MOTÖRHEAD vs. W.A.S.P.: The Tumultuous Tour That Ended With Lemmy and Blackie Lawless Brawling in 1997
W.A.S.P. vocalist and buzzsaw codpiece enthusiast Blackie Lawless is an intimidatingly large dude. Standing around 6'4 without the help of platform boots, in his heyday most people probably thought twice before trying to get up in Blackie's face. As it turns out, Lawless had a habit of picking fights with people you probably shouldn't single out. Such as bodybuilder/rock warrior John Mikl Thor, or let's say, the late Lemmy Kilmister. Sure, Blackie had a bit of a height advantage on Lemmy, who was around 5'10, but who the fuck fucks with Lemmy? Well, Blackie did while the two bands were touring together in 1997. W.A.S.P. was supporting their latest record, Kill. Fuck. Die. Both W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes, Lawless, and Lemmy go way back. If Holmes' memories are to be trusted, he recalls meeting Lemmy in London after the release of their solid debut album, W.A.S.P. The two became friendly, and Holmes would spend time with Kilmister after he moved to Los Angeles, and according to Holmes, even went furniture shopping together. Blackie and Lemmy had also been pals for quite a while, but according to Lemmy, Lawless acted as if W.A.S.P. was doing Motörhead a favor by having them co-headline the tour, and things did not go well from the get-go.
A co-headlining situation is pretty much a win/win for both bands; the venues are larger, which means more ticket sales with sales driven by two popular bands, not just one. The tour started in Europe before finding its way to the U.S. a little late due to Chris Holmes tearing the cartilage in his knee after falling off the stage in London (which required surgery). In total, the tour was to run for five weeks, but that never happened.
At first, W.A.S.P. was opening the gig. If you caught the Kill. Fuck. Die. Tour, you know it was an absolute spectacle. Simulated sex with a pregnant nun on stage? Check! Fake pig head and gallons of fake blood? Check! Feathers? Check! The stage looked like Satan's barnyard after W.A.S.P. was done, and the elaborate props and their aftermath took time to clean up and break down. According to Lemmy, the stage floor was disgusting even by his standards and ultimately, Motörhead said fuck this shit and moved to the opening slot so they could avoid the carnage. Here's more from Lemmy on that:
"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. And he was… 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.'"
Oh man, Lemmy trolling Blackie Lawless' ass cellulite in 2006 is everything. And, as you may know, Lemmy was never really one to speak badly of anybody or their assless chaps, so he must have been pissed. Things between Lemmy and Blackie would continue to escalate as both bands were sharing the same, and only, dressing room during the tour. According to Lem, the straw that broke his back in part stemmed from the discovery of their clean clothes lying in the hallway outside the dressing room after they finished their set, the door closed. Motörhead would officially depart the tour prior to a stop in Vancouver, B.C . when the shit between Lemmy and Blackie hit the fan and came to blows. Both bands would put out press releases detailing the split which ended up costing Motörhead a ton of cash (allegedly $40K). You can read W.A.S.P.'s PR response to Motörhead's departure here, but for now, here are the lowlights:
"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."
But wait! There's more! This time straight from Blackie Lawless:
"Beating up on Lemmy would be like beating your grandfather. In hindsight, I'm just glad he had the foresight to run. I come from the school that says 'don't kick a dog when he's down and let me tell you he's down and beaten."
Oof. Given the fact that Lemmy was 52 with Lawless clocking in at 40 or 41 at the time, the grandfather dig seems like a bit of a stretch, and the part about Lemmy running away from a fight sounds very, very un-Lemmy to me. Later in 2012 Lawless talked about the tour and how he and Lemmy managed to hug things out after running into each other at one of VH1's studios shortly after the tour ended. Awww. Footage shot of W.A.S.P. for an electronic press kit during the tour follows, as does a face-melting performance by Motörhead on the French television show Nulle Part Ailleurs (NPA) recorded during the European leg of the Kill. Fuck. Die. Tour.
W.A.S.P.'s NSFW electronic press kit for the Kill. Fuck. Die. tour in 1997.
Motörhead killing a live version of "Overnight Sensation" on the French television show Nulle Part Ailleurs (NPA) in January of 1997.