BLACKIE LAWLESS says he is “getting there” in his post-surgery recovery
W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless, who underwent two successful surgeries in August to treat two herniated discs and a broken vertebra, offered an update on his condition in a new interview with Canada’s The Metal Voice. Asked how he is doing right now in his recovery, the 67-year-old said: “Um, getting there. It’s been a long, long road. When you start dealing with compound injuries, which I’ve had… Over the years doing what we do, it’s fairly common. I’ve had the same orthopedic guy for over 30 years, and I’m not joking, at the end of every tour, I crawl up on his table and say, ‘Fix me.’ Because any band that does a lot on stage and runs around and is pretty active, any band, any athlete, any dancer, you’re all gonna have injuries, and it happens, and this is just part of it. But it’s the first time I’ve had a compound situation like this. And it’s been an eye-opening experience. And it’s been a struggle. There’s no two ways about it. But I’ve got probably the best people in the country working on me. And I don’t say that lightly. I mean, these guys, they’re fantastic. And we’re getting where we need to go. So, all things considered, we’re doing good.”
Detailing the steps of his recovery, Lawless, whose real name is Steven Duren, said: “I’ve had two surgeries, and the first one was in mid-August and then the second one was two weeks later. And so then you have a preliminary healing period you have to go through, which is about four weeks. And then you go into physical therapy, and then that’s when the real fun begins. I don’t know of any other way to put it, but anybody that’s ever been through serious rehab before, it’s challenging.
“I’ve been a gym rat my whole life; I’ve constantly lived in a gym,” he explained. “But there’s a difference between doing this and doing what you do in a gym, because when you’re in a gym, you’re usually concentrating on repetitions. This is not that. This is a combination of yoga, Pilates and what you would normally do in a gym. And the movements are considerably slower. And it’s designed to target specific muscles. And you’ve heard the expression, ‘You’re using muscles you didn’t even know you have.’ That is really what this is. And especially for someone who’s been in a gym so much in their life, to start using them in ways you’ve never used before, it’s an eye-opening experience, to say the least. And it’s frustrating in a lot of ways because you’re trying to do things that, at one time, you didn’t even think about, and then you’re gonna try to do it now, and there’s certain things that just won’t work.
“One of the things they emphasized to me when we first started was this concept of turning the muscles on, because what happens when you’ve had injuries, the muscles literally wanna go to sleep,” he continued. “And so the trick is to turn them on without them feeling like they’re being assaulted. And, like I said, the guys I’m working with, they’re the best in the country. As a matter of fact, it was interesting because I was watching ‘Monday Night Football’ about six weeks ago when Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles. 48 hours later, they had him in the same hospital down in Marina Del Rey where I was at, same doctors, working on him. And I saw about 10, 12 days ago, he’s on TV, he’s throwing a football already off of his back foot. So the science of sports medicine is so much more advanced than regular medicine. And it has to be, because you’ve got players or performers that, the whole object is because of the amount of income they generate, whatever, you’ve gotta get these guys back out on the field. And so the science of what sports medicine is — pardon the pun, but it is literally cutting edge. And anybody that’s had injuries or anything like that, I highly recommend going that route as opposed to go through traditional medicine.”
Lawless also reflected on the challenges he encountered during W.A.S.P.‘s European leg of the 40th-anniversary world tour, which wrapped on May 18 in Sofia, Bulgaria at Universidada Sports Hall. He said: “The first thing that happened was I was seeing chiropractors and they were coming to the shows. To give you the full scope of it, 10 years ago, I broke my right femur and I broke it really bad. I got knocked out of the back of a truck and fell into a pile of bricks and I was falling into two jagged knives and the femur snapped on the right side about two inches below the hip and it split lengthwise all the way down to the knee. I mean, it was a nasty, nasty break. I’ve got an 18-inch titanium rod in there right now that’s gonna be with me for the duration. But the problem that came after that — it took about a year for that to heal. I wore a quarter-of-an-inch lift in my right shoe for nine years after that. Well, we went and did a CT scan last summer, and the two legs were less than a millimeter difference from each other, so it was determined that I didn’t need that lift anymore. So on a doctor’s advice, I took that lift out, which was a major mistake, because what had happened in those nine years, the body will compensate for anything foreign that you try to use it to make adjustments with, and in this case, my pelvis rotated forward from wearing that lift. And then, when I took the lift out, the body doesn’t know what to do and it’s trying to readjust. And so what it did is my back kept going out, and I’m seeing chiropractors for it. We get to Madrid, in Spain, and I get a chiropractor that comes in and this kid was — I mean, he was unbelievably strong. I thought, honestly, I thought a gorilla had a hold of me. And he didn’t speak any English. And I’m trying to get this kid to stop, and I’m literally — I had to start fighting him to get him to lay off. He ruptured one of the discs in my back. And I’d never had a ruptured disc before, and I didn’t know what nerve pain was about. I’d heard about it, but until you’ve gone through it, you can’t imagine what it’s like. And the pain goes from your lower back all the way down your leg into your ankle. And imagine… I mean, the best way I could describe would be, imagine the worst toothache you’ve ever had. But it goes all the way from your lower back down your leg into your ankle, and you can’t get it to stop. And it’s excruciating beyond belief. So we found another sports medicine place in Berlin. And they started treating me, and they started giving me epidurals. Over the course of the tour, I had eight epidurals to get me through that tour. But they recommended that I stop the tour. And I really didn’t wanna do that.”
Lawless continued: “You have people that buy tickets. People wait a long time. A lot of them make travel plans — they fly, they do all kinds of things. You wanna do your best to not disrupt that, if you don’t have to. Not to mention, it’s 40th-anniversary tour. I’m only gonna get one time to do this in my life. And then, in the COVID situation, we all had three years where nothing happened. And quite honestly, I’ve got about 30 families that are dependent on me, between the band and the road crew and office workers and things like that. So how do you go to people and say, ‘You know what? My back hurts. I don’t feel like playing.’ You can’t really do that. So, they advised me in Berlin to stop the tour, and I said, ‘Well, how bad can it be?’ I said, ‘You do your thing, and I’ll do my thing. And I’ll kind of cool it on the movement, and you just keep me going.’ And they said, ‘No, you don’t understand. This is gonna get worse if you don’t stop.’ And I thought, ‘Well, they’re just being overly cautious.’ Well, what happened, I ended up rupturing a second disc and I ended up breaking my back. And so we got through the tour except for the last five shows. And I literally had to sit in a chair the last five shows to get through it ’cause I couldn’t stand up anymore. We get home from the tour, and immediately I go in with the orthopedic guys, and they told me, they said, ‘You’ve gotta do this, and you’ve gotta do this now, because if you don’t, you’re gonna be in a wheelchair in a month.’ And so, within the span of two weeks, I had had two major surgeries. And that brings us pretty much to the point where we are now. So, getting it all straightened out is a good thing.’
Blackie added: “Like I said, the doctors that have worked on me are the best in the country. So I’m really, really thankful for that. But I’ve been through physical therapy before. And it’s, it’s a tough road. ‘Cause like I said, it’s gonna hurt. There’s no two ways about it. But you have to do it to get back to where you need to go to get your body right. Part of the problem that we had was when I took that lift out, I really needed to go back to physical therapy then. But no one told me that. So I let the body… It was literally shocked into adjustment at that point. And that’s what the body does, and it rebels, because it’s trying to protect itself. So that leads us to where we are right now. And ironically, none of this is age related. We did bone density studies on me, all kinds of stuff. Everything is where it should be. This was just a series of unfortunate events that just fell like dominoes.”
Because of the extensive back injuries Blackie suffered during the European leg of W.A.S.P.‘s 40th-anniversary tour, the band’s previously announced 2023 U.S. tour was canceled and will be rescheduled for spring 2024.
When the U.S. tour cancelation was announced in July, Lawless said in a statement: “The extent of the trauma I endured on the 2023 European tour was far greater than originally diagnosed and surgery will now be needed to correct the problem. In addition to the original herniated disc, as that tour continued, a second disc became herniated. Upon returning home, a second MRI also revealed a broken vertebrae to my lower back.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with the best specialists in the U.S. and I’ve been in intensive rehab since we got home. It’s going well but the damage was pretty extensive and all the doctors agree moving the tour a few months back will be the safest thing. It’s all been as the result of an injury that happened several years ago. I’m working my butt off to get ready and I’ll be up riding on [my mic stand nicknamed] Elvis… bigger and badder than ever. If the Torture Never Stops, then the 40th Never Stops!”
Produced by Live Nation, the North American leg of W.A.S.P.‘s “The 40th Never Stops World Tour 2023” was scheduled to kick off on August 4 at the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo, California, making stops across North America in Vancouver, British Columbia; Omaha, Nebraska; New York City; Memphis, Tennessee and more before wrapping up on September 16 at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, California. Special guest ARMORED SAINT was supposed join the band across all 33 dates of the tour.
W.A.S.P. wrapped up its first U.S. tour in 10 years with a sold-out show on December 11, 2022 at The Wiltern in Los Angeles. This marked the 18th sold-out shows for the U.S. tour, which kicked off in late October 2022. W.A.S.P.‘s performances included the return of the band’s classic song “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)”, which hadn’t been played live in over 15 years.
Lawless has led W.A.S.P. as its lead vocalist and primary songwriter since its beginning. His unique brand of visual, social and political comment took the group to worldwide heights and sold millions of records alongside a legacy of sold-out shows across the globe for four decades. He is joined by bassist Mike Duda and guitarist Doug Blair, whose tenures in the band span 28 and 17 years respectively, along with drummer extraordinaire Aquiles Priester.
W.A.S.P.‘s latest release was “ReIdolized (The Soundtrack To The Crimson Idol)”, which came out in February 2018. It was a new version of the band’s classic 1992 album “The Crimson Idol”, which was re-recorded to accompany the movie of the same name to mark the 25th anniversary of the original LP’s release. The re-recorded version also features four songs missing from the original album.
W.A.S.P.‘s most recent studio album of all-new original material was 2015’s “Golgotha”.
W.A.S.P.‘s first live performance since December 2019 took place on July 23, 2022 at Skansen in Stockholm, Sweden.