An Interview with
The frontman of Hollywood Rockers, 'Blacklist Union'
that took place after their set at The Key Club, West Hollywood, California on 12th November, 2012.
Interview by Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: What are your influences and what brought you together and got you playing?
Tony: You know I grew up real young in New York City. I was exposed to music at like 5 years old. I was exposed to The Ramones and Bowie and Cheap Trick and just amazing stuff but as far as vocally my influences would be, like I love Kory Clarke from Warrior Soul - he's one of my huge influences, Mother Love Bone - Andrew Wood is a big influence on me, Perry Farrell. At first Ozzy and Scott (Weiland)and Layne (Staley) and all those guys. You know any outlaws f*ck*n' rock 'n' roll. You know, real deal rock - rock 'n' roll outlaw dude - where is that now? You know what I mean?
Glenn: Yeah. So what brought this unit together?
Tony: You know I was in Hollywood for a long time and I got caught up in this and that and lived a lot of life and the f*ck*n' rock scene just disappeared from Hollywood and it seemed like it disappeared altogether and I put together 'Blacklist Union' because it's the kind of f*ck*n' music I wanna hear dude. You know I grew up with like uptempo kinda punk rock, rock 'n' roll like that, you know, makes you wanna do stuff, like inspires you and goes through your veins and your blood and that's just missing dude. We come from that. Like all our records we've self-produced, you know we have a guy that produces us, Chris Johnson but he lets us be ourselves, we don't have to answer to any corporate dude or any b*llsh*t like that. So it's really cool that our producer's allowed us to deliver the songs on CD just like we wrote them.
Glenn: Yeah it comes across like that. What's your favourite material on the CD and why?
Tony: On the new CD 'Til Death Do Us Part' (title track). it's dedicated to Mike Star who was my friend for many years of Alice In Chains, you know I was friends with his sister and his mum. We spoke at his funeral and stuff but I had asked him to f*ck*n' play on that record before he died. There's a song specifically called 'Blown Away' which written about him in parts. But this new CD is just leagues above anything I have ever done. I'm really proud of the songwriting and the dynamics and stuff and I kind of went on the edge and did some new stuff. So I'm really proud of this CD and our set has mostly been this CD. Expect from the 1st record, 'Please Kill Me' and ' After The Mourning' we do these because fans wanna hear those. But so, we do 'Til Death Do Us Part' first usually. I like that one because it kind of captures your attention. You're like 'Waoh, what the f*ck?", and that's why I put it first on the CD because I go see a band dude - most of the time it's like f*ck*n' noise. I want something that's gonna capture my attention that's captivating. You know what I mean?
Glenn: Yeah, yeah.
Tony: I feel like we do that with that song so we deliver that and we follow that with 'Alabama Slammer' which is one of my favourites. I f*ck*n' went through it over this chick, like really lost my mind over this girl and that song's really close to me and close to my heart. All our songs dude are experieces that I have lived through. None of it is concocted b*llsh*t to sound cool. It's like all of it is real experience that I've lived through. So we do a few. 'I Do' is one of my favourites. That's a real m*th*rf*ck*r to sing live and it's such a challenge. I like to write songs so it challenges me so I have to be on my egg-end to deliver it correctly and that's a challenge to myself to be always that good. I curse it til I hate though but I enjoy that because it pushes the envelope dude.
Glenn: So how long have you been singing?
Tony: You know I always said I was a singer but it took me a long time to get good at what I did. I did it with a lot of practise and I did it within years and I did it in spite of people telling me I sucked or I couldn't do it or whatever f*ck*n' reason you know? So anyone out there who is like discourage or whatever, you know, f*ck what anyone says, keep dreaming your sh*t and I never thought dude that I would even be, you know, comfortable enough to say that - I got good. I did you know? I didn't expect that but that's what happened. I really got serious, say my first band was in '96 - it was a Ramones tribute band and then my 1st original band was in '98 or '99 called 'Freak Machine'. But I didn't know what the f*ck I was doing back then and it's 'Blacklist Union' when I really came into my own.
Glenn: What's it like for a band to like get things going and keep going and get popularity around this area because there's so many f*ck*n' bands kicking about?
Tony: A f*ck*n' nightmare dude. I mean, this is the deal man. If you're good like kick *ss and great then you're gonna stand out above anything else because that's something that the music scene here is lacking at least in LA, I dunno.
Glenn: The old guys are still going round and pulling crowds.
Tony: Well I think that sh*t hurts you, hurts rock 'n' roll man because it's like 're-invent yourself' - look at Bowie, he was always re-inventing himself, like re-invent yourself, do something new. Don't f*ck*ng beat a dead horse. Let's create something new - a new scene. L.A. - the problem is, there's no cameraderie which means there's no friendships like of bands like, "Okay, let's play this night together with our fans and we're gonna create a scene and involve them". That's not going on and me and Joe Sutton from Club Vodka and a few other people are trying to change that because a lot of the promoters, they don't give a f*ck what the music sounds like dude. Like what the f*ck? What happens is clubs and cities lose their credibility dude. That's the deal with that and I think it's very cut-throat in L.A. but Ithink.. you know, we can change it. Like I said on stage tonight, there's a f*ck*n' new school of cool and all these *ssh*les, they're not invited, I mean seriously man. You know because beng an L.A. band too, you have the f*ck*n' stigma that comes with it. You're a glam band or whatever. F*ck that - we're not a glam band, that's for damn sure. I might wear f*ck*n' eyeliner and eyeshadow, I've worn it since I was 13 but I'm definately not a glam dude - you know what I mean. I never f*ck*n' owned no cowboy boots, I mean I don't know.
Glenn: So what favourite shows have you done so far that come to mind and not just in L.A. elsewhere as well?
Tony: Oh jesus, I know one time we played this f*ck*n' biker club in Mass, Wisconsin dude and this dude rode in on a motorcycle with this naked chick on the back while we were playing and then two naked chicks are making out at the motorcycle event in front of me and after the song I go, "It's kinda hard to concentrate up here". That was pretty funny. One of the most memorable gigs for me personally as a writer, singer and songwriter which is really beautiful for me was when I played inWashington DC in like 2007 and dude I got so filled up almost cried because the crowd f*ck*ng started singing the lyrics and like lyrics are like everything to me dude. I'm a wordsmith - like lyrics are very important to me and they were singing my lyrics and that was the first time I've ever seen that out of town and it's really something I've never forgot from those people. It was a Jacks actually in Fort Ryan, Virginia outside of DC.
Glenn: Yeah I think 'Where Angels Suffer' have played there.
Tony: Probably yeah. You know people still talk about me as if I'm like 22, you know like puking at Tommy Lee's house - those days are over, you know what I mean but that's fine because dud it's very hard to keep your name in the mix in Hollywood but for some reason I just nationally have that whether it good or bad so it's almost like a curse.
Glenn: Yeah, good news, bad news is all good news I guess as it keeps your name up there somewhere and people will remember you for whatever reasons.
Tony: Exactly yeah. I remember in 'Pirates Of The Carribean' there was this one part, I never laughed so hard because Jack Sparrow was like, "But you have heard of me!", because the guy is like, "I've heard of Jack Sparrow, f*ck*ng w*nk*r", and he was like, "But you have heard of me", and he was all pleased and walked away. I was like, "Nice that's me right there you know", I love Jack Sparrow, in fact 'Wicked Love Song' on our second record 'Breakin Bread With The Devil', the first line is, 'We know Jack Sparrow is my new action hero', as I just love Jack Sparrow. He's a rock 'n' roll guy for kids right now.
Glenn: Yeah. So what tours come to light that you've done with other people, other bands?
Tony: And who we wanna tour with?
Tony: Well we've done shows with all kinds of bands but I mean we wanna tour with Stone Sour. I would love to go out with Audrey Horn from Norway. I love that f*ck*ng band. I'd love to go out with Warrior Soul in Europe.
Glenn: Get 'em next time - they've just done Europe.
Tony: Yeah, yeah. But there's a few bands I'd like to go out with and tour. But the States is different. I mean, I don't know how we didn't do the States right now other than festivals and stuff.
Glenn: Well you get a good crowd don't you? Is is hard in the States to get decent slots (for festivals)? Do you have to buy onto your slots and stuff?
Tony: Every situation's different man.
Glenn: You just never know how it's gonna go until you get the contracts.
Tony: It's all b*llsh*t until you get it in writing dude.
Glenn: Exactly yeah.
Tony: F*ck that. Everybody can say blah, blah, blah. I remember I showed up at a gig in Vegas one time. We were supposed to have a hotel and all this f*ck*n' sh*t - this was my old band and treated like rock stars and then showed up and that promoter got fired and the new promoter was like, "F*ck you", and I was like, "We're f*ck*d dude". But that's okay - you live and you learn, you know? Any kid that I can save any grief for I would do it for 'em in a second or her, that's for sure.
Glenn: Awesome. So immediate future - what are you up to?
Tony: Oh we are doing a covers CD right now which I'm really excited about. It's all songs that were important to me growing up. We're doing a Warrior Soul song, 'Wasteland', some Ramones songs, Janes Addiction, Aerosmith 'Let The Music Do The Talking'. But primarily we are trying to get on the road dude - that's our main focus. I mean especially overseas man. You know I pulled myself off the road for three years to raise my son, he's six now, you know, his mother is a handful so I had to pay special attention to him but now we're f*ck*n' ready to go man. Like we wanna go so bad. Like rock 'n' roll is my f*ck*n' life dude. I take it serious you know what I mean? You gotta have fun but you gotta take it serious too.
Glenn: How would you describe the vocals of Tony West?
Tony: Very f*ck*n' passionate and primal you know? Real, you know? I mean I get compared to Ozzy a lot, to Perry but I just don't try to sound like anyone. I think..
Glenn: You are just yourself.
Tony: Yes. A key to success for any band is a distinctive vocal. Even 'System Of A Down' - I'm not really too crazy about them but you can always tell it's that guy. Jose from Saliva - he's another. I think he's an amazing singer.
Glenn: So what things I've not mentioned would you like to talk about?What you'd like the fans to know?
Tony: Well they can check us out on our facebook 'Blacklist Union Rocks' or the youtube channel 'Blacklist Union Rocks' as well. Just f*ck*n' pass it on because it's real rock 'n' roll, unfiltered like from the streets of Los Angeles like for real. Dude like I was friends with the guys in Alice In Chains and they were the real deal dude, let me tell ya. I mean Layne and Mike are dead because they were so the real deal like. The sh*t that they sang about - those guys were the real deal and I think 'Blacklist Union' is definately the real deal too dude.
Glenn: So what would you like to say to the fans apart from that, that are gonna be reading this interview?
Tony: I would like to say, "Hello and let's have a drink".
Glenn: Sounds good.
Big thanks to Tony, all of Blacklist Union, their female buddy for taking the photos of me with the band, the security and staff @ The Key Club & Rainbow Bar & Grille & my good Swedish friend, Christina Monica.