Tony West on the cover of CV SouthWest Magazine
HOW THE WEST WAS WON
In a Metal Sludge exclusive, Blacklist Union singer Tony West lets its all hang out.
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
HOLLYWOOD – It’s always fun touching base with the biggest rock stars in the world, but sometimes it’s even more compelling to discover someone just on the brink of stardom, and Metal Sludge believes we’ve done just that with this exclusive interview with Tony West from Blacklist Union.
The hard-rock group from Los Angeles has put out three critically acclaimed CDs, and there continues to be growing swell of followers that have pushed Blacklist Union to cult-hero status. And wouldn’t it be fun to see a new band emerge from the streets of Hollywood and rise organically like Blacklist Union’s forefathers Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue and Poison?
Blacklist Union, led by the charismatic but controversial West, has everything it takes to make it big except for that one big break.
It’s harder than ever before to make it, and West keeps pushing on. He’s been in trouble, he’s been in turmoil, and occasionally he’s been terrified trying to claw his way to the top. No, it has not been easy, and no, there is still a long ways to go.
But one that is clear about West is that this is a kid who will never give up. And though Blacklist Union has yet to sell millions of records, West has lots of opinions about what it takes to get there, and he is not shy about calling out some of the gatekeepers who have stood in his way through the years.
The band is playing on Oct. 20 at House of Blues in Anaheim, then again on Oct. 22 at Loaded in Hollywood. For information, check blacklistunion.com.
This is a compelling interview. We met West at a San Fernando Valley restaurant called Bear Pit, turned on the recorder, and let the guy rip away. He takes no prisoners, and there is some great Sludge being thrown around. Enjoy.
Blacklist Union play “House Of Blues” Anaheim California Sunday October 20th 2013
SLUDGE: Hey Tony West, good to see you. How are you?
WEST: I’m good.
SLUDGE: You’re right on the brink with Blacklist Union. I guess it’s exciting but it can be frustrating. Your thoughts?
WEST: A big thing for me is I just stick to my vision and my artistic integrity, not just listen to some guy in a suit who doesn’t care about artistic vision. That’s the big problem nowadays, and that’s why there is no Queen, no Led Zeppelin, no AC/DC. It’s because of the suits, so to speak. They stop the creative process. We have three CDs out, we’re critically acclaimed all across the globe from the states to England to even Poland, where we had a No. 1 hit for a while, which was weird. I’m pretty grateful where we’re at, and making it on a national scale is all relative in the 2000s because it’s not the ‘80s anymore. I grew up on punk rock and hard-core and metal and AC/DC and Van Halen and Mother Love Bone. I was never into the glam rock, thank god.
SLUDGE: Well you look a lot like Tommy Lee, so you must like Motely Crue, and they were as glam as you can get, Tony.
WEST: I was actually at Tommy Lee’s house once for a party, and the caterers came up and asked me where I wanted the barbeque . I just can’t escape the comparisons whether I have long hair or short hair, though Tommy is actually a lot older than me. One time, at a Dodger game, these people were convinced I was Tommy Lee, so one of them asked for my autograph. I showed them the tattoos on my knuckles, which read “T-o-n-y W-e-s-t.” The guy turned to my friend and asked, “Why is he lying to me?”
SLUDGE: Who has the bigger penis?
WEST: I don’t know. I haven’t seen his.
SLUDGE: What do you mean? Didn’t you see that video with Pamela Anderson? He is huge.
WEST: No, I never saw it. I think I might have seen clips.
SLUDGE: Well, you seem like you have a good attitude even though you have a reputation for being a bit dark and dreary.
WEST: Oh yeah, I do. I went through a dark time in my life, just like everybody has, with people I love dying and addiction issues, but right now, I’m in a good place. I just don’t put up with any bullshit. I’m GOTTA BE pretty easy on myself, plus I have two kids, and that lightens me up a lot. But we’re a dark band in an Alice in Chains kind of way but more uptempo.
SLUDGE: I love the song “Breakin’ Bread With The Devil.”
WEST: Yeah but no one gets that song. It’s not about the devil, it’s about inviting the wrong people into your heart. With Blacklist Union, we’ve had so many pretenders who have said they’re managers and booking agents. It’s been going on for years now.
SLUDGE: I call it “Rainbow talk.”
WEST: Yeah, exactly, a waste of time and money.
SLUDGE: Your videos for Blacklist Union are very professional. You present yourself well.
WEST: I think so. I just have a crazy reputation because I grew up in the streets of Hollywood. I’ve been in the National Enquirer for relationships I had. I’ve been banned from talk shows, I’ve had many high-profile relationships, and I was a handful for many years.
SLUDGE: Really? The Enquirer?
WEST: Yeah. I married Carol Burnett’s daughter, Erin, so my son is Carol Burnett’s grandmother.
SLUDGE: Interesting. Does she treat you with kindness
WEST: I have nothing to say about that except for when it comes to Carol Burnett, don’t believe all the hype. That’s all I can say about that.
SLUDGE: Really? Well what about your son?
WEST: She does do a lot kind things for my son, and I’m grateful for that. But as far as me and his grandmother, we don’t like each other too much. I call her out on her B.S., and I don’t think anyone had ever done that to her before.
SLUDGE: Blacklist Union is Tony West. You’re reassembling the band but you’re the key guy.
WEST: Yeah, I’ve put together a brand-new lineup, but I’m the creative force. I’m replacing a couple of people in the band, younger guys that can go on tour and have no wives or jobs to worry about. I’m trying to get the buzz going in Hollywood, but with no money it’s almost impossible, though I’ve persevered with a lot of stuff. It’s a tragic tale, like Tits McGillicuty.
WEST: I never told you the story of Tits McGillicuty?
SLUDGE: No, I don’t think so.
WEST: Oh it’s a tragic tale. I guy I knew through Dizzy Reed from Guns N’ Roses, who is a reputable guy of course, I found this Tits McGillicuty guy on myspace. At the time, he was not a junkie and not a thief, which was my top criteria back then. Anyway, the guy had actual tits, but we didn’t know this cause he was always wearing a leather Ramones-style jacket, all zipped up. He looked really odd. We had 300 pictures to choose from with the “Breaking Bread” CD, and I picked out about five of them because of this guy, who always had his arms slightly raised across his chest. It was weird but it took four months to figure out he had a boob job. He told us in the middle of Texas at the South by Southwest fest. I was like: “Dude, why did you wait so long to tell us? You’re risking all our lives by letting this come out in the Southwest!” We got rid of him right there.
SLUDGE: It’s rough out there away from home because no one cares about your well-being.
WEST: Yeah, I sang in L.A. Guns for 13 shows, and even then I always believed in Blacklist Union. I want to go past the USA to Europe and South America. I’m really trying to get to Europe.
Tony West & Tracii Guns on the road with L.A. Guns
SLUDGE: You must know Tracii Guns really well. He is a controversial figure in his own right.
WEST: Yeah, people talk a lot of shit about Tracii Guns, and they talk a lot of shit about me, too. He told me if you don’t have haters, then you’re a nobody. There’s a different side to him, a great side. He has a good heart but he just doesn’t put up with BS, and people from Hollywood don’t like when people call them out on their bullshit, like fat Dayle Gloria from the Key Club.
SLUDGE: I’ve had some problems myself from Dayle Gloria. She is very rude.
WEST: The first band I was ever in, Freak Machine – and yeah, we sucked by the way — but that’s when I first met Dayle Gloria and called her a fat bitch form the stage. She was just so rude and disrespectful. She actually went out of her way to write a letter to every club in town except Coconut Teaszer forging my name and writing how we have on Axl on our side and to fuck off. Funny thing is, it totally backfired because I was suddenly talking to people that I never would have talked to before. So just remember that when someone you are hangin out with talks shit, the moment you turn around, they’re talking shit about you.
WEST: Yeah, she never admitted it but it was 100 percent Dayle. Fuck, through the years I’ve written her (apology) letters to try to diffuse things, and she is just bad energy who needs to clean things up – with lots of people, not just me. Believe me, she is impossible. She goes out of her way to spread hate. I pity her. This one time, my ex-girlfriend had died, and I was just devastated, and she comes up to me like a day later and says, “Aren’t you over that yet?” Fuck you, bitch. Fuck that. She is like a troll. She tried to sabotage me, she tried to sabotage me to the labels and to manager and booking agents. I remember telling her, “Hey, maybe I suck but you’re just fucking evil.”
SLUDGE: This is great stuff. Whom else have you had problems with?
WEST: Out of town, this club owner in Janesville, Wisc., at the Back Bar, his name is Bob something. We played there, and at the time we had some good press and we were promoting the show with radio ads, and this guy just showed no respect. He wouldn’t pay us right before the show, so we took off and left. Another time, he took our money and ran out of the club. Just a double-talking, jive loser.
SLUDGE: You just needed enough to pay for gas to get to the next town, right?
WEST: Pretty much, yeah.
SLUDGE: I guess the big question is, will Rock come back? Not the classic rock with bands everyone has heard before, but something more organic, something that starts from the streets?
WEST: If it’s gritty enough yeah. Young kids, a lot of them love rock and roll, so it has to come back – if it’s authentic and real. I don’t think glam or any shit like that will come back to the mainstream, thank god.
SLUDGE: What do you mean? I thought your favorite band was Guns N’ Roses. Isn’t Axl Rose the reason you came to Hollywood in the first place? That’s what your bio says, and he was pretty glam.
WEST: Yeah, but the real reason Guns N’ Roses was so appealing was the punk-rock attitude.
Tony West doing his best Steven Tyler
SLUDGE: Well take us back. You were 13 years old when you ran away across the country from New York to Hollywood. Take me back to the night before you left. What was going through your mind?
WEST: I just knew I needed to come to Hollywood to make it all work, but I had no idea how. At 13, I was already tall, and I was already drinking in bars, plus I had a fake ID.
Later, I remember trying to get into a club in Hollywood when I was 13 or 14 to see Alice in Chains I think, and I had memorized everything on my fake ID – name, address, birthday, everything. The bouncer was suspicious, and he is like, “What’s your name? What’s your birthday? What’s your address? Quick quick!” I answered everything perfect, then he looks at the picture again and says, “Where did you live when you were black?” He got me. The ID was for a black guy (laughs). But he did let me in anyway .
SLUDGE: Did you have some tough times in the streets of Hollywood?
WEST: Well, luckily I was like a telemarketing god at 13 or 14, plus I kind of invented “roaching,” which was a way to scam free food from restaurants, so instead of being hungry, I actually fed a lot of people in Hollywood back then. People will talk shit and say I’m scammer or whatever, but those are the same motherfuckers that I roached food for.
SLUDGE: Now what is “roaching” exactly?
WEST: You just call and make up a story. I can still do it if I need to.
SLUDGE: Tell me about your family, your relationship with your parents. You have said your dad was abusive, but can you go into more detail?
WEST: Every abuse possible. Sexual, physical, verbal, mental, emotional.
SLUDGE: What was his problem?
WEST: I don’t know. He wasn’t on drugs. He wasn’t an alcoholic. He was just fucked up. They divorced when I was young.
SLUDGE: What about your mom?
WEST: We have no problems – now. She’s great now. Since becoming a parent myself, our whole dynamic has changed dramatically. I thought she was too strict and I hated her, so I rebelled, but now I understand. She was just looking out for me. It makes me sad I broke her heart so many times. He is only 53.
SLUDGE: So you just left everything behind. Did you even know how to sing?
WEST: No, I had no idea, not until I was older. I just knew I wanted to. I wanted to be like Andrew Wood from Mother Love Bone. I definitely did my homework because I used to suck really bad. Eventually, I locked myself in a room for like two years and just practiced and practiced. Funny thing, nobody in Hollywood ever said, “Hey, let me show you a few thing.” In typical Hollywood style, they would just talk shit and sabotage.
SLUDGE: Have you ever come close to a record deal?
WEST: Oh yeah. I was close to signing with Interscope Records. Also, we’ve been offered all kinds of deals, many deals, but just for bragging rights like yeah, I have a record deal but no tour support or marketing or distribution or anything like that. I don’t want or need a deal like that. The pretenders can have those deals, and I’m not talking about Chrissy Hynde’s Pretenders. The other part, I can do that shit myself. I’m not interested in being the guy at the Rainbow that looks like a big shot. I want a legitimate business deal.
SLUDGE: Perhaps you’re on the way, Tony.
WEST: I’ve just learned to not trust anyone till they show you proof they can do something. I am a slow learner.
SLUDGE: And you still do telemarketing?
WEST: Yeah, it’s legit selling toner, but with a high markup and gift cards. I once made $60,000 on one deal. It definitely keeps my finances up. It’s a sales gig. People talk shit and say I scam money. F that. I am a legitimate businessman. Do you think $5 for a cup of coffee is a good deal? Fuck no. It’s called capitalism. So the haters can kiss my mushroom.
SLUDGE: But you’re had your ups and downs.
WEST: Oh yes. I’ve done roaching to stay alive, or relying on chicks or riding the eviction train, where you pay rent for one month and never pay again. I did that for a long time. I am a survivalist and a half. I can definitely write a book on how to survive in Hollywood on nothing.
SLUDGE: Others have succeeded and you have not. Does that weigh on you?
WEST: I can’t lie. I’m definitely envious. But I’m always happy to see my friends succeed. I truly am. I don’t understand the record industry. I feel like we have to prove ourselves over and over. I need a break, some legit dudes with some street-level shit to give us a chance, you know what I mean? I’ve had meeting with the Irving Azoffs and the Tony Fergusons. Stevie D from Buckcherry got me to the meeting with Azoff with Katie McNiel, who is now married to Neil Diamond. She loved me and loved the music. She said she was busy with Guns N’ Roses “Chinese Democracy”. She said, “I love the new Guns N’ Roses CD, what do you think? I said: “That’s not Guns N’ Roses. I threw that CD out the window.” Needless to say, I never heard back from her.
.I kind of bamboozled my way in there and in to many other label offices, and if I had a legit manager I think I would have gotten a record deal that very day with Interscope, but I just couldn’t close the deal myself. I didn’t know the lingo. We need proper representation is what we need, someone real with a legitimate music background and a proven track record. One so-called friend and his “manager” took me for $60,000. So it aint easy living like a gypsy, but I’m the real fucking deal.
SLUDGE: Tell me about the song “Alabama Slammer.”
WEST: It’s about an ex-girlfriend. SHE won “Rock of Love,” Amber Lake.
SLUDGE: Is that show real or fake?
WEST: Please, Gerry, what reality show is real?
WEST: I would know because I’ve been on every talk show and got banned. They’re all on youtube. All that shit is BS. Anyway, Amber, she’s a beautiful chick, and I was just fucked up. I was messed up emotionally when my ex-wife Traci died. I had just gotten over Bianca from Betty Blowtorch dying, and I just didn’t deal well with emotions. I sought refuge from another person and just kind of lost myself. Yeah, I definitely did lose my mind and went on pysch meds, and that just made me crazier. I got off pills forever the day Mike Starr died from Alice in Chains. He was one of my best friends, and I was like, that’s it, no more pills. I haven’t taken a pill or a drug since.
Tony West TV Talk Show Images from Jerry Springer to Court TV
Check out our article on Tony West from 2011 and all his Talk Show history HERE.
SLUDGE: You’re drinking water only today.
WEST: Yeah, I’m on like a 31-day fast. I lost weight and everything. It clears your system.
SLUDGE: I’m eating a sandwich right in front of you.
WEST: That’s OK. It looks good. I’m going to bring my son here to Bear Pit.
SLUDGE: Back to L.A. Guns. Were you guys any good?
WEST: Yeah, it was a lot fun. I was the last singer ever in L.A. Guns, and Axl Rose was the first singer ever in L.A. Guns, and that’s pretty cool, right? But yeah, we kicked ass. We were really good. I had learned only three songs for the audition, and then they called me on one day’s notice to fly to Atlanta for my first show, and I had to learn eight new songs that had never heard in my life. But I managed. To me, Phil Lewis is the only singer of L.A. Guns. I don’t think he likes me, though. Neither does his buddy, Taime Downe, but that’s OK. By the way, Tracii is a big fan of Blacklist Union.
SLUDGE: He has done a great job of landing on his feet in Vegas with that show.
WEST: Yeah, he’s doing good. He just grew a beard, so he looks like Eric Clapton right now. He put a fire under my ass to keep going. He says the world needs a band like Blacklist Union.
SLUDGE: You’re one of those tall, pierced, tattooed type of rockers. Have you had good success with the women?
WEST: I’ve never had a problem with women. The problem is getting rid of them. I’ve told a couple I was gay, shit like that, or that I’m married, just to get rid of them, but when they hear shit like that, they just go crazier. There is a lot of talk about my sex life, but I am quite comfortable with who I am. I am in an in-the-closet heterosexual.
SLUDGE: You’re working on a new CD.
WEST: Yeah, I’m writing with Phil Hudson and also with Ricky Mahler from Circus of Power and Jon. E. Love from Love/Hate. He’s actually our guitar player right now. We’ve got a song “Back to Momo” about a whore house in Hollywood, and another one called “We Are Not Saints” and a few others.
SLUDGE: Your producer, Chris Johnson, he kind of discovered you. He gave you a shot.
WEST: He has always believed in me as a songwriter and a singer, even when people said I sucked. He’s like the sixth member of the band, like Wes Arkeen WAS with Guns N’ Roses. I think he’s great. I don’t want to change something that works.
SLUDGE: Tell me about the song “Til’ Death Do Us Part.”
WEST: I was just buried in grief with my girlfriend and my ex-wife, and I just have a whole different attitude now that I have kids. It’s basically a mockery of how people give their word on something as serious as something like marriage or a business or anything else, and how it doesn’t mean anything to to them at all. Keeping your word is good because in my opinion, it’s everything. In life, all we have is this moment, and life is a bunch of moments, some beautiful and some not so beautiful.
SLUDGE: You’re kind of slugging it out in the local scene, so let me get your take on a few different things.
SLUDGE: The Rainbow Bar & Grill.
WEST: Many drunken nights and many women – and lots of shit-talking. Got into fist fights there, fucked in the place, passed out in the place. Mario Maglieri used to feed me when I had no money. I was just a teen-aged kid, just hanging out at the Bow with him. I learned a lot about business from him. I have a great Mario story by the way.
WEST: Yeah. One night on Halloween night, everyone was all dressed up, and a guy with a ski mask with just slits for the eyes comes running up on Mario, and Mario just laid him out. He took off the mask, and it was Stephen Pearcy. Another time, Vince Neil was at the Rainbow, asking for his car at the end of the night, and he hit one of the parking guys on the head with a pizza box, and the parking guy just knocked him on his ass. Then Vince got up and got in his car, and he just speed off and made a left onto Sunset Boulevard without even stopping to see if a car was coming. He just peeled out and made a left. Vince Neil is a a prick and a cock-blocker. I love Nikki Sixx, though. He is a cool motherfucker.
SLUDGE: What about the Whisky?
WEST: It used to be great but now it’s all pay to play. I love Mario and don’t want to talk shit, plus we’ve had many good gigs there.
SLUDGE: What about strippers?
WEST: I love ‘em.
SLUDGE: Name your favorite one.
WEST: I would have to say Mistress Piranha. I can’t remember the other names.
SLUDGE: You have a lot of tattoos. Which one means the most?
WEST: Bianca’s lips from Betty Blowtorch. I was really in love with her. We were walking down Hollywood Boulevard, and she says, “Hey, let’s tattoo my lips on you,” and so we did it. It’s on my hip. Also, my band logo is tattooed across my chest. Howard Teman did it. Man, that shit hurt, too.
SLUDGE: Do you think you can make it big?
WEST: I feel like I’ve already made it big, I just never got the check. With marketing and touring, I think we can because we have street cred, and that’s worth its weight in gold. I’m proud of that. I’m also quite controversial, which is good.
SLUDGE: You wear makeup every day.
SLUDGE: I do. Every day since I was 13, some eyeliner and some eye shadow. Sometimes my son’s classmates ask we why, and I tell ‘em because I’m a rock and roller. A lot of people stare at me. I used to not like it, but then someone told me, “Hey, maybe they’re staring because they like you.”
SLUDGE: You’re a sensitive guy.
WEST: Oh yeah, of course I am. I’m an artist more than I’m a musician. I’ve got a 7-year-old son and 1-year old daughter. She says “da da,” and it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. She’s awesome.
SLUDGE: Anything else?
WEST: We should mention Saliva. Hunt Sales played on the CD, he had played with Bowie, and I had three guys from Saliva as well. We used to be friends but not anymore. Dave the bass player is a fucking douche bag. We had tried to buy onto the Saliva tour, and Dave cock-blocked us.
WEST: I think it was because I send his wife a friend request on Facebook. I’ve grown up in Hollywood, and when the times get tough, you really know who your friends are. And it’s not pretty.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org