So my first interview after the Christmas Holiday was with none other than Tony West, singer/songwriter for BLACKLIST UNION, a band I recently got turned onto by my friend Doug over at New Ocean Media. We clicked right away since we’re both New York born and raised, and we called some of the same clubs home back in the day. He filled me in on what working with a veritable who’s who of musicians was like for latest release Til Death Do Us Part, and gave me a glimpse into the next record and tour plans, too. Check it out:
Tony: It’s our third, yeah. We’re in the midst of writing our fourth one. This one I wrote and recorded with a lot of my friends. I’ve been a staple in the music since I was literally a kid. I was a young kid at age eight going to see THE RAMONES in New York City, so this stuff kind of shaped my life. I’ve met a lot of people and I like to collaborate with a lot of people. I wrote “Diggin’ 4 Gold” with Todd Youth who played in D GENERATION and DANZIG and another band called CHELSEA SMILES, and I wrote a majority of the record with Anthony Valli who used to be in CRAZY TOWN and then I wrote with a couple of guitar players I’ve used over the years as well. Recording the CD was totally different. I had Hunt Sales on drums and also Paul Crosby, Wayne Swinny, and Dave Novotny from SALIVA, and Jon E. Love from LOVE/HATE played lead guitar on it. It was a really fun experience.
Amps: How much of the BLACKLIST UNION stuff is autobiographical?
Tony: Every single song we have is. There’s nothing contrived to sound cool or whatever. All of it is the story of my life. You name a song and I’ll tell you the story, you know? I think that authenticity is something that’s missing today, that being real. And people know what’s real and what’s not, man. I think that people who’ve heard us and actually listened to us, it comes across.
Amps: Yeah, I had mentioned in my review that you can feel what you’re singing about, you really can.
Tony: Thank you, man. Thank you.
Amps: Now since I’m late to the party, did you guys already play here in Dallas on this tour?
Tony: Yeah, we played a place called The Boiler Room.
Amps: DAMMIT!! (Tony laughs at me)
Tony: Yeah, we played with this GREAT band out there called HONEY, and Kes O’Hara, the singer kicked my ass, dude! She’s amazing! Check them out if you haven’t!
Tony: Oh yeah, we’re probably gonna do two this year, six weeks across and back, then another one towards the end of the year. Dallas is definitely a priority because there’s a great music scene in Dallas and we get a ton of support there.
Amps: You mentioned your love of collaborating. Is that going to carry over into this next record you have coming out in June? And are you still calling it In the Moment?
Tony: Yeah, that’s how I like to do it. It always comes out that much better. In The Moment was the working title but we have another one Back to Momo’s which is a whorehouse in L.A., so we’ll see. (I burst out laughing) Yeah, got busted already by my girl about it, we broke up for a while, she knows about it, so fuck it, we’ll call it that (laughing)! The goal is still a June release.
Amps: How often are you writing and how therapeutic is that for you?
Tony: I’ve been through a lot of stuff. It’s very therapeutic. I had a therapist tell me that it’s like a therapy session each time I sing a song, you know? It’s a casting out of that energy be it good, bad, whatever, so I don’t have to carry it around with me.
Amps: Can you tell me the story behind “Alabama Slammer”? That’s my favorite song and I just knew there was something deep going on.
Tony: Well, it’s about Amber Lake who won Rock of Love 2 on VH-1. I dated her for a while. The first CD was called After the Mourning which was dedicated to Bianca from BETTY BLOWTORCH who was my girlfriend a year before she died and we were mad at each other and we never got to talk. That album was released April 17, 2006. Ten days later my first wife Tracy who I was with for 10 years suddenly died of cancer and I was thrown right back into mourning after thinking I had just put out this body of work that cast out all this pain. But I was thrown right back into it and I was like “Oh there’s no way in hell that I’m gonna be able to deal with this. I gotta keep workin’ and workin’” so I drowned myself in work for the next three years.
Me and Amber were really in love, we met at some show I did and she was riding that whole Rock of Love thing and had a taste of the spotlight for a minute and thought she was famous from that shit. There were things that I didn’t like but when she left me she did because I was really starting to lose my mind. I had all these unresolved emotions that I didn’t deal with from my wife dying and I had all these happy things happen, too. My son was born and I had a new life. But when Amber left me dude, it was the catalyst for me not dealing with the emotions from before and all of it caught up to me. That song’s real, and I was pretty devastated when she left. It’s a pretty heavy song, so I guess that’s the long version.
Tony: I remember when I was a kid WARRIOR SOUL was like that for me-
Tony: Songs like “We Cry Out”, “Punk and Belligerent” or “The Losers”, I would listen to those over and over and over!
Amps: My buddy and I argue all the time over what the best WARRIOR SOUL album is. What do you say?
Tony: I like Drugs, God, and the New Republic.
Amps: I’m in the minority with Salutations From the Ghetto Nation–
Tony: I love that one too, dude! “Love Destruction” and all those songs are amazing!
Amps: I love that you’re a big, big “Get the physical copy of the CD” guy. I’m like you where I like to open it up, read the lyrics, liner notes, etc. It’s really sad that that’s become a lost art, isn’t it?
Tony: Yeah, it is. I was shopping with my son over the holidays and he’s seven. I said, “Son, you have no idea how much it breaks my heart to be walking through a mall with you and there’s not ONE music store. What a rip-off, man.” It sucks. The whole tribute band thing, all that shit…it’s just ruining the original music scene. The promoters and club owners don’t help either; all they give a shit about is people in the door. Let’s group a whole bunch of bands together of the same genre and create a scene. It’s not rocket science, man. L.A. it costs $10-$20 to park, another $10 at the door, then you buy a drink for you and your girlfriend, you’re already in for $80. Nowadays, who has that money? Fuckin nobody! If they lessen the prices on parking and the door and do their bookings a little more cohesively I think it would work.
Amps: Oy, tribute bands. That’s all Long Island is now. I fucking HATE tribute bands, man! I always tell my one friend who loves that shit, “There is a special place in Hell for tribute bands!”
Tony: That shit sucks, dude. And it’s so saturated now. I understand people wanna get paid to play music, but have some balls and go against the grain, you know?
Amps: That’s why I love the scene here in Dallas, and it’s why I’m a fixture in Deep Ellum, Trees in particular. There’s always a great show.
Tony: I know Clint, great place. You know that band MESSER?
Amps: Yes! I just saw them for the first time last fall! Getting back to you…What do you do away from BLACKLIST UNION?
Tony: I have a telemarketing business, I have two kids, so that keeps me pretty busy. Music is pretty much my life, though.
Amps: Tell me something about you that I can’t find on Google, Wikipedia, or what-have-you.
Tony: I think I’m too nice of a guy to a fault sometimes. I’ve got this hellish reputation from when I was younger, used to raise a lot of hell. You stick a guy from New York City into Hollywood and with the New York attitude of calling people out on their shit; L.A. doesn’t like that too much. I’m a no-bullshit guy and I teach my kids about integrity.
Amps: What would you like to say to all the BLACKLIST UNION fans out there?
Tony: Spread the word. If you’ve heard the name but haven’t heard our music it doesn’t disappoint. The only criteria is that you have to love rock. And if you meet that criteria and you buy our CD it’s a money back guarantee if you don’t like it.
And that’s that. He’s 100% right. BLACKLIST UNION is a fucking kickass band with equal parts heart and balls. They are in your face and it’s raw and as real as it gets. And Tony West is real. He’s genuine. That’s hard to find in 2014, but he’s the real deal. I’m so glad I got to talk to him, and I think if you check out BLACKLIST UNION you’ll feel like you’ve gotten to know him, too.