All I could do was hang my head and just laugh…. That’s the Lemmy I know and love!!!”